Meet Joe Crain
It was August 18, 2009. I was one of hundreds of students sitting through NC State's graduate student orientation. I came to the orientation expecting to receive valuable information to help me prepare for the next two and a half years of my life. I came to this orientation thinking that I knew what I was going to do after I finished my master's degree. I did NOT come to the orientation thinking that one speech would alter my focus and start the course to changing what I wanted to do with my life. Then, Dr. Barbi Honeycutt began her speech about the CoAT program and TAs at NC State.
At first, I only half listened. As a full time classroom teacher, there was no way I would be able to TA at NC State, so this information really did not pertain to me, right? Then, Dr. Honeycutt asked a question -– a question that has reverberated in my head since August 18. She said, "Look around you at the number of people in this room. There are hundreds of students starting their graduate career today. In a few years, you will be competing with these students for jobs. What are YOU going to do to make yourself stand out? What one thing are YOU going to do to give yourself an edge? What are prospective employers going to see in you that they cannot find in the hundreds of other applicants interviewing for the same job?"
"What are you going to do to stand out?" These words rang in my head as loud as an alarm clock buzzing to indicate it's time to get up and start a new day. A new day –- that's exactly what this was -– a new day. I need to make myself unique. I need to be different from all of my peers throughout the country seeking the same degree that I am. But how can I if I cannot teach at the university?
So, I approached Dr. Honeycutt to find out how a classroom teacher who could not attend any CoAT workshop and would not have the experience of TAing could make himself standout. In true form, Dr. Honeycutt answered my question with a question: "What interests you? What excites you about your degree? What excites you about your profession?" Little did I know that my response would completely change career goals. "I'm really interested in reflective practice."
Out of those words was born the Peer Mentors in Teaching program at NCSU. Over the next few months, Dr. Honeycutt and I began adapting a program based on the Peer Coaching Model to provide TAs with the training to collect data and provide collegial feedback to each other in a collaborative non-evaluative way. PMiT coincided with an instructional coaching class that I was taking at the time, thus giving me the opportunity for some truly deliberative practice going from my classes to teaching the information to my PMiT colleagues to putting the skills to use in PMiT.
Creating this program has helped direct me in my future career goals. I now know that I want to work with beginning teachers and university TAs helping to provide them with the support needed to become reflective practitioners and, ultimately, successful educators at whatever level they choose to teach.
Working with Dr. Honeycutt, CoAT, and the PMiT program has truly changed my professional life. I started graduate school last fall, burned out and disillusioned with teaching -- and now, I am energized and ready to embark on my new path in education.
So, as it inspired me, I pose the question to you: What are YOU going to do to stand out?
Editor's Note: Article written and submitted by William J. Crain.
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