When I first moved to the Bay to begin teaching, one of the first things I did was buy an IKEA bed frame. I had no idea, however, how challenging it would be to put together. As my housemates and I took out piece after piece of the soon-to-be frame from its box, I caught a glimpse of the instructions manual.
It had a crossed-out picture of a sad cartoon character trying to build the bed frame by himself, and a picture of three cartoons happily building it together. I remember showing it to my housemates and joking, “IKEA said don’t go at it alone!” One labor-intensive hour later, my housemates and I had successfully constructed my bed frame together, following IKEA’s advice and working together to get it done.
As I look back on my first year of teaching, I see there is a connection between building my bed frame and building the foundation of my classroom. Just like I couldn’t have built my bed frame without the help of my friends, I couldn’t have built strong teaching practices without the help of so many people at Rocketship. Without the help of my teacher coach, my partner teacher, and my principal (just to name a few), I wouldn’t be the teacher I am today. They have provided me with emotional support, academic support, and even with some surprise caffeinated beverages to get me through a few long weeks.
One example of how I was supported relates to how my small group planning changed the trajectory of my classes. At the beginning of the year I received guidance from my coach in planning my small groups and remedial instruction – I used manipulatives, key points posters and various other resources to help my students that needed it the most. I saw them grow leaps and bounds academically. In fact, they improved so much that I was able to push the rigor of my whole class instruction forward. Then I really started seeing results.
The latest third grade NWEA test my students took was administered just a few weeks ago. As student after student met growth goals, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed with emotion. The growth I saw in their scores and confidence was unbelievable. On average, my third graders made two years of academic growth during their time in my classroom. Several students who came into my classroom with the label of “Far Below Basic” from their old schools have mastered the majority of third grade content.
IKEA said don’t go at it alone. Those words apply not only to constructing Swedish furniture, but also apply to teaching. My students couldn’t have come this far without quality instruction, but I couldn’t have helped them without the support of others.
Maheen Sahoo is a founding 3rd grade math teacher at Rocketship Spark Academy. She attended the University of Southern California, where she studied Philosophy, Politics and Law with a minor in Communication Law and Media Policy. In her daily life, she enjoys using her students as an audience for her puns and teaching them about important USC traditions. She also squeezes in some math from time to time. Fight on!