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What Kind of a Teacher Am I This Time?

Posted by bengarcia01@gmail.com on January 22, 2021 at 8:45 PM

This Blog post was originally published in Fall of 2019, but I had to erase it and repost due to random rascals on the internet spamming it with pesky ads in the comments section.


What Kind of a Teacher Am I This Time?


My world has been turned upside down. I was on a lovely two week vacation in Oaxaca Mexico, and shortly after my plane landed I got a call from one of my school administrator advisors who asked if I wouldn't teach a class at one of the high school’s in his district starting the day after I returned from my vacation. I was initially hesitant, but I thought it might help my cause to bring real industry experiences to local students by having a full fledged PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs (SRL) class somewhere in the Rogue Valley where our little PBS station is located. To make a long story short, two weeks after school started I’m now teaching a video class at North Medford High School as an industry instructor. It has put me back in a role that I once inhabited for six years. I’m a classroom teacher again!


Being the proclaimed “industry teacher” in a classroom with 30 plus teenage students who were used to having a new substitute teacher or school administrator babysit the class for the previous two weeks changes the dynamics of a learning environment immensely. I quickly rediscovered that cooped-up students do what comes naturally to an improvising new teacher: test them. After the first class I looked in vain for an employee bathroom to cry in, but in all my trips to this school the previous year, I’d somehow never used one. I found a quiet place in the library, fought back my tears, and wrote two pages of questions any new teacher might think of, starting the list with “Teacher facilities?”


I’ve been working alongside teachers and students as a “Teacher Ambassador” the last 2.5 years. I was hired by NMHS a few weeks into the fall semester 2019. On my first day at the school, I was given keys, an employee handbook and sent to a classroom where none of the essential software worked — such as the attendance software. A teacher named Mike watched me start to introduce myself to students, a student interrupted asking if I was a substitute teacher, I backtracked to explain that I was the permanent teacher. Mike walked out of the classroom as I began my PBS Newshour Student Reporting Labs elevator pitch again, but it was interrupted again by another student wanting to know if he could use the bathroom. Then the side conversations started, then the phones came out, and by the time I was done with my 30 second spiel one of 31 students was paying attention to me. A day later, the IT guy and a front office lady began to help me gain access to crucial systems I needed to do my job. A week later, a vice principal had time to cram the orientation teachers get during “in-service” week into an hour. I began to feel better. Two weeks later, about two thirds of the students looked at me when I spoke. Three weeks later no one slept in class anymore.


“Teacher Ambassador” I wish I had one of those...


Midway through the first semester I’m somewhat in the rhythm of solo teaching mode, but I occasionally find myself wishing I had my own PBS Teacher Ambassador to co-plan my lessons with, or to take the lead with advanced students during class so I can focus on the bottom of the to-do list tasks like: “differentiate for struggling learners in the class.”


Also it would be nice just to have someone to confide in when crazy things happen, which seem to happen daily, and they pile up contributing to a sense of “how isolated it can feel to be an educator” — especially when all the adults around you are too busy to listen. For example, the first week (their 3rd week) we undertook a class exercise where students wrote the most important news issue to them on sticky notes and posted their top three on a class poster. Privately, one kid shared his top three with me: “damn liberals,” “church bombings” and “mass shootings.”


After class, in a state of shock, I went to talk to an educator further up the chain of command about this. This person was busy with another student and so I said “It’s about one of your students; I can come back later; do you have availability after school?”

This person bluntly said, ”No.”

Then I asked, “Do you have availability any time this week or the next?’’

“Sorry I’m booked solid.”

And so lastly I said, “I’ll email you about it.”

“I’m so behind with those; it could be awhile.”

I had a follow up talk with the student myself, and our short chat convinced me that he is just fascinated by deeply controversial issues, which he emphatically and emotionally explained to me were “tragic and should be prevented by any means necessary.” I still emailed the educator I spoke with earlier.

 

The case of the adjustable table feet heist


In a few short months on the job, I can already tell a few more stories like the aforementioned — the case of the adjustable table feet heist, for example. One day we were setting up cameras and tripods, and to create more space in the classroom for 30 students to set up we stacked tables on top of each other. The tables stacked on top had their legs upright, and by the end of the “block” (period) five tiny adjustable feet were missing from the ends of the table legs. I didn’t notice until the tables were upright and the next teacher who uses the room pointed out that some of them weren’t quite level. The feet weren’t the only items to go missing in Term 1.


