Comic artist and educator Taylor Dow has been running youth arts programs for 13–18 year-olds over Zoom since the pandemic ended in-person after-school programs in the spring. During a recent Creative Virtual Teaching Solutions workshop at foundry10, Taylor shared good, bad, and beautifully awkward stories from teaching in the virtual classroom.
“We all have to see ourselves on Zoom. Imagine being a teenager and having a mirror in front of you while you talk. It’s brutal,” said Taylor.
Several foundry10 educators agreed with this sentiment over Zoom chat. Taylor paused the lecture to read the Zoom chat comments aloud and laughed, prompting more foundry10 team members to share idiosyncrasies of online teaching in the chat box:
“I’m always checking to make sure there’s no glare from my glasses,” wrote foundry10 Digital Audio educator Chelsi Gorzelsky.
“I can’t stop looking at my own mouth,” wrote foundry10 Artistic Design educator, Jon Garaizar.
Encouraging side conversations in the Zoom chat box is a core tenant of the unofficial Taylor Dow teaching philosophy.
“Those in-between spaces; the experience of looking at the back of someone’s head; the experience of wanting to make friends; the experience of being in a hallway; the experience of eating together — it’s all gone,” said Taylor. “Finding ways to fill those spaces is very important for students.”
Taylor designed a virtual classroom that lowers the stakes and tries to fill the social void left in the wake of COVID-19 by providing access to playful, engaging virtual learning experiences.
“It’s not so much about what they’re making, not even so much about what they’re learning, but more a question of — can this place be a respite?” said Taylor. “We’re all so worried about what’s coming next, what came before. Try to give your students some relief from that.”
By Riddhi Divanji, Ella Shahn, and Sydney Parker, foundry10
Whether conducting a home visit or teaching virtually, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced teachers, school administrators, and youth-serving organizations unprecedented access to the home lives of their students. This intimate blending of school and home can feel invasive at times, but is also a meaningful opportunity to build deeper relationships with families who are part of historically marginalized social groups in school communities.
To learn more about how to engage with low-income, POC, immigrant, and world-language speaking families during COVID, many school administrators and organizations across the country are using surveys to assess each family’s needs and preferences. But not all surveys are created equal. Far too often, families give their time in hopes of contributing to positive change in their school communities, but rarely get to see the final data or their words turned into action.
“Part of the reason that there’s so much fatigue with answering anything — whether it’s a survey collecting data from families or a conversation — is that they have experienced time and time again nothing happening as a result of them sharing their challenges,” said Dr. Ann Ishimaru, associate professor at the University of Washington School of Education and author of Just Schools.
Ishimaru and UW researchers Jondou Chen and Aditi Rajendran collaborated with the Southeast Seattle Education Coalition (SESEC), local schools, caregivers, community organizations, and other stakeholders to design an equitable family engagement survey for Southeast Seattle schools. The survey was adapted from a previous co-design process the UW researchers had developed with input from community leaders across the region. Foundry10 research coordinators Riddhi Divanji and Ella Shahn supported the Southeast Seattle effort through data collection and analysis support.
Ishimaru spoke with Divanji about family engagement and equitable survey design collaborations with families and communities during COVID-19 remote learning. Here are a few takeaways from their conversation that may be valuable for researchers, school administrators, youth-serving organizations, and educators looking to build equitable family engagement into their professional practice.
When the sun doesn’t shine and it’s too wet to play, and you’re stuck in the house on a cold, wet day, it’s time to get creative with paint, glue and clay! Here’s how three local families and artists make the most of Seattle’s rainy season.
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Last Christmas, Anthony Battiste and his four sons — Chris 9, Anthony, 5, Abraham, 4, and Alvin, 2 — spent the holiday in a homeless shelter. After he and his wife separated and she moved to California, Battiste was left with one income and too many expenses. Though he tried to make ends meet with his earnings as a roofer, after a couple of months the family was evicted from their rental in Tacoma.
There were many times when Battiste had to choose between providing food for the children and paying for a hotel room. Despite his best efforts, the family sometimes had no choice but to sleep in their vehicle.
“It was trying, but at the same time it was binding,” says Battiste. “It presented an opportunity for me and the boys to become a strong cadre, leaning and depending on each other to get through the hard times.”
When Tripat Singh and Jasmine Marwaha were growing up together in North Seattle in the early 1980s, there were only about 20 other Sikh families in the area and a single gurdwara (place of worship). They fell in love while Jasmine was studying law at Harvard and married soon after. The Central District couple are now raising their 4-year-old son, Kabir Singh, and 4-month-old daughter, Sahiba Kaur, in a large, dynamic Sikh community.
Sikhism was born in the Punjab region of northern India during an era of extreme class inequality. “The turban used to be worn only by kings and royalty,” says Singh, a clinical practitioner of Eastern medicine. “Sikhs started wearing it as a way of giving the finger to the government. The circumstances you are born into aren’t what you have to be relegated to for the rest of your life.”
A day in the life of Seward Park children’s musician Eli Rosenblatt sounds downright idyllic. After a morning spent in his garden with a famous florist (his wife, Kelly Sullivan) and lively 3-year-old (his son, Elian), Rosenblatt takes a stroll through his neighborhood to teach music and movement at three local preschools. Though some might find engaging a room full of 4-year-olds exhausting, for Rosenblatt it’s nirvana.
“There are moments when you can feel so much love in the room,” he says. “Just seeing the parents seeing their children and the children seeing their parents. It’s really special. It feels really joyful.”
Whether baking family recipes, crafting decorations, or dressing up as dinosaurs, these local families know how to put the happy into the holidays. From an “A-Team”-inspired celebration to a Sikh musical tradition to a recently homeless family making merry in a new home, the holiday season in Seattle is as multifarious as it is memorable.
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