The Beginning of a Lifelong Pursuit: Reflections on Two Years of Teaching

In 2016, we interviewed Holly Johnston as she was wrapping up her second year as a Literacy Lab tutor and weeks away from stepping into the classroom as a full-time teacher. Over the last two years, Holly has been learning in the classroom as a Teach For America corps member. We asked Holly to reflect on her experiences in Teach For America and how her service years prepared her to become a teacher!
What challenges have surprised you about teaching? What successes have surprised you?

The biggest challenge is how much other stuff is going on in your building.  It’s not just teaching your lessons, but also working in all the testing, the assemblies, fire drills and code red practices, if your students receive services.  I never realized how much went into a school day until I was a classroom teacher.

How did your experience serving as a Literacy Lab tutor prepare you for teaching with Teach For America?
One of the biggest experiences as a Literacy Lab tutor that helped me prepare to be a classroom teacher is the emphasis on data! Having monthly data meetings to discuss a student’s progress helped me realize how important data is for classroom teachers.  Whether we are working through the IEP process or deciding what small group to place my students in for guided reading, I look at their data from various tests and classroom performance to help make those decisions.  Data is also a powerful tool for students, telling a student, you moved from a level 1 to a level 3 over this school year is a powerful way to let them know, all this work you’ve done this year may not have been easy, but you did it!
TFA and The Literacy Lab share similar values, in ensuring that all students have access to education and tutoring services they need. Why is that important in the march toward a just and equitable society? 

I am a fundamental believer in Teach For America’s mission of One Day.  I truly believe that one day, regardless of where a child is born, they will have equal opportunity and access to education.  This idea of One Day is so important because regardless of the zip code a child is born, they should have the same opportunities.

As someone on the ground, working with students every day, what are your hopes for development and reform in education in the future?

I truly hope that one day, children with have access to equal and equitable education.  That every student is given the tools that they need to succeed, in order to achieve the same education.  We can present the same information to our students all day long, but until we address all the other obstacles that our students face on a daily basis, education will never be equal.

Interested in jumpstarting a career in education? Apply to serve as a Literacy Lab tutor in the 2018-19 school year!