Entering into her thirteenth year of teaching, Khara Puncochar is no stranger to changes in the classroom. She has taught Sociology, Economics, Government, Psychology, World History and US History in addition to hosting over one hundred advisory students in the college and career focused course.
Khara hosted three teacher candidates in the more traditional student teaching experience, but after her first year of having a teacher candidate in the co-teaching model in the 2014-2015 school year, Newberg High School social studies teacher, Khara Puncochar, opted to return to the co-teaching program, inviting Wesley Kriz to join her as a teaching partner.
“One of the reasons I continue to participate in this co-teaching program is teacher candidates are here so much more. I can’t really mentor someone I only see on Thursday afternoons for a semester. They need to see the whole picture. They need to see the frustrating things, the things that suck up your time, and the rewarding parts of being with the kids.”
In thinking about this experience so far, Wesley and Khara shared this:
Wesley: I definitely feel more comfortable now-I feel like I’ve grown a lot since September.
Khara: I see you’ve really grown in two main ways: personal comfort and also the growing understanding of designing the introduction of a lesson in a way that ties back and leads us forward through the day.
Wesley: Now that I’ve done a unit in Government, I know what makes a better unit, which is frustrating because it’s the unit I’m submitting and I could do so much better now.
Khara: It’s always that learning experience: what did the kids produce? How much did they learn?
Wesley: I never made my own materials before or wrote my own learning targets that actually mattered with students.
Khara: Learning to write a target and craft a unit is a whole different piece than seeing what students produce and timing/pacing and the reality of teaching. Teachers are often good students and you have to put yourself in the mindset of a student when things are more difficult than you thought it would be.
Wesley: Some of the more rewarding times have been when we are both in class, lecturing and working together to make learning easier for kids.
Khara: Having two teachers in the room is great because while I can do it myself, it’s nice to have two people to make the teaching more interesting and engaging because we can bounce our ideas off of each other and we have time to talk together.
Wesley and Khara both understand the value of having two teachers in the classroom and the benefit of having the longer time in the same placement. “You really start to see the layered challenges: instructional, social, and institutional.” explained Wesley. “We have to go so fast and just touch on things we could spend so much time on to give kids all the information they really should have.” Khara agreed, saying, “The reality of teaching is far from ideal. Nothing in the program can really prepare you for the reality of the apathy and the need to be a motivator to get some students to produce.”
By working together, both Khara and Wesley have seen greater student success and have enjoyed increased collaboration. Having the opportunity to work together, knowing the same students, and really living in the same environment has allowed both mentor and mentee to grow in their practice and challenge students in new ways.
In terms of next year, Wesley hopes to find a home teaching secondary social studies, knowing that he can rely on his mentor for continued guidance.