Spring 2016

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Page 20 of 43 | 21 spring 2016 the teacher walks out the door. The best solution is the implementation of good, research-based teacher induction programs, mandated and monitored by the state, but with each school deciding what it looks like at their level, based on the needs of the school. Brand-new teachers and teachers who are experienced but new to the school have to be trained in the new philosophy and must be given dedicated time to meet with well-trained mentors, observe other classrooms, and refect on their teaching practices. Professional development should focus on not only HOW to teach but also content knowledge. I wonder how many good teachers we are failing to retain. Good exit interviews will determine constant tweaking to the induction program. What advice would you give to a new teacher entering the feld today? First, don't be afraid to ask questions. Many frst-year teachers don't ask questions because they think they will be evaluated as incapable. You're not expected to be a master teacher when you walk into the classroom your frst year. You must learn from your experiences and grow as a teacher. Second, plan lessons that involve open-ended questioning, are relevant to the outside world, and teach some life skills along the way. Such lessons lend themselves to diferentiating, student choice, and thinking at a higher level, while teaching collaboration and communication. Third, read widely. Facebook and blogs are good sources of ideas, but you have to read newspapers and other established sources to improve your content knowledge. Our moral responsibility is to present unbiased information. What has the experience of winning Texas Teacher of the Year been like for you? It's funny how you can do this for 10 years, and then suddenly everyone recognizes you. I've been a fnalist for Teacher of the Year at my school for the past fve years, but I never made it until this year. My husband says that maybe I needed the time to grow as a teacher. How do you defne success for you and your students? I am successful when my students become productive citizens and help others. I always tell other teachers that we cannot see the impact of what we do right now, but if we are doing our jobs right, we will efect positive change in the future. I got a wonderful two-page letter from a former student saying, "I thought you were mean and scary, but now I know that you just wanted the best for me." She said, "Every time the going gets tough, I remember your words, and that's how I've decided to become a pediatrician." After seven years, and moving states, she actually took the time to write to me—I think that is empathy, too, when your former students remember to thank you. Do you keep in touch with your former students? Yes, a student in my frst batch is in his third year at UT. I met him the other day. His mother still calls me Mrs. Balakrishnan. I have the email addresses of all my students' parents, and at the beginning of every year, I send out an email wishing them good luck. For those whose students have graduated or are going to high school, I send a separate email, which I send to the Continued on page 42

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