In 2020, a Year of Many Firsts, Ms. Brookman Has Her First Year at Wilde Lake

Ms. Brookman graduating from McDaniel College in 2020.

This year, 10th and 11th grade English teacher, Ms. Brookman is taking on her first year of independent teaching at Wilde Lake. On top of these new beginnings, she must face the challenges of virtual learning.

After completing her internship as a student teacher in March 2020, Ms. Brookman had a vision of how her skills would transfer to her own classroom. However, she was unprepared to teach in a pandemic world. Ms. Brookman had to reflect.

What does it mean to have to do everything virtually? She was forced to overcome obstacles that new teachers never talked about, and never incorporated into teacher training.

Staring at a screen and looking at her students’ profile pictures for hours a day wasn’t a part of the training for Ms. Brookman. “We see you, but if nobody else has their camera on, or unmutes, it still feels like a void for us,” she said. 

Ms. Brookman has tried to focus on building a bridge over that void. “I feel like there’s so much more that I could be learning about these students. I haven’t exactly had the joy of seeing kids in that ideal situation, without all of this extra stuff on them,” Ms. Brookman says. 

While she continued to adjust her mindset in order to fit the virtual world, Ms. Brookman also had her worries about coming into a new setting at a time like this. “As a first year teacher,  nobody knows me, I’m just coming in! I thought people might have heard my name before, but not known how to reach out.” Ms. Brookman said. 

This is not the experience she encountered at Wilde Lake. Ms. Brookman received an immense amount of support from her fellow staff members, whether that was over emails, phone calls, or text messages. 

She highlights the joy and willingness of the Wilde Lake students as well, crediting them for her incredible first impression of the Wilde Lake community. “It just seemed really cool how so many of them were so open with virtual learning, and willing to take risks that they might not have even taken in the classroom,” said Ms. Brookman. 

The best part of Ms. Brookman’s year has been engaging with her new students. She does whatever she can to get to know them, looking to brighten the lives of her students. “She actually talks to us, and it really seems like she cares about us and our lives,” says junior Justice Wideman.

One of her favorite in-class activities is called Rose Bud Thorn, where students share something good that happened to them that week, something they’re looking forward to, and something not so good that happened.

“I think just those reminders when I’m not feeling at my best, that maybe the kids aren’t either. And even before getting to all the content, reminding ourselves that we’re all people, who are going through a really hard situation,” said Ms. Brookman. Putting exercises like this before her English lessons is something that has helped Ms. Brookman navigate through this year with her students. 

Ms. Brookman has found that flexibility has been essential to thriving this year with her students. She accepts late work through the end of the quarter and sets up extra meetings in addition to synchronous support. She makes sure she always offers availability like her students have done with her this year. 

Despite the circumstances, Ms. Brookman emphasizes positivity. She notes the energy that her students bring make all the difference.

Ms. Brookman loves her students, and is looking forward to meeting them in person. “There’s kids who have never turned their camera on at all, so I have no idea what they look like,” She says. “So it’ll just be even more fun for that big reveal when we finally get back in the building! I can’t wait.”