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.

Getting to the “Why” of Teaching!

blog-9I recently had a heartfelt conversation with a colleague about how hard teaching can be. We talked about the current state of political affairs regarding education and how, as public school teachers, we wonder what lies ahead in the future. Part way through our conversation, I paused and had a moment of gratitude — gratitude for the work we do as educators and gratitude for the constant collaboration and growth mindset this profession forces us to have.

As teachers, we are often told that to engage our students and increase their “buy-in,” it helps to explain why they are learning something. In math we might tackle the question, “why does math matter?” We help our students understand the personal satisfaction of being able to solve a problem, or the practical importance of knowing how to figure out real life mathematical problems like, “You have a beginning balance of $150.00 in your checking account. You purchase groceries for $115 on Wednesday. How much money do you have left until your next check gets deposited on Friday?”

It is with this sense of common purpose, especially during this very politically charged time for educators and policy makers across the country, that we take a moment to reflect on why teaching matters. Here are some reasons some amazing educators I have had the pleasure of chatting with have given for the question, “why teach?”:

  1. “To bring equity and quality to education in our Los Angeles schools!” – Andrea Burke, teacher of 14 years in Los Angeles, CA.
  2. “I am an educator because I am passionate about educating all children, regardless of ability, socioeconomic status, or any other mitigating factors, because all children deserve a high quality school experience.” – Dana Graham, educator of 10 years in Oakland, CA.
  3. “I teach because I know it makes a difference.” – Melissa Ascencio, teacher of 16 years in Portsmouth, VA.
  4. “I teach because I want to help fight educational injustice and policies.” – Vanessa Donino, educator of 3 years in several cities including: Bronx, NY, Clark County, NV and currently in Oriskany, NY.
  5. “Every day is different, a triumph, a challenge, an accomplishment, and a chance to change the lives of children and their families.” – Elizabeth Isralowitz, special education teacher of 10+ years in Los Angeles and Riverside, CA.
  6. “Because I want to help enable our future to make better decisions than those from our past.” – Danielle David, teacher for 11 years currently in Fairfield, CA.
  7. “For the children!” – Connie Lam, teacher of 3 years in Oakland, CA.
  8. “I see them survive through the inherit grit that they bring every day with them to the classroom – a skill I don’t need to teach them. I see them dream and hope and love and create. I also see them fear and wonder what the future brings. These young people inspire me to be an active citizen – as the saying goes, we will never be truly free until we all share the same rights as you and me.” – Edwina Lucero, Music teacher for 13 years in the Denver Metro area.
  9. “It feeds your soul and grows others around you.” – Meredith Jacobs, teacher of the arts for 12 years in Plattsburgh, NY.
  10. “If we don’t, who will?” – Iain Lampert, High School speech and debate teacher for 7 years in Van Nuys, CA.
  11. “I always hope to inspire other children to teach – mainly other African American children.” – Barry Turner, teacher for 17 years in North Carolina and currently in Oakland, CA.

Why do you teach?

By Jennifer Khadir

Why Arts Education Should Not Be Ignored!

“California College of the Arts educates students to shape culture and society through the practice and critical study of art, architecture, design, and writing … the college prepares students for lifelong creative work by cultivating innovation, community engagement, and social and environmental responsibility.” – California College of the Arts Mission Statement

Recent plans to defund two federal agencies, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for Humanities (NEH), has left me inspired to feature both Edwina Lucero, vocal arts teacher in the greater Denver area, and Meredith Jacobs, arts teacher to children with special needs in upstate New York, on recent Chat with Teachers podcasts. With many left unsure about the future of the arts (including literature, film, dance, music and more) I wanted to chat with these arts teachers about their experiences, passions and tips for keeping the arts alive in schools. Here are some highlights they shed on the importance for keeping the arts alive in public schools:

The Arts Lead to Everything!

pullquote_art“Don’t you realize art is the most important in the building?” shared Meredith when recounting an exchange she had with colleagues. “Arts back up all of the other academic areas… the arts does back up your ELA [English Language Arts], the arts does back up your math, the arts does back up your gym.” Meredith went on to say that she and her students recently studied the Northern Lights through art, and how it sparked scientific conversations in her classroom. She and her students are currently working on an art show focusing on Egypt, opening her students eyes to the social studies component of Egypt’s history and culture. It is no new concept that art is more than just googly eyes and glitter (although those materials absolutely have a place in the classroom as well!)…but that the arts play a pivotal role in kids lives to help develop many fundamental skills and interests that support an array of other content areas in a child’s academic life as well.

The Arts Offer Hands On Learning

image.jpgWith so many studies that show the benefits of concrete learning, most notably the teachings of Maria Montessori who says that to learn how to count, a child must count actual objects, to feel and see the difference between 1 and 10. Arbitrarily pointing to pictures on a card doesn’t help a child truly internalize the concept.

