Episode 22 – Mika Yamamoto

 

MikaYamamotoImage“I had this great mentor, a literacy mentor, and she was creating a lesson plan with me. We were doing a lesson plan to ‘Dream the Impossible Dream…” says Mika Yamamoto. “And in the process she made me articulate my impossible dream, and that was when I was in this terrible abusive marriage that I wasn’t even admitting to myself… and I closed my eyes and flung my eyes open and said, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t!’ …”

“And what making that lesson taught me,” Mika continues, “was you can’t teach unless you [do] what you ask your students to do. That is really hard, but really exciting. And so, I think teaching saved my life because if I hadn’t made that lesson plan, if I hadn’t had that mentor guiding me through and not letting me off the hook, then maybe I wouldn’t be where I am now…. Which isn’t to say that was easy, which isn’t to say that teaching is easy, and it’s not, it’s not easy – but it’s amazing, it’s constantly life-changing. So if you want to live with integrity, it’s a great profession.”

Fast Facts about Mika

– Any resources you would like to share: Teaching Tolerance
– Your favorite book: Professional: Harry Wong and Personal: Bird, by Noy Holland
– Current position: unemployed
– City, State: Chicago, IL (this is where we moved to a month ago because mid-Michigan became too unbearable after the election)
– One sentence answering the question, why teach?: It’s fun.

  1. Full name: Mika Yamamoto
  2. Years teaching: 7
  3. Grades taught: 1st, 5th, 6th
  4. Current city: Chicago, Il
  5. Favorite resources:
  6. Why teach: “It’s fun!”
  7. Follow Mika on Twitter @MikaYamamoto

Noteworthy Outtakes from Mika’s Chat

Listen in as Mika takes listeners on a teaching journey that includes everything from moving and transferring her teaching credential between multiple states, being awakened to the need to leave her abusive marriage through the beauty of teaching, the struggles of being a single mom in the teaching profession and finally, a look into her experience being told that as the only teacher of color in her Michigan charter public school that, “the community is not ready for your voice.”

Mika shares an impassioned account of how a speech she was asked to give in the capacity of a writer, not as a teacher, to the entire middle school rocked her world. During her speech, which was based on how to write horror, Mika talked about writing from experience and shared her struggles as a woman and domestic violence survivor. In her speech she said, “I will share with you my darkness so you feel safe to share your darkness with me, such that we can vanquish the darkness together.”

Soon after, students did begin sharing their darkness, her speech, Mika says, did what she intended. However, along with students approaching her about concerns they had in their lives, a parent also approached the school about a concern they had as well. A concern that ultimately silenced Mika and, what she feels, invalidated the lesson she always held true to her students: that their voice matters!

To learn more, listen as Mika recounts her experiences and emotionally shares a deep and loving message to her students, whom she never had the chance to say goodbye to after ultimately being let go from Michigan’s Renaissance Public School Academy, where she was the only teacher of color.

Click here to read a guest blog Mika shares about her take on, “Education is a Feminist Issue.”

Episode 18 – Jackie Rodriguez-Vega

 

JaclynImage“I mostly teach Raza, I mostly teach Mexican youth,” says Jackie Rodriguez-Vega as she explores the effect of the current political climate on the Latino youth she teaches, which also include young people from Puerto Rico, Honduras, El Salvador and more. “They already know what’s going on. They know that people in positions of power are not for them. And what do you do with that? You know, you’re in a U.S. History class and you’re talking about the beauty of voting… I’m personally trying to build young people who are going to be critical about what’s going on all around them. Especially politically, because they are influenced by it, right? They live in this country – everything that they go through is through that. So, I want them to see perspectives, I want them to see all these different sides so that hopefully when they do get older they want to participate in that process. But it’s kind of hard when deportations are happening, or that fear … all those things that are real.”

Fast Facts about Jackie

  1. Full name: Jackie Rodriguez Vega
  2. Years teaching: 6
  3. Grade(s) taught: Jackie has taught middle school through people in their late 60’s.
  4. Current position: History teacher at a neighborhood high school, Jackie currently teaches Latin American History & U.S. History.
  5. Current city: Chicago, Illinois
  6. Favorite books:
  7. Favorite resources: Jackie is a big advocate for Paulo Freire and believes teachers who want to inspire and do creative work in the classroom need to check out his work. Also, Funds of Knowledge, recognizing people of color come with inherent knowledge and it is our job as educators to unpack it and build upon it.
  8. Why teach: “I teach because my sole purpose is to heal with my community and I believe the act of learning is a healing experience. I work with Mexican/Latino youth because I believe they deserve the best educational experience possible. My mom would always tell me when I was a kid, our people need a good home, she was a real estate agent, and I believe my people need a good education and that is why I am a teacher.”

