Bridget Robbins has been an elementary school teacher for over eight years. For the past 2 years she has taught Kindergarten at Abbotts Hill Elementary School, and prior to that taught 1st through 6th grade in both urban and rural settings. Bridget worked as a substitute teacher at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. She received her undergraduate degree (B.S. in Elementary Education) from the University of Michigan – Flint and continued her education at the University of Georgia where she earned her Master’s Degree in Educational Administration & Policy and an Early Childhood Reading Endorsement, May of 2006. While attending the University of Georgia, she worked as a graduate assistant with the UGA - Clarke County School District - Athens Community partnership. In that role her primary responsibility was to act as the liaison between the partners. She helped further the goals and vision of this long-term Partnership for Community Learning Centers’ initiative. During this time she also helped plan professional development and conferences for teachers. Bridget recruited and trained students to help with tutoring and to provide other support and academic services at the elementary schools in Clarke County. Bridget loves teaching and helping students realize their full potential! She currently serves as Team Coach for her grade level and began First Class Learning, LLC – which offers tutoring services and Adventures in Reading & Math camps for children at Abbotts Hill and in the Johns Creek, Georgia community.
What inspired you to teach?
Wow! Teaching was the last thing on my mind when I graduated from high school in 1995. My family is full of teachers – my mom, grandma, aunts, and uncles but I decided I wanted to be different and began working on an accounting degree. However, that was not to be my fate! I decided to spend some time helping my mom out in her classroom and eventually began substitute teaching to make some extra money. As I worked in the classroom I was amazed by how much I enjoyed it and how much the students seemed to enjoy having me as their teacher. They were enthusiastic and eager to please. I was taken aback by their natural unconditional acceptance of me which inspired me to change my major and pursue a career in education. When I started substitute teaching, the teachers and principals began requesting me regularly to sub in their schools. It has been such a rewarding experience to teach children and see the progress that they make academically and socially. I feel it is one of the most fulfilling jobs. Teachers help shape tomorrow’s future which is what makes teaching such a fulfilling job.
What teaching methods are most helpful in guiding students toward their goals?
Positive, positive, positive & meaningful reinforcement!!! I respond well to words of affirmation and I believe this plays a role in my teaching style. I have found that helping to build up a child’s self esteem and self worth reaps a great reward – for the student and for me! We all want to do well and we all want people to like and care about us so I try to do my best to encourage, support and build trust with my students, especially during the first few months of school. Students need to know that you genuinely care about them. At the beginning of the year, I take time to get to know their likes and dislikes and what really matters to them. We develop our classroom rules and consequences together so that students can have ownership and actively help to reinforce the rules.
The second thing that really makes a difference is consistency in discipline and classroom routines. Believe it or not children like and respond very well to order and a consistent schedule. It helps them to feel safe in the classroom. The idea of fairness is very important to children. Being consistent promotes a feeling of equality in the classroom. Whenever I discipline a student, I do my best to do so in a positive way. Instead of saying “stop that or be quiet, I try to say things like, “Please keep your voice off or remember to raise your hand before speaking.” I then explain to the students that because of the choice he or she has made, he or she will have to deal with the consequence. I tell them, I know you can do better next time and everyone makes mistakes.” Students will usually respond well and take the consequence without complaining. Many times, they will apologize or choose to sit by themselves next time so they won’t get in trouble. With time, students become intrinsically motivated to meet our classroom expectations.
We celebrate as much as possible in my classroom! Throughout the day we cheer each other on! “Way to go!! Awesome! Great Job!” is frequently heard in my classroom. We have class parties and on Fridays we play our Morning Boogie music and dance together which helps build a sense of community. When you encourage kids, they become encouragers. Be what you want your students to be!!!
What skills should a teacher training program emphasize? De-emphasize?
Teacher training programs should emphasize hands on, real life experiences with children in classrooms. Service learning is a great opportunity for students to get some of these experiences while helping others. It would be beneficial to have more classes on classroom management and meeting the needs of diverse learners. It would also be great to have more of a focus on self reflection; thinking about what kind of teacher you want to be and what you need to do to become that person.
De–emphasize classes on research and statistics, and focus more on practical techniques that can be used in the classroom.
What would you like to improve about your teaching?
I would like to create more lessons that are fun and engaging for the students that really focus in on the skills and objectives that they need to master. Time management is another area I would like to improve on – getting the most out of the minutes we have with our students each day. I am always looking for ways to be more efficient.
What is the one thing you wished you would have known when you started your teaching career?
I wish I had known the importance of time management, organization and prioritizing! I have learned that I need to focus on what is most important because there is always more to do. Focus on the things that will give you the greatest return for your efforts -those things that will really help your students be successful.