Transcript #11 Dr. Jennifer Pieratt: Demystify Project Based Learning and Beyond

Ti-Fen: Hi 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 work towards the use. Hopefully this show can offers ideas for you to experiments in your classroom.

Ti-Fen: In this episode,  we are going to deep dive into Project Based Learning or PBL. Project-based learning  is a pedagogy in which students learn by actively engaging in real-world and personally meaningful projects. And today our guest Dr. Jennifer Pieratt is a well known expert of it. Jenny holds a PhD in Educational Philosophy, with an emphasis in Project Based Learning. She is an accomplished author and sought-after speaker on the topic of PBL. Previously Jenny was a classroom teacher at High Tech High, an organization that operates sixteen schools in San Diego County. She is also a former School Development Coach for New Tech Network and National Faculty at Buck Institute for Education.   
Jenny is the Founder of CraftED and is doing tons of coaching and consulting to administrators and teachers across the US and abroad.   Please enjoy our conversation today.

Ti-Fen: Jenny thanks for coming to our show.

Jenny: Thank you so much for having me.

Ti-Fen: So there’s that Jenny your first practical experience with PBL is in high tech high. What is your first experience with PBL look like? Any frustration or struggles from it.

Jenny: I’m so I can I can I think of two different things I guess when we talk about my very first experience so it might my very very first experience like my first day on the job was planning with my partner teacher and he was so incredibly patient with me when I look back on it and it was very foreign to me working with someone on my lesson planning/ I just you know prior to that experience being a high tech high head always just kind of worked in isolation. So I think that was my very first experience of project based learning was actually a collaborative one and I think that really speaks to kind of what my work even looks like today. And then the second kind of first experience was as a teacher so my very first project that I ever ran as a classroom teacher at high tech high which was a complete disaster was awful like it like we’re talking like sometime to design projects in there you can refine it and make them better and sometimes you just shouldn’t jump ship and never run again and it was definitely the latter. It just it was a mess and it’s you know I think everybody’s first experience is a little bit messy but that one definitely was flawed in that it it lacks the really important foundational pieces that I now and dad and my practice and supporting teachers to be sure that they don’t ever have that kind of a disaster again.

Ti-Fen: So can you give us one of the example why it is a disaster for you for that at the first time.

Jenny: Yeah I saw it was hot meat so that there’s a pretty extensive onboarding experience at high tech high they called the Odyssey and it’s like a month long experience of just understanding what PBL is and how to how to plan it into selected it but it’s it’s very much. It is an autonomous process high tech high so like there isn’t one standard way to design a project everybody has a different way to do it. And I think for me I was trying to be so drastically different from how I had talked previously in a private traditional school that I left out some important best practices so for example I didn’t know what benchmarking a project wise I don’t know how to build and benchmarks which means that I also wasn’t formidably assessing. So I did know that it was important to have an authentic audience so I had an opinion all the experts come in to view these students presentations at the very end of the project and while the students were doing a presentation I was sitting in the back of the classroom behind the panel and I just I was so embarrassed because I realized it was the first time I was assessing my students content mastery and they haven’t mastered the content yet. They were presenting in front of this expert panel into that was really my first kind of running with wow I need to do a better job of assessing them along the way. And bench marking up the project so that I can scaffold the learning and be sure that they’re getting where they need to be boss for the end of the project.

Ti-Fen: This leads to my question because you mentioned we have different definition of PBL. So what are the key components in PBL for you and how do you define PBL?

Jenny: Yeah and this is different for everybody everyone has their own working definition and you know if we look at historically the roots of project based learning it’s it’s evolved and changed over time so for me my definition comes from my own experience in the field working alongside teachers. And the reality is that they’re in right now so my definition right now isn’t even the same as what my definition when it banned fifteen years ago when I was in the classroom so you know what I found working with teachers is that there is this need to teach standard. That’s right I think we can’t avoid those standards or something that’s that’s just part of what we have to cover so for me the very first non negotiable of PBL is that it has to be rooted in standards. So it has to be content that you’re you know the expectations that you’re teaching and students are learning at rooted in standards. Secondly that another non negotiable for me would be that there’s best practices of formative assessment embedded throughout the project. So I’m you know what we know is productive for students in terms of giving them feedback and reflecting and growing and learning all those best practices need to show up in the benchmarks and the way we’re designing project. Third is that there needs to be some real world connections so you know this element of authenticity is critical especially right now for kids but we need to really think about how to contextualize the standards into a real world applications and that children understand why they’re learning what they’re learning and what it has to do with the world around them. And then you know that that the fourth piece to that is that there needs to be some twenty first century skills embedded in the project and that those twenty first century skills are explicitly being scaffold in an assassin just like the content and alongside the content so when I say twenty first century skills I mean things like collaboration oral communication agency those things are equally as important as the content. And and in many ways that’s how students access the content so we need to be sure that we’re setting the projects up in a way that you’re going to develop those those skills just as much as we would develop the content that students need to learn through the standards.

Ti-Fen: Got it. So would you mind giving us a PBL example that we can know how the PBL look like in classrooms?

Jenny: Yeah I’m gonna give you two because I think you know classrooms right now look very different than they did wind sprints because the covid-19. Yeah yeah so I think I am one of my favorite projects and actually I can share with you if you want to include in that show notes

Ti-Fen: Yeah that would be great.

Jenny: is one that I shared on a on a podcast I did for cult of pedagogy and it’s it’s this project it’s called silent voices and it’s about all of the voices that we don’t read in history books in particular as it related to the American revolution and it wasn’t that great project and I just I loved it for a lot of reasons but namely just let you know when I was working on the project and we were dreaming it up for kids it was like how I can’t believe fifth graders are going to do this like this is why you know we things we kind of start to learn about in college but we should have learned earlier. And the way that we set it up made it so accessible and relatable for kids and I think it just was a testament to what kids can really do when you set them up and and set them up for him and believe that they that they can so that’s why my favorite example not that examples also featured in my my elementary but keep it real PBL. Another example that I can share with you and you know one for for more of a virtual settings so I’ve been talking a lot recently about PBL lite which is a modified version ad might be offering marks a rather than being ten steps to planning and facilitating it’s only five. I’m concerned example as a virtual project and I recently designed was having students write a who would win story and so I’m not sure if you’re familiar you’re elementary audience might be familiar with this book series but it’s a series of informational kind style text about two animals that would never normally battling nature but the book put and together and it gives you all the statistics about each of them and then it says if they were to go to battle who would win. And so I had students right I can use this as a model to write their own book about it can be any two things I want to compare so to famous athletes you know to data scientists are too well known artists so if they were to kind of battle each other in whatever setting that might look like who would win. And so there is a lot of researching involved interviewing involved and then they ended up going to the entire writing production kind of time line and actually publishing a book and sharing in a virtual author and then at the end with a with a wide audience.

