FACULTY IN FOCUS offers a deeper look into what motivates our teachers, what they bring to the classroom, and why they love teaching Brookwood kids. This week, Ms. Perkins shares her perspective with us.
Ms. Perkins | 4th Grade Teacher
What do you teach, and how long have you been teaching?
I teach 4th grade at Brookwood and I’ve been teaching for 7 years in total, and 4 years in 4th grade here at Brookwood. I like 4th graders. They are more in a grown-up stage of kid-likeness than, say, a 3rd grader and so they can read books and start seeing deeper meanings. You can use sarcasm with them and they think that is awesome. They start to view the world from multiple angles and you can see their minds being blown by that.
What’s the most rewarding part of teaching at Brookwood?
I've never taught in a place that was so truly child-driven. This has been a huge mindshift for me as an educator - this idea and practice that the curriculum is important, but the kids are the priority. We spend an unbelievable amount of time talking about the children, understanding them and their families, what they want and need, and how to teach them as human beings. This drives our learning and teaching and it’s pretty exciting as an educator.
So for example, the information that I teach in a certain lesson isn’t necessarily the most important. Yes, I set out with a given intention, but then something shifts and I realize that we are doing something different and need to deviate from the original goal to accommodate the students and what’s happening in the classroom, and that’s okay here. That kind of flexibility and adaptability is supported and encouraged at Brookwood if it makes sense for what the children are needing at the time.
And overall, our students make me excited to teach here. I was a little cranky this morning when I got here, and then the kids came in and I felt so happy seeing them. They changed my day. That’s a great feeling.
What’s a moment you’ll never forget from your teaching career?
For me, what's most unforgettable are those moments when you feel this sense of connection and forward progress. I had one lesson that was not going the way that I'd planned, and the students were obviously not invested. So I halted the lesson and we went outside to play this group game called SPUD. The kids had fun and on the way back inside, one student came up and said to me - in this way that's so perfectly 4th grade - "It's in these moments that I really feel like our class is a family." She completely helped me put into perspective how massively important that feeling of being connected is to learning. We got to the lesson the next day and had a much better go of it.
In general, there are so many important moments every day and some of the ones that are most unforgettable, are those that are intangible and hard to describe.
Do you have a favorite topic or unit that you like to teach and why?
Oh poetry, I love teaching poetry. It’s definitely the highlight of the year, every year. We fill the classroom with poems and plaster different poems all over the walls. Something that I have learned is that it’s important for students to have a lot of opportunities to write, that the iterative process is essential to their development as writers. And because poetry is usually shorter than, say, a story, I see them grow so immensely as writers during this time. I find that they write such profound poems and am so impressed by what they have to say every year. They also create poetry anthologies where they have to sort the poems they pick by theme, such as silly poems, rhyming poems, or poems about dreams. The categories they pick are creative and unusual. The students make interesting connections as they categorize and compile their anthologies and I never cease to be surprised!
From your experience, what makes Brookwood unique?
I do think feeling known at Brookwood, as an adult and as a kid, is unique. One thing that impressed me when I first came to Brookwood was lunch. You have adults and students, faculty and staff, maintenance and the kitchen staff, everyone, sitting and eating together. Everyone knows one another. I feel that the grown-ups around me care about getting to know who I am, so as a result, I feel known as an adult.. So just as we get to know our students so deeply, I think it’s unique that the adults do that with each other to the same degree.
What did your five-year-old self want to be when you grew up?
Honestly a teacher. I had this chalkboard and I made all my cousins sit in a room and learn how to spell. Or a dog trainer. I had a dog as a kid and I taught him how to jump through a hoop and play dead.