Transcript #5 Barbie Magoffin: Cross-Curricula Teaching and How to Understand your Students better.

Ti-Fen: Hello everyone. Welcome to Compass teachers show. I’m your host, Ti-Fen.  My job is to interview teachers around the world and  tease out their teaching tactics, education research or tools they use.  Hopefully this show can offer some ideas for you to experiment in your classroom. Today my guest is Barbie Magoffin. Barbie Magoffin is an English teacher in San Diego High School of Business and Leadership. When Barbie just got out of school, she worked on marketing for few years but it didn’t feel right for her.   So she decided to try teaching given her innate love for kids.    After some observation hours on campus, she immediately knew it is the home for her.    Today in our conversation, we are gonna talk about how teachers can  do to understand their kids more and what cross curricula teaching looks like. 

Ti-Fen: Barbie. You are an English teacher now. What is your core value or competency that you want to nurture in your students through literature?

Barbie: That’s a great question. My core value with anything that I’m doing is to do it with love always. And I’m an English is such an easy transition into that because we have so many texts and different things that we can read about. I want every student that I have to feel like they’re worthy and like they are loved. And so in literature or in any type of reading, writing expression I think that there are well in my classes when I try to do is make sure I get text that actually kind of match the lives of our kids. And that way they’re able to see themselves in that and know that I have enough respect for them that we’re gonna read things that are relevant to their lives. And but then they can go on to what I’ve really found is that if I am making sure I’m paying attention to them and their lives, it builds up their confidence in themselves and makes them feel like they can achieve not just in my class but in other classes and their lives. Of course, it’s not just by myself. I work with really amazing team who will help us develop that competency within them.

Ti-Fen: So when looking into your experience, one thing really stood out for me is how much you care about students wellbeing. You taught kids yoga and you’re certified in mental health first aid. Is there any tools you use for social emotional learning ?

Barbie: Yeah. Definitely. I’m so my first thing that I would tell anybody is like I really hope that if you’re going to be a teacher you have some innate ability to just love make really truly. Because you can get some kids who are funky little people and you have got to find it inside of yourself to legitimately for reals love them. For the people that they are not, it’s not going to be the right field for you. Because there’s so much going on all the time and if youcare high a school teacher especially or even a middle school teacher you have a lot of students, you know. I have upwards of two hundred students and to find it in your heart to love them all can be really challenging. And that you don’t have to like them all because they definitely do some weird things. But you do you really have to love them. I’m really grateful like all right my parents showed me in such love my whole life that I was very lucky to grow up in an environment like that. So that is a big influence for me. As far as social emotional learning goes. There are going to be is so anybody who’s going into education just starting they’re going to be tons of opportunities for professional development in those areas so getting certified in some mental health and certifications as it relates to suicide really for and my case was just something that was offered at my school. Most people don’t have to take it. Just signed up to take it am I learned so much like I was able by taking that course which was led by a mental health professional, you know. I learned things that I don’t learn in my teacher education you know. I wish we did but we don’t and so an example of that is like a role play that we did it where we had a another teacher put a little like a rolled up piece of paper torn here and start whispering things in our ear while somebody else was trying to talk to us about something that was going on. And where we’re spring things like to listen to that person they’re out to get you and you cannot focus. I could not focus on the person who was talking to me trying to teach me something with all that whispering in my ear well. That was my way to learn you know. If a student is hallucinating they actually can’t learn and you know, that’s one maybe extreme example. But kids have so many things going on like most figured if things that are being whispered into their ear all the time and so take those opportunities just so you can try and have a better understanding especially in the environment that we’re in right now. And that we truly been in forever but we’re just becoming more people are becoming aware of our environment right now. Meaning that different individuals in our society are treated as a certain way if you didn’t grow up with that. So I grew up in a very like white neighborhood with wonderful parents who work really supportive and I certainly had like my ups and downs just like anybody else. But I will never fully understand or even kind of understand the experiences of many of my students and I need to hear them and have things have them be open to sharing. But also I need to take the time to learn that stuff myself. So like right now I’m reading a book called Onword cultivating emotional resilience in educators by Aileen Aguilar. There’s so much again available online but take the time to read it and find the things like it is our responsibility as teachers to make sure that we are looking for different resources and different articles and reading text that I’m reading texts that must understand our kids and it doesn’t even have to be something that’s like a pedagogy book or some sort of self help or self awareness. But it can be an actual like a novel that just deals with the experience of what your students might have. Like for me reading American history with my kids I read independently first and then and was able to see some perspectives also like The Hate U Give like any of those kinds of books that we have out there right now all American boys. And all those are dealing with the same specific issue police violence against black bodies and then just general systemic racism. Without me to understand where they’re coming from and then my students were able to share more. But I think it’s really important that we don’t expect our students are going to teach us all of that stuff we have to have the time to learn it ourselves.

