December Graider of the Month: Chris Lodge

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I’m pleased to announce our December Graide of the Month, Chris Lodge. Chris is a senior at the University of Maryland College Park majoring in Elementary Education with a concentration in mathematics. He’ll be moving to the Big Apple this fall to join Uncommon Schools as a middle school math teacher and take on the “exciting challenge of making math fun for students!”

A Growth Mindset
Over the past few months, Chris has proved himself to be an exemplary Graider, garnering top scores and praise from countless teachers. But his journey is a little atypical. In fact, when Chris first applied to become a Graider, he wasn’t accepted! His feedback on the application activity missed the mark - just narrowly. It was clear, however, from the rest of the application that Chris was passionate about teaching and committed to his own professional development and growth as an aspiring educator:

“The first time I applied [to The Graide Network], I didn't get in, and this was a big wake up call for me. I realized I needed to give more specific, more directed feedback. I’ve been very focused on this mindset and improving my feedback skills.”

With further coaching from our Member Success team, Chris proved himself to be a fast and receptive learner. He has since focused on crafting specific and actionable feedback and working to find an effective balance between praising student strengths and providing constructive comments. The hard work has certainly paid off! Countless teachers have raved about Chris’s attention to detail, thoughtful comments, student-friendly language, and speedy work, but our favorite review is from Ms. Evans at KIPP Houston:

“CHRIS IS AMAZING! He was so thorough with the paragraphs of feedback! The kids felt so special because his feedback to them was so personalized!!!”

A Call to Teaching
During his sophomore year of high school, Chris joined a community service club. Right away, he knew that helping others and being of service was something he enjoyed and wanted to pursue. Part of the service work involved tutoring at local elementary schools, and this is where Chris found his true calling to teach.

“I LOVED working kids and being able to bring excitement to them and serve as a role model […] My favorite afternoons were the ones spent tutoring. I realized that I looked forward to going to the elementary school, rather than going home. That is where I found my passion.”

Moving to NYC might seem like a big, scary move - but Chris is prepared. In fact, he’s spent the last THREE summers living and working in the city through summer internship programs with Breakthrough New York and Uncommon Schools. His biggest learning moment to date was seeing firsthand how to run a classroom and how to get every student engaged and involved:

“ Breakthrough and Uncommon were my first real taste of the true teacher experience, rather than acting as a tutor or mentor. This was huge for me! I realized, ‘I can actually this this. I can lead a classroom of 20 or 30 students and help them succeed.’”

Not surprisingly, Chris is still focused on self-improvement. This semester, as he student teaches at Rockledge Elementary school in Bowie, Maryland, Chris is working on the delicate balance between being warm and strict. He’s learning how to balance care and compassion for students while still holding them to high expectations both academically and behaviorally. His mentor teacher has been helping him with this and showing him how to speak to students in a constructive way. 

“[My mentor teacher] told me this will always be a challenge - no matter how long you’re teaching. But leveling with students is important. Tell them: ‘I’m upset because I care about you and I want you to do better.’ The idea is to be open and honest so students understand WHY you’re upset, what your expectations are, and how they can improve.”

We are grateful to have Chris as a part of The Graide Network team and we cannot wait to see his success when he enters the classroom at Uncommon in the fall. Congratulations, Chris!

Chris’s Tip for New Graiders:
“Something that really helped me was keeping in the mindset of writing to a student. Think about what kind of feedback you liked to receive as a high school or even college student. What reached you? Try to replicate that, writing directly to the student in a language they can understand and relate to!”