Getting to the Core
Welcome to Wayne RESA's podcast page. Here you will find the current and past episodes, along with resources and transcripts for further exploration of the topics covered. This podcast is also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify (search for "Wayne RESA").
Getting to the Core - S3.E6 - Homeless Education, McKinney-Vento and Special Populations
As we recognize National Homeless Awareness Week this month we will be providing some information about the Special Populations Team at Wayne RESA, the McKinney-Vento Law, Homeless Awareness and why raising awareness on this subject is so important. We will be discussing what some common signs of homelessness are, the barriers that students experiencing homelessness face, how districts and PSAs can support their McKinney-Vento eligible students, and who you can contact should you have questions within your district and the county. Joining us are Wayne RESA Special Populations Team members; Dr. Sharrece Farris, Manager of State and Federal Programs, Charter Authorizations and Special Populations, Sabrina Rudy, Special Populations Consultant and Mary Bamrick, Administrative Assistant.
(Announcer}: Welcome to getting to the core, a Wayne County regional educational service agency podcast. We encourage you to connect with us as we examine a variety of educational themes and hopefully cultivate a few seeds that get to the core of our mission leading and learning for all.
Dr. Sharrece Farris: Good afternoon in celebration of national hunger and homeless awareness week, we would like to welcome you to our podcast. My name is Dr. Sharrece Farris, I'm the manager of state and federal programs, charter authorizations and special populations here at Wayne RESA. We also have here on our called Mary Bamrick, our amazing administrative assistant and Sabrina Rudy our special populations consultant. Our special populations department supports the foster care liaison and homeless education liaisons in each district throughout Wayne County and PSA's (Public School Academy’s). As we recognize national homeless awareness week this month, our team would like to provide you with some information about our work. The McKinney-Vento law and why raising awareness on this subject is so important. Welcome to our podcast. What we've developed is a number of questions that we get on a continuous basis to kind of set the foundation of our podcast. One of our top question is, what is McKinney-Vento? Sabrina Would you like to share your thoughts on this?
Sabrina Rudy: Sure Dr. Farris, thank you. So, the McKinney-Vento homeless assistance act is a federal law. It was created to support the enrollment and education of students experiencing homelessness. McKinney Vento is intended to provide students experiencing homelessness the same educational opportunities as housed students, by removing as many of the barriers to learning as possible. So there are some rights that are afforded to McKinney Vento eligible students and some of those include transportation to and from their school of origin and extracurriculars. Um so when I mentioned the school of origin, that also includes the right to attend their school of origin which is the school that they attended when they first became homeless. Um it also includes immediate enrollment and support from their district homeless education liaison.
Dr. Sharrece Farris: Thank you Sabrina. Often times I know what you've been on the forefront of a lot of this work. We have a question of the actually defining McKinney Vento to a number of our stakeholders throughout the county. Can you share what you've shared on a continuous basis and says relates to that? Sabrina Rudy: Sure. So we have, we support McKinney-Vento at a regional level. Um There is a federal grant that there is a state coordinator that oversees that um that grant and then each regional area has a McKinney Vento program to support all of the district liaisons. So, at Wayne RESA, we primarily provide services to our districts and PSA's by providing technical support for our liaisons, helping build capacity and understanding the law. Oftentimes we feel questions around eligibility, transportation. Because we know that many of the situations that arise around homelessness are very specific case by case basis with, with varying degrees of circumstances on helping determine whether or not a family is McKinney-Vento eligible. We also work to raise awareness around homelessness and what the homeless definition is, according to McKinney-Vento. Increasing identification. And then there are, there's a small grant with resources.
Dr. Sharrece Farris: With Mary serving as our administrative assistant, oftentimes Mary receives the bulk of the calls that come in when we're trying to identify eligibility as relates to McKinney-Vento. Mary, would you mind sharing some of the misconceptions or misunderstandings as it relates to perhaps McKinney Vento or like a HUD (Housing and Urban Development) issue?
Mary Bamrick: Absolutely, thank you. Dr Farris. One thing that I noticed a lot is that the definition between homelessness for HUD and the definition for the McKinney Vento law is a little bit different. For the HUD definition, it's literally "homeless". So, a literally homeless individual or family is an individual or family who lacks a fixed regular and adequate nighttime residence. The individual or families, primary nighttime residence may be a public or private place, that's not meant for human habitation. The difference between the McKinney-Vento act, they also include individuals who lack a fixed regular and adequate nighttime residence. That the definition also includes Children who are sharing housing due to economic hardship or loss of housing. In this case we call it doubled up. That is one of the main differences that could be confusing when identifying McKinney Vento eligible students.
Dr. Sharrece Farris: Thank you Mary. Sabrina, by chance can you please share resources that we have available here at Wayne RESA and perhaps even more information on the duties of the homeless liaisons that serve as additional resources to our county?
Sabrina Rudy: Sure. So we provide, you know, as mentioned before, technical assistance to our liaisons. We provide training, we hold quarterly meetings for liaisons to help. Each liaison understands what their duties are as the liaison. There are actually 10 assigned duties through the law of McKinney-Vento and I'll just name a few of them. One of the duties of the lease and is two is around identification. Another duty is around making sure that students are enrolled. You may have a family that has lost their housing and maybe in the transition to another place, have misplaced some of that important paperwork that school districts often require in order to enroll. So, the liaison is there to help make sure during the enrollment process that that doesn't become a barrier for students enrolling in that school. Another thing is really making sure that the families and the children have access to the services that they have a right to, such as free and reduced lunch. Also, the Title One services that are afforded to students to help overcome barriers. So those are just a few of the 10 liaison duties that are required. So, we help our liaisons understand what those duties are and how to fulfill them.
Dr. Sharrece Farris: Ms. Rudy, how can a district or PSA identify who their liaison is?
Sabrina Rudy: So, every district by law is required to identify their homeless education liaison in the educational entity master in CEPI (Center for Educational Performance and Information). So, that's primarily where MDE will go to communicate. If they have any communication to the homeless liaison in the district, they're going to look for that contact information in the EEM (Educational Entity Master) as it's referred to sometimes. If a family is looking to find out who their liaison is, there are other ways that they could find that out as well. And, we can cover that now if you want. But, um they could call Wayne RESA and we could definitely provide who that contact information is. They could ask at their district to the homeless liaison is, or the McKinney-Vento liaison, it's sometimes referred to. They could also look on our website and we have a link to all of the homeless liaisons within all of the districts and PSA's in Wayne County.
Dr. Sharrece Farris: Keeping in mind that our department also provides support to our state and federal program leaders in areas specifically as it pertains to their ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) grants, their title One grants and things of that nature. We oftentimes do get calls where we're being asked how can we financially support the needs of this population of students and families. And I oftentimes want to share with school districts and PSA's, to utilize your title One funding. Title One funding supports McKinney Vento and homeless initiatives. Your Title Five also supports homeless initiatives and also your ESSER dollars. So, leverage those fundings were available to work with districts and PSA's To be an innovator to secure funding and resources to properly service these families. Sabrina, by chance, would you mind sharing some of the signs that the liaisons and we as Wayne RESA, see that are coming through that give us an idea of a family or student that may be experiencing homelessness?
Sabrina Rudy: Sure. Um you know, there are some warning signs to look for that may help you recognize this. Um but really, ultimately, it's having a relationship with the families and um making sure that all of the educators within the educational setting have an understanding of what to look for. So they know to make sure the homeless liaison is and is aware. So, the first thing of course is having that relationship with the family so that if you do notice some of these signs that you're able to um respectfully have a conversation around what their living situation maybe. So, some of the things that you may look for is a lack of continuity in their education, such as um their attendance changing or they're beginning to come late to school, which may indicate that they have moved further away from the school and they're somehow getting transported back. Another thing is to look for some unmet um medical or dental needs, um transportation issues, numerous absences, as we mentioned. Absences on days when students are asked to bring things, special things from home or not being able to even complete homework. They're being asked to. Some families may be in a shelter, and they may not have a setting that they're able to complete homework. a lack of hygiene, support hygiene. They may not have access to some facilities to make sure that they're washing up and washing their clothes and then social and behavioral concerns such as poor or short attention span, um extreme shyness, clinging behavior. So, there are many different signs that you could look for. Um we really want to make sure that we're raising our awareness though for all educators to watch out for any signs just so that they can have that conversation Because the biggest thing really is to make sure that you protect the privacy of that family and of course, work with the family with some discretion so that you can help support the family and in overcoming those barriers that are faced.
Dr. Sharrece Farris: Thank you Miss Rudy Miss Bamrick, would you mind closing us out by sharing with our stakeholders some information we have available on our website, that supports from this awareness and any special events that may be coming up?
Mary Bamrick: Absolutely. We have several links um that we're going to share with just some common questions about students experiencing homelessness, some common signs that you can look out for. We also have additional resources that you can find on our web page that will lead you to just different resources in the community that can help out. I also wanted to highlight, there is an event that covenant house is putting on. It's called the Sleep Out event. We'll have this information linked with the podcast so that you can go to that page. There are many different events that are being hosted throughout Wayne County as far as the homeless awareness week. If you have any ideas or if you know of anything, you can always reach out. Or if you have any questions about McKinney-Vento, reach out to us at special pops at RESA dot net. Dr. Farris, Sabrina Rudy and myself all have access to that and we're happy to answer any of your questions at any time.
(Announcer): Thanks again for listening to getting to the core. To access previous episodes along with transcripts and additional resources, please visit RESA dot net forward slash podcast.
(MUSIC UP and FADES)
Wayne RESA Presents: Getting to the Core - MiCIP.
Today's content will be about continuous improvement. The State of Michigan has revamped our school and district planning to be more reflective, intuitive and responsive to the needs of staff and students. The process of district and school improvement is meant to be used for setting and aligning goals and expectations to the district and schools mission and vision. The goals have strategies and activities to systemically implement and address the needs of the district. Over time the process improvement planning has become cumbersome and compliance driven. MiCIP or Michigan Integrated Continuous Improvement Planning is a new and improved way to assist districts with school improvement in a way that helps to ensure that goals and expectations are being monitored and evaluated consistently throughout the school year. There's a new platform to house the plan that's much more intuitive than any of our old district school improvement systems. Your host is Marvin Franklin, Educational Improvement Consultant at Wayne RESA. Our guests are Nekeya Irby and Kimberly Murphy, Educational Improvement Consultants at Wayne RESA.
(ANNOUNCER): Welcome to Getting to the Core, a Wayne County Regional Educational Service Agency podcast. We invite you to join us as we discuss a variety of educational topics and hopefully plant a few seeds that get to the core of our mission leading, learning for all.
Marvin Franklin: Well, Hello and welcome to an episode of Getting To the Core. My name is Marvin Franklin an educational improvement consultant at Wayne County's Regional Educational Service Agency in Wayne county michigan. We are affectionately known as Wayne RESA. Today's content will be about continuous improvement. The State of Michigan has revamped our school and district planning to be more reflective, intuitive and responsive to the needs of staff and students. The process of district and school improvement is meant to be used for setting and aligning goals and expectations to the district and schools mission and vision. The goals have strategies and activities to systemically implement and address the needs of the district.
Over time the process improvement planning has become cumbersome and compliance driven. MiCIP or Michigan Integrated Continuous Improvement
Planning is a new and improved way to assist districts with school improvement in a way that helps to ensure that goals and expectations are being monitored and evaluated consistently throughout the school year.
There's a new platform to house the plan that's much more intuitive than any of our old district school improvement systems. I have two other educational improvement consultants, Nekeya Irby
Nekeya Irby: Hi Marvin.
Marvin Franklin: and Kimberly Murphy
Kimberly Murphy: Hello, Marvin.
Marvin: to chime in and discuss a few elements of MiCIP and district improvement. Kim is going to delve into where to start. Nekeya is going to talk about equity and I will talk about chronic absenteeism. So let's begin our discussion with Kimberly. The content of district and school improvement is the same for the most part, but addressing continuous improvement within MiCIP, it's a challenge. Where do I start?
Kimberly: Well Marvin, when we're looking at that continuous improvement process, knowing that
we start with the district. The district identifies that goal and then we actually move into having a team. You need to have a continuous improvement team before you start. What does that look like? Who's on that team? For me. I think it's important that we have parents teachers, students, community members. What's important about this is that you want to make sure you have a different perspective. So one person can actually come with two perspectives, but you want to make sure they bring a different perspective and they bring some different background knowledge into the platform as you're establishing that one goal. So starting off with what's that goal and who's this team? Who's this team that's gonna come together to look at this district-wide data before we actually tag into our schools to do a little bit deeper.
Marvin: So, what's the best thing about Wayne RESA's MiCIP University and how can I find out more about it?
Kimberly: MiCIP University MiCIP university is something that we implemented this school year here at Wayne RESA and it is a recorded also live hour of really walking through that MiCIP process. The one thing that's important about that MiCIP university is that we have a mini-lesson but know that our participants also have an opportunity to break out. You can break out and learn about equity, you can look at the platform some additional technical support, even looking at some strategies and activities. So, knowing that that MiCIP University is something that we do and we're
doing it quarterly. Our next session is going to be December 5th, 2022. So, make sure that you sign up.But also going on to Wayne RESA's MiCIP continuous improvement site where we have a resource hub. So that resource hub has videos, it has recordings, it has resources and it also has what is most important-- is the frequently asked questions. So after each session, Marvin and Nicaea, when we ask questions, we go back and answer them and then we post them because again, we're modeling that immediate feedback to our team members.
Nekeya: I wonder if people can just come to the university at any point in the year Kim or do they need to have been there for the first session?
Kimberly: Nekeya, anyone can come to our MiCIP university. Everyone in each district is assigned to district liaison that works with your district, you can contact that person. Most likely the district liaisons will reach out to you. There's a registration link that you can use, you can sign up for it and you're able to attend and you'll also have access to all of the resources in the MiCIP University hub.
Marvin: So I know you you kind of answered it. I just wanna ask again a little bit more information, how can a district ensure that everyone within their school and district knows the school goals when everyone is not part of the planning.
Kimberly: That's a very good question, Marvin because so many districts are different sizes and their different needs. So I think it's important to know that MiCIP is moving from the district. So, I think there has to be a communication protocol in place. So how are we informing our stakeholders? How are we informing our schools? What's the platform for that? So I think it's important to do some meetings where they're coming together to meet. I think it's also important to have a website where everyone understands and able to have access to that website. And I think at the school level, all throughout the school level, everyone needs to be aware of what that goal is. Is that goal posted? Is it embedded in everything we do? Do we have that equity lens embedded within that goal? So I think it's that constant continuous communication protocol in terms of making sure that all of our stakeholders, even our students, community, all parents, staff members are aware of what that goal is. and revisiting it throughout our analysis
Nekeya: Kim, I'm wondering if the people who are on the planning the team, if they are to be representative of everyone who is involved in that school community? How do they make sure that they get representation of different stakeholders on the team?
Kimberly: So Neykeya, I think what we, what we most likely what we do, we want to make sure that it's representative of all stakeholders is to tap into the different roles that are in that community. So making sure there is a faith based partner, making sure there is someone who is in the business community, making sure that there is a parent because again, all of them come together with a different perspective, but they also come, come to you with a different background, in terms of what's important to them. So making sure that we're not tapping into just who's in the building, but who's in the community because we really want to focus on that whole child. So we're looking, we're looking
at are our students safe? You know, are they challenged? You know, do they, are they healthy? We want to make sure that we tap into all of those different tenants. So to do that in order to tap into that whole child, we need to tap into that whole community.
Marvin: Now, Kim I heard you mention one goal. Now I've been a part of school improvement for a long time, and we've always had more than one goal, and more strategies, that kind of thing. So how many, how many goals must a district complete? And what must the focus be?
Kimberly: So, right now, Marvin and there's been conversation about goals, but right now the focus is on one goal. But, we want to make sure that the also that the focus is really is on making sure on the mindset on the process and on the platform. So we wanna make sure we're looking at accessing that platform, assessing those students implementing your plan. We want to make sure that we monitor, adjust and evaluate that plan. So it's only say continuous improvement It means that it's not a one stop shop. We're continuing to look at that data to monitor and make some instructional shifts.
Marvin: I really like that. Thank you so much for your expertise and I'm looking forward to seeing some of our districts or more of our districts come to the MiCIP University because I'm sure there'll be more questions as we move forward. As you mentioned, we've got a new mindset, a new process and a new
platform. So with all of that being said, I'm sure we've got quite a bit to address. and as we're having this conversation, one of the things that we've been in Wayne County, not just Wayne County all over the United States after the pandemic, has been an issue of chronic absenteeism. And as I was listening to you talking might ask this question? I know the answer, but I want you to answer it. Would chronic absenteeism, could that be a particular goal that I could have within MiCIP? Does the goal have to be just the content specific area? Or is it something else?
Kimberly: Absolutely not. Because again, we're looking at data. We're looking at multiple data sets and we're looking at it across the district. So when you're looking at your data, if attendance seems to be a concern across the district, then that's definitely a goal. Because remember that's one of the components of that whole child. So it's beyond just the academic achievement. But we want to make sure we provide that social and emotional support as well. So can attendance be a goal? Absolutely.
Marvin: So, when we talk about chronic absenteeism that uh, I'm sure this is a word or phrase that many of us have heard, we don't have a full, everyone doesn't have a full understanding of what that means. It's 10% or more absences It is different than truancy because it includes all absences whether it be excused, unexcused, suspensions etc. And because of that particular number in Wayne County, we've had quite a bit of a challenge with our chronic absenteeism with numbers going up to 50, 60, 70 and 80% for some districts. And, because of this large number of attendance, uh days missed achievement has gone down. Behavior has gotten worse and there have been just a myriad of other challenges. So, with that in mind and I'm thinking about developing a goal, let's just say my district is a district ABC.
Kim: Uh, huh.
Marvin: The goal in most of districts are to improve attend student attendance anyway, But there are so many ways districts are attempting to tackle this problem. Typically goals are identified initially through data and conversations in MiCIP, this would be identified in the discover part of the plan. The MiCIP plan is broken down into other categories, subcategories, which is discover plan and implement. I don't want to get too deep in the weeds, but I still want us to kind of unfold what what this process may look like and I'm using a particular strand of it chronic absenteeism and how we would get to a goal, a strategy and activity in that. Um So, if I'm a district abc and we have 45% of our student population identified as chronically absent. We may be able to assume that student achievement on standardized tests, grades and behavior at inflated figures as well. This conversation could then be followed by a root cause analysis. The definition of root cause analysis is the process of discovering the root cause of problems in order to identify appropriate solutions. There are a few tools that many businesses use. Schools, districts, uh for this in their leadership team meetings. Two of them are called the five wise and the fishbone and in our MiCIP planning process, we have talked about utilizing one or the other. You don't have to, but this is just a way to kind of look at the data to see if this is a identified problem that needs to be addressing. Uh this the drilling down more to ensure that we are thinking deeply about the problem to find the solution within that. Our schools see that missing 10% or more has made a drastic impact on the overall achievement of our school as well as the climate. Improving teaching and learning will not be an effective goal if the students aren't in school to receive the teaching. So our goal is to decrease chronic absenteeism by 15% That's what I'm just trying to put that together by November and then 25% by March. What about a strategy and activity? But what's the activities, what's the activity Uh we're using actions that are undertaken within these strategies. My strategy would be to create a system to review student attendance data regularly and create actions to address these situations before they become a problem The activity would be creating an attendance resource team within that activity All the details who is responsible when they will be reporting out dot dot dot. And so I think this is like a real rough draft of what the process could look look like around a particular problem that a district is challenged with.
Nekeya: Absolutely, And your team would be able to discuss that strategy of how they're gonna actually put that team together, because it does make me think about our districts that are suffering from not having enough staff in the building period. And so the people who are on this team, do they have to be special attendance agents or can you use other personnel to actually be a part of that attendance resource team.
Marvin: So for my particular activity, I understand that, that staffing has been an issue as we know that all the numbers in schools are down. I think that many people have to wear a multitude of hats in a building. And if we as a school have identified this as a challenge, then it may just have to be Miss Mcgillicuddy and MS johnson from the fifth grade and me, uh and whoever else to put all hands on deck to try to address this problem. When you have larger systems and you have more money and more resources with people, yes you can put those on the team. I just use this as a particular idea of how to do. There are a lot of different ways within that particular way. You could kind of figure it out depending on your own size. As a matter of fact, just in the conversation today I heard a teacher I'm sorry, a principal say that five minutes after the tardy bell teachers are to send them the report and they call students right then. Well that would take out some of that of what we're talking about, but they're addressing it immediately, uh and working through this, what is what works with them. So the teachers can continue working on uh instructional practice, but then they're also including other staff members to try to get kids back into schools.
Kimberly: That's a great idea. I'm thinking about our schools that already are looking at this as one of their goals because obviously we want all of our kids back in school. But what are some of the reasons we're hearing out there as to why kids become chronically absent?
Marvin: So, that is a very good question. We've had chronic absenteeism issues prior to the pandemic, but the pandemic has caused or created a whole different uh set of circumstances. So for our middle and high school students, uh the Covid I'm sorry Brain fart for a minute. Covid has reduced the amount of funds that come within the household. So there may have may have been a death in the family or someone that moved away because of some of the challenges they've had in middle school and high school, young adults are making adult decisions to help their families put food on the table. Some of the other issues are when we have families of larger families, uh students are deciding parents with them that I'm going to invest in the younger kids getting the attendance and the older kids will have to either help the younger kids or they have to go out to work. Um. Those are some of the main issues right now, but chronic absenteeism over time has had a lot of problems with students that have sickle cell anemia for our population, asthma for our population also. And the list still goes on. There are parents who are still afraid of what they don't know about the pandemic, and because of that, they are uh they don't want to send their kids, um in. Some just don't have really great relationships with the schools and they feel like that's not the best place for their kids.
Kimberly: So Marvin, I have a question. How would we, how does the school, how does a team involve all the stakeholders in decreasing or being aware of this chronic absenteeism? And its effect on academic and social development and achievement?
Marvin: Well number one, it has to be the goal, like you mentioned in yours, and the goal needs to be posted everywhere, and it needs to be part of your vision and your mission for how you move forward. And as we talk about that that's definitely infused infusing um the ideology that school is important in building positive relationships with the students and the staff. And, why it's important for them to be there, and that's really what's, what everyone is really talking about as we try to move forward, it's not always as easy as as that, there's a lot of other things that go into it, but that's that's the one thing everybody has to know. We have one goal, one sound, one band, one goal and that's to educate our kids and moving forward. And, they can't be educated if they're missing school, which just. . . the systemic way rhythm that we gain by coming every day, is something that definitely needs to be repeated. When we talk about 10% attendance missed its two days a month. And in the school year that's 20 days. So in 20 days that's about a month. Can we really afford to miss a month or more? Not when our reading scores look like they do? So we've got some challenges that we need to address.
Kim: you made a really good point, Marvin. I think it's important too that we share that information with parents. Parents need to, they need to be aware of what that data is and what does it say? You You know? So I think that that is a great way of sharing that information. So everybody knows what the goal is, but I also know what are the action steps and so those are some of the action steps.
Marvin: So, with all that being said, we also need to find a way we've talked about our interesting populations. How do we infuse equity? How does that look as we're talking about? MiCIP.
Nekeya: Well, when you mentioned that some of the the students are chronically absent due to illnesses, right? Things that they can't necessarily, you know, come to school with and with covid 19 has exacerbated the problem because obviously if students are ill with that virus, there also asked to not come to school you know, sick. So when we talk about equity, it means infusing access, making sure that students have access. It also means to make sure that students get what they need. So, when I think about the fact that we have gone through this pandemic, we've learned some things right? There was a period of time where we had to do schooling remotely. And as much as it wasn't the favorite look for everyone, it was still helpful for some, especially those who may have absences due to sickness or due to illness. So ,Equity means that yes I may have students that may not be able to physically come to school, but how do I make sure that they still have access to the instruction? And so, that piece is why when you're building your continuous improvement plan, you have to ask all of these different questions: Who's not here? Who's not gonna benefit from the way in which we do school? Making sure that the students are still being focused on, even if they're not able to be there. So the example you gave of the, the team that got together to say, you know what we're not gonna wait to see how many students are absent. We're gonna actually look at this on a daily basis and start to make phone calls, get that information out there, because that's gonna allow them to be more equitable in their delivery if they find out, you know what little Marvin is sick today and that's why he's not coming to school. So, what can I provide for Marvin in the interim until he's able to come back to school so that he still gets access to the instruction.
Kimberly: So, Nekeya you mentioned about talking to and gathering some data with students in terms of who's in school, who's not in school. Are there any other ways that you can measure that access to equity at district wide or even within the school?
Nekeya: I think that you probably could measure it with some of the online tools that have come out, right? I mean, that's one of the benefits of being exposed to having to teach in a remote setting. There were so many online platforms that were previously there, but weren't necessarily used. And so, now we have more awareness of all of these different platforms that are out there. So, you can actually see when students log in. You can see if they're logging on. You can actually track their participation. And so, you have ways to be able to monitor whether those students are really accessing the learning and if they're actually achieving. You can still get that information through some of the online tools. And so, we encourage all of our educators to use all of the resources that are available to them to monitor how students are progressing, whether they're in school or if for some reason they have to miss. Marvin: Can you give me an example of how Equity can look different in a different district?
Nekeya: So I think some of our districts when they hear the word equity, concentrate first and foremost on race. And obviously that is a very important topic and everyone needs to be aware of it and we need to take special attention to what's happened to our minoritized communities, as a result of them not having access to things. But another thing that we need to think about when we talk about equity is those students that have special needs and there is an exorbitant amount of population that is minoritized that are identified for special needs, but there's also students who are not in the minority population that are special needs students. And how are we designing our programming or designing our instruction to make sure that all of those students have access to a quality education. We don't want to dumb down the curriculum for anyone. If the student has special needs, it doesn't mean that they can't learn. It just means that they need different accommodations or different resources in order to be able to access the learning. So as educators, it's our responsibility to make sure that when we're assessing our students needs we're looking at all subgroups, all different populations and that's what equity means. That you're not just serving one or one dominant group that you're actually looking at all of the groups that are represented in a school setting.
Kimberly: Nekeya, you talked about equity and, you mentioned how equity is really not a one size at all. So there's a difference between being equitable and being equal.
Nekeya: Uh, hmm.
Kimberly: So I think it's important to know that difference. What resources would be out there to help our districts and schools in terms of some best practices in terms in terms of equity?
Nekeya: So the Michigan Department of Education actually just released a MiCIP equity toolkit, a MiCIP equity toolkit and it is available on the MDE site. But, also as you mentioned, Kim through our MiCIP University, we have created a one stop shop where you can access all of these resources. And
they've been partnering with the Great Lakes and Plains Equity Center, to make sure that the information that they're providing is done in a way that everyone can access it. So, they've even come up with something called the "Learning Bites", which are just 12 page outlines of how you can actually implement pieces of the MiCIP plan. This learning bite that recently came out in September was on equity. How do you engage in equity when you're looking at continuous improvement. So they go through and they make sure that districts have access to the definitions so they know exactly what equity means versus equality. So they know what it looks like to actually input this information into their improvement plan, but it's also written in student friendly language. So you can share this with your community, you can share this with the students so that they understand what it means to be equitable, but also with the parents.
Marvin: So, how do I get a learning bike? You just go to the MiCIP website?
Nekeya: Yep. You can actually just click on the MiCIP website under resources. If you go go to our Wayne RESA MiCIP university site, you can actually click right into the resources and you will see where it says learning bites and so they have them when they put them out almost monthly, Um, different topics to help you actually chunk this information about the michigan integrated continuous improvement process.
Marvin Franklin: Well, this has been an absolutely amazing conversation between three educators. I have truly enjoyed it. We have tried to make sure we have some places for you to go to get some resources. If you need our help, we're here to help you move forward this MiCIP process and we'd love for you to have a great day.
Nekeya Irby: Thanks for inviting us Marvin. We appreciate being a part of the conversation and we can probably make sure that those websites are in our show notes so that if folks are listening to the podcast, they can actually go into the notes and click right in there to get to the resources.
Marvin: That's sounds good.
Kimberly: Thank you, Marvin Again, We want to make sure all our resources are available for all of our colleagues. Thank you again.
Marvin: And, thank you for listening to "Getting to the Core". Bye
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Announcer: Thanks again for listening to Getting to the Core. To access previous episodes along with transcripts and additional resources, visit RESA dot net forward slash podcast.
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Sometimes it’s easy to forget that “communication” encompasses so much more than language we speak, hear, or read. While language is one form of communication, humans communicate in numerous other ways with their body, eyes, hands, sounds, actions, and more.
“AAC, or Augmentative and Alternative Communication, refers to any form of communication that we use. So not just our mouth words. It could be our gestures…It encompasses forms of communication that supplements or replaces spoken language,” says Pam Cunningham, an Assistive Technology Consultant at Wayne RESA. Pam, joined by Amber Wade and Laura Begley, also Assistive Technology Consultants, helps us understand this simple, yet important concept on Wayne RESA’s podcast, Getting to the Core.
October is AAC Awareness Month, so we hope you will join us as Pam, Laura and Amber describe the ever-important role of assistive technology in ensuring Wayne County students are heard, understood and supported to their fullest potential.
Wayne County school staff interested in learning more about how the Wayne RESA Assistive Technology Team (WATT) can provide consultation and equipment for students can visit our website where they can also contact WATT to begin a consultation.
In Social Studies, our core—the essence of what we do—is to develop informed and engaged citizens. We want students that not only have content or disciplinary knowledge of the world around them, but the skills of how to apply that knowledge and the desire to do so.
As supported by our recent change in the Michigan social studies standards in 2019, students must be exposed to a more comprehensive and inclusive history. If we value that ALL of our students feel connected and engaged, they need to hear and see history from ALL perspectives. They also need to be asked to examine the ongoing impact of history on today's world, and to look ahead to tomorrow. Simply put: Students can't analyze and have meaningful conversations if they do not have access to the full story. As Dr. Michael F. Rice, Michigan's state superintendent, put it,
"Our children deserve to learn about the full breadth of U.S. and world history. As educators, we have not just the right, but the responsibility, to teach them this full breadth of history, including race, racism, sexism, and other difficult and challenging subjects."
Join us on a journey of understanding as we discuss the importance of topics with:
- Scott Bentley, Park Superintendent of the River Raisin National Battlefield Park;
- The Honorable Chief Billy Friend of the Wyandotte Nation; and
- The Honorable Chief Glenna Wallace of the Eastern Shawnee Nation.
Length - 28 minutes
(Announcer): Welcome to Getting To The Core, a Wayne County Regional Service Agency podcast. We invite you to join us as we discuss a variety of educational topics, And hopefully plant a few seeds that get to the core of our mission, "Leading, Learning for All."
David Hales: Welcome to getting to the core. My name is David Hales and I'm the K-12 Social Studies Consultant at the Wayne Regional Educational Service Agency, located in Wayne, Michigan. David Hales: I'm. Both excited and honored to be discussing some very important work going on in social studies education right now. Around the issue of providing a more comprehensive and inclusive history for our K-12 students. Specifically, I'd like to talk with you about an ongoing initiative with just such a focus entitled “Journey Towards Understanding", and I have some very special guests today to talk about that journey, what it means to them, and the impact it has had in social studies, curriculum, and instruction. Today, I'm joined by Scott Bentley, Park Superintendent of the River Raisin National Battlefield Park, located in Monroe, Michigan. Thank you for joining me today, Scott.
Scott Bentley: My privilege. Thank you.
David Hales: I'm also joined by the Honorable Chief Billy Friend of the Wyandotte Nation. Welcome, Chief Billy.
Billy Friend: Thank you. Great to be here.
David Hales: I would also like to welcome the honorable Chief Glenna Wallace of the Eastern Shawnee nation.
Glenna Wallace: Thank you for the opportunity to be here.
David Hales: Both nations are located in Ottawa County, Oklahoma, which is in northeast Oklahoma, near the Missouri and Kansas borders. Both tribal nations once had villages in southeast Michigan, in Ohio. I'm glad all of you are able to join us here today. To get us started, I'd like to first focus on what does it actually mean to build a more comprehensive and inclusive history for students? What is it? And honestly, why does it matter? In Social Studies, our core, the essence of what we do is to develop informed and engaged citizens. We want students that not only have content or disciplinary knowledge of the world around them, But the skills of how to apply that knowledge and the desire to do so. David Hales: This is a challenging task, but it's one worthy of future citizens. That means, and that this is supported by our recent change in the Michigan social studies standards in two thousand nineteen, that students are deserving of being exposed to a more comprehensive and inclusive history. If we value that all of our students feel connected and engaged, They need to hear and see history from all perspectives, and be asked to examine the ongoing impact of history on today's world, and to look ahead to tomorrow. Simply put students can't analyze and have meaningful conversations if they do not have access to the full story.
David Hales: A more complete picture. Again, this is not only supported by the Michigan State standards from two thousand nineteen but has been recently supported by our State Superintendent of schools, Dr. Rice, who said, Quote: "Our children deserve to learn about the full breadth of us and world As educators, we have not just the right, but the responsibility, to teach them this full breadth of history, including race, racism, sexism, and other difficult and challenging subjects." End Quote. The reality is, though there just aren't enough educational resources to fill this crucial need. That's where the journey towards understanding comes into play. David Hales: I'd like to reintroduce Scott Bentley at this time. Scott is the Park Superintendent, at the River Raisin National Battlefield Park in Monroe, Michigan. Scott can you tell us a little bit of the history of the journey towards understanding. How did it come to be? And how it connects to the desire for providing a more comprehensive and inclusive history for our students? Scott.
Scott Bentley: Thank you, David. And yeah, actually, it's very much connected to the same thing you were just talking about, which is an understanding of history from diverse viewpoints in multiple perspectives. I arrived here at the raising National Battlefield Park in two thousand and eleven, and traveled all over the country with the National Park service before that, and thought I understood U.S. history really well, Then I had the privilege of meeting folks like the Honorable Chief Billy Friend and the Honorable Chief Glenna Wallace and many others who challenged a little bit of how the Park story was being told, and and asked us to look deeper into the significance of the River Raisin National Battlefield Park. And... so we did that. We took that challenge, and I began to examine history and find primary documents that told a very different view than I was taught by having grown up here in Michigan myself. So I learned how little I really knew about the history of River Raison National Battlefield Park, as well as the establishment of the United States in the growth of where we are today. And so the journey towards understanding came out of that, And, We asked tribal nations if they would be be willing to come alongside us and learn the history, and be able to accurately tell that history from the viewpoints of each tribe, and of course the battlefield was the largest collection of native nations to gather to stop US Colonization during the war of 1812 and tribes had to choose sides. And, many tribes were on both sides of that conflict. But, Ultimately all of the nations that we're here have a different story in a different perspective. And so to understand that we have to truly you partner with and go alongside each individual tribe, as we learn that history together.
David Hales: Well, thank you. You know a crucial part of providing a more comprehensive and inclusive history for students, is in recognizing the importance of authentic voices telling their story. I'd like to turn to Chief Billy and Chief Glenna, now and ask them what the journey towards understanding has meant to them. And why do they feel it’s an important initiative for all students. Chief Billy can you start us off?
Billy Friend: Well, yeah, And first of all, I mean, uh, you know, I always like to say, you know, thank the National Park Service and and Scott Bentley for for including us, you know, in the beginning of the park stages there and getting us involved. But the journey of understanding for us, you know for many of us. I don't. I don't say our history was dead. Our history had laid dormant for years, and you know my generation growing up, we did not have the opportunity to really learn about our ancestors, about our traditions and our culture. And so, you know, the journey of understanding was very important part of us going back, and basically reconnecting with our history and uncovering, and not only uncovering but recovering. Ah, you know the history that that belonged to the Wyandotte nation, and Wyandotte people and so, that journey of understanding. Our participants range from very young to some of our elders that went on that trip, and it was a life-changing experience for each one of them in different ways. You know for our elders, you know who grew up, maybe hearing the stories of our ancestors, you know, for them to be able to go and walk on our former homelands and make connection to those former historical sites, you know. That was a very, you know, a very moving moment for them. Ah, at that time, and so our younger people, you know, for having them for them to be able to plant a seed in their life, you know, to be able to make them want to know more about where they came from, and you know who they who their ancestors were and their history, you know. I think it was very important. So really the journey was just a very integral part of us in the project that we've been working on, of reclaiming our history and making that history and making that knowledge available to all of our tribal citizens who want to access it.
David Hales: Thank you. Chief Billy. Chief Glenna?
Glenna Wallace: I agree with what you've… has been said, I might go beyond that. I oftentimes say that to people don't talk about us, talk with us, and I think those two propositions changes everything, because very few people have talked with us. I also think that I certainly agree with Billy in that the life of being a Native American and having been forcibly removed from another State long away, and coming here, that life was so hard for so long, that you have to spend time just having time to grow gardens, time to grow food, time to make a living, time to simply exist. And uh, In Maslov's Hierarchy of Needs, studying history does not come to the top there, and so oftentimes we ourselves ah did not know our own history, and when we were limited to what we knew that had been written, and I give the example of in my particular tribe, the Eastern Shawnee tribe of Oklahoma, We have done a terrible job of maintaining our history. And so we received an ANA grant to research our history, and we made the deliberate choice to start with the year 1832, because that was the year that we were forcibly removed from the Ohio Valley and from our reservation there. So, we deliberately started with 1832, when we came to Indian territory, and worked forward. So from one thousand eight hundred and thirty-two up until two thousand and eighteen whenever our Grant ended, and in that time we did not even know how many chiefs we had had who those chiefs were, how long their terms were, what had happened during those times, and it never occurred to us that we were going to have to go back beyond one thousand eight hundred and thirty-two, because that history was inaccurate. So, we have done our one thousand eight hundred and thirty-two forward. Know who our chiefs are, but now find so many inaccuracies of what that time was before, and never did it occur to me that we were going to have to challenge that and say something about it. So, when we go on this journey toward understanding, it is exactly that it's a journey, it doesn't mean that when we finish one of these trips that we have learned everything. We've learned that there's a lot we didn't know, and we've learned that we want to continue to learn, and I think that's true of the educators. And I think that's true of the people who go on the trip, and so that certainly has to be true for students in classrooms who have never had this experience. So, it's spreading this information, and making our circle larger and larger and more inclusive, so that people can hear. And I say, I emphasize, talk with us. Now that requires time. Chief Billy has to be willing to give of his time to participate, in programs like this. I have to be willing to give of my time. Not only do we give of our time in examples like this, but we have to be willing to return to Michigan, return to Ohio, meet with people there, meet with organizations there, and share our viewpoint and listen to them, and see if we can't come to a better understanding, a more accurate, a more thorough understanding, more encompassing understanding. So, I applaud Scott, Bentley, and the National Park there, the Raisin for their undertakings. I applaud you as an educator who is leading and ah! Being able to get educators to go on this this trip, so that they can experience for themselves and hear for themselves and interact with us so that we can have better understanding on both sides.
David Hales: Thank you Chief Glenna. Thank you to you both. Scott, can you talk a little bit about the educational materials that have been generated as a result of the journey towards understanding it. And how will educators, or how can educators access these materials?
Scott Bentley: and again, I want to thank Chief Billy and Chief Glenna for joining us again today, as well. And first of all, preface what we have created in partnership with the teachers and the tribal nations wouldn't have been possible without the generosity of the nation’s being willing to share openly their history, and it's a complex history, and each tribe's history is very different. And so, we're very excited we've created since the journey began. Well, the pilot journey was in 2014, that the journey with the teachers where curriculum began to be developed was in two thousand and fifteen, and since that time we have over thirty, nine lesson plans that we've created that are connected to Michigan content expectations and by grade level. And so, there are twelve in the elementary range, primarily third through fifth grade, and then middle school A lot of that is eighth grade, but all of the middle school and then eight lesson plans there and then we have nineteen different lesson plans in the high school level, and so those are all available. There's a lot of different topics again. It all has to do with what are the students studying at that particular grade level? And so, you know, for an elementary school teacher, they might be learning about canoes in traditional canoe-making, a traditional living in the Great Lakes for the tribal nations which is diverse, By the way, you know, there were multiple language groups in different tribes. And so you have those things that are more complex than you might think. And then you get into the high school level where you talk about you, the US, Indian laws and policy, civilization laws, boarding schools, forced removals, relocations, assimilations. And so, the topics vary, you know, from younger to older students and folks can access those by calling the battlefield at 734-243-7136 and we can get those out free of charge to teachers electronically. And then we will also have a link available through the Monroe County Intermediate School district, where they'll be able to download those materials as well, and we can provide that information out to them. In addition to the lesson plans, you know, COVID drove us in a little bit different direction as well. And so we've learned the importance of virtual learning and supporting teachers in the classroom in that way. And we've also, through the journey towards understanding, been able to produce and finalize six educational films. And again, the topics vary, and we can get those to teachers as well. And then we also have multiple films that we're in the process of finalizing as well for teachers, and all of these can be used in lessons in the whole framework for all the videos that we've done just like the lesson plans it's driven by teachers. And so, lesson plans themselves are created by teachers for teachers. After experiencing the journeys uh in the videos or a similar way. So we encourage folks to use it, uh, and to also connect in with the Wayne County Regional Educational Services Agency and find out how you can participate as a teacher in future journey towards understandings, because they truly do change your life, and maybe in a few minutes, David, I can reach some of the quotes from this year's journey from some teachers, and you'll have that that you can use or not use if you want to.
David Hales: Certainly. Thank you. And again, to speak to that information about how to access those materials will make available for people through the podcast as well. Can you... Can you talk just for a quick minute, Scott, about future journeys?
Scott Bentley: So, the journey towards understanding the, of course, the concept originated back in 2014, when after three years, I finally came to the realization that that we had to go with each different Tribe to understand the history. And at that time, I thought well . . .simplistically, in my mind, we could do this. Ah, you know, by grouping tribes together, so we could do all the Wyandotte nations you know together, and all the Shawnee nations together, and understand history and quickly, Chief Billy and others taught me that well, actually, not all of the Wyandotte nations are the same. Not all of the Shawnee tribes and nations are the same. And so that went into a complex... you'll look at each individual tribe as a separate nation of separate people. And so what that led to is what I thought would be a seventeen to twenty year journey process turned into close to a perpetual journey, and I think Chief Glenna said it the best, you know. It's the beginning, because we do each of these journeys. And, this year's was another great example. I learned a ton! You know I've been doing this since two thousand and fourteen, and every single year I learned a tremendous amount. And so, in the the 2022 journey, we began a process of learning and growing, and we'll continue that now, as we move forward. And so, each year we we work with a different tribe or a nation, you know, or topic that might involve multiple tribes. And so you in the future, you all. It's always different. Every year will be a very different experience. The interesting thing is, the outcome is always phenomenal. It's life changing, and frequently, every without an exception, every single journey towards understanding. We've had numerous teachers say that they've been teaching history for many years, and now they're going to begin teaching history the right way. And so, it really is opening up a perspective, multiple perspectives that we haven't been taught, and I include myself in that. I grew up here in Michigan. Thought again, I understood the history, and now realize how little I understand the history.
David Hales: Thanks Scott, that that's really that's Powerful. I want to ask a chief Glenna and Chief Billy, if you have any, follow up comments, or you know, looking to the future.
Glenna Wallace: Well, I would just say that I thoroughly agree with Scott that there were six of our tribal people who attended this journey, and every one of them has said, oh, I want to go again next year. It doesn't matter what tribe it is I learn, and I want to go again next year. And, he starts in the correct way. Ah, you know he started by contact with me, and saying, I don't know that much about your tribe. What are your resources? What are the materials that you use. Who would you recommend? What people today, and what books, what sources would you recommend? And so, it's a learning experience for Scott, who's done this with other tribes as well, but he certainly didn't know. We were fortunate that a man that we just lost, who passed away just recently had written the book, our sorrowful journey, and it prepared the journals to different people who reported our journey, and we were able to ... Scott was able to take that and our return home. The route we took was totally different from the root that we went, so that we were able to see more of Ohio and more of the other states where we were forced to, and we our people walked, so we were able to go to the exact places where they had stopped, and we were able to read directly from the journals what was happening. And so it says, though we were there in person. Certainly, it wasn't as intense for us, but it was still very emotional, very intense, and it couldn't help but affect you. So not only our people, but those teachers and those people who had worked with this before. And there's just an impact to it that continues. And again, I’m just so thankful for River Raisin being able to finance this to find the funding for it, and the tremendous amount of work that has to take on their part to do. This is just phenomenal.
David Hales: Thank you. It was very powerful. Chief Billy?
Billy Friend: you know. I think there was, a lot of different aspects to talk about. You know. You know one of the things going into the project, you know, is the fact that we wanted both sides of the story told, you know, and for far too long, you know, there was only one side of the story. You know, as they say, that the Victor writes the history according to their own perspective, and I came across an old African proverb here lately, and it says, until the lion learns how to write every story's told, or every story will glorify the hunter, and you know It's kind of like native American History. For far too long, there was only one perspective told, and so you know, to be able to, you know, create educational materials that that you know tell the story from both sides. From the Native American side, and the American side, and let them, you know. Let the person that's reading the history, take their own perspective on that, And, you know, one of the other things that has always taught me about the River Raisin, and you know the funding for the park also included, to tell the story of the aftermath. You know the aftermath of the battle of 1812. Of course, we're still living the aftermath today. You know we're still here, and I think for a lot of people, you know, when they visit the park or they visit these sites, and whether Ohio or Michigan, you know, they think that you know, once we left, we just disappeared. That we're gone, you know, and that's not true today. We're very strong, vibrant sovereign nations that you know, are still, you know, still operating in existence today. The Wyandotte’s, we have over 7,000 tribal citizens and we came to Oklahoma with less than 300. And so, you know our nation has rose again, just like all the other tribes in this area. And so, you know, being able to tell the aftermath of that story. I’ll just share one quick story and end it here. One of the first trips that I took back to Ohio. I took a group of high school and college students, and we're in Wyandotte County, Ohio. We're standing in the in this Museum, Wyandotte County Historical Museum, and the lady that was giving us the tour, pointed up the picture on the wall of a lady named Mother Solomon, one of our ancestors, and she said, pointed the picture and said, that's Mother Solomon. She was the last living Wyandotte, (Billy laughs). So I look around of course, all the kids are looking to me like I thought we were all Wyandotte’s, you know, and so you know we, you know I let the lady know she was the last living Wyandotte in Ohio. You know that came back and was in Ohio. But we're still alive and well today, and I think that's a crucial part of that journey of understanding is, you know, not only it tells our history, but you know that we're still here today. You know, there's still Wyandotte’s, there's still Shawnees and Ottawa’s and Peoria’s and you know we're still alive and well day. and we're continuing on in our cultures and our traditions and bringing those things back.
