Kelly Tsuda

Cred. '05, MA '06

Portrait of Kelly Tsuda

Alumna Reflects on First Year in the Classroom

Written Spring 2006

The biggest challenge I face (everyday) is the “need” to get everything done and ready for the next day, week, lesson, etc. I normally have 11-12 hour workdays, plus I go in on weekends AND I bring stuff home. So, I am in the process of learning to tell myself I need to have a life instead of “living in my classroom.”

The biggest challenge I face (everyday) is the “need” to get everything done and ready for the next day, week, lesson, etc. I normally have 11-12 hour workdays, plus I go in on weekends AND I bring stuff home. So, I am in the process of learning to tell myself I need to have a life instead of “living in my classroom.”

In fact, the biggest surprise about my first year of teaching is THE HUGE AMOUNT OF WORK you have to do (that you didn’t have to do during your student teaching!) I am part of a Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment program (BTSA), necessary to qualify for a clear credential, and it’s a two-year program. I have bi-weekly classes at our district office and plenty of assignments to do (it’s like being enrolled part-time in college but working full-time, too) and I have adjunct duties at my school site. I am part of a technology committee and a science committee—this isn’t easy! Plus, you have your weekly staff meetings, staff development or district staff developments on our minimum day Thursdays. I have yard duty during recess, SST meetings, I teach an after school supplemental instruction class for students who are not meeting grade level standards, etc. It’s been a whirlwind.

My greatest joys have really been the little things that happen during the day that have reinforced my reasons for choosing this career. I’ve been working with one student who has had trouble getting her homework completed and turned in all year. She’s been unmotivated and irresponsible. I’ve been encouraging her everyday and I’m finally seeing it pay off. I’m happy to say that she is now, finally, doing it consistently and turning it in. When I check her homework in the morning, it pleases me to see her completed homework sitting on her desk, waiting for me to check it.

I have another student who came into my classroom in October with a negative attitude toward school. She was defiant and hit others. I was determined that she would have a successful year in my class and really made a conscious effort to work with my class on the importance of “teamwork” and “friendship.” My student has done a complete 180 degree turn from the day she walked into the class; she comes everyday with a smile on her face and tells me almost everyday how much she likes to be in my class. Now tell me what other profession can produce joy from seeing a completed homework assignment on a desk and a smile from a certain child at 8 in the morning?

I try to create a safe, stable, structured and warm environment for my students at all times. One of my students once said to me, “Our class is like my family at school and you’re like my mom while I’m here [at school].” As a teacher, it’s amazing because you never know all the ways you are affecting a child’s life. Everything is not always academic when it comes to the teaching profession.

I have been very fortunate to have an off-site mentor who works with me both in and outside of the classroom. We have a wonderful relationship! We reflect on my teaching practices, and she’s such a huge resource for me as a new teacher! I am able to talk to her about both student and school issues, if I have questions about “how to do” something, and she’s also just a shoulder to lean on when I need it (and you will as a first year teacher, believe me!) It was very helpful to know she was “in my corner” simply to help me adjust to teaching. If I didn’t have a mentor, it would have been a more difficult adjustment this year.

My experiences through UC Davis have prepared me well for the classroom in different ways. First, I remember how much the credential program stressed “collaboration” and “partnership.” The advantages of working together as a team produce so much more success. Consequently, in my own classroom, I stress the importance of working cooperatively and collaboratively. I have structured my classroom tables in groups, and I create many of my activities in such a way that students need to work together in pairs or as table groups to reach a common goal.

Another experience that has helped prepare me for teaching has been the research I did in my classroom for the MA program both this year and last year. To be effective, I am constantly trying to find new, different approaches for teaching a concept, different strategies for assessing or measuring whether a student is learning something. Classroom research has provided a path to go and discover what works best for my students and me. I hope to become more of an “expert” myself as I am constantly discovering new ways of doing things in the classroom (I feel like I learn something new everyday.)

My goal is to help my students reach their highest potential. I hope to instill in them a love of learning and discovery. I am also trying to show them the importance of being a good person. If I don’t feel like I am making a positive difference in their lives, that will be the day I stop being a teacher.

Besides the classes that make up UC Davis’s credential program, I owe a lot of my growth as a teacher to Dawn Imamoto. I walked into her classroom at the beginning of my credential program not knowing how valuable my year was going to turn out to be. During the school year, I couldn’t have guessed how well Dawn and I connected! Ranging from classroom management strategies to storytelling techniques to writing ideas, Dawn always had an explanation for why she does what she does in her classroom. She helped me see that if I don’t have a reason for doing something, I shouldn’t be doing it. Being consciously aware of this has helped me in my own planning this year because I am constantly asking myself, “What are my reasons for doing this activity?”

I remember from the very first day of school, she had me in front of the class because she wanted me to do as much as I could under her guidance (of course, I was extremely nervous!) Looking back in retrospect, I am so happy she did! I could feel myself blooming with more confidence throughout the year and, it was in big part, thanks to her. She also helped me see how difficult “change” can potentially be for teachers, but encouraged me to constantly try new things and search for new ideas of approaching concepts. She has been one of my biggest supporters and I honestly feel I had a successful first year because of the many experiences I had with Dawn last year as my mentor. We are great friends now and I still turn to her for guidance. She is a wonderful person and such an asset to the UC Davis Credential Program!

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