Blair Lashley is a first-year teacher at Rock Creek Valley Elementary School in Rockville. She was interviewed in Bethesda on Oct. 29.
This is your first year teaching and you teach first grade. How did you choose first grade?
I interned in first grade at Rachel Carson [Elementary School, Gaithersburg] and loved the little ones. They are so needy, in the sense of needing reassurance, but they want their independence.
It’s the biggest developmental year, you really see them excel in the spring time.
What is the hardest part of your job?
As a first-year teacher, everything! I go in at 6:30 a.m. and stay until 6:30 or 7 p.m. most days.
The hardest thing, I guess, would be learning to teach Guided Reading.
What is that?
Guided Reading is small group reading. I teach one group of three students and three groups of five. I have 18 students.
Everyday I have four different reading groups and four math groups.
How does that work for the students who are not in the group you are working with?
Those kids work in centers. They have seat-work on what they just did in reading group or work with writing activities or listen to a book being read. They follow along and improve their fluency in reading by hearing it.
How is it going now that you are almost the end of the first quarter?
The first month is getting into the routine, this is the tenth week. Organization is important because that’s how I function. I organize [the students] so they can learn.
It takes a lot of patience and I have an amazing reading specialist who helps organize and teach me.
You seem to spend a lot of time on reading, what else do the kids do?
That’s because it is the hardest for me. We have an hour of writing each day and math after lunch and, two or three days a week, I get to teach science or social studies. One week we do science, one week social studies.
Is teaching living up to what you expected?
Absolutely! But I have a lot of times when I feel like crying because I’m so stressed because I want to meet the needs of all my students. I want to get it right for them.
What are their greatest needs?
Some definitely need nurturing, some discipline and others are just there to learn. I think I have a good balance between nurturing and discipline.
You said your worked before becoming a teacher. What did you do?
I worked for six years as a manager/buyer at my sister’s clothing store in Rockville, but I always had a passion for kids. So I went into a program at the University of Maryland for career changers. It’s called CITE: Creative Initiatives in Teacher Education.
I loved it. There were 18 of us, a small group. We all worked at different schools so we got to learn about a lot of different experiences.
Do you have a favorite book you read the students?
One I was excited to read to them was, “Love You Forever” [by Robert Munsch]. That was one of my favorite books growing up. Another was “Chrysanthemum” [by Kevin Henkes]. It is about a girl who is bullied because her name was the name of a flower.
What would you like your students to leave their first year with?
Self-confidence, independence, organization and reading — that’s a really big focus and push in the first grade.
Is there anything else you would like the readers to know about you as a teacher?
I’m so happy I went back to school to be a teacher. You are literally changing kids’ lives. We are educating them for [future] jobs.
“Voices in Education” is a twice-monthly feature that highlights the men and women who are involved with the education of Montgomery County’s children. To suggest someone you would like to see featured, email Peggy McEwan at email@example.com.