David Hales: That's an amazing story.
Glenna Wallace: David, may I come in here for just a moment and expand upon that, and say, certainly what Chief Billy is saying is true for all of us. But it not only this journey not only affects those who are on the journey, and who are directly participating, meaning riding on the bus, going from place to place. But the places that we stop at the places in Ohio, the places in Michigan, those people, those institutions, those museums! They are affected as well, and many of them say we've changed such and such because of your being here. We no longer do such and such because of meeting you so it does not affect just the six
Eastern Shawnee's who we are on this bus trip, or the six or seven teachers who went on this. It affects the places where we stop it have had what they thought was the history for quite some time, and they are affected, so it's a ripple effect that just continues to grow and to grow and to grow, and when they willingly ah! Change what they are doing or modify, eliminate some things that they had in the gift shop, saying, This is, we realize this is not appropriate. We haven't had to tell them that. They have come to that realization themselves, and that makes it so much easier for this message to be expanded and go to other people. And so that's what I am exceptionally proud of.
David Hales: That's a really good point. Thank you for lifting that. Thank you to both of you. Thank you to all of the guests. I do want to say to all the listeners that it's. It's been a pleasure to have shared it through the important work that's going on in social studies, in history instruction. We want all students to benefit from the journey towards understanding. Again, by having a more complete and accurate history and a deeper awareness of how it impacts their lives. Today. Educators need quality resources to support this kind of instruction, and it's through initiatives such as journey towards understanding that our partners and with our partners, such as the native nations, the Park Service and Wayne RESA, that we can begin to fill that void. I would like to invite our listeners to visit RESA.net\podcast to view the show notes of this episode, where you'll find more information such as on the materials, contact, information et cetera. Again, I’d like to thank all the guests again, very appreciative and very humbled to have had everyone here today. Thank you. And that, concludes our podcast.
(Announcer): Thanks again for listening to "Getting to The Core." To access previous episodes, along with transcripts and additional resources visit RESA.net/podcast.
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It’s not day care, it’s early learning. It's about providing quality, experience-based learning opportunities during the crucial, early developmental years of our children's lives.
Join us as we talk with Beth Garza and Carissa Orr, Early Childhood Consultants at Wayne RESA, about the importance of high quality childcare programs like Strong Beginnings and the Great Start Readiness Program, and how parents can find the best opportunities to foster brain development for their 3- and 4-year-olds.
Length - 36 minutes
Wayne County parents can visit findFREEpreschool.org, text or call 313-410-4588 to find a no cost, high quality program near them.
Kyle Gnagey: Welcome to season three of getting to the core episode two. I'm. So excited to be joined today by two of our early childhood consultants, Carissa Orr and Beth Garza. Thank you, guys, both for joining us today.
Carissa Orr: Thanks for having us.
Beth Garza: Yeah, Thank you
Kyle Gnagey: Or course! Now, as you know, I've been deeply entrenched with much of your work with the rates already in this program, with strong beginnings with early childhood in general, and I’m just thrilled that you guys were able to take the opportunity to talk to me today about this work, and why it's important and kind of what we need,the fellow educators and the general public that listen to our podcast what they need to know about this area. So, I kind of want to start with a loaded question. So, what are your thoughts on daycare?
Beth Garza: Yeah, It’s your children not day. Isn’t it Kyle? Yeah.
Carissa Orr: what a prime opportunity at this back to school season, and Beth and I are celebrating our five-year anniversary of our dream job here at we racism.
Kyle Gnagey: Congratulations! Thank you.
Beth Garza: So. what we know right. What we know is that words are powerful. Words are so powerful, and you can really gauge what society is thinking around. A topic is by the words that they use. And so, let's think about that daycare right? Our just like Carissa just said. Are we taking care of days? No, that that implies that that the day is more important than the child.
Beth Garza: It implies that that this is a profession That that's not important; that it's passive, that we have humans standing over children, and they are just waiting for the day to be over, because that's what they're caring for, and that's not what this is. This is early childhood education, and we know too much now to be still using that word,
Kyle Gnagey: I appreciate that so no longer as a parent. I have a nineteen-month-old and a six year old no longer as a parent. Should I be thinking about? What am I doing with my kids. Well, I can't watch them. Where are they going instead? What should I be thinking about?
Carissa Orr: You might be thinking about? Where will your little ones be um safest and most loved when they're not with their primary caregiver um, and that would be in a childcare setting when they're not with mom and Dad, and we can't give, or their guardians um or family who can't give them our utmost attention, because we have another priority as well, which might be to focus on work which might be to focus on ourselves or care taking at home. Um, we do lots of other things, and so we're from the primary caregiver, their child's first teacher, the first ones that love those sweet babies can't be with their level one. We need to find the high quality childcare program that cares for cares more about children than the day.
Beth Garza: I was thinking what it might mean. If I had someone to care about my day. They would have made me coffee this morning and done my hair for me would have been fun.
Kyle Gnagey: That's really great, you know. I know that we've been together looking at a few um facts and figures that just came out recently, and just want to read out right now that something that Beth Garza, just, you know, sent to to Carissa, and I like child Care is not treated as a public good. So parents pay directly for costs. So, we, you know we a lot of times in thinking about whether or not vulnerable parents will work outside the home it's like Well, can one of our jobs cover the entire cost of child care, because that comes directly from us, and you know it's like
Kyle Gnagey: I don't know the average childcare for a four-year-old right now is like almost nine thousand dollars a year. That's like seven hundred and forty bucks a month. Yeah, it, you know. According to these metrics, childcare rivals the cost of in-state college tuition, and it's more than the average rent price right? Now, So what gives? Why is it so expensive?
Carissa Orr: Yeah, I mean beyond being professionals. Beth and I know that firsthand myself, just coming out of paying for child care for my son's first four years of life, and then best having kids in college,
Beth Garza: but she's adding, and paid too much and for it right, right. But you know, I think that this is such an important topic to talk to parents about, because I have heard so many parents talk. That childcare is making so much money, because what they see is they're paying, you know, two thousand dollars a month, and for infant and toddler care, and they think well, they're just making so much money, and that is not the case, I mean, if you really break it down. And I was previously a director, and I would hold um sessions with all my families, and break down the cost so that they can understand paying paying our teachers with eighty percent of what we are bringing in. And then you have, you know the structural cost of the building itself, and the food and all the licensing that we have to go through. So the teachers are making, you know, even ten dollars an hour, and they are. No one is making money on this, and that's why our great star readiness program and our strong beginning. So, state funded preschools are so important, but that is just for three- and four-year-old’s, and the three year old is just a pilot. So, we don't have anything for three. And so, we're just talking about four-year-old’s. Well, what about those first three years of life. How do you afford that. Yeah. And twenty three percent of centers that receive the State grants like strong beginnings, Pilot and a great start readiness program. Don't serve zero to three those ages.
Carissa Orr: And so parents are left to not only just find care, find somewhere that they can take their child, who is under four years old, but also um to qualify for help to pay for it. And then also assess, Is it? Is it a high-quality program that I want to leave my child in? Do I? Do I want my baby here? Do I want those first years, the early years of all those brain connections happening in this place in this space with these people, and so we can hope that parents are informed, informed shoppers, when they are shopping for high quality, early learning and child care, and also that they can afford it.
Kyle Gnagey: Yeah, I mean, let's say, I mean that that's a shame, because what that does is like. Obviously as a parent. I'm incentivized now to try to find cheaper options, so like, I guess. Let me pitch it to you like this. Let's say I'm fortunate enough to have a family friend, or my grandma or grandma live close by, so that they are watching my kids for me, for little to no cost right. Maybe I buy them a dinner or something. Um, What's my incentive, then? Or how should I be thinking about strong beginnings or the great start reading this program, as my child is reaching ages three and four, you know. Should I? Let's say I can also have the privilege to be able to afford childcare, or I should say not, child care, afford these awesome programs? What should I be doing um like? Why, why should I take them away from Grandma's house per se, and like what? What are they going to get in these high quality programs that they're not going to get from just being watched.
Beth Garza: What! What a good, what a good point! Now I'm never going to discourage you from taking them to grandma or auntie, if grandma and auntie are. Really It's a relationship. They're giving them that serve in return, which we'll talk about a little bit more later. But they're interacting most strong interactions. Right? Then. Of course, that is beneficial. And of course, that is what a child needs. They need relationships. They need um. That that brain activation of being talked to that language development. They need all of the care and nurturing. So i'm not going to say yes. Care is the best for everyone. No, because we don't group people like that. But we know that the brain is experience dependent, right? The architecture of the brain. What a great visual right? And that's from center of developing a child from Harvard the Grain architecture. Right? We're building the brain. So, if you're sending them to Grandma's and Grandma um can't move around, and grandma just puts baby in front of the Tv for twelve hours. Yeah, she but that's remember experience dependent. The brain is experience dependent. And so, without those high-quality interactions we're going to have long-term effects on that and maybe you won't see until they're ten years old. But it that is it. It's a huge impact on a developing child. It's a missed opportunity to perform to form that architecture of the brain earlier. And so, maybe if prima is open to having some. I'm just going to keep using grandma, because I just was like or auntie or Uncle, in my case, my dad. But if so, if they're on board with being brain architects, and by all means! We would never discourage that. But maybe it maybe it's just like everything else, and like a little bit. A little bit of everything makes a well-rounded. What if I say it takes a village, I learn that so well as a parent myself, and so maybe a few days a week. We're at Grandma's, and maybe a few days a week we're in a we're in a high-quality early learning program. It's like you said. You have all those resources available to you. You can make those kinds of choices that privilege absolutely a little bit of both really helpful. Maybe grandma or auntie, or Umpa, or Uncle or Uma, The neighbor lady who is just lovely goes along to a playgroup that they have through a lot of the early learning communities in. And so maybe there's a little bit of all of it happening at the same time. Um! So one is. It's not about being better than any other. It's about uh what is building a child's brain, and it's not just about learning to read and learning what numbers it's about learning to engage and talk, and to participate in a group setting um participate in in life really those. But the early years are the learning years, and we keep hearing that over and over again. It doesn't mean that we can't learn after kindergarten, or third grade doesn't mean that we can't learn thankfully. Um, you know I started playing guitar in high school, and I've got better and better ever since. But if I would have started when I was like three, I bet i'd know how to read music right now, and not be paying for lessons to learn that once a week with my six-year-old he's going to really know a lot are. And it's going to stick, and it's just because our brains are the most plastic, the most um absorbable, the most. I'm trying to think of fun words besides, of neuroplasticity. But it's really because our brains can be built the easiest. If we're architects can be built the easiest in those early years, and so that's why, no matter who your little ones are with. We need to make sure that they are on board with being brain architects. So your incentive, Kyle, to send your child to a high quality early learning over grandma or aunties or uncles is not really an incentive. It's what are your options? What can you do? And where will your child get the best architecture opportunities for their brain. Maybe that should be a new T-shirt. I think I should have got into marketing.
Kyle Gnagey: That's great, because I really need to stop thinking about so much of the convenience and the easiest option, or not even necessarily, you know. And I guess I say privilege earlier. It's a privilege to like before childcare. But what's great about these programs is I could qualify to not pay anything. I would be like a no cost family based on qualification or or just a partial cost. But I really shouldn't be thinking about it as like the easiest, you know. Solution. I need to be thinking about. It is like what's going to be best for my kid like. Where are they going to get the most out of X, you know, like you Say, is it a Friday Saturday at grandmas? But they're in like a high-quality great ceremony. This program at age four, making connections with other kids their age. I mean. It's never too early for that stuff, you know. That's a lot harder at Grandma's house, because there aren't other kids and grandma would have to take them out to Park and be like play with this kid. You know It's just a lot more of an organic experience in the classroom. So yeah, I really like that sort of rethinking the paradigm of daycare, You know. My kid is somewhere while I’m at my job or running an errand, or something, and more about like, Where should they be right now for their success, for their future, like what is best for them?
Carissa Orr: I know for me as an employee. I do my best work when I know my child is safe and cared for, so, um! We can think about employers thinking of how that impacts productivity. And um, my child's up school age now. He just started first grade last week, but he was in GSRP. And prior to that I paid for childcare um, and I worked a second job to be able to do that as a parent um in a in a household, and I did that because it was so important to me that he go to a very high quality place, and I did anything and everything I could to make sure that when I wasn't with my son, I had him in a high-quality place, and I think the point of sharing that is when I’m with him. I know that I'm doing the very best I can, and when I can't be with him, I want to make sure that whoever is is doing the very best that they can. Um! And so, I kind of think of it like that It's if I can't be there who can and who's responsible for that?
Beth Garza: But you bring up such an important part to Carisa is that we need to not only educate the public about um the use of daycare, and what is daycare, but also empower. Ah! Parents, families that they are their child's first teacher, and what does that look like, and what does that mean? And that is really what we're doing in GSRP: two is there is a very strong two-generational approach, and in which we um empower families to stay connected to their child's education. We have family participation groups in the strong beginnings of the um. The difference between strong beginnings, and that great start readiness program is that they have a family component. So you actually have a family lead on staff who is working with families on what their needs are, but also on education and helping families understand what is happening in the classroom. And why is it important that their child is attending. I just on Friday, led a parent meeting, and there was about forty parents in in this room, and I had this opportunity to explain to them just what active learning was, and that's a new turn to most parents. And so, here's what we do in our classrooms, because there's a lot of misconceptions that we're getting children into these preschool programs at three and four, and we're making them sit down and desk and learn to read and write, and that is not at all what we're doing. This is an active learning approach in which we are really um teaching children how to think before they move in self-regulations and social skills, and that's all done through play. And that's something that we can teach our families and parents to do as well. So again, that misconception, just like we're talking about with daycare versus early education is they don't even understand what's happening inside the program and the benefits of it. So, as we talk about it, we also have to talk about what is play, what is the benefits, benefits of play, and how the brain actually learns and grows those synapses, and that architecture, how does it happen is through play.
Carissa Orr: and parents remember what it was like to learn when we were learners, young learners. And so, we think that we want to send our trial to the best of the best place, so that they're ready. Quote unquote, ready for kindergarten and the myth there is that it's not about being ah, but ready for kindergarten, it's not being ready to learn at any stage in life. If children have these early experiences of active learning right, so they're not told to sit down and do this ditto. But there may be handed letters to discover and take a part and put back together with Legos right like it Sounds like we're just playing around. But honestly, having those experiences when they do get to us to a school environment where they do, are asked to do some different things that have to learning like, sit at a desk and right on a ditto. You're ready to learn, because they've had some positive experiences in school before they have a good outlook on school parents ideally, because they've been a part of these groups which I promise Don't take as much time as you're thinking I’m a working parent also, and I participated, and it was a really enriching Um, so it's It's what you make time for you to learn more about. And so kids are ready to learn Any child that has had these early experiences has the capacity to learn whatever requirements are required for whatever school they go into, and I’ll leave that for another discussion another day, but really ready to learn is the goal of our early learning programs. I didn't know what that meant before I went and learned all about early childhood. Um, I just thought, you know I want my kid to do the best of the best, and know all the things, and it's not wrong for us to walk with us for our children, but learning in an early childhood program what that looks like, what is best. What should my three year old know? What should, or could my four-year-old and five-year-old know and what does that look like? We all love our babies, but knowing what's developmentally appropriate like, should they be doing, This is something that a trained professional in early childhood can share with us versus um, and maybe Grammy, Grampa or Auntie is another incentive, right? I'm going to ask somebody about toilet learning who's not only probably done it with a whole bunch of other groups of kids, but who has also studied what the brain knows and how it works for toilet learning and spends. I don't know thirty some hours a week with my child specifically, and knows how my child learns best. Um! So, all of that information. It takes a village to raise a child that takes a village to toilet, train a child also. And so, there's There's a lot of ah a lot of important information in having somebody who works in an early childhood profession, be a part of our village as a definite.
Kyle Gnagey: I really am intrigued by this concept that you you both are echoing, which is that when my child is involved with a program with train specialists, it's more eyes on their developmental milestones on the things they're doing. Actually, it's like having allies with the trained eye to know exactly what to look for in case there might be some special support. My child needs that I didn't know whether it's like um like an occupational therapy type thing, or they are, you know, starting to show signs that they might struggle with learning later in life. And I just think there's just such an obsession. Ah! Particularly in in Michigan. But you know, with children being ready to read by a certain age by their, you know, being able to start to engage with homework. And but that's not what you're saying. What you're actually saying is by bringing them to these high-quality programs. First of all, it feels like all playtime for them, because they're engaging in these playtime activities. But it's, you know, in some sense, preparing them to to be in a school environment and to learn. And you have people that are keeping an eye on where they should be, quote unquote with milestones, and where they might need support later, and some of those can be addressed right away. I mean, that's the concept of early intervention. Maybe, my child doesn't need official early intervention from the State, or anything but just by engaging with some of those practices in the classroom at this age they won't need any kind of earlier intervention later. So it's actually kind of turning on its head. This idea of, like my kid in preschool, it's like more work for me as a parent. It's actually the opposite Right? I make it in preschool, and they're in the right hands. They're getting what they need. You know they're not bringing homework home. I can just rest easy, knowing that their development is being handled by the professionals.
Carissa Orr: Yeah. And then I can speak to as a working parent. Then then, when your baby comes home, you're like happy to see him also as opposed to maybe being with them twenty, four over seven, or just wondering like, are they okay with grammy or whomever they're with you, you know you're excited to see them. You have a renewed sense of self that you can give your all here a little more. Go ahead.
Beth Garza: I was just going to say exactly. I love your thinking around this Kyle, and what we know to be true is early childhood experiences all the rest of their lives right? So, what Carissa just said, and what you are saying is the fact. We know this from research. We know this from all the data that we gathered and and health professionals. So, pediatricians, so many people are now studying the early childhood experiences, and how that affects their health, their physical health, their mental health, mental health, and their educational abilities later in life, just from those early childhood experiences we know that the stressed brain can't learn a stress brain can't learn right? So. you know, we have to ensure Maslow's hierarchy of needs that we have, you know. There's a lot of new research coming out that that love and belonging is actually the number one where we used to. Just think that it was those basic needs. So right in line as the love and belonging. So we want love and belonging. We want basic needs of um, you know, food and and security. So all these things need to be in place before they can learn and a stress brain can't learn. And so, when we think of it in those ways, we want to ensure that the highest quality preschool, because even if our best intentions are there that we're going to send them to to this this facility, and it's the lowest paying. You have teachers that are paid minimum wage and their stress to their stress. It's coming off on the infant or toddler or preschooler, as stress. And those stress brains can't learn. Then they're not ready to learn in school because of that stress brain right, and chemicals get released again. It's just there's this domino effect that happens when a child isn't in a responsive caring environment, and again think that just families aren't educated in this, and they don't understand the importance, because we've just never made it a priority, especially in the United States. It's not everywhere. It's not everywhere, but in the United States. Those first five years of life, I mean. We just know too much now to ignore it. Many of us have been in survival mode when it comes to thinking about childcare for daycare, like Kyle, said I. I need trials like I want to shift my own thinking about convenience and location and hours and things like that which is the privilege to be able to do. Um, and many of us are getting closer to having that privilege in this country Very slowly, right, but surely we're getting closer, and so we have to think of what's ….Sorry I kind of got lost there, but I was going to make a good point.
Kyle Gnagey: No, it is a what is a good point, actually, that you make me want to ask pointedly. So you're talking about the high quality and all the good reasons to be there and then, Karissa, you were just identifying, you know, the privilege of, you know, trying to figure out all those moving parts to make it work. So let me just ask you some of the common things I know that parents might see as a barrier, and you can tell me how they can be resolved like. What if I don't know that I can drive my kid to A. To a GSRP program, for example, like what can be done with that.
Carissa Orr: Thankfully. In GSRP we have opportunities for transportation funding for programs that are willing to participate in offering transportation. It is a a program has the choice whether or not to offer. So many do all programs in Wayne County and throughout the State. Right? Best have the option to use transportation funds for things like Hoover or Lyft, or other local transportation in areas that have that. I know some of our rural communities Don't, have access to that, but for people who live in communities that have access to that transportation funds through a great start, readiness program can reimburse a family to get their child to and from school, and that might mean the Uber and the parents or guardian and the child go to school in an uber, and then the Uber to drop the here and all that work out there, or where that where they need to be. So that's an option through the great start readiness program that that is really beneficial to families. And we're seeing more and more use of those funds every year. And we hope that that continues.
Kyle Gnagey: That's really great. I actually am. I knew a little bit that the transcription was available, but I did not realize it was that customize to you know my need as a parent. I think that's really great. So you know they How can, for example, let's say in Wayne County, if I if I’m a parent, and I’m looking for a program for my kid like, would you guys, or will we and Risa help me find something that's close to home or close to my work. If I’d rather not be able to tell my right because of my work like, do I have the option to like? Try to get my kid in where I want them to go, or if I don't know anything, what's out there like, will you guys help me find something.
Carissa Orr: Yeah, we have a lot of GSRP programs. I was just trying to look for the exact number because it changes on the regular.
Beth Garza: So yeah, there's expansions. Ah! A huge expansion happened last year, and another expansion is happening this year. Ah, there are more GSRPs than ever before. And unfortunately, because we're in the pilot stage of strong beginnings there is only twelve in the state of Michigan strong beginning that's our three-year-old program. Ah, only twelve classrooms and they're only in fours. Wayne County has four of those classrooms actually, and the rest are distributed between Berrien County and then um up in Traverse City. So, we're hoping that that's going to get expanded. And there's going to be a big roll out in the future. But right now, that's it. Now we have We have. Wayne RESA has a one thousand eight hundred number that you can call to get information about GSRP. That phone Number is eight, three, three, four-year-olds, or if you're writing it down eight, three, three, three, six, eight, seven, nine, three. Two,
Kyle Gnagey: that's great, and I also know that you know this year you guys are promoting a new number that can be text as well, like a texted by parents, and it will have translation services, I understand. So we'll put that with the podcast on resettlement podcast. It'll also be on reset dot net GSRP, but that is three, one, three, four, one zero, or five hundred and eighty eight. I know that you could text that which is awesome because I know a lot of parents in my generation are less of the phone callers and more of the textures. But there are also options for auto translation services, and I know the other thing that you guys are pushing this year is the fine free preschool org website which will also help get connected. Are we?
Carissa Orr: Getting involved in the Great Start collaborative, too, even if it's just on their Facebook page. Um! The grades are collaborative. Wayne would be another place to learn about. I don't know they really often highlight programs, so you can kind of take a little tour or a little sneak peak into some of the programs, and you could even see what they have to offer, besides just GSRP: because the great thing about our um grade, So readiness programs is, they're not only housed in school districts, um or charter schools that that have accessors, classrooms operate. Ah, great! So readiness program. But a lot of them are in our community-based organization. So you might not even know I really met a parent who was a friend of my child in first grade now. And she said, Yeah, we went to this free program that was at his preschool like when I said GSRP Free preschool state fronted preschool. She had no idea what I was talking about. But when I said, Did you pay for your child's four year old year of preschool? And she said, no, it was. It was free through the school, and I, and it was a little tiny program that I knew of, and so I was so excited because that that that child went there for infants toddlers. And then for three-year-olds preschool, which they all paid tuition for, and then for four year old Preschool had a had a free year, thinking that they didn't really know why they got it. They just had to put a lot of extra paper what she said, and so it was really exciting for me to hear that they got to take advantage of that. Um, but didn't really exactly know what she guessed our people was, and that's Okay, you just want families to be able to take advantage of what's offered in it. Um. And so, if you don't know if it's at your job. If your child is young like zero to an under four, let's say um, and you don't know if the program that your child is enrolled in has GSRP ask them, and if they don't ask them why, and if they'd be willing, and then give them my number, i'd be happy to to encourage them to participate if they're not already participating.
Kyle Gnagey: We're gonna have a lot of resources listed with this podcast, including the phone numbers that we've talked about and um links and and various things, and I guess I'll talk with Carissa after this about putting her personal cell phone.
Kyle Gnagey: That's really great, and I just wanted to thank you both for being with us today, and what I love so much about everyone. I've interacted in the Wayne recent early childhood department, and the collaborative honesty is like all of you are just so passionate about kids, and you know, on their development and feeling safe, and you know, having just bright futures, and your passion is just so so encouraging. And I just, I guess if I were to and add anything to what we've talked about today, It's like you guys are definitely the people that contact about like. Where should my kid be for H Three and H four, Because you are nothing but compassionate. You have all the research and the data, and you really just are looking out for one hundred and fifty. Our youngest residents of Wayne County and their future, and I just want to thank you both so much for all that you do, and congrats on the five year anniversary to both of you, and I guess is there anything else that you want to leave us parents of Wayne County with based on our time today?
Beth Garza: I think there's a lot of great resources out there that you have mentioned, Kyle, that we've all mentioned. Um, I think that really paying attention to those resources, Great start collaborative. You just Googling grades start Wayne. Um. There are just so many resources for housing and food supplies and diapers that can be found there, and also preschool is listed there. Finding checklists of what to look for in early education centers, so that you know when you walk through the door. Um! That You're looking at a high-quality program and, like you said, reaching out to the professionals. All of our information is listed on the website on um. Wayne, RESA: Ah, GSRP. And so you can find everybody's phone number There, you can. You can reach out and talk to people. Inform yourself you are your child's first teacher, and so ask those big questions. Ask those hard questions. It's going to be really important for the rest of your child's life,
Carissa Orr: you know Time is a big um barrier, I think, for a lot of families I know myself included, and I would encourage you to think of it this way, the more time you take to make that informed decision. Ah, the more time you take to write to, to look at checklist about high quality, early learning, and to write down or think for yourself what is most important to me, Because that matters, too. You have choices in Wayne County. You have lots of options for great start readiness programs right now. Um. And so so you have lots of options. So what? What? What building is closest to my work, or what feels good fit for me? What matches the values that my family has Do You have choices? But if we put the time in. And now for the early learning. I know that not only is it my opinion, but it is research and evidence-based fact that it'll make those later years a lot smoother may not make them perfect. It may not make life perfect. It may not mean that we can keep our kids from all the hard stuff that life throws at us. But it's gonna make sure that they have the capacity to learn and the capacity to bounce back because of the relationships and experiences they had so early that they are going to resilient and persevere for any of those hurdles that life can grow at us, so I just encourage you. If you put the time in Now you won't have to put as much in later that's the just a return on investment, but of return on your investment of your time and energy. Spend more of that time enjoying your little ones later.
Kyle Gnagey: Carissa, Beth, I want to Thank you again and once again for those of you listening like on anchor Fm. Or somewhere else. Please just reach out. Thank you, Carissa and Beth very much for your time today. I really appreciate it for those of you listening. If you go to RESA.net /podcast, you will find a list of all of our resources that we talked about today on the show, and we hope that you will look further into the really great material that we put there and get to know what is out there in Wayne County for you and your children.
Beth Garza: Thanks, Guys. Thank you.
What is “Culturally Responsive Mathematics?”
Using the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM.org) definition, Culturally Responsive Mathematics seeks to promote a positive mathematical identity in students by providing tasks that are relevant, personal and meaningful to students.
What does this approach look like, how does it differ from previous approaches to teaching mathematics, and how are students in Washtenaw, Oakland and Wayne County responding to this Tri-County initiative?
Join us as we learn from our regional experts, who are pioneering this work across our three counties:
Jennifer Banks, Ph.D., Director of Instruction, Washtenaw ISD
Yarisha Johnson, Mathematics Education Consultant, Oakland Schools
Cherron Ramsey, Mathematics Education Consultant, Wayne RESA
Length - 25 minutes
Kyle Gnagey: Welcome to our first episode of season three of Getting to the Core. My name is Kyle Gnagey, and I am very honored to welcome today three guests who are working as part of a tri-county consortium from three different is ISDs. They've been doing some excellent work on some culturally responsive mathematics, and they have been running this week, in particular, the Tri-County Culturally Responsive Mathematics Summer Institute.
So, I’m joined here today with Dr. Jennifer Banks, who’s the Director of Instruction at Washtenaw ISD. And we're joined by Yarisha Johnson is the Mathematics Education Consultant at Oakland Schools, and our own Cherron Ramsey, who is a Mathematics Education Consultant here at Wayne RESA Thank you all for joining us.
Cherron, Yarisha, Jennifer: Thank you for having us.
Kyle Gnagey: So, I just have to ask starting out: What would we say is the best definition for culturally responsive mathematics?
Cherron Ramsey: I’ll jump in with that one, Kyle. When we think about, especially the work that we're doing, we have really leaned into the work of Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings and Dr Geneva Gay. And we're really thinking about defining it, as, you know, an approach to that really brings who the students are into that classroom. Not only their cultures, but also learning about the cultures of others. How do we provide spaces, not only to leverage who they are, but how they can apply mathematics in the world around them? Why is it relevant to them? So, really thinking about those three tenants that Dr Gloria Ladson-Billings mentioned, which are student achievement and just redefining what we mean by student achievement and looking at it more individual basis. Cultural competency, and again that's bringing who the students are into that classroom and not only who they are, but learning about other cultures as well. And then, this important piece is that criticality piece and really thinking about how you can use what you learn to make this world a better place. How are you going to use that information? So, that's how we get kind of generally frame what culturally responsive mathematics means.
Kyle Gnagey: That's really great. And you, sort of, already covered this, but what would you say, are the really the key differences between culturally responsive mathematics and, like, how mathematics is being taught currently?
Yarisha Johnson: Sure. I’ll lean into that question. So initially, with one a name; there's multiple ways that it might be different from a traditional mathematics experience. The first thing that would name about a culturally responsive space is that the teacher is leaning into their understanding of neuroscience, which tells us that all people learn best, learn new information best, when it's connected to our previous understandings. And so, a culturally responsive teacher having that understanding will make sure that they are taking what's most meaningful, what's most valuable, connect it to students home, community and integrating that into that mathematics learning experience. Additionally, a culturally responsive teacher is going to be extremely reflective. This is someone who is asset based, right? They know that their kids have something to bring into that classroom. And so, with that, that teacher is reflective about their own practice. They're thinking about what are the experiences that I’m going to create for them. How might I do that most effectively? And in order to do that, they have to interrogate their own thinking, so they're thinking about their own bias.
And their bias, not just as it pertains to race, although they're thinking about that, because we know that it does exist, but also with respect to their thinking about mathematics. We know we live in a society where many people believe that only certain people can engage in mathematics productively. And so, a culturally responsive teacher knows that all students have the capacity to engage in mathematics success, excuse me, successfully and productively and they are leveraging what is most meaningful to their students to integrate into that classroom experience. So, those are some of the differences that you would see within a culturally responsive mathematics space.
Kyle Gnagey: That's really good. I really appreciate that; and what would you say, is the reason that this came about? Like, what was the inception to this work?
Dr. Jennifer Banks: Okay, I can lean into that question. And so, I think the work came about for variety of reasons. Within our three counties, we saw that there was a need for culturally responsive mathematics. When you look at the data and how students are performing across three counties by demographics, there's clearly there's some imbalance happening. And culturally responsive teaching is one way that we thought to overcome that. And so, initially we were each doing individual things with our respective ISDs to try to attack that problem and Yarisha was… came up with the idea of the three of us coming together, to band together, to really fight against that; and that kind of led to what we now have the Tri-County Culturally Responsive Mathematics Institute.
Yarisha Johnson: Yeah, I just want to add to that. Thank you so much, Jennifer, for what you lifted. I want to add to that Dr. Banks began to just kind of lift the data, and we know that across our state only about 36%... I may it may be a little lower… from the 18-19 college readiness mathematics scores were considered to be proficient. And so, 36% of all students! And so, I’m naming that because I think typically when people hear culturally responsive teaching, they are only thinking about black and brown students, they're only thinking about are students who speak multiple languages. But we're saying is that all students can benefit from having a culturally responsive experience that is absolutely necessary. And so, I think that was another one of the reasons that we decided to join forces and to focus our work in this way.
Kyle Gnagey: That's great, and Dr Banks mentioned, Yarisha, that you had the idea to band together, I really like that. I, kind of, question to all of you: What are other advantages of working together as a tri-county consortium, rather than just trying to tackle it within our own counties and ISDs and districts?
Cherron Ramsey: Well, I’ll add that there's strength in numbers, you know, and I think, you know, us putting our minds together really thinking about how to do this work and how to do it effectively has been a benefit for all of us. We're learning from each other, as well as learning from the teachers and the students and the administrators that are in the room. Just being able to even have conversation and collaborate across counties, because things that may happen in Oakland County might be different than things that's happened in Washtenaw or Wayne County and having that perspective from different people to help support the work has been invaluable. Like, it's been such a great opportunity to hear, you know, what's going on and what it might look like in a different county or a different neighborhood or a different community. I think that's the power in in us being able to work together and collaborate.
Dr. Jennifer Banks: Yeah, I would agree with that, and just to add on to that, I think, also, like, we were all doing something within our respective counties, but I think the impact has been greater because we're doing it together, right? And Washtenaw, we had our Responsive Teaching Institute, which was something, right? But Tri-County has taken it to the next level, because now we're bringing teachers and students and preservice teachers to the table; something I couldn't necessarily do by myself, right? So, to me, it's going back to what Cherron said, you just are stronger together.
In addition to that, I’m gonna be honest, it's been truly a gift to work with Yarisha and Cherron who are two black women in the math consultant position. That, I was initially like, “Hey, this is uncommon! This is an anomaly in our state!” And so, for me, that's an added benefit.
Cherron Ramsey: Yeah, absolutely. And it's wonderful working with you as well
Yarisha Johnson: Yeah, absolutely. And I just want to name that it was for me, it was really Dr. Banks’s work initially that really inspired me to go further in this space because I had an opportunity to go to the Responsive Teaching Institute that she was facilitating in Washtenaw. So, it was in that space that I was thinking we should take it further, with the creation of tasks so people have some specific examples that they can lean into around the work, because I feel like. that's always the question: what does it look like? But when we say culturally responsive mathematics we can talk about it all day, but what does it look like? Teachers need to be able to see that. So, I think that was a part of it, too, and it was definitely me being inspired by the work that was happening in Washtenaw
Cherron Ramsey: Absolutely.
Kyle Gnagey: I really appreciate that. And, I can actually agree with you. I mean, I had the pleasure, as you all know, of joining you at the Meaningful Mathematics and STEM Showcase that you all hosted at Eastern. I’m so glad I got to be a part of that, and I can say I just remember the faces of all the participating students, there were just lit up with the many different things that you put together and the way that you engage them. I particularly was impressed by some of the interviews that we had with students, where they identified specific problems that they wanted to address and were using metrics and data and all that to address and just… they were very confident in what they were saying; they were very interested and, you know, just that immediacy between, you know, mathematics and, like, an actual issue to solve in the community was really, really engaging. And so, then I just have to ask, because, of course, I haven't been part of the summer institute that's going on this week. I mean, what is the response from the students?
Cherron Ramsey: Well, you know, Kyle, like, what you just mentioned is so phenomenal because, you know, this is what they came up with. Nobody said, “Do this…this is the idea that I want you to work on.” This is something that generally authentically. The students said, “I have an interest in this,” and, I mean, for them to just be so engaged in the process, and like you said it really brought them to life. And, you know, this alleviates that, “When am I ever going to use this? Why do I need to know this?” because now they're…it’s application. They are doing it, they understand why they're doing it, they know you have a goal, they want to find out something, they want to solve a problem, they want to bring awareness. They get excited about it, because it's their work and it reflects who they are and what they believe.
Dr. Jennifer Banks: It's a personal motivation that as a math teacher, you always wanted your kids to have, right? But when it becomes their work, the excitement and the joy that they feel from their work. I mean, the Meaningful Mathematics Institute… I’ll never forget: two boys come to me… I was, “I think I didn't get a chance to see your presentations,” and they did, like, busted out their phones and gave me the presentation; like, they were so excited about their math and what they had learned. That's what we want every classroom to be like.
Yarisha Johnson: Now, I’ll add this about the summer institute last week and this week: we have students engaged with teachers, learning with teachers, and creating with teachers. So, it's been so beautiful to hear our students say, “I did not realize what… the time, the energy, the effort that my teachers put into creating that learning experience.” So, this is just like a bonus, because I don't think we were thinking about that aspect of it; but the students who are participating are walking away with a new appreciation, not just for the learning experience, but for the teachers, because of their commitment to do it. So, it's been really beautiful.
Cherron Ramsey: And I, you know, add also, you know, it's an opportunity for students to really grow. I know, one of the students that mentioned at the showcase, you know, it's quite… at the end of week we had an opportunity to just, kind of, have a conversation, a real conversation and one student raised their hand and it's like, “You know what? When I got here I didn't I just really didn't like math, right? But now it's this is like different for me.” At that point, like we are changing the game, you know, and changing the mindset of students and they're like… that excitement that it creates is just that; that makes everything all worth it. It makes it worth it.
Dr. Jennifer Banks: Yeah. I think about like last year of Summer Institute and then, the one student who was like, “I’m not a math person,” go, “Actually, I am a math person. I just need to see myself in the mathematics.” Like, that right there to me, is a golden ticket for us all; every student needs to be to see themselves in the mathematics.
Kyle Gnagey: That's really great. And so, you know, where do we go from here? Like, what's the next step and what's the long term?
Cherron Ramsey: Oh Kyle, that's a loaded question. Well, and I’ll start off and Jennifer you should please jump in. You know, as we continue to do this work, you know, we've been asked to expand what we're doing statewide. So, you know, really thinking about, you know, especially this year with the Summer Institute, we were able to offer it to some of MISTEM regions. And the plan is to continue to expand it, you know, to the State and just kind of think about what else can we do and how else can we spread the word. I mean, just our summer institute year one to year two almost tripled in numbers and that's just from one year. So, just thinking about, you know, what the impact is going to be for next year, and, you know, where our numbers are going to be. So, we're really just thinking about, “Okay, how do we maintain this? How do we manage this?” You know, because it is growing on his own just because, you know, it's good work and it's speaking for itself.
Dr. Jennifer Banks: Yeah, the work from last year to this year is, you know, a lot of growth. And then we have the leadership conference in September, the meaningful mathematics we’re bringing back. I think we had 200 kids last year or close to 200 kids and I’m confident that will be expanded this year. I don't even want to think about what the summer institute might look like next year in a good way. So, I think there's just more opportunity, a bunch of opportunity, to expand this work and really be not say culturally responsive teaching is something new, but it's the norm.
Cherron Ramsey: Yes.
Yarisha Johnson: Yeah, I agree. I’m thinking about awareness, you know? We are in a climate right now, where so many things are so highly politicized, and so, I think awareness, I think if people understood what culturally responsive mathematics is, what culturally responsive teaching… what it is, and they understand the impact that it can have on their student learning, I think that more people would be committed to learning it, be committed to ensuring that they are creating those experiences for their students. So, I’m excited about us being able to share with you today and I’m excited about continuing to increase awareness around the world, so that more students more teachers have access to more meaningful mathematics experiences.
Cherron Ramsey: Yarisha, as you as you were talking, it made me think about just last week, one of the reflections and the feedback from one of the teachers I just going to read a little bit of what this particular teacher said. He or she said, “It's changed my perspective, and how I think about education in general. it's made me reflect on my own educational experiences, too. Overall, I was a little nervous about the idea of coach responses that mathematics teaching but I’m pleasantly surprised and totally on board with the now that I have learned about it and its benefits.”
So, this is after one week of the two-week institute it's already shifting perspective of a teacher that may have had been, you know, nervous about it. I mean, this work is not easy. It is not easy, you know? It takes a commitment, it takes self-reflection, it takes a shift in mindset, it takes readiness, it takes, you know, some pushback; it takes all of these different things that you're going to face when you're when you're doing this type of work. At the end of the day, when you see those students’ faces and you see students really engaging in mathematics and their hands are all up and they're excited about what they're doing.
Yarisha Johnson: Deepen understanding.
Cherron Ramsey: Deepening your understanding, right? Then now, they know the mathematics and they know how they can use it. Those are the things that make, you know, the pushback and all the learning and that deep self-reflection, because as teachers as educators, we have to think about how are we showing up in in our classrooms? How are our beliefs and what we… how do they show up to our students, right? We all carry biases regardless of who we are, what color are skin is. We all carry biases and those things show up, right? Whether we want them to or not. So, we have to think about how are we bringing awareness to those, how will we make a shift to change those so that we can make the changes that we need, to make it so that every student in our classroom feels like they belong in that space and do the work that's being presented to them and feel like they are a part of what's going on. And if they don't feel like that, what can you do to change it? What are we doing as educators that make our students wants to come in our class every day?
Dr. Jennifer Banks: We can't change things that we don't face.
Yarisha Johnson: Exactly, yes.
Dr. Jennifer Banks: We have to be willing to do that hard work. I truly believe that educators became… went into the profession because they love students. They want to educate kids. They want them to learn the information, and so, if we really are committed to that, then we have to be committed to the hard work of doing that self-reflection that self-work, so that when we come into the classroom we are giving our very best selves and we are expecting the very best from our students.
Yarisha Johnson: That's right.
Cherron Ramsey: We had one of our facilitators, Dr. Aris Winger, made a statement a couple of days ago and I just thought it was… just stuck with me and he said that if we don't acknowledge culture, it is our own that will dominate. Okay, so we really don't think about who's in our classroom then who we are and what we're used to in our culture is going to be what shows up and that may not really be what the students resonate with or what they connect with.
Kyle Gnagey: That's very well said. I really, really appreciate each of you taking the time to come in. You are obviously… each of you, very passionate about this work. It is very, very exciting to hear what you've been doing, how it's been growing and your passion is just evident, very evident. And we're so we're so fortunate to have all of you, working on this in this tri-county effort together. And I’m really pleased to see the collaboration blossom, and, you know, like you're saying just the students are so interested and, so passionate and the programs… I really look forward to the next, things that you guys have planned. You said something… Can you clarify what's up in September?
Dr. Jennifer Banks: So, we have our Leadership Institute, am I saying that right? Conference? Our Leadership Conference is scheduled for September 22. It will be an all-day conference, and it will be for both teachers as well as building leaders and then it will go from 9am to 6pm.
Yarisha Johnson: It’s virtual and we’ll be sharing that out.
Cherron Ramsey: You want to share a sneak preview of some of the facilitators…the lineup
Yarisha Johnson: Oh, yeah…
Dr. Jennifer Banks: Dr. Christopher Emden. Dr. Gholdy Muhammad will be joining us. Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz, Dr. Richard Milner, I mean, I feel like I’m missing some.
Yarisha Johnson: Dr. Bettina Love
Dr. Jennifer Banks: Dr. Bettina Love…How can I forget Dr. Love…
Cherron Ramsey: You got Nathan Alexander, Dr. Aris Winger…
Yarisha Johnson: Dr. Curtis Taylor, Dr. Seada…
Dr. Jennifer Banks: Dr. Seada will be there as well, Dr. Pamela Seada…
Cherron Ramsey: Dr. Muhammad Khalifa
Cherron Ramsey: So, there's an awesome lineup some powerful, powerful presenters and speakers and just advocates for this work. And we have it from an administrative perspective to a teacher perspective, to just really, you know because, in order for teachers to feel like they have permission – quote, unquote – to do this work they have… the administration needs to understand what it is, what it looks like, and support it. So, you know, offering, you know, opportunities for administrators and leaders to learn about what it is and what we're talking about is another thing that is really important to us; we definitely want to make sure we're providing space for them to learn about what their teachers are doing what their teachers are excited about doing.
Yarisha Johnson: I just wanted to, just want to lift, in addition to our fall Leadership Conference, we also have our speaker series, which we were really focus on our teachers, providing learning for them throughout fall and spring. We had the Meaningful Mathematics Showcase, which you spoke about, we have our Summer Institute which you named… so just want to lift that we're doing a lot of things and so I’m hopeful that those who are listening will look out for all of those opportunities.
Kyle Gnagey: I agree with that. I certainly hope so and we will, you know, be coupling as much material, as we can with this podcast. So, if you look on our website resa.net/podcast, where you are undoubtedly there right now, you should find the related information to this incredible work happening in the tri-county area. I want to thank each of you: Dr. Banks, Cherron, Yarisha…Thank you, guys, so much for… after a long day at the Institute coming on in and telling us how great it was and how great it’s going. We're very fortunate to have each of you working on this very, very important work. So, thanks again!
Yarisha, Cherron, Jennifer: Thank you.
On May 16, 2022, Great Start Collaborative Detroit/Wayne had the distinct pleasure of hosting Chelsea Clinton on a “Talking is Teaching” tour of Detroit and Wayne County. With some support from Wayne RESA’s Communications Department, Great Start Detroit/Wayne successfully planned and executed a fabulous tour of four community organizations that exemplify the mission and approach of this early childhood literacy campaign. Joining us today are Kathleen Alessandro and Carmen Colón of Great Start Detroit/Wayne, who will walk us through the exciting event that has since garnered nationwide attention to the important work with early childhood literacy in Detroit and throughout the state of Michigan.
Here is a little background of the event:
“Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” is a community literacy campaign conceived by the Clinton Foundation’s Too Small to Fail Initiative. In 2018, Great Start Detroit/Wayne became the first “Talking is Teaching” site in Michigan. Since then, the movement has grown and expanded to dozens of community organizations.
Chelsea’s second stop on the tour was Detroit’s beloved Honey Bee Market La Colmena, which became Michigan’s first grocery store “Talking is Teaching” site on May 14, 2022. Chelsea’s visit is well documented in an article from Bridge Michigan.
