Meet a Brooke Associate Teacher

Brooke Newsletter

Brooke’s Associate Teacher Program is designed to prepare aspiring teachers for a successful career in just one year. This yearlong, school-based teacher preparation program helps ensure Brooke has a pipeline of great teachers each year. It is also a way to bring more Black and Latinx teachers into our classrooms, which aligns with our goals to increase staff diversity. Unlike other positions at Brooke, Associate Teachers do not need prior teaching experience.

We sat down with Adrianna Rivers, 2019-2020 Associate Teacher Corps Member and Smith College Class of 2019 graduate, to talk about what she is learning and contributing in the program.

What was your experience like in school as a student?

From elementary to high school, school came naturally to me, and I was a straight A student. When I got to college it was a different story. I think I struggled my first two years because the schools that I went to were more concerned with getting kids into college, not helping us stay in college. When I went to Smith College, I wasn’t really prepared. I felt inadequate and out-of-place compared to my peers. First of all, I was a black girl in a predominantly white institution. Second, I wasn’t super rich, and I didn’t go to a private school or boarding school. I didn’t have the same experiences as other students. During my junior year, when everyone went abroad, I stayed on campus. This turned into an amazing time for me. I refocused and went to tutoring, talked to professors after class and in office hours, and developed a routine that helped me get grounded in school.

How did going to college impact your identity development?

It’s actually something that a lot of my friends can relate to as people of color. When you go away to college, especially when it’s to an all-white institution, you experience things that you wouldn’t at home. Then when you go back home again, it doesn’t feel like home anymore. This happened to me every year. It shaped my identity because I’m more confident with who I am in the sense that at Smith, I had to own my identity as a black woman. I think I needed to struggle for those two years to get there.

I try to be the teacher I needed when I was a kid. I want my students to know that I care about them as a person and as a student.

Why did you choose to become a teacher?

I was convinced I wanted to be a nurse, so I studied pre-nursing and environmental science at Smith. I took a course in child adolescent development to help meet my nursing requirements. I wrote a research paper on how gender stereotypes impact how teachers see students and how that impacts student achievement. Seeing how students can be impacted by their teachers, I realized this is something I wanted to be part of. I wanted to help and make a difference. I also had an internship as an operations intern at a charter school in Harlem, and that made me realize I wanted to come back as a teacher and build relationships with kids in the classroom.

Now that you are four months into the program, how is teaching similar and different to what you expected?

Teaching is different than what I expected because of the relationships you build and support you get. When I was a kid, I just saw teachers as adults. Being a teacher now, it’s interesting and different building relationships day in and out with the kids. They start to confide in you. They come to you with academic questions as well as life questions. There is a lot of support and understanding between teachers, which I wasn’t expecting, because everyone has a shared experience with the kids.

What are you most proud of so far?

I’m proud of my growth as a teacher. My mentor Dareon gives me a lot of constructive feedback, and that has helped me grow. I look at my teaching videos from the beginning of the year, and I see a difference in my confidence, knowledge of the material, and classroom management. Now I feel confident that I can walk into any classroom and make an impact. I try to be the teacher I needed when I was a kid. I want my students to know that I care about them as a person and as a student.

What do you like most about the AT program?

I like the professional development (PD) sessions the most. In the beginning, we would read articles and discuss how to implement new strategies in our teaching. Recently we’ve been watching each other’s videos, talking about our strengths and areas for growth. I wouldn’t be where I am without the PD. Sadie, the Associate Teacher Program Manager, is purposeful and intentional about the information she gives us and how she gives us feedback.

What is your mentor supporting you on right now?

We’re working on 100% compliance among the students during class. That means that if I give an instruction, everyone is following it. For example, if I say “markers down,” I pause and scan the room to make sure all kids are meeting that expectation. Or when I’m working with a student, I’m scanning the room to make sure the other students are on task.

Outside of school, how have you experienced transitioning into the world of being a working adult?

Being an adult is hard, and it feels like you are constantly jumping over hurdles. I love the freedom and responsibility to make my own decisions, and I love having the opportunity to help others. Finding the Teachers Lounge was an amazing experience. It’s a community for teachers of color that meets once a month. I volunteered to work it to get to know people faster. We are able to have conversations about education and how we can help the kids more. Seeing that many educators of color together is really inspiring. The network is so down to help you – if you need housing, a job, they are there. Being a part of this group helped me get settled into Boston and feel confident that I have another network of resources.

Looking back, do you have any insights on the job search process that you wish you could give your former self?

I would tell myself to be open-minded. I never thought I would end up in Boston. I never thought I would end up teaching. You have time, and you don’t have to stick to one thing. You have to seek your opportunities, and remember nothing is impossible.

Relevant Reads

  • “The Mentor Who Taught Me”: Jill Bernstein, Brooke Roslindale 6th Grade Teacher and former Associate Teacher, describes how the skills and confidence she gained in her year as an Associate Teacher helped her build a classroom culture that brings out the best in her students.
  • Who Believes in Me? The Effect of Student-Teacher Demographic Match on Teacher Expectations: Researchers discovered that, all else being equal, Black teachers’ expectations for Black students are 30-40% higher than expectations of those same students by non-Black teachers.
  • Setting Limits in the Classroom Associate Teachers reference this book by Robert McKenzie in their professional development sessions when discussing specific techniques for establishing clear expectations for all students.