Rachel Keim is a fifth grade teacher at Meigs Academic Magnet School in Nashville, Tennessee. She was inspired to become a teacher after having a negative experience while she was in high school. After being particularly excited for one of her high school courses she was left feeling disappointed. The teacher presented the material in a dry, meaningless, and oftentimes boring manner, making it difficult to understand and remember. Rachel decided to turn this negative situation into a positive one. She became a teacher herself and now strives to bring her rich life experiences into the classroom everyday. By doing so, she’s able to form strong connections with her students, maintain her passion for the profession, and keep her students motivated.
We sat down with Rachel to discuss what she loves about teaching, how social emotional learning initiatives have impacted her classroom and how she practices self care.
What was your favorite school subject growing up?
I always really enjoyed social studies and am thankful to be teaching social studies now. My father loved history and I think I inherited that from him. I love exploring the history of things and how that relates to things now. It’s so fun to be able to connect new experiences to the lessons we’re doing.
What do you enjoy most about being a teacher?
I truly look forward to seeing the kids everyday, working with them, and seeing their joy. They are always so entertaining and I appreciate their sense of honesty. My favorite part of the job is discovering new strategies that work well for my students. I always check in with them to see what they like about our lessons and how I can better support them.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
I try to live by the quote: “Have courage and be kind” from Cinderella. This is something anyone can use regardless of where they are in their journey of life. It’s so important for people to have the ability to stand up and advocate for themselves, however, you can always, always do this in a kind and respectful way. I try to teach this concept to my students as well. If something isn’t right or isn’t working for them in the classroom I urge them to speak up, but they have to do this is a kind way. Another way to look at it is be kind but fierce.
How do you practice self-care and support your own emotional wellbeing?
Another quote I think about often is: “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” I won’t be able to reach my students and achieve my goals if I’m not taking care of myself. What works for me is actually one of the Move This World Emogers: “Talk It Out.” The person I talk to most often is my mom, we talk multiple times throughout any given day. We’re extremely close and she was a teacher, too!
I’m also extremely fortunate to work with an incredibly supportive staff and an amazing fifth grade team. I work better when I collaborate with others. Teaching can feel isolating at times and it can be easy to become overwhelmed, so it’s important to have people you can go to for advice.
When I’m at home I devote time to recharging, usually by spending time with my dogs. We’ll often go on walks and spend time in the park.
What challenges do you see your students facing, particularly socially and emotionally?
My students are going through a huge transitionary period, particularly at the beginning of the school year. The transition to fifth grade is huge for them. First, they are transitioning to a new school, a new building and new teachers. They are also leaving many of the friends they made throughout elementary school to join the magnet program. Combine these factors with the increased workload and more difficult content and it can be a lot for them to manage.
What impact do you think social emotional learning has on a student’s ability to succeed?
Social emotional learning and Move This World has played a huge role in helping my students be successful inside the classroom. By being able to work through their emotions in a productive way, they’re able to stay more focused.
One thing I’m so impressed by is their ability to name the stressors that they’re feeling. This is something that even adults struggle with. They’ve been doing a great job of identifying exactly what is causing them stress and then matching it to a Move This World Emoger (emotional management strategy) to help them calm down. It’s exciting for me to watch them work through these emotions. They’re now able to take a quiet moment, reset and de-escalate so that they can return to their work with a clear head. It’s amazing how focused they are when they come back. It sounds so simple but then you think about what a huge task this is, particularly for children.
What do you like most about Move This World so far?
My favorite Move This World exercise is “Circle of Trust.” I love it so much. It gives me a clear understanding of where each student is emotionally when they arrive to school that morning, which impacts how I approach certain things throughout the day. It’s also so sweet to see how the kids connect with each other through this. They’re able to empathize with how their friends and classmates are feeling and will try to help one another. This has helped them develop friendships, since many students came into the school knowing very few people. I’ve also noticed that it’s extending their vocabulary. As a school we printed off a chart of the emotions that each student keeps in their agenda. The kids are now using more advanced and specific vocabulary to describe how they’re feeling.
The other thing I really appreciate is the continuous support. The Move This World program was not a set of videos or resources that were simply dropped off or sent to us. There are consistent check ins and open lines of communication so that the teachers feel very supported in implementing the program.
How do your students feel about using Move This World?
The students love it and look forward to it. They really love Elliott and look up to him. I was shocked by how quickly they caught on and became comfortable with the different exercises.
Interested in bringing Move This World to your school?
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