Mary Britt Hamilton is from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and always knew that she wanted to be teacher. To obtain her dream job, Mary attended the College of Charleston and received her Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education. Upon graduation, she landed a job teaching Kindergarten, and is proud to have done what she loves for the past eight years. Mary Britt Hamilton now resides in the wonderful city of Wilmington, North Carolina, and is excited to use her skill set to teach in her new environment.
What do you love most about the industry you are in?
I think the thing I love the most about teaching is what I learn from the children I teach. They have taught me so much about myself and about how to be a better teacher to each of them. It’s a stressful industry where the work is NEVER done. It’s not a job where you can just leave the work at work at the end of the day. But the children make it completely worth it.
What keeps you motivated?
Again, I think my answer would have to be the children. A lot of days, they are the only ones that keep me going! I love to see the progress they make towards learning and witnessing when those little lightbulbs go off for them. It’s so rewarding. Young children are so impressionable, and I just want to be a good teacher and a good role model for them.
Seeing the amazing teachers around me is a big part of my motivation as well. The really good ones teach me so much and make me want to be on their level. I can ask them questions, watch them teach, and listen to them talk about teaching for days!
How do you motivate others?
With my coworkers, one thing I make a conscious effort to do every single day is to TRY to stay as positive as I can. We all vent to each other about things now and then, but I know from experience that having people around me that are constantly negative – the “debbie-downers” – is not a good thing. So, I try to be happy and positive around my coworkers no matter what else is going on around me.
With my students, I will do pretty much do anything and everything but stand on my head to motivate them! Generally, kindergarten students are pretty enthusiastic about school and about learning. But I still put a LOT of effort into making things fun and exciting for them. I add a little extra to certain lesson plans, and I talk about topics that would usually bore them like they are the most exciting and coolest thing in the world. I’m also really into positive reinforcement. It goes a long way with their confidence and their self-esteem in relation to their academic abilities.
What would you tell new teachers who are just starting out?
DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP! It is so overwhelming being a new teacher in so many ways. The main way I survived was asking the people on my team a million questions. Veteran teachers are usually more than happy to help and can offer advice and experience that isn’t taught in any college class.
Who has been a role model to you and why?
My mom has been and continues to be an amazing role model to me in so many ways. She’s this amazing person who started a preschool and kindergarten program at our church when I was little. It’s the most successful program in town and people get in line on the day of registration at 3 am to make sure they get a spot for their kid. She started an entire school as the director AND managed to take care of a home and a family comprised of a husband and two small children. She’s retired now but she’s still a role model. She’s the most thoughtful person I know. She makes time to do things with me and all the people in her life. She’s so good at being an amazing mom, grandmother, wife, friend, and member of the community. I have never known how she was able to balance it all, but I strive every day to be more like her in just about every way.
How do you maintain a solid work life balance?
I’m not sure that I do! I’ve definitely improved over the years, but the work of a teacher is endless. It never stops. Those sweet children are on my mind and heart constantly. Again, this isn’t a job where you can just leave work at work at the end of the day. When I go home I never stop thinking about the kid that probably won’t eat dinner that night or the kid that had to be put in foster care that day because of the abuse at home. For the first couple of years, my job was my life. I didn’t have time for anything else. I definitely didn’t have a personal life. But over time I learned that if I kept going like that, I was going to burn out- and I didn’t want that to happen. So I started making more boundaries and following more advice from my veteran coworkers. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, my goal was “Four and Door.” That meant I had to stop what I was doing at 4:00 and leave school. Now, I maintain a better work life balance… but I don’t know that I’d call it “solid.” I try not to go into the classroom on the weekends at all. I try not to stay at work past 5 or 6. When I do finally leave, I try not to take tons of work home to do. I exercise more and I take my golden retriever, Jude, to the beach for long walks. It’s definitely a work in progress!
What traits do you possess that are needed in your industry?
I’m very well organized, which helps tremendously! I’m very patient, which is obviously important when you have a room full of 28 five- and six-year-olds. I have a love for learning which is important because education is constantly changing and evolving. I have a good sense of humor which is really helpful on the days that if I didn’t laugh, I’d probably cry!
What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve overcome in teaching?
Probably accepting that I can’t do it all. I used to kill myself trying to get everything done and make everything perfect and it’s just impossible. I learned to finally let go of trying to have control of everything all of the time. Now THAT was hard. But it’s made me more flexible and a better teacher in the end.
Outside of work, what defines you as a person?
Oh gosh, that’s a hard one. I think I would define myself as a person who treats others with kindness and respect, who treats MYSELF with kindness and respect, who loves learning and growing, who loves animals, and who wants to make a difference in the lives of the children and people around me.
What made you want to become a kindergarten teacher?
What made me want to become a teacher was the impact that my teachers had in my life. I loved school and I loved my teachers. I thought they were so special and so smart, and I loved how they all could make me feel like I was their favorite student. I became a kindergarten teacher because kindergarten was the grade level with an opening…. but now I’m so happy that it’s where I started. Kindergarten is the first time a lot of these kids are ever in school. I get to set the stage for how they will feel about learning and about school in general. It’s a huge responsibility and I will never stop trying to set each and every one of them up for success.