Ti-Fen: Got it that’s really interesting so actually Jenny you mentioned about benchmark and that’s the piece I’m really interesting too because when I was reading your work. Why group grades are discouraged and if there’s any example with project benchmarks that you can provide for the listeners to understand or how do you do benchmarks.

Jenny: Yeah okay. So there’s I think there’s two questions. So the first one being about collaboration young group grades so it’s a big no no for me because when students are working together it is very difficult to know what individual students understand no because issues of status and equity show up when we work in groups. If we are not very careful to include strict protocols that do things like take down those barriers of power and privilege. It show up in group work so you know what I mean by that is if you have a student saying who’s the second second language learner their comfort with speaking in a group is is going to likely be lower than that another student and so we might not hear from that first student and so how would we know what they know. And so if the group turns in a final product altogether, we can’t just assume that everyone knows and contributed the same thing that final product. So I encourage teachers to assess students collaboration skills how are they working together in a group rather than what did they know as a group because that’s very difficult to be able to say without individually assessing each child. So you know so that that’s kind of the first piece of that question. The second piece about benchmarking is is and people not everybody like that me saying word benchmarking so if you don’t like that word I would say you could all it’s synonymous with milestones or phases of a project. I’m really what it is is just taking your your end in mind your final product and working backwards and breaking it down into smaller chunks phases milestones benchmarks whatever you wanna call it. I want to make the project more digestible for everybody so it’s just setting. If you’re an industry it’s just like project management right how do we take the whole and break it down into parts so that we can get to the whole. I’m in and tied to each benchmark are within each benchmark is where you find your daily lesson plans in your scaffolding and then tied to each of those benchmarks is a deliverable that is permanently assessed and this is really getting stance opportunity to you know engaging assessment for learning rather than assessment of learning because we’re giving them feedback and applying them to grow and develop throughout this process rather than just waiting till the end. And greeting when it’s all over there’s no opportunity then for them to give it another try or to apply that feedback to the next phase of their learning.

Ti-Fen: Great. So how often do you thing a teacher should do the bench mark throughout the project?

Jenny: So typically there anywhere from three to five benchmarks on the project it just depends on how many standards are covering and you know how robust a project is obviously gonna dictate how much you need to break it down. So that the smaller project you know that’s a running through four weeks you’re piling and have like three benchmarks if it’s a much bigger project. You know maybe closer to six weeks and you would have something more like five or six.

Ti-Fen: What are the misconceptions of PBL that you always need to demystify for teachers ?

Jenny: Yeah there’s a lot and I can also include a piece that I read on this it’s called myth busting project based learning and it’s the five top misconceptions. So we’ve already had on a few of them one of them is that everything should be collaborative right. So I I try to kind of bust that myth right out the gate and just say that it you know if it makes sense for students to be working in a group and it’s a task that truly necessitates collaboration great. If it’s not then save it for something else. Not everything has to be in a group another misconception that we’ve already kind of hit on is that there is an assessment or standards in projects very much at the forefront of the design. Another question I get a lot is about you know kind of what we call voice in choice. So this idea that everything is student driven and there’s a really big misunderstanding to that. And that teachers think okay well if it’s student driven and I don’t really have a place in that so I just kind of sit back and make they take it wherever they want right. And the answer is no. Actually you know for me voice in choices. Yes, we give students choice you know maybe it’s they have three different options and final products or they have a voice and you know the content that they want to research as related to the driving question of the project. But it by no means means that the teacher isn’t still putting those guard rails on student learning and still guiding them in directions to be sure that they are learning what they need to be learning. So I think those are private the top ones that I find myself addressing most often.

Ti-Fen: I sometimes I heard that teachers found hard to do PBL because of their collaboration with different subject teachers. Do you have any advice for a cross subject collaboration because I can imagine teachers might have different opinions on what are the most important things to learn?

Jenny: Yeah it is hard and I think part of that I’m I’m going through yoga teacher training right now so I’ve been learning a lot about the ego to yeah the ego like doing an ego check is is first and foremost probably what teachers into doing their cleaning together. But then after that I would say what I’d normally recommend for teachers is to use what I call the driving standards when you’re starting out with your project designing and driving standards are social studies and science and I recommend those two because it doesn’t mean that the others are important so I’ll just say that but I recommend those to you because the way that they’re written tends to provide a really nice context or seen that the other content areas can really easily support. So that that’s going to make my big first piece of advice if you’re if you’re you know collaborating with another teacher. Make sure that one of those content areas as part of the conversation and let them throw out there their main ideas of their standards and then the other teachers can start thinking about how they can fit inside of that.

Ti-Fen: Great so what is the feedback you got from teachers that used PBL. giving your coaching and see the transformation for their students learning?

Jenny: It depends every teachers different in every context is different you know sometimes it takes sometimes like you know the early adopters they’ll do it once and then it’s like they want to turn everything in the classroom in the PBL. Because it’s so wonderful and they have this one you know this great positive experience with their kids. Other teachers it takes awhile and they they aren’t what we would call the early adopters they’re they’re a little more skeptical of it you know. What I’ve found with those teachers is that like 99 percent of time they didn’t do the project plan was a deli so we’ll we’ll put the project plan in place and will make the calendar will make all the assessment pieces and what will happen is they’re all saying not use the rubric or they didn’t formative reassess and so they’re they’re frustrated with the outcome. I’m yet to meet somebody who actually did the whole plan that we put together and was unhappy with it but I’d like to just kind of fall into one of those two camps and if they’re a little apprehensive about it takes them doing it a couple times to kind of get there but usually once once they run through a few projects it it’s really rare that a teacher you know I would tell you that it wasn’t worth their time so if a teacher wants to try out PBL.

