New Teacher Training: The power of the alumni perspective

New Teacher Training: The power of the alumni perspective
Mary McNulty

For anyone who works at a school, New Year’s Day falls not on January 1 but rather sometime in early September. This is a sentiment that many Carroll faculty and staff have shared over the years. As the campus comes alive at the start of a new school year, there is a palpable sense of excitement. Faculty arrive on campus with a renewed sense of energy, rejuvenated with stories of summer adventures and eager to meet a new class of students. 

Prior to students’ return, Carroll faculty start the new year with a week of professional development training, team meetings, and time to prepare their classroom spaces. Carroll’s attention to faculty onboarding doesn’t start there, however. New faculty and staff return a few days earlier for New Employee Orientation. A cornerstone event during this specialized training is the Carroll Alumni and Alumni Parents panel. This panel has been a hallmark of New Teacher/Staff Orientation for many years. It is designed so new faculty and staff can hear firsthand about: what it’s like to find out you’re dyslexic; how Carroll has affected the lives of its families and changed the way kids think about themselves; what students feel is the most important thing they learned at Carroll; and, what advice alumni feel would most benefit incoming faculty and staff.

Sue Kingman, Lower School Division Head, said, "Consistently new teachers rate the alumni panel as the most impactful to their understanding of the phrase If not for Carroll."

Probably one of the easiest jobs at Carroll is pulling together an impactful alumni/alumni parent panel. We have an endless list of folks who are not only willing to participate, but who request the opportunity to share their insights with teachers, parents, students, etc. This year’s panel included Sophie Lucontoni '20, Michael Lucontoni P’20, Sophie Elmes '19, Linn Elmes P’19, Noelle Anderson '20, DeDe Anderson P’20, Dylan Dodge '12, Neely Dodge P’12, Evan Gage '20, and Chandler Gilbane '19. In an articulate, spirited, emotional, and thoughtful way, our alums and parents told stories of their personal Carroll journey and shared incredibly valuable “insider” insights.

Common themes included the powerful role teachers play in boosting students’ confidence and advocacy. It was clear that the special connection families make with Carroll—that sense of belonging, of being seen and heard—creates an environment in which students thrive. Following are a few words of wisdom from the panel:

Advice for new teachers

“There is a difference between cheerleading and validating. Validating is ‘I know that this is hard and I see how hard this is for you.' Cheerleading is ‘You got this. I believe in you.’  It sounds great except that the kid can't believe it because they don't believe in themselves. When Carroll teachers tell students that they see them and they see how hard it is for students, it makes a huge difference.” Sophie Elmes '19

Impact of Carroll

“We've heard that Carroll is life changing, and it is. We didn’t notice how low his self-esteem had become until after he started Carroll. All of a sudden it was ‘Oh, that’s the kid we remember.’ It’s life changing for the kids, but also for the family and the home-school relationship.” Neely Dodge P'12

Carroll Skills in your next school

The biggest thing I took away was confidence. I was nervous about going to a school with typical learners but I noticed quickly that I had the skills I learned at Carroll that I could apply in real time. You don’t even really realize the strategies when you’re learning them here, like a graphic organizer can really help me write a 10-page paper. The self advocacy that I learned here, I notice my peers don’t really have that skill. To know it’s okay to reach out to teachers to ask for help is a reason I’ve been able to succeed.” Chandler Gilbane '19

One of our new faculty said it best, "It's one thing to hear about Carroll's's another thing to hear the stories—to feel like I am a part of something bigger than my classroom from the first day I arrive."

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