Noteworthy Outtakes from Jackie’s Chat

Ms. Jackie Rodriguez-Vega, an educator of 10 years in Chicago Illinois, teaches in the same public school system she grew up in, and in the same conditions as her students — she says she has decided to stay and give back to her community by helping to improve her neighborhood.

Jackie is also the daughter of a single Mexican-American mother, who she says always influenced her to give back to her “people.” She credits her mother for the work she puts into impacting her students every day.

“I just think all the women in my family are pretty amazing. They really inspired me, because growing up there was no fathers around. It was kind of an interesting situation. You know of course, I had to go through my traumatic experiences as a young person, but I got out of it,” reflects Jackie as she delivers a passionate account of how she is able to take what could have potentially been an excuse to make poor decisions in her life, and turned her childhood experiences into an opportunity to build relationships with her students.

“But I think that’s one thing that really connects me with my youth, I am just so open about how I grew up,” Jackie continues. “I was raised by a single mom and a lot of kids connect with that, because they’re raised by single moms, or they’re raised by their grandma, or they’re raised by their tia, their aunt. My father left my mother when I was five, and she was two months pregnant with my sister … my mom, she’s just a hard worker. She raised three kids on her own, and she just completely inspired me.”

Listen in as she shares more about her emboldened passion for teaching the Latino youth in her neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois, or “Chi-town,” as she calls it — all while appreciating the need to provide hope for things like higher education, but also recognizing that every young person’s journey will be different, yet valuable nonetheless.

Episode 11 – Barry Turner

 

barryturner“One thing I do know as far as black males [in] this country, that is only 2% of the teaching population. And I question that, why? So to me, I feel like it goes back to mentoring again,” shares Mr. Barry on the topic of the low representation of black male teachers in the classroom. “… I think black students do need a black male teacher […] I talk to black male students and I ask them, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ ‘An athlete or a rapper..” and that’s it. I ask students, ‘What do you think about being a teacher?’ And just the look on their face, it doesn’t even come across as an idea, and I feel like it’s because they don’t see it enough.”

Fast Facts about Barry

  1. Full Name: Barry Turner
  2. Current city: Oakland, CA
  3. Years teaching: 17
  4. Grades: Early Elementary, and currently a mixed 1st-3rd grade Montessori Classroom
  5. Favorite books:
  6. Why teach: “I always hope to inspire other children to teach – mainly other African American children.”
  7. Resources Barry mentioned:

Noteworthy Outtakes from Mr. Barry’s Chat with Teachers

From his time as a communications professional turned educator in private schools and now working as a teacher in an Oakland school taking Montessori public and transforming the way children learn — Mr. Barry talks honestly about his journey and his passion for connecting with his students, especially his student’s of color.

Barry also shares his take on the importance of professional development and why it’s imperative that teachers continuously seek out opportunities for growth. Whether to spark motivation, or inspire ideas, professional development and collaborating with peers in the field can be a great way for teachers to stay passionate about what they do.

Episode 7 – Connie Lam

connieimage“My teaching experience started with just struggle and absolutely being thrown into just chaos,” says Connie Lam, teacher of three years in Oakland, CA. “I think that I definitely don’t regret everything that happened because it’s made me a stronger person and hopefully a stronger teacher in the future.”

Fast Facts about Connie:

  1. Full name: Connie Lam
  2. Years teaching: 3
  3. Grades taught: 1st-3rd Grade SDC (Special Day Classroom), Kindergarten
  4. City: Oakland, CA
  5. Favorite resources:
  6. Favorite books:
  7. Why teach? For the children!

conniesfeedbacknoteNoteworthy outtakes from my chat with Connie

Listen as Connie talks candidly about her not-so-great experience with Teach for America and how she feels new teachers could use more consistent support in their first year’s teaching. Connie shares her struggles as she embarked on the unknown in a new city miles from home and with a population of students she had no experience with. From aha moments that taught her that constant smiles won’t win her student’s respect, to still being challenged to accept that being a teacher is a learning experience in itself, Connie talks in depth about her growth in the short three years she’s been teaching, as well as how far she realizes she still needs to go. Thank you for chatting so honestly with teachers Connie!

