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Teaching Fellows Supported By Faculty Members Through Orientation and Weekly Seminars

As summer drew to a close and students began planning for Fall Term, Teaching Fellows also began preparing for their year at Andover. For many fellows, this would be their first experience teaching at a boarding school. Just as systems are in place for supporting new students who feel nervous about beginning their Andover career, Teaching Fellows are aided in their transition to Andover by an orientation program developed by the Dean of Faculty’s Office.

Teaching Fellow orientation lasts several days and includes seminars, meetings and discussions aimed at preparing fellows to be involved in the Andover community. In these seminars, teaching fellows are trained on subjects such as syllabi planning and student diversity.

“I remember we had one event where we could just sit down and discuss syllabus and designing syllabi, and work within our department groups so that we could share ideas and figure out what it meant to plan a class… It was super useful for teaching fellows especially, because for a lot of us, it’s our first time teaching, and that discussion on the classroom really helped,” said Andrea Acosta, Teaching Fellow in English.

Teaching fellows are also assigned a department mentor with whom they can meet to discuss questions about their coursework. Although some fellows have official meetings with their mentors every few weeks, many others see their mentors on a daily basis. The frequency of their meetings varies from pair to pair.

“[My mentor, Peter Watt, Instructor in Physics, and I], our desks are right next to each other, so we talk to each other a lot… I bounce ideas off of him, see how he does certain lesson plans and use it as a guide… It’s a really nice feeling to talk to [Watt]. He’s been teaching Physics 400 for like 30 years, so he really knows what he’s doing,” said John Tortorello, Teaching Fellow in Physics.

In addition, Yasmine Allen, Instructor in Spanish, leads weekly seminars each Thursday for the teaching fellows. These meetings offer teaching fellows the opportunity to share their problems and concerns with each other.

“Every week, [the teaching fellow seminars] usually range. There’s a range of topics from technology in classrooms to the attitude that you should convince your students to have,” said Alex Djamoos, Teaching Fellow in Russian.

“I think that the week by week structure of [the seminars] makes sure that we’re supported and that if there’s any problems, then they’re addressed. If there’s something you can’t bring up with your mentor or is unrelated to your class [and] more related to your dorm, they have structures in place for those concerns to be raised and then addressed,” said Acosta.

As recent college graduates, teaching fellows had to adjust to life as a teacher for the first time, which includes a full schedule of new commitments.

“For me it was probably just that it was the first year out of college, first year not as a student. I don’t really think it would matter what my job would be. It was different and it was harder in many ways because you don’t live on a campus full of all your friends and… you’re more independent,” said Tortorello.
“Two things [were difficult to adjust to]. The first thing was buildings not having [air conditioning], and it was hot! I just moved here from Texas, so it was kind of weird for me not to have AC in buildings. Also, having a very full schedule… all these things happening. My head is always full with what I’m going to do,” said Djamoos.

Despite the difficulty of their sudden immersion into campus life, Acosta says that she, as a teaching fellow, is treated as an equal by more experienced faculty members in the workplace.

“The English Department is very conscientious about treating everybody – new faculty, old faculty, teaching fellows – as equals in faculty spaces… It is very apparent that they really want our opinions and our voices, because even though we’re younger and less experienced, we have the most recent scholarship and the most recent sense of how English is being taught at a university level right now,” said Acosta.

“They affirm time and time again that we are important and valuable, and should speak up to offer our opinions. I’ve never found any problems with that,” she continued.

Nov 13, 2015