Ti-Fen: how they can take their first step or use your craft-curricula service?

Jenny: I have a very layered approach to project planning and and that’s really intentional because I feel like you kind of just seen a dip your toe in a little bit and then layer up from there so one of the categories on my blog and your resources is called getting started with PBL. So it’s much more about like making small ships and just kind of the brainstorming process and coming up with ideas or analyzing models of existing projects and modifying those and then from there I kinda layer up to okay now design your own project this is also the way my book is written in this kind of progression/ You know now write your own project and then the next layer would be okay reflecting refined not project and apply what you learn from that project to designing a second project and then once you’re feeling ready now start diving into more of the nuances of PBL. So now you’ve got this project that you friend you can kind of be set up with you know doing an exhibition in the community in front of an authentic audience really engaging and fieldwork in getting students out into the field collecting data bringing experts and wanting your project in a way that is really engaging and exciting for students those to me are all much more like I mentioned before nuances. There are more advanced kind of approaches to designing projects and that’s also kind of bring my blog which is advanced tests for PBL. I might eat courses are set up in this way in the book chapters around this progression because I really feel like I I ran those trainings for companies where it was a 48 training and we taught them everything they need to know in 40 hours and they I would see tears coming down teacher spaces halfway through the week. It just it was too much for them all at once so when I set out to start my own company and I come with my own framework I kept it is the planning for. As one page there’s no staple and I kept all my resources in this layered approach because I really feel that teachers need to get in and roll their sleeves up and try it and then there need to know is are much more driven by authentic need to numbers things. That okay they’ve done it they’ve tried it gosh that you know that group work didn’t really go great like how do I think about getting better at fostering collaboration in my classroom. Those to me then feel like much more of an organic time to talk about okay yeah how do we do that now. So there’s layers I would say to getting started. So just get in and kind of start connecting with people on social media that hash tag PBL chat is really great on Twitter to just see where other PBL teachers are doing. And it just kind of start wrapping your mind around what it is and what it could look like for you in your classroom what is the piece of advice you would give to you who once you try out PBL. So right now I know that it can still really overwhelming to teachers given that so many different places are doing teaching and learning differently this fall. So I would say for right now given our current context in the pandemic that were and I would say to rethink maybe how you understand beyond the past I’ve been doing a lot of resource creation and blogging and writing on this idea of PBL lite so I’m much more condensed and modified version of PBL. So I think if a teacher you know is thinking about it don’t don’t get hung up on what it spent in the past you know trying to think about how it could be a screening for you to create just meaningful learning experiences for for students and whatever you’re setting isn’t all.

Ti-Fen: Wonderful I believe our listeners can get the great sense of PBL to apply into their teaching and last few questions I want to touch on: except for your the books, are there any other books that you recommend the most?

Jenny: I’m you know I’m not really so much about what I read for my own pleasure but in terms of work I like to use links and articles because I feel like they’re much more real time and more practical not theoretical. So I’m I have different channels on social media for different purposes I do most of my learning through Twitter so I mean there are some incredible minds you know one of my favorites to follow it’s cult of the pedagogy. There’s just there’s so many wonderful resources that feel very practical right now so that’s actually where I do them the most of my learning. Yeah I have a few Jo Boaler books so I love her work leaders in their own learning and an ethic of excellence Ron Berger would be I guess my other favorites and then designing group work by Colin. I would probably be my others have been my most formative in my work.

Ti-Fen: Great. Jenny you mentioned about you used Twitter to learn a lot or to get lots of way new information. So is there any educators work you are following the most recently?

Jenny: Yeah yeah the one I mentioned the cult of pedagogy and Jan Gonzales first to everything that she puts out she’s so thoughtful about what she points out that it’s everyone of them is guaranteed to be something that I find useful. And then I’ve actually been creating a growing Google documents that’s just a curation of resources on virtual learning sense covert school closures so those are all I can share that with you as well everyone of the links that are on there I have gone through and read and kind of put my stamp of approval on. So I think that would be the best examples that I could share would just be sharing that Google document with your audience.

Ti-Fen: So what is the worst advice you were given when you were a baby teacher ?

Jenny: yeah I’ve been thinking about that question since you can ensure that one in advance and I don’t I can’t come up with any and I think that’s because even if there was bad advice it’s also something you can learn from. You know I think one of the most important things that any teacher but if PBL teacher in particular needs to be able to do is just to be either a flat and so every day every lesson every student was okay how could I have done that better and so I think you know even if that wasn’t great advice I’ve forgotten about it but you know I learned from it and I still continue to learn every day in this work which is what I think is so great about PBL. You never really arrived.

Ti-Fen: Great before we close up, do you have anything else you want to share with our listeners and if they want to learn more about your work and how they can find you online?

Jenny: Yeah I am I’m very active on social media so my handles @crafted_jenny and every day I try to post material that is useful to teachers parents and school leaders so it’s anything from a project idea to a planning form to you great articles to support teachers. I’m just really practical tips and tools on there so I would say that that’s probably the best place to to keep learning and growing. And then I’m the others my blog so that’s it craftedcurriculum.com and you’ll see under the resource tab that there are a lot of different resources you can search projects by elementary secondary level or whatever level you’re at with your own PBL journey whether you’re getting started or more advanced. I I try to update that a few times a week with just new content so I would say those are quite two great places to get started.

Ti-Fen: Great I will make sure their own in our show notes. So thank you so much Jenny for sharing with us today.

Jenny: Thank you so much for having me.

Transcript: #6 Elizabeth Peterson – Social Emotional Artistic Learning, Art in Distance Learning and Teacher Self Care

Ti-Fen: Hello everyone. Welcome to compass teacher show. I’m your host Ti-Fen. Today my guest is Elizabeth Peterson. Elizabeth is an arts integration experts. She founded The Inspired Classroom which provides inspiration to other educators for art integration through informative articles, workshops and professional development opportunities. She’s also the author of two books, Inspired by Listening and Studio Days. Inspired by Listening is a teacher resource book that includes method of music integration she has developed and implemented into her own classroom. And studio days is filled with information and Common Core aligned lesson plans for bringing creativity into the classroom. Elizabeth prides herself in teaching workshops and courses on the integration of the arts into the curriculum and is the host of the annual summer and winter Teacher Art Retreats. She believes there’s a love of acting integrating learning all children and from their enthusiasm, teachers can shape great opportunities to learn.

