For teachers, summertime isn’t merely a long vacation. It’s a time to learn skills for the upcoming school year, including how to connect with their students, how to use new strategies for enhanced learning, and how to build a healthy classroom environment.
Whitney Wilding, who graduated from the McKay School in 2014 with a degree in elementary education, has spent this summer thinking about changes she will make in her second-grade classroom at Provo Peaks Elementary.
“In teaching, it feels like new things are constantly being thrown your way,” Wilding said. “I have learned that when you are willing to learn alongside the students in and outside the classroom, you are able to set the example for your students. The most important thing is to be flexible and teachable.”
The challenge Wilding faces most often is teaching to all the different needs of her students. With her administration team pushing for creativity, Wilding finds it difficult when her students’ learning levels range all over the spectrum.
To improve opportunities for her students this coming school year, Wilding will incorporate learning centers in her classroom, focusing on math and science concepts. She expects that the centers will not only increase her students’ learning, but allow her to have more individual time with them.
“I try and make connections with my students by asking them questions and sharing my own personal experiences,” she said. “By having an open conversation with my students, I feel like I have a more positive classroom environment.”
Another change Wilding is planning for this school year is to volunteer as part of the Arts Integration Program at her school. According to the Utah State Office of Education, “The program is for teachers who are skilled in an art form; who desire to develop expertise in helping students develop skills and understanding in the arts; and who are willing to provide arts leadership in their schools.” Wilding, who is passionate about music, hopes to reach more of her students by using this program. “It’ll be another tool in my belt to help my students learn and express themselves,” she said.
Wilding has spent the summer in Chicago, Illinois, with her husband as he completes an internship with a chemical engineering company. Her time in Chicago has broadened her horizons as she has encountered a wider diversity of people.
“When we are in Utah, I feel like I am sheltered [from learning] more about the various lifestyles of the world,” she said. “But I have been learning how to appreciate every lifestyle [as I have gained] a greater understanding of where people come from and how that shapes who they are as individuals. I hope that I can . . . help promote student culture and help my students celebrate who they are and where they have come from.”
Wilding has been busy this summer planning for the upcoming school year, which will include new centers for learning, more emphasis on helping students express their creativity through the arts, and a new focus on diversity in her classroom environment. With all of her summer preparation, Wilding hopes to make this school year one to remember.