Who are the Residents?

Mountain Connection, January 30th, 2023

By: Jed Donnel

As the first trio to embark on SMS’s new Teaching Resident program, our three faculty in training have been trailblazers, both in implementing what the program is intended to be, as stemming from its paper-based concepts, and in the ongoing process of experimentation and modification as we figure out on the fly what the job really entails on a day-to-day basis. At the core of the position, each Resident sits in on classes with a mentor faculty member, and while the majority of the first trimester was devoted to note-taking and close observations, lately they’ve become much more active in writing their own lesson plans, teaching portions or all of certain class periods, and developing ideas for teaching their own complete unit across a couple of weeks. In so doing, they’ve increasingly swapped roles with their mentors, who observe their developing styles and offer them feedback. And they’ve needed to be hugely flexible in the process, since any seasoned faculty who’s at least a bit humble will tell you that teaching someone else’s class is one of the most challenging applications that the profession affords. As Hannah puts it, “We’ll jump in and teach anything from a 10-minute lesson on Punnett Squares to a whole class on Jacksonian Democracy. Our incremental involvement in teaching has been preparing us for the grand test of teaching a class for the entirety of intersession.” Indeed, during April, each Teaching Resident will take on the complex task of delivering a trimester’s worth of material (a bit more, in fact) over the span of four weeks, and while they’ll still have available guidance from other faculty on campus, they’ll be at the helm. Spencer notes, “Fortunately, we’re not in this alone and are supported by various mentor teachers, our deans, and just about every other member of the faculty and staff. We’re constantly receiving feedback and advice on how to improve our teaching, are chatting with the Dean of Students about how to form strong relationships with students, and we have a weekly class with the Dean of Academics where we discuss student learning and educational pedagogy.” As a mentor myself, I can readily attest to the remarkable integrity, creativity, and wherewithal that describe the three Teaching Residents. They fluidly blend the roles of student and teacher, and they are each honest in their devout commitment to the school and in support of each other.

Of course, their impact on the SMS community extends well past the classroom, too. When the academic day ends, they’re involved in all aspects of the school’s various offerings, from POPs to outdoor ed trips, dorm duties to community dinners, transporting students from here to eternity, and even college guidance or attending the occasional film screening. The responsibility of a boarding school faculty member is a 24-hour gig, and the Teaching Residents have proven themselves well suited in smiling at and volunteering for such demands. Hannah adds, “In the fall, we coached rock climbing, cross country running, and wilderness skills groups, and now that our world is covered in snow, we lead ski groups on the mountain two or three times per week. On Sunday evenings, we take on residential duties, proctoring study halls and checking in on our students’ wellbeing. We spend a few weekends out of the year on weekend dorm duty, hosting ice cream parties, jeopardy battles, and movie nights.” Time and again, each Resident has mentioned how much they appreciate the humanizing qualities of their roles, particularly in their interactions with the students. Sophie encapsulated such a perspective within a recent anecdote, stating, “Last weekend I was on duty late-night in Cedar Hall. Around 10:00 pm, a few of them came back from line dancing and, energized and hungry, they made tacos and waffles in the dorm kitchen. We sat around talking until midnight about various adventures we’d been on and our opinions on things like the best way to cook rice or the best ‘promposals’ we’ve seen. When I finally made them go to bed, and while I was locking up the dorm, I was exhausted but also felt airy and fulfilled. As a whole, this program has given us a tremendous opportunity to be a part of a strong and supportive community while we explore both in and out of the classroom.” I am happy to report that, at the mid-year, all three Teaching Residents plan to pursue careers in education, and they are well on their way. In the meantime, as they gain their chops, we are quite fortunate to have them all on the Upper School campus.

Resident Applications are open for the 23-24 school year!

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