{music}

Ti-Fen: Welcome to our show, Elizabeth. I’m so excited with our conversation today since I am very interested in SEL and it is very important part in education. You have developed SEAL which is an acronym for Social and Emotional Artistic Learning. Before we dive into the topic, I wonder how this music and art come to your life and how does it influence the way you see this world?

Elizabeth: Excellent. Yeah. I’m so excited to have this conversation with you I think it’s so so important and so for me music played a part in my life since I was a little girl. I started piano lessons <noise> and I continued all the way through college and majored in music and it just the entire time whether it was me playing on the piano or learning the or again or you know just listening to the latest pop or rock songs it just always affected me and it really played to my emotions so much throughout my life. I mean. There were times in my life that I would turn to songs and turned to music to you know kind of get my emotions out or to kind of just heighten and emotion of some sort like. You know if I was dating a boy or you know having a good part of my life you know to celebrate so different music has had played a part in different parts of my life. And it was when I was in college that where I decided to not only major in education but also major in music that I started to see how much I could integrate music into what I was doing ultimately doing with my students in the classroom. And so even though I didn’t set out to necessarily be a music teacher, I could see all the great ways that music could play a part in my teaching of all the students. And as I continued my education I kept taking I got my masters in arts in learning and that’s when I started to learn about visual art and poetry and drama and dance and it kind of started to understand how all the arts can really play a part in student learning. And so it just started to you know right from when I started teaching twenty something years ago, I was automatically integrating the arts because they were just so effective for my students.

Ti-Fen: Right. So from my understanding you started to develop social emotional artiste learning SEAL because your district sees a real need for social emotional learning. Your schools. And it’s from my research so correct me if I’m wrong.

Elizabeth: Yes. Yes.

Ti-Fen: Could you tell us why your district started to see the need in our social emotional learning and what do you think it was seen as important now but not like fifty years ago?

Elizabeth: Yeah. I think in the I would say about the last five to seven years. We’ve been seeing a lot more anxiety in students and mental health needs that have been rising that we didn’t see ten fifteen years ago and my district was just one of the hundreds or thousands even across the country that knowing that this was such a something that students who really needed to develop. Started to implement what was coming out and that was the SEL social emotional learning and they started to bring us together for professional development in learning about what that really means. You know. How to teach students to be more self-aware and manage themselves and make good decisions and be a little bit more socially aware and develop relationships with others and for me when they were giving us this professional development every time that they would start a new sentence or start a new topic. It was like obvious to me that everything they’re talking about we can teach and we can learn and develop through the arts and what I love about arts integration and SEAL specifically is that it’s not something that is forced. It’s not contrived. You know. We’re not trying to make things up so that students are developing these skills they actually just naturally develop these skills through the arts. So if a student is creating a piece of artwork they’re developing their self-awareness and they are doing it in a way that is just so natural for them and what our job then becomes with something like SEAL is that as the teacher we can help them to understand that a little bit more with reflection and some guided experiences so that they can start to really understand that the important part that the arts can play and they’re developing a social emotional skills.

Ti-Fen: Yeah. Right. So it seems that SEAL is framed around casel’s SEL wheel which includes five competencies. Like you just mentioned self-awareness, self management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making. Could you give us some examples about how to nurture these competencies through arts? Especially social awareness and responsible decision making. Because it is just hard for me to imagine how to teach these things.

Elizabeth: Yes. Absolutely. So for social awareness which is something that’s just becoming more and more important for us to learn about other people and accept our peers understand that we’re all coming from different backgrounds and we all have different cultures and we all have different thoughts and ideas. So I’ll tell you two different ways one will be music and one will be visual art. I’ll start with the visual art because it’s something that teachers just absolutely love in terms of when they’re learning about SEAL. And it’s called friendly Fridays. And what it is is giving students the opportunity to learn about their classmates and appreciate them and create something for them on a consistent basis. So for example my students every week will have friendly Friday time where we are either creating little notes for one another and handing them to our classmates. Or one of my favorite projects that we’ve done is a friendly Friday a. piece of artwork so where the students created their own hands they traced to their hand they designed it the way that they wanted to and then we put it together in a nice collaborative artwork on the wall. And it just looked so amazing because you could see all the different styles and personalities of the students coming out in that so it was just a great visual way to show that we’re all a community. We are all different but we’re all together we’re all together and in the classroom. And another example like with music would be I love listening to music with my students just taking time to listen to a good piece of whether classical music or jazz music or contemporary and then allowing the students to really actively listen to it together and then give their own ideas about it and their own interpretations of it, And what that does for social awareness is it really helps students to see that we all listened to the same piece of music but our interpretations are all different. So you know if we’re listening to a piece of classical music that’s really exciting some students might think it’s a really exciting and some students might think it’s scary and they might see something you know they might be imagining something in their head that actually gives them fear where is another person maybe listening to it and it just gets them all motivated to do something. So it’s a great it’s a great conversation and reflection that have that we all heard the same exact thing and yet we all thought something that was different. And with the responsible decision making. Excuse me. As far as the creative process in general where students are thinking of something to create you know going through the process of creating and revising it and then ultimately finishing and presenting it. That whole creative process is just filled with making responsible decisions from. You know deciding on materials that they wanna use or what art form they want to use. You know if they’re working with people. You know who’s a good partner who is not a good partner what do you know what where are you going to work at that time management is part of a responsible decision making so there’s just so many pieces of that just embedded inside the creative process.

Ti-Fen: I see so that’s really that’s really awesome. So I am curious about what questions that you will usually ask in the examples you mentioned about the hands drawing to make then. Or listening to music to make them to be aware other people’s opinion and respect others perspectives for things.

Elizabeth: Yeah. That’s a good question. Because the reflection is I think one of the key components of anything that you do that has to do with SEAL. Because that’s when all the real learning is going to happen that reflection part. So with you know with the hands or even the the music you know. First of all drawing attention to things that they are so different and then asking them what differences they see. Like in their hands you know someone used markers. Someone used crayon. Why do you think they did that? Someone you know at these colors and someone just use one color and see how how different they are differently they did their hands you know. And then also seeing some similarities you know and the shapes they may have put in there or the words they may have used to describe the music for example. And to also show that not only do we have differences but we also have a lot of similarities and that helps us to you know just have a really unique and fun class of students that we can we can share together. We can have some differences but we can all be together and still be moving in the same direction. And learning from one another/

Ti-Fen: Yeah. That’s really great. So do you have a story that you see a student’s transformation in your SEAL classroom and really touches your hearts the most ? Or the moments that you know it is working.

