Ms. McClain, the newest addition to our literature department at North Springs shared with the Oracle some of her past and insights on teaching. Hailing from Buffalo, New York, Ms. McClain was a victim of budget cuts and decided to come to Georgia, “So that’s how I ended up in Georgia because I needed a job and as I was looking around I saw that there was a need for teachers in Fulton County.” But perhaps this is getting ahead of her story a bit.
Before coming to the decision to teach, Ms. McClain took an interesting path, “I started working at a residential facility for emotionally disturbed children after doing that for three years I realized that I liked working with children,” but after realizing that financially she needed a bit more, Ms. McClain created a “marriage” of her two interests: literature and working with young folks and began teaching. Ms. McClain has an expansive history in teaching; having taught at four high schools including North Springs and one middle school one cannot really question her experience. In regards to her ending up at North Springs, “I really haven’t had many issues with moving to a new school,” she gladly claimed, “I think for the most part the students have welcomed me and I certainly feel welcomed by the staff.” She says entering a new school during the year however is like “building a plane and flying at the same time” but given her insights in reaching students and her confidence in lesson planning the upcoming journey appears to be par the course for the literature department’s newest lady.
When I asked what was different about teaching in those different schools it seemed to all come down to the different people she came across in classrooms, or as Ms. McClain would say, all her different “friends”. Connecting to students is one of Ms. McClain’s highest priorities in her teaching, and she’s become quite versed in how to do it, “You may have to build those relationships in a different way so it can be just having conversations with them talking about some of the stress that’s happening at home or at other schools it can be simply finding out what their interests are and maybe attending some of the sporting events.” But simply building trust with her students doesn’t solve every problem, “I believe the most challenging thing to me about teaching is motivating students and I’m going to tell you because motivation to me is really intrinsic and so I don’t have a cup of motivation, if I did I’d sell it!” this mythical cup of motivation absent from her toolbox Ms. McClain stressed the importance of approaching different students in different ways and rooting out the issues, whether they be apathy or real distractions they’re important to her.
While a teacher is nothing without students they are still their own people and Ms. McClain had some to say about her journey teaching. I rather vaguely prompted her, asking if teaching had changed her as a person, “I don’t know if it was teaching that’s changed me, I would say yes it has but I know also age and maturity have changed me.” She went on to elaborate, “I would say that teaching has provided me with an opportunity to get a peek into the lives of others and especially people from other cultures, people from other places. Not necessarily a different culture we can be from the same culture but just from a different area of the country like and now and I would say that it has provided me with the opportunities to meet other teachers that have different ideas and sometimes I’m able to borrow some of those things from them so it really has provided me with the opportunity to grow and develop and tweak things just to be a better teacher.” Citing her diverse journey and storied past Ms. McClain detailed as a closing note what made teaching worth it for her, “I’ll tell you a young lady sent me a message the other day, she was a former student and she told me that she will never forget me because I told her she had to work twice as hard as everyone else and she was just telling me how she was successful, she had gone to go to college and graduated with a bachelor’s degree and she’s gainfully employed and has a family now so I really was proud.” Her touching anecdotes continued and she concluded, “And so when I hear a young person say that I have inspired them to do something or influenced a choice they made it really makes me smile, it touches my heart.” Without a doubt Ms. McClain is a teacher who cares about her students and as a student of hers I am excited for the semester to come and confident in the experience others will have in the coming years.
I have little to conclude past what obvious assumptions one can make from the questions I asked so I will let Ms. McClain herself close on her own. “I think I would just like to say really, I would just like to say thank you to the staff and to the students for opening their arms to me in welcoming me to the school. It’s been a smooth transition for the most part, I really don’t have any complaints and I’m just excited. I’m looking forward to next year because I know that at that time I will have my feet firmly grounded; this year at this point it’s a little ‘whoa’ it’s a bit of a rocky ride. By the time next school year starts I will be firmly grounded and you know I’m looking forward to that.”