Anyhow, within the last month a very sweet teacher on special assignment, Bonnie, has been helping me figure out the grading software, and also a teacher friend, Jamie, with whom I’d participated in Coffee EDU meet-ups last year, stopped by my classroom to let me know she’s right around the corner and that the monthly meet-ups would be starting again soon. Both helped me understand how the gradebook works the day after mid quarter grades were due.


Recently, I met up with Tisha Richmond, who I co-planned and co-facilitated a teacher conference with last year, “Make Learning Magical!” She’s going to pop in to help me with a Google Classroom issue soon — ah, how good it feels that a teacher community is being felt so quickly in my new role. Teaching this one class underscores how important my media teacher support and mentorship work is. After I leave this classroom I very much look forward to the synergetic TCP work I do alongside hard-working media arts teachers at Hedrick and Central High. I hope these two teachers consider continuing their PBS Newshour Student Reporting Labs next school year, but for now I look forward to lightening their load and helping students learn the fundamentals of video production and journalism.

 

Where it all started


Shortly after the PBS Teacher Community Program (TCP) adventure began, April 2017, all five of us “Teacher Ambassadors” worked together to craft our individual elevator pitches for the educator support work we were embarking upon in rural areas where our TV stations are located: Iowa, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho and Southern Oregon.


As a Teacher Ambassador, I am the bridge between Southern Oregon Public Television (SOPTV) and local educators. I support our shared goal of improving learning outcomes for Southern Oregon’s students. From my experience teaching for the past six years, I know first-hand how isolated it can feel to be an educator. In SOPTV’s Teacher Ambassador role, I am working to address educator needs in our community in ways that are authentic and effective. My goal is to connect local educators with each other and with SOPTV, which is a resource for teachers to network, access peer-to-peer professional learning opportunities and enhance their teaching practice.


This message still rings true for my local support of educators, although I’ve since added the descriptor “media arts” before “educator” and “students”. Also the station has rebranded to SO PBS. Anyhow, the original mission was too broad for a one-person education program at our local station to tackle in a meaningful way, also folks at the station provided feedback to me that it would make more sense for my education work to relate to media arts teachers and students, thus my efforts are currently focused on supporting video teachers who are interested in piloting PBS Newshour Student Reporting Labs (SRL) sites. The NMHS studio production teacher stepped down, and they needed a video teacher, so I thought I’d pilot my own SRL class, which is field production and video journalism married through 15 lesson plans and news story units. I also have another SRL site up and running at Hedrick Middle School, which is going much better because we didn’t start late, and also we have industry standard equipment--oh, and having only nine students helps too!


Lastly, there’s a possibility of a third site at Central Medford High starting the second term, but so far there is just one student signed up for it. Also, Eagle Point High School is interested in a partnership. Thus, at these two existing sites is probably where this adventure will all end for this short lived SRL experiment as the Teacher Community Program grant runs its course June of 2020. However, on an optimistic ending note, there is a possibility that the grant might get extended into 2021.


If you wish to respond to this blog post please email me at Bengarcia01@gmail.com and I'll post your comment below.

 

 

The Program Logic Model and a Pivot Toward Media Arts Education

Posted by bengarcia01@gmail.com on January 22, 2021 at 8:10 PM

This Blog post was originally published in summer of 2019, but I had to erase it and repost due to random rascals on the internet spamming it with pesky ads in the response section.

 

The Program Logic Model and a Pivot Toward Media Arts Education

 

As I have worked to develop and evolve SO PBS’s Education strategy I was excited to learn about Program Logic Models because developing our station's education logic model will more keenly guide our work and engage with the media arts education community in Southern Oregon. Moving forward I hope to align my education work more closely with media arts educators. Seeking out and working with media arts teachers seems to make more sense for folks I work with at SO PBS and also to a few select school administrators who are my advisors. Lately I have been working more and more with teachers who have some sort of video production component at work in their curriculum. Anyhow, the essential question of this blog post is: what’s a program logic model and how does it work? In a nutshell, it is a planning device and a way to explain the relationships among resources, activities, outputs, and outcomes of any program or project.

 

Logic models initially start with consideration of inputs, which are usually based on needs. Via two years of work with teachers and students, SO PBS Education has discovered that media arts training and support are a huge need in our teacher community. Next resources are considered. In our case those resources are things like a traveling class set of iPads; film production equipment; Adobe software; PBS’ educational resources; and most recently PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs (SRL) curriculum and Level Up tutorial videos. As the Education Coordinator organizing and leading professional development trainings, I’m also considered a resource. Next up are activities. Activities are what we do with these resources.

