As we get ready to launch our 4th cohort of INCLUDE DC Early Childhood, we wanted to see how our alumni were doing! We talked with Andrea Molina, a Kindergarten Spanish immersion teacher at Mundo Verde PCS, who participated in our very first INCLUDE early childhood cohort in 2015. When she started INCLUDE DC, Andrea was in her first year as a full-time teacher, leading a pre-K 3-4 class. She was eager to share her experience with the INCLUDE DC course.
Co-op: What made you want to take the INCLUDE DC course? What did you hope to learn?
Andrea: I wanted to enrich my teaching by learning specific strategies to make sure that all my students were getting a good learning experience. I wanted to make sure I was honouring their learning styles and needs. I signed up for the class hoping to meet other educators and learn from their experiences. The experience was amazing!
Co-op: What about the course surprised you?
Andrea: The structure and organization. Also the quality of speakers and the set up of the course. Teachers have a lot of work – all the time! But this course did not really add any stress or extra work. I actually felt it was a great circle of ‘friends’ that wanted to learn about the same thing and were really committed to do so. I love the environment – teachers were friendly and the facilitator helped create a very safe environment where we all felt comfortable sharing and learning together. This was really important.
Co-op: What did you like best or find most useful?
Andrea: We got a lot of concrete strategies to use in the class not only from the speakers but from the other teachers. There were so many moments I felt like: “wow! how come I have not thought of that before!”
I felt every session was full of advises and ideas that we could take to our classes and implement the next day! It felt very empowering. At the end of the course we got some gifts to take to our classes too.
Co-op: What are some of those strategies that you are still using in your class?
Andrea: The use of fidgets, the emotion box (for younger students), creative movement breaks – using certain yoga poses, dances, and games that incorporate a lot of vocabulary and math..
Co-op: So how did taking the class change the way you teach?
Andrea: It opened my eyes to the many ways in which we can improve our teaching. I felt that after taking the class I could better understand many of my students and I could make more thoughtful and holistic instructional decisions. I was able to point at certain behaviors and think about certain ways in which I could address them. I had a student that used to have a hard time controlling his body during the carpet time – we had tried movement breaks, giving him a special chair, etc. However, during the workshop I learned about certain more creative movement breaks and also a bigger animal pillow (stuffed animal) that goes around the neck and helps students be more calmed. It really helped!
Co-op: How was this course different from other PD you’ve participated in?
Andrea: It was more specific. Every session had a topic and I did not get bored in any of them. The size of the group was perfect and we always did whole group and small group work. This really helped me learn from all participants.
Co-op: What advice do you have for other teachers who are considering taking the course?
Andrea: This course is amazing! If you are looking for courses that will help you enrich your teaching, take it! It is a fantastic opportunity to ask the questions you have always asked yourself about differentiation, scaffolding, working with students that have special needs. The speakers are great and they have a lot of experience! I love that most of them were or have been educators themselves. They understand what is needed in the class and they were great at sharing all their knowledge. We always had great presentations and group discussions. I was able to implement one or two new things after every workshop – it has really helped and improved my teaching.
Want to learn more about INCLUDE DC? Read our article: INCLUDE DC Early Childhood: Solutions for Inclusive Classrooms in DC Charter Schools.
Ready to apply for the next cohort? Sign up for our INCLUDE DC newsletter to be the first to know when our Spring 2017 cohort application opens!