Elizabeth: Well you know what when you said touch your heart and my mind went to this one instance that happened about five or so years ago where we were doing a a water color painting. And we I believe we had to listen to some music and we were interpreting the music with some water color and putting some emotions to it. And to this one boy he when he started painting he started painting colors and then ultimately a little scene of him and his father and he had such a .. Well, what’s the right word a tough relationship with his father and the the whole process of you know the music and then the water color and then just giving him the opportunity to sit there and really not just think about his father. But like it’s so hard to explain what he may even going through but it’s not just thinking about his father but just kind of like putting it down on paper. It was just it was beautiful to watch him just get all his emotions out on the paper and then be able to talk about it because usually when he would talk about his dad, it was just trying to be so happy about it and kind of almost like faking that their relationship was really good. But when he started talking about his art work he was really able to talk about how much he hurt inside. And how that was really part of his life that he wished he could fix but he knows he can’t. And so that was so eye opening to me to the real power that we can have, And I’m just a classroom teacher you know I’m teaching math and English and social studies during the day. But to be able to give this kid that opportunity to really open up and start to explore his emotions. And he was only ten years old I thought that was so powerful for him and for me to watch it.

Ti-Fen: Right. Right. Yeah. That’s really amazing so that leads to my another question is. so it looks like in this process the kids can express themselves even better and would be a really therapeutic process. So starting from here what would you usually do for the kids that they can take more actions to. Like you said if they have a tough relationship with their parents, what kind of other things they can do to make their relationships better

Elizabeth: Yes. So you know how so there’s two things I think about and one is you know he could take that painting home for example and just talk to his mother about it and it could be like a a bridge for him to be able to talk about it with his mom and maybe his dad too. You now but the other thing is is that it’s also a bridge to maybe getting the student in touch with the counselor at school because you know most most teachers that I train that that goes through SEAL teacher training you know their classroom teachers and arts teachers and their not counselors and they’re not art therapists but they know that their students need social emotional development. They know it’s important and they want to do something and they want to be able to provide for that and their classroom so but we can’t be the counselor or the therapist. So it’s it’s a nice way to when you find things out or when you discover things about students. It’s a great way to kind of bridge that gap that the student might actually need in order to if they need to get more assistance. And with most students it’s just good development of skills inside the classroom and you know you just kind of leave it at that and you can see them grow. But for others it can be deeper and we need to know what our resources are as teachers and educators to give those kids the help that they need that’s beyond what we can maybe get them.

Ti-Fen: Right. Yeah. So if a teacher who doesn’t know much about art but still wants to try SEAL. Any actionable advice that you give to them for a head start.

Elizabeth: Yes. Absolutely. Yeah a lot of teachers they hesitate with arts integration in general because they think that they’re not an artist. But that’s really not what matters. Because it’s what I call the arts integration like frame of mind to where it’s not really about you where your comfort level. You just need to be comfortable enough to give the students the opportunities. And so part of that can be I you know teachers can go out and learn some arts integrated strategies and there are some really simple plans that you can start with that you look into you know professional development that’s gonna kind of give you a good head start in the right direction and just give you some basic ideas and as you probably know you know that’s that’s what my focus is to the inspired classroom is providing that professional development for teachers of all levels of skills. Giving them those ideas that they can easily implement in their own classrooms and then you know just go from there. And so you know just starting with what something is that you might enjoy. So for me it was starting with music but for another teacher it could be starting with drawing or starting with sculpture or starting with poetry or storytelling you know whatever the art form is that they might enjoy.

Ti-Fen: That’s really great. So I think teachers in most countries are really constrained by the standardized tests. Let’s say even math teacher tries to cram their students for the upcoming tests but still want to use a without allocating too much time. Is there any other ways they can incorporate SEAL into their classroom?

Elizabeth: Yeah. Absolutely. In fact when I developed SEAL. I wanted to make sure that it was not a program that you had to follow step by step because I think that’s what what there is to much of out there right everyone’s trying to you know hang up SEAL program into their school or into their district and teachers OH Gosh another thing I have to do you know I have to spend thirty minutes a week on this you know. And then it’s it’s something that’s not really not really as effective you know it’s not real it’s not real. Where the arts are real. And so when I designed seal I wanted it first and foremost to be something that teachers could just integrate into what they already do. So I focus a lot on the teacher herself. So the teacher is the where it all comes together. So it’s not about the it’s not necessarily all about the ideas and strategies. It’s really about the teacher and what they’re comfortable wins and how they’re going to like create this atmosphere in their classroom to be safe and caring and creative and just allow for this type of SEAL work in their classroom. So the SEAL teachers that go through SEAL teacher training, the first thing they do is they focus on themselves and what it’s gonna look like in their own classroom because there are a lot a lot of teachers who have to do or are forced to focus on just the content. So and making sure that the students are ready for the tests and so we focus on the teacher first and then we also focus on and strategies that you can just embed right into what you do every day. So simple things that are just become part of your regular curriculum every day but also touch upon art in touch upon social emotional learning as well.

Ti-Fen: Right. Can you give an example in your class in the classroom that you use really little time to integrate art with other subjects.

Elizabeth: Sure. Excuse me. I’ll give you one for drama. So this is an embedded SEAL strategy for drama. And what it is I call it dramatic check ins. And it’s so quick it literally takes five seconds. Right what you do is you know once you’ve completed the lesson or once you’ve talked about a situation or diffuse the situation or whatever it might be in the classroom. You have the kids do a dramatic check and so what that is is they show you with their face how their feelings so if they’re okay they will show you with their face that they’re okay. If they’re not okay or they’re confused it’s almost like putting an emoji on their face acting out the emoji. And you can take this to the next level and they can stand up and do their whole body posture. Or you can take it down a notch like if you’re teaching older kids who are just not gonna do that. They don’t feel comfortable doing that. Or you have students that just aren’t ready for drama in the classroom. You can have it they have them do it on a piece of paper and make the emoji on the paper. And so you know just kind of checking in in a in a way that’s tied to theater and drama to be able to just quickly check in with students and then move on. And maybe even make take note if you know who needs what and then you can move on. And this is also something that you don’t just do once. This is a strategy you can use over and over and over again throughout the year and the more you do it the more comfortable students will actually get which is giving you that dramatic check in with their facial expression.