Chelsea’s final stop of the day was at the headquarters of Brilliant Detroit, where she joined one of the quarterly collaborative meetings of Great Start Detroit/Wayne to share her experience of the tour throughout the day. A recording of the collaborative meeting can be found at this link.
Kathleen Alessandro is the Executive Director of Everybody Ready, the parent company of Great Start Detroit/Wayne, and Deputy Director of the latter.
Carmen Colón is the Parent Liaison of the Great Start Detroit/Wayne, and primarily responsible for Honey Bee Market’s adoption of “Talking is Teaching” among other accomplishments.
Kyle Gnagey is Wayne RESA’s Communications Coordinator.
Length - 49 minutes
Kyle Gnagey: Welcome to our final episode of Getting to the Core for Season Two. We have two very special guests joining us today, and they're here to talk about a very cool event that we had here in the Detroit and Wayne County area just on May 16 and May 15 and all the weeks leading up to it. My name is Kyle Gnagey and I’m the communications coordinator Wayne RESA.
So, joining me today is Kathleen Alessandro and she is the Deputy Director of the Great Start Collaborative Detroit Wayne and the Executive Director of Everybody Ready, and Carmen Cologne, who is the parent liaison of the Great Start Collaborative Detroit Wayne. Thank you, guys, both for being here.
Carmen Colón: Thank you for having us.
Kathleen Alessandro: Yes, thank you.
Kyle Gnagey: So, I’d just like to start with a little bit of background information for our listeners to know exactly who’s the Great Start Collaborative and who is Everybody Ready, so I want to kick it off with Kathleen.
Kathleen Alessandro: Thank you, Kyle. So, Everybody Ready is a Michigan nonprofit established in 2001 focused specifically on early childhood: families with children ages zero to eight. The Great Start Detroit Wayne Collaborative is part of a network throughout the state where every county focuses on building an early childhood system. And we have an operating agreement with Wayne RESA to deliver that service locally within Detroit and Wayne County. So, we try as best we can to pull together the best information and resources for families with young children and present it to them in a way that they can take advantage of it and maximize opportunities for their families.
Kyle Gnagey: That's great, thank you for that. And I guess I would like to ask Carmen, who is the parent liaison on the Collaborative, can you tell me kind of what your years look like and your, I know, you have meetings quarterly, like; to tell us what it looks like when when you're on the ground, doing the work?
Carmen Colón: I always kind of make a joke to Kathleen and Laketa that I have the best job out of everyone. You know, basically, what I do is I am like boots on the ground; like, that's the best way to put it: like boots on the ground, taking what Kathleen said, and really finding families and connecting them. And then, also just making sure that families know about it, and if there's barriers, we can talk about it. And it's really, it's just really, I love it so much, and I feel like I never talked to anyone: parents, partners, families, that say like we need the Collaborative. Like, “This is so beneficial; you bring us together!” Like, a partner just told me, the other day, “The Collaborative brings us together,” and I think that's what's so special about what we do is bringing people together. And that's probably my favorite part and, you know, that's what the Collaborative meetings are; the quarterly Collaborative meetings are bringing people together, so we can talk about the issues in early childhood and so. And, of course, we have fun doing it, so, I mean, we just have the greatest jobs; hopefully, that explains it well.
Kyle Gnagey: Absolutely, can you give us just maybe a general sense of what types of things you talk about? You say the issues in early childhood, what would be like an example or two of that and how you approach it?
Carmen Colón: I mean one of them for sure is literacy, obviously, which big part of the events that will be talking about later. You know, preschool, like getting access to free preschool for families: that could look like home visiting services that can look like developmental screenings. I mean, that's just the tip of the iceberg. We are constantly looking for the best of the best to give to our people, that is, in this realm of work.
Kyle Gnagey: That's great, I appreciate that very much. So, if we are going to talk more about the literacy objectives of the Collaborative, we obviously need to talk about Talking is Teaching. I’m wondering, Kathleen, if you can tell us a little bit about how Talking is Teaching became part of what the Collaborative was administering and examining and you know growing in the Detroit Wayne County area?
Kathleen Alessandro: We never want to miss an opportunity to talk about Talking is Teaching, because we really find it exciting and innovative. First of all, thanks, Carmen, for reminding me to say that our Collaborative meet quarterly. These are 60 leaders and parents and community representatives who are focused on early childhood. And during many of these discussions, there has been a concern about the expectation that children are reading at third-grade level. We like to say reading confidently at the third-grade level rather than referencing a test. And so our mantra on this issue became reading confidently in third grade is an eight-year process beginning at birth. So, in looking for the right resources to share with families, we engaged our educational leader Elaine Koons who's a speech and language pathologist and early childhood educator who researched a wide range of initiatives regarding early literacy and language development throughout the nation. And she identified Talking is Teaching, which is part of the Too Small to Fail National Initiative. Talking is Teaching focuses on building language among children ages zero to five and therefore their brain connections. And language, as we all know, is the basis of early literacy. So, this became our focus of sharing it with parents and community leaders, which I’ll let Carmen talk about, but overall, what we have found is that this is a simple, doable activity that parents can incorporate into their daily lives in their homes, and therefore it's been received such tremendous engagement and success that Carmen will share, that it's really been the one of the most helpful initiatives we've been part of.
Carmen, I’m gonna let you share how it impacts family lives.
Carmen Colón: Yeah. So, I mean, I can't…Talking is Teaching, goodness gracious, is what…it's so much… it's revolves around all the work that we do. And I can't help, like, just a personal perspective, I can't help but feel like a better parent by just doing the training. So that impact is happening on me someone who repeats this every single day, can you imagine how it's impacting the families around Wayne County? The impact is really immeasurable. It is…parents are so bogged down with so many things in life. I mean, we… you can think of those right now. You can think of what weighs you down and stresses you out. And what Talking is Teaching does is really just pulls out of the parents: you have everything that you need, you are enough, you are capable, and by just talking, reading, and singing every day to your children, it can drastically change the trajectory of their life. And so, that's really impactful. And I actually just was talking to a Wayne RESA COSA that we are doing trainings with the other day, and she goes, “You know, I’m educated, I know this stuff, I’ve talked to families, but this is impacted me as a parent!” So, to them, this initiative is just so much more than literacy. It's really uplifting parents all across Wayne County and bringing us together, which is just a really big deal.
Kathleen Alessandro: And if I can add to that. We've been doing this now for five, close to six years. It is also an initiative, we have only received positive feedback on; we've got no negative kickback whatsoever on this, because people relate to it and find it really valuable in their daily lives. There are two comments, and we get this is the kind of comment that we get from parents every time there is a training session and we share Talking is Teaching methodology. A mom said, “I didn't know this was important, but I can do this and I will do this.” And, as we know, as overwhelmed as families are nowadays when a parent can say, “This piece I can handle. This piece, I can do. It doesn't require money, doesn't require advanced learning, it doesn't require equipment; it just requires your voice.” And another mom, and again, this is a common feedback that we received shared that as a mother of three she always feels overwhelmed and just doing too much, but not doing it well enough, and she said after one hour of Talking is Teaching training, “I realized I am enough.” So, if we can get to the point where parents can feel competent and confident in their role as their child's first teacher, that's all we can ask. And that's the basis of building language and brain development that takes a child, all the way through their future.
Kyle Gnagey: That's really inspiring to hear, and I remember your telling that, you know, that parent feedback essentially that: that the parent felt like they were enough. For that and just, you know, that's really a very heartwarming and very empowering thing to hear. And I just am very overwhelmed by what I’ve seen in a much shorter time, obviously. Because, as you know, I was called into this process, this event sort of very recently, and I would agree. I mean, in just a little bit I’ve seen the passion, the dedication from the various types of people that comprise the Collaborative Meeting, and on all the partners and all of the community sites that have been involved is extremely inspiring and it does feel very much like the Community is coming together. And that makes sense because this Talking is Teaching is meant to be a community campaign and it requires that sort of grassroots effort to spread and to proliferate, essentially, you know, throughout the community and the community sites that that are around in your area.
And so, help me understand. From what I’ve gathered from my experience with this is that this Talking is Teaching began from an initiative of the Clinton Foundation and the initiative is called Too Small to Fail. And I believe, but what I remember Chelsea Clinton saying was that Too Small to Fail began under Secretary Hillary Clinton. And that she, Chelsea now, as the Vice Chair of the foundation is able to continue that work. So, Kathleen, can you talk a little bit more, you mentioned that Elaine Koons was the one who found the Talking is Teaching campaign and what was it like to, you know, adopt that, and, you know, was it just a smooth…did it just fit perfectly with what you were already doing? And then, how did you sort of then circle back with Too Small to Fail and the Clinton Foundation, that they were aware that you were doing this?
Kathleen Alessandro: So, as you know, the Clinton Foundation has been involved in brain development and early childhood literacy for a while and focused…developed the Too Small to Fail campaign to house all of this work. Well, first of all, when we came across the phrase Too Small to Fail, how can you not love that? That right there, you know, you had us at Too Small to Fail. That garnered our attention. And then, one of the ways that they billed their initiatives on this is through the specific Talking is Teaching materials. And what that provides for communities is when we contacted them, they said first, you have to do a community campaign which we did, incorporating and talking to several people about implementing Talking is Teaching. What is then provided to us locally or all the collateral materials that we can share, all the graphics are done so that we can localize that for Detroit and Wayne County and for all the different activities, so that you'll find an amazing array of. prompts and videos and graphic work that we can then just share within the community; supporting families who talk, read, and sing to their children every day. And that's our mantra: talk, read, and sing every day. So that builds the social emotional development, that builds language development and early literacy. So we chose Talking is Teaching because it was able to just accommodate and support all of those components of a child's development in a simple clean way that we've been able to ramp this up in over 100 locations throughout Detroit and Wayne County. So, you'll see us in laundromats, in WIC offices, at the diaper bank, at faith centers and more to come. I mean Carmen has permission to take over Detroit and Wayne County, and there will be a Too Small to Fail Talking is Teaching site everywhere we can plant one, because again it works so well, it's supportive of parents and families in their own space and it's incredibly powerful.
Carmen Colón: Yeah, so if you're listening to this and you want something in your place, let us know, because we are trying to take over Wayne County.
Kyle Gnagey: That's awesome. Carmen tell us more about what it's like to bring those materials to the sites and not, I know, I saw you run around with, you know, not just the Honeybee Market, which we'll talk about here a little bit, but laundromats and, you know, all sorts of community sites. What's that like?
Carmen Colón: It's really awesome. It's great to have an initiative that you can bring in a d feel really proud of. And so, when we can explain them just, for instance, like the Honeybee initiative that we'll talk about later, the owners, like, they're just excited to be community partners because it's just, it's quality research, it’s quality materials, and it's just great messaging. And so, I mean, that's the response with everyone. Like, of course, we want to have we want to partner with you this, this is amazing. And so, they really make it, Too Small to Fail, to such a great job to help us partner with other organizations and community partners.
Kyle Gnagey: That’s great. Let's actually jump to talking about the Honeybee Market and, you know, officially on May 15, which is a Saturday, they became the first grocery store Talking is Teaching site in Detroit and Wayne County. And, I know that a lot of work went into, you know, transforming it into a Talking is Teaching site and then you guys did some really awesome things for that sort of kickoff ribbon cutting ceremony, that I was in attendance, with my family. Can you just tell me, you know, what was it like to have the owners adopt it, and then I saw the all the installations throughout Honeybee Market, they were fantastic. I know that they're receiving training that was involved to the employees of the store as well. And then we should talk about you know what that celebration is like.
Carmen Colón: Okay, perfect. So in January, we were plotting to find the first grocery store that was going to be launching this new initiative and Honeybee…what's amazing about Honeybee is there's so many great community markets all over Detroit, but Honeybee is really known throughout the county. Like people travel to get the Honeybee. It's clean, it has foods that no one else has, it's just it's just such a great market. And so I’m in January I just walked in, and I was like, “Hey you know. Would you be interested in this?” And then, you know, got to show some images and they were like, “Yeah, we're interested!” And then I set up a meeting with the owners and kind of told them all the research and the facts and all the things for our county and they were completely blown away, you know. When people find out what our rates are, but they can also help our literacy rates are, but they can also partner with us and help make a change, they were just completely blown away. And so they were like, “We are all on board for this,” and we said, “Well, you know, we can train cashiers, we can train, you know, the produce section whoever encounters families and they said, “No, where we want to train the whole store. Like, we want our whole store trained; we're going to invite all of them.”
And so, they have about a 30-plus staff and we had 27 in attendance in April 2022 for the training. You know, sometimes people can't make it, but I mean that is a very high percentage of the staff on that got trained. And I can say I’ve done many Talking is Teaching trainings, and this was hands down one of my favorite trainings. When we were talking about singing we had all of the grocery store workers, creating songs about produce and vegetables and they were you know just it was such a delight. But what was more…having the grocery store workers just click for them. And I’ll just tell this quick story to sum it up, but one of the meat department guys, he said, “Wow! This all makes sense,” as I was talking about brain connections and our children build on the brain connections and he goes, “I had a child come up to my seafood counter and said wow this looks like an aquarium,” and it was just like everyone laughed and we realize like how they were like wow, now we understand why he thinks that he sees the little fish and shrimp and all these things. And he's building off that connection. So, it was really a lightbulb moment and, I mean, everyone in the store it was just so excited to just be able to be a partner in bringing this message out. And so it was such a delight to be a part of that.
Kathleen Alessandro: The energy at that grand opening on May 15 was over the top, it was just amazing. And I really want to support and share with Honeybee Market. Very often, public and private partnerships are tough; it's tough to have a private sector business want to be part of a public initiative, because they aren’t quite sure how it's going to work and rollout and the like. So, props to Honeybee Market for understanding the message and engaging with it.
And also, I think props to us for being respectful of their space. Now, this is a little detail, but I want to shout this out to schools and community organizations that are trying to connect with private sector. You have to really be respectful of their space and place. Our team worked with them, we have signage throughout the store, but we worked with the grocery store sign maker so that the signs and the prompts that we have throughout the store align with the signage of the grocery store and of that business, so that it doesn't stick out like a sore thumb, but it embeds with their normal walk through and work and we value their position. They’re a grocery store in the community and their job is to provide goods and services to people in a way, and make a profit. So, we want to be part of supporting that, and I think all of us in the nonprofit or public space that want to engage with private sector need to understand that and work with it because it became… it was very successful for us, and I think my team for being that respectful and astute in lining that up.
Carmen Colón: You talked about the energy Kathleen. So I just wanted to throw out that the owner, we were scheduled to be there till 12, and the owner made a note that we could stay till 7pm if we wanted to. It was just like, you know, he just thought it was that great. And so, even after doing the training and stuff, he was still just so blown away by the actual event and he's like, “Wait. You do this like around the county?” and I was like, “Yeah, we do.”
Kathleen Alessandro: And he was proud of being part of this, you know, and that meant a lot.
Carmen Colón: It did. Yeah it was a great day to celebrate, you know, all of the work that we had put into everything.
Kyle Gnagey: And it really was a celebration. I mean, I was there; you guys had, like, a hot dog vendor and you had tents, and you were giving away really awesome, like, insulated grocery bags that people could take into the store and buy some things and keep it a little cool and, you know, when I left the store after going through with my family, there was a book reading happening outside. And there were you know community members and kids present just listening. And this was all after the very formal ribbon cutting which I thought was super cool and I’m just so glad that Dr. Colbert on the Superintendent of Wayne RESA could be there to say a few words, and that the owners were there, and were able to cut the ribbon and all of the, you know, I saw so many people that I know are part of the Collaborative were there. They were volunteering their time, or they were attending as guests. And it really was a very, very cool event, and it really felt like the community coming together, and I was, I was very impressed and really grateful for the opportunity to bring my kids and my wife.
And so, I just thought it was a fantastic thing, fantastic spectacle I could really see as you're saying that the owners were very pleased to see their community come around them and celebrate them. And so, I’m not surprised to hear that they asked you to stay because you had right quite an installation in that parking lot, and it was open for business. I mean, cars are still coming in and people were going to the store and it was like, “What's this?” and they'd stop and they'd listen for a little bit, and they learn about what Talking is Teaching is, and so it was just it was really very cool.
Carmen Colón: And, you know, another note is like it wasn't just for, like, that wasn't a show. It wasn't just for the parking lot party. I just got an email literally minutes before this podcast from another literacy coach who said, “Hey, I stopped by the Honeybee Market, I saw the installations, I saw the employees wearing the stickers,” and she said, “and I even had a conversation with the employee about it.” And so, it's like, it's not it wasn't like okay we're just gonna do this for this one day; they're really being active and taking it seriously. And so, to get that email is such like such a delight to see, because, you know, it's like, wow, what it's just really making an impact and they're just…it's not only made an impact like just in that community, but on the grocery store employees’ hearts, you know. Like, one of the grocery store employees, she came up to me, she said, “I invited my nieces and nephews,” and, like all of this because she's like, “I wanted them to see this, too.” You know, so it's just like a trickle effect; it impacts so many people and that's just what's so exciting.
Kyle Gnagey: That's really wonderful. And you know, obviously, then the very next day, you also had a very big day, because I understand that… this was a three-year planning in the making, but I know that COVID slowed things down but, the Clinton Foundation was interested in seeing the work that you guys have done in Detroit and Wayne County. And specifically Chelsea Clinton the vice chair of the foundation came to visit on May 16.
So well, I know very well how that went about starting about, I don't know, about nine days before the event happened when we all got together and started to plan this and stitch this thing together. Quite a short time period to turn around such a such a big event but tell me more about, you know, how this visit came about; it was definitely a long time coming, I understand.
Kathleen Alessandro: Well, yeah. As I’ve said, we have a relationship with the Clinton Foundation and Too Small to Fail for about five or six years. But about three years ago we were contacted that Chelsea Clinton wanted to come to Detroit and see how we were implementing all their great work. And so, we plan this event three times. The first time there was a last minute scheduling conflict and then COVID hit, we know that story. So, when we got the call just a little bit ago that she was coming again we wanted to pull together. We couldn't take her to every single site where we have an installation, so we wanted to make sure we pulled together a good array of what the Clinton Foundation is supporting locally. So, we started with Starfish Family Services in Inkster where Chelsea Clinton read a book to children in a GSRP and Head Start program and then walk through the yard, where there was an installation of DJ’s Busy Day. It's a story walk around the park at the center and Starfish was incredibly gracious in opening up their arms and hearts to us to share all this beautiful work. And then we went on to Honeybee Market and we shared the great story there, but all of us who walked through this and Chelsea Clinton just went aisle by aisle seeing all of the amazing ways with posters and banners that all reflect this work. We all stopped for a moment and had some lunch and then went on to Alternatives for Girls, which is a very special… I’m actually going to leave Carmen to explain that one.
I’m gonna jump over that and she’ll handle that one, and then we ended with a Brilliant Detroit one of our great partners to have our Collaborative meeting, where, again, this body of 60-plus people who focus on early childhood were able to get a debrief from Chelsea Clinton about what she saw that day and, obviously, she was very impressed. And I think, felt really great and inspired to see the work of the Clinton Foundation reflected so well throughout our community. So let's go back to Alternatives for Girls and Carmen when you share what that's about and why that was a specifically heartwarming stop.
Carmen Colón: Yeah…So, Alternatives for Girls is a homeless shelter. They bring in teenagers and teen moms, and so we got invited to do some of their programming pre-COVID. And you know when you come into a room there's you can feel just a lot of heaviness. These girls are going through a lot. And so, when we just start unpacking what Talking is Teaching is an early just start up lifting who they are as parents, if you just feel…there's like a tangible feeling in the room and it's literally like the beginning, like set of girls is completely different from when we end the training and so I’m…the organization is great at getting these women back on their feet, going back out to get housing and support. And so we're able to introduce Talking is Teaching and then introduce them to all of the resources that Great Start has: diaper banks, finding food, needing help with the bills, finding help. And so, it's just a great way for us to do that. And COVID happened, and one of the ladies left that booked for the program. And I got a call from the new program director and she was just like, “I had to just reach out to you because the review on your program out of all of the programs,” she said, “You had to come back.” And that the way that the girls responded to Talking is Teaching was like, she's never seen it before.
And so, I remember that training. She walked us out she was like, “You have to come back. I’ve never seen the girls open up like this,” and it wasn’t… what it was is what Talking is Teaching is and how it really breaks down the walls of making parents feel like they have to do more and realizing that they already have all the things that they need. And so, we've been back quite a few times since then, and the partnership it's just been so beautiful to really just be with, you know, these women who are parenting so young, but giving them these messages and encouraging them. Because we know that they know other people in the same situations and encouraging them to do the same. And it's so impactful; I always like leave their little teary-eyed that she's so impactful.
Kyle Gnagey: It was really a wonderful…I had never you know, been as privy to like the work that they do there. And like early childhood center that they have they're called Little Dreamers and, you know, all the things that you were just describing were brand new to me. And I was just in awe when they were talking about the work that they do there, and how they use Talking is Teaching for the moms and the moms to be and, obviously, the children. And I think it was just a really great stop on choice basically for Chelsea Clinton to come see how Talking is Teaching is changing lives. And, you know, like Kathleen like you said, we started out in a classroom and she read the DJ’s Busy Day to that class, which I just loved. And, I know that was featured in the in the article written by Bridge and, you know, just, I know that she… later that day to Chelsea talked about just her experience in that classroom and how special it was, and I think that was a really great kickoff to the day. And then we went outside and they did that story walk up that exact same story of DJ’s Busy Day and, you know, we were so grateful to have the support of Starfish Family Services and they were just really wonderful and hosting us there and, you know, providing the opportunity to kind of kick off our day. And then, you know, as you said, we moved on the Honeybee Market and all the great work that was happening there, the very first grocery store site. And I feel like the energy was still there that day; just carried over from the day prior where I had just started, and I know Carmen you, you know, you connected Chelsea with the owners and with an employee there, can you tell me kind of what that was like because I was, I was so busy doing other stuff that I actually didn't get to see that firsthand what was that like?
Carmen Colón: Yeah. So, I mean, I don't normally tour grocery stores and I’m going to add that to my resume… grocery store tours in Detroit. But so, yeah, I was just like, “Okay let's do this,” and so it was super easy to do because of just the organic relationship that we built with the grocery store and the grocery store workers. Like, you know, having that relationship, because even though we did the training one month, and then we set up like, we frequent the store a lot, you know, to check in and make sure, everything is good. And so I was, like, “All right, Chelsea let's do this over here,” and just showing her the signs; she just loved it, loved it. We, you know, we were able to talk about how the community is bilingual and she got to see the signs in Spanish, and how some of, you know, they’re English on one side, Spanish, on the other.
And really, just, you know, she got to bump into some employees that were just so excited to see her and honored to have her there that day to really see their store. But it was definitely an interesting experience. One of the ladies from Team Chelsea came up to me and was like, “I didn't know how you are going to do this tour but man you pulled it off; you’re a pro.” I was just like, I mean, you know, we just walked around and talked about all this stuff, but I mean, I think she really enjoyed it. Getting to see everything and talking to the employee. She really loved talking to the employee, because the employee is the manager of the meat department and she was telling Chelsea, she's like, “My whole team really loves this and, Chelsea’s like, “I wonder why?” She goes, um, she was, “Yeah it was interesting because they're all pretty younger, like, I have people on my team 16, 17, 18.” And that really probably impressed Chelsea. She goes, “Wow,” she goes, “I love that these teenagers are getting trained in this because they're knowing it sooner,” and you know, one day, you know, and she's like, “and they have siblings, and, you know, one day they might be parents.” And so, she was really impressed that it wasn't just like one range of, you know, age range of people being trained, but that there was teenagers being changed. And I think that was really exciting, for her. But she thought the store is beautiful; she loved the signage.
And yeah, it was fun. Like I said, I will, I can do grocery store tours now. I feel like a professional tour, but it was great; it was kind of interesting because you know, there was other people there to see it too, and so, you know, we're walking around and people are like, “What's going on?” and, you know, then having all these people and, but it was fun, it was it was fun.
Kyle Gnagey: It's really great. And then, as you mentioned, Kathleen, we broke for lunch, where we were hosted by Alternatives for Girls and we were able to hear more about their program. And I have to give a shout out to Patty Miller, the CEO of Too Small to Fail, who had a really great presentation on the importance of Talking is Teaching and where else in the country they had tried it and, you know, one of the things I kept hearing from her and from Chelsea all day is that they were just really impressed by Detroit, by Wayne County, and Michigan. Like, we seem to be the state that is really adopting it and the way that they had hoped and had envisioned from the start; just this grassroots community effort to just proliferate this through, you know, to every community say we literally Carmen taking over Wayne County at every site we possibly can, and I know that we got to hear about that directly from Chelsea actually at the Brilliant Detroit stop, which was the fourth stop that day. And so, you guys were having your quarterly Collaborative meeting and you had actually started before Chelsea and company arrived. But you were having your, you know, you're getting your important meeting topics out of the way and sort of, you know, the items that you needed to get through, as part of, you know, each meeting and then you were gracious enough to transform the remainder of your meeting into kind of a Q & A, where we had Mrs. Alice Thompson, who is the now retired CEO of Black Family Development was facilitating that and it was so cool; that you had that Brilliant Detroit and you had Chelsea come in, and that you were able to, you know, have Mrs. Thompson asked her a few questions about what she had seen that day. Can you guys talk about, kind of like, you know, how that came to fruition? And, you know, how that became this kind of hybrid Zoom call, where we had we had a camera on site and we were like recording it and we were broadcasting and live streaming it to Collaborative members and some of the COSA coaches and folks that Wayne RESA that support this work as well, and the early childhood folks and how did, how did that come about? Because that's such a cool idea, and it was at the end of the day, so she got to see it all.
Kathleen Alessandro: Well, as we mentioned, we meet four times, this large group, and we normally meet at nine o'clock in the morning. Well, obviously the dance between setting up all of these sites and all the logistics that go with that it was determined that we really need to move this Collaborative meeting to the afternoon at three o'clock. So luckily, Laketa Thompson, the Director of Great Start, and this is Alice Thompson, the Chair, were gracious enough to work with us and say we can do this in the afternoon and actually it became our first hybrid in person zoom meeting post-COVID event, so that became first of all, another interesting dance as I’m sure everyone can understand. Because it wasn't just a regular Zoom meeting and needed to be streamed and set up in a way that, technically, we could focus on speakers and share that sort of via a webinar focus and I…kudos to everyone at Wayne RESA who supported us and helped us with technology and with the planning and everything that went with that, because the meeting came across smooth as silk. And even though we were all a bit nervous, thanks to Kyle and his team, it really, really came off well. And I, I also want to just make a note that Talking is Teaching, our Detroit-Wayne County community campaign was the first in the state of Michigan. But right now, thanks to the support of Rachel Pritchard at the Michigan Department of Education, there is a Talking is Teaching initiative at 70-some of the 83 counties in Michigan. And we have been pleased and proud to share what we can with our colleagues throughout the state. But you'll see as you travel through Michigan, those of you who do, it's very likely that you'll find Talking is Teaching messaging throughout the State of Michigan as you travel. So that's how, again, powerful this has been, and we were really excited to be, you know, the first step, the first and Michigan but partnering with all of our other colleagues.
Carmen Colón: It really felt like a great end to the day, too, you know, it just felt like the icing on the cake getting to come together and do that we, you know, the parent usually have a time to speak in the Collaborative and so that was able to be where Chelsea and Alice were able to do their interview. And so, for us, I mean Talking is Teaching as the heart of our parent work, you know, that's really become the heart of what our Great Start Parent Coalition does, and out of that flows all the other things because when you do Talking is Teaching you become a trusted messenger. And when you're trusted it's easier to talk about some of the resources that are, you know, not so easy to talk to you when you have to go up to someone say, “Hey, do you need help paying bills?” It's not the first conversation you want to have, and so I felt like that meeting just felt really nice for all of our partners to be able to hear about the work and it was just a great ending I feel like to our day, for sure.
Kyle Gnagey: Yeah, I would definitely agree. And just to our listeners we're going to be putting up a lot of links today, particularly with the four venues that we were having, obviously the Talking is Teaching web page that's on the Great Start Collaborate website, and so forth. But pending approval what we're hoping to do is put up a recording of the part, where part of the Collaborative meeting that we're talking about when Chelsea came in and just the things that she said to the Collaborative members there that were just so, you know, uplifting and congratulatory and very encouraging. Because I agree, I think that it was a great opportunity for you guys to have this feedback from essentially the people that designed this campaign, but watch do you execute it.
I’m amazed it just, you know, the exactly the way that they had envisioned better, and in her words, better than anyone else had so far and so that was really exciting for me to watch. I mean, I know, was kind of running around making sure the camera was up and I had to put Chelsea’s water on the table and bring her in at the right time and I was just, you know, I was scattered that whole day. But that was a nice opportunity for me to actually sit down and listen for the first time and I felt very proud to be a part of that, even if it's just kind of setting that day together…certainly wasn't the work that you guys have been doing over the past few months, but I felt proud to be even just a small part of such a fantastic and successful campaign.
So, I can imagine what the Collaborative Members present there and those on the call felt to hear that from Chelsea and the folks at the Clinton Foundation. So it was really wonderful, and then we wrapped up that meeting, and we had a big group photo outside and then she was off and, before you knew it, that really incredibly literacy filled day and this, I don't know what I want to call it, but this just really amazing tour of Talking is Teaching in Detroit and Wayne County was over, and… but the work wasn't over because Carmen, as you're saying, it's continuing to make a difference, even right now, as we speak. So, I guess, I would ask you and Kathleen, like, what's next; what's going to happen now?
Carmen Colón: World domination. No, I just think just continuing to find amazing organizations, community partners that just see the value that we see in Talking is Teaching and see the value really what this brings to parents, and the value it brings to their children and just finding people to lock arms with us and getting these messages everywhere, like everywhere that will let us. Like, “Let's do it,” I mean, I actually already had another grocery store that wasn't on our, you know, we’re launching one in the Brightmoor area I’m here in Detroit but another one reached out and said we would be interested. So, I mean, that's the hope that, naturally, they would see the impact of this and want to join, you know, lock arms with us. But, you know, if they don't see it, they'll see me coming knocking on their doors saying, “Hey, let's do this,” but I think just getting creative, you know… the grocery store was not a normal space that you would think to go to and so just where do families go; let's find those places and let's put them with great messaging that can really make an impact; so, I mean, that's my answer.
Kathleen Alessandro: I think we also want to share, though, that along with Carmen's intent to have world domination of Talking is Teaching, which I fully support, is we're also really cognizant of maintaining quality control on this. I think, very often initiatives get dispersed throughout the community and before you know it, it's sort of like that game of telephone where what you started with is not what you end up with at the end and things get ratcheted down in terms of quality and messaging. So, first of all, as part of our community campaign, and we think, we want to just take a moment, first of all to thank Wayne RESA for its ongoing partnership in support of having us roll this out specifically over the past couple of years and giving us additional opportunities to train their staff and teachers throughout the GSRP system, because that way it really has an explosive presence. But we, to be, to implement Talking is Teaching at a site, you need to be trained by Carmen and Elaine Koons; we want a standard of training, we want a standard of material distribution that really elevates this work. So, it's highlighted in a way that is professional and important, but also; remember now, one of the pastors at one of our faith centers where we have a Talking is Teaching installation…after going through the training said, “What you have here is profound simplicity.”…profound simplicity… and I don't want to lose concept or sight of that because, again, I want to reiterate in today's world where families are overwhelmed, obsessing and worrying and trying to support a million different initiatives; I think they need to find some space where their daily lives can be simple yet powerful. And that's what this does for parents. And that homeless mother at Alternatives for Girls is equal to a mother, with a Master's degree when it comes to building her child's brain connections and supporting her social emotional development by just using the simple techniques of Talking is Teaching: talking, reading, and singing to the children every day. So, I know I get a little preachy about this at the end, but I feel passionate that helping parents do simple things better in their lives relieves their tension, empowers them as a parent, and grandparents, and just builds a healthier happier child ready to take on the world, so there.
Kyle Gnagey: That's great. I want to thank you both for taking the time to talk us through Talking is Teaching, as well as Chelsea Clinton’s visit, and I personally am looking forward to continuing to work with both of you to you know spread this work around Wayne County and support it as best we can. And I agree in sharing your special thanks to Wayne RESA and to Starfish Family Services, and Honeybee Market, Alternatives for Girls, and Brilliant Detroit for hosting Chelsea Clinton and all of us throughout the day. And a huge, huge heartfelt thanks to the Collaborative and every member of the Collaborative for the work that you do, which includes both you, and to the Wayne RESA COSAs, and that early childhood consultant who support this work as well we couldn't do it without all of you and I just and been very inspired personally. So, thanks again.
Carmen Colón: Well, and thank you to Kyle. I am, I called Kathleen yesterday, and I said I was going through my day and I realized I missed it, missed like, I haven't talked to Kathleen because we, I mean we were talking like three days…three times a day almost and like, you know, not just 30 minutes for I felt like we were doing the call and then the extended call and I just told her, I was like, just feel like I needed to talk to you because it's been a while. And so, it just reminds me to just you know getting to work with you, too, Kyle, just a great partnerships that when we all work together, like we're just so much better together, and I know that's a cliche like saying, but it's just so true. And if we could do that in Wayne County and really link arms I just, like…look what we were able to accomplish in nine days like or whatever that was. So, if we could all just come together, I think it would be great and now we're all just best friends forever… stuck together.
Kyle Gnagey: Absolutely. Take care.
Do you remember all the facts you learned in your history or geography classes? Does it still matter? Are you an actively engaged, responsible citizen? In this episode, we sit down with David Hales, Social Studies Consultant at Wayne RESA, to discuss changes to the social studies curriculum over the past few years. Yes, facts and knowledge do matter, but we also need to learn the tools to use them to engage civically. David discusses how the C3 Framework for social studies instruction helps teachers address both the knowledge and action aspects to create responsible citizens.
Length - 23 minutes
- The C3 Framework - https://www.socialstudies.org/standards/c3
- Sample Lessons and Networking Hubs for Social Studies Teachers - https://c3teachers.org/
Jason Siko: Welcome to another episode of Getting to the Core, Wayne RESA’s podcast for educators and Community Members. Today we have David Hales, a social studies consultant here at Wayne RESA. David, welcome!
David Hales: Thank you very much, glad to be here.
Jason Siko: Alright. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
David Hales: Well, as you mentioned I’m the K-12 social studies consultant here at Wayne RESA, so my responsibilities include supporting districts, schools, and really anything K-12 pertaining to curriculum, instruction, and assessment. I also have the opportunity in Wayne County, where we are fortunate to have many cultural institutions. I work with a number of them on their educational materials and their alignment to educational standards.
Jason Siko: Excellent. So, probably for a lot of listeners out here, social studies can bring back a wide variety of memories, in terms of, you know, their experiences, both in elementary and secondary and the various classes: civics, government, and so on, and world history and the like. So, today, though, things are a little bit different. So, when you think about high quality social studies instruction, what comes to mind? What is your take on what is high quality social studies instruction today?
David Hales: Well, you know before I get into that I want to make the case that it's important to start with the purpose of social studies: why we're, why is it a core subject? What's the ultimate end for social studies? And then, how do we get there? What is quality instruction look like to actually take us to that end? I know if you grab the average person on the street and ask them about social studies you're going to get a wide range of answers. It's sometimes called in the trade, the smorgasbord of subjects. And oftentimes the people's answers are framed around, you know, facts, dates, locations on a map, lists of historical figures. And that's oftentimes when people recall when the, you know, you see those man-on-the-street kind of interviews.
For our purposes, though, and where we are really right now, it's good to take a step back and look as to why do students need to even have social studies. And we have a defined purpose for social studies, which is responsible citizenship. And while that can certainly be defined a number of ways, the definition that we're going to use, our working definition, is responsible citizenship, is really someone who is both informed and engaged, okay, in the world that's around them.
So, I’d like to take an opportunity, just to kind of build that out a little bit, what that kind of looks like, it sounds like, and what are the implications for instruction on this. So again, we mentioned about you grab the person on the street would say it's memorizing a list of dates right; it's being able to identify something on the map. Well, the case I want to build is that one for responsible citizenship to getting us there, content knowledge, or what we've called disciplinary knowledge, is crucial, right? It is important, you have to have content information to move forward.
But what people oftentimes don't understand is really there are four pillars that really support the development of responsible citizenship. One, of course, just said, is the disciplinary knowledge. The second piece or the thinking skills that go with that. In other words, is the ability to process that content knowledge just summarize it to be able to evaluate it, to be able to talk about it, to be able to develop an informed opinion. It's not just a matter of having the content knowledge, but being able to really utilize that. That's the thinking skills portion that's the second pillar.
And again, by no means is there a hierarchy of needs all of these are really important to get us where we want to go. So the first two disciplinary thinking skills. The third one, is what we refer to really is democratic values. And while sometimes the list of what those are can be contentious, they are, I think, definitely important regardless. So what I mean by that, when you say democratic values, is a commitment to things like the rule of law, to justice, to diversity popular sovereignty, that ultimately the power rests in the hands of people…of the citizens.
Those are important because, you know, people don't… we often take those for granted; we're not just born with that understanding, that something has to be taught to kids.
And so, democratic values should be very much infused in social studies if our ultimate end is responsible citizenship. And the fourth piece, which supports responsible citizenship, is the engagement itself. It's the practice; that means if the whole idea is to be both informed and engaged, you need to practice engagement at levels that are relevant, that are important to you, and that and granted that's going to look different if you have a kindergartener or a first grader as compared to a middle or a high schooler. But it's just as important, because it's all ultimately about being able to understand and really think through, manage the world that's around you to be engaged.
So, those are really four elements that really support. Again they are not in a hierarchy. They all have mutually supportive but they're all crucially important, and I always try to come back to this. All of us can think of people who have content knowledge, they have disciplinary knowledge, they know how the system works, but they choose not to be civically engaged; they're not engaged at all. And on the flip side of that, to be quite honest, we can also think of people who are sometimes quite actively involved, but don't always have content knowledge, their knowledge is incorrect or incomplete on how this works. So, for real responsible citizenship it's very much the those four pieces.
If it's okay with you, I’d like to talk a little bit about: okay, so that's where we want to go, how do we get there? Does that makes sense.
Jason Siko: mm hmm
David Hales: Yeah. So, in social studies, knowing that where we're trying to get is responsible citizenship, our work in particularly lately, or meaning really over the last few years, has really been driven around a document a national document, called the C3 Framework, which will be made available for people. It's the College, Career, and Civic Life Framework. Now, this document was created within the social studies community nationally, amongst all of the organizations, representative bodies in social studies, which, remember includes economics, geography, history, and government. We had representation from across those bodies, and then we also have representation from the states as well. So, we had two teachers from the State of Michigan. I’m very proud to say one of them was a teacher from Wayne County. And what was generated, the C3 framework, which has very much guided social studies instruction over the last really few years. High quality instruction is an element to it, which is called really the arc of inquiry.
And I’d like to take you through that a little bit. There are what are called dimensions in the C3 framework that saying that if we're trying to get to responsible citizenship, good instruction, regardless of the age or of the grade really includes four elements, okay; should have four elements. Again, not a hierarchy to these; they are all mutually supportive.
The first is that a good social studies instruction is really based on questioning or on inquiry. And I realize that this is not specific to social studies in any discipline. Building on the natural curiosity of kids for the world that's around them, is very important, very true in social studies. Notice how this sort of counters a little bit that argument which is, “Well isn't social studies just memorizing a lot of dates and facts and locations on a map?” This is saying yes, there is that content piece of it, but it's very much about looking at what has happened in the past, what is happening currently; let's look at why things really have happened. So, very much questioning, okay, that's one element of it. A second element is there's the, well, really the the thinking skills components, the disciplinary knowledge piece that is centered in Michigan and for the most part the US around the four disciplines that I mentioned: that civics, economics, geography, and history. So, there is there is that content knowledge but not just the content knowledge but also includes the thinking skills as well in that. It's not enough just to know the location on a map, the date of something, but to be able to really analyze why it occurred, where it occurred, what has been the impact since then, how does that affect the world today, how does that affect me? Now that's important; that's very important that's the heart of social studies.
The third dimension on here is evaluating resources. So, everything we just described, if you are an informed citizen, that means you are have a really an immense responsibility of looking at a world in which there is so much information that's available, and in so many variety of sources, right? So many modalities for kids. Part of good social studies instruction is not just a matter of gathering information from a text, that's another thing that people oftentimes think of, the infamous reading a chapter and answering questions. And while there is some validity to that, I’m going to make the case that there is not a lot of validity to that in student learning.
What there is, though, is students being able to look at, listen to podcasts, being able to look at video, being able to look at political cartoons infographics, information and all the many sources that it comes through. Because, ultimately, you want students to be able, as a responsible and informed citizen, right, you want them to be able to express an opinion on something, an informed opinion that means having to identify what was relevant information that supports your point. What's fake news; what's not fake news? Where do I get sources of information? That is a crucial piece, and an often overlooked piece in social studies, the information itself.
And then the fourth piece is going to sound pretty familiar, which is taking informed action. It's the practice part; that it's one thing to say, you know, it's important to be engaged in the world around you, you know, and to talk about that, but you know what? Whether you're six or 16, you need to be practicing that, and that, as part of the social studies instruction and, you know, maybe that's something, you know, that occurs within the context of just the classroom. That could be very relevant, very appropriate or the school building, or the neighborhood or the community. So, you can kind of see what I’m doing; it's all a matter on what's the relevant level, right, that you really, really find with that good social studies instruction. Again, regardless of the level, elementary, middle, or high school, really includes a combination of those elements in there, okay? And over time, because let's face it, this is a very much, that issue of responsible citizenship is very much a lifelong pursuit, right? It's something you begin practicing at a very early age and continues well past your years as a high school student, but the skills that are embedded, the thinking that's embedded, the dispositions that are embedded, I think in that C3 framework really has had, will continue to have a powerful impact, and helping students really prepare to be responsible citizens. And that's really sort of the movement, the last few years, somewhat sidetracked a little because of COVID, but I think coming back around.
In the case of Michigan because our standards, very much aligned to the C three framework, came about…were passed by our state board in June of 2019. So, not too far off from when everything began with COVID. But work is all being grounded in this area; curriculum support, I said I work with curriculum, instruction, and assessment; so very much being based around this.
Jason Siko: That was great, David. So, as an educator, what are some things we can do as we emerge from the last two years and start getting back to - I’ll say normal - but get back into the swing of things, and how do we rededicate to social studies education with this new set of standards and philosophies?
David Hales: Well, one of the things that immediately comes to mind, for me, is, you know, you heard me mentioned in the C3 framework that the fourth dimension is the civic engagement, the civic involvement, right, the practice. I think we need to be doing a little bit of that ourselves as educators. So, what I mean is I guarantee you that you could go to any district, and you will find as a core discipline social studies listed, which means dedicated time and materials, but, you know, what we all know, let's be honest; that social studies does not get that same level of attention or resource allocation and oftentimes just, quite frankly, let's again let's be honest, it is not taught.
And I think that there needs to be a recognition of the importance, a reconnection to the importance of social studies and what its intent is for developing responsible citizenship. You know, we only, we don't have to look too far to see the real need for that. And that means social studies needs to be taught, and it needs to be taught in a systemic way K-12; not just as what oftentimes happens, because the subject that, you know, picks up around third or fourth grade or you know even as late as fifth grade.
That is making a much tougher job if our goal is to have an informed and engaged citizen starting at that late point. So, that's one piece I think right there, that means talking to your administrator, your principal; it means talking to colleagues and just raising the level of awareness around social studies. I think it's just important.
Second piece, if you're curious on, “What does the lesson look like based on the C3 Framework or the arc of inquiry?” There is a an accompanying website to the C3 Framework, you know project or work; it's C3teacher.org. So, c3teacher.org will actually have vetted… one of the things that has many things on it, very helpful things, but one of them is a collection of vetted units and lessons done by teachers from around the country, again vetted, that you can search by topic, by grade level, by really a variety of ways, which is very helpful, right? Again, being a national document, that allows you to say, “Okay!”. So, if you have somebody that's being driven by a compelling question, right, based on solid content, includes resources, you know, literary pieces in your content information from a variety of sources and actually has a component of having kids apply this to the world around them…“My gosh what is this literally look like?” It's a great place to start. So, whether you are lower elementary, middle, high school, all the way through you can find a component that is really relevant here in Michigan. Or what I tell people, at the very least, it is nice to find a list of resources that have already been put together for you to be able to cherry pick; there's a certain value in that as well. So at any point that is relevant for you as a starting point, I think, c3teachers.org is definitely one of them.
Jason Siko: Excellent. And so, to kind of bring it back to the local sphere, Wayne County educators, kind of the source of where, you know, we serve for both organizations, as well as probably the majority listeners of this podcast…what are some things that they can do to connect either with you, or with the social studies community in Wayne County?
David Hales: I think one of the best ways that has proven to be quite successful is I have what are now Google Groups, used to be listservs, but really Google Groups across the disciplines K-12. So, instead of, what I mean by that is, instead of having a single K-12 Google Group to push out information, I very much sort of customized it. So, in high school where there are four distinct social studies courses, there are four lists there. And in terms of elementary or K-8, there are some that are divided by grade level, some which are divided by grade span. The reason why there's so many groups, I believe there are nine groups, is because recognizing that Wayne County is a large county and building a sense of community right around like interests in social studies if you are K-2, for example, that's not an easy thing to do, given our size. And being on one of these lists, I think, really helps in that regard.
All total I have just under 4,000 teachers K-12 on the list. And what that allows me to do is a couple things. So, by getting on these lists one is, of course relevant resources to your particular grade level or grade span, I can push out to you and that's proven to be very helpful. Workshops that are coming up; you can, of course, not only always look at Wayne RESA’s website, but if it's social studies I’ll actually be sending it out to you for your particular grade level. Resources, grant opportunities, field trip money, sometimes, which are made available to me, through various funders I can push out to people.
