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.
Macklemore and Michael Bennett have purchased copies of the critically acclaimed book, “Teaching for Black Lives,” for every middle- and high-school social-studies and language-arts teacher in Seattle Public Schools.
“Teaching for Black Lives” is a collection of teaching activities, role-plays, essays, poems and art created to help educators humanize African-American people in school curriculum. The book gives examples of how teachers can connect the curriculum to young people’s lives and explores how classrooms can be designed to challenge racism.
“The contributions that black people have made to this country are integral and the struggles that kids have to go through facing all forms of institutionalized racism and discrimination are real,” says Jesse Hagopian, an editor of the book and an ethnic-studies teacher at Seattle’s Garfield High School.
“The Racial Equity in HCC Team, a network of about 100 Seattle parents, teachers, students and community members district wide, has worked hard this year to improve the racial equity of Seattle Public Schools’ advanced learning programs.
The Seattle school district offers advanced classes “for students who have been evaluated for and designated as Highly Capable.” To place into the Highly Capable Cohort (HCC), a student needs to score in the top 2 to 3 percent on standardized tests of cognitive, reading and math skills. SPS also offers Advanced Learning (formerly known as Spectrum) for students who have been evaluated for and designated as Advanced Learners.
However, both accelerated programs overwhelmingly consist of white students. In 2015, white students made up 45.6 percent of SPS population, but were 72.3 percent of HCC-eligible students. That same year, 16 percent of students in the Seattle School district were black, but only 1 percent were in Advanced Learning programs. Among SPS’s 12 percent Latino student population, only 3 percent were counted as HCC- and Advanced Learning–eligible students. This compares to data from the U.S. Department of Education from 2009 that shows black students comprising 16.7 percent of total U.S. students and 9.8 percent of students in gifted programs. Data from the USDE also shows that as of 2009 Latino students comprised 22.3 percent of students nationally and 15.4 percent of students in gifted programs. Among the 200 biggest school districts in the U.S., Seattle has the fifth-biggest gap in achievement between black and white students. Seattle’s white-black gap is also the biggest in Washington.”
“Growing up on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, Daniel Pak knew that music was in his blood. His father was a jazz pianist and taught him to play scales around age 6. In a few years, he had advanced to performing pieces by Mozart and Beethoven. But it wasn’t until he taught himself acoustic guitar at 13 that his passion was truly ignited. “That’s when I really found that music was more than just lessons. Music was something that would be with me every day,” says Pak.
Pak has fond memories of kanikapila, impromptu music jam sessions with friends. “We’d all go to the beach. Someone would bring ukuleles and guitars, someone would bring bongos. We’d play music and listen to the waves coming in and the palm trees rustling,” says Pak. Today — minus the beach, palm trees and crashing waves — Pak tries to “perpetuate that tradition here in Seattle.”