Ti-Fen: So Barbie you mentioned about cross curricula teaching before and you say the intention was for project based learning though it didn’t get in there. Could you tell us what is cross curricula teaching and with some examples would be great?

Barbie: So cross curricular teaching is just combining or aligning curriculum across different subject areas. So like a really easy one to merge together. It’s just like a humanities box like a history class an English class go together really beautifully. But in truth project based learning and all the kids course courses in subjects are coming together. So like what they’re doing in biology should reflect what’s happening in English and Math and history and all those things. Now we were remarkably successful with this last year for many reasons we had a lot of things happen in our school year that just what are mentioned. But we really try to maintain some sense of cross curricular. And so I’ve done this before with just history in English when I was teaching my middle school students. And the beautiful thing about cross curricular is it makes everything just makes so much more sense for the kids. As so where they have to you well if you just think about it for yourself imagine six classes a day or my students have eight classes there for every day. And that’s a lot. So when you go to college you maybe take four classes in total for an entire semester or quarter or if you’re like really ambitious you’re like on that five class track or maybe even six. But I really don’t know many people who do that. What we’re expecting young people to go from one subject to the next in a whole day and be able to like maintain some sense of understanding and just like sanity as they do that. If you ask me to go from mass where I struggle intensely and it’s going to be a very stressful situation for me to be in a math class, and then go to an English class which is a complete shift in my brain. And I might really enjoy that but right after that I’m going to biology and I’m stressed out again. And like not wanting to go and then I have to go to your history now go to PE that is so incredibly stressful. So the more that we can actually merge what’s happening between those spaces the better it is for them. So this year we started the year out with them doing a project on sustainability. And that they were creating these hydroponic an aquaponic gardens. And the idea was to bring that into like an English class we were gonna talk about things like food desert’s and food security. And read things around that and keep it really culturally relevant in their ethnic studies classes that they’re taking which was our history class this year. They would have talked about kind of the cultural relevance with with food and gardening. And that sort of thing and it ended up not working by way and that happens sometimes. So like another thing that I would say to anybody who’s getting into this career is it is the most it is a career that never has any true stability. I never really know what’s going to happen. There are so many things that are out of your control and press it wasn’t just hope that you know, we lost a teacher like that many things happened that made it so doesn’t work. And you have to bounce back because whether or not something happens the kids will still be there the next day. They’re not going away because something there’s a glitch in the system. So any and the last unit that we did before we went on break we really realizing that our students were struggling pretty intensely especially after losing their biology teacher. There was another I hang up in their scheduling and so it’s just they were really feeling kind of disregarded and you know keep in mind with what the demographics I already shared. Like this is a group of students often feels just regarded and not just feels it is disregarded. And that so we really wanted to make sure that we were trying our best to get back into some sort of continuity for them. So our last unit we did do cross curricular between their ethnic studies class in English class and they were learning about the black experience was what they call the unit and ethnic studies. And so in that class they learned about the history of black individuals in the United States. And then at the same time in English, they were doing film study so they watched a few different films to learn about black representation in film. And then I can mention already we were also simultaneously reading American street doing work with that. I was signed from making the most sense for the kids because it kind of eases up on the brain switches that they have to do it also helps teachers to have a United front. So I really know what’s going on in their other classes and that communication allows me to you and you know we talk more about the kids we talk more about their needs. Here’s what happened in here like so I’m not repeating it in this other space or I can build off of that It was so nice to be able to say well I know I miss summers class you guys just learned about this. So now let’s take it to the next. It allows. us to dig a lot deeper for students who are struggling academically. This makes a lot of sense for them as well. And this is something that helps them to ease into information. So if they didn’t get it in the summer school class, and then we kind of refocus our attention on that same topic in English class. Then okay now I understand. It’s a getting up from two different teachers or three different for different or however many there might be will help the kids to really understand.

Ti-Fen: I wonder if a group of teacher wants to try out cross curricular. And do you have any tips that you can offer so that they can collaborate with each other without too many conflicts? Because like different subject teachers working together, I believe they all have their own perspective.