And the second reason why I really want to advocate that people would be on these lists, in these groups, is again, it sort of forms really sort of a micro-community for us in social studies. So, what will happen often is someone in the group will say you know I’m struggling a little bit out of resource for X or y let's say in US History, and they will ask the infamous question, which is a very legitimate question; they'll say, “What's the rest of the county doing?” Well, you know, we have a very large county and a very diverse county, and that is a much trickier question that it sounds. However, for me and social studies those groups give me the opportunity to push out that question to say 300 US History teachers in the high schools and I tell you, if you have met a high school US History teacher they're going to they're going to reply back with, “Here's what I do,” or, “I’m looking for that information, too.”
So, in order to get on these, really, all I need to have from someone it's very simple is I really just need their email, and I need to know the grade level; unless you're high school, and then high school I need to know what's the course you're teaching. So, I just need an email if it's K-8, I just need to be just need the grade level. And then, if you’re high school I do need to know the course, are you an economics teacher or your world history teacher; which ones would you be on? You can be on multiple ones, there's no cost. And we’ll enroll you.
So, then I’ll give you my email address I’m sure that can also be out available in other places as well, so nice short, nice simple email. It's Hales…my last name: H..A..L..E..S; D, as in David..@resa.net. So email@example.com.
That's, I think the best way for us to stay in in touch, both in a big picture sort of view as to what's going on in the world of social studies, but also, more specifically with them sort of our communities. By communities, I mean our grade levels, grade spans, things along those lines.
Jason Siko: Excellent. Well, I don't know about everyone in the audience, but I did learn a lot today about the changes from when, at least, I was in high school on social studies. Again I…one of those classes that, you know, some I remember a lot of memorable teachers, but I probably forgotten a lot of the facts. So David Hales we want to thank you for coming in today.
David Hales: Thank you for the opportunity I really appreciate it.
Since schools first shut down in the spring of 2020, our students have experienced things that none of us really imagined, from emergency remote teaching, social distancing, packets being sent home, Zoom classrooms, wearing masks, and an ever changing set of circumstances. The 2020-2021 school year was unlike anything we had ever seen. This school year has also been different, and while we’re never going back to 2019, things are slowly looking like they once did.
So, we thought it would be a good idea to hear directly from students on how things have evolved over the past two-plus years. What do they like? What has changed and what has stayed the same? What do they want the adults to know? To that end, we asked several students throughout the region about their experiences…learning in the pandemic.
Length - 15 minutes
Host: Welcome to another edition of Getting to the Core. This month, we’re going to do something a little different. Rather than having guests discuss issues related to education, we are going to hear from children…the ‘core’ of our mission here at Wayne RESA.
Student Voice: So, it was like COVID came and it was like a little break because it was like a sickness and I thought we would just be in quarantine for like two weeks, but it turned out the rest of the year. So, I could never see like any of my friends and my teacher again.
Host: Since schools first shut down in the spring of 2020, our students have experienced things that none of us really imagined, from emergency remote teaching, social distancing, packets being sent home, Zoom classrooms, wearing masks, and an ever changing set of circumstances. The 2020-2021 school year was unlike anything we had ever seen. This school year has also been different, and while we’re never going back to 2019, things are slowly looking like they once did.
So, we thought it would be a good idea to hear directly from students on how things have evolved over the past two-plus years. What do they like? What has changed and what has stayed the same? What do they want the adults to know? To that end, we asked several students throughout the region about their experiences…learning in the pandemic.
How has this school year been different than last year?
We've been switching from virtual to in person because of all the COVID outbreaks happening.
The school year is definitely different from last school year because we're not virtual and I feel like we're actually getting to learn stuff this year instead of just doing a whole bunch of show and tells.
I would say that like before, like all of before this pandemic started, people didn't have to wear a mask. People didn't have to worry about more people losing their lives each day and people wouldn't have to worry about like this happening. And like no one would have to worry about this.
Virtual school was really confusing because no one really knew what anyone was doing or when they should get on zoom meetings. It's definitely easier to be successful when you’re in person.
Because we have been talking through a mask and it's hard to hear.
Well, there's definitely been a lot of changes regarding busses; those have been issues at times. And then our teachers have acted differently and a lot easier for me, personally, when getting the work done in regards to tests. And it's definitely been different with masks and you know, being careful and cautious and wiping down our desks and things like that.
This school year has been different for me since last school year because one, I got to see my friends and personal stuff; and two, because it's like easier to learn and it's easier to it's easier for teachers to teach. You know what I'm saying?
Host: What's been one bright spot for you this year?
Mathematics…because it's because it comes easy to me and we've been learning easier ways of doing stuff.
Getting to see all my friends.
[Parent] So your teachers are your bright spot. Why is she, why is she the bright spot?
Because she's not way too difficult, almost. And she understands us. So, it's easier to get by in class. It gives you a little motivation to do well for the teacher. And it's…she likes printing fun stuff out for us. Which is nice.
That's a tough question, butt luckily I know, I would say that like something good that happened this year is…that this has been an interesting year. It really has. And like, I have learned new things and some and sometimes the bad things, but bad things are sometimes always a good thing.
[Parent] What’s been one bright spot or a positive for you this school year?
That I can actually can go to school instead of being 50/50.
It's been so much nicer to be in person with my friends and to actually connect with them, where we can't do that online.
Host: What has been the biggest challenge with learning this year?
The biggest challenge for the square is probably the masks, and how the teachers sometimes don't realize that the kids can't hear them. So, they only say things once and kids get confused.
The biggest challenge of learning is often focusing, because we have to keep our masks on and I can't just take a deep breath really easily.
We have, we're not used to being in person. We're used to being virtual now because in fourth grade we have been online. So to be in person, it's not that easy to adapt to it.
[Parent] What has been the biggest challenge with learning this year?
I know a lot of students had challenges learning whether over Zoom if they were quarantined or things like that. But I didn't really have any challenges, and I really liked how the school year was set up and the things that they did in the steps that they took to be cautious.
[Parent] What has been the biggest challenge with learning this year?
Hearing my teacher talked through the mask.
Well, if you get COVID or you're even exposed to someone with COVID, that automatically puts you out of school for at least a week, meaning that you can't learn in front of your teachers for an entire week, which sets you back quite a bit.
Host: What is one thing you wish you could tell your teacher or principal?
To move my Project Lead the Way class back so we can have more recess time.
That it will be a good year this year and hopefully that this will stop. Hopefully COVID will stop, and this will be gone, and this will be gone someday. And I believe that that this will be gone and nobody will and people that will no one will have to worry about this anymore and it has been a big experience.
I wanted to tell them that it's okay to be like strict about masks.
[Parent] What is one thing you wish you could tell your teacher or principal?
That they've been supporting me through this.
Host: Is there something new or different about the school year that you hope never changes?
Going back to virtual because I don't like doing virtual. Because it was, it was pretty hard doing virtual, if I'm just being honest, because like, you know what I'm saying, you can get distracted. And because they know you're like in your room at your home, so you could just like walk up and go get a snack and it's an easy way to get distracted.
Yes, my school, my school has started using Canvas, which is really helpful to turn in homework and get information online and it's been really helpful to do assignments this year.
I have a lot of specials and I'm learning how to do a lot of good new things that I don't know how to do. And I hope that never changes.
Because of COVID and they want less people on the hallways, I've, they've like, we don't have lockers anymore. So, we just took your backpacks with us and, it's nice to be able to have our supplies with us. And so, we don't have to forget something at our lockers or go back. And there's less commotion in the hallways, at least for me. So, I hope that that doesn't change.
Host: 10 years from now. What do you think you'll remember about this time in your life?
How it's changed me as a person.
I think I’ll… the most part I remember is being in this big of a pandemic, and people, a lot of people I know are getting sick.
Probably the lunch situation It's two people for tiny little people and it's all spread out over the gymnasium and it's like in line. It kind of looks like some sort of prison thingy.
I got all A’s on my first report card this year.
I think I'll remember it as a time of trial and error and trying to work through this big problem that no one really knew how to figure out.
10 years from now…well, hopefully I'll be successful. And, you know, I look on it as a wild adventure.
Well, COVID has been a big situation and problem all across the world. So, I think I'll just remember that, and just how different school was from previous years, and, you know, the things that we did to be careful
What I would think about like in 10 years about this? What I would think is like that, like, “Man…Wow!” Like it has been a big experience, and I don't know how I got through this.
[Parent] Thank you.
Host: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I think that the pandemic has had an extremely negative effect because whenever the snow piled up, we used to be able to go sledding and build snowmen and have snow day fun. Now, we have to stay inside and virtual and the closest we'll get is bringing hot cocoa on a Zoom.
[Parent] So, what's the message from you, Emma?
That even though we can go on Zoom if it's just from a snow day, we definitely should not.
[Parent] So keep those snow days sacred?
[Parent] Thank you, sweetie.
I love you, mom.
Host: For many of us, the last two years have been incredibly difficult, stressful, and at times, simply overwhelming. We can often find hope and aspiration - and a healthy dose of honesty - in today’s youth. We hope you found something informative, as well as joyful, listening to the voices that make us laugh, tug at our heart strings, and are truly the reason we chose this profession.
In this episode, Wayne RESA Career Counselors Brad Minton, Tanji Lilly, and Chris Ferrell discuss how the Ready to Launch program assists local districts and students (and their parents!) by accelerating students' exposure to career resources by working with individuals and small groups and providing individual action plans. The counselors provide resources that help students explore career interests, expose them to careers they had not thought about before, pathways to achieving career goals, and opportunities for internships and financial assistance.
Length - 27 minutes
Resources From Wayne RESA
- Wayne RESA Workforce Development Homepage: https://workforce.resa.net/
- Steps to Career Success
- Career Planning Tips and Tools for Students
Career Exploration Resources
Going Pro - https://www.going-pro.com/
To elevate the perception of professional trades and showcase the opportunities in a variety of rewarding careers, Going PRO in Michigan was created. For generations, these types of careers have been treated as inferior. But now, it is time to level the playing field.
Pure Michigan Talent Connect - https://www.mitalent.org/
Pure Michigan Talent Connect is your launch pad for new jobs, careers and talent. It is a tool connecting Michigan’s job seekers and employers, and serves as a central hub linking all public and private stakeholders who support Michigan’s workforce. Pure Michigan Talent Connect serves as the state’s labor exchange system.
Virtual Job Shadow - https://www.virtualjobshadow.com/
VirtualJobShadow.com empowers individuals to discover, plan and pursue their dreams with our unique video-based career planning platform. Our interactive tools help students and job seekers develop career paths based on choice, not chance.
Job outlook forecasts for the state through 2028.
Career Exploration Platforms
Note: these are subscription services; not for individual use. Contact your school to see if they subscribe.
Brad Minton: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Getting to the Core. I am going to be your host for this particular episode. My name is Brad Minton. I’m a post-secondary success navigator here with Wayne RESA. My role here is about providing navigational support and resources to the recent graduates of the Ready to Launch Program. Our episode today is actually about highlighting the incredible work of the career counselors who make this important initiative a success for so many students across Wayne County.
So, I wanted to take a minute to introduce two of our seven incredible career counselors that we have working in the Ready to Launch Program. We have today with us on podcast Tanji Lilly and Chris Ferrell. Tanji Lilly is serving and her fourth year as a Wayne RESA Ready to Launch career counselor. After transitioning out of public relations Tanji has served almost 12 years in education. Having the privilege of connecting students to hope and opportunities has been the best part of her current and past positions. She's currently working with students in Wayne Westland, South Redford, Taylor, and Detroit Public Schools.
Chris Ferrell has worked for Livonia Public Schools for 23 years. He started his career at Stevenson High School as a marketing educator and co-op coordinator. He has over 15 years of school counseling experience from Frost Middle school, and most recently at Franklin High School. He now serves as the career counselor with Wayne RESA’s Ready to Launch program, serving the students serving the students of Northville, Wyandotte, Annapolis, Lincoln Park, and Redford Union. So, first of all, Chris and Tanji, welcome to the podcast.
Tanji Lilly: Thank you for having us.
Chris Ferrell: Thank you.
Brad Minton: So, one of the things that people who are listening to the episode today might be wondering, is what is the Ready to Launch program and what kind of work, do you do? So,
Chris, I’ll go ahead and start with you. Can you provide us a little overview of the Ready to Launch program and some of the services that you provide for students across Wayne County?
Chris Ferrell: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for having us. So, we provide a variety of services in our program. We meet with students one-on-one to discuss their interest in future careers and next steps after graduation. We will sometimes do small and large group presentations on those topics as well.
Brad Minton: Fantastic. Tanji, was there anything in addition to what Chris had mentioned in terms of services that you offer?
Tanji Lilly: No, I mean, that's it. I mean, I just always would like to bring up that we get to work with some amazing counseling teams across the county. And so, that's kind of one of the highlights of this work: just seeing the way the different teams function. And then, just being invited in and having the privilege of working with those students. So, like he mentioned, the one-on-ones, the group sessions…we also, you know, last year, like everybody else, we converted and did some adapting and so we have some virtual offerings now. So, just being able to connect those students opportunities, get them out of the building sometimes. So that was always nice when we could get them into different industries, let them see those careers at work. So, we just really try to expand their career awareness and connect them to opportunities and like I said, hope. That's huge.
Brad Minton: I love that. So, one of the things that people might be wondering as they're listening to, really, some of the incredible things that you're doing with this program is how students are getting in front of you in the first place? How they're actually referred to you? So, whoever would like to kind of dive in and take that one; how can students get connected with you and have access to this?
Tanji Lilly: So, what we've done is if we're in a building, it’s data driven. So, we might do our presentation and then as students complete a survey from there, the entire counseling team is looking at the survey and kind of figuring out which kids might need the resources of an additional Ready to Launch counselor. Some students will self-refer. So, if they find out they have a career counselor in the building, and they see a flyer with your, you know, name, phone number, or a QR code, they'll just, you know, request an appointment. We've had students attend our career chats, whether they were in our buildings or they just found out about the chats elsewhere. And we give them our contact information there and then they just reach out, you know; once we share the resources or they just reach out before we send the resources, just because they'd like to talk more about what they're thinking. Chris, you want to add something?
Chris Ferrell: Yeah, I think you I think you really covered it all. I mean, we primarily work with graduating seniors but we're finding that since the program has been around for about five years now, we're ready to, sort of, spread the wealth, if you will, and start working with, you know, juniors and underclassmen. And so, depending on our time and how that looks throughout the school year will be meeting with juniors and that might be in a small or large group presentation style.
Tanji Lilly: I’ve had some great sessions with ninth and 10th graders, just really, like, you know, we convert it. So, we make it more fun. We might do a game where they're naming careers and a pathway using some of the, you know, top in-demand career resources and everything. So yeah, definitely try to support what the counseling team in a district is already working on.
So, if they're encouraging Xello or Naviance, then I will lean right in to support that. But, definitely encouraging them to do their best academically, because then all of these different career options will be available to you. So yeah, really enjoy being able to get into those 9th and 10th grade presentations and classrooms, and juniors as well.
Brad Minton: One of the things that I appreciate so much about what you're talking about is just having this really great adaptability, and being able to partner with those counseling teams to be able to recognize what they're already doing to be a support for them, and, you know, find a way to integrate what you have to offer into those existing services, and I think that's great. One of the things that you did mention, Tanji, was about resources. I was hoping you could maybe highlight a couple of the main resources or tools that you will provide students in your work.
Tanji Lilly: Yeah, of course. So, if a district has invested in something, I definitely want to support that first. I mean, because when we choose a particular program, you know, they're not free. So, if they're using Xello, if they're using Naviance, if they're using Career Cruising, etc., then I definitely work with the counseling team to figure out what they're suggesting first, if there's any modules they really want them to achieve. And then I try to increase the relevance for the students, because sometimes the students are thinking, “Oh, this is just busy work… they're making us do it.” I’m like, “Oh no, this is an amazing resource. So, let's look at Xello right now. Let's look at, you know, all these different career videos.” What you guys tend to like to do is to scroll down to the job you were already considering, and what I’m encouraging you to do is expand your career vocabulary today, and look at 10 jobs you had no idea might be of interest to you. So, definitely supporting what the districts are doing first. One of my go-tos is always Going Pro. So, we do spend a lot of time talking about the trades; I love what they've done with the site and so I’m a hands on person; I’m a visual person. I love to see people doing the work, and so I think that, you know, a lot of the kids benefit from that. If any of the colleges have videos or really distinct programs that I will definitely take a student to that program page and walk them through. So, if a student says, “I’m interested in X at this place,” one of the first things I’m doing is taking them to that resource, because a lot of times they haven't actually done it. So, I’m taking them to the resource and as a counselor now, I’m watching them to see how they're responding to the information. So, I’m saying, “Okay, you're saying you're interested in this. Let's talk about these classes, how do you feel?” So, I’m looking for eyebrows furrowing or like confused faces, and as a counselor I’m now trying to get a sense of, “Hmm…you don't really seem to be loving all these classes. Are you sure you really wanted this, or are we looking for something a little bit more hands on?”
So, I’ll always use the college resources, MI Talent, Pure Michigan Talent Connect… So, I definitely want to show them where the career opportunities are. So, if it's something that's going to be…won't have a lot of jobs, I like for them to see that in real time and not to discourage them, but to help them understand that they're going to need to be really driven; that they're going to need to look for internships, apprenticeships, start volunteering in those industries… something to make them set themselves apart so Pure Michigan Talent Connect, Going Pro, whatever career resource the school is already using, Virtual Job Shadow and a few others…Own It… like there's some great ones out there.
Brad Minton: I really, really love that you outline so many of these different resources, but also really kind of talked about the psychology behind it and really you know just kind of taking an inventory of how students are responding to the different resources and again adapting to what you're seeing in real time. And, you know, one element to what you just said that I thought was really, really important was about exposure and about you know getting students exposed to things that have been out of their awareness that they didn't know existed. You know, we talk a lot about the skilled trades and how so many students just do not understand all the range of different opportunities that are available in the skilled trades across Wayne County. You know, Chris, I was hoping you could kind of talk a little bit about some of these areas where students can really get exposed to these opportunities that that maybe extends beyond simply, you know, a computer screen.
Chris Ferrell: Yeah, absolutely. One of the things I wanted to point out, when we were talking about resources is just the amount of resources, we as a department and team have put together. And so, in our own work we've been able to sort of curate, sort of, the best of, if you will, informational resources and be able to share that in a really easy user-friendly way. You know, we learned so much from being remote for last year that we really had to take a lot of the handouts and things that we would normally share with students and families and really adapt them and put them into a way that we could share them with them remotely. And many of us have websites, individual websites, that we use. We have a website that the department uses, which is great as well. So, I’m just really proud that we were able to adapt to a challenge, very challenging situation that, you know, we were all sort of going through last year. But as far as career exposure goes, you know, we provide a quarterly newsletter that we share with all of our schools throughout Wayne County. And that gives an opportunity for parents and students to see all the events that are occurring in their area. One of them that is new to us this year is the parent information series. And so, one of the things we found as career counselors was in talking with students, there was a disconnect between what the students knew or didn't know and how they communicated that information to their parents. And so, a few of the career counselors got together and decided we need to do some education for parents. And so, we've put together a series to assist parents in offering them resources so that they can help their student as they're going through this this career journey. And it may have been mentioned before, and Tanji has done an amazing job, we've had a variety of virtual career chats. And so, we've been able to basically bring industry experts people who work in a variety of fields together on a Zoom call and then have students and, in some cases, parents listen to what these experts have to say. And so, it's a great opportunity for a variety of students to get information about these career areas that they might be interested in.
Brad Minton: Fantastic, and I love that you have this need that you've recognized and are, you know, really curating these resources available, not just for students, but for parents as well. So, I think it's a fantastic way for you to be able to, you know, reach that collective audience. You know, one of the things that I think is so great about some of the things that both of you are bringing to the table here, it's just bringing an awareness of the amazing opportunities that students can really, really get involved in, early on, you know, through their secondary education and beyond. And so, you know, one of the things that I thought would be kind of neat to get both of your perspectives on is what are maybe a couple of those opportunities that you see, time and again, that so many of the staff that you work with in your various schools don't know about yet and you're having to provide some education and resources to them about.
Tanji Lilly: I think we spend a lot of time letting them know about the micro credentials and the really short programs. We are all aware, if you've been in the schools for a while, that there are students who are just absolutely not sold on the four-year…you know, there was a generation right above them that you know really complains pretty loudly about student debt etc. So, they're hearing that and they're interpreting that as I shouldn't go to college. And we definitely don't want that to be what they take away. So, just letting everyone know about some of these short programs and how we can maybe sell a kid on a one-semester certificate from Schoolcraft, an ethical hacking course from Henry Ford or Wayne County…and just kind of letting them know about the benefits of those short programs. Because some of our students need small wins; they can't fathom you know signing up for a four-year deal yet, especially if high school hasn't gone well for them. So, a lot of the time, some of the students we’re referred to are students who may be at a certain GPA range or, you know, they appear to be confused, etc. And so, those students aren't feeling like, “Okay, yeah, I can go to Michigan State to be successful.” So, just letting them know about the really short programs and making the counselors aware, like, “Hey, there's a workshop we can get them in. Empower has you know, a technical apprenticeship.” Or, you know, internship setup; we can help them to connect to. So, really just connecting them to short program, so letting the counselors know; and they've been great about this. Like, it's not that the counselors can't; it's always just a time issue. So, I’ve heard counselors, you know, because we can hear him from the other room like they took some amazing things from the road show and I heard her given all that information to a parent. So just letting them know about the short programs, letting them know continuously about the apprenticeships and those different entry points. I mean, stackable credentials is kind of our thing, like, “Okay, we can start here and end there,” as opposed to, “ blank high school to blank university and that's the only way to get in.” So, letting the students know about those short programs and making sure the counselors have a toolbox of what the legit, you know, verifiable, vetted programs in our area are.
Chris Ferrell: I would say, one of the opportunities that a lot of school communities aren't familiar with is the TIP program or the Tuition Incentive Program. And so, students, in some cases, have no idea that they can earn free money for college because they've received Medicaid insurance throughout their growing up period. And so, it's so exciting when you meet with a student for the first time, and you have that TIP list that the school is shared with you, and then to be able to say to them, “Congratulations you're eligible for free money for college!” and they just look at you like, “What are you talking about?” And when you explain the program to them and what it entails, sometimes it's almost emotional because they went from feeling like they had no way to finance their future to, “Wow, I actually have a shot now.” And that's such a great feeling as a counseling professional to be able to offer that hope. I think that's so key in in our work with students.
Tanji Lilly: Yeah, back before we were social distancing, I’d have kids hug me when I tell them they had TIP they would just hug me. [they’d say], “Can you call my mom and tell her the same thing?” because they just had no idea that there was money sitting there earmarked for them. So I got to do one of those the other day, and we call it and we checked, then there was money for my hey the program you want is now going to be covered. They’re beyond excited. So as a regular counselor I love when I had the opportunity to do that. And here, yeah, whenever I have access to a TIP list, you know, I’m going to make it a good thing; I’m going to say that you know the Medicaid part, you know, just say that things happen. But the celebration of what you can now go do, and these doors that are open and, you know, that's just one barrier that's gone for those students. So that's, you know, we love to work through that list.
Brad Minton: Yeah, this is incredibly empowering work that that you all get to participate in, and I think it's amazing, some of these opportunities to be able to provide doorways and to get hope and optimism, you know, back into their lives. I think it's incredibly empowering. And like you said also, bring down these, you know, mental barriers that exist about, “Oh, I can't do that because I can't fund a four-year degree,” or, you know, “There's no opportunities that are accessible to me because I can't afford it.” And so, I think it's just incredibly empowering. So, I mean, you guys have provided some amazing examples of some of the work that you're doing every day and definitely going to leave today with, you know, some success stories. But before that I was hoping, you could provide our listeners an idea of some of the upcoming events and some of the things that we could get excited about, for I guess the rest of this year and going into 2022.
Tanji Lilly: In January, there'll be the parent information series and we will also be a business career chat in January.
Chris Ferrell: And then, just to sort of continue those career chats will be discussing IT. So, technology we’ll have some business professionals come in to talk about their own journey and how they got into information technology and what opportunities are available to them, and so we'll do that in February. And then in the spring last year we had two career chats on real estate. And we find a lot of students who are interested in going into that field, investing in real estate or becoming a real estate broker. And so, we brought in some professionals, not just from the real estate side, but some of those other careers that are indirectly related, like home contractors, home inspectors, mortgage lenders, even folks from social media who sort of work to promote that particular real estate brand. And so, that's been really exciting to be able to offer those career chats to students and families throughout Wayne county.
Tanji Lilly: And we've really been updating our social media a lot. So, that's one of the best places to find out about upcoming career chats, parent information series, and anything else we have going on.
Brad Minton: Yes, 100%. So, if you get an opportunity, definitely follow our department on social media. We're on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram currently under Wayne RESA Counseling. So, you should be able to find all of our pages that way and make sure that you're connected with us. So, as we start closing this episode out, I think it's been just incredible to be able to learn a little bit more in depth about some of the amazing work that you're doing and the impact that you're having on students presently. I was kind of hoping that we could continue with this this feel-good episode today and leave off with, you know, maybe one significant success story that both of you have in your work. So Chris, I’ll go ahead and start with you.
Chris Ferrell: Sure. So, one of the students I worked with last year from one of my schools happened to be homeless. Her and her family had lost their home, and so they were living in a hotel. And so, working with the family and with the school counselor and some other supports, we were able to assist that student and basically, giving her the tools she needed to start attending college that fall. And so, just with some grant funding that we found, we were able to help her get some supplies that she needed. She needed drivers training to get to and from school and work, and so we were able to remove that barrier by assisting her with the opportunities to do those things. And that was just exciting to see and be able to do and have that kind of impact on someone's life.
Tanji Lilly: I’m not going to follow directions. I’m going to do two, but I’ll make them quick.
One, because we do spend a lot of time encouraging the apprenticeships and really getting the students into the in-demand fields. I has a student I worked with all year, like this was probably eight or nine sessions, so every time he knew I was in the building, he was there. He definitely wanted to secure an apprenticeship, he was in CTE, he was doing all the right things, but we just worked on his confidence and being able to go up and talk to, you know, a union rep at a table. And so, we went to Ready, Set, Build, we worked on an elevator speech, we made sure his resume was ready and he actually secured an apprenticeship at the end of his senior year. So, we were really excited about that.
And then I had another student I worked with, and it was just it was a little bit more brief of an interaction. But I let her know, you know, how she should be, you know, moving through her next steps. And so, she kind of didn't follow the directions at that time, but she calls me from campus, so this is like August. And she's panicked, and she's saying financial aid didn't work out and she's afraid she's going to have to go home. And the student was TIP and so I’m like, “Okay. Well, did you sign up for this program first? And then, you're going to stack your credentials and then roll into your bachelors, etc. I was like, “So, I need you to go talk to financial aid, I need you to go talk to your advisor and I kind of want you to reroute the way you're doing your program.” You'll still end up with the same credentials, but the financial aid is going to work out different. And she called me back just like, “Can I send you a present? I was about to move out of my dorm and come home and they made it work. I don't owe anything, and I can stay in school!” So, just super happy about that one, and ,you know, the other stories…just like our whole team is doing amazing things and we're still cool for everyone who's welcomed us into your buildings.
Brad Minton: Well, I know I’m empowered and hopefully people listening to this podcast are feeling empowered as well. And there's some significant impact that's being made here through your work every day. Whether it's, you know, helping homeless students or just being able to get through significant barriers that prevent them from achieving their goals. And so, I thank both of you for taking your time on this particular episode today to talk a little bit about some of this incredible work and really getting excited for the next year. Because it is going to be an exciting year, you know, where we extend our reach, and, you know, get very, very creative in our work. So, we want to thank the listeners today and, hopefully, this was incredibly informative for you.
This was the getting to the core podcast. Lastly, we wanted to mention that all the resources, information and events that were shared in the pocket state will be available in the show notes.
In this episode, Kyle Gnagey is joined by Heather Vaughan-Southard (Professional Learning Director - MAEIA), Brenda Bressler (Music Educator - Huron School District), and Susan Briggs (Art Educator - Dearborn Public Schools) to discuss the role of Arts Education in social emotional learning (SEL). Our three guests discuss the importance of student development through the arts, as well as the role art plays in supporting learning across the curriculum.
Length - 20 minutes
Here, you’ll gain free access to the MAEIA Assessments in Dance, Music, Theatre, and the Visual Arts, as well as the MAEIA Blueprint, Program Review Tool, Blogs, Professional Learning opportunities and the MAEIA calendar.
To learn more about our recent activity, look at the MAEIA Annual Report.
Heather Vaughan-Southard, MAEIA Professional Learning Director (firstname.lastname@example.org)
MAEIA Links and Information
SEL in the Arts blog series by Heather Vaughan-Southard
- Embodiment: The Depth of SEL in and through the Arts
- Shifting from Implicit to Explicit: SEL in and through the Arts
- Talking Process: Getting Clear on SEL in and through the Arts
- Choreographing Connection: Interactive Dynamics of SEL in the Arts
- Rigor and Resilience: SEL within the Assessment Process
Join MAEIA’s Better Together in the Arts (BTA)
BTA is a year-long community of support for arts educators that meets one Sunday of each month from 2-3pm from October to June. In this program, arts educators deepen their understanding of social-emotional learning in and through the arts, Culturally Responsive teaching, and the formative assessment process. The MAEIA suite of resources support highly effective teaching practices and offer tools for continuous improvement planning in the arts.
Kyle Gnagey: Welcome to another healthy serving of Wayne RESA’s podcast: Getting to the Core. Today's topic features a conversation around social emotional learning, or SEL, and how it is embedded in the arts. Before we take our first bite, I'd like to start off by defining just a few specific talking points that will guide our conversation today.
The arts, particularly in education, provide ways for students to connect with themselves, with each other, and the world around them. Social emotional learning, or SEL, focuses learning around five competencies: self-awareness, self-management, relationship skills, responsible decision making, and social awareness. When we teach the artistic, creative, and feedback processes, we position students to directly interact with these concepts, while engaging in rigorous arts experiences.
Now, arts and education is a very broad topic as is social emotional learning, so before you think we've bitten off more than we can chew, let me introduce you to our three guests who will guide us through these dense subjects. Here to chomp and chat with us today are three arts educators who specialize in three distinct arts disciplines.
First, we are joined by Heather Vaughn-Southard. Heather has directed K through 12 and university-level dance programs and currently serves as the Professional Learning Director of the Michigan Art Education Instruction and Assessment project known as MAEIA. She also is a part of the education team for the Polyvagal Institute, teaching about the nervous system regulation and the art and science of human. Welcome, Heather.
Heather Vaughan-Southard: Thanks for having me.
Kyle Gnagey: Next, we have Brenda Bressler, who is a music educator in the Huron School District located in New Boston, Michigan. In her 24 years with the district, she has instructed students in grades K through 12 with a concentration in middle school education. Thank you for joining us, Brenda.
Brenda Bressler: My pleasure, thank you for having me.
Kyle Gnagey: Finally, we are joined by Susan Briggs, who is the art resource teacher for the Dearborn Public Schools, leading an apartment of 35 wonderful K through 12 arts educators. She's in her 24th year of teaching elementary art. We're glad to have you here, Susan.
Susan Briggs: And I'm glad to be here, thank you.
Kyle Gnagey: I’d like to start with Heather if I may. Heather, could you start our conversation by providing like a big picture perspective on what engaging with the arts has to offer students, as they connect to social emotional learning?
Heather Vaughan-Southard: Sure. So, I think of the arts really being a great delivery system for what I consider to be the most authentic form of social emotional learning. And that's because we are teaching students to engage in embodied ways, so they sense where they are in space and time, they start paying attention to their bodily signals. You know, if you think about the answers that are considering when they walk into the movement studio: How am I feeling on this day? ...and not just happy/sad but where am I feeling sluggish? Am I able to move as quickly as I need to in order to complete the choreography that's being asked of me? ...and more.
When we think of theater actors walking into their studio spaces ready to embody character, they're doing so with consideration to things like their facial expression and their tone of voice, how they're holding their body and their posture and alignment and their proximity to each other and objects in space. And so, again, we're using this embodied collection of systems to really engage in how we're creating meaning for our audiences, and we're also starting to pay attention to how we do this in our relationships in greater life.
And when we think about musicians and visual artists, although this happens for the dancers and actors, we also think about how we're using our technical skill to elicit emotion for other people. When we sustain that breath or hold that note that may offer indications of hope and sustainability, we're doing that by constantly assessing what are we doing with our bodies, how are we engaging in this process, and how is this impacting the people that we are seeking to move. And so, all of these things actually have relationship to our nervous system state.
So, in the polyvagal world, which is Polyvagal Theory developed by Dr. Stephen Porges, this walks us through how the autonomic nervous system functions and how our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems help us move through self-protection into safety and connection.
And within that work, we're constantly… our bodies are constantly assessing the environment that we are in, the relationships that we are in, the tasks during that are being asked of us;
and it allows us to move through various nervous system states. And all of that is work that is directly addressed in art classrooms, mostly taught in the implicit ways, but has the potential to be taught in explicit ways that teaches students not only how to improve their artistic work, but how to improve their relationships of themselves, to communicate more effectively through body language and through voice with other people.
And then, when we do this, we've set this against the backdrop of social awareness. Because the arts really serve as not only a record of our experiences, but also our commentary.
And so, we're thinking about what is the lived experience that we have, how is that compliment or contrast to those of other people, and then, how do we continue to evolve these conversations effectively, efficiently, and emphatically?
Kyle Gnagey: Thanks so much, Heather. That was very insightful. So Brenda, you're a music educator; I’m wondering if you have some insight into how music and the arts have been used to support academic achievement in schools, and how you see that relationship now and 2021.
Brenda Bressler: Oh, of course. So, for years, music and what I’ll call the core subjects have been intertwined. Anyone who thinks back to their early education, probably learn their ABCs through the song. And music has always been used to help those other subject areas. We think about the connection with mathematics, being able to teach different concepts…Schoolhouse Rock in the 1980s was all about music and putting it with those core subjects on a Saturday morning. And so, those little kids were learning something else through there and it's worked. And it's true: music can elevate on so many different levels, the different core subjects. The thing you have to be cautious of, however, is that we have to realize that music can exist on its own. Music education for music education’s sake, is valid and necessary. It does not have to be linked to a core subject to have value. While it can complement and it can help other areas, as Heather expressed, the arts just on their own help the human being and help the soul, for lack of a better word. When my musicians can take a song and think about what did the composer… What was their intention here? Why did they make that note go up high? Why were they holding it out, why is it very bouncy? They start to have those human feelings and the interaction part that's so important in this social emotional environment. Music can reach them on a level that words can’t. So, they can pick up a piece of music, whether it's on the piano, on trombone, and they can put into music their feelings that they just can't express another way.
Now don't get me wrong, it will definitely help all of the other subjects, also. Because music is mathematics, because we're talking about note values and how long and the duration. It is science because we're talking about the acoustics of the room and how to use air to produce that sound. But we have to be careful that we don't only say that music can only exist if it supports something else. Music education is important to our children it's important to our society.
Think back to this past year and a half. What got people through these tough times? It was their films, their TV, their music that they were able to link into. And so, realizing that the arts have a very valuable and substantial place in our education system is pretty key.
Kyle Gnagey: Thank you Brenda. I would agree very much with that. So, my next question is for Susan. Susan, as a visual arts educator I’m sure you see students work as like a window into their lives: so, would you share your perspective on how the arts support the students?
Susan Briggs: Of course. So, while the performing arts can coach the social skills needed to build relationships and more, visual art gives students an outlet to explore and express themselves nonverbally. Making art can be really confidence building and rewarding, and sometimes students say they aren't good at art. I’m sure we've all heard I can't draw a straight line with a ruler. But I explained it takes practice, just like learning a new language or how to sing a song, or how to play an instrument. It's something that just needs practice and it's using experimenting and problem-solving skills to express what they are thinking or feeling.
Sometimes art classes and music is why students want to come to school. It's a place where they can explore create things on their own. They learned there isn't one correct answer in art, like in math there is a correct answer, and they all love the different kinds of materials, a lot of things that they would never be able to use at home…like most homes don't have kilns, you know, when they do clay. National art education research has shown that high school art programs engage students and sometimes keep at-risk students from dropping out of school. Many of my students are ESL learners, English as a second language, and it's really neat when they come to art, you can almost see them relax… like really immediately, just because they can watch demonstrations or look at what their neighbor is doing, and even if they don't understand what is being said or what's written on the board. They can still participate in the lesson completely. So, it helps these and all students communicate what they're feeling or just give them some time to enjoy creating things.
I also like to introduce a lot of art history to my students, and sort of take them around the world through art, where they can be influenced about what they see and maybe make some art in the style of other artists. This year for our goals for professional development, Dearborn elementary art teachers are developing and teaching some social emotional learning lessons. Many are structured around a book for elementary students to start it and they're learning things about emotions or empathy, self-awareness, all the things SEL embodies. So, we're trying to make them open-ended lessons so there's a lot of choices built in so students can make their own decisions about they want to explore, but also what they want to share or maybe keep a little bit private.
So the cool thing about art is it something anyone can do, really. And I really believe that it's an integral part of education. Like Brenda was saying, it can stand alone. It also does naturally tie into other subjects and they reinforce each other, being an art teacher watching students grow and express themselves is amazingly rewarding and it's really fun, too. I have the best job.
Kyle Gnagey: Thank you, Susan. So, you just mentioned other subjects, and so I know that thus far we've talked about the value of engaging the arts through the content of the arts, but there are other practices that are heavily used in the arts that can be used in other disciplines. So, Heather could you speak about assessment?
Heather Vaughan-Southard: Sure, in my role with the Michigan Arts Education Instruction and Assessment Project we spend a fair amount of time helping teachers and other disciplines understand how we use assessment within the art in a way that can really create more safety for students, when they are being evaluated in other subject areas as well. As we think about the national core art standards and the Michigan standards we've created performance standards at MAEIA that collapse some of those, to really focus on the pillars of create, perform, and respond. And this goes back to those processes that you had mentioned in the introduction wherein when we're developing artistic practice we're really looking at refining the technical skills of the performer or of the artist. And then, when we're moving through creativity, we're really engaging in divergent thinking processes. So, students have the opportunity to explore composition, to take what is happening on the inside and take that outside of their bodies and outside of their minds.
And then we use the feedback process to teach them how to look at that more objectively, and to process their lived experience through a shared language that can help us refine their work artistically as well as creatively and build more relationship to their social awareness and to one another within the classroom. So, two ways that that can happen in terms of assessment are performance assessment and also the formative assessment process. So MAEIA has created 360 performance assessments in dance, theater, music, and visual art, and many of these connect to the competencies of social emotional learning in the content in and of itself. But that role of assessment can really be used in a rhythmic capacity within our instruction. So, we want the assessment to be embedded within the curriculum so that, from a teacher's point of view, it's not the separate entity that comes outside of anything or after a unit; it's consistently done within it.
But we also want to think about how students move through the assessment process and experiential ways. That it is experientially embedded so for students, that means that it's not a separate experience from the learning cycle; it is a completion of that learning cycle that then repeats, and allows them to cycle and move through by adding more content and then they're progressing and skill or progressing and creativity and they're progressing in confidence and resilience building, simply because of the methods in which we do that, right?
So, I think about even my own kids going through their movement or their music classes. Where they're starting playing tasks that begin with whole ensemble. And so, there's safety in numbers and then, when they make a mistake, they sit down they circle what was mistake they've made, and they've identified exactly what needs to get worked on. And then, they develop the skills of rehearsal so that they know how to go back and master that skill. And then, this cycle repeats, and as it does that whole group of safety in numbers gets smaller as it scales down. So, the risk of the experience gets a little bit more intense, but so does the skill that they've been developing throughout the entire process.
And so, when we use performance assessment in that capacity it's just part of the natural experience. But they don't see it as test day, they see it as an extension of this continues to move through, and this is just part of what this learning is like in this classroom. And so, when we also engage in the formative assessment process, it's more of that as well. The students have the opportunity to borrow the teachers regulated nervous system. I know you are with me, I know you are supporting me in this process, you are using really clear learning targets to help me understand the content. But you're also using deep, thoughtful questioning to pull out what I know in the way that I know it. Again, it's not about what I can Google, or what I can look up; it's not about this experience that is separate from how instruction has occurred. This is all part of what we do and we do it together and we do it in bite sized, tolerable pieces that is OK, for my nervous system to stay open and connected rather than moving into self-protection, right? So that we are trying to balance, where we experienced that rigor and where we experienced that resilience making. So, those are just a couple examples and you could find some of those very direct resources on the Michigan Assessment Consortium website and on MAEIA website and we can include those in the show notes for you as well.
Kyle Gnagey: Thank you, those are very good examples. And yeah, I just want to echo that we're going to include a lot of information in the show notes for this particular episode, particularly because it's hard to remember certain web addresses and email addresses when you're listening to them. But there is just a wealth of information covering these topics, I feel like we just barely had time to scratch the surface. I’m just really grateful for all of your time today. Each of you had just very fascinating things to talk about and I appreciate your work and putting this together, and I wish we could just continue the conversation.
For those of our listeners who'd like to you know look more into the ideas and the resources that we've shared today, like we said, we are going to put the web address in the show notes. We're also going to put Heather's email directly in there she's been really kind to provide her contact information. As you heard she has quite a bit of information on these topics, so please contact her to learn more about this.
Thanks once again for listening and thanks for your time today. And I hope that we can have you guys back, because this is just big topics and we can go on for quite a while. So thanks again.
For this episode, we are joined by Ginni Winters, a School Culture and Equity Consultant at Wayne RESA, and Dr. Velicia Humes, a School Climate Consultant at Wayne RESA, to discuss school culture and climate, and how the pandemic has brought to light issues that can occur when the culture and climate of a school is not conducive to learning. In addition, they give ideas on how teachers and leaders and take steps to improve the culture and climate of a building using Bruce Perry's 3Rs - Regulate, Relate, and Reason.
Length - 52 minutes
Jason Siko: Welcome to another healthy serving of Wayne RESA’s podcast, Getting to the Core. Today's topic features a conversation around school climate and culture. Here to chomp and chat with us today are Virginia “Ginni” Winters and Dr. Velicia Humes. Before we take our first bite, let's learn a little more about our two guests. Ginni Winters is currently serving as a School Culture and Equity Consultant at Wayne RESA. Prior to Wayne RESA, she worked with a variety of organizations, which include educating and leading inside the Detroit Public Schools system for over 20 years. A design team member for MDE’s Coaching 101, and serving as a national faculty member for the school development program at Yale university. Ms. Winter’s immediate educational goal is to complete her doctoral degree in curriculum instruction and assessment.
Her dynamic partner, Dr. Velicia Humes serves as School Climate Consultant with Wayne RESA, and is currently part of the leadership of the Wayne County School Justice Partnership and SE Equity Coalition. Dr. Humes has a background in secondary, post-secondary, and adult educational leadership, as well as talent management. Examples of prior work include implementation of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs at the University of Nevada Las Vegas and positions within the human resources department at the City of Scottsdale, one being the Director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
And with that, I welcome you both.
Virginia Winters: Thank you so much. I just want to say, good evening to our audience and good evening to Jason and Kyle, our colleagues and, of course, Dr. Humes and it's a real pleasure to be here.
Velicia Humes: Hi Jason, hi Kyle. Hello everyone, thank you for tuning in.
Virginia Winters: So, before we begin this conversation, we'd love to do just give me a moment to do a check in. And we do this in anticipation of some of the things we want to share with you today. So just take a moment to check in and just with yourself to think about what are some of the things that are in your environment that serve as stressors for you.
And after you had an opportunity to bring that to your awareness we’re going to ask you to take a moment to think about what else is in your environment that can serve as a place where you can decompress and relax. Because what we're talking about today really lets us know that we have to take these moments to just have a real awareness critical consciousness about ourselves, and so we welcome you to a conversation that we’re titling: Culture, Climate and COVID-19, the impact on learning.
Velicia Humes: We know that, over the last 20 months or so we've we found ourselves living and working through two crises: the COVID pandemic and the social upheaval and racial reckoning from the injustices that have occurred across the country. During this time, we've had to go into total remote learning, many of us, and then move in transition back to hybrid learning or face-to-face. I think it's safe to say that we've endured even more of our share of stress, anxiety, and for many of us trauma and this stress, anxiety, and trauma doesn't stay home, but it comes with us in the spaces, that we go to. So, it's imperative that we realize that everyday staff, building leaders, and students, as well as their families, are bringing this stressor… these stressors in. At the same time, there have been young people who thrived in these remote environments, and research says that they were able to do that because they had a sense of agency, some purpose, and then leadership.
So, when we talk today about how culture, climate, and COVID impact learning and teaching, we want you to think about this conversation on two levels: a systemic level, as well as an individual level. What do you think, Ginni?
Virginia Winters: Yeah you know, I was thinking Velicia, as you talked, is that you know we have really been busy and harried lives and in schools and we mainly have our gaze fixed on teaching and learning. And what seems to sometimes fall to the wayside, is the idea that we are living in a climate and a culture, and that they hold an influence on our everyday goings on. And so I think will be important for us to really lift this idea that the content and the culture are actually the factors that influence how this whole scenario begin to unfold.
Velicia Humes: So, tell us more about that, Ginni.
Virginia Winters: So let's just define that. We always talk about culture. And now, sometimes we some may confuse that with holidays, but I’m talking about the culture of a group who are coming together and we define culture as the way we do things around here. Years ago, I remember a serving as a counselor in Detroit and a mother came into the office, one day, and asked a question. Her son had forgotten his lunch and she said, “What would have happened if I weren't you weren't able to connect with me?”
And so, everybody said, “Well, we would’ve done something.” I said, you know, I had a conversation with the office staff, and I said what she was asking was what's the way you do things around here…how do you treat children around here…In the absence of parents? And so culture is the way we do things around here, the way we learn to behave, operate, problem solve, intervene, intersect with each other, connect with each other as we've gone about our work. And the climate, I mean the culture, really is that overall piece that really is very hard to to really influence outside of climate. So, unpack for us a little bit the idea of how climate interfaces with culture and why aren’t they the same.