Want to be a Teacher? Ask Yourself These 3 Questions

Teaching is something I have wanted to do for as long as I can remember. When I was a little girl I had a chalkboard in my room and would “teach” my younger brother, along with all my stuffed animals and cabbage patch dolls — who I’d line up seated in a horseshoe shaped-U, in front of me as I lectured them on reading and writing.

blog4I was also an avid reader and writer myself and kept a number of composition books and various notebooks filled with short stories that I wish so badly I still had today. My dual passions for teaching and writing were always at odds and for most of my life I thought of as two separate entities pitting themselves against each other. I had to choose — be a writer, or be a teacher.

Writing won out at first as I spent most of my high school and college years dedicated to writing for and acting as editor for my school newspaper, respectively. Although teaching seemed to always be calling to me in the far ends of my mind, studying Journalism and ultimately landing a career in communications seemed more natural — at first.

When my family embarked on our cross-country move to the San Francisco Bay area from New York City back in 2011 I took the opportunity to go back to school and study education. Before committing to any program I spent a year volunteering at my son’s preschool, and visited many elementary classrooms as well. Once in my Masters program, I excelled – A’s all around!

I thought I was prepared, but very quickly realized once in the classroom that there was so much more that I didn’t consider, or think to ask myself ahead of time. One of my most recent chat with teacher podcasts with Danielle David, educator in the East Bay for over 11 years, touched on three questions any person considering a career in education should ask themselves. At about the 48:55 mark, you’ll hear Danielle suggest asking yourself the following:

  1. Do I really like kids?
    Danielle admitted that while this may seem like a no-brainer, that it is very important to consider your feelings about children. Whether you’re considering early elementary, middle school or High School — do you like being around young children, adolescents or teenagers. Your love of math may not be good enough to qualify you for being a math teacher in a room full of around 30 teenage students if you can’t stand being in the room with them in the first place.
  2. How am I going to balance the workload and my life?
    “I know that seems like putting the horse before the cart,” says Danielle, “but at the same time, it’s really important to have a work/life balance. Being a new teacher, it’ll eat you up if you let it.”
    Thinking about how to honor all the parts of your life that are important to you is good  advice in any career you choose, but as Danielle says, as a teacher “there will always be work, there will always be lessons to write, but you’re not always going to have that time to be with your family or that you could go and take an exercise class and you don’t want to lose yourself to try to get ahead.” If you’re not putting your best self forward, you’re not going to be able to forge long lasting relationships, a part of teaching that is extremely important, and often goes overlooked in teaching programs.
  3. How am I going to prepare myself for feedback that maybe isn’t so great?
    During our chat, Danielle shared a personal anecdote from her earlier years in the classroom. She talked about how an administrator once said “I don’t like your voice.” Danielle shared how hurtful that felt at first, but after some thought and reflection was able to figure out that she had been talking loudly over her students. She was able to take, what she referred to as badly worded constructive criticism, and turn it into a teachable moment that taught her to slow her pace and be more aware of her students engagement during lessons.
    “It is a very personal profession. You are out there on stage,” says Danielle, “people are going to come in and they’re going to have things to say about it [your teaching], it’s going to happen.”Danielle went on to say that despite the comments anyone gets, “people are going to get feedback that they don’t want to hear.” She suggests asking yourself, how will you be able to respond to that? She also recommends not being reactionary, and instead consider where the observer is coming from? How truthful are they? And, are they someone you trust?

Teaching has so far proven to be a profession that definitely requires one to have patience with children, and adults! It has also taken more of an effort to balance my life as a mother, wife, teacher and now blogger, than ever before. In a separate podcast with 16 year teaching veteran, Melissa Ascencio, we chatted candidly about what balancing her life as a teacher/mom meant to her — understanding that nothing can be equally balanced at the same time, that sometimes certain parts of your life required more attention than the others at any given time, but that as long as it all evens out in the end you have achieved some sort of balance.