Ti-Fen: I like that. That’s really that’s really great. So now in the U. S, because of the COVID-19, students are mostly learning remotely. I bet you’ve got lots of questions about distance learning so my question is how a teacher can use SEAL in this setting even with some online tools that you would suggest.

Elizabeth: Yeah. Yes. Definitely in fact in in the seal teacher training course I did a whole bonus unit for everybody because it was just on the top of everybody’s mind about you know how we were gonna do this remotely. And then in the fall how we’re going to do it as well. So so for you know here a couple of things that I’ve been doing with my own class is we still have Friendly Friday. But we do it inside Google classroom so we might instead of sending notes to one person in the class at a time you know we’ll have a a stream of comments where you’re just sending positive feedback positive notes and positive messages to the whole class. And that is also good because not everybody is participating a hundred percent of the time. I also found a couple of really great websites they’re skipping my mind right now but you can just Google online collaborative drawing sites and we spent one friendly Friday just driving together online. And just kinda adding and changing and and just working together on that which is kind of fun. And so there are definite ways to you know remind students about any self management skills that you worked on and just doing it that way it’s definitely an added challenge but totally.

Ti-Fen: Yeah that’s wonderful. So few friends of mine who were teachers before but got out of teaching because it just burnt them out so self care is being advocated a lot in these days. Especially for teachers who would affect their students if they don’t like take care of themselves well. What does your routine for taking care of yourselves even through arts. What like what do you do in the morning if you have a bad night ? What do you do after a frustrating day at school?

Elizabeth: mmhm. Another amazing question. Thats a great Ti-Fen. Because that is such an important part of this SEAL teacher training. So we have three ways or three phases of the training and the first wave like I kind of mentioned already is all about the teacher first and we do focus and on teacher self care. Because our job is so demanding and a very emotional way and so many teachers are burning out. And so one of the things that is suggested in that section of the training is to even just start the day every day with an intention. You know just kinda giving yourself your own positive self talk and being able to you know like when I would go to school. Sometimes I would park my car and just stay there for a moment and say okay this is gonna be a great day I’m going to make sure I touch base with this kid and this kid and make sure that they’re coming into the classroom okay. I’m gonna make sure that you know if someone needs help I’m gonna have a lot of patience. You know almost like giving yourself those reminders of what it really means to be a SEAL teacher because it has to do with being caring. Being make making sure that you’re making connections with your students and then providing for those creative opportunities for your students as well. And so just almost like reminding yourself of that is a really important thing. And as far as you know, after school or at home and just making sure that I can leave school at school and now that we’re remote right now that means closing the school tabs closing the school email at a certain time of the day. And saying okay now I’m done until tomorrow and giving myself that spacing and teachers have. It’s really important that they give themselves that space so that they can just take a mental break from t what might be happening at school and enjoying some of their home life. It’s just so important right.

Ti-Fen: Yeah. So for now do you have any any particular activities that you will do to take care of yourself ?

Elizabeth: For me it’s kind of funny, because I always say you know what are you doing for art. So I have a couple of things. One is a couple years back , for my fortieth birthday, my family got me a drum sets.

Ti-Fen: Wow.

Elizabeth: Something I have wanted since I was a kid. And so on every once in a while I’m able to go on there and play and that’s just really fun it’s just so much fun so that’s like a little outlet for me. Playing the piano here and there is also something that I try and make sure I didn’t get it chance to do. And be very honest as far as being creative right now I love creating new things for the inspiring classroom. And I just love connecting with other teachers for me that suggests so uplifting because it helps me to know that I’m not alone you know. And helping to bring other teachers together is really exciting for me to see that whether it’s on Facebook or what what have you professional development that I organize and I think just going through that whole creative process of creating a workshop or creating a retreat is just really for fulfilling to me. So that’s kind of how I do be creative now it’s kind of fun, I love it.

Ti-Fen: Right that’s very very a great tip. I I believe that’s what teachers can learn from it and let just apply to their life. Especially for these really tough times. So I have just like few questions left. The one question is there any books that influenced you a lot in teaching ?

Elizabeth: Yes. Oh Gosh. I’m so bad at remembering names in booking names so trying to see if I can see them in my yeah right yeah there are some I love this is an old book you know Arts with the brain and mind in music with the brand in mind. I think those are great books oh goodness there are some really good books I think it’s merrily Goldberg who does a fantastic job of talking about arts integration. I even like the book it’s called Yardsticks. It’s also an old book or an older book but it talks about students at different stages in their schooling which I think is such an important thing for us to truly understand you know what exactly our students are going through in their mind and physically and emotionally at different stages in their life. That’s a really good one. I just started a book I think it’s the deepest well goodness. I’m so sorry. I’m bad at our it talks about you know how trauma affects people younger people specifically in the book it it it talks about how trauma affects us physically so it’s really interesting in terms of you know if you want to you know look at your students and a new way and be able to provide them with some SEAL opportunities. And there’s one more that I would highly recommend it I’m gonna have to send you the title but it’s something blank.

Ti-Fen: No worries. I will follow up with you around the books you mentioned so I can put you in the show notes for the audience to check up.

Elizabeth: Ah yeah. Absoloutely.

Ti-Fen: When you were a baby teacher what is the worst advice you have ever received?

Elizabeth: Well that’s a great question. Okay this was probably in my first couple years of teaching where I heard from a teacher or I don’t know exactly what she said. But kind of she gave this impression that parents don’t really know what their kids need in school. We as teachers we are the only ones that know what students need at school. And I for many years had that look outlook on on my students until I had my own kids and it kind of dawned on me that no that’s not true at all while we do need to you know look at parents and families individually. You know and and decide you know are these going to be good parents and families to work with or do we need to take the reins on what the kid needs we can’t we can’t just say a the kids with me now the parents don’t know what this student really needs but to try and work together a little bit more now. I do have to say there are instances where we do know what the student needs but we also have to be able to communicate that well with the parents and I think the advice that I had been given really almost put like a divider between what I could give the student and what the parents are doing at home and so instead of breaking that communication really trying to work with the parents at home.

