Last Updated On: September 29th, 2022
What would you say are the top 5 qualities of a good student?
- The first, I’d say, is a willingness to try. Give the teacher the benefit of the doubt. Give it a shot. Don’t just write it off.
- Accepting the responsibility for your own academic pursuit. Teaching 7th grade, you run into a lot of parents who are struggling with letting go and letting their kids have their own agency. I saw that in 7th and definitely when I taught 9th because all the sudden it’s that jump like, “Oh, this is serious. It actually counts.”
- Don’t be afraid to fail. Purposely try a lot of different things, find out what doesn’t work for you. Navigate your way through the stuff that kind of works for you, figure out what methods are best for you, and then use them, in terms of your learning style, in terms of how you approach homework, projects, and time management.
- Don’t lose sight of the finish line just because you hit one step wrong.
- I think vulnerability would be a really solid number five. It’s ok to be vulnerable. Whatever that means: to ask for help, to go to office hours, to ask your neighbor in the classroom, “I didn’t quite catch that, could you tell me?” “Could you share that idea with me because that didn’t make sense?”
What would you say has been the hardest thing about being an educator and administrator during COVID?
When quarantine kicked in March of 2020 we were expected within the week to have already transitioned our stuff from in person learning to distance learning. We were asked to make sure that it was still academically important and worthwhile, but also that it was approachable online, that it was interactive online, that it was still meaningful, that we were still collecting assignments, that kids knew about deadlines and all that stuff. The amount of things expected of teachers… it’s too much. Once all that stuff kicked in, to simply expect us to hit the ground running was wild. We had so many meetings about which programs work best for you, which ones are interactive, which ones do your kids already know, which ones do they like, what about them makes them enjoyable for the students, what kind of participation do you get, what percentage of your students are actually participating. We were thinking about that level of complexity in meetings, during quarantine, throughout the entire summer, especially as a part of the leadership for my school. We were creating things for the rest of the teaching staff, plus the entirety of the student body, plus planning, plus taking all of our existing curriculum and putting it into online programs to make them interactive and interesting. That was the hardest year of teaching for me. Graduate school wasn’t that hard. I got more sleep during an 80 hour a week graduate program than I did with distance learning.
Does your school teach any Social Emotional Learning? Do they believe in that? Do they do it well?
Yes, yes, no. As a part of the leadership, we were tasked with helping to create stuff for the homeroom period. So we did things to commemorate different times of the year…like Chinese New Year. We touched on different cultural awareness. Our community was really rich with Korean families, Bangladeshi families, Latino families. We had really great communities and the parents and guardians were really supportive. When there were traumatic events that took place, our weekly lesson would be about things like intersectionality. In my history class We watched the insurrection, the protests, televised hearings…we had things going on in the classroom, but then there were televised hearings because of Brett Kavanaugh. So the kids that don’t care can work on academics as long as they are focused. But it’s a goal of mine to create politically active, politically motivated kids. A lot of my kids come out saying they want to be in policy, they want to be psychiatrists, they want to be teachers, they want to be lawyers, they want to be doctors because they want to enact some change.
What are your thoughts on SAT and ACT being discontinued for colleges moving forward?
I hate the SAT and the ACT. I still recognize the need for something along those lines though. Students have to establish that they have a baseline of knowledge. If those were better written tests, if they were culturally relevant, if they were more accessible, and not geared towards middle and upper class white kids, I think it would be better suited towards everybody. However, there’s no easy solution to that. The education system is what it is in our country. The privatization of education is ruining things even more every day. There has to be some kind of Litmus test. “Do you have the cognitive ability to logically think through this thing? Do you have some basic vocab? Do you have some basic mathematical knowledge? Do you have some basic understanding of science?” Honestly, the CSET tests are terrible, but if you take bits and pieces from each one of those and water it down so it’s high school level (senior level), I think that would be a better indicator about whether or not someone is ready and qualified to take up the space in that college. Because the depth and breadth of the knowledge required of those things…
What can parents do to advocate for their child in a way that lets the teacher know that they’re not going to overstep?
If parents and guardians approached the parent and guardian teacher relationship as a teammate relationship and not an adversarial relationship, that would change all of academia. First, recognize that you and the teacher are coming from a similar place. You are still learning about that student just because that kid is becoming a new person little by little every day. Questions are going to be your best friend. If you approach with respect and you ask a lot of questions, it makes things so much easier. We’re working together for your kid.
How do you respond to the “What can I do to get a better grade in your class” question?
I absolutely hate that question, “What can I do to get a better grade in your class?” Because my answer is always participate, try, put in effort. Even if it’s something you don’t find interesting, (which, by the way, my class is just non stop interesting), sometimes you gotta fake it. Sometimes you have to push yourself through. If anything, it’ll perhaps open your eyes to something you did not know existed or a new perspective on something you did know about. We learn, it’s constant learning, even if it doesn’t seem like it.
The grades are going to come if you put in the effort, if you try, if you believe in yourself and recognize that it’s ok to not always get the best grade because you’re constantly trying. And the next time you do something you’re going to do it better than the first time you did it. Showing me that you care is the first step. That’s how we bridge that gap.
What if they came in with an essay that they did poorly on and asked you to go through the feedback with them. Would that be something that shows you they care?
In dealing with that student, that’s an opportunity to build a relationship so that kid who perhaps has been struggling academically in more than one class will have an adult that they can potentially go talk to, that they trust, that could also help them bridge the gap between themselves and other teachers.
I taught freshmen for 4 years. The kids that I had kept coming back. I would try to help them find whatever adult would best help them or to which website you should write an angry letter.
To help a student in that circumstance, to reach out and let them know that not only do you care about them in your class but you care about them. That’s an opportunity to help that kid turn a corner. At the graduation I just went to, I saw at least 2 students that turned that corner between freshman year and graduation. I had kids that were behaviorally one thing and the attitude was super confrontational and super aggressive and “I don’t care about this. I don’t need school.” and now those kids are going to college and already they know what degree they’re going to get, they know what’s coming after graduation from college. To help those kids get to that point where they say, not only can I do this, but I want to, that’s it.
That’s the good stuff. What’s some advice you’d give to your students?
The harder you work through the things that you don’t necessarily enjoy, the more doors you’re going to have open for you.
Having the skills to be able to navigate those circumstances, to be able to talk to the teacher, to be able to seek out the help, to be able to persevere through that struggle, those are life skills that are going to take you far. Algebra was not easy for everyone, but the ability to persevere through algebra can help you get through calculus, or a really difficult freshman year of college.
When you make a choice, you need to think past that choice. What happens 5 mins after the choice, what happens 5 hours after the choice, 5 days, 5 weeks, 5 months. You need to start thinking past the choice because if you just live impulsively…I don’t want you to become a statistic.
Also explore parts of yourself you don’t necessarily get to share. If you’re super into math, if you’re super into science, but you also like to paint. Then you better paint. If you also want to write music, then I want to hear your music. Those are the things that cannot be stifled because those are the things that make you human. You are not just a math kid. You are not just a biology kid.
Photo by Max Fischer