Meredith shares this sentiment and believes that “students must have that hands on experience. That tactile sensory – feel it, touch it, do it [experience].” She says, “we need to let them sit down and figure out things.” With today’s focus on the common core state standards, which highlights the need to be fostering problem solvers in the classroom, Meredith went on to share how a group of her middle schoolers with extreme behavior issues, were tasked to recreate King Tut’s Death Mask together.

“Here’s the materials,” she said, “I want to watch you problem solve. I want to see you figure this out. How can we solve the problem of building this. And those kids always tell me, even my high schoolers, ‘thank you letting me figure this out, I figured it out a way that was different than what you showed us.’ And that to me is the win. Because we need to have kids that can figure things out and with all the testing that is being done, they are learning to the test, they are not putting their hands on things, it’s not that concrete development that’s happening,” and that’s why teachers of the arts, like Meredith, will always be huge advocates of the arts.

The Arts Give Students a Stage, a Voice, Confidence and a Sense of Community

“Right away I started taking my kids into the public to perform,” says Edwina, a vocal arts teacher in a predominantly Latino/Hispanic community, a large percentage of which are children of undocumented parents, or are undocumented themselves. Edwina says that there’s a cool thing that happens with choir kids, especially students new to choir and who when they are exposed to performing in public for the first time are able to see right away the purpose of all that went into the practice they’ve put into leading up to the event. Edwina shared anecdotes of how she was witness to several students who grew into confident leaders in their school due to being given a stage and voice to build confidence on.

Most notably was an account of a student who joined Edwina’s class with an already established history of being a troublemaker that past teachers had problems with. Edwina shared that through his time in choir, he was able to channel the “class clown” within himself and find a place to perform and build self-confidence. He grew in maturity and became a leader in his class.

Being able to perform is also an easy way to extend student’s learning beyond the walls of the school building. Edwina says that “music and arts programs are really easy to build community around.” She says arts programs are the backbone and heart beat of the school and the place where “pockets of community can happen.”

Higher Learning Institutes Care, So Should We!

img_20170129_152453With arts programs essentially at the cusp of extinction – most notably in under-served schools in underprivileged communities – I can’t help but ask, “Are we doing our kids a disservice by not providing more arts funding?”

Along with the mission statement from the California College of the ArtsMassachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is grounded in the objective to “advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century.” All those areas include the arts in some capacity. While their official admissions requirements do not require material beyond the application, portfolios and additional materials helps to highlight a student’s application and showcase some of the characteristics that are so important to universities like MIT, such as “creative insight, technical skill, and a ‘hands-on’ approach to learning by doing.” Check out the MIT Admissions Portfolios & Additional Material page and see for yourself how having things like music & theater arts, visual arts and a “maker” portfolio can benefit student’s chances of truly being “college ready.”

Meditation, Enjoyment & Relaxation

According to Stress.org, “Numerous studies show that job stress is far and away the major source of stress for American adults and that it has escalated progressively over the past few decades.” According to the American Psychological Association, mindfulness promotes meta cognitive awareness and enhances attention and engagement. According to Mindfulness in Schools, “Many visual art activities require unique focus, and cause the “artist” to set aside all other thoughts and worries.”

Talk about a long winded “If __________. Then ___________,” sentence!

Meredith talks about the special needs of her students and the awareness that most of them will probably not pursue many far-reaching higher learning institutes beyond High School. But despite that, for many of her students who display some of the most aggressive behaviors, art is an avenue they use to practice meditation.

“You can use art to escape,” Meredith tells her students. “Other people use drugs or different stimulations like video games or music, and you can still use those things, but with art you don’t have to quote and quote meditate…” the joy element that naturally comes with engaging in art is naturally meditative, which also explains the recent popularity of adult coloring books.

Never were my students  more spellbound than when they got to experience, some for the first time (some for probably the ONLY time) in their lives, Caroline Lee, a violist with the San Francisco Ballet orchestra, play her instrument in our classroom:

How Can You Commit to Integrating the Arts Into Your Classroom?

With the future of arts education uncertain, all while the importance of creative problem solving Americans becomes all the more necessary in the 21st century, it becomes a lot more clear that as teachers we need to be more creative in finding ways to integrate arts into our classrooms.

If I had to make one actionable commitment to integrating the arts to my classroom, it would be to engage my 1st-3rd grade students in one of my favorite books, One by Kathryn Otoshi, a wonderful picture book about standing up to bullies. I can’t wait to see how my students would bring this book alive through creating costumes and performing this story in front of an audience.

What is one way you think you can commit to bringing art to your classroom? Because after all, as Meredith aptly reminds us, “what a grey, sad place it would be if we didn’t have these open thinking creative minds.”

