Every school year at Success Academy starts with four-weeks of Teacher Excellence Training — or TET. During this time teachers learn, practice, and get feedback and coaching to help them master the skills they need to drive outstanding learning. In January, we launched another teacher training, a “re-TET,” to help set teachers up for success for the rest of the year. Teachers put in extraordinary hard work and effort during re-TET — and it paid off: scholars showed significant academic gains in schools and classrooms across the network. This fast pace of change was exemplified in Anastazia Fogle’s fourth-grade class at SA Crown Heights. Her scholars became more vocal and engaged, the quality of their ideas dramatically improved, and they made significant gains on the ELA assessment.
We spoke to Anastazia to learn more about her re-TET experience.
What was your reaction when you heard that January was dedicated to re-TET?
I realized that I had never really been a teacher in practice. I thought if the kids weren’t learning, it was about them. But I came to realize it was more about my behaviors as the teacher. We had given them a baseline ELA test in December and only 35% of my scholars passed — I knew they could have done better if I had prepared them differently. I was ready to take a step back, reflect, and get maniacal about my teaching.
What steps did you take?
First, I focused more on analyzing my kids’ work at home. Most of my kids understand the text, so if I saw a big portion of students missed a question, I knew I was doing something wrong. When I analyzed their answers, I saw some kids weren’t reading the choices carefully or they weren’t connecting ideas in the text. Once I had a better handle on their gaps, I got clear on what I had to do differently.
What were some of the changes you made?
I realized I couldn’t just tell my scholars what to do, I had to show them by modeling my own reasoning. Also, I was lowering the bar. I expected my scholars to take longer to understand the basic ideas — but they understood quickly so I had to be prepared to reason through all the possible ideas that might come up. Finally, I worked on on holding them accountable for the things that push discussion forward: dissecting language in the text and forming their own ideas.
What’s something you did that felt uncomfortable?
Recording myself. People can give you feedback but, in that moment, you’re often just hearing that you’re doing something wrong. When I started recording myself and playing it back, I could see everything that was pointed out to me and it motivated me. Now I record myself all the time to see what went well and what didn’t.
What was one thing you noticed in the recordings?
I was prepared and knew the content, but I taught with a lot of hesitancy. Kids pick up on that and it makes them less confident and comfortable in their learning. Once I saw that, I was determined to teach with more confidence. I dropped the perfectionism and relaxed. It created an environment that was more fun for everyone. My scholars were more self-reflective because I was more self-reflective. I was able to say to them, “Hey guys, I wasn’t happy with how the lesson went yesterday, and here’s why. I’m going to try this again.”
Anastazia with her class!
What was your grade team’s experience with re-TET?
I think sometimes we as teachers are scared of change because we’re scared to fail. But if we look at one bad assessment and see ourselves as a failure, we’re never going to grow. My team and I had to get uncomfortable and try things we didn’t think would work. Once we did, everything started to change and it changed pretty quickly.
What was the impact of your work?
One big indicator were our results ELA assessment at the end of January. We were kind of in shock when we saw them. My class went from 35% to 75% passing and the other fourth-grade class tripled their passing rate. It was a feeling of vindication. We knew our kids could do it, we identified the issue, and we addressed it head-on.
What’s some advice you would give to other teachers?
Being uncomfortable is good — and when you’re scared, that’s when the best change comes!
Anastazia Fogle of SA Crown Heights