You might think visiting the second-grade classroom of a second-year teacher in the middle of a science lesson—at the end of the day near the end of the school year, no less—would be a bit chaotic. But if you’re talking about Kristen Murcott of C.H. Bird Elementary in Sun Prairie, that would be wrong.
Murcott, casually wearing a velvet hat adorned with the Cat In the Hat, easily directed the attention of 18 active, vastly different personalities through several short videos, examinations of jarred insect specimens, and writing in their notebooks.
She credited her increasing competence and confidence with teaching to Sun Prairie Area School District’s mentoring program. In fact, she chose her teaching position there because of it. “Who wouldn’t value being mentored? I think everyone should have that chance!” she said. “There’s no judgment, and always time to ask questions.”
Murcott is finishing her second year in the mentoring program, which focuses on inquiry with pre- and post-observation. She said it’s been characterized with interactions like telling her mentor, Tracey Rosin, “That was a terrible lesson!” and Rosin answering “No, watch the video! You had 17 kids totally engaged!”
During the first year for new educators, the mentoring focus is on analyzing student work, with pre- and post-assessment of lessons. Murcott talked to the first-year teachers about her experience with that last year. Rosin video-taped her presentation to upload as an artifact for Murcott’s Educator Effectiveness.
There are many components to the Sun Prairie mentoring program that Murcott values besides the time spent with her mentor. Beginning teachers attend workshops presented by the mentors (there are four full release mentors in Sun Prairie) on licensure with the Professional Development Plan. “I love being with colleagues, in a cohort doing the same thing,” she said. “It’s a nice way to build connection in the district.”
Beginning teachers are also given four days to go anywhere, a new peer observation program started by the principal. Murcott chose to visit a different second-grade classroom, and a first-grade classroom. They are also allowed hours to observe veterans.
But the weekly meeting with Rosin is what Murcott clearly values most, and is a foundation of building her competence. As the two sat together to discuss a recent lesson, Murcott paged through some notes, expressing concern about a student’s behavior. Rosin listened, then said thoughtfully, “But you did not enable it, nor will you.” Murcott stopped, looked at her, smiled and said “Right!”