Episode 9 – Meredith Jacobs

 

meredithjacobsAs an art teacher you’re a huge advocate for the arts in general – the arts lead to pretty much everything. We back up all of the other academic areas. The arts does back up your ELA, the arts does back up your math…

Fast Facts about Meredith

  1. Full name: Meredith Jacobs
  2. Current city: Plattsburgh NY
  3. Years teaching: 12
  4. Grade(s) taught:
    • (1yr) K-6 Elementary Art Teacher AuSable Forks Elementary,
    • (10yrs) K-12 Art to Children with Special Needs @ CVES BOCES Plattsburgh/ Mineville NY Campuses
    • (1yr) Toddler Teacher
    • (2 months) Orchard Elementary, Rio Linda School District AmeriCorps NCCC* Mentor
  5. Favorite books
  6. Why teach? It feeds your soul and grows others around you.
  7. Check out more about the arts program at Meredith’s school, Champlain Valley Educational Services

artNoteworthy Outtakes from Meredith’s Chat

During our chat, Meredith shares her thoughts on the current state of politics and how it affects arts education. From cutting arts funding to the notion that arts programming is disposable, she expresses how her students with special needs use art as an avenue for not only learning, but meditation, joy and relaxation – skills her students, and many others are often not encouraged to incorporate into their academic lives. As an art teacher, Meredith also recognizes that not all children learn the same way and that the arts is one of the few times in school that learning is concrete and tactile, leading to skill building in other academic areas as well.

Meredith also shares valuable tips and strategies for engaging with your community to help give your students a platform for showcasing their art and to help with putting resources into your classroom – Meredith says one year she walked into her local pizzeria and asked for pizza boxes to help her students bring home mirrors they made at school as part of an art project!

Listen in on how Meredith describes her passions for incorporating arts into education, despite the fact that art teachers are often shied away from this path because of the notion that they “won’t have a job in a few years.”

12 Ways Teaching Has Affected My Thinking

I thought I knew, but I really had no idea what I was getting myself into when I began teaching – I can’t be the only one, right? I hope not.

I mean, how can you really anticipate what will happen when you are left alone in a room with 25 or more children and the door closes behind you, and they’re staring back at you in anticipation? One day you’re playing teacher with all your stuffed toys in the safety of your bedroom as a child. Then the next you have the responsibility of imparting knowledge, safety and wisdom on the young people before you.

Three years in, I am not quite as terrified as I was on that very first day — however, many soon-to-be teachers think teaching will be their avenue for “saving the world,” that all their students will love them, and all their lesson plans will be so incredible and engaging that they will never be “that” teacher with disciplinary problems. Oh, and summers… ahhh, summers! Need I say more about that one?!

While I am fully aware that I still have a long way to go on my path to being a more effective and confident teacher, here are twelve ways teaching has so far affected my thinking:

  1. All my students will love me – but that doesn’t mean that they will do what I want them to do!
    While some may love you more than others, most students do have love for their teachers, whether they admit it or not. They want your love and adoration – but setting clear boundaries as a teacher is as important as parents setting loving boundaries at home with their children. As their teachers, we want them to feel loved and cared for, after all students who know their teacher loves them will also work harder at trying to meet expectations. However, there is a difference between trying to be their “friend,” and setting clear expectations while also inviting your students to get to know you on a somewhat personal level. In my podcast chat with Melissa Ascencio, she talks about how she uses her sense of humor with students to help build relationships and trust.
  2. blog5Teaching is 90% Relationships and 10% academics.
    Much in the same frame as above, I have come to realize that teaching is a lot more than lesson plans and unit writing. Connie Lam talks honestly about her experience of being “thrown into just chaos” when she began teaching. She talks about how she wishes she had more support in building relationships and classroom management strategies with her specific population of students. It wasn’t until I moved from working in a standard classroom, which can be very formative based and numbers driven, to a Montessori school where I finally learned more about looking at the “whole child” and explicitly teaching solid strategies to meet their emotional needs that I began to really feel like I was becoming a teacher.
  3. My day is not done at 3, it’s not done at 5 either…
    A common misconception about becoming a teacher is that our jobs are flexible. Our students are dismissed by 3 (or even earlier at some schools) so, naturally a teacher’s day is now open to doing “whatever,” yeah right. One of the most common things I am hearing among all my podcast chats has been this common struggle among teachers about how to balance one’s personal life and teaching life. Think about it, all the emails that come in during the day, all the paperwork that needs to get done, lessons that need to get planned, meetings that need to take place, professional development and credentialing requirements, parents who need to check in, and so on… all those things cannot even be touched until all your children have been dismissed at the end of the day. I have come to learn that I need to be more efficient with my time to get things done. Something I am still working on.
  4. I cannot fix everything.
    Danielle David talks about not always having to have an answer. She shares how one of her biggest lessons as a teacher has been the realization that “the most valuable tool you can give to someone is your active listening… you’re just listening with your ears and heart.” As teachers, we can be made to feel like we should know everything and that we should know how to fix it all too. However, as a teacher I have learned that the most powerful tool I can give my students is the skill to learn the process of figuring things out. It’s ok to say, “I don’t know,” it’s ok to just teach how to listen with your “eyes, ears and heart.” Those lifelong skills will stay with them far into their future — and also relieves me from feeling like I need to have an answer to every question they may have.
  5. Teaching is not always fun.
    That’s right kids, sometimes your teacher doesn’t want to come to school either! As a career changer, I definitely feel like I spend my days more productively and walk away feeling more fulfilled than I did at previous jobs, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have days where I just want to tear my hair out. Sometimes, teaching is just not fun, but it’s always meaningful, and it’s always challenging and it’s always different every day.
  6. Professional development can sometimes be a drag.
    I am what they call a “introverted extrovert,” which means that while I thrive on social interaction, I also gain energy from time alone. I enjoy sharing strategies, chatting and learning more about how I can be a better teacher – hence the development of these podcasts and blogs. However… there are times that professional development meetings can also feel like a drag. With so many things on a teacher’s plate during the day, it is often hard to concentrate during a PD meeting without also thinking of all the other things that you can be doing during that time.
  7. I’ve become more aware of the importance of self care.
    I feel so grateful to work for an Ashoka Changemaker school where mindfulness practices such as meditation, silence and empathy are embedded in our daily curriculum, as well as at our own staff meetings. With a background that started in corporate America, in the fast-paced city of New York, it has been so wonderful learning how to slow down. That said, just as I am still working on strategies on being more efficient with my time, I am still working on implementing mindfulness and self care into my daily life. However, being a teacher is all about modeling and I often model using strategies such as meditation, and deep breaths with my students and have seen it help them develop coping strategies at such an early age.
  8. I’ve come to appreciate having a growth mindset.
    It can be so easy to get caught up in scores, but being able to sit back and watch a child go from barely putting sounds together in the beginning of the year, to reading close to grade level in just a matter of months is so rewarding. They are growing, we are growing. The process should be just as celebrated as the outcome.
  9. No two teachers do things the same way.
    I mentioned before how much I enjoy collaborating with peers. When I first began teaching, however, I thought that I needed to copy exactly what other experienced teachers were doing in order to be successful. I soon realize that taking bits and pieces of strategies from other teachers and finding my own style would really be what feels natural and in the end lead to positive growth as a teacher.
  10. I absolutely appreciate parents who understand that mistakes are for learning and that it’s OK if there child is not happy ALL of the time.
    As a parent before becoming an educator, I was privy to lots of playground talks with other parents who were overly concerned with their child’s constant state of happiness. While I never really bought into that mindset, as I think teaching resilience and creativity that can, and often, comes out of things like frustration and boredom is actually healthier in the long term – I have come to appreciate so much other parents who also appreciate this kind of growth mindset for their child. It makes teaching their child so much easier because they are able to understand that mistakes are for learning!
  11. I’ve come to learn to let go of parent expectations – especially my own
    Often parents are the first to be blamed if their child falls short of expectations. As a mom of two boys, I have had many times where I felt that my boys behaviors were an absolute reflection of me, and while that may be true in many ways, it is not absolute. I appreciate that being a teacher, who is also a mom, I’ve been able to see each child for who they are without judging their parents. I could teach my son all about how important it is to follow directions in school, but I’ve come to face it, he is a social butterfly. His love of talking, in moments that aren’t always the best during class, does not make me a bad parent.
  12. Summer and holiday breaks fly by!
    That’s right folks… and as a career changer, I totally remember what it was like to only have five vacation days in a year. However, I have learned that teaching is such an enormous job, that when a break comes along, it is greatly needed! Also, to be even more honest, teachers are never really “off.” Whether planning, attending professional development conferences, setting up the classroom, or finding creative ways to raise money for classroom supplies – because well, if I wasn’t so set on wanting to not go over just 12 ways teaching has affected my thinking, I would add a 13th about how underpaid teachers are and how under-served many of the schools we work in can be, especially those of us who work in urban public schools.

Funny thing though readers, despite all I’ve listed, teaching has been the most rewarding and enriching career I have ever had the privilege of experiencing. And I guess, if I were to cheat and add a 13th after all, it would really be that one of the most everlasting ways teaching has affected the way I think it would be that I see the future in my children, and so I see the future very brightly!

By Jennifer Khadir

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.