Barbie: Yeah. That’s true. If I’ve learned anything in my career is that teachers have a lot of opinions is actually English teacher. So that’s a great question; So I’ve been really fortunate in these situations that I’ve been describing. When I was at the alternative school, I was the the English teacher. And there was a history teacher so what made, you know, and we were good friends. And we were next door to each other. So it is beautiful and perfect and I would love to work with him like for the rest of my life. But I’m here at San Diego high I really wanted to do this cross curricular the first couple of years when I was in the school of International Studies. And these points that you’re making are huge, right ? So there were several teachers who are teaching the same subject because we have a lot more students in that small school than we did the other small schools. So let’s say there were like three 10th grade English teachers and breed AP a world history teacher is which is what the students were taking. First it’s really difficult to pair up perfectly with an AP course because they’re really working toward a very specific goal which is not taxed not impossible. Like I think the more that those things can merge the better like those kids will be much more likely to pass those AP tests. But it’s hard I’m also as a new teacher it can be really hard so I was the newer teacher at the school at the time, I didn’t know everybody. There’s a lot of senior teachers like very senior teachers at the school who are kind of in there set in their ways. So you can always try. You can always go up and say Hey I’d like to give this a shot what do you think you know that somebody will more than likely say no. And I would say the best thing to help that is to have a really supportive administrator and have the administrator step in and say like this is what we’re going to do because we know that this is what makes sense for kids and even still like now in business leadership again. I have that small team you know we have less kids in that school and the only ninth grade English teacher you know in the summer is the only ethnic studies teacher like very easy for us to do that. and then middle school it might be a little bit easier but it has to be everybody on board unless you know for sure that there’s only one teacher teaching and they’re teaching the same kids that you’re teaching which is very unlikely and most secondary school settings. So the ministration is super important the best way that I’ve found to get administrator on your side is she would do a lot of research to have data to back yourself up. So like with social emotional learning there is concrete data that shows that if you are that’s didn’t achieve higher if they are engaged in social emotional learning like here’s the data here’s the task though these kids look like our kids. You know all this stuff this is what makes the most sense for our students because Jerry you know here’s I work with you and it happened in the house yeah about

Ti-Fen: It’s worth a try

Barbie: Yeah absolutely. I mean it is truly I would stay outside of just like my own personal trying to create a safe space for students but as far as like true curriculum building and pedagogy goes it’s been the most effective way to get students to be successful is to have cross curricular.

Ti-Fen: When you were a baby teacher or what is the worst advice you were given

Barbie: The worst advice ?

Ti-Fen: Right.

Barbie: Okay. The worst advice I was given I am so there was there was one teacher who was he took it upon herself to mentor me and what she would constantly did against my own well by the way what she constantly would do it compare me to the teachers who have come before me so I have been an English teacher this whole time. But I’ve also taught some other subjects like art in like it’s a marketing and and especially when I was teaching art which I never taught before and I did not feel necessarily qualified to teach it technically qualified to teach it. But it again it was something that was letting me keep my job at the time and since you’re making constant comparisons to that previous art teacher who had been teaching for like forty years and always made me feel so bad about myself. And my email and so that was really badly don’t ever compare yourself. Don’t let anybody else compare you to other teachers either like something that I’ve been talking to my friend Liz as just talking about is especially in this distance learning to become really clear that some teachers are holding themselves accountable for making sure that they are bringing work to the table their work to the table to make sure their kids are getting what they need. And I understand people have many different situations are not necessarily even judging that. But a lot of people want to say well that’s their style and there’s a really big difference between an individual style and just not doing your job. And so tap into your own individual style and don’t let anybody tell you that it’s not good enough because it’s not what somebody else is doing what somebody else is doing just like with anything our life may totally not work for you/. It may have worked amazing for that person and the kids may have loved it. But if you’re doing something that’s outside of your core self . You’re not going to be effective at it anyway so I did learn that lesson early on and that was bad advice from

Ti-Fen: All right that’s a really great story. Before we wrap up do you have anything you want to talk about?

Barbie: Sure. So and that was the worst piece of advice I’ve ever had. The best piece of advice I’ve ever had is that the kids will be fine and I tell myself that all the time the kids will be fine if we put so much into what we do and if you are a teacher who less what you do. Then you so desperately want your students to be happy and successful and bell labs. And you know it sometimes it’s just not that kind of a day and the kids I never completely resilient and they’ll be okay even if we’re not okay. The other thing that I would love to share is believe in your students. Please believe in your students and that’s another thing that there’s actual data to prove that if you believe in your students they will do better. I’m actually the most effective way to make your students more successful and achieve higher is to actually believe in them and that might mean that you have to like make it until you really do believe in them. But then stake it because that is what they need to know is that we believe in them that we care about them. And then my last thing at all shared is that my mantra and philosophy. So my philosophy of teaching is that every child can be successful and successful look different for every child and then the mantra that may students say every day lest we forget are they like. I’m really not in the mood it is I am powerful I am present I expect extraordinary results we do that one every day. They just really want the kids to walk away knowing that their loved and that they are worthy.

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