Read Madalyn’s first story about Bridging the Gap with Support and Planning

By Madalyn Hazlett


I began my first year teaching math in 2017 at Dreher High School. Over the past seven years, I have taught almost every course our math department has to offer, and currently work with our school’s E-Sports Team, Diversity Club, Math Team, Movie Club, and Robotics Team. A year ago, I received my second master’s degree in Trauma-Informed Education at Columbia College and have since helped reignite our school’s Trauma-Informed Committee. Throughout my career, I have hosted several interns and have mentored first-year teachers. 

I love my job and am extremely passionate about my students and their well-being. But I was not always effective or even happy in my career — my first year of teaching was a compilation of feeling incompetent, ill-equipped, and unfulfilled. 

Every morning, I left the house before sunrise and returned home after sunset. No amount of time at work seemed to help me become a better teacher, and I often felt exhausted and defeated. During that time, I relied on the support of CarolinaTIP to help me figure out how to make adjustments to improve my craft.

My Carolina Coach once shared a story with a powerful lesson that opened my eyes. She caught a former student drawing a picture of her — it was a heart with horns on top! The student explained that the horns represented that she was strict and consistent about her rules but that he knew, at the end of the day, that she loved them all and would do anything for them, so the heart was the largest focal point of the drawing. That story resonated with me because I, too, cared deeply about my students (although I made many, many mistakes). I realized I didn’t know how to create a classroom culture that would support my students emotionally and academically. 

Through CarolinaTIP, I learned about the difference between rules and procedures, which has become the basis of my classroom management plan ever since.

Rules should be consistent and enforced with the same procedure every time. There should only be a few rules so students can easily remember them. Procedures are the expectations you teach your students throughout the year. The simple things like how to enter the classroom, what to do if your calculator breaks, and how to choose kinder words when speaking with classmates. I learned that expectations are guidelines you lead students through with patience and guidance. 

Between a story about a heart with horns, the knowledge of how to implement rules and expectations, and many emotional hours pouring over my classroom management plan for my second year of teaching with my Carolina Coach, I learned to form a classroom culture that not only works for me but more importantly, works for my students. 

For example, I used to struggle to motivate and hold students accountable for coming to class on time, prepared with all necessary class materials. I realized that students needed time in the hallways to decompress before class and socialize with their friends, but it was also necessary for them to show up prepared and ready to learn. After considering all angles, I decided to mark students tardy if they were not in the classroom by the time the bell stopped ringing and to be very consistent about this policy. (I still implement this rule years later.) To address the issue of students showing up right as the bell rang, and thus being out of their seats and unprepared, I invested in a timer I set at the beginning of class for two minutes. This allows students time to get their materials ready and also provides students who cannot afford supplies an opportunity to take what they need. Financial barriers should never impede student learning. 

While it takes a lot of thought, time, and trial and error to build a classroom culture that works for every student, examining issues from their perspective can lead to creative problem-solving and sustainable solutions.  

Seven years later, I still use the strategies I learned from CarolinaTIP to improve my teaching methods. My administration team, who asked me to consider leaving education after my first year of teaching, has since communicated how impressed they are with the changes and improvements I made in my second year and beyond. It took a tough first year, and a lot of support from CarolinaTIP, but I found my place in education — and I am here to stay. 

Madalyn Hazlett has been teaching math at Dreher High School since 2017. She is highly involved in extracurriculars and works with the Math Team, E-Sports Team, and Robotics Team. She also helps run the school’s Sunshine Trauma-Informed Committee. She has two master’s degrees, the first in Teaching from the University of South Carolina and the second in Trauma-Informed Education from Columbia College.