Ti-Fen: Right and yeah right I have heard so many teachers complaining about the tension between them and the parents and so I totally agree that we should have a better way to communicate and even collaborate with parents as teachers.

Elizabeth: Yeah yeah and it’s tough it’s that.

Ti-Fen: Yeah exactly and so I know that Elizabeth you have put out so much amazing where in that inspired call classroom website. Is there anything you would like to mention or talk about before we wrap up and I will certainly let people know where they can find you online and we will put everything in the show notes as well. But is there anything that you like to share or talk about people we closed up?

Elizabeth: Sure so it’s fun since we’ve been talking about SEAL if people are interested in seal you can look at some of the free resources we have all right you can go to teachSEALcom and that will lead you to all kinds of good resources and then. If if people are ready to really take a deep dive into becoming a seal teacher my course seal teacher training is really just a great course that I you know I I believe I you know I believe but also the people that have gone through it really do feel like they have gone on a journey. And really come out the other side transforms. Because it’s like I said it’s not just about the ideas and the lessons. It’s about the teacher and the teacher being a great advocate for social emotional artistic learning in their classrooms and in utilizing that for their students so it really is kind of a nice transformational journey for teachers to go to become a SEAL teacher.

Ti-Fen: Thank you for listening we will put the things mentioned interfere to the show notes if you enjoy our show, welcome to share and don’t forget to subscribe. Thank you.

Transcripts: #4 Ms. Plante – Teach Humanity with Thematic Instructions and Creative Student Book Report

Ti-Fen: Hello everyone, this is Ti-Fen Pan. Welcome to compass teachers show. 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 Nicole Plantes. Nicole had been a middle school teacher for almost eight years though now she pivoted her career as an amazing designer. Her first stop as a teacher is in New York City department of education. She instructed suspended students for at risk youth from diverse schools and social economic backgrounds. The unique experience laid out the foundation for building humanity and resilience in her teachings. After NYC, Nicole moved to bay area and taught in Corpus Christi school which is hugely different from her previous one. It’s a Catholic school and they teach students not only academic but also a spiritual growth. Now let’s learn from Nicole’s experience in Corpus Christi as a homeroom teacher.

Ti-Fen: Nicole, you were an eighth grade homeroom teacher in Corpus Christi elementary and middle school. Can you tell us what the responsibility is as a homeroom teacher?

Nicole: Yeah. Girl. It’s even different for being in eighth grade homeroom teacher because being the eighth grade homeroom teacher for a Catholic school has even more added responsibilities. I don’t think I was paid more. I was pretty sure I was not paid more for this but like eighth grade, you have graduation so that’s huge as a homeroom teacher where you’re coordinating and practicing gathering like you know either baby pictures or doing there at their portraits. There’s a lot of interruptions to the school day on because of things like that in the. So I’m beginning at the end but like what we would want to kind of go a little bit more chronologically. In the beginning of the year they do a youth day at the Catholic cathedral in Oakland yeah because they’re part of the Oakland diocese and then we would do high school visits or for Catholic high schools in on our kind of it kind of in our area. And so again a lot of these are interrupting the school week the school day. We would also do some fun things like field trips but also they did this thing with parents where it’s almost like going to the parents jobs in a way in order for them to appreciate and understand different industries and professions and so that would have been kind of late in the year especially when you know they’re becoming a little you know thanks D. and wanting to graduate already and things like that. We would as a homeroom you know we would coordinate with other grades in order to do cross planning for like for Christmas for Christmas programs for gingerbread house making things with first grade on their. They were also mostly on student council then we would have our own class council which would coordinate our eighth grade dances which we would have about we were trying to do eight sorry not eight at three a year but usually it was like two if we could but or maybe three. Because as an eighth grade homeroom teacher, I would help coordinate that and I would have to shop around that too. So not only am I doing you know the usual. Let me just say so my day Ti-Fen would begin I would get to school at 7 AM. I would not leave until 6 PM and some days when we had programs or a school dance I would just stay there and then I wouldn’t go home until 9:30 thirty PM.

Ti-Fen: Wow

Nicole: Yeah, it was a very very intense and on it is very rewarding definitely but I do you think I have burned out because of that a lot sooner than it would have all the extra responsibilities.

Ti-Fen: We know that your expertise is in English literature. How did you prepare for the subjects that you are not familiar with you?

Nicole: That’s a great question. So for me why I really like and you might have heard of this too, Ti-Fen. But why like standards why I like learning objectives. Why are like these are benchmarks that usually are either part of curriculum planning or it tied to performance indicators for grades things like that. It’s because it gives a framework for especially new teachers when they don’t know what they’re supposed to teach. Well, these are the the benchmarks these are the things that the students need to learn by the end of the year. So you know you might have heard of the term backwards planning. That’s part of backwards planning is picking out these learning objectives or standards competencies and figuring out how am I going to address those things. So that’s why it like and some people like are all about you know the standards of work. They are for against common core for many other reasons but to have none it’s very disorienting for a new teacher. For me as being a new teacher, I relied on the common core in order to tell me this is what you’re supposed to be teaching so that you make sure that the students are where they need to be.

Ti-Fen: How did you usually structured your course throughout a semester?

Nicole: I did backwards design with an over arching theme so it might have been something like you know our resilience or humanity. And then you would have this central you would have a central questions about that in order to draw out discussion and bigger understanding. And so what that would do is it would widen the the connections. So you may have several texts that you choose in order to address that theme and then to bring greater connections it can connect to that theme and then they can give you a different perspective on it. Or I can give you something that reverberates set you know makes it stronger. But what I also loved about doing it thematic style was the great opportunity in literature is to really get to those big questions about what it is to be human. How do we treat people like I think that it’s very important especially with you know young people in order to get them thinking of these philosophical kind of questions. Because not only is it going to be forming who they are their you know their personality but how they treat other people and I think that even though we put a lot of emphasis on, you know, academic skills or knowledge. That’s another part of learning is how to be a good person. How to be responsible to the earth. Things like that right and for them to really grapple with it before is there turned out to be, you know, an adult in a voting adults, right, to be a citizen. So I really loved things like not because especially in my subject matter and also teaching social studies were from eighth grade we can draw connections and and I think that that’s what really helps retain information is you can you know make those links and thematic connections

Ti-Fen: Can you give us an example of how you use the thematic style in your class?

