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.