And lastly, one thing I am so grateful to have learned as a teacher so far, has been this idea of tackling everything life throws my way with a growth mindset and willingness to improve for the betterment of myself and for the sake of my children…both my children at home and in my classroom.

by Jennifer Khadir

Teachers: 3 Tips for Keeping Your Cup Full

“Be yourself; everyone is already taken” ~Oscar Wilde


Some of my recent podcast interviews have touched on how important it is to get to know yourself, take care of yourself and ultimately “be yourself” for the sake of you students… and your sanity.

blog3As a parent and a teacher, I for one can vouch for how your own needs can very easily be pushed to the back burner in these such roles. Therefore, I wanted to take a moment to sit back and reflect on the importance of self-care in order to be the best to the children who need me in all the roles of my life.

Admittedly, I do not have all the answers, which is why this podcast and blog came to be in the first place. It’s been amazing getting to talk to professional educators and take bits and pieces of what they’ve shared and try to figure out ways to incorporate it into my classroom and life.

Running on an “Empty Cup”

When I began teaching I threw myself into it, as most teachers do. The summer before my first day as a second grade teacher, I lived and breathed classroom setup, poured over lesson plans and things like classroom jobs. I also had a 7-month-old at the time and a 5-year-old son getting ready to start kindergarten himself.

I was tired and overwhelmed before the first day of school even started. I was running on an “empty cup,” as they say. I didn’t realize how all the stress I was putting on myself was actually setting my students and myself up for failure. I’ve since been on a quest to ask other teachers how they keep their cups filled and prioritize self-care in their lives.

Three Tips from Professional Educators to Keep Your Cup Full

  1. Set boundaries, and don’t take work home
    In recent podcast post, both Dana Graham and Elizabeth Isralowitz, both educators for ten years in California, talked candidly about how when they began teaching, they would leave work every day on, or close to their end of contracted hours — which resulted in often taking work home and working late into the night. They’ve both since learned that taking the time at the end of the day to unwind briefly once the students were dismissed and then use their time more efficiently to prioritize and get any necessary paperwork done, even if that meant staying a little later some days, helps them manage setting boundaries easier. For Elizabeth, making a clear and distinct separation from her work-self and home-self — where she says she no longer takes home to at the end of the day — has been an important step in her own self-care.
  2. Laugh at yourself
    Melissa Ascencio, who has taught in North Carolina, New York City and now in Virginia over a course of 16 years, says she is able to keep herself, and her students successful and happy by always using her sense of humor in any and all situations. Melissa says that a huge part of teaching is building relationships with your students and one of the ways she does that is by being her true self. One value she holds true as a teacher is that if you want your student to open up to you, that you in turn need to open up to them first.
  3. Calendar time for yourself and find ways to combine your passions
    She doubles as a full-time public school teacher and a part-time spin instructor! Danielle David, educator for 11 years in East Bay, CA, says she’s been fortunate enough to combine her love for exercise and teaching by becoming a spin instructor at her local JPower Studios in Benicia, CA. Danielle shared how her love for exercise came about as a means to manage her high anxiety. She recommends finding ways to incorporate self-care by doing things that make you happy, and to remember all the roles you play in your life – teacher, spouse, dog-owner, etc… and to not forget to calendar time for yourself, even if it’s to spend that time reading a good “non-teacher book.”

Whatever you find works for you, these tips are great starting points as you begin to think about how you can prioritize self-care in your own life. While teaching is such an important job, we teachers can only give our best-selves to our students, if we remember to give to ourselves first. As for me, Danielle’s tip of finding ways of combining your passions rings true as I work to build this very blog and combine my own passion of education, writing…and chatting!

By Jennifer Khadir

Episode 6 – Danielle David

 

ddavid“I’m a Caucasian woman from an upper middle class town where I was raised… I moved to Oakland when I started teaching in Oakland – and so I think that actually living in the city that I worked in, especially considering Oakland has many different neighborhoods, but there is a lot of impoverished areas of Oakland, it was humbling for me and that helped – immersing myself in the culture. I had some falters throughout the years, people may or may not have called me racist, I don’t think it was true, I know it wasn’t true, but people get defensive when it comes to their kids or somebody that is trying to help them but they feel like it’s a challenge. So, I just became very humbled and I listened, and you know what I learned… you don’t always have to have an answer for something, and the most valuable tool you can give to someone is your active listening… you’re just listening with your ears and heart.”

Fast Facts about Danielle

  1. Full name: Danielle David
  2. Years in education: 11
  3. Current position: Teacher on Special Assignment in Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District
  4. Grade(s) taught: TK, K, 1, 2, 3 as a classroom teacher but I have worked with all grades from TK-8th
  5. Favorite books:
  6. Why teach: Because I want to help enable our future to make better decisions than those from our past.

