Q&A with Mrs. Laura Apperson | Feature Teacher

What has kept you at The New School for 22 years?
The sense of community and family. I think that's something that's special and unique about The New School and it always has been. I have developed really strong relationships, not just with colleagues but with parents and families. I don't know that you get those connections and relationships in a different school setting. From the classroom to fundraisers and parties, there is a sense of camaraderie, friendship and support.

What is unique about teaching at The New School?
There's so much that is scripted now in public schools, but here, we have the flexibility to pick a book that the kids can connect to or do a science lesson on something just because they're interested in it. I can develop my lessons based on the interests of my kids.

What are the most rewarding aspects of teaching?
The number one for me is those “aha!” moments. It’s when a kid isn’t understanding something, but you can visibly see them thinking and making connections in their mind. Then they suddenly jerk their heads up and their eyes get big and they go, “Oh!”

I also appreciate the interactions between teachers and students. I'm not here to be their best friend. I'm here to support them and guide them, but do so in a respectful, friendly, fun way and hopefully inspire them to be their best.

What drives you as an educator?
To be aware of when I need to push my students. If it’s going to come easy, then I’m not pushing them or challenging them. If they can come in and everything is easy, then they didn’t have to think.

A lot of times, they’ll ask me for help and I tell them, “You have to think. I'm not giving you anything I think you are incapable of doing. It may take you a little longer, you might have to process a little more, but I have faith in you that you can do this.”

What advice have you received that continues to inspire you?
Angel Petet, who was my mentor, taught me The New School way of doing things. I remember her explaining it to me as, “There's black and white, and a lot of people see it black and white, but there are all the shades of gray in between. The New School is the shades of gray in between.”

How do you remain a lifelong learner?
There are a lot of trends in education. I think you have to follow the trends, but you also have to investigate those trends, look at what works and compare that with what has always produced the outcome that you want.

Something else my mentor told me that I will never forget is, “With any assignment, activity or lesson ask yourself, what is the value in this? Because we're constantly learning, you have to go back and analyze as well as be humble enough to admit when something didn’t work the way you thought it was going to.

I spend summers revamping every lesson and looking at what I can do differently. If you don't learn new ways to do something, you get stuck in a rut and it's just monotonous and boring.

What is a challenge you have overcome in your career?
Education is so competitive at the global level. There’s a big push to get children thinking at a higher level, working at a higher level, at a much younger age. I think that in itself is a challenge because it takes a lot to understand. How do I get these young children, my students who are nine-years-old, to understand this concept? What do I need to do for this to make sense and for them to have that “aha moment?" What do I do to make this difficult material fun, interesting and on their level so that they can master it before they leave my classroom?
 

Over the years, what has remained consistent at The New School?
My family’s faith in the school’s mission and vision, as well as the majority of people here believing in the vision and the philosophy of the school. People here support the school with the same goal: it’s for the kids.

We do what we can to make it the best for the kids, because that's why we're all here. It's not about us, it's not about what makes our job as a teacher easier or our life as a parent, it's about what's best for the kids.

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