Velicia Humes: I’m glad you asked that because often I hear our professionals interchange those terms and they're quite different. So, you said that culture is how we do things around here where climate actually is how we do things around here, makes me feel and others feel. And so to give you a great example of that and whether or not you know it's true or not I’m gonna identify an agency, and then you think about how you respond when I say: Department of Motor Vehicles. You have to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Look at everyone, everyone has the same response. That's an example of how things around here make people feel that come through the door. One thing I can say about the Department of Motor Vehicles is that they're very consistent. I have lived in several states, do not take this personal, that climate is in every office that I’ve ever gone to, and the reason is because the culture that is found in those departments are centered on getting the work done of the individuals that sit behind that desk. It’s not focused on the efficient delivery or the customer service level of those at their survey. And so the processes that are put in place, the protocols that you hear the “go stand in this line” and then, “come over to that line.” Nope, you're in the wrong line, now you have to go to the end of the line. All of that is because what's more important is the completion of that document that you have in your hand and who has to have it, and what they have to do with it next. So, culture and climate is huge when we're talking about moving in to a school, or going back to work, even with the trauma and the anxiety that we have lived through over the last 20 months or so. It's important that our culture is one that provides individuals a safe and healthy and emotionally well experience and we've discovered that's even more important, at least at first, before you even start to teach and you try to instruct. What do you think about that Ginni?
Virginia Winters: Yeah. You know, I was thinking is really powerful to have an understanding about the difference between culture and climate. Culture, of course, being the things that we've learned to do as part of the way we've operated, and then climate is that lever that allows us to influence the culture. But here's where the intersection becomes interesting. Add something like COVID-19 to the formula and you've got an event a something that shaped the whole context. And it doesn't mean that your culture goes away, it still rings around those same patterns of behavior. But one of those patterns of behavior are not powerful and influential enough to support a safe, healthy, emotionally balanced climate.
Velicia Humes: Correct.
Virginia Winters: COVID-19, in effect, turned our schools upside down and exposed many inequities.
Velicia Humes: That existed prior to the pandemic.
Virginia Winters: Absolutely, and so, while we really would like to be finished with COVID-19, but fact is we're still in the midst of it.
Velicia Humes: A COVID’s not finished with us, right?
Virginia Winters: COVID is not finished with us, and so what we'd like to do is just have a different dialogue with our viewing audience and also think with us. What's the relationship between a climate in your building, how you feel about the way you operate, your modus operandi; the culture, and the factors that COVID-19 have brought for you to wade through negotiate?
And so, many of our schools are returning back to their physical buildings. And we want to say, “Yay! We're able to go back to our physical buildings!” And yet, we’re wondering why life hasn't returned to its pre pandemic state. So let's just unpack that. All right, go ahead.
Velicia Humes: That’s simply because we're not in a pre-pandemic state; we are in the midst of a pandemic and until herd immunity is established, either by vaccinations or everyone has gotten it or however the epidemiologists are saying that needs to happen…but we know that 80% at least 80% or more of our population has to be vaccinated in order to manage COVID.
I think, even with that said, I think we're running back, ignoring the fact that there are some external factors that have occurred and some lived experiences that have resulted from, like I said earlier, COVID-19, social unrest, and in the racial reckoning with all of these movements. They didn't cease and, as a matter of fact, we can see some of the anxiety and the stress playing out amongst adults: that the violence on airplanes, the fights in grocery stores, the fights in parking lots of restaurants, you know, this pent up anxiety.
And, and one way that that's being played out in schools is fisticuffs. Kids are… there's more discipline going on, physical disciplines even even in schools that aren't known for that type of conflict resolution they're finding that a lot of their social media interactions are being solved in their in the hallways.
Now, that's not a phenomenon. What is somewhat of a phenomenon is the increase in those instances because being at home and not being face-to-face with their friends everyone moved to social media. So that's where those conversations have been taking place. So, when they're coming in and the kids are having these types of conflicts, we have to ask what are telling us?
Virginia Winters: Yes.
Velicia Humes: Because that's a form of communication, whether it's acceptable or not, what are they telling us? And just based on what Bruce Perry talks to us about, he’s a neuroscientist, he's saying he has a three R’s framework. And he's saying that, in order to have a trauma informed environment, that provides safety and support to not just students but also to staff and their families, there are three things that we need to do. And I pulled up the…I raised the example of the fights in the verbal conflicts, because we need to really find our place, ourselves in spaces to help us regulate.
Virginia Winters: Yes, you know, Velicia, here’s a piece… before we move on to Bruce’s steps that he's talked about, I want us to just focus the central question How can we create a culture of care for staff growth and well-being, as well as student growth and well-being? Now, for me that's a departure oil, and it is because what we tend to do is say what can we do for the kids? While they are central in our focus, we cannot and dare not ignore that these precipitating factors impact staff, students, families, communities. You don't live in a vacuum.
Velicia Humes: That’s right.
Virginia Winters: And so, if we don't have that recognition, then our strategies, no matter how well executed, no matter how well meaning, won't have the same impact of stabilizing the environment, so that we can have successful teaching and learning.
Velicia Humes: That’s true, Ginni. I’m going to liken what you just said to like when you take an airplane ride and the stewardess is telling you just in case we lose compression in the air, these masks will drop. And what if you're traveling with the child? First, put your mask on and then see to the child. That's what needs to happen in schools. Yes, we have to provide support for teachers. They have gone through the same well lived experiences as children, and not only that, but the children are taking cues for from them in terms of how they regulate themselves. So, if parents and adults are out, you know, using physical means for solving their problems or rage solving their problems, then it shouldn't be a stretch by anyone's imagination, that their counterparts called their children are doing the same.
Virginia Winters: Absolutely.
Velicia Humes: So, I believe, just as you said that it is really important to identify the realities of teachers, as well as staff and students, and families, and I say this because we realized the disproportionality that occurred as a result of COVID. And let me put it like this: no, the disproportionality already existed, so COVID it ripped that band-aid off, and move that curtain back, and it was stuck in front of our faces. But that means that not everyone has the same COVID experience.
You literally can have three groups or demographics, in your school that all experienced COVID differently. But you have one set of protocols. This isn't a one size fits all remedy situation that we're in.
Virginia Winters: That's right.
Velicia Humes: So, for one, the first part of that is acknowledging that everyone has had a different experience with COVID. Not just the students and the families, but even the teachers.
But you don't know what they need until you know what the realities are.
Virginia Winters: Absolutely. That whole idea of going into a person's lived reality, and I have to say, Velicia, one thing that I think that works against us, is that our schools have not been structured so that we have… we do that. Our school, the protocols in our schools don't allow time for people to sit down and have a conversation around the lived realities that are presenting. What we do is we start on the other end we start on the systematic behaviors.
And we don't really take the time to get to the causal effect. And so, hopefully, when we think about culture, climate, and COVID 19 and the impact on the learning that's going to happen, no learning will occur, unless we understand the impact.
Velicia Humes: And let's be candid about something else: the cult of education. Right now we're being driven by tests and standards. And, if the first thing you're hearing is that we need to get back to face-to-face because they've lost, they lost, they lost, they've lost so much, they've lost so much… I want to push back a little bit, because I think our kids gained a lot, too. They've gained a lot during this. Unfortunately, those aren't the variables that we're choosing to mention. So, I mean a lot of them gained empathy, a lot of them game compassion, a lot of them gained agency, a lot of them found purpose and actually realized that they could be leaders.
Virginia Winters: Yes.
Velicia Humes: They were leading their own lives and taking responsibility for. And so, the question is, well, what's that difference in that environment that provides that, in the ones that they're finding themselves walking into in the schools? And so, how do we recreate that agency that purpose, a sense of purpose and leadership? And when we talk about agency, Ginni tell them what we mean by agency.
Virginia Winters: So agency is the sense that whatever types of situations I am faced with, I have the knowledge, I have the skills, and I have the emot… now here's the piece we don't grow on the emotional savvy and intelligence to navigate it for the good of the student and myself. And and here's the piece, if you are told to just do everything by rote, then you lose that opportunity to develop agency. And you begin to doubt yourself, which is the lack of efficacy. I’m not sure, you know, we've got consummate educators in the schools. And given the right climate and culture that nurtures agency and you can't get there without consciousness, if you can't get there without reflection. You can only…you know people think, you know, I learned a lesson, by doing just doing this… No, reflecting on the experiences is how you learn the lesson.
Velicia Humes: Or even how you got the wrong answer. I tell people all the time we fail up all the time. I failed my way to success. You know, that’s part of learning. I mean and having that grace, but you have to have a culture that recognize and values, the journey of learning.
Virginia Winters: And you know what? I see teachers create that in their classrooms every day, every day, in the questions they ask… And so it's not a question of whether or not they have the ability to do it, it's whether or not we pay enough attention to both our climate and culture to create, recreate, and we create the spaces that happen.
Velicia Humes: So Ginni, what I’m hearing you say is that our teachers have the abilities to actually engage students around the explicit curriculum.
Virginia Winters: Yes.
Velicia Humes: You know, the math, science, the vocab…But that implicit curriculum, you know getting through to Bloom through Maslow; having to go through Maslow before you get to Bloom, is paramount these days. And so, how safe is your classroom? And I don't mean safe physically, but how safe emotionally and socially? Because if I’m not creating an environment that is acknowledging and honoring the funds of knowledge that every child is bringing in that classroom and their COVID realities, I’m trying to educate them when, in fact, they could be in fight flight or freeze. They could be in the bottom portion of their brain. No learning happens there and, quite frankly, their families can be operating in those three stages, too.
And you're trying to figure out what why won't they read the letter? Why haven't they… they need to drop them off at this place, not at this place and not really understanding or valuing the fact that they have them here every day. What do they need in order to hear the rest of it? Again, understanding the realities that individuals are bringing. And so, that's the first part of what Bruce Perry was talking about.
Virginia Winters: Regulating. Listen first. Then I love the way he says this: codevelop our strategies. That means at no time do you assume that you know you have the whole story.
And that that other person brings something to contribute to the working out of strategies and improved container strategies that will support them as well. So that means you have the assumption that they bring something to the table.
But you know, Velicia, as we were talking about this, I thought about what you said at the beginning. I need to think about this a couple of levels: inter-personally and also on the systems level. Just as we want to prepare for our students, someone has to actually do the same thing for the teachers. Someone must do the same thing for the administrators, so then this work is actually pervasive through all levels.
But I want to bring it down because we have our beloved teachers listening to us and our school leaders. We want you to be able to take away things that allowed you to really zero in and just… First, the first question is, how can I create the climate in my classroom, in my school, that's going to allow for teaching and learning? Which means I’m allowing people to be able to negotiate the trauma they felt like COVID 19. That puts them in the back of their brand, to help them get up to the front, where they can do some thinking. That's why I love that Bloom’s before Maslow…err…Maslow before Bloom’s; because we can't ignore basic needs.
Velicia Humes: So, a culture, a culture of how we do things around here has to intentionally incorporate regulation.
Virginia Winters: Yes.
Velicia Humes: It has to intentionally core incorporate relationships.
Virginia Winters: Yes.
Velicia Humes: And it has to intentionally identify the rationale for these things and develop a need and value so that it drives what we do. So, the reason…and don't think of it as so amorphous. Of course, there's some systemic strategies, but these things also need to happen on a microcosm, which is in your classroom. So this… when we started today, you started with regulation; helping us center ourselves. That was very simple and teachers need to do that in their classroom.
Virginia Winters: And I just want to make sure we have that handles for each person for each container. Remember, first to regulate. Then to relate, and then third “R,” reason. If you keep those things, those are the three R's. They’re not reading, writing and arithmetic.
These are our three “R’s.” Regulate, Relate, and Reason. So, let's unpack that for them so that they can have something they can take hold and try even tomorrow when they return to their classrooms.
Velicia Humes: And what we're talking about is not a one and done. When we’re talking about culture, how we do things around here, it means consistently, formally, on an ongoing basis, the same way. You know Ginni, I've seen teachers, you know, struggle in terms of grades, and things like that, but there's one educator that I don't care what year you look and evaluate their performance, they are always successful, and those are coaches.
When you when you see coaches, I mean like athletic coaches, you know, isn’t it amazing when kids show up at practice, they started practice. They’re 15 minutes into practice before coach even comes out, right? And they're 15 minutes into practice because of the agency that coach has developed in them, because they know when you get into the locker room, this is what we do when: we put this on, we take this on, when we get onto the floor on the field, these are the things that we do. In fact, some of the upperclassmen or older kids will lead that process, so all of this autonomy or agency is built there. The other thing is there's some consistency on how people are trained to. So, you come late, it doesn't matter, 50 laps. I don't care, whatever it is, you know, everybody knows. You don't have to agree with it or think it's fair, but you're doing it okay. And everybody is there, so that consistency, where kids can take the what is next, what's going to happen next, out of the equation and know what's going to happen next, allows them to take the risk of agency, to take the risk of leadership. So when you come in, when these students come in, well, actually, when you come to work, I need you to at least take 10 to 15 minutes just center yourself. How am I doing today? You know, did I take that last argument that I just had with my other or or my kids? Is it with me here in this place right now?
Center yourself, because you're going to have to put your mask on before you put the mask on the kids.
Virginia Winters: Yes.
Velicia Humes: What that said Ginni, what do you think they could do with students?
Virginia Winters: So, not only do they regulate themselves so, see here again, that attention and consciousness is really important. See where you are. How do you provide spaces in your class, for your students to come in and find themselves in that space? Now they can do that a couple ways. They can begin to do the deep mindfulness activities, they can do deep breathing. I remember having a listening chair in my class. And the kids knew that if they came in and they felt overwhelmed all they had to do was sit in that listening chair and that would give them five to 10 minutes just collect themselves. Now I have to teach their behavior. They didn't abuse it. Children learned to really utilize it and respond to each other in a way, that was constructive and helpful. So how do we, number one, teach the kids to recognize what they're feeling? Students have to learn the emotions. They can't, they don't always come with that.
Velicia Humes: You have to teach them. You know, actually, some of us have to learn. I’m serious, because we don't really, we're not conscious of things. You know we react and what we're hoping you do is move from reacting to responding. And the only way you can respond is to intentionally be monitoring the environment at all times, so that it's not an additional thing you have to do… this is how we do school. So I’m constantly looking for, you know, what most teachers can tell you who's gonna lose it before 10 o'clock in the morning. Or who's gonna lose it in the classroom before the Pledge of Allegiance, or whatever. And at the same time, you know that at 12 o'clock if you hear five people sharpening their pencils and you're gritting your teeth, then why aren't you allowing people to sharpen their pencils at 11. You know, because you know after 12 you don't have tolerance for that.
Virginia Winters: I like what you see, be proactive, as well as responsive. The other thing that I’m hearing, as I go into schools, Velicia, is that these 18 months have taken a toll in terms of the total overall climate of the school. And so, one of the things that we’ll have to be in recognition, we have to recognize is number one some children have missed, what, 18 months, which is almost a year and a half. Okay so, for example, they were going from eighth grade to high school, they've never been in high school.
Velicia Humes: They haven't.
Virginia Winters: There hasn’t been that onboarding and acclimating to the high school setting that they haven't had any chance to work through.
Velicia Humes: It's absolutely true, and we hear that, don't we, when we go out? We hear people say, “well, you know, they're still functioning like they're in middle school,” because this is the first… they're going into their junior year, but this is the first time they've been a high school. So, when they have that stress. Now, remember, I know it's a long time ago, when I started high school, but there was some stress involved in that, and that I still have my door keys around my neck. I just looked so goofy but anyway, there's a lot of stress going from big fish in the pond to little fish, you know.
Virginia Winters: That’s right.
Velicia Humes: So, when we have inconsistency in our norms - which is easy to do - given that we now have new protocols that we have to follow for school. And on top of that, I didn't know what the standard protocols were in the first place.
Virginia Winters: Right.
Velicia Humes: You know these these intentional orientations are really important to lift up the values of the school and the do's… the things that you want to see, the behaviors that you want to see. And, more importantly, that space has to be provided for teachers. so that they can make come to some consensus around how what is behavior, what is good behavior, what is inappropriate behavior. So, if I get in trouble, you know, chewing gum in Miss Winters’ class but Dr. Humes says you can chew gum, just make sure everybody has a piece, you know, that's, you know, that's inconsistency and already you're stressed.
Now, of course, I used something that was benign, of course, but let's talk about hats or hoods. You know, some teachers might, you know, feel uncomfortable allowing, you know, telling people to put their hoods down where somebody else who knows walk into the hall, you know put your hood down. But it's how you frame the norms that you want to see. So, there's a couple things I want to say. In your classroom this will be a great opportunity to have your students work with you to recreate your classroom norms.
Virginia Winters: Yes, so one of building leaders similarly. Let's go up that level that system.
Velicia Humes: Correct.
Virginia Winters: You need to do the same thing with your teacher, so they have some consensus on what's acceptable behavior in our school.
Velicia Humes: They need to build a common language around that. And the, let's face it, we have some narratives around what’s good behavior, what’s bad behavior, what's the proper dress, what's not proper dress. And, we have to, as educators, make the space intentionally to have these courageous conversations. And to come to some consensus of how we're going to uphold, model, and teach the behaviors we want to see. I think, right now, a lot of schools are leaning into rules and regulations instead of the regulating.
Virginia Winters: Yes
Velicia Humes: And so they're going to rule somebody into deference or rule somebody into the behavior that they want, but we already know that rules without relationship equals rebellion. And that brings us to the… right before we come to relationships, I want to talk about the need to identify the realities of teachers and students. We need to have some focus, we need to have some forums, we need to send out surveys. I know we sent out surveys pre-pandemic, or when we were going into remote, to see who had the technology and this, that, and the other, but you really need to know that there are kids who don't have their parents anymore, they lost both parents. They lost their caregiver or because I lived in a neighborhood that was disproportionately impacted, you may only have 12 of those kids in your school, but their reality is very different than the majority student population in your school. And so, when you say you don't have to do this, or you don't have to do the other, for them, their parents are, “Oh you're trying to kill us.” Because in their communities you needed to wear a mask and their communities you needed to distance 6 feet. So we need to know the reality, so we need to get that information from them. You said talk to them. And if you can't do that on a building level, you can reach out to the parents in your classroom to identify where they are, what they need. But, you know, some of them aren't even living in their homes anymore, maybe they've lost their jobs, maybe their kid is sleeping on a couch at a sister's house. You never know.
Virginia Winters: Well, you know what that really helps me to understand is that we can no longer assume that all students have the same context in which they're coming from. That's a culturally responsive understanding, and that's an equity focused understanding that everyone's reality may be very different.
Velicia Humes: And the teachers, too.
Virginia Winters: And that's all contained in one school and the teachers as well. And so that's the consciousness about who are we serving. And so, when we think about that, when we think about that, for me, is the primary reason why we have to build relationships. People are not going to tell you their lived reality if they don't trust you.
Velicia Humes: That's right. That or they don't think you like them. Or they don't think you'll help them.
Virginia Winters: Exactly. Those three essential things really help solidify the relationships. And so we talked about this idea, first regulate. On variety of levels, building leaders can regulate how they give us create the space, to co-create the space with their teachers, to understand, first of all their own realities; they’re not automatons, they're very human beings, that come within this context. And what's the flavor of our building. What's the flavor there? What are we intentionally trying to evoke? And then teachers can do with their classrooms and that idea of relating.
So, we said regulate, we said relate. I want to shift for a moment for this idea of strategies about reason. Why do we do that? Because we do know that we're still responsible for the teaching and learning. We know that. And, you know, our educational systems are quick to rush into testing and all those kinds of things, so it's still moving there in front of us. But at the same time, we know that the route of going straight to teaching and learning and at the peril of ignoring where people are there lived experiences, the trauma they felt from COVID.
Velicia Humes: And they're still feeling.
Virginia Winters: And still feeling, correct. And without relating to them solidifying those relationships will not allow us to go to teaching and learning. And I, this is the piece I’m hoping that people will begin to understand: we really do need to take the deep breath. We have to be able to take the deep breath at schools. And no one, no one has to tell you, when you need to take your own deep breath. We can't wait for somebody to signal that for us. We have to take stock of ourselves and do it. But, so I have often wondered if people can give themselves the permission to slow down. I know we've had a lot of time with feel that we've lost, but we also have gained some things and maybe we can build on those things. And that's one of the ways in which we begin that idea of reason… moving us into the reason part.
Velicia Humes: So we go back to when we talk about reasoning: why is really, really important to reflect and refine the policies and practices with students and families; when we're talking about kids that, this is their first time being in high school but they're juniors. Then you need to intentionally create those spaces again. That allows them to understand how we do school here; what that looks like, how that sounds and how it makes people feel, right? Because then you're describing the behavior that you're seeking and the student then can measure whether or not he or she or they are successful, as well as teachers. I believe, and again I think you mentioned it a couple of times we're not doing this in a vacuum, right? We're bringing some different ideologies to school, you know, teachers and students and their families, bringing different ideologies to school. All these other superfluous things that are integral to who we are, as a community. But in the school, we need to make the culture of the school bigger than the cultures that are being brought into the school. And the only way you'll be able to do that is that culture has to communicate to me that you, like me. That you will help me and that the things that we do around here, the practices and the policies that have been designed are because I can… at the end of the day, I can trust you. And so we can't assume that all teachers know how to engage kids around social emotional learning. So we can't assume that because their heart and their intentions are correct, that teachers have the skill sets to engage them in a culturally responsive way. So, we need to make those priorities in their professional learning, just like we do for math, and just like we do for science, because that toolbox is also important and necessary to create these supportive and safe environments that we're talking about.
Virginia Winters: Yes.
Velicia Humes: So, again rules without relationship equals rebellion. So when I’m talking to staff and their first response is well, we just need to make sure they know the rules, I don't think they know the rules we need to keep going back to the rules…well, they're not hearing you these things, they can't hear you in the rules because that's not where they are in their brains. They’re just trying to survive whatever it is that's going on. So first, how do we provide them with an opportunity to regulate what they're feeling. Once we do that and the ways in which we go about doing that helps you create a relationship. Because if you take that time and put it in your day you're doing it because you care about me right and you're telling me that. And I’m telling that to my families and I’m telling that to my teachers. So teachers, I don't think it's a bad idea that before your staff meeting begins there's a regulating exercise or community builder or anything that allows them to express an emotion. Because they’re people, too.
Virginia Winters: Yes.
Velicia Humes: And they need to put their mask on first.
Virginia Winters: And you know, Velicia, we started out this this conversation with doing the check in. What we understand, I just want to kind of pull together for us: what we understand is that schools play a critical role in both the safety emotional health, the mental health and the teaching the cognitive growth and development of all of our students. I play that same role with their teachers, because they're on their level of development in terms of the careers. And so, climate, culture and COVID-19 really present us, not only with a challenge, but an opportunity. It gives us an opportunity to, number one, pause and ask the question how have we served or underserved students prior to this? How can we serve well all students? And as we learn to do that, how can we also take care of ourselves? And then how can this learning opportunity, you know it's a challenge, and there’s a lot of that we've gone through that has been traumatizing; what can learn that we can take into the next iteration of how we do school? Being mindful that we know we want to do those three things: regulate, relate, and reason. And also, that learning is iterative. This is an opportunity to see what new lessons we learn, what new forms of educating we've learned that we can use? It was no mistake that some students have agency when they went remote We need to unpack that, we need to understand that, and then the greatest thing for me is that we've got to take the deep breath that says we have permission to learn from this, to take care of ourselves, and to bring that learning to bear and all that we do so.
Velicia Humes: You know, earlier, because, those were very salient points that you made and and when we talk about how we do school around here, right? We have to be intentional about how we take those breaths and how we provide that space for us to take those breaths regardless of which stakeholder you are that's in that building. And one of the ways you do that, we were talking about systemically, because at some point we have to support what teachers are trying to accomplish in their classrooms. And we do that through MTSS approach. So those robust tier one strategies of providing explicit instruction of SEL in the classroom, integrating SEL in the academics and making sure that we have wraparound services. So, it's not just enough to identify a teacher’s or student’s or families’ reality and identify their needs. What support do we have available for them and how do we connect them to this? All schools usually have some form of this. What we're saying is, we need to be a lot more intentional about it and have really consistent ways in which teachers know these resources exist and how to navigate to them, or who to navigate families to when they find out. If we're talking about trauma, we know that's tier three. We're not asking teachers to be psychologists, social workers, but they should know where those sorts of those resources are in their buildings and who to connect people with. What do you think I think?
Well, I say this because I want to wrap this up in a way of hopefulness. We have a common language and that common language is MTSS. So we're talking right now instead of explicit curriculum we're talking about the implicit curriculum. And until you can honestly do that in your building, building-wide, the systems kind of will remain on supportive. Or let's put it like this, not as supportive as they could be, but what has been happening or taking place in the classroom, but don't allow that to stop you.
Virginia Winters: So, in essence, you're saying the tools that you have to actually reach into systems to not only to take that deep breath but take it with a new lens. I think I agree with that, and I guess, I would invite people to really just reflect on some of the things we talked the three handles, and take that deep breath and to know that RESA is here to support you, as you take that absolutely.
Velicia Humes: We have those resources; we have wraparound services that you can access the PBIS program. We have culturally responsive teaching and instruction in teaching that’s offered. We have COVID, we have a well-developed workshop around COVID and racism and the skill sets you need to navigate that in your classroom and then your buildings I think… I know that RESA has many of the resources that teachers will find very beneficial, as well as building leaders.
Virginia Winters: So, I guess, I hope that this this conversation has allowed them to catch their breath, so they can take a deep breath. Yes, yeah, thank you for talking with me about this. Really powerful. This helped me.
Velicia Humes: Thank you.
Jason Siko: And thank you both for putting on a master class with respect to culture and climate and how the current pandemic has influenced that in our schools today. With that said, I think we’ve had an interesting time today and for myself, Jason Siko, Dr. Ellen Vorenkamp, Kyle Gnagey, and Mellissa Wilson, we'd like to thank Ginni Winters and Dr. Velicia Humes for joining us today.
Virginia Winters: Thank you for inviting us.
Velicia Humes: And thank you for listening.
Welcome to Season 2 of Getting to the Core. To kick off the new season and school year, we sat down to interview Dr. Daveda Colbert, Wayne RESA's new superintendent, about her background, her journey to RESA, and her vision for the county, as well as some fun questions. Good luck as we start the new school year and enjoy the interview!
Length - 30 minutes
Ellen Vorenkamp: Greetings and welcome to Season Two of Getting to the Core, a podcast series for educators and friends hosted by Wayne RESA. My name is Dr. Ellen Vorenkamp and I will be your co-host for this episode, I am joined by my colleague, Dr. Jason Siko.
For our first episode of Season Two we welcome Dr. Daveda Colbert, the new Superintendent of Wayne RESA. We thought, “What better way to start the school year that to take a couple of minutes and get to know Dr. Colbert on a personal and professional level.” So, join us as we ask her a few questions about herself, her vision for the RESA organization, and districts in Wayne County as a whole.
Welcome, Dr Colbert.
Daveda J. Colbert, Ph.D.: Greetings, thank you for having me; very excited to be here.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Thank you for joining us. So, let's just start off with this first easy question here. Can you tell us just a little bit about yourself and your journey in the world of education that has led you to Wayne RESA?
Daveda J. Colbert, Ph.D.: Absolutely. I always start off and I always say that I am Jeanette Colbert's daughter. So, I'm born and raised in the City of Detroit, graduated from Detroit Public Schools. I actually attended and graduated from Detroit Redford High School. I graduated from there and then transitioned over to a historically black college and university by attending Southern University at New Orleans, where I earned my bachelor's degree in accounting. From there, I returned back home to the State of Michigan where I was able to work at a few places right after college; Hanton Industries, being one, Smith Flowers being the second one, and then Tank Automotive Command.
And I lift Hanton Industries as being the first because Hanton Industries also happened to be my co-op when I was in high school, I was a part of co-op; so, I am a real CTE product as part of my collaborative learning experience, I went to school half day my senior year and worked at Hanton Industries the other half of the day, as an accounts payable clerk. Henceforth, here I am attending my undergrad and earned my degree in accounting, Bachelor of Science. So, what a unique opportunity to lift how those learning experiences really make a difference.
Then, as I stated, I did end up working at Tank Automotive Command, which is in Warren, as an accountant for the government, and during one week, which was a vacation week, I was invited to substitute teach in Detroit Public Schools for the one week of our vacation. One of my girlfriend's, actually a sorority sister, said hey let's do this as part of community service part as part of our giving back. Since we weren't going out of town during our vacation I said sure why not?
So, I was invited to substitute teacher Dixon Elementary School in Detroit Public Schools during that one week and I have to say that it was the week there when the calling on my life was definitely realized. From there, I returned back to my job as an accountant put in my two weeks’ notice and honestly the rest of the trajectory and my life and education was born.
I then returned back to Dixon Elementary. That is my first opportunity in education and Detroit Public Schools in October of 1993. And it was there that I was very clear that my goal was to become the Superintendent of Detroit Public Schools, then that was my goal.
Well, of course, leaving from the world of accounting and becoming a substitute teacher, I have to admit that the pay was very different. So that meant I had to hurry up and get to school, so I could earn a teaching certificate my master's because my parents my mother was really trying to figure out what I was doing. The truth was that I was on my way to law school. Well, no, by way of education, clearly, because I enrolled in Wayne State’s College of Education, instead of the law school at Wayne State University. So, honestly that week of vacation as a substitute teacher is really what springboarded my career in education.
I definitely went on to earn my Master's degree my specialist from Wayne State University and then, of course, my doctorate from Oakland University, but I can tell you that I had a wonderful career in education by spending nine years in Detroit Public Schools from substitute teacher to teacher to coach, sponsor of all kinds of all the classes, I taught elementary, middle school, and I taught high school. Then I went on to be an athletic director at the High School of Commerce and Business Administration and then on to Renaissance High School as assistant principal before transitioning over to Clawson Public Schools in Oakland County, where I served as their high school principal for six years. Another unique opportunity for me, I was tapped to become a high school principal in 2002 I was the first African American hired in the district. There had not been anyone prior to me hired as a class and public schools employee in 2002, let me say that it was the most unique and wonderful experience ever because it definitely helped me to hone into who I really was. It helped me to have very thick skin. It helped me to really become well versed that cultural competency, it really helped me to understand that diversity is really an asset and to help lead that work in a community that wasn't there at the time. It was the most phenomenal six-year experience, and I wouldn't change it for the world.
I served as a high school principal for six years and then transition back to Detroit Public Schools as assistant superintendent and regional superintendent for just under three years. So, I was under Dr. Connie Calloway hired me to Teresa Gueyser then became the interim superintendent and, as I was exiting, Robert Bobb was ending his first year as an emergency manager. Well, that was a whirlwind of a time but, again, a very unique opportunity to serve as a leader in Detroit Public Schools from 2008 to 2010.
Then I was invited to the phenomenal opportunity to serve as the superintendent of Oak Park Schools where I did that for nine years. As I entered Oak Park, they were in a very interesting place as well; 8 million in deficit, declining enrollment, definitely in need of a lot of love, a lot of courage, lot of hope, and just a real turnaround plan to take us to the next level. I definitely embraced that opportunity and served as superintendent for nine years, where academics, arts athletics, attitude, and accountability made all the difference.
I exited that opportunity when I was invited to join Wayne recent 2019. It was June of 2019 when I started this journey here at Wayne RESA serving as the associate superintendent of educational services. What a unique time and a unique opportunity to come and be a part of the largest department at Wayne Regional Educational Service Agency; Education Services that, as I would say, is the breadth and depth of the organization. Definitely leads the work around the county, and so I had an amazing opportunity to be a part of that team and enjoyed the two years that our service, the associate superintendent of educational services.
In May of 2021 I was unanimous unanimously voted as the first African American to serve as a superintendent of Wayne RESA. I am the second female to serve in this role. This is definitely another part of my journey and I’m just glad that I am honored and humbled to walk in this space. So, I look forward to another 10 years on this run at Wayne RESA serving as the superintendent as I continue to work with up just phenomenal leaders and thinkers around Wayne County and throughout the state.
Ellen Vorenkamp: I had no idea you had such a diverse background, so even as an employee of Wayne RESA, just listening to this has just really given me a whole new appreciation for the breadth and depth of what you bring to this position, and how we, I know that we're in good hands. I’ve always felt that way, but now I’m even more secure in that thought so very good; thank you for that.
Jason Siko: Yeah, I agree. I agree wholeheartedly that's a real interesting story and we're glad to have you here.
Daveda J. Colbert, Ph.D.: I’m excited to be here.
Jason Siko: So, as the new superintendent, what do you see as the near-term priorities for Wayne RESA as we service our Wayne County districts?
Daveda J. Colbert, Ph.D.: Well, as you know, we are still transitioning through the pandemic. So if you want to say near term priority it is…Today, being the first day for the majority of the school districts, knowing that some of them opened up pre-Labor Day, the truth is to be able to open safely and successfully, so it is to enter into a healthy and safe space for all learners as well as those tapped toward trusted to do so, meaning all staff. What we really want is our hope is for the 21-22 school year to be a viable option for in-person learning. I say that because 20-21 school year, although we thought it was going to be a viable option for in-person learning, we definitely came to realize that there were a lot of school districts that did not have in-person learning throughout the year. And those who really tried to have in-person learning, unfortunately for met with some pauses and interruptions, outbreaks, and quarantines that took out numbers of students and staff. We you know, we had staff members that transitioned, as well as students who unfortunately transitioned due to COVID-19. So, you know, the first thing, the main priority, and I mean right now, while I’m speaking, is for us to really be able to open safely and to be able to transition throughout this entire year with minimal interruptions pauses and breaks where possible.
In the event that we have to transition or shift to virtual learning, I mean, what, we understand it, we've had to do it had to do it with no notice or little to no notice and then we've had to do it with a little more planning and then some quick okay well you know we did it a month ago, or two months ago, so let's do it again. So, we are better prepared to do that, please, as you, as you all know, many parents even students, as well as staff have wanted are yearning to really return to some kind of full routine of in-person learning so our hope is to do that.
With that being said, you know that that leads to the masks, no masks, you know, comments and concerns. And let me just say this if the goal is to have this as a viable option, that we know that we must implement the highest mitigation measures. With that being said, masking is part of that and so, for me, there is no debate. It's really about wanting us to make this a viable option and to have the least number of students and adults that need to quarantine in large fashion, which means that they wouldn't be there and then it really isn't a viable option. So, hopefully we can move past the debate and I am thankful to Wayne County, the health department, for implementing, although I know it's not popular, I don't want mandates either, but I’m very appreciative for the mandate, so that we can hopefully get past that step and move into what is really another very important piece. And that is the wellness and academics, that really, we need to move forward.
And I say wellness first and that's because everybody knows I’m going to say care before content anytime, but when I say wellness, I’m very intentional about saying, not just wellness for students but wellness for staff, too. We need to make sure that we take care of our students and our staff. Education has not been favorably treated in terms of a career. In some cases there been some real negative comments, a lot of knee jerk reactions done in terms of our…
the actual career being something that people see it's positive. That there have been some hits to education. We've lost a lot of people, some due to the low starting salary and when you actually exit college you're going to leave with a large amount of debt and then going into education and you can't even pay off the debt, because you really didn't start earning a competitive wage when you could have gone somewhere else and started with competitive wage. It doesn't really put education being your number one choice; it becomes number two or three, means we probably missed some phenomenal people.
Then there been some others that have been part of the actual education and part of this as their career, and unfortunately they feel like they've been they've been mistreated or, you know, been beaten down by all of the laws and demands. And everybody has a fine eye on education and, you know, I don't know…do we tell the dentist what to do, every time they go and you know check our teeth? It's just, you know, there's a lot of people guiding educators, a lot going on.
So, you know, they're just so many different things, so many different requirements and rules, and I’m not opposed to requirements and rules but seems like the game changes, the accountability or five different accountability structures in place for schools, what are we doing, their grades, there's just so many different pieces. When sometimes we get so far away from what we really need to do so. I say that, so that we can continue to live this profession as one that is very important. We need to celebrate our educators and those that are committed to this calling, and with that that is one to be another one of our initiatives to really just speak positively, to continue to encourage, to provide hope and optimism around this field and to make sure that we're really thinking about how we're going to continue to attract individuals to the workforce.
Right now, some of the staffing shortages in our districts are bus drivers, food service…meaning our food service and our transportation specialists, para-educators.
Counselors, there's a shortage there; social workers, there is a need. There's a shortage, there. We’re looking for school nurses, there is a shortage there; there are some teachers, I mean there are some gaps there. So, as I go down the list: administrators, the pool is shrinking; superintendents the pool is shrinking so I’m covering the entire you know trajectory in terms of the education career and, you know, we just need to do a better job. So, when you say what's a near term priority, one will be to continue to lift this as a viable profession and continue to be supportive to all of those groups that are named and more and to continue to speak to the reality that every career comes by way of education. Literacy is foundational and is key. So, let's you know, continue to lift that and make sure that we are rallying behind those that are committed to education.
Another short-term goal would definitely be around expanding early childhood opportunities, you know, that's also a state goal but that's key for Wayne County. Our county is very diverse, you know, we have the highest number of multilingual learners, the highest number of students with disabilities, the highest number of economically disadvantaged children and families. With that being said, that means that the greatest need in terms of literacy outcomes is here as well. So, what can we do to do differently need to help to encourage engage and bring about awareness to families? I know that six-year-olds that's mandatory; when you're six that's mandatory schooling. But we need to change that narrative, that five…going to kindergarten is not mandatory, but we need everyone there, but even more so we'd like to have all four year-olds connected to programming, the high quality preschool programming that yields better outcomes. What that does is it gets more students at grade level, at kindergarten first, second and third grade because they've had that engagement at that earlier time at age four.
We also want to invite and encourage families to connect to three year-old programs like Strong Beginnings. So expanding our early learning options is definitely a near priority that we're definitely working on even right now in Wayne County, you'll hear a lot about our expansion of GSRP.
And then also just improving literacy outcomes across the board. The data has been released from our spring 2021 assessments. We knew that there was going to be a dip, that wasn't like, you know, earth shattering news. We knew that would show up in the data. The reality is that we want to get to task on that; we want to be intentional about accelerating learning, about just right teaching, just-in-time teaching, making sure that we're covering the standards.
Making sure that we're rethinking education; that we actually have interest in education that kids are excited about learning that they're taking ownership of their learning. So, you know, all of that is that near term piece, when we talk about opening schools and inviting families back, encouraging families, students search projects taking place trying to help districts to find those students that weren't engaged last year throughout the pandemic. All of those things will be listed as those near term priorities Wayne RESA
And then of course inside the organization, the near term priority would be to continue to make sure that we are on top of the health and safety of all of our team members and also that we are taking care of wellness inside of this organization, so that we are better prepared to serve those outside of the organization.
Ellen Vorenkamp: I like that many of these near term sound, also, sort of like long term because it's going to take some time. I love the lifting up though the profession and making sure that we're getting good quality people back in the in the field of education. Tending to the wellness of the faculty and the students back in the districts, as well as Wayne RESA. I was really pleased to hear you say that. Early literacy, of course, is it is a need everywhere, but like you mentioned in particular here in in Wayne county. So, it sounds like you've got your plateful.
But just to add to those conversations and just thinking about into the future, what might be some long term visions, as you exit, you know, Wayne RESA in 10 years what might you have hoped to have accomplished?
Daveda J. Colbert, Ph.D.: That would be absolutely to be very honest with you I’m hoping, as you said, some of those near term, they are going to swing into long term because they're not all going to happen overnight. But I am even going back to the expanding early learning opportunities or early childhood. the goal is, my hope would be, before I leave this profession to see universal pre-K in Wayne County if not in the state of Michigan.
So, universal, meaning where there is no eligibility requirement at all; that every four year-old has an opportunity, so as preschool for all regardless of eligibility and/or criteria.
The same with me for three year-old opportunities. Now, I know that the three year-old universal is pushing it, but I do believe that we need to cover four year-old of universal preschool hopefully within the next three years within our state, but if not I’d love to see Wayne County to be the pilot to get it started…within the next three to four years to have universal preschool and again that's at the four year level and then moving that the three year.
I’d also like to see long term that we have more internship opportunities inside of Wayne County. That we continue to build on the model of that the state has laid out in terms of career awareness; that pre-K-5, but I’m going to lift it and take it a little bit further for Wayne County. I’d like to see career in college awareness and pre-K through five. Career and college awareness, I mean career and college exposure in grades six through eight; so that means children grades six through eight going to college campuses, having college tours, having colleges come in and speak so that their lives, so a little more exposure and grades six through eight.
And then in grades nine through 12, really having college and career experiences, what does that mean more dual enrollment, more credentialing, more opportunities for students to leave high school with certificates. I lifted how I was part of a co-op opportunity, but more of those opportunities that allow students to leave with those kinds of hands-on experiences that really connect them to the world of work, and/or opportunities and, in addition to that opportunities that allow them to, if they choose to attend college, earn college credits more credits in high school, as well as to leave with credentials, apprenticeship, connections, etc., when they are in high school. So, Wayne County has a unique opportunity to be the leader in that, and I believe that we need to embrace that. So, that's definitely one of those long term priorities to really push that robust nature of college and career readiness. That means that students have options and opportunities beyond belief when they leave; it's not just one way or another, but they can go anywhere they choose.
Remember we're probably the last generation of 30 and out. So, that means that those that are coming behind us, are not working 30 years. Social Security is pretty much…it might not be there when we need it, but it definitely is looking a little scarce for those that are you know 20 years behind us in the making in terms of what social security looks like, but we need to prepare our young people for jobs that may be available today or may not be available today. We need to keep our eye on the hot 50 jobs and make sure that our young people have the skill set to be able to compete, the skill set to be able to enter into the world of work or the skill set and knowledge to understand that no they don't have to earn a four-year college degree, but they can go get a two-year degree or go get these credentials and they will be set. And then they could go into an opportunity with a partnership or business that in some cases, continues to give them on the job training and or pays for them to attend or earn those additional credits or education certs that they need to ensure that their careers what they want it to be. I like to see all of our youth to really reach their full potential, so anything around internships, apprenticeships, metal labs, hands-on opportunities and high-quality learning, high quality learning experiences; that's what I will be promoting for my tenure while I’m here.
Wayne County is definitely diverse. So, to continue to push that diversity as an asset and to make sure that we ourselves at Wayne RESA are have an equitable service delivery model that we are continuing to enhance as often as possible. Status quo doesn't work for me, and I know it doesn't work for the majority of us in this organization. I think, as we continue to build that workforce here, to support the individuals that are here, to find joy in the workplace here and also sprinkle that same joy outside into the county, I believe that we will have a lot to show for this run that we are all going to continue to make with our colleagues as we continue to live education as a wonderful career that definitely breathes life into children, youth, and scholars everywhere.
Ellen Vorenkamp: I think we're up for a little bit of fun, are you ready for this?
Jason Siko: Yeah I know this is…these are the important questions now. Okay, so we're going to do a little rapid fire. Basically we're just going to ask you kind of some either/or quick questions and give us the first response that comes to mind. Alright, are you ready?
Daveda J. Colbert, Ph.D.: I am ready.
Jason Siko: Okay, what is your favorite season in Michigan?
Daveda J. Colbert, Ph.D.: Orange barrels…construction OK, so my favorite season, obviously, is probably summer still because I’m a summer baby. My birthday is in the summer, but just try to enjoy the summer, even though it's still orange barrels season in Michigan construction season.
Jason Siko: Construction season yep 11 of the 12 months. All right: U of M or MSU?
Daveda J. Colbert, Ph.D.: And be honest with you, I did not attend either, so I love them both. I actually have a shirt that I have, you have U of M on the front and Michigan state on the back. And when people talk about it, I flip it around and put Michigan State in front and U of M on back and people just say it's the best way to handle it, I am all things Michigan, so I am for all things Michigan which includes Western, Oakland, Central…all of them.
Jason Siko: Good answer. Okay, so being born and raised in Detroit and a Michigan native… Vernors: yay or nay?
Daveda J. Colbert, Ph.D.: Vernors, awesome. Faygo, too. Better-Made Chips, too.
Jason Siko: Awww, yeah. Okay, what's in your Netflix queue?
Daveda J. Colbert, Ph.D.: To be very honest with you, I just watched Click Bait…just watched it last week, let me tell you I am definitely a movie buff so I have anything and all things Netflix and Prime. I love a good movie, and so I have to save it it's kind of bummed me out that even going to see Respect; I watched Respect on demand, so I didn't even go to the theater to watch Aretha Franklin's Respect I actually watched it on demand a couple of weeks ago. Click Bait, check it out.
Jason Siko: All right, will do. Okay, these are loaded questions; we kind of know the answer to them already but…Dream Cruise: love it or hate it?
Daveda J. Colbert, Ph.D.: Best thing in the world. I had the best time on August 21st. And get ready for next year, August 20, 2022.
Jason Siko: All right, and so on the same note what is your favorite classic car?
Daveda J. Colbert, Ph.D.: What I would have to say it's my own. So, I actually own a 67 Chevy SS Impala convertible which is canary yellow with a 396 engine. I will tell you that it's my favorite because it is mine. But I’ll also share with you that I have a 73 Beetle that, in fact, a Volkswagen Bug that I need to finish restoring so that I can bring it out. But I was given…it was gifted to me pre-COVID and it was supposed to be out during COVID and I have to say I think we forgot about it. It's buried in the backyard so we're going to get that together, and if I have my choice of something else that I really like to have it will be a Chevy Bellaire, a 1957 2-door.
Jason Siko: Wow. Alright, that's a comprehensive list. Alright, last one: what is your favorite get to work jam? Meaning: I gotta get, I gotta get motivated, I gotta get pumped, what's your get to work jam?
