Lauren Lews

Free Lauren Lewis

2020 Visions of First-year Teachers

First Grade
Goochland, Virginia

How did you come to this moment in your professional life? What experiences did you have before now that led you to this first teaching position?

I recently completed my graduate program at the University of Virginia where I received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Masters in Teaching. This will be my first full-time job. I have only worked part-time jobs as a fitness instructor, daycare teacher, soccer coach, and substitute teacher.

I have always known that I wanted to become a teacher. I knew that I wanted to help make a difference for children. I was thankful enough to have had really inspiring teachers all throughout my educational experience. I started taking teacher cadet in high school and teacher prep courses in college that helped prepare me to become a teacher. Overall, my experiences working with children contributed to my passion that I feel towards learning and teaching.

This is going to be an unusual school year for everyone because of the pandemic. Do you have any special concerns or plans about how you’ll address those extra challenges of keeping everyone as safe and healthy as you’re able?

I am concerned about keeping all of my students safe and healthy. The reality of teaching is that students are constantly working and engaging with their peers, so I think it will be difficult to keep first graders 6 feet apart from their classmates and even from me. I am worried about the social and emotional impact that this pandemic is going to have on my students. I want them to feel safe and comfortable at school.

I am just not sure if it is going to be a welcoming and fun environment if we are constantly sanitizing everything or wearing masks in the building. but I will make it my mission to take all of the necessary steps to ensure that all of my students and their families feel safe and protected. I will have lots of cleaning supplies in my classroom, while also spacing out my desks to keep my students from close contact with each other. I will also include squares for them on the carpet to assign where they can sit during whole-group lessons. I will be cautious and aware. I will clean often and teach proper hygiene skills to my children.

Having earned her masters degree from the University of Virginia, she's all set for a great classroom experience
Having earned her masters degree from the University of Virginia, she’s all set for a great classroom experience

Having earned her masters degree from the University of Virginia, she’s all set for a great classroom experience As you anticipate this first year and your career as a teacher, what are you most excited to try and to experience? What do you expect may be your biggest challenge?

I am most excited to try out a very hands-on and interactive teaching model. I want my students to be active and move around within the classroom. I love incorporating fitness, exercising and brain breaks. I want my students to feel autonomous and independent. I want them to venture out and try new things and never be afraid to take risks.

I am most excited to just experience the feeling of having full control over a classroom. I have never fully had control over a class or had a class all to myself before. I am very excited to be that role model for my students. I expect my biggest challenge to be behavior management….enforcing consistent classroom rules and expectations. I need to ensure that I establish strong connections and relationships with my students so that I can create an effective behavior management plan and establish consequences for student misbehavior.

Thinking about all your training to this point, what do you imagine will be an especially helpful strategy or technique to use with your students?

I think that my training on culturally responsive teaching will be especially helpful.

There’s a saying that every teacher needs to be a teacher of reading. How true do you think that saying is and what is your expectation of how important reading will be for your students?

I think that this saying is very accurate. Every teacher needs to have a strong knowledge base of reading and literacy. Reading is crucial to first grade especially. Reading will be the main focus in my classroom. I want my students to feel empowered while they are reading. There will be many whole group and small group lessons centered on reading. I believe that guided reading is the most important part of my student’s day.

Do you have any favorite books that you plan to use?

I plan to use the books: Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History, The Invisible Boy, My Hair is a Garden, and The Day the Crayons Quit.

Have you thought much about the print environment you expect to create in your classroom? How do you picture it and how will you create it?

I have thought about the print environment because I want to create a love for reading in my classroom. I want to include multiple texts that celebrate all of my students’ backgrounds. I plan to incorporate many books that are meant to teach life lessons and “hard history” to my students. I want to also focus on the soft skills of my students by including books that teach about empathy and kindness. I want my print environment to be vast and complex.

My students should be exposed to many different genres. I imagine my print environment to be very thoughtful and purposeful. Each of my books will be chosen intentionally. We will also have many discussions about the books that we read. I plan to include many read-alouds and interactive reading elements such as skits or plays. I want my students to have fun and truly enjoy reading and the journeys that you can take through books!

What is your relationship with books and writing? What impact do you think your literary history and attitudes might have on your students?

I have always had a positive relationship with books and writing. I have always loved reading all types of novels. I have also enjoyed creative writing and poems throughout my years of schooling. I think that my literary history and attitudes will have a positive and motivational impact on my students. I think that my cheerful attitude towards reading will encourage students to read as often as they can! Sharing stories that I have read as a child or stories that were important to me can show my students that personal connection.

Is there any major goal you want to accomplish as an educator this year? What specific thing or things might occur as a sign that you were successful in your classroom?

I would like to become better with incorporating technology in the classroom. I want to learn new apps, games, or activities that use various modes of technology. Some things that could occur as a sign that I was successful might be an increase in student engagement and student happiness. My students could become more engaged and excited to participate in the lessons. They would show me that they are ready to learn and that they can be responsible with technology.

I’d like you to project forward and then back again. Imagine that you are one year older and the school year has concluded. Your older self is giving advice to your present-day self about how to handle this first year. What is that advice?

My advice would be to take things slow and be present in the moment. Be there for your students and do not be afraid to ask questions. Go seek help from other teachers, principal, reading specialists, math specialists, SPED teacher, etc. Reach out and find the best strategies that work for your students. Begin with the end in mind when planning your lessons and do not be afraid to take risks. Show your students that you are willing to fail and that you are always there to give 110% in everything you do.

Please do not stress or worry too much. The first year is going to be challenging, but it is okay to ask your team for additional resources or advice. Give your students the best version of yourself. Be there for them every day. Build strong, meaningful relationships with your students. Understand your students, discover their hobbies, and get to know them on a deeper level. Take a deep breath, and relax. Do not forget to prioritize your own mental health and wellness.

Lauren standing in Peru
The educator’s recent trip to Peru, which her student-teaching kids got to experience vicariously