Noteworthy outtakes from Danielle’s chat

During our chat, Danielle mentioned some of the following topics. Click on the links below to learn more about them:

  • Transitional Kindergarten (TK) – a relatively new grade that began in California about five years ago to accommodate children with Fall birthdays who did not meet the state’s most recent kindergarten age cutoff of turning five before September 1st.
  • Montessori – Danielle mentioned Montessori briefly in comparing it to the very play-based TK program she helped to launch at Emerson Elementary school in Oakland, CA. More about this topic in an upcoming post as a Montessori trained teacher is on the schedule for an upcoming podcast!
  • Caring School Communities

daniellejpowerMeet and Spin with Danielle in Person!

Danielle is a wealth of knowledge and experience, and also doubles as a spin studio instructor! If you happen to live in, or around, the Benicia, CA area, be sure to attend one of her spin classes at JPower Studio. You can find Danielle combining her passion for both teaching and exercise here every Wednesday morning at 5:30am, Thursday nights at 5:30pm and alternating weekends – check out the schedule.

 

 

 

Episode 5 – Elizabeth Isralowitz

 

liz_headshot001“Failure doesn’t feel good, and we know that failure in school leads to a myriad of other consequences including psychopathology, depression, anxiety. Often time it leads to delinquent behaviors and it can impact a child’s social skills and ability to have friends as well… a child who is hitting is doing that for a reason. Maybe it’s because they know they don’t get what those things on the paper are, and maybe it’s because they just can’t communicate what they need. Or they haven’t learned the skills to even sit for five minutes…. For me looking at it at all ages, the biggest thing is that you have to look at the whole child. Even if it’s subtle, behavior and academics are always going to go hand in hand.” – Elizabeth Isralowitz

Fast Facts about Elizabeth

  1. Full name: Elizabeth Isralowitz, MA BCBA
  2. Years teaching:  10 years teaching, 3 years of clinical work and school administration (Behavior Specialist/Board Certified Behavior Analyst), over 20 years working with children with special needs
  3. Grades taught: Early Intervention to 22 years
  4. Current position: PhD student/graduate student researcher at University of California, Riverside: SEARCH Family Autism Resource Center
  5. Current city: Los Angeles and Riverside, CA
  6. Favorite books:
  7. Why teach? Every day is different, a triumph, a challenge, an accomplishment, and a chance to change the lives of children and their families.

Useful Resources Shared by Elizabeth!

Elizabeth is a wealth of knowledge and hopes to use Linkedin, in the new year to begin sharing some of her professional development workshops and intervention resources. If you found her podcast useful and informative, be sure to let her know in the comments below.

Episode 4 – Vanessa Donino

 

vanessadonino“I completely admire the profession of education more so than anything. Please don’t ever be discouraged … if you’re overwhelmed reach out to fellow educators who understand what you do because what we do is truly, truly noble!”

Fast Facts about Vanessa

  1. Full name: Vanessa Donino
  2. Years teaching: 3
  3. Grade(s) taught: 1st-3rd and Alternative High School
  4. Current position: Educator of Incarcerated Youth at Oneida County Prison
  5. Current city: Oriskany, NY
  6. Past cities Vanessa has taught in: Bronx, NY, Clark County, NV
  7. Why teach?: I teach because I want to help fight educational injustice and policies.
  8. Favorite books:
  9. Resource mentioned during podcast interview: Engage NY

 

Episode 1 – Andrea Burke

“It’s a very special profession in that way – that you don’t really understand it unless you’re in it!” – Andrea Burke andrea_burke

Fast Facts about Andrea Burke

  1. Full Name: Andrea M. Burke
  2. Years teaching: 14
  3. Grade(s) taught: 5-7
  4. Current position: Dean of Students
  5. City, State: Los Angeles, CA
  6. What are your favorite teacher resources?
    Class Dojo, readwritethink.org, Achieve 3,000 or Newsela, Google Classroom, Donors Choose, Think it Up!, Pinterest, Weo-io, and Scholastic Book Clubs.
  7. Noteworthy teacher conference: ISTE!
  8.  How can new teachers follow up with you? ms.dreab@gmail.com or @00dreday00 on Twitter.
  9. Why teach? To bring equity and quality to education in our Los Angeles schools!
  10. Favorite books?
    • Personal: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Better Smith
    • Professional: The First Days of School: How to be an Effective Teacher, by Harry Wong