Daveda J. Colbert, Ph.D.: Honestly, I really do listen to Gospel music all the way to work, so it keeps me sane, keeps me grounded, and make sure that whatever I’m thinking does not come out as soon as I see. The truth is, I am really into I’m calm and in real calm music but I’m a very spiritual person, so I really like to have my mind in the right place. And really, there's some tough days, so, while I have on my whole armor all the time, also, I’m human. I want to make sure that what comes up doesn't come out.
Jason Siko: Alrighty and that's last one so…
Ellen Vorenkamp: Alright, so as we wrap up with like to thank you and just give you one last opportunity…what parting message might you like to give to our listeners before we say goodbye?
Daveda J. Colbert, Ph.D.: Absolutely, I just want to ask everyone to please continue to give grace to yourself and to others, as well as self care, health… if the pandemic didn't teach us anything, it should have taught us to be mindful about our own health, to make sure that we take the time to take a walk, to breathe, to meditate, to read, to sing, to think, to slow down. Let us continue to do that, and let's also remember to be respectful and responsible, which means that sometimes when we do things like wearing a mask; maybe it's not for us, maybe it's for others. But let's just be respectful and be responsible, because we all matter to somebody and we all have a purpose. Everyone's dash has meaning. Let's do the right thing, while we have this time on earth. Continue to be well, and let's have an awesome start to an amazing school year. That's my parting message.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for taking a few minutes out of your busy day and joining us and giving the people, our listeners, just a little insight into our new superintendent here at Wayne RESA. We, I know, speaking for myself and possibly Jason, we look forward to continuing on in our journey at Wayne RESA with you and supporting you and helping you out for districts in any way that we can. And don't forget to subscribe to the podcast; you can find us on Google, Apple, or Spotify, just search for Wayne RESA and thank you again for listening to this episode of Getting to the Core.
Daveda J. Colbert, Ph.D.: Absolutely, thank you for having me. You’re wonderful, Dr. Siko and Dr. Vorenkamp. Have a wonderful day!
In our final episode for the school year, Dr. Ellen Vorenkamp sits down with RESA Instructional Technology Consultants Judy Bowling and Jason Siko to discuss innovative learning strategies for summer learning that are no-tech, low-tech, and high-tech. Whether it’s a structured activity, informal learning, or a passion project, there’s plenty of ideas for educators as they share summer learning ideas with parents and students.
Length - 46 minutes
Ellen Vorenkamp: Greetings. Welcome to this episode of Wayne RESA’s Getting to the Core: Where Pedagogy Meets Practice. My name is Dr. Ellen Vorenkamp and I will be your host. This episode, we are thrilled to have Dr. Jason Siko and Judy Bowling, two of Wayne RESA’s most experienced instructional technology consultants with us to discuss summer learning opportunities for students to keep them engaged in learning during the summer. Welcome, Jason and Judy. I am going to ask each of you to introduce yourself very quickly. Judy would you like to go first?
Judy Bowling: Sure, my name is Judy Bowling as Ellen mentioned, and I'm an instructional technology and library consultant at Wayne RESA and I help support teachers throughout the county integrating technology into their curriculum. I also work to help support library media specialist as they work with their students as well.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Excellent. Thank you, Judy. Jason?
Jason Siko: Hi, everyone. I’m Jason Siko. I am also an instructional technology consultant here at Wayne RESA, and I've only been here for about a couple years. So, most of my time here has been spent working remotely. Like Judy, I do all the things that she mentioned minus the library piece, and again just glad to be here.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Excellent thank you both. We really do appreciate your time and your expertise. So, summer learning… let's talk about summer learning. As educators, we have all heard about the research around summer learning and that summer learning loss and how it can really impact student readiness to learn as they enter a new grade in the fall. So, we know that there's some evidence that suggests that some students can lose, on average, up to one month of school learning over the summer, and in the cases of some of our disadvantaged students, this may be, in fact, even higher. We also know that in our current context, with the advent of virtual learning and the pivoting back and forth between virtual and face-to-face learning due to COVID, this might be even more challenging during this upcoming summer and we will return to school in the fall. We also know, as educators, that it is more effective to approach this learning loss within our students in a proactive rather than from a deficit stance.
So, in our conversations today I’m interested to know what your thinking is on this research and, in general, what educators, in concert with parents and students, can do to the students themselves do, to kind of stave off this potential learning loss that may be impacting us this fall.
Jason Siko: So, I'll go ahead and go first on this. And again, to kind of mirror what Ellen said: you know, the research is pretty clear that, you know, summer school is not as if summer schools, we know, it is not necessarily the most effective way to make up for what you refer to as that learning loss, you know. And you can look at that; the research kind of confirms that, but also from a practical standpoint. If you have either a taught summer school or had a son or daughter that was in summer school or just kind of seen it in general, you understand that it's probably not the most engaging and students aren't necessarily the most involved. They're kind of in it, for, as we often call it, a credit recovery situation. So what can we do differently? Well the research, you know, really kind of aimed toward more engagement and it really aims toward improving attendance. And I know Ellen's last podcast episode on the Attendance Resource Team… that information really comes in handy because a lot of the research shows that attendance is one of the major problems they have with summer school. But, in general, there's this idea of relevance and why are they there in the first place? In terms of what parents and students can do, I I think the mindset of, “it takes a village;” this is going to be a summer unlike any other we have seen. As Ellen mentioned, this whole year of pivoting back and forth between online and in-person, and these learning deficits as we might want to call them although, we should take a more, you know, a strengths-based approach here, is going to be a lot different than any summer we've experienced for quite some time. So, in short, you know what can we do from the teacher side? What can we do as parents and what can we do as students, and how can we collaborate to make sure that we're bringing everybody back to where we should be at under normal circumstances? So, it's going to take a village and there's, you know, things we're going to talk about today that kind of involved not only the students themselves, but also the parents and the teachers. Judy?
Judy Bowling: Ok, so to piggyback on what Jason just alluded to, there are so many opportunities this summer for students to engage in different learning opportunities that don't necessarily look like school but definitely support that additional learning in some innovative ways. There are different programs being offered through Wayne RESA. Things like Pop-up Literacy events which are innovative learning opportunities to engage kids in reading, writing and STEM activities. There's Camp Invention, which is a virtual STEM summer program. There are some different writing camps being offered throughout the summer. So, there's a wide variety of opportunities for our kids and we will be including many of these in the show notes. But there's also opportunities for teachers as well, because we know that teachers, although they rest during the summer, they themselves are also doing a whole lot of learning and still connecting with families and students. And so, there are a lot of webinars and summertime opportunities for teachers to engage in professional learning. So again, we'll include those in the show notes. Some of them are connected to STEM. We've got the National Writing Project, code.org; there's different opportunities for teachers to engage in learning how they might incorporate that with their students. And then Michigan Learns has a lot of resources. So, there's a plethora of resources out there for both students and teachers, but the overarching theme here is that we want to continue to keep our students engaged in that learning process throughout this summer, so that they are ready to go once school comes back in the fall.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Thank you, Judy. So, I’m hearing a couple of, as you said, major themes. One, summer school as we know it kind of from the past with the kids coming in and spending four hours, you know, sitting at a desk kind of in isolation, learning things that we think that they may not have gotten over the course of this past year…kind of sounds like that that hopefully is sort of in the past; that we're looking for things that are a little bit more engaging, that they're a little bit more innovative, that there's more collaboration that we're using that funding that we're getting from the state and let's talk about that in just a few minutes if we could, because there is some funding behind this and that's probably important to note. But that we're using that in a much different philosophy and really think of it as engaging kids in learning; in more of a fun, active, hands on, kinesthetic kind of manner that's going to really allow them to fully engage. Not just sit there and get this information, but to really immerse themselves in the learning; you know, body, mind, and, you know, emotions, to some extent so that's really, really exciting.
And thank you for sharing a couple of those opportunities that you've mentioned, and maybe we can get into a few more details on a couple of them. If you have some of that we know that they will be in the show notes. But I am interested in little bit on House Bill 4048; if either of you could speak to that in just in terms of the funding and if there's any specific requirements that the educators need to know about, as we think about this money and how we might be utilizing it over the summer to engage our students.
Jason Siko: Yeah, I think the major thing about House Bill 4048 is that it's taking some of the federal funds and distributing it in appropriate manners for summer school and learning recovery opportunities. And so, if you read through the bill there's, “if you do this you'll get this much funding per child,” and/or if teachers are involved with this, they'll get some additional funds for stipends and so on and so forth. I think the main thing that really kind of piqued my interest in this bill is the fact that they're giving additional money to districts that apply for what are called “innovative programs.” And so now, the deadline; I should note that the deadline for these plans to be submitted I believe was April 15th, so we're talking about this in the past tense but they were providing additional funds per pupil if the district was creating what they would call innovative programs. And so, they gave an idea of some examples of that what makes an innovative program or what are some of the terms that you would use there. And so, what the bill actually list are programs that are community-based for learning recovery, or STEM-based, or take an integrated kinesthetic or cognitive growth approach, or are outdoor or adventure-based, or if they involve some sort of public-private partnerships. So, as I talked about earlier, you know, and Ellen kind of reaffirmed this idea of the summer school and when… one piece that you didn't have in your description of the typical summer school was in a hot, un-air conditioned building in a Michigan summer on a Thursday, you know, before fourth of July weekend…just completely… whatever a conducive learning environment is… the exact opposite of that. And so, you can see there from these descriptions of what would qualify as an innovative program, you can see that at least the state gets it and they know that we need to do something different this time around. So, those are kind of the elements that I think, would you know, best serve obviously for this summer, but also, you know, as you're thinking about what can I do as a parent? What can I do as a teacher if I’m just trying to give guidance to parents for the for the summer? These are the types of things we want to emphasize and make sure that they're thinking about these things as they plan for summer learning in both a formal sense, whether it be a camp or a course or even quote unquote summer school, but even also in that informal sense. Many kids don't need to go to summer school but they're still going to be at home for three months. What does that look like? How are they going to be observed if, you know, both parents are working from home? Or maybe they're starting to go back to work, you know, what type of things that they're going to do? They can't maybe play in those leagues or do those things because of COVID restrictions. And so, what are some ideas that we can give them to keep the kids engaged and interested in learning throughout the summer, I think is something that we really need to talk about.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Thank you for that Jason. And you're right; I don't know how I could forget the sweltering heat in the room, in the, you know, wishing that it were 12 o'clock so you get out. Because I actually did get to go to summer school when I was in high school so… And I’m really interested in and loving what you're talking about in terms of the formal and informal and what can parents and educators do, and what can educators do for parents and what information can they give them that will help them engage their own; not necessarily putting them into some sort of formal structured program. But since Judy brought that up, I’d love to give Judy an opportunity. She mentioned several things in her little introduction: pop-up literacy events, Camp Invention; Wayne County has some things going on that they… Forward Youth, for instance, that the students might get involved with through the through the schools, the National Writing Project; Oakland University has got some things going on, Michigan Council for Women in Technology. We know that there's a lot out there. I’m wondering if there's any one piece of that Judy, that you would just like to expand just a little bit on and maybe just give us a little more in-depth information. And like Judy said, you can find all of those examples in our show notes, but I’m wondering if there's just one thing that might be more special that you would like to highlight.
Judy Bowling: Thanks, Ellen. I think that the two that that most resonate with me right now are the Pop-Up literacy events and Camp Invention. Both of them are similar in that they are coming up with some creative and innovative ways to bring making and maker-centered learning and STEM to our students. But the pop-up literacy events are using literature as the vehicle to get our kids excited about reading, but also connecting it to some other higher-level thinking around STEM activities. And so, with that, and this is going to be a segue into another example we mentioned later, but one of the things I like about that is that books are, we know how important it is for kids to read and books can be used in so many different ways. And it is just the portal, it's a familiar starting place to take that story in a lot of different directions. And so, it's a very hands-on experience, although many of these will be virtual this year, but they will still be hands-on. Camp Invention is another program that again is a very hands-on experience. It gets kids, you know, tinkering and inventing and making. It weaves in the literacy elements as well. So again, it speaks to the point that this isn't a traditional, stagnant type of a learning experience; it's very hands-on, it's very experiential, and it'll be fun for the kids. And we know that when kids are having fun…the best learning to me, is when kids are having fun and they don't even realize that they're learning. So, those are the two that that I’m really excited for our kids to be a part of this summer.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Sounds awesome. Thank you, Judy. And you mentioned something else, too. Both of you actually have alluded to the fact that, you know, over the summer it's traditionally a time for teachers to, sort of, rejuvenate and reflect and to continue their own learning and to continue to think about, you know, what their next steps might be and what they might need to add to their toolbox in order for them to feel prepared to meet their students when they come back In the fall. So, both of you had mentioned something about some opportunities for teachers in addition to, you know, the students over the summer. And I’m just wondering if either of you would be able to elaborate on some of those opportunities that are the educators listening might be interested in?
Jason Siko: Yeah, just a little bit. I think, you know, teachers, as much as we want to, you know, put in the final grade on that book in the grade book and press send and walk away till August, that there's obviously, you know, that hook to kind of return. And even this year is going to be a bit more like that. I think…you read any news article right now and, “teachers brains are fried,” or, “teachers are stressed,” there might be a little less involvement this summer that may be in years past, but we all know that we have certification renewals, we all know that, you know, there's always certain things to learn and like to still take an optimistic viewpoint that teachers are lifelong learners and will always kind of look for additional opportunities. So really, just anything in your own content area is always useful, but you know just a couple, in particular… I think Judy mentioned the National Writing Project; that's always important regardless of curricular areas. Same with any of the offerings from code.org in terms of workshops or camps because, in Michigan, you have the computer science standards out and we're trying to integrate coding and computer science into all content areas and all grade levels. So, if that's an area where a teacher may feel a little uncomfortable or has kind of a mindset of, “Oh, I’m not going to do programming in my Spanish class,” well, it's definitely not just programming when we talk about computer science. And there's a lot of things in the standards that do apply to all curricular areas and can be used there. So, maybe something there. But even just, you know, a little going off script here, we noticed that the year has not only involved a pandemic, but huge amounts of social unrest and social change. So, where are some things that you might want to improve your own knowledge and mindset on as you approach the upcoming school year because these are things that, quite honestly, they didn't teach in PD and they didn't teach you in your college of ed. So, where are some areas that you might identify some gaps and, you know, be better informed about not only your general knowledge about these issues, but how to teach these issues in a way that is appropriate?
Ellen Vorenkamp: Excellent, thank you. So, one thing that we had hoped, over the course of this past year in terms of equity was making sure that all of our students had access to computers and then, of course, access to the internet in order to use that computer; in order to do some of the virtual learning that we were engaged in over the past couple of months due to COVID. And we know that we got there to some extent that, maybe not completely, and that there might still be some issues with internet access and computer access and that opportunity to learn in that way for some of our students, and that might continue into the summer months. So, I’m wondering if either of you might be able to speak about how parents or how educators can help parents with that deficit if there happens to be one in the life of the child? And then, also, we also know that having kids in front of the computer 24/7 is not necessarily the best thing; that they might need to, for their own sanity and health, wealth, and well-being, be outside or do something a little bit different. So, what's the balance and what kind of advice can we give educators to help with the internet access, but then also help parents structure a day in the life of, so to speak, so that the child is getting a nice balance of the virtual and the learning and the play and the outside and so on and so forth.
Jason Siko: Yeah, I’ll start in on the internet access and Judy, if you want to pick up on the structure that would be great. With the internet access, and this, you know, obviously, became clear to everybody, at the start of the pandemic was this idea of, “Well, we're all going remote.” Well, guess what? Not everybody has quality internet access and again, we can talk about how this generation is the digital generation, or whatever, but the fact of the matter remains is you if you can't access the internet you don't have an opportunity to participate in that… and that goes beyond just cell phone access, because a lot of the learning opportunities require high bandwidth and high data consumption. Sometimes your mobile device plan doesn't accommodate that. So many, both cable and internet and cellular providers do have opportunities for low-cost internet and data plans. And I can't list them all here they're ever changing, but there are resources available online and Wayne RESA does have a web site that provides, you know, a list of, a very lengthy list of potential leads for getting low-cost internet access or from your data plans from yourself cellular provider.
So, again we'll link to that in the show notes. And I should mention at this point that if you did not know our podcast is housed in multiple platforms, but it is found on our website at resa.net/podcast. So that's…you'll go there you'll see each episode that we've done and then you'll see the show notes. This will probably be the first episode that we've done that has a very lengthy show notes with all the links that we're going to, all these projects that we are talking about, so just kind of keep that in mind. But by and large, you know, we are probably going to see some changes in those, because I think at the start of the pandemic every provider said, “Yep, we need to do this.” I don't know how that's changed over the course of the year and if they're going to pull back. You know, we saw that a lot last year where everybody offered a lot of things for free, and then they started to pull back at the end of summer for the fall. I’m not sure how we're returning to that, but that's where a good starting point to look at. But, as you mentioned Ellen and Judy will clarify or expand on is the fact that we don't want kids to be an on the internet, all summer long. They spent almost the entire school year on the internet in front of a computer. So what can we do differently? But still you're going to need some of that screen time. So, that's one of the things that we kind of need to find more of a balance on for this summer, as opposed to other summers.
Judy Bowling: Yeah, and just to piggyback off what Jason said exactly, our kids have had more screen time this year than ever and, you know, with the summertime coming and warmer weather it's the perfect time to, you know, help our kids find some balance… get outside; but that's easier said than done. So, coming up with some structures, you know, within your home to help with that balance, and of course it's going to depend on the ages of your students as well. But like I said coming up with, you know, perhaps areas that are, you know, screen free zones, you know, maybe at the dinner table. You know everybody's phone is you know, on the counter, maybe it's a room. Looking at different times during the day, maybe where again it's an unplugged time or a screen free time but, again, depending on the ages of your students or children, you know, that's going to have a bearing on that as well. But the biggest thing is, we want to help our kids find that balance. And screen time might not just be computers and laptops, too. It could be TV time and I know, you know, when my own kids were growing up, they knew that if there was a movie that they wanted to watch that was related to a book, they had to read the book first. And so, it got to the point… they didn't even ask to watch the movie until they had read the book. And so, it's just coming up with some routines and structures that, you know, assist in that. Because I think we have all gone down those dark rabbit holes where you might think, to yourself, “I’m just going to take five minutes.” And the next thing you know it's been 65 minutes, and so, we want to be intentional with that. And the other thing is, too, though with screen time screen time doesn't always look the same: being a passive consumer using the screen time versus being a creator of content, you know, is a different use of technology. And so, you need to weigh those factors into it as well. But at the end of the day, we do want to help our kids find balance.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Thank you for that, Judy. There are a couple of really great points in there, I never would have thought to have my kids read the book first before they were able to watch the movie. And the distinction between screen time and whether it's passive or whether they're actively engaged in learning and some point is really, really important. And so, I think we need our educators to really make our parents aware of that, and really help parents look for those things that are more engaging and less passive. Because, quite honestly, the summer school could end up looking very similar to the traditional summer school if all of our students are just sitting in front of the computer, you know, trying to intake information in a passive manner and that could be just as stifling, so to speak, as the traditional summer school. So, great ideas.
I think one last big question that we would that we would like to engage in and hear some of your thinking around are… for somebody like myself, who's a little less technical than somebody else and really is looking for ways to engage my students or my child in some learning activities that may be off the screen and might be a little less technical: what might we be able to offer educators to share with parents in terms of that, you know… I just keep going back to board games and having my kids play UNO or Yahtzee or Monopoly or something, because at least they're counting money or, you know, something, and maybe there's some skills in there, but I know you guys, have a lot of better ideas than that. So, what if you would be able to maybe share a couple of those with us? That would be great.
Judy Bowling: Yeah, and this is actually kind of a good segue from that balance, because there are some things that we'd like to share that are low tech, no tech, and then there is some tech. So, we thought we'd start with just reading. We know how important reading is. The more kids read, you know, the better and again, summer is the perfect time to get your kids reading everything and anything that interests them. And this would include also, read alouds, especially for our youngest learners. And it doesn't always have to be a book, either. So again, it can be anything; I mean magazines, comics, news articles. We just want our kids reading. There's lots of digital resources out there for our kids to find reading materials. Two of my favorite online read aloud resources, so if your students, well, they can just enjoy them, but maybe they don't have anybody there to read aloud to them. One of them is Storybooks Online, which features actors reading books aloud and then the other one is Storytime from Space, which has astronauts reading books from the International Space Station. So, those are those are fun for kids to hear those stories.
If your students are looking for a print book, there's a lot of avenues for them to get a print book. I would always recommend that they start with their school library media specialist. I know every school is a little bit different but find out what materials can be borrowed for the summer; if there's going to be opportunities to borrow materials throughout the summer. And also, I think, sometimes we forget about our public libraries, but encouraging students to visit those because they not only have countless materials for kids to borrow for free, but they are also coming up with creative ways to share stories. So, for example, the Livonia Public Library has a new dial-up a story service, where you call the phone number, you select a story from a menu of choices and then sit back and listen or read along if you have the book at home. And they're always adding new stories. Public libraries also, as we were talking about summer programs, but they also have summer reading programs. They've had to make some adjustments, of course, with COVID, but it has been my experience in the past, as a former classroom teacher and media specialist that if you reach out to them, they are happy to visit your classroom and tell your students all about that because, again, we just want to get them excited.
You can also encourage your students to engage with other readers this summer by talking about the books that they're reading, creating projects, writing about what they've read through summer book clubs. These are a great way for kids to share their reading experiences. They can certainly organize a book club themselves with other students, but it could be something that you, the teacher, are facilitating for them. And so, just an idea of how you might be able to do that would be to create a special book class club or course in Google Classroom, Schoology, or whatever learning management system your district is using. Once you've selected a book, you've determined a schedule for how often you want to meet, what chapters will be discussed each time. You'll then just generate a few discussion questions for each chapter, just to help guide that conversation. So, for the sake of an example, let's say you're using Google Classroom and you decide to discuss one chapter virtually every Thursday using Google Meet or whatever video conference tool your district uses. So, upload your discussion questions ahead of time to get your kids thinking. Students can certainly add responses to these questions within Google Classroom itself, but the whole idea here is to get your kids talking.
And so, we want to engage them in that live conversation. It's not only fun for them to connect with one another, but we know that learning is social and when kids get the opportunity to talk about what they're reading it takes their level of understanding to the next level. So again, meeting virtually once a week with your kids to have conversations around the book is engaging, but it also builds an accountability for kids to do the reading in a way that doesn't feel like school, because it's very… it's a little laid back with some structure built in.
If you have students that prefer e-books and digital resources, I would suggest any of the following; they are all free, which is good for you. Free is my favorite word. So, again, I always say circle back and start with your school library media specialist if you are fortunate enough to have one, to see if they've purchased e-books for your school. And, if so, make sure your kids know how to access them from home this summer. Again, reach out to your public library and have them help your kids get library cards. Once they have a library card, they can access countless e-books for free from the public library from the comfort of their home. And again, the public library can help you know get all that in order. You can access EPIC, which is a great digital reading platform that provides a lot of e-books and then last but not least, as citizens of Michigan we are so lucky to have the Michigan e-Library, otherwise known as MeL, which has thousands of e-books in there for kids of all ages and other digital resources, like Britannica, World Book, PebbleGo, which are opposing viewpoints for your older readers because we do have a lot of our kids who like to read nonfiction text as well. And as we mentioned earlier, these will all be in the show notes.
Another great resource which is newer this year is the Michigan Learning Channel, which Detroit Public Television announced again earlier this year. And this is a great resource that taps into the TV, but it's also available on the internet. And basically, its instructional content to support our students learning, and one of their amazing newer programs is called Read with Roars. It's a literacy series that's geared toward grade… it's geared towards grades K-3. It's taught by Michigan teachers and it's just another engaging way to help your kids build their literacy skills through word building lessons, read aloud, and in some writing activities.
So, speaking of writing: that's another thing we would love our kids to be doing this summer, and we want to provide them with lots of opportunities to write and to see themselves as authors. There's lots of ideas, but a few might be that they could create a daily or weekly reflection journal to capture their thoughts, their notes, reflections, questions; the more questions, the better. They might create an innovative notebook to capture some ideas, designs inventions, sketching, note taking. And then, speaking of sketching, another avenue that your kids might want to take is to capture their ideas visually in a notebook that through sketchnoting or sketchdoodling. And if you've not heard of that, it's basically a form of visual writing that mixes writing, drawing, and other visual cues together. So, encouraging your students to draw. It's not only fun, but it just challenges them to explore ideas in different ways. Paper/pencil is readily available and, of course, that is a wonderful medium for writing. It's a great way to fire up their brains get them off the screen for a little bit. It's also a portable, so if they're doing some type of a notebook have them take it with them you never know when an idea pops into their mind that they want to jot down. If they're on a nature walk and they can record what they're seeing. If they are taking a field trip to a museum to record their thoughts or sometimes it's just maybe a quote or something or a drawing.
And then for those that want to do something digitally, one of my absolute favorite tools is called Book Creator. And, this is a tool that can be used across any grade level for making interactive e-books. It is free, it's super user friendly, and again, it allows you to add all kinds of multimedia. So, you can incorporate text, audio, video, photos, and then drawings; so you can make all of those ideas that we've already mentioned digital and then it can be published and shared via a link in an in an authentic e-book. So, again that's one of my favorite tools for getting kids to write digitally, because basically it's a blank platform.
Earlier we mentioned some of the Camp Inventions and pop-up literacy, and using that hands-on learning experience to get them making or tinkering. And so, sometimes tinkering and making are used interchangeably, but if you think of tinkering it's a little bit more playful as it gets really… just like looking at stuff and asking, “What can I do with it? How does it work?” Where making is taking that and moving it from an idea to an invention. And so, there's lots of opportunities in the summer where you can engage your students and challenges that encourage them to design and build and create as they work through that engineering process. And again, as we mentioned earlier, one of the best and easiest places to start is with a familiar story and just adding a design twist to it. So, looking at the problems that the characters face in the story and just finding a creative solution. So, for example, you know, create a trap to catch the gingerbread man, create a squirrel proof bird feeder, create a bus for the pigeon to drive and then, of course, you could scaffold that up you know with higher level texts. But again, just taking what you're already doing, and just adding a twist; it's a great strategy to bring these stories to life through tinkering, designing, building, and prototyping, and getting our kids doing and creating.
You know, making can also be digital. So again, we talked about how screen time can look different and we want our kids creating well, maybe some of that creating looks like stop motion or using green screen technology. And so, there's a couple of different apps like Stop Motion Studio or DoInk that again, it's very user friendly, but just gets that creative thinking of the kids doing. And, what you find with creativity is that the more you're engaged in creative activities, the more creative you get and the more you want to do. And so, those are wonderful learning opportunities for our kids.
And then just a few more; we've mentioned STEM. But again, when I think about summer, I think about it as being this time that, you know, we say the lazy, hazy days of summer, but it really is just a time to explore and investigate things driven by curiosity. And we want our kids to pursue questions they're interested in learning more about, and then gathering information, you know, by exploring and researching to deepen their understanding. Again, it's learning in an untraditional way. If your students are stuck for an idea, and they want to explore something deeper, a couple of resources that I would refer to; one of them is called Wonderopolis. This is an amazing website that is just filled with wonderings and explanations, and it also has a place where kids could add their own wondering. Another great resource is from PBS, it's a program called Curious Crew that takes a hands-on approach to scientific exploration. And again, it gets kids thinking and asking lots of questions. And so, by being a part of those it might trigger an activity that they could take them on their own and explore more. And I should mention that both of these resources to have a lot of great educator resources as well.
Because, at the end of the day, we want our kids to see STEM concepts in the world around them, not just as a class that's taught in school. We want them using the real world to explore and to just ask questions and build that sense of wonder; and, as we know, certainly this year has shown us that things change, tools change, technology changes, jobs change. The only thing that is certain is change, and so we want to build in all of these opportunities for kids to think creatively and problem solve so that, you know, they can adapt to whatever the future holds for them. A lot of times when people think of STEM they think of coding, and with that we mentioned earlier, an opportunity with code.org. But there really are a lot of resources online that are free, that are engaging and instill that creativity in kids where they can build and so it could be code.org. There are programs like Scratch, where they can code various things. They could do things in TinkerCAD if they're interested in 3D printing. And even if they don't have a 3D printer, they can still use this amazingly free program to design structures that could then be taken to a 3D printer, perhaps at their school when they come back in the fall, or just leave them as a digital file.
Other learnings that could take place this summer are, you know, family field trips. We here in Wayne County have a lot of great places that kids could go to, whether it be the Henry Ford, the DIA, as it's free for our residents; there's the Charles Wright Museum. So, we have a lot of places local. The zoo, of course, taking kids to the park; getting creative with that as well. And then, if those physical field trips aren't possible, there are a lot of virtual field trips; not the same, but it still allows your kids to travel around the world without leaving the comfort of their home. And so, even the Charles Wright Museum, if you can't go in person, they do have a virtual tour that you can take of that museum. And again, we're going to include these links in the show notes, but there… you can tour farms; there's the Google Arts and Culture that has over 1,000 virtual tours of museums and archives around the world.
And so, this is just a splattering of ideas that are out there. Hopefully, you heard a little bit of some low-tech ideas, some no tech ideas, but then some tech ideas. But at the end of the day, what we want is to get our kids in learning experiences, whatever that looks like; get them wondering, get them questioning, get them reading, and get them writing, get them doing so that we keep their brains active all summer.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Thank you so much, Judy. What a wealth of information and ideas. I think our listeners have a lot to chew on there, and a lot of different opportunities that they're going to be able to engage their students with and share with parents. Jason, I’m going to give you just one last opportunity; is there anything else that you would like to share that has come to mind as we've heard all of these wonderful opportunities from Judy?
Jason Siko: Yeah, you know, we talked about structure and we talked about what, as teachers, can we do to facilitate these types of things. And I think, as Judy mentioned, a lot of these ideas, you know… one way you could approach this as to say, “Okay let's do as much no tech as possible,” but when it comes to, you know, maybe demonstrating your knowledge or demonstrating your understanding… that's where we call on the tech. So, for example, if we are going out in nature and we're doing things, that's great. Grab your notebook, go. But when you come back, possibly sit down in front and blog about it, or create a video about it, or do these things that require technology. So, that creates a nice little demarcation of when to use tech and when not to use tech and do as much as you can in the real physical world, but then when you're reporting or, you know, constructing or deconstructing your knowledge and figuring out what you what you're trying to say and what you've learned, that's where the technology can come in. So, you're kind of getting the best of both worlds there.
The other thing, and I'll kind of end on this, is that circling back to our initial discussion about summer school and learning loss slash learning recovery is that we probably have some data about where students are struggling. And there are plenty of resources online that are standards-based or they have activities and resources that are aligned to standards. One thing that teachers could do potentially is find, you know, get the data, get the NWEA scores, get the state standardized test scores, whatever they have in their hands and say, “Okay. [to a student] You're struggling in these particular areas that aligned to these particular standards. Here are some resources; go find activities that relate to these standards that you're having trouble mastering.” And there's a lot of websites on the internet that have standards-based content: PBS Learning Media, Khan Academy, National Geographic Kids, Smithsonian, Library of Congress… and just go into these places. You go to the search bar or the search button and it'll say search by keyword or search by standard, and go find those standards and then go search for activities that relate to those standards. So that might be another opportunity as teachers: how do we help guide or scaffold for the parents for the students on how to embark on a summer learning journey, if you will? Because if we just say, “Hey! Go out there and do this stuff and learn, learn, learn, read, read, read, write, write, write…” Some kids will do that, but a lot of kids need a bit more structure than that, and this might be one way to promote that structure.
Ellen Vorenkamp: That is an excellent point, Jason. I think the more focused and intentional and purposeful we can be about some of the summer learning, that really will hit some of those misconceptions or gaps that teachers might have identified within the students in the standards and that alignment between that getting to that level of proficiency. I think that's an excellent point. And I think you guys have shared with our educators a wealth of resources, and a wealth of information, and sites and opportunities and ideas that there's got to be something for everybody in this episode.
And we really just appreciate so much you guys taking your time and sharing your vast knowledge with us. We truly appreciate you and all that you have shared with us and what you have done for the teachers and students of Wayne County, and really the State of Michigan and wherever this podcast might be heard. So, thank you very much. We appreciate both of you helping us get to the core and being part of this Wayne RESA podcast.
Jason Siko: Thanks for having us on.
In this episode, Melissa Wilson sits down with Randy Liepa (Superintendent - Wayne RESA), Andrea Oquist (Superintendent - Livonia Public Schools), and Terry Dangerfield (Superintendent - Lincoln Park Public Schools) to discuss the past school year, and what's on their wish list with respect to changes that they hope remain once the pandemic is behind us. The superintendents also discuss how the challenges over the past year have shaped and strengthened their views on the importance of public education, public health, and community involvement in the education of our children.
Length - 35 minutes
Mellissa Wilson: With us today are three leaders: three superintendents from Wayne County who are willing to share their experience, their journey, their reflections, their challenges throughout this year that we have known as the year of the pandemic, as the year of challenge as the year of social unrest. So we welcome today to the podcast: Dr Randy Liepa, Superintendent of Wayne RESA. Also with us, Superintendent of Livonia Public Schools Andrea Oquist, and Terry Dangerfield, Superintendent of Lincoln Park Public Schools. Thank you so much for being here with us.
Well, let's get to the core and chomp and chat about what we've learned this year about innovation, change, priorities, but let's start with gratitude. The COVID-19 pandemic has really offered up a full serving of challenges. And as we know the human spirit, especially the educator spirit, when faced with a collective challenge, has always been the light spot where there's darkness.
What have you been grateful for amidst this challenging time over the past year?
Andrea Oquist: Being able to be that sounding board and that support for their social emotional needs, as well as of course pivoting and moving into an entirely new world as we looked at remote learning last spring and to begin the year and then pivoting back to in-person, with some pretty unique protocols and safety measures in place. There were so many people that came together and put the needs of children, first. We have seen that every single day.
And we have also had partnership from our parents that really is unprecedented. We could not have done it without them, and so throughout this year I have found myself marveling at the work people have done in truly putting children at the center of our decisions, and of our efforts.
Terry Dangerfield: And I would agree with all of that. I think you hear one common term, which is the people, right, and during this time it's been, you know, you can go back to beginning the pandemic that was an incredibly scary time it was an uneasy time. And I think what came out of that was this opportunity for people to really work together and many cases there were people working together that either don't often work together or, albeit forced, but what came out of that was this opportunity to really realize that we can show a lot of mutual respect for each other for the common good.
I think we saw that across the country, across the globe, and specifically in our schools. Some of that's already been said, with some of you know just things, whether it be food service distribution or even with us our local city management, working with, whether it be the police department or some of the people that reached out to us that wanted to partner with us and what can we do to help your students or what can we do to that might be helping your teachers to be able to better service their students and so, for me, as a reflection piece I think it's real easy, as we live in this hustle bustle world to sometimes take things for granted and miss really how good we have it as a society as a world, and when we work together, and I do think there was a time that hopefully when this is all said and done, and we can return to some level normal we don't forget about that: to realize that how important schools are in a part of their community and realize to Randy's point even things, you know, not walking past that grocery store worker, not walking past that nurse or that frontline worker…just the tremendous work that people are doing to make sure that we can all live and thrive in our society. So to me that was something I’m very thankful of those people that worked very hard to make sure that not only our students, but our community was able to make it through this this time.
Randy Liepa: Just to add one specific item that really has been on my mind lately, and that is, the significant influx of resources that are coming, especially from our Federal Government to support schools during the next few years. And so, we've heard a lot about the federal stimulus dollars that are coming in, but especially for our poorest communities. We have a significant influx of dollars, that will provide them, really I think, a once in a generation opportunity to do some catch up with some of their educational opportunities for their children that just has never been there. And so, when you think about some of our poorest communities who just don't have the tax base to do some of the facility improvements that other school districts have. Their ability now because of these dollars coming in from the Federal Government never would have been there in order to do some of the facility enhancements that are so much needed in their communities. But they just didn't have the tax base to do that, so, you know, I’m excited and grateful about potentially this one time generational opportunity to make some improvements in our school system that we hope people will see how that can make a big difference, and maybe that will help reform the funding system in the long haul for all school systems.
Mellissa Wilson: So you’ve all really named a lot that we can be thankful for. And really what you're getting at is idea of collective action. Of folks coming together around a shared mission, a common good, to really move forward into achieve something, especially in difficult times. And how important it will be, and Terry mentioned, that we don't forget this, this stays a core value we remind ourselves that everyone matters and that everyone's experience matters. So when you think about innovation and Randy, you kind of introduced this idea that we have an opportunity. We have a chance to think about what might be, what could be, what if.
And so, whether you're considering the new funding coming through or you consider what you've already seen in your school districts in your communities. Someone once said, never let a good crisis go to waste, and we know there's been a lot of loss. But we also know, through challenge rises innovation. So, do you have a story or an example or a hope that really illustrates and innovative response, or what you see to come to be an innovative response and install this?
Terry Dangerfield: For me it well, I would not, I think I would be challenged to find a specific story. I can tell you, the amount of innovation, we saw during this, though, was incredibly impressive, you know, Just simple things like as a school district, at least for us, we've never had to distribute that much technology, that quickly, to that many people and to do it in an equal way to make sure that it got where it needed to go, so that our students could learn. You know, we were on a Friday being made aware of this and now, all of a sudden, having to get technology out in just a matter of days. Food distribution, you know, we're used to cafeteria style type food distribution and to watch our food service team come together and find incredible ways to make sure that large amounts of food can be distributed in a very efficient, quick way so that people weren't lined up in their cars for hours, and at the same time do that in a safe way with all the mitigation strategies that were brand new to all of us. That innovation, which was incredible to me.
But more importantly, for me, is things that I think that is all of us as educators, have been trying so hard to push in education is, you know, watching innovation in the ways we grade or the ways that we accept assignments and for students to show us mastery in a subject. Or maybe how we've done attendance, our communication, to all those different things that we, we were forced to look at differently, because the ways that we went…we did them just because we were used to them and we were comfortable with them, maybe weren't always effective right we've always done things in society, we just continue to do things that don't always work but it forced us to do them differently. And so, to me, it's hard to pinpoint one, but I think it's impossible for us coming out of this that we can't say there's a lot that we've learned from an innovative side that's going to change education forever.
Andrea Oquist: I would certainly build on that and concur with Terry as we think about especially some of those wraparound services for our students. In our district, we distributed over a quarter million meals during our time when we were on a pause for remote learning and we realized that, as a school district, our families needed us in ways far greater than really we had ever realized. So, that ability to have our folks come together and not only the people within that department, but volunteers across this community offering to deliver meals to homes, to distribute from our schools, setting up a social emotional hotline. Our student services and special education providers have been nothing short of remarkable. They have worked to find ways to meet the needs of our students, both for their mental health, as well as for their unique learning needs. And so, some of the innovation that has come out of our special education providers included unique learning binders for every child to really support parents in the home, as we were providing virtual instruction for students with really unique needs.
Parents had visuals, and cues, and support to be able to help their students move them through that process each step of the way. Truly, we marveled at what our staff was able to do and parents able to partner with us to meet the needs of our students. So, I think about those as just a couple of the ways in addition to I think probably the most obvious and on the largest scale would simply be the moving to remote learning for all of our students for months last spring, and then to begin this school year. That was something we had obviously never done before, and took a tremendous amount of time, effort, and ingenuity to be able to do that. So many, many opportunities to take a look at innovation, and I would agree that some of those pieces can certainly stay with us moving forward.
Randy Liepa: Now we just had from a facility standpoint what I just seen multiple ,innovative ideas that have been implemented at the schools to keep kids safe during this period of time. And so, you know, school districts had a variety of requirements in regards to how to operate school say and…just watching them set up social distancing, how to run lunch, how to keep students safe in a classroom, how to get students in and out of school a variety of different innovative ideas came from that in regards to not only how to keep students safe, but how to educate students in a different environment.
So, that was really, really impressive and you know talking about a little bit more detail just watching high schools across our county how they were going to schedule students into their classes and completely redoing how high school students receive their classes; in many cases, both virtually and face-to-face. It was remarkable to watch school districts redo their schedules on a dime and put together very innovative scheduling programs with block schedules, focusing on the core curriculum items, and identifying how they can provide support in different, other programming areas. Just amazing to watch school districts put that together, and then also how instruction actually occurs in classrooms and those types of new delivery options for teachers are going to be something that they're going to carry forward into the future.
Mellissa Wilson: So it sounds like we're considering in a way, too, the fact that we're flexible; that we’re able to turn on a dime, pivot, however might describe it, but we were able to do it.
And now that we know we can do it, whether this is, you know remote learning, this is a different approach to grading; this is the new awareness we have for the solid need for wraparound services and more support for families, than we might have even realized before.
What do you see as something that really needs to stay? If you were to say, “This is my one thing i'm taking this to the island. This must not go back to the old way of doing business!” What would that be for you as you think about moving forward into the next year?
Andrea Oquist: One thing I would say is flexibility in communicating with parents about their students. So, whether that's virtual IEPs, whether that's virtual parent teacher conferences, as an option. Scheduling hundreds and hundreds of student parents through high school conferences was something we have never done before. But some of the things we've heard from parents was a great appreciation for the ability to stay connected with their school, and connected on the progress of their students, without having to leave work, without having to come in the evening so well that's just a small piece.
We have found some great benefit, with that. We would certainly not have necessarily done that, in the same way before, but those who have given us some opportunities to stay connected with parents on the progress of their children and to have their voice as an important part of our conversation.
Terry Dangerfield: I would have to echo that. It's the flexibility piece. As someone I consider myself to be, you know, pretty intense when it comes to wanting to see change in education and as many of my colleagues are, and what's always been frustrating is that there's things in education that we've done that are archaic. And they have not always been in the best interest of students. And so, this has really forced us to think outside the box; to go back to some of those I talked about earlier, you know, whether it be grading or accepting a different way for students to show mastery, or realizing that, you know, school in a traditional setting did not work for every student in that face-to-face environment. We know there were students that that form of education does not always work for them. But we're gonna be able to say the same with virtual. We can't have the pendulum swing go and say okay well now let's just make everybody go virtual we're seeing, though there are students absolutely struggling in that environment.
But that's where we got to bring it back to center and realize flexibility can be incredibly important. We've proven now on a large scale that we can do virtual and do it well for those students that will benefit from it. And we can obviously also do face-to-face in a different way and make sure that face-to-face is reaching more students and being effective for those that it can be effective for. But hopefully what comes out of that is this idea that we can do it differently; we can be flexible. We don't have to be so final and it has to be this one way, the way we were taught or the way that our parents were raised or whatever it might be. And I personally love that; the way attendance can look, the way grading can look, and we've talked about this in education for a few decades now, and I think this really forced that conversational afford.
The other one I’d like to add is, believe it or not, would be the way we disinfect schools and the way we approach having a sanitized environment. I really think this brought…when you're seeing right now with the drop and cold and flu season. I think we really need to reflect on this to say that next year's cold and flu season if, hopefully COVID isn't where it is now, that some of the practices we put in place, whether it be the electrostatic, whether it be the use of PPE maybe during a cold and flu season, or maybe encouraging that. I think that's something we need to look at in the future because something we that has come out in at least in our local discussions was, we also had a lot of students that miss school time during the cold and flu season in previous years. We have staff that missed during cold and flu season in previous years and this year that has not been an issue for us, and so that brought to light, maybe, something that we could do and reexamine how we went about sanitizing our buildings in the past.
Randy Liepa: Those are great examples. I really don't have much to add to that other than, and Andrea’s mentioned this a couple times but, you know, our awareness into the social emotional needs of our kids and, you know, we've really been on focus, or you know, really, really had the antennas up with regards to kids who may need some additional support during a such a traumatic time and I think those skills are going to be something we're going to take forward also.
Mellissa Wilson: So one of the things to think about as we think about what will school look like next year, even knowing that it might not be what we might call normal but is normal even a word we may need us anymore? We're not sure.
When we think about what you mentioned about parents, Andrea especially, you've mentioned a lot about this partnership, this increased capacity, perhaps that you're seeing, both in how your schools interact with your parents and parents with schools: have you seen a new opportunity or new way or new place for work or parents as we think about… in the past, it might have been a difficult connection or it was a home and school and we knew there was an important piece, you know, that would link them?
And now we've seen the parents are empowered and parents are capable. Is there anything that you're going to take forward as you think about the role and place if your parents, this year, and how they've stepped up, that you will continue to promote an advocate for moving forward?
Andrea Oquist: Melissa, could you summarize that again for us, please?
Mellissa Wilson: Yep, absolutely! So, when you think about the important partnership that has been established with parents, and you mentioned this quite a bit in your description, is there something that we've learned from parents response to all of this, or something where we've seen an innovation or a new way that we've communicated with parents that we want to see move forward?
Andrea Oquist: I really would probably reiterate just those couple of examples that I gave with regard to the virtual IEPs and the opportunity for virtual and remote parent teacher conferences. Other than that, nothing specific comes to mind, other than I believe all of our school districts have really tried to just increase the regular communication to parents and helping to understand the “why” behind some of the decisions that have been made throughout this year and the importance of their involvement, a partnership with these efforts.
Terry Dangerfield: Yeah, and we, you know, with Andrea bringing that up earlier, we also saw a huge increase in parent interaction and involvement in things like IEPs. Maybe students with their families weren't always able to be involved in IEP or we struggled to get them to be involved with the IEP. We've definitely seen increasing that participation. Parent teacher conferences, I think that's another one, that if we move forward to parent teacher conferences only being a conference physically inside of a teacher's classroom or at the school I think we've really done a disservice to our families. We've seen a huge increase in the amount of families are willing to participate virtually or through another form of communication to participate. And our teachers have been really pleasantly surprised by that. Because what's come from that is now teachers are seeing parents much more involved with their students education.