Nicole: I taught Night by Elie Wiesel myself. I never know how to pronounce his last name but it’s about the Holocaust. Holocaust experience right. And that was part of the theme of humanity, you know, it’s a huge kind of topic but it’s also very appropriate to like, you know, like kind of how do we treat people what’s our responsibility. And I think it was that theme but it could have also been something else I always change things up a little bit every year which is good and bad because like you know doesn’t give me the feedback in order to to really hone in on something and you know and make it amazing quickly. Because I have to wait until the next year in order to try it out again. Because I didn’t, you know, I only have one class that I was teaching rather than like a lot of English or literature teachers would teach the same lesson four times a day but to different you know classes of students. So now I have the same one. It would be I only knew by a different year. So anyway for something like that I then it would I would choose like a piece of poetry to that would speak to this view of humanity as well on a non fiction pieces so a current event article of like let’s look at our humanity today. And this could also tie in with something social justice or religion so like how, you know, what’s our duty to other people especially in other countries or something like that to and so even within that theme I could cover you know the historical significance and events of the Holocaust which is social studies which is history. The narrative style and devices are you know even using metaphor and symbolism in a non fiction book by Elie Wiesel and there was also poetry to it. There are songs I played so you know even touching into music. I would show an interview with Holocaust survivors and what I’m kind of getting into also was when you’re doing this I’m planning you’re also differentiating your finding different media in order to teach the same thing in a different way perhaps I mean differentiation is in a lot of different just like in and that it’s a lot of different things for what you’re doing. So when I would plan I would also planned media rich things to kind of like open it up especially if the students you know learn in a better way with videos than they do with lecturer verses like you know books right all these different things in order for them to grapple with the theme.

Ti-Fen: So far I heard using media reach and the thematic styles in your course. Is there any other teaching methods that you use before that you found really useful your class like game based learning, board games ?

Nicole: One of my favorite things and I hope it was also a favorite thing about the students. We would do different kind of book reports. It wasn’t a written report. It was a project report and I gave them a matrix. So like a grid of all these different types of hands-on projects that they could do in order to do their book report really what like. And I can’t remember I called it. I think was independent reading. Yeah that’s what I call the independent reading project and they had to do multiple things for it and we did it every what was it going to be every quarter but we ended up just doing it for the first three quarters because by the end of the year I was overwhelmed and they were overwhelmed. So it was good enough to do it for three out of four but yeah they would have to present their book to the students so they would have to do a presentation and you know that’s engaging also and them being able to summarize you know in a succinct way work on their soft skills for presentation right. Things like that. But then also the fun thing about and I hope again it was fun for them. One of them could be where they could create a board game based off of their their book and other things like all my god there was a photo essay one where one of my students did it with her Barbies which was hilarious but like amazing. And there was another indicator always get me to approve like if they had an idea that wasn’t listed there they could just presented to me like saying “Hey Miss Plante this is what I’m thinking of doing and I can prove it.” Most likely I would approve it because really the end of it was to get them excited about reading to get them excited about being creative and to do something a little bit fun at school rather than just like essays and you know reports. And I don’t know like tests and things like that. So yeah there was one kid who read a book on Minecraft and then he wanted to create his own world in Minecraft and he was pulling into Minecraft, right.

Ti-Fen: And there was a book about Minecraft?

Nicole: Yeah and so and you know some parents I don’t know they were like oh Miss Plante that’s you know I’m worried that this book’s not rigorous enough work for my child and I always like I’m pretty much my response to them usually was I’m just trying to get them excited about reading like this is independent. This is them doing it on their own time therefore it needs to be their choice. And yeah there are times when we need to challenge them that’s a lot of the books in the literature we do in class like I’m forcing them to read you know this book about the Holocaust they might as well lighten it up with some Minecraft, right? But what I really did love especially from that kid and his parents his mom came to manage said Miss Plante he loves you because you let him read a book on Minecraft like you know what that’s fantastic like I know you will not like me another year I’m sure. But like at least we have a good relationship right now. But yeah there were a lot of different projects they could do their own like alternative ending to the book they create a children’s story based off of it. So it’s just kind of like getting into the central details they could do like a diorama thing right. I changed it up a lot like they couldn’t do the same method like the same project because like you know that name if they’re really talented on one thing they might just do that and they’re not challenging themselves in a different media. I can’t remember though there are so many and quite honestly I got the idea from some teacher resources that I found online and I just added on to it so that’s another thing for resources out there like you know people “Teachers Pay Teachers” I know that’s like big and popular there’s like the most and giving and open community are our teachers they want to help other teachers especially if it’s going to be helping students out love school. Or love learning rather you know

Ti-Fen: Right. All rights. The last question I want to ask is Nicole what advice you would give to a person who wants to be a teacher in the U. S.

Nicole: Sometimes depending on your situation may be hard to get into teaching because there are actually a lot of tests and certifications and the masters and things like that. The requires our money in order to become a teacher with not necessarily much pay off or you know I would say look into if there are some fellowships if there are on some funding things to make that happen for yourself that it’s financially it’s difficult because I think that there are a lot of resources out there to help people who want to do something that’s in service. And I think that’s what’s really important I think a lot of people go into teaching thinking kind of like what I did. We will be a teacher a lot of people like you know like and that’s their concept, right? And so I think it’s really important in order to do some like student teaching in order to really understand what is the day today. Is it for you? I think it’s very important in order to like apprentice like figure it out before you go through the whole program and decide that it’s not for you. So that’s my big advice is to see if you can volunteer your student teaching on work underneath another teacher before you even go through all of it so that you can understand: yes this is for me or no it’s not for me.

Ti-Fen: Sweet. That’s a really great and practical advice. Thank you Nicole.

Nicole: Thank you so much Ti-Fen. I really appreciate it.

Ti-Fen: Thank you for listening. We will put the things mentioned in the interview to the show notes. If you enjoy our show, welcome to share and don’t forget to subscribe. Thank you.

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.