For instance, the example I give is we always hear about the jokes about this new math, you know, where this new math come from and what is common core math? And you know these parents in many cases, all of us as parents that have students have been forced to some degree be teachers with our children because of the nature of the pandemic. Now you have families of sitting there and actually watching the lesson and learning what some of these concepts are. And for school districts we've always offered trainings for parents and. But what we've done we've done them through dropping type trainings or they've been physically inside of a gymnasium or in a cafeteria at a local elementary whatever it might be. And through this new way of communicating with our parents, we've seen involvement. And they're actually asking questions and interacting. It's not a one-way sit-and-get. it's a two-way interaction and a learning opportunity for our community. And so, to me, the involvement that we've had from families and the result of that is something that I know that the teachers in Lincoln Park have taken notice to, and I would have to assume that's happened across our country.
Randy Liepa: Just one thing to add to that, and, you know, one of my hopes moving forward certainly is that the bond between the two-way relationship with families and school is even more strengthened as we come out of this. And I think about families, I do believe, and I think just communities as a whole, there's a whole new appreciation for the importance of school. I think there's a whole new appreciation for what teachers do on a daily basis as parents tried to navigate being that quasi-educational partner when their children were home. And so, I think that's a real opportunity for us to build on, because I just think there is a an even stronger support for the work of teachers, because of new experiences that families have had and trying to meet the needs of their children as they've been home and trying to do school. And so, I think that's a potential opportunity for us to strengthen even more the relationship between families and school.
Mellissa Wilson: Absolutely. There's been such a new lens on many sides of the coin for both parents to be more aware of, “Wow! How difficult, how much is involved in educating our children,” and teachers to say, “Well, there's a lot that goes on at home that we might not have been aware of.” And so, a lot of more awareness on both sides and which, hopefully, lead to better things. We think about that need, and especially when we're thinking about the food need, the wraparound service need, the social emotional needs. Now that we know what ought we do, we have, many of you have mentioned, you know, we are so impressed by our ability in schools to really get food out, to get supports out. When the pandemic, Lord willing, goes away where are we with that, now that we know that there might have been an increased need families have at home? Do you still see schools playing a role in supporting that or where do you go with that, now that we know?
Andrea Oquist: We do. And I think some of these supports will need to continue for years to come. One of the things that we know is, we have seen over the past few years prior to the pandemic, a growing need for mental health supports, for our students and support for our families who are working with or living with those children. And we have really begun those conversations on how to utilize some of the COVID relief fund some of the additional ESSR funds to be able to plan for ongoing support of our students in the area of social emotional and mental health support, as well as behavioral innovations that that we think would provide some of the necessary reintegration of students. If they were virtual, if they chose virtual for this entire year or, for our students in general, as they just reintegrate back with our students or their classmates on a regular basis.
Terry Dangerfield: Yeah. We have, in Lincoln Park, we've been extensively involved, even before the pandemic doing work around trauma informed and resilient focus. We have a project called Resilient Schools Project that's very important to us, and I will tell you that what we learned is that if any of our staff members that were maybe even in the middle on that and still need a little bit indecisive…we have realized the impact that trauma can have on students in the pandemic has really brought that to life for so many of us and leaders in the field like Dr. Soma… She uses the quote I’ve heard or uses, “They're predicting a trauma tsunami coming out of this.” You know, just thinking what some of these families have experienced and, you know, the hardships that had been experienced the loss, the actual loss of human life in their families and the impacts that this has had on them. And so, you know, we have our work cut out for us coming out of this pandemic and when we talk about those students coming back in our classrooms, we have to realize that there is there is 1,000%. In example of not everything is equal and we're going to have students coming to our buildings that have had a completely different experience than maybe their fellow classmates.
There may be the even the teachers that are teaching them the staff members at work with them every day. All of us just realizing that we have all experienced a lot as a as a globe and, as a country and then, when we narrow that down into our school district. And so, I believe that the work that we're going to be doing on mental health, on wellness, and social emotional, on health and nutrition. These are, I really believe we're just starting to hit the tip of the iceberg.
It's just very important that we can obviously get this pandemic behind us so that we can obviously get access to our students more readily because they're going to need us now more than ever.
Randy Liepa: Yeah, and I think it's just, you know, some of the things that we've learned over the last year is also, at least in my eyes, some validation in regards to things we have been doing for kids and things we've been advocating for as it relates to the needs of students.
And so, you know, we've had a lot of conversation around online learning and virtual learning and the benefits of that and how that may help flexibility. But we've learned very clearly over the last year that students need to be in school and students need to be with their classmates, and students need to have a direct relationship with individuals together. And, you know, I think there were some people that thought that, you know, this could be completely replaced in some cases by a virtual learning setting. And while that may be the case for a limited number of students based on their personal needs, we've learned very clearly that and have had validated that school is important that, you know, the concept of school, the concept of community, the concept of learning from each other cannot be replaced and many students have suffered by not having that experience available to them as we've looked at this pandemic. And so, you know, I think that's something that we're going to take forward that, you know, some of the things that we have been doing and advocating for clearly are needed, as we move forward.
Mellissa Wilson: Certainly, so you're really lifting that concept of it's not always about the programs, it's about the people. And so, when we think about the people experience, the human experience, so many lessons are really being lifted around the importance of connecting with people and keeping their experiences in mind. When we think about the experience, the world has had not only with the pandemic, but with the social unrest that's gone on, we know that this is also transferred to our schools and really rethinking equity and equity mindset around how we approach schools, how we structure schools, the access that children have, the curricula that we leave. So, when you think about moving forward, we think about rethinking schools, how are we using equity as a lens as we move forward in this work?
Randy Liepa: I’ll just start out that again I think how what's come out of this remarkably difficult time is validation of some of the things that we've been pushing for some time. And so, when I think about equity, I think about the ability to meet the needs of all students; meeting them where they're at, making sure they have all the resources that they need to be as successful as their classmates. And so, we've been pushing for several years, a school funding system identified by outstanding research through the School Finance Research Collaborative that have clearly said: here's the kinds of services that students need if you want every single student to be successful, here's what school needs to look like. If you want every student to be successful, and then we actually cost to that out, and so here's how you need to fund that. If you want every student to be successful, and so, you know, we've had our megaphone out now for a couple of years, pushing that equity issue to make that that every student has what they need to be successful. And I think this pandemic has just raised the awareness as it relates to why what we've been talking about now for the last few years is so important and how we can meet the needs of every child if we just take into consideration what the research has told us, and really commit to the fact that we believe that every student should be successful.
Andrea Oquist: We've really seen, not only those things, those really important pieces that Randy mentioned with regard to the exposure of some of this through the pandemic, but as you've discussed Melissa, through the really, really challenging and painful times we've seen across our state and across the country. And those discussions and work on diversity, equity, and inclusion have been going on for quite some time. I think this past year has really increased all of our commitment to the importance of meeting the needs of not only our students but of our families and of our staff; taking a look at being very reflective and digging deeply into those questions about implicit bias, about how do we meet the needs of all students and families no matter where they are, and understanding that the needs of students require us to look at things through an equity lens, not an equal lens. And so, making sure that we have those resources and those perspectives that really help us look at the curriculum that we're using, our practices within and outside the classroom, our communication with parents and how we involve parents. All of those pieces are part of that equity discussion that are so very important. They were important before; that importance has been magnified even more right now.
Terry Dangerfield: I think one of the takeaways is going to be what has been said there. I have never met in my career in education colleague, a leader, a board member that wants to be unequal to students, or to have an unequal school system. I believe the school districts have been really beating this drum for quite a while here leading into pandemic. But I think what we've all learned in life, and we do as we get older is that sometimes you do have to have disruptive change. And I think that's what happened; it took maybe took the pandemic and a pause to highlight that word for a second for us to really reflect. To realize that a lot of that banging that drum this time, maybe to get the right people to listen to that. And as Randy had highlighted, I think people like legislators and policymakers and those people really to realize that there's a lot of people in education that want to do the right things for kids, and not just some kids - all kids - we want all students, we want all staff, we want all communities to thrive. But we can't do it alone, we need help. And, you know, we've all raised this idea of it takes a village and I hope what comes out of the pandemic is this idea that when we work together, we are incredible; human beings are incredible when we work together. But we can also be pretty arrogant and divisive when we do it wrong. And I’m hoping that the takeaway from the pandemic is let's pick the first and choose our students first, and our communities first, and make sure that we listened to those people that work with students every single day and understand what our kids do need and what they deserve.
Mellissa Wilson: So Terry you must be reading my mind, but that was one of our last things we were going to ask. What is your takeaway? If you were to look back to look forward, if you have a lesson learned, what is that quotable quote, that mantra that you have, that would summarize… if you're able, really what you're taking from this and what you’re taking with you in those steps forward, as we look forward to this next year. Andrea, Randy, would you like to share on that?
Andrea Oquist: I would say it takes every single one of us.
Randy Liepa: And my takeaway certainly is that education is remarkably important in our society, and in who we are going to be as a people and, as a community. And so, education and the educational system has risen to the top in regards to dealing with any issue that we may be experiencing in our communities, who we are as people, in humanity, and I just think there's a renewed focus on the importance of education and I hope we are able to continue to maintain that mindset.
Terry Dangerfield: And for me I’m more positive than I’ve ever been in my career. It's hard to believe that, right now, but if you told me a week before the pandemic what we were going to go through, I might have laid down in the fetal position and just cried and put a helmet on my head. To be here now all this time later and realize, we can do this, we are so capable and so I’m able to do more than we give our credit, self-credit for. I’m saying that as humans I’m saying that as systems and definitely as school systems for students. So, I’m really excited about what we can do it even improve the education for students moving forward.
Andrea Oquist: Absolutely. I think we have a tremendous amount of hope on the horizon, and we have shown that really together, there is nothing that we cannot do. And I would really concur with Randy’s statement about the value that we've seen of our educators and of our education systems, and I hope we continue to live that, for many, many years to come.
Mellissa Wilson: So really, what you've done is to help us think about our core we know our podcast is Getting to the Core. But when you think about it, you've lifted the human spirit and the educator spirit; that at the core we have hope, we are strong, and we are resilient, and adaptable. And everything you've shared with us today is really helped us to think more about that to reflect upon that and to respect the good fine work that we've done throughout our systems to make this work for students and families. So, thank you so much for joining us.
In this episode, Ellen Vorenkamp chats with Joe Musial, Cindy Cook, Jolia Hill, and Marvin Franklin about how Wayne RESA's Attendance Resource Team (ART) uses research and data to help combat chronic absenteeism, as well as challenges the pandemic has presented with respect to student attendance.
Length - 30 minutes
Ellen Vorenkamp: Welcome. My name is Ellen Vorenkamp, and I am moderating this episode of Getting to the Core with Wayne RESA: Where Pedagogy meets Practice. In this episode, we will be examining the work of the Wayne RESA Attendance Resource Team. It is my pleasure to introduce the members of the team, beginning with Miss Jolia Hill, Dr. Cynthia Cook, Mr. Marvin Franklin, and Dr. Joseph Musial. Greetings, and thank you for being here with us. Is it okay if I call you all by your first name?
Marvin Franklin: Fine by me.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Jolia, would you like to introduce yourself?
Jolia Hill: Sure. I’m Jolia Hill. I am a manager at Wayne RESA. Some of my responsibilities include supporting state and federal program directors such as Title I directors or folks who oversee 31A. I also work with homeless liaisons and their students, foster care liaisons and their students, to support the needs that they have in emergency situations and just making sure they have access to school and the resources needed to do school. And then, I also was blessed to be able to work with this amazing team the Attendance Resource Team, where we are here to support our schools and districts with getting to the core of going to school.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Yes, thank you so Jolia. Cynthia, would you like to introduce yourself?
Cynthia Cook: Sure, my name is Cindy Cook. I’m a school health consultant at Wayne RESA. Some of my work involves looking at the whole child and seeing how we can implement that in schools, as well as social emotional learning and health education: K12 comprehensive health education.
Ellen Vorenkamp: It's so necessary right now. Thank you, Cindy. Marvin, what about you?
Marvin Franklin: Hello everyone. Marvin Franklin, Ed Improvement Consultant. Some of my work primarily is centered around school improvement; helping schools get on the right track and help them get to a better place.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Awesome. Thank you, Marvin. And Joe?
Joseph Musial: Yeah, hi. Good morning, thanks, my name is Joe Musial, and I'm an assessment and evaluation consultant at Wayne RESA. A lot of my work is primarily focused on evaluating educational interventions that are occurring. Also, I’m evaluating numerous state and federal grants that we've had. I'm also serving as Vice President of the Michigan Education Research Association.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Thank you very much. Awesome group here, thank you guys very much for coming to be with us here today and share some information with our audience about the purpose and work of this Attendance Resource Team. So, I'm going to start with the first question just kind of set the stage: a year ago districts were pivoting to remote learning. Educators from across schools and districts in Wayne County raised concern of, shall we say, missing students; students who are no longer attending classes and as a result contact with those students have been lost. At that point it's my understanding that the Attendance Resource Team was initiated so tell us, Jolia, what is the purpose of the Wayne RESA Attendance Resource Team, and how does it impact chronic absenteeism here in Wayne County.
Jolia Hill: Thanks Ellen. Great question first of all, you know, I wonder if you know and the folks out there in Wayne County know that our Wayne County school districts and public school academies actually implement the compulsory attendance law firsthand so in other counties. The ISD or the RESA has a truancy officer or truancy department or an attendance department. Well, in Wayne County we don't have that. Our actual locals are working hard to make sure that families get students to school every day, all day. And so, with that the Attendance Resource Team works collaboratively with our local districts to identify resources and systems of support to help them implement the law at the local level, to make sure the kids are getting to school.
So, when a district determines that they've got a high level of absenteeism they reach out to us and ask for help and ask for assistance. So, the help and assistance can look anywhere from training staff, training those individuals who are the truancy officers or the engagement officers to assisting districts with identifying local level policies to heighten student attendance, improve student attendance… all the way to identifying Community partners to serve as an at-the-elbow partner to combat chronic absenteeism and Wayne County. So with this current health pandemic, looking at attendance, attendance is different, but combating chronic absentee, that's a completely different animal. So I’m proud to say that this resource team has looked at innovative ways to support chronic absenteeism in this new realm of attendance, remote attendance and virtual attendance.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Thank you, I was not aware, because, that fell on to the actual this whole reporting of the attendance actually fell on to the districts here in the in Wayne County. as opposed to having truancy officers. That's pretty interesting and it could explain the overwhelming-ness of this job and making sure that all of these policies and partnerships are really solid so that we can do what's best to really help those districts; do what's best for kids. I was not aware of that, so thank you for that.
Jolia Hill: Yeah, Ellen. You know, the thing that I think about is you know before all of us were in these roles our districts made a decision with our administration that they wanted to hold on to that role of serving as their own attendance officer truancy officers. So, we really serve as a support to those districts, as they do that.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Yeah, and I heard a couple of really key words there: collaboration, partnerships with other community members, and resources and really thinking about the policies. And how the Attendance Resource Team can help the school districts here in Wayne County with all of those different things and actions. So Joe, I’m wondering, then what specifically have you guys been able to do in terms of this this this team and helping the districts here in Wayne County to combat this?
Joseph Musial: Yeah, sure. So, about a year ago, when we went to the initial lockdown, our leadership had approached us and asked us to assemble and to, you know, to actually address this, you know, baptism by fire. So, during the, if you recall, during the actual shut down all of us were bombarded with numerous communications, pdfs, and a lot of states had begun to respond to the COVID issue impacting absenteeism. And what we found was that these documents for all intents and purposes were not that efficient and not that practical in terms of getting people to go through you know 100-page document. So, we took a different approach and we actually tapped our RESA consultants and district-wide educators who actually had experienced both at the classroom level and building level, implementing programs that either directly or indirectly address chronic absenteeism. And by chronic absenteeism, we're saying that the child misses about 10% or more of instruction. To the extent of the problem, a recent article in the Washington Post noted that, in the City of Detroit there are 3,000 children that they can account for. Which is a very alarming number. We don't have all the full data, yet, but we're concerned that it may rise between 5 to 15% in some districts. So, for example, we…through the expertise of our colleagues, I'll use nursing as an example. Beginning with asthma: a typical asthmatic child misses about on average 10 days of school per year, so our nursing consultants actually developed research-based methods and suggestions that can help schools counter the issue of the asthmatic child. And we were able to develop very you know evidence-based videos with references that last between 15 and 25 minutes. Our analytics have shown that if you go beyond 30 minutes with any type of educational electronic communication, that 30 minutes is too much in terms of viewership.
In addition to this I'll give you a current example that we're working on right now in real time our curriculum director Garden City, Dr Alex Nice is emerging to be a national leader and engagement. In fact, he has just completed his dissertation and published his book based on his research findings. And he actually will be sharing how his interventions actually countered and improved absenteeism based on the evidence base and based on his research. So, he'll be discussing that talking about his book as well as actually providing real-world data based on what he did. So again, ideally going forward we envision buildings, educational leaders actually going to our MIStreamNet where will be housing all these videos and they can actually share this with your staff in small chunks and actually consider doing some of these suggested interventions that are based on the best evidence to counter chronic absenteeism. And so, this is an ongoing process and we're doing multiple interventions, one of which our colleague Cindy Taraskiewicz shared her experience in Southwest Detroit. In Southwest Detroit for homelessness as an example, so that's kind of like in a nutshell, what we're working on.
Ellen Vorenkamp: So, it sounds like you're busy, number one, and it sounds like you're doing a lot of really at the classroom level and really helping the teachers in the classroom and the personnel within those buildings really think about what teachers are doing within the classroom to really engage kids and get them back into those classrooms so that they're wanting to learn and engaging in those learning processes that are going to help them. It also sounds like you're really trying to make sure that you're being very clear and concise with much of this information and not making some big, long programs but doing really short, concise, clear things to help with that collaboration. And I really like the fact that you're doing this, based on research, and that brings us to our next point. When we think about the research, and we think about some of the recent articles like you mentioned earlier. I know that there was one that was recently published by the Detroit Education Research Partnership and in it, they noticed that, even before the pandemic that students in Detroit as many as, more than half of the students in Detroit were considered to be chronically absent, which, as you stated before, means that they were missing up to 10% or more of the school year. And we know that other school districts within Wayne County are struggling with similar numbers and it's become even worse because of this COVID situation. So, I’m wondering if Cindy might be able to share with us some of the research that the Attendance Resource Team has engaged in and maybe explain these numbers are so high?
Cynthia Cook: Thank you, Ellen. One of the things we've looked at is the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model in our research and basically, you know… for those of you that know don't know the Whole Child - it's the CDC the health people and ASCD - the education people - coming together and talking about that. Do we need to be concerned about the academics? Absolutely, that's what schools are for, but we also need to be aware of the mental, physical, social emotional well-being of the child, also. And so with the 10 components of the whole child… what those 10 components are already available in schools, in most schools and what we would like to do is it would like to see as those components communicating with each other to find out what types of programming they're doing at the tier one level to reduce chronic absenteeism. And if we can get those 10 components communicating and sending consistent messages about the importance of attendance, then our kids are going to be healthy, safe, supported, engaged, and challenged. So that's what we've been working on, and one of the things, as Joe talked about, is looking at policy, processes, and practices, and making sure that our attendance policies are not punitive. You know, that we try to work with the family and the child in order to keep them really focusing again on that physical, social emotional well-being of the student and not just the academics. So, that's where a lot of our research has gone looking at tiered approaches, which I think Marvin is going to talk about and yeah, looking at the whole child.
Ellen Vorenkamp: I think it's really awesome that you guys - that's not a great word - but I think you guys have taken that approach and thinking about the whole child and not just about, you know, the child sitting in the seat, but what's entailed with that and what do we need to do to support that whole child. And bring them back to that learning environment where they can have that level of safety and have those other emotional and social needs met in a really meaningful way. And I love your three p's: the policy, the process and the practices and how those work together. I think they really, really come together. That collaboration piece, and that that way they can be intersecting to have that foundation…I think that's great and really that full frontal push to really ensure that these kids get back in and get the support that they need.
So, yeah let's talk to Martin now and find out, maybe some of your relevant findings and hear some personal experiences with this and some things that Marvin might have been able to do within his own context as a building principal. Welcome.
Marvin Franklin: Hello everybody. So, the first thing I'll say is the root causes of chronic absenteeism, especially this year, are pervasive and extremely complex to solve. Many of our districts and schools pulling out all the stops and teachers and principals are doing drive-bys to try to get kids back in school. And what we would tend to say what chronic absenteeism collects prior to the pandemic, we definitely have to expand as we talked about this year. So there are high school kids that have made adult decisions to work instead of go to school, to help support their families due to family crises. There are middle school kids who are doing the same. And there are elementary children who are watching their brothers and sisters and helping their brothers and sisters as young as the fourth and fifth grade, making sure that they get done while their parents are working during these challenging times.
At the school level, attendance teams report that teachers with the most…the best strategy to capture those kids are the one teachers that make great relationship bonds with their kids. And I'd like to break it and put it in a big nice pretty bowl but that's basically it's it: those teachers that make those great connections outside of just school. They really are the ones that yield the best results. Harvard University has a group called Making Caring Common Project, which illustrates the importance of relationships. It has developed a highly effective resource called the Relationship Mapping and we have introduced that to some of our Wayne County schools as well. And it has had tremendous success to identify those kids that don't have those relationships with an adult in the building and to try to find other ways to capture those kids to make sure that they're logging on. This relationship mapping provides data to the school to identify those who are not connected with those adults and they make a necessary adjustment to put positive connections together. And it is one of the things. There's also Attendance Works that's another resource that districts are leaning on. There's a lot of data and research, as well as ideas to try to improve getting kids in school.
Addressing chronic absenteeism begins, developing the best way to do it is by developing a multi-tiered system approach. And with three tiers of support, providing everyone with an identified core staple of supports. It's also called universal supports. These typically include some level of relational connections to the students that make school a place where kids absolutely, positively want to be.
The second tier is geared for smaller group of students that need a little more targeted support in those conversations between the school and not just those kids but the families. This is a group of students who have past history of moderate chronic absenteeism or they may have a risk factors something like what Joe mentioned as asthma or in our area sickle-cell anemia those types of things, and needing a higher level of more individualized support, in addition to those universal supports that I just mentioned.
Now the third tier the most intensive one is what we are at right now with not just chronic absenteeism but, in the middle of a pandemic. And this is what I speak to many principles right now and teachers, they are on high alert as it relates to developing those relationships. and getting in the car and driving to those families and finding out at the core what they need. And what I've seen and heard more than anything is…school is like Cindy said earlier - Dr. Cook I’m sorry we've been working too close together so she knows that I mean all the respect in the world - but they've figured out like what she said that component has one of the missing components. You've got to make those connections with those children. If you don't make those connections, they will find other things that are more important, which at this level during the pandemic is survival. So, this looks like about four or more days a month, though, that tier three that highest group of absence. And that's a lot. And the kids are missing a lot more than not logging on not for that amount of time. Many students in Wayne County and across America have exceeded this threshold. The typical risk factors are definitely expanded and we're trying to make sure that we get a hold on those.
Ellen Vorenkamp: You bring up some really great points and that whole piece about the relationships. I just would like to reiterate that, for our listeners and building those relationships with our students is huge. And I really like the fact that you brought in the families. That sometimes this isn't just a child issue; this is a family issue and therefore becomes a community issue which really takes us back to that Whole Child Model that Cindy - Dr Cook -was talking to us about. So, awesome. You have some great resources in there for us also Marvin. Thank you, I appreciate that. I think our listeners, will be able to take advantage of those.
I'd like to ask all of you to unmute and just if there's anything else anybody would like to add to our discussion if there any other relevant resources that any of you would like to share. Where can people find out a little bit more about your team and the work that you've been doing? And just open up the floor.
Cynthia Cook: The Whole Child Model can be looked at on the either the CDC website or the ASCD website to get a better understanding of how those pieces and parts work together to make sure that those kids are engaged. And I just want to reiterate again what Marvin said, is the importance of those relationships in school and out of school and getting Community members to understand the importance of attendance also so we can be sending consistent messages to kids.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Thank you.
Joseph Musial: You know the other point that we collectively realize, too, that as if a child is not in school, they are at risk for dropping out of school and the outcomes are very, very poor when a child drops out of school in terms of the whole prison pipeline and other adverse events, too.
The other issues that that are going to take many, many more people to table includes bandwidth. Does the child have adequate bandwidth by which to participate from distance learning? And Marvin also spoke to about the whole tier three where that's really the one-on-one, the intense interventions, too. And we also realize too that many of the children in Wayne County have experienced, you know, serious illness and death, with their elders and their family. And sometimes grandparents may actually have to take over the role of the parents, too. So, this is a very multi-faceted issue, too. And going forward again all of our work that we're doing with our colleagues will be placed on MIStreamNet and there'll be a strong robust library, by which our educators can actually access.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Thank you. You know one thing that just sort of is resonating with me as I’m listening, and this comes from my own ignorance, and so thank you very much for helping me see some more and understand a little bit better about this. But when I think of chronic absenteeism, I'm always thinking of like high school kids, but we're not talking just about high school kids here, are we? We’re talking about K12; we're talking about kids all throughout the system, and I think I think that's a sort of, “Aha!” I just had that that moment, like even listening to Marvin and all of you talk about elementary school kids being the parent in the house, maybe helping younger brothers and sisters and I’m sitting here thinking, “Wow!” I just kind of always thought it was a high school issue.
Cynthia Cook: That's a really good point, Ellen. When we look at kindergarten first grade even missing two days a month puts them in the category of absenteeism chronic absenteeism. So, and it is starting to affect kids in the kindergarten, first grade, second grade… so much so that they're not reading by third grade, which is you know, one of the things that we're looking for. So, yes, we do have to worry about absenteeism in the younger grades also.
Jolia Hill: You know Cindy brings up a great point. It's in these multi-tiered systems of support. You know, you've got to think about… look at the needs of your families look at the issues that your students are dealing with and try to develop systems that meet the kids where they are. Every family and every kid is going through something different. One approach that can hit all kids that are having an issue with is attendance. So it's on us as adults, as partners, as educators, as a community to identified different innovative ways to ensure that kids have an opportunity to learn. And I think that's a key phrase: Giving kids an opportunity to learn looks different according to the needs of a family and the issues that our kids are dealing with. So that's what we're hoping to do as an Attendance Resource Team is to pull together different strategies. Because there's no reason to reinvent the wheel if somebody's doing it out there, if it's easy to emulate, it's easy to turn around and do it, and put it in the context of your backyard. So, we hope that we can help our districts do that with the modules that Joe was talking about, and with the multi-tiered systems of support Marvin spoke about.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Awesome. Last word, Marvin.
Marvin Franklin: I just want to say how important it is for us to stay on top of this…make sure our kids are getting in. If we just look at the data for African American males and reading by the third and the fourth grade and the chronic absenteeism challenge. They've written many articles about those boys being suspended from preschool. And like Dr. Cook just mentioned: two days! So, if the black boys, African American males are not getting to those points by the fourth grade and we're suspending them from school, you know, for things that maybe we could find other ways to develop…This is really a prime opportunity. You know, to turn in a little different spin on it. The pandemic has definitely shown us that we've got to find a better way to do what we've been doing. Make sure that we're educating our kids and we're including all of the challenges and understanding, where they're coming from so that we can do a much better job to make a better State of Michigan.
Ellen Vorenkamp: So well said. Let's make lemonade out of this lemon and let's do what's best for kids. Thank you all so very much for joining us today and helping us get to the core of this really important topic. We really appreciate you and all the work that you're doing. And thank you for joining us.
Cynthia Cook: Thank you, Ellen.
In our third episode of Getting to the Core, Michelle Wagner and Stephanie DeVee discuss creative ways to make connections with students in a remote environment. Stephanie is not a newcomer to K-12 online learning; she has been teaching for an online school for several years now, and has refined her toolbox to overcome the challenges faces when trying to build rapport and trust with students from a distance.
Length - 26 minutes
MICHELLE WAGNER: There is no denying that starting in March of 2020 education changed and the shifts that teachers have had to roll with and really try and prepare themselves for have been incredible. And as a teacher, it's so humbling to see the amazing work that's being done by Educators. And just how hard everyone is working. I feel really fortunate today to talk with an educator who I know has dedicated her life to helping not only just students but teachers as well. Really helping them embrace and understand this online model of education. I can't help us think about some of the important speakers that I've seen in the past and wonder what it is that they would say today if they were looking at education and trying to give advice or help to teachers might feel like you're struggling right now. And the one that I keep coming back to is Rita Pierson who is certainly one of my educational heroes, but she said, “Every child deserves a champion and adult who will never give up on them who understands the power of connection and insist they become the best they can possibly be.” With those words I truly believe those words are as true today in online education as they are when we are face-to-face. They are as true and remote as they are in person and I think that we can still strive to make connections. And just as Rita Pierson charged us so many years ago: Be the person who stands up for those kiddos; be the person in the corner who's rooting them on so that they can truly become all that they can possibly be.
I am here today with Stephanie DeVee, an instructional coach for Insight School of Michigan, which is under the Stride umbrella, which is formerly known as K12 Online Education. Hi, Stephanie.
STEPHANIE DEVEE: Hi
MICHELLE WAGNER: And Stephanie and I used to work together as teachers and Van Buren Public Schools many years ago, but I really wanted to pick your brain about what's happening in schools right now and how important it is to build relationships online. So thank you for for being with us today.
STEPHANIE DEVEE: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.
MICHELLE WAGNER: So can you tell us a little bit about the journey that brought you to online education?
STEPHANIE DEVEE: Absolutely. So as you know, when we work together, my first experience teaching was in brick-and-mortar at Van Buren at South Middle School and from there. I ventured off into some of the National Heritage charter schools that doing some Title 1 work and then honestly for me what really launched me into an online environment would just some of my own health issues that were just making it really hard to be in a classroom all day with very little breaks and just unable to kind of manage some of my health concern at the time. I started looking into alternative in my fiancé, now husband, at the time. And my fiancé kind of stumbled across cage while when we were just randomly searching for like other ways that I could still get an income, still work, but work from home and we stumbled upon K12. And I applied and at the time I started in a program called National Math Lab for about five years and then transitioned into the current school that I work for now under the K-12 Stride umbrella, which is the Insight School of Michigan, based out of Lansing. And, in the last year have gone from a Title 1 math interventionist for the middle school and high school level in this past year just really launched into instructional coaching for the Insight School of Michigan
MICHELLE WAGNER: Awesome. So it sounds like online education was even a benefit to you in terms of health and well-being even before most of us were plunged into that world.
STEPHANIE DEVEE: Yeah, that was a big. I mean that was the push for me. My husband joined me about a year later just for him. It was more of not necessarily being happy where he wasn't looking for something else to advance his career. Do you know jump into something new and different once you do something for so long? You're kind of always looking for that next to new thing and I've really found over the years that before Covid hit and forced to look into virtual and need to do virtual. Most of our kids… it was either behavior issues, you know anxiety, ADHD, social issues, medical issues were usually the big things when we when we you know, you are welcome in connection calls of their kids… “What made you choose us?” Those are like the top ones and so I could really relate to students that you know chose to do online for medical reasons because there were days where I could still work and teach from home where if I was in a brick-and-mortar situation,I would have had to call in and use a sub.
MICHELLE WAGNER: It’s just so interesting because I know that just even in my own mind when I think about online education. It almost seems to be a new concept… something that we just learned existed this year. And I know that that's not the case. So it's very interesting to hear that for over a decade you've been in this environment and it's been going well.
STEPHANIE DEVEE: Right? Yeah, and I'm you know, there's people that were in another decade before me, you know, it's same thing. I thought of this novel concept this new thing that I stumbled upon cuz I was looking for something different but really it had existed. It just wasn't, you know, unless you really had a need for it, I don't think it was something that people were looking for or even knew was out there.
MICHELLE WAGNER: And I think that is a perfect lead-in to this idea of may be why so many teachers don't feel necessarily prepared for online education. And I know that in your role as an instructional coach, you’re still helping teachers kind of navigate those waters. So, I was just wondering if you might be able to share a little bit about relationships and how important it is for teachers to build those relationships and we know that it's important in traditional settings, but also in virtual settings.
STEPHANIE DEVEE: Yeah, absolutely. The importance of it doesn't change and honestly, I would argue that it actually gets larger. It's more of an importance in the virtual environment. You have to work a lot harder at it. It doesn't feel as natural. That was always one of my concerns because I think if you go into the world of teaching, you do it because you love the kids. You love connecting with the kids you love those relationships, then you know that you're making it you know is what makes all the tough days worth it. And I was a little bit afraid. Was I going to be happy in a virtual setting, you know, really removed from the thing that made me fall in love with teaching in the first place? But honestly, I have continued to maintain relationships with students that I had, you know, 5, 6, 7 years ago. They’ll still call me or text me when they need something even though they're in a with different teachers and you know the same idea of when your old students would walk by your classroom and want to talk to you like that those relationships still exist 100%. But it absolutely looks different and it's more difficult because you don't have them within your four walls. You can't walk past them and know whether they're working or understanding, you know, you can't just walk past her desk and tap on the shoulder to get them re-engage back into your class. So, it is definitely a learning curve. It's not the same but it absolutely the relationship still exists in the online world and like I said, I would argue that sometimes it's even more important to make those connections virtually because you don't physically see the students, you know. There are times where I couldn't know that something was going on with the student just by the look on their face when they walked into the classroom, you know. You can't see that. At least, I know a lot of schools are using a Zoom platform. K12 Stride uses something called Blackboard Connect and we are launching into something different, you know within the next month where we can physically see our students’ faces. Up until now for the last 10 years, they've just been a name in our classroom when they login it puts their name on the board. So really having to be creative and inventive, which every teacher is learning that now. I think we hear virtually and think, “Aww…sweet, easy. I can sit here and work from home,” but everything that is about being a teacher, you know, is that hands-on… those relationships and it just makes it harder to achieve more, a little bit more complicated when you're in the online environment.
MICHELLE WAGNER: So what strategies might you offer a teacher who's may be struggling right now to build some of those relationships online?
STEPHANIE DEVEE: Our biggest thing… we refer to them as ‘enduring connection calls.’ That is our buzzword at you know, at K12/Stride. We need to connect with our students at least, you know at minimum, you know, once a month by picking up the phone old school, you know, when you get into the virtual environment is chatting with your students in the chat box. They might pick up the microphone and talk to you. But most of the time it's like chatting with them in a chat box or responding to emails and we just that is a way to feel like you're maybe connecting. But it's not the same as picking up calling into saying, “Hey, I'm just checking in. How’s everything going? Okay? How can I help?” Because each student is going to have their own road blocks when it comes to virtual learning, which may be the same as what you saw in the classroom, but they may be totally different as in the fact that…For us, we are in an at-risk school. So, for us to say like yes best practices is to have a desk and have a quiet space to work that's only yours so that you can fully focus on my class and there's no distraction. But the reality of the situation is they could be one of 14 in that home and that's just not possible for them to be sitting at a desk in a quiet room. So, they already have roadblocks and it's not about whether they want to be engaged. It's figuring out how to best suit this. So now, instead of I'm used to being in a classroom where I control the environment that my students learn in, you have zero control and if you have 40 students that are each learning in 40 different environments and have 40 different sets of distractions and you have to now help them learn how to time manage and how to manage their space and how to set alarms to make sure they're back in front of their computer. And, so that's part of that communication. But for us like, of course, connecting with them in live sessions is huge. But that's where it's easy because if they've shown up you kind of already have them there. But what about the kids that don't show up? What about the kids that don't sign in? What about the kids that you haven't seen in a week or two? We can't just go pluck them from the hallway or write a tardy pass or email… like you don't you don't have those things that you would have in a brick-and-mortar. So it's really about making those phone calls and creating those connections once they're in your class. Once you've gotten them to show up …figuring out how to do the same thing you doing brick-and-mortar find out enough about the student to know what’s on at home, to be able to check in with them, to be able to support them. Not only academically, but as a human being as something else being that person that is safe pretty not safe environment because the reality is some of our students are now learning from home in an unsafe environment at home. They don't have the school building, you know for the ones that have not necessarily chosen to choose virtual school this past year. They're trying to learn in an environment that isn't even safe. So, figuring out how to create that within your virtual classroom, even if it's only even if you only have an hour out of the day. You know, that's where it is absolutely a challenge. But figuring out, so, you know, sometimes we'll do surveys. We’ll send out a survey, you know, that the student can fill out. Tell me more about you? What are you interested in? What's a good number to contact you? Because sometimes the number they give the school might not be, you know, the one we have. With high school… So a lot of them have their own phone. So, it's not the same number that's in the system. But if we can text or call them straight to their phone, there's an app called the Remind app if they give you a phone number, even if it's a learning coach or a parent, we call them learning coaches, but a parent or guardian number you can send out like, “Hey remember class starts in fifteen minutes, or, “Hey, remember this assignment is due.” So those are like the mass ways that we use of like mass communication: so like that Remind app, the emails. But again, the big thing is that I can call on those enduring connection calls. It's not a phone call about, “Hey, you know Johnny has turned in this this and this, you know, it's not necessarily about whether they're doing well or not in school. It's just, “Hey, this is Ms. DeVee from Insight School of Michigan. I'm calling to check in on you guys. How are you? We know this is a crazy time to learn. How can I support you? What needs do you have?” For some of our kids, like, I have a student who is, you know, 19; trying to graduate, has two kids and has another one on the way. She works all day long and then she comes home and tries to do school in a virtual environment which is why she chose virtual. You know, how do I support? So, that conversation doesn't need to be like, “Hey, I haven't seen you in live class all week. What's happening?” You know, there's other supports that need to be there. And so, that's why we really label those as enduring connection calls. Or you're just saying, “I'm here, how can I support you?” And you're not diving in, and eventually, you can dive into how they're doing academically and how you can support them academically. But for most people right now, especially in the world of COVID, where everybody's lives had been turned upside down and if yours hasn't been touched your privileged. That most people's have been turned upside down and realizing that they just might need to know someone's on their side.
MICHELLE WAGNER: What I think that's a really interesting way to look at it, too. Because when you're making those enduring connection calls, it sounds like you are assuming best intentions and you're not starting off with the negative. And so often families don't hear from school personnel until something's gone wrong; until there's a problem. And so, this is a great way just to build those relationships early and keep them going and then also that idea of just the assumptions we hold and and letting those go and I really that the point that you made about 40 different learning environments.
STEPHANIE DEVEE: Yeah
MICHELLE WAGNER: That's powerful and we can't make assumptions because we don't know.
STEPHANIE DEVEE: Right.
MICHELLE WAGNER: I'm thinking about online educators in general. And we know that society and in the world right now has thrust this upon us all and teachers really didn't get a choice in the matter of whether or not they would be online educators. But when you think about successful online educators, I think that every teacher in America right now, is saying, “We’re just trying to do a good job at this.” Just wondering what it based on your experience, what are those characteristics that might make someone a successful online educator?
STEPHANIE DEVEE: You know, those are similar to just what makes you a successful educator. But as you know, I kind of touched on before it's not easy. I think I read a lot…it’s interesting. Even my educator friends that are now thrust into virtual are like, “Oh my gosh, Stephanie. I had no idea how hard this was. I work 10 times harder to run a virtual classroom than I did in a physical one, and I'm like spent.” You know, and that's what I feel like society itself needs to understand; like that the teachers like yes anybody that works with K12… They have chosen the virtual environment as their career. But the thousands and thousands and thousands of teachers in our state and our country that didn't have a choice and had to you know, they weren't working for a company who is built to run an online education. I just like want to give everybody a standing ovation because some of these school districts the virtual environment that they have created in six months… maybe less than that to be able to launch at the beginning of the school year, you know again, I work for a company who this is who they are. And this is all they do. And I think that, you know, first of all, I just want to remind people whatever is listening to this that you know teachers are amazing and to be able to fully switch everything that they've done you no veteran teachers that have taught for 20-plus years everything that they did for the last 20 years doesn't count in a virtual environment. You know what I mean? Like not doesn't count. It's not dismiss. I'm not trying to take away from their success, but they've had to fully reinvent themselves and reinvent education as they know it. And they're now no longer in that that, you know, even your most veteran teachers are feeling like beginning teachers are feeling like, “Okay. Well that worked in the classroom, but I can't sit here and hand out a worksheet to everybody,” or, “I can't stay here and you know do a building project because we're all in the same room.” And so, I think in order for teachers to continue to be successful even in virtual is still be inventive still make it creative. The default… and I still see it at our school… the default is to turn into a lecture teacher because you feel like that's kind of what your hand tied to. Like, it's more of a one... It's me on this video and a zoom room or whatever platform you're using and depending on your students, they may not engage with you that way so be careful not to slide into the just like, “Well, I'm just going to teach them the lesson and I'm going to step away.” You know, like I'm just going to give them this 30 minutes of instruction and then that's it. You know, like we're not in college yet. We're still elementary. We're still middle school. We’re still high school. You got to find out a way to get them involved. You know, our specific platform does allow for students to like write on the board. Like if they were to stand up and come right on the Whiteboard. And I know that Zoom has the annotate feature as well. If you're working from a program where you can send them to. Break out rooms are like heaven. I know that they're intimidating. They're still intimidating, even in our environment. Again, it depends on what platform you're using. But if you can figure out how to do small group breakout rooms, you can create a PowerPoint and you can have them work on a project with their classmates or answer a few questions on the board with their classmates. So, you're cultivating that classroom safety, too. That they're not just hearing from you there hearing from their other students as well. If you're in Zoom and everybody's on the board, they can write something down on a whiteboard and hold it up for you to see that can give you a thumbs up, thumbs down, thumbs in the middle… a lot of that stuff. If you're in the right platform that you would normally do in a classroom…still works in an online environment, you know. But I would challenge you to, you know, be creative. Look for online resources. You can still play videos for them and the like. I still remember being in school and the teacher pushed in the big TV and we’d be like, “Wooo!!! Something different.” You know, these students still crave something different… not the same thing everyday. And I think when we think of virtual when we’re intimidated and don't really know what to do, we kind of default that lecture. You know, I'm in control. I can control what I say, you know, because teachers like to have control. And in virtual you really have to let go a lot of that control. Be inventive. I think the biggest thing is like be okay with failing, you know. We tell our kids it's okay if you don't get it right the first time. But the minute we try something new as educators and it's not… we don't get it right the first time, we're not doing it again. We're not going to try it again. We're not going to manipulate it and fix it or, you know, revamp it. We're just like, “Nope, that was a huge bomb! Not picking that up again.” So give yourself the same grace that you would give your student and realize that you're learning.
Reach out to friends of yours that might have been doing this for a couple years. Reach out… I mean, you guys can email me at sdevee at k12 dot com, for, you know, resources. There's quizzes, Kahoot, there’s GoFormative…there are apps out there that can help you, you know, quiz and assess your students in a non, you know, paper pencil kind of way and still have it be super meaningful. And have it not really have to just be, “Oh, now we’re virtual. Our tests have to be multiple choice.” GoFormative is a great tool. Your students can record answers for you and maybe some IEP students that can't do writing. They can verbally, you know, there's… I'm trying to think of there's another one… Flipgrid! They can record themselves and have video responses that they can send to you. You can send them video responses like make cutesy videos on YouTube and push it out to them and you see yourself, but don't be afraid to think outside the box still be afraid to fail at trying something new. I mean, I can't tell you how many times I tried something thinking it was going to be so cool online and my students were like, “Uhhhhh…” and it was cricket sound like this doesn't work. Let's try something else, you know, but know that a lot of what makes you an effective teacher is who you are and in the connection, you know, when your personality, your goofiness, and your passion. Passion doesn't get lost just because we've moved to virtual school. Students know when you're passionate about them and passionate about what you teach. So, regardless of wether you have the fanciest technology out there, it's still all about you as a teacher and who you are as a person and whether you create that safe learning environment and whether you foster a student-centered classroom; where kids can fail, where they where they can succeed, where they can do all of the things safely and have someone that believes in them.
MICHELLE WAGNER: I think we can leave it right there because I think you've just summed it up in such a nice way; this idea that even though we're virtual, it's still you, the teacher, who is going to make it meaningful for kids. It's your passion that’s going to engage them.
STEPHANIE DEVEE: Yep.
MICHELLE WAGNER: Well, thank you very much. And I appreciate your time and we're going to put your contact information in the show notes, and I just want to thank you and your school for letting you come and share with all of us move your expertise. We appreciate you.
STEPHANIE DEVEE: Absolutely! Thank you! And again just give yourself grace. If this is the first time that you're doing it, you'll get the hang of it and you'll make the best of it. Because that's what educators do.
Mellissa Wilson: So, let's find out who's with us today. Nathan, would you like to introduce yourself and let us know. So, what, why are you with us.
Nathan Spencer: Thank you, Melissa. Yes. Hey everybody my name is Nathan Spencer and I'm a science education consult with Wayne County RESA. Historically, I've been with RESA now for three years prior to that, I was an instructional coach, both with Oxford community schools and with Detroit Public Schools. And prior to that, I was a teacher. I taught high school science is science teachers know you can teach everything from what your degree is into anything else that's in the school building. So, I have a history with that. And, you know, currently I'm working on a number of projects and working with teachers and implementing different high-quality aligned curricula doing some research around DIFFERENT BIOLOGY curricula that have been written by University researchers and that's going well working specifically with DPSCD Detroit Public Schools. And that's me in a nutshell.
Mellissa Wilson: Seemed like you’ve graded a few papers in your life.
Nathan Spencer: I'm graded a few papers in my life, I've given some feedback to students in my life I'm I've been a professional development about it for years and I'm learning from all of you and the teachers I work with daily To, to be able to be here and share the learning. I've had from them and all of you.
Mellissa Wilson: So, Ellen, you would say it's probably more than just grading papers. Tell us who are you and why are you here.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Thanks, Melissa, and good morning Nathan. Hi, my name is I'm Ellen Warren camp, and I am an assessment consultant at Wayne Risa I have been at mine Risa for 13 years and during that time. I've had the opportunity to work with all of our districts. A lot of professional Learning Communities within those districts and doing a lot of things around assessment related topics. My passion is formative assessment in the formative assessment process and helping teachers recognize that how they implement and think about assessment for learning in their classrooms can actually change the way that they teach you the way that their students learn. I am a former teacher I taught Language Arts and Social Studies at the middle school level in El Paso, Texas and Detroit, Michigan. After leaving the classroom. I did a short stint as a vice principal and then I went into…getting my doctorate, and during that time I had the opportunity to work as an adjunct and at Eastern Michigan University while I was doing that work. And from there I float into a director of quality assessment and quality instruction at a charter school management company. And from there I floated to Wayne RESA so it's been kind of a whirlwind. I had held many hats. Also, part of my job at Wayne RESA is to do a lot of work at the state level. And so, I am a board member for the Michigan Assessment Consortium. And I'm also one of the leads for the thing program from Michigan Department of Ed and fame, of course, stands for formative assessment for Michigan educators and through that work feedback and quality assessment practices and of course how grading fits into all of that is definitely in my wheelhouse. And I'm very excited to be with you here today and have some conversation around that. So, thank you.
Mellissa Wilson: So, you have some experience in this
Ellen Vorenkamp: Was just a little
Mellissa Wilson: Well, thank you. We look forward to hearing what you have to say and to help us kind of safe. So, what can we do with all of this, Jason? Tell us about you.
Jason Siko: Hi everyone, my name is Jason Siko. I am the instructional technology consultant here at Wayne RESA and I've been here just a little over a year. So, I'm the rookie of the group here. I was a started off as a high school biology and chemistry teacher in Clarkston Michigan and after that. After earning my doctorate. I was a professor of educational technology at Grand Valley State University. And then I was Associate Professor and Director of accreditation for Madonna University's College of Education for a few years. A lot of my research interests during that time dealt with specifically K 12 online learning. I have probably over 20 peer reviewed journal articles on mostly on the topic of K 12 online learning, both locally globally, particularly like with New Zealand, as well as Canada and my own personal research interest was dealing with K 12 students’ online readiness. And so that's one of the things that we often forget about is that when we talk about K 12 online learning. What are the soft skills that are associated with online learning at the K 12 level versus adult learners. So that's my background. And that's what I think I can bring to the table here today.
Mellissa Wilson: Well, that is one of the things, right, that we're thinking about not only what does this look like if I'm face-to-face with you in a traditional setting, but now I do, I do this remotely. And so really looking forward to hearing your voice, as well as we pair, what we know about this practice and when we're learning about in a mass quick way about how to do this. Well, you know, I'm virtual remote environment. So, when we think about assessment, we think about grading, we think about feedback. All of those are normally in a conversation, unless you're with your peers. Of your, your educational field you're thinking about these synonyms in a separate way right or wrong. Truth or dare. We need to get this right. So, what can we do about figuring this out? Ellen. Let's, let's start with your, your thoughts around this one of the resources that are out there is the distance learning playbook. Fisher, Fray and Hattie three colleagues. I'm sure we'd all love to have a conversation with. But one of the things they mentioned around assessment and their module eight is assessment is assessment and they go on to say that there's nothing magical. And any tool can be used in a formative or someone of matter. It's all in the person using it. So, I guess it's the kind of magic wand that we have So Ellen. Would you agree with that is assessment just assessment or is there a magic wand, so to speak, that would help us kind of clear the air and poof song makes sense for us.
Ellen Vorenkamp: That's it. That's a great question. Melissa. So, let me see if I can unpack that a little bit. Um, when I think of assessment. I think of an umbrella. And I think of all of the things that we do in our classroom where we gather evidence So for me I like to follow the definition that Rick Stiggins puts out in terms of assessment, being a process where we're gathering information around student learning to do something with it. And what we do with it depends on whether or not we're trying to use it in a summative or a formative sense. And yes, to some extent, it depends on the user, but it also depends on the purpose and we have to be very purposeful and intentional when we start to gather evidence of student learning and call it assessment. What do we want to use it for? If we want to use it to certify student learning. And put a grade on it and say that at this point in time. This is what the student knew then that's more summative in nature and find great it, you know, call it an assessment of learning, call it summative whatever the case may be. If, on the other hand you're gathering that evidence just to figure out where the students are at and thinking about the journey of learning and trying to help them get from where they're at, to where they need to be in. You're not going to judge or certify you're just trying more to nudge. Then the purpose is different. Right. And the purpose is to give them more information. The purpose is to give them some feedback so that we can feed them forward to where we want them to be. The purpose is to give you information so that you might adjust your teaching so that they can adjust their learning so that we can keep students on that path to where they need to go. A firm believer that we spend a lot of time in our classrooms, doing a lot of assessments. You can give the kids a worksheet and you gather that evidence to see what they know around a particular topic, you do a project that's assessment, you do a quick quiz. That's a type of an assessment. But again, being very purposeful and intentional about why you're collecting it is where I think the formative piece comes in and where we would want to give the feedback. So yes, I agree with Hattie and Fisher and fry that assessment is just assessment. But I think, I think there's some planning that goes into it and that purposefulness, I can't say that word enough probably and that intentionality. Have to be foremost in a teacher's mind when they're thinking about how they're going to be using the evidence that they're collecting from that assessment.
Mellissa Wilson: So, collecting evidence…Science perhaps comes to mind or thinking about evidence for thinking about purpose. Nathan let's have you follow up with what Ellen has shared when we think about our field of science and you mentioned the beginning, perhaps a content area that isn't always the first in line. How do we really think about that, especially as we shift towards, I'm really exploratory and phenomenon-based learning? Talk to us about what does it look like when we're thinking about this work in your field.
Nathan Spencer: That a great question, thank you. Um, Yeah, that's led to follow up with here. So, If I want to start with some of the shifts. You just mentioned with science instruction over the past five years. And we're moving, we’re teachers are moving and buildings are moving and districts are moving and some important considerations are around what we call the science and engineering practices. What we expect students to be doing. In order to gain access to, to explain the phenomena or design solutions to a problem. And what's interesting is there's a there's a practice. I'll focus on right now called modeling. So, a scientific model is a is a representation of something happens in the real world. So way the students can use language diagrams, different kinds of texts in order to explain the phenomena and There's a process that's pretty well known in the scientific community, but how to go about getting students to explain using models and it is completely about Students being forwardly assessed and getting feedback from their peers and from the teacher. And so, part of the structure is students are engaged, like you mentioned, with a phenomenon. And as they do this, they sit by themselves. They, they think that they asked questions to begin to wonder. And in the course of this. One of the things, they'll do That the teachers will have them do is to think about how does this up. Was it explanatory way to think about Think about this phenomenon and students will work in small groups and they'll begin to sometimes draw out their explanation through this model. And it's a way to as you're walking around looking at the student work to You know, physically see how the students think about this. So, you get to know what the students background knowledge is If you don't want to think about at the time. You can give them immediate feedback as your as you're walking around, but the goal here isn't to give them the right answers. Goal is to give them feedback with more questions. And so, you always know I'm as the students are working what they're thinking at the time. It's a beautiful process that's all about formative feedback and it's very, very consistent. As a matter of fact, all the science practices, aside from modeling, have to do with really understanding where students are formatively. So, if I look at any of the eight science and engineering practices, even the one of asking questions, you can garner a lot more students thinking What their background knowledge is by the kinds of questions they asked around phenomenon. And so that's something we really worked to impress upon teachers and principals and in ourselves and our peers, is how do we use What students bring to the table as a way to assess where they're at and what we how we need to help them. How do we question them to move them forward to this, this next step this next piece? So, it's been a really powerful learning opportunity for me and for all science educators recently using these new tools to help us understand where kids are.
Mellissa Wilson: You mentioned you know that the hope that in this work that they're not just getting Feedback from their educator their instructor, but they're also getting feedback from students, Jason, you mentioned that this is an area that you've done. Some work in both and how do we mentally prepare students for entering into online education but thinking around, you know the power of soft skills. And so, when you think about assessment and you think about perhaps, whether it's the field of science or other kinds of areas where we're hoping that the educators able to provide feedback to the students throughout the process and the peers and supply feedback to each other. How do we do this now in a remote environment or an online. And educational environment. What does this look like, how do we really do this? So, so what? This matters. And if we can't do it virtually
Jason Siko: So, a lot of things that go on when We talk about online teaching versus teaching Is that there are certain skills that overlap and there are great, face to face, teachers, there are great online teachers, they probably flip flop very Easily. But there are some skills that are part and parcel at least have to be more emphasized with online teaching and learning. And one of those is rapport and relationship building Usually a lot of the research will indicate that one of the problems with online learning is feelings of isolation and if you've ever taken an online class. You've probably had an instructor professor who was very Involved in the course. And then you've had other online courses where you just got your grades and they weren't even participating in the discussion threads so building that rapport, which is another thing that's pointed out in distance learning playbook and terms of building positive teacher, student relationships. That is really key. The other piece, going back to the soft skills is aside from that isolation is what are the student’s beliefs about achievement and about Their ability to take risks, and I don't mean that in a sketchy sort of way. I mean that in terms of academic, risk taking. The ability to, you know, raise your hand and not feel embarrassed if you have a question. And so those are the things that as we look at how to prepare students for online learning. We have to work on those types of skills. What are their achievement beliefs and I'm not a big you know disciple of the growth versus fixed mindset, but that is kind of the overarching theme here is the fact that, what are their beliefs about Their own achievement and how they can improve their learning and performance based on those beliefs. The going back to the, the risk taking is some of the research does show that you know online learners sometimes have a benefit of time. Particularly an asynchronous environment and sometimes they need to think and absorb and process and maybe respond at a later date outside of the synchronous session. But also, you know, what are their feelings about asking if they're if they're afraid to raise their hand in a classroom. Are they afraid to unmute in a zoom meeting? And so those are some of the things that we want to kind of parse out from students. And that goes back to as Hattie and the others mentioned in module three is about building those positive student teacher relationships are building a space of comfort and a space of safe safety and security so that they don't feel Ashamed or at risk when they do have questions when they do have problems because along those same lines. Again, going back to the isolation issue. If students are at a distance and they don't see their friends and they don't see their classmates and they don't see their teacher and they don't interact Those feelings of isolation can instruct combined with some struggle will lead to, you know, regression and recession away from the course and dropping out eventually.
Mellissa Wilson: Jason you lift such good points and thinking about, you know, whether we're thinking about assessment or we're thinking about our instructional practices, which we hope. Nor are married or at least have a good relationship to each other. We need to think about first what environment. Are we setting up because, as you mentioned, sometimes we might think that, you know, students are here with their computer and so they're on devices all the time? And, and, oh, you know, they should feel even more apt to share and to do things, but you live such good points that let's not assume And let's not take away the power of being side by side or in a room with someone where you can interact in any way, perhaps, that doesn't put you so on the spot. That's mentioned as well. You mentioned that the distance million playbook and where they lift the idea that we need to create an environment where I don't feel shame. If I have errors, whether that's errors in my protocols and tools that I'm utilizing through the online platform or if I are errors in a piece of work. I've been invited to do And so when we think about assessment and we think about the importance of the whole child and being aware of the social, emotional links and influences to the feedback that we give What type of feedback would we hope this is my daughter or son that that my teacher is receiving or giving to My student is they're interacting online or maybe perhaps they're face-to- face. But what are we hoping feedback looks like? Is it the old school? I have my red pen and I'm showing you What you've done wrong in order for you to correct or should it look and feel like something different in order to build this safe environment. Where we're doing more nudging as Alan said in the beginning, unless judging I'll open it up to anyone who wants to respond. What can we do so that more kids are sharing and putting out what they think? And now, As opposed to holding him.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Can I, can I give this one to start and then Nathan, maybe you can follow up them, Jason. I think it's really very important both what Jason and Nathan have said in and you Melissa in terms of thinking about The climate that's in the classroom and the relationships that you build nobody is going to take feedback from somebody that they don't trust or that they don't respect. When you think about your own experiences and the feedback that you've received And you can think back at a time where the feedback that you were given really helped you grow and really become more proficient in whatever it is that you were doing. That's the kind of feedback that we need to give to our students. Typically, we like to think that feedback is descriptive. This is what you're doing in relation to where you need to be and this are a couple of steps. So, we like to think of it as descriptive and actionable, so it can help kids get on that path to completion and to success in terms of whatever their learning target is. If we as teachers can model this for our students. And then they can start to do it for themselves. And then they can start to do it for one another through that peer process can be very, very impactful. Feedback. If you look at all of the different strategies that we have out there in our, in our wheelhouse of things that we can do. Feedback is huge in terms of the effect size that it has on student achievement. And when you think about formative assessment. Formative assessment and the process of formative assessment is in of itself a feedback loop right so it's just so tightly embedded with the assessment process. One. One last thing I would like to say is that when we think about feedback. We don't want to always think about feedback in relation to the task and to the outcome of the task. feedback that we can give kids in terms of the processes that they're using to engage in the task can be very powerful two And feedback that we can give the students around how they're self-regulating and the behaviors that they're engaged in And if they're doing things in a timely fashion. And if they're organized and things like that can also be very impactful so Feedback can take many forms, it can be written. It can be oral you know it can be questions like, Nathan was talking about. It can be observations like Jason was mentioning I mean it's just this gamut. But I keep going back to those two words, you have to have clarity in terms of what it is you want kids to. Don't be able to do and you have to be intentional and purposeful about setting it up. So that everybody in your classroom can be successful, whether that be face to face, or whether that be virtual. So that's my two cents Nathan?
Nathan Spencer: Yeah. Thanks, Ellen and you know intention intentionality is Definitely always key in my opinion as Well, you know, you both brought up some really important points. And I'm I know in the distance learning playbook. They talk about setting norms. And other portions of this. But in terms of feedback. What better time to discuss norms? When you're discussing feedback. feedback on how we are doing as a classroom. How is their learning happening, how is our discourse occurring? The opportunity with the students to either build norms are consistently reflecting norms is itself like elementary earlier a feedback cycle. So, students feeling safe in a classroom, the ability to actually had discourse, whether that be verbal or even typing. Can be tough. If you're asking students to put something out there for their peers to read and be tough for kids. So really a great feedback cycle is consistently coming back to developing building and reflecting upon classroom norms. Also, it's, it's, you know, I'm going to get an example of a way you can get feedback in the tech world. So, for example, I mentioned earlier the practice of developing using bottles. And so, in this island environment, it's different than the face to face environment. So, in a face to face environment. Students are sitting in their small groups and their pods and they're able to work together heads together and really talk about The model and what should go here and why this works and give evidence that doesn't happen is easily online, right, because you're, you're not together maybe Also sometimes the tools that we want students use like whiteboarding tools which are amazing. However, there's always there's often at least there's often A technical issues that keep things from happening. No matter. You want them to happen. So one tool that some peers of mine who Omen county share with us is whether using both PowerPoint and Google Slides as a way to for students to Work on modeling practices and then the reason I bring this up is because you can use these is pretty basic tech tools Google Slides and PowerPoint. For students to work asynchronously. So, work independently on a modeling practices and then give each other feedback and the teacher can then get feedback on those slides. And it's really important that as we ask students to give feedback to their peers that we give them the tools that allow them to give appropriate feedback and powerful feedback because feedback shouldn't be vague. I like the way you colored that Right. And you have to make sure that they understand that our norms are always in place. So, we want to scaffold student’s ability to give feedback back on anything. So not just in modeling and science. But in mathematics and in the English Language Arts and Social Studies, we have to make sure the students have the tools necessary so giving them things such as the question stem or sentence starters are really powerful ways to allow students to give each other feedback.
Jason Siko: And so I'll kind of combine those two things together because Some of the things that Ellen mentioned regarding doesn't always have to be about the right, wrong, it can be about some of the processes and the organization's beliefs and whatnot and taking what Nathan said about You know, the technology things a lot of those soft skills involved with online learning and online learning success in K 12 students is go back to some of those things. So, depending on the research, there's multiple things out there, but there are some validated instruments that that rate online. K 12 readiness and some of the one in particular is the ESPRI that that focus is really on for things. And I mentioned one already. The academic, risk taking and whether or not they feel comfortable in doing so. But, and the achievement beliefs, as well as their beliefs on how well they Feel about their own ability to change, you know, over time, but then the other ones are organization beliefs. And that goes back to what Ellen was saying about processes and How do you organize yourself around online learning. And how do you prepare yourself for keeping track of things. Again, going back to the isolation factor that you know when you're in a classroom, you have this kind of routine when you when you're in an online classroom, particularly if it's a majority asynchronous is that you're kind of, you have to be self-regulated. And then the last one, though, is technology self-efficacy and that doesn't necessarily mean technology accurate, it means Are you if you struggle. Are you able to go somewhere for help? And I think that gets to some of what Nathan was referring to is the struggle that sometimes occurs that it's not necessarily Part of the content that they're trying to learn, but actually how they're demonstrating their, their understanding or demonstrating their knowledge and that's magnified in an online setting because we are relying on almost All technology tools to do those assessment activities and those peer review activities.
Mellissa Wilson: Events and some really important things. All of you have risk taking.
The belief that I can do this, if I can. Is there a place to reach out for help? The power of giving feedback so that I can grow net so that I can put on my shoes today. And so, when you think about all this work. Great, now this is this something that you're marking my growth on the wall and say, No, you're almost there yet, but not yet. What are we, great, especially when we think about a shift towards or inclusion of online learning? How in the world do I know what I'm grading. What I'm keeping track of what I'm not what was a good try. Let's do it again. And what was cool. Yep, let's sit down and learn how to do this. How do I know I'm so what in the world do we grade when everything is happening I computer?
Ellen Vorenkamp: I'm ready for this one. Um, I It's not an easy question. And, you know, there's so much about grading that is rooted in tradition and we all know how hard sometimes it is to break with tradition. But there are two people in addition to what Heidi and for sure and for I talk about in the distance learning playbook. There are two other people that I Go to when I think about grading and one of them is Tom guess ski and the other one is Ken O'Connor. And I recently had the opportunity to engage with both of these gentlemen through various virtual environments in Two quotes stand out to me from both of them. One is from Glasgow. He says teachers can teach without grades and students can learn without grades. However, checking is essential. And when we think about checking. We need to make sure that we are constantly have were aware of where our students are at. Do the students need to be involved in the assessment process, they need to be involved in the feedback process and they need to be involved in the grading process. And Ken O'Connor takes it one step further and he says you can learn without grades, but you can't learn without feedback. So, to me when I'm thinking about what I am going to grade it goes back to that purpose. Again, and it goes back to those two big questions am I certifying it or am I just trying to figure out where the kids are at. So, I can help them continue on. So, when I think of grading summative Put a grade on it you know if I'm giving the kids a piece of homework and Ken O'Connor would actually encourage us to stop calling it homework. He would encourage us to start calling it evidence So instead of asking the kids, where's your homework, where's your homework know where's your evidence, where's your evidence because I don't know how to help you if I don't have evidence of where you're currently at So if I'm collecting evidence and it's at a point in time where it's done, it's over. I don't expect the kids to learn anything more about it. Put a grade on it, put it in your grade book move on. But if it's the first time I've introduced something to the students. And I just want to see if they understand it and if they can practice and if That's probably more formative and, in that case, I might not put a grade on it. I would hope you wouldn't put a grade on it. And you might say, Hmm, this child needs some feedback. So, let's have some conversation. Let's have a dialogue with that child. Let's let them get with your peers and have some conversation around the norms that Nathan has talked about and let's create a process where they can actually learn from that practice and not be judged and told after one attempt that you're not good at it. So, don't try anymore.
Mellissa Wilson: So really, you're, you're lifting perhaps a shift for educators as well, or for leaders who might have a norm or expectation right now that we have so many grades and the great book.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Yes, thank you.
Mellissa Wilson: And for appearance. What do you mean I'm not getting that spelling test home every week or what do you mean your teachers and grading this? That's a big shift for everybody.
Ellen Vorenkamp: That tradition that we have to sort of breakthrough. You can do it, but you have to give to you have to give parents and students and teachers, the why, why, if we do things differently. Will it be better for the students? And sometimes we don't take the time to do that.
Mellissa Wilson: Absolutely. And what's the evidence that the way we've been doing it is working.
Nathan Spencer: It can I add in Melissa, you know, that was Well said. Ellen and I I'd put a couple more things that add on to what else I'm just saying by saying that it might also look different depending on the content area you're in and so feedback may look a bit different. Some of the tools and strategies for giving me maybe the same, the way it's done. Might look different and I really liked the idea of really talking about how the teacher shift and leadership did, shift it comes to thinking about Assessment and so there needs to be. Is there still needs to be something that parents see and that students see and the principles can see that teachers can always help students reflect on and so really thinking about in your content area and of course I speak for science here. What is it evidence that That you're constantly getting students feedback on that you can show to parents So I'll go back since there's already a modeling theme that I've thrown out here? I'll go back to the modeling piece these things can be If they're done online can be shared with parents, so they can see in view their students thinking or the students have thought and done individually and with their peers. And I think that's a pretty powerful indicator of what they're doing in the classroom. The principles can see that as well. We could use technology tools to help lift all these things out. As a matter of fact, if I think about one of the experiences I've had with the distance learning playbook. Is it throughout this book? They have small QR codes and those QR codes. You know, use your phone with you, little QR reader and a video pops up, there's no reason that that same technology can be used to share with parents, so they can use their QR Codes and their phones and they can see the students work or a video of a student Talking about what they're learning, their explanatory process or a video of the teacher, giving the students feedback, right. So, the students can use the same; the teachers can use the same thing for student feedback. So instead of it being. Oh, good job. If you're going to give some real feedback to the kids and the work they're doing, you can record yourself. via phone or via your computer and ensure the students have the chance to come back to that piece of feedback as long as they need to come back to that piece of feedback. So, it's not a one and done and it's a little more personal than written feedback as well. So, lots of ways to do this. But it's really important that we do think as a community about how assessment has to change in the classrooms. It's really, really difficult and science moving forward. If we're if we're really trying to and if I think about competency based or standards-based grading. Is going to be really difficult to move in this direction, which is a fantastic direction if we're still devoted to the ABC D. Thinking. So, in science. We need to consistently. Think about what the evidence is. They're showing us that Base explanatory it very difficult to get explanatory evidence, you're thinking about a multiple-choice test. So, there's so much to talk about with this and it all starts for science teachers we really start thinking about what is the curricular resource for using and how are they getting students to express themselves in their learning. So, there's a lot out there that that we really can help you with
Jason Siko: And I would add that there's a, you know, this does provide an opportunity. I'm not a big proponent of, oh, this is a crisis. And this is the ultimate time to transform education. I'm not a big buyer into that, but there are some insights that we can gain from this As Nathan mentioned a multiple choice test is probably not the best way to assess explanatory you know competencies In on the, on the, on the other hand, one of the things we're seeing with online environment that we're in now is a lot of people are concerned about cheating. Well in online testing if you're doing a multiple-choice test. There are ways not going to talk about them here, how you can cheat on an online multiple-choice test. It doesn't take a whole lot of genius to figure out you have multiple tabs open another computer, and so on. Or texting your friend during that time. But it's very hard to cheat on explanatory competencies, because it's just you and whoever you're recording with and So on and so forth. So, the Nathan's very correct in saying that there's a lot of tools here for, you know, recording getting that verbal feedback that audio feedback that video feedback. The nice thing about the technology in the sense that we have this way to capture it. Not only that, but archive it and curated, we do have the storage procedure. In learning management systems in google classroom in Google Drive and so on and so forth to where all this stuff is housed and then you can revisit it chronologically to see progress. And so, there's some perks here with online this, online environment that we're currently in that I think can help us address the That shift. And if we can point those things out during this time that will be it shift, no pun intended in the right direction.
Mellissa Wilson: Well, aside from giving away all the secrets to hacking and cheating, Jason. I think you've brought up an important piece. Let me think about and correct me if I'm wrong and nudge towards the power of a portfolio or being able to reflect back upon the artifacts of my work and perhaps it's another topic. Another place but We don't realize the power of that that as opposed to me giving you 1200 pieces of paper back and perhaps a few pieces of feedback in between. The power of being able to hold on to things and to collect them and curate them and really look back on the work that I've done. Perhaps that's a place in a benefit of working in an online environment as well. So, when you were thinking about the advice you've given the researchers and expertise, you've shared imagine tomorrow. I've listened to this podcast you've inspired me. You give me some food for thought. Walk and talk with me down the hall. I'm a teacher. I'm a principal I'm that and a mom or dad. Walk and talk with me. What's something that you hope I'm walking away with so that after you go down your hallway and I go down mine. I feel empowered to continue the conversation, whether it be with a group of peers or colleagues, I feel inspired and empowered to have a conversation with my leader. So that we can really start thinking or rethinking what we're doing with a bad assessment grading. Maybe it's too much, maybe it's too little often talk with me. What is that last piece of advice you would give me and who are you talking to, when you're walking and talking
Nathan Spencer: Well, that's a really good Question. And so, from my perspective. I think the conversation in some parts of the conversation going to be the same or a teacher, as they are for the principal is there for district leadership or the same time I'm going to wrap my arm around principles, a little bit differently than I would a teacher. So, for example, A teacher really needs to think about Their curriculum resource. What this is going to look like as you're moving through the day into the weeks into the year with their students. How do I do this, how do I give this feedback. How do I go about grading this? What does it look like as I'm sharing with parents? But I think my conversation with principles goes one step beyond that because there's a there's a pretty big shift when it comes to Creating practices and what parents expected when university is expected depending on your grade level. And so, to make a shift like this requires the principals to - not going to use the term buy-in - to really see that vision understand how this can work for kids. And so I think that I'm going to give advice to teachers to really dive deeply into the resource and really think about what powerful feedback is And how that helps students and not just to look at research, but also to engage with it and to ask their students about it because there's almost no more powerful feedback and ask your students. How they're learning how is helping them, etc. Really diving into their meta cognitive processes. I think it's a really important tool, but for principles. I think and for district leadership. I think beyond that we need to ask ourselves, what do we value. We already know that teachers are going to value. That this feedback process all that I've talked to do and I as a teacher did as well. And so However, when you're at that different level. , there’s different forces always aside from your students. So, what do we value as an educational community? And how do we make sure those values are forefront it as you move forward. This is a values question in the end.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Yeah, and I'm gonna pick up right there. Nathan. Because for me, it would be as we're walking down the hall. I would just deep breath, breathe, relax. Think about your own experiences. Think about what you value as a teacher and what you took on this career for this vocation, that so many of us have been called to. We know it's not about the paycheck. We know it's about what we can do for kids and think about what the outcome you want is and Do we want to continue down this path of developing point accumulators Kids who run around and sorting and classifying and creating these in norm curves that are not natural in our society, anyway. Or do we want to develop lifelong learners do we want kids who enjoy learning, who are passionate about that learning process, who Are constantly revisiting who they are and what they're doing in terms of that education that they're there. They're attaining and do we want to keep them engaged. And do we want them to be to be with us. And I think when you start to answer those questions. Things like, well, if they turn the paper in 10 minutes late. Do I really have to take 50% off or do I really have to give a grade on the first attempt at something, or can I actually just relax. And let kids learn at the speed of learning and we all know that children look at very different rates. Right. And our school system is really developed to really Help those who learn quickly succeed and we need to we need to back off from that we need to allow all kids to succeed, and we need to give all kids that time and feedback is a way of doing that and rethinking the way that we assess and the way that we grade. Can be very powerful in that in that for us. So, relax. Breathe like Nathan said, do some research. And let's yeah let's just Slow down to the speed of learning. If that makes sense.
Jason Siko: And I would kind of add to that in terms of slowing down to the speed of what we can reasonably expect for change a lot of the things that we've heard about. And in terms of, you know, making these shifts their cultural shifts and those cultural shifts, take a lot longer than a PD session on a Wednesday afternoon so you have to play the long game here for the teachers again as my other two colleagues mentioned, you know, start diving in and start trying to relax, but at the same time, realizing a lot of teachers overwhelmed right now. And so maybe…That's problematic, but it's also an opportunity to kind of bring up that you're back that one quote insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So maybe this is the time we have to pause and say, I have to do something different for my own survival. And then for the administrators, you know, Nathan avoided the term by and I would use the term capacity building. And so, in their future. Planning in their future hiring and the questions that they asked the candidates. They're bringing in for open positions you know thoughts about those shifts and thoughts about their philosophies. Regarding education and actually having the evidence I think everyone has a teaching philosophy statement. And I think I'm pretty sure everyone says they’re a social constructivist and a lifelong learner. And so, let's kind of ask a little bit more about where's the evidence there to demonstrate that as a as a mechanism for building capacity within their staff.
Mellissa Wilson: So, when we think about the time we've shared together in many instances you the three of you have done a beautiful job of answering in different avenues. So what? And we might come back to you some of the things that you've lifted as we walk away and go our separate avenues in hallways and Internet connections. Perhaps what will think about this. Well, think about. So, what. So, what do we value? Will think about. So, what's my purpose for doing this, whether it's supplying feedback. It's assessing; it's grading, I hope that our listeners have taken some nuggets about you, you shared and really are starting to ask themselves. So, what is my evidence. What is the evidence. This needs to be done. What is the evidence that this will matter to children and they'll consider? So, what drove me here and lifted that idea of what drove you to become an educator. What drove you to become a building principal a district leader. What are your drivers and do those drivers really reflect what you believe education should look and sound and feel like, not just for my child, but for every child? And so, as we walk down our hallways and go our separate ways. Let's continue to ask ourselves. So, what, what can we do within our own sphere of control, so that we can start to make the small shifts that will eventually shift. Something for everyone. So, so what. So, what can you do? So, what can we all do together so that we really start to build an educational system that reflects what we truly believe every child should have? Thank you so much for joining us today and we look forward to the next time we can come together and ask that age old question, so what and get to the point of what we have been given and blessed with throughout the field of education.
Richard Bacolor: Alright. Hello everybody, my name is Rich Bacolor. I'm a science consultant for Wayne RESA and I'm here on the line today with Kristi Hanby math consultant. Hi, Kristi.
Kristi Hanby: Rich.
Richard Bacolor: And also our ELA consultant Michelle Wagner. Hi, Michelle.
Michelle Wagner: Hi, Rich.
Richard Bacolor: You guys, one of the things that I miss most about working with you guys is actually being able to walk into your office or down the hall and have a conversation. And so, I'm really appreciate you guys jumping on the lunch hour conversation. With me today and we're going to have a little chat about the distance learning playbook. So, before we get started into that. I was wondering, you know, we're all teachers and we're all parents as well. So just as a little check. And I'm wondering if you could tell us a little bit about how your experience has been going in the distance learning space as a parent, and as a teacher.
Kristi Hanby: So, I can start I think probably what a lot of people were experiencing the in the in the spring was That there was this initial excitement at least my students are older, or my kiddos are older. So, they had some excitement when they first got sent home from school, but that ain't it pretty quickly. There wasn't a lot of pressure in the spring. And so, there wasn't. Awesome. There was just wasn't a lot of stress in the spring. I think it wasn't working very well, but everybody knew that and they were okay with it. This school years been quite a bit different. I think my kids had some expectations of things being better and to some extent they are. There's a lot more structure. There's routine. There's a lot more organization. I do think that some of their frustrations that were frustrations in the face to face environment are actually amplified in the virtual setting. So, like, not wanting to do, for example, repetitious math problems are searching for definitions and text. It wasn't something they enjoyed in the face to face environment and in a virtual setting. I think that those frustrations have become even more amplified so I just think that they want to be more creative and inventive than that and there isn't any sort of structure that says to them, you have to keep persevering on this. It's easier frustrated and walk away.
Richard Bacolor: That's interesting. And I, my kids are also a little bit older, I have two college age kids and you know they experienced the same thing. Where they're really interested in the classes they're taking because they have complete control over that. But they would really like to have a little bit more engagement in terms of how the material is or how they're experiencing the material. So, Michelle. What about you,
Michelle Wagner: So, I concur with Kristi. There's definitely much more structure this fall, than there was in the spring. I also I have little ones. And so, there's definitely less fear and uncertainty in terms of what's going to happen tomorrow. I think when all of this started my son, in particular, who was in second grade didn't understand why. Suddenly he couldn't see his teacher couldn't see his classmates. And I think that now this has been going on long enough, where he understands kind of where we are in terms of Just the pandemic in general. And so, there's less fear in that way. But I also think it's really hard for the little ones to get into a routine because they can't anticipate what tomorrow will be especially If they're hybrid. So, my children are hybrid. So, some days they're learning from home and Sunday to go to school. And it's never it's never consistent enough to feel like they're in a routine where they know what's happening next. So that's been really strange. And then the final thing I'd say is really hard, even for me is that the lines are so blurred now between home and school and there's not that clear cut. It's 330 we're done with school. School kind of stretches throughout the evening as well and Yes, there are lots of breaks. No one's consistently looking at a computer screen for seven hours. However, there's that looming pressure of I've got to get this assignment in before tomorrow.
Richard Bacolor: Yeah, it's funny you mentioned that the idea of routines, because I in my neighborhood. There are a number of little kids and I can always tell when they're on break. Because they come running out of their houses and run around the neighborhood, and then you know 10 minutes later they go back inside and It's, it's pretty weird to see that as a, you know, an effect of the pandemic and teaching and learning in that space. But so, the playbook that we got from Fisher fry and Addie well known researchers You know, is based on some observations, they made back in the spring. I think they interviewed something like 70 different teachers. So we should say there's a little caveat to this, that, and you guys have mentioned this already that What occurred in the spring and what is happening, you know, here in the beginning of the school are not really the same thing, like we were in crisis mode at the beginning. And we've had the summer to sort of plan and think and grow and learn from those experiences, but the playbook has some interesting topics. And so, I thought we would dive into that a little bit. Where do you guys think you know we're We get to sit at the Intermediate School district level, and so we're, we're in this weird medium space between research and practice. Where do you think this book fits in that sort of space, like how do you see teachers using this this kind of book or other resources.
Michelle Wagner: So, I can address that a little bit. I think that one of the hardest things about being a teacher is trying to sort through all of the noise that might be out there with you know just different edu-celebrities or, if you like Twitter and just following different people and on top of that, just the different initiatives and programs. And so, I really think that we have to approach any new thing. In this case, the playbook with a critical lens and I'm all about reading critically anyway. But trying to make connections between what we know to be true of the subject area which we are teaching and then also how we can make that fit within the current realities. So, I know that, personally, whenever I see something that john had he has written, I immediately think about effect size. So, when I pick up a text like this. I'm really looking for those practices that have the greatest impact on students. So, I'm looking at where I'm going to get the most bang for my buck. And I'm also looking for those connections to literacy and those ideas that make it easier to reach
Richard Bacolor: You have a friend with you.
Michelle Wagner: She's about to go outside. Sorry. Okay, so I'm also looking for those connections to literacy and those ideas that it will make it easier for students to read to right to speak into listen to one another. Because I think that that's in the end really what I want my students to be doing. So really looking through that lens. Yeah.
Richard Bacolor: Chris, how about you, where do you, where do you feel like this book sits in the List so resources.
Kristi Hanby: Yeah, so we were as similarly in the mathematics consultant world we were inundated with resources in the spring, and I think Teachers, even our curriculum directors were saying, you know, it's just so many resources, help us sort through them all. So, the guidance that I was reading in mathematics, and it's the guidance that we knew, you know, previous to being virtual is Really focusing on creating spaces that are collaborative in nature that position students to figure out something interesting. Something engaging encouraging them to work together. And work on interesting problems or what you in science call phenomena that lead to learning really important ideas and math and science. So, for example, I'm like, what happens when I divide by a number smaller than one. And why does that occur. Some, not just doing division with decimals as denominators, but just asking ourselves, what happens when we divide by a number that's less than one. And why does it happen when I divide that thing is getting bigger. That didn't happen when I was younger elementary school. Um, and so when I look at this book. I'm looking for those places where they give the kind of guidance for how I work in those collaborative ways How do I give students voice and flexibility in the work that they do in math and science and do it in a virtual space. So, there are a few places in the book where it addresses that. I think I'd also say that Fisher and fry are first and foremost literacy researchers, I believe. And so, there's also a lot of practices in here that are related to literacy practice. And so, I've had to kind of weed through and look for those opportunities that really highlight best practice in math and science. Yeah.
Richard Bacolor: I would agree with that. I mean, almost everything that we see coming out starts with math or ELA so as a science person. I find that to be always, always the case. Right. Like how do I find the science niche and these strategies. So, it's interesting you bring that up. One of the things they talked about, or they begin in the book is they talk about self-care strategies. Not only for your kids, but for the teachers as well. You guys have any successes in that space right now.
Kristi Hanby: Um, so I will say that even as an adult. I have found it difficult to set the boundaries between work and home. Especially and those of us that are working in is do tend to be working a lot of later afternoons and evenings, because that's when teachers have more availability. And so that's made it even harder. You know, sending text messages to the kids at three o'clock saying this is what's for dinner. It's in the kitchen, but I'll be working until seven So it's been really hard to find those boundaries but I'm starting to get better at it. Um, But it's hard for me. Then I have to remind myself that it's even more difficult for my kids because they maybe don't understand why it's important to separate those things for their own self-care. Um, so some of some of self-care has been taking care of my own boundaries and routines and keeping things separate um but it's also been recognizing that I live in a house full of adolescence and If they haven't figured it out just yet. That's okay. And so I want them to, you know, set up and do their work from 750 to 242 But they're tending to work more like 830 to 1130 in the evening and I have to let that go and hope that they get to a point where they recognize that it's easier for them to just put in a day from eight to three and be able to walk away from it at three o'clock.
Richard Bacolor: Yeah, it is really tough with the boundaries. That's all about, like, kind of creating these new habits because we're not bound by space and time in the same way that we were before. Michelle How about you.
Michelle Wagner: So, I again I agree with a lot of what Christy just shared and I'm sure I'm not the only educator mom who lives this consistent struggle of trying to separate herself from her job. And so, I think even in the best of times, I have a hard time turning off. There's always one more thing I could do, you know, and one more thing that I feel like I need to do in order to help further whatever it is I'm trying to accomplish. But I think that now that I'm working from home. That is magnified tenfold. And I think that that's a real struggle, and especially with littles at home. You know, just because I'm working from home, doesn't mean they don't need lunch, or does it need me mean that they don't need that chance to go outside for a quick run around the block. And I'm the one who has to make sure all those things happen if they're home with me. And so that's been a struggle to try and to navigate all of that. Where I think when under normal situations, you can get them all ready and then you put them on a bus or you drop them off at school and they're occupied for that full eight hours when you see them again. And it's a different time or a different part of the day we're now that's all kind of mesh together as one. So, I think we're just trying to navigate that. And I also think That it's really one success that I've had is, I've had to be really intentional with saying there will be no work between these hours because we get so little time with our kids. We need to make sure that we're keeping bedtime sacred and dinnertime sacred and so I'm I feel more successful at that.
Richard Bacolor: super important to have those routines and can set those limits, um, No, which the book kind of goes into one of the models in the books talks about starting with the standards and as you know is d consultants. I think one of our, our main objectives in our work is to help teachers use standards aligned research-based curricula and also to implement those things with You know with, I don't want to say fidelity, but with good quality classroom practices. Right, so What do you think the biggest challenge has been in translating research based aligned curriculum and practices to remote settings or to distance learning
Michelle Wagner: So, I think this is a challenge even beyond just remote settings right it's if you have the curriculum. How do you make it work for the students that you're serving And I think that being remote adds that extra layer of making sure that the students understand what's expected But then also making sure that they have the tools to access that that curricular resource. So, I think it's just that extra layer of stuff that needs to happen to make sure that the kids can access the learning. And I think that this is something that teachers are really good at in terms of figuring out Hey, this is the goal. How am I going to make this happen for my students when they're coming in at multiple levels or they're coming in with different baggage or different situations? How can we make all of this happen? And I think that we've added this huge layer of working from home now or teaching from home and that teachers have really had to be creative in terms of looking at what do they have and then what are their students have in order to figure out how to actually implement that online.
Kristi Hanby: So, I think that math and science teachers have maybe found this really challenging So much of best practice. And I think that this is true and literacy to is about listening to your students about being able to sit with them in one on one conference with them or Small group. Collect you know get, get feedback from them. And I think that this is what teachers are really challenged with right now. I know from watching my own kiddos in our home that when teachers are asking those good questions and they're putting kids in breakout rooms. They're not always getting feedback from students and so trying to find the ways that we get the right information from teachers or I'm sorry, from students about what their understanding. I think has been a real challenge. And I've been digging into this book to see if I can find a Variety of ways to be able to show teachers how they gather that information from their students.
Richard Bacolor: Yeah, I would say from the science perspective, it's, it's kind of the same thing that Michelle kind of mentioned there's two layers to it. And I felt like access, you know, teachers, learning the LM s and putting lessons into the LM s was like one stage of learning. And then Kristi what you're talking about this. And you mentioned it before the collaboration side of things, almost the you know the discourse moves that we talked about or that we've been pushing for the last several years. You know, learning tools that still allow us or the students to have those kind of collaborative moments has been a huge challenge and so I've seen a couple of the nice things in the book about setting up types of meetings for specific purposes. So, some of the things that we've been saying the science base is, you know, be very intentional about the things that kids can do asynchronously or outside of the meeting room space. And then really hone in on those moments where you need the kids to interact with each other with their models and their ideas that's been Sort of an ongoing challenge, at least in science classroom as well. What about you guys. Have you seen any other tools or any hints from the book that might help teachers Deal with that?
Michelle Wagner: I really focus on that idea of feedback. And so, as a literacy person I know that importance of just making sure that students know where to go next. Because learning to read and learning to write well Is not something that is necessarily linear, it doesn't. There's not one great one clear cut path towards reading proficiency or writing proficiency And so we know that the best way to figure out where a child needs to go best is to sit down and have them read to you or have them. Or have them share their writings that, you know, as a teacher, where the best place for them to go. Next And that's what moves them forward. And so, I really focused on that portion of the book that talked about feedback and how we need to make sure Now more than ever that we're being very clear and what the students need to do and then where they need to go next. And so, I really, I really appreciated that reminder of just, you mentioned even rich setting up different kinds of meetings, but even those one on one. Points where you can touch base with a child, even if it's over phone. However, you can connect with that child, but actually still giving them the chance to listen to them read and listen to them. Right, so that you can give them the feedback that they need to move them forward.
Kristi Hanby: Great. And so, in mathematics, listening to students solve a problem is important, but we can also, if you have the right problem. We can also gather feedback from what they've written So one thing that we've seen teachers doing is putting together shared slide decks. So, you know, often in elementary school students are numbered because they have you know a number of hook and a number of cubby in a number. And so, in this case you just give them a number of slide and They would do their work on that slide, but as a teacher, you can go through all of the slides within the deck. And give comments by just clicking a comment on the Google slide so that that's one of the things that we've been doing and professional learning. But then as I was looking in the book. And I was watching some of the videos this morning. Um, I noticed another teacher saying that instead of giving her comments and text. She gives them in Google Voice so that her students can hear her voice and she thinks that and I think that's probably right that especially younger students are going to gather more From a teacher's voice than from reading the text and I think especially when you're talking about math or science which might have some fairly technical language and the use of voice might be a better use of a feedback tool like using a way to insert audio might be a better feedback tool than inserting in text. So, I thought that was useful. And I'm going to share that with teachers. So, yeah.
Richard Bacolor: I love that idea. I think that's also important with, you know, when we think about universal design for learning and some of our other populations are English language learners. Now, those kinds of supports I think are really, really important to do intentionally Another vignette that I saw in the book that I really loved was the teacher who schedules during face to face time to students to meet individually. So, she asks a student to show up 10 minutes early. And then another student to show up 10 minutes or to stay 10 minutes afterwards, and she rotates her class through that. So every day during their time she's meeting individually with two students And over the course of the week she gets through the majority of them and she said that that that time alone with those kids to Just do a check in, or maybe ask a question about the lesson is really formative right and really gives her a lot of data. To work with and to help the entire class move forward with whatever they're working on. So, I thought that was another really interesting way to go about it. So we're kind of running into the end of our time here today, but There were some really nice key points in the book if some of our teachers want to get ahold of you guys and talk more about the book or some other issues related to teaching mathematics or LA, where can they go, or where can they get in touch with you guys.
Kristi Hanby: So, I mean, we're always available and Risa and I don't want to just like shamelessly give out my email address, but there are ways to contact us through getting on the website. I will say that if you're going to dig into this book as a math teacher. I think there's a couple places in it that really kind of hit the nail on the head. As far as the research is concerned in math, Ed. And so, I really liked when I was reading on page 143 142, I know like as we were talking and putting this podcast. Together we were thinking of difficult it is for teachers to take him too much information right now. Little bits are better. So, if you're listening to this as a math teacher I would I would highly recommend you just dig in there. On page 143 142 and then page 110 could be really helpful to for helping you think about engaging mathematical tasks. And then if you have questions about those things. You can certainly reach out to anybody on the math team, or you can attend We've been doing Thursday afternoon office hours, you can get in touch with us about how to connect with those or we have been doing math leader meetings throughout the year in order to get information. To those who are needing it so I'm hoping that those are a few ways in which you can reach out to us and we can have more conversation.
Richard Bacolor: Also, Michelle.
Michelle Wagner: Sure, we can always be found the literacy team can be email@example.com and just click on the literacy tab and we're help. Happy to help and assist in any way that you might need. But I did want to just bring up one more piece from the book. At the end of the bucket really talks about how our goal should be to make learning better for our students, which I think is the same goal. We've always had And I'm just going to read a quick quote. Let's remember to leverage what we have learned from crisis online learning to prepare ourselves and our students for more robust and authentic future learning And I think that, in a nutshell, this experience has stretched us all to learn in new ways. And I think that that's one thing. Our, our children. Are responding to their learning in ways that I would never have imagined possible before. And if you had told me last year that my seven-year-old. Would be scheduling a zoom meeting with his teacher and putting that calendar invite into his calendar so he didn't forget I wouldn't believe that to be true. So, I think that we really are helping our students to learn in different ways, right now, and they are learning something, it may not have been what we thought they would learn but they're learning in new and better ways. And I think that's going to bring success in the future.
Kristi Hanby: It's a really good point.
Richard Bacolor: Michelle, it's an Excellent point and a great way to wrap it up. So, I really appreciate you guys, thanks for hanging out with me for a little bit and I'll see you next time. Thanks.