 

Various primary and secondary teachers and I are experimenting with various PBS media arts curriculum in the classroom that involve PBS Kids ScratchJr coding and SRL video production lessons. These activities engage upper elementary students with coding; news making training with middle school students via SRL lesson plans; and advanced SRL training and filmmaking training with high school students. I co-teach these learning or training activities and in the last year about 200 students and 30 teachers have been reached. I’m most excited about the SRL work because a local school district has an interest in a partnership in terms of an SRL class that I might teach. Anyhow, the number of students and teachers I work with are considered outputs and are quantitative figures.

 

Outcomes are the final part of the program logic model and my favorite concept. Here at SO PBS Education, I have seen that short-term results of our SRL interventions with media arts teachers and students leads to increased video production knowledge and skills. I have observed consistent changes in behavior due to our work, as well. For example, a local elementary student with chronic absenteeism started to come to school because of my weekly ScratchJr workshops. His teacher told him he could join our pilot group if his attendance improved, and by the end of the year it was north of 80%. This is an incredible result! Some day I hope to report long term outcomes like a media arts students partaking in an internship at our station or perhaps due to our interventions in the classroom we’ll inspire a student to apply to a media arts related program at a loca institution of higher education.

 

There have been meaningful changes in condition or quality of life for a local middle school video teacher who was unsatisfied with the trajectory of his video skills, and so we started working SRL curriculum into his leadership class. In addition to our work in the classroom, he and I developed a media arts Professional Learning Community of local media arts professors and media arts teachers in his district. By the end of the school year he was optimistic about the trajectory of his leadership class and the potential for a video class at his school that could someday morph into an SRL class. This outcome I consider to be a mid-term outcome.

 

I look forward to reporting more outcomes in the upcoming school year (2019/2020) as our SO PBS Education program logic model continues to mature and address real needs in our community. At this point based on feedback from school administrators, teachers, and students it looks like a pivot to video production related models of teacher engagement will dominate next school year. These outcomes are the ultimate goal of a program logic model, and can be share with folks interested in the work of an organization, like for example a grant organization that wishes to fund certain activities that have outcomes that align with the mission of their organization. I hope that my work for my station garners this kind of support some day.


If you wish to respond to this blog post please email me at Bengarcia01@gmail.com and I'll post your comment below. 

 

2nd Annual Teacher Summit - Make Learning Magical!

Posted by bengarcia01@gmail.com on September 6, 2018 at 6:05 PM

     What a kick off to the school year! I had the great luck of having a few amazing partners this year who really made the 2nd Annual SOPTV Teacher Summit - Make Learning Magical a huge success. It started with local MSD549c teacher, now tech integration specialist for the district, Tisha Richmond agreeing to co-facilitate the day long learning experience. Her new book, Make Learning Magical, was the subtitle for the summit and also the motor for her amazing keynote. We also got planning help from PBS National Director of Professional Learning and Children's Media & Education, Kerri Balint. The planning started early, a few clammy mornings in April we met via Google Hangouts and started to plot, and by early June we had our sessions pretty much figured out--an Ignite talk, Innovating Inside the Box, etc. So, I will not spend this whole post discussing the adventures we had in planning the summit, but I just wanted to mention it because a few special things happened that lead to "magical" ideas that stuck with me. Ideas worth spreading (wink) that I hope to really dig into with teachers that I work with this school year.

     One, PD for teachers is everywhere on the net, and when I was in the classroom online professional development was scary, overwhelming, and a huge time suck. But, at our summit, I saw something beautiful. An improvisational Ed Chat that happened via Twitter, using our local handle #OrEdChat. Teachers that had never used Twitter (I was sitting in the audience participating) were not only quickly getting a handle of it, but before and after the prescribed questions/answers they were actually browsing Twitter for content that could help them out in the classroom. It was amazing, and because I've always been skeptical of Twitter as a place to find high quality ideas for curriculum and instruction the last thread of skepticism I had was severed. I spent this whole last year having my own personal Twitter Guru, Tisha Richmond, poking and prodding me to explore it more, but I really saw the light at the summit. It wasn't just the discovery of new ideas from Twitter, but also the sharing of novel ideas via an emerging teacher community by local teachers in the room, all happening live, and we had it projected so everyone could see our new PLN at work!

     Two, the session this spontaneous Twitter jubilee happened inside of was called "Innovating Inside the Box." A lot of other great educators out there have graffiti-ed the internet in indelible text about the important theme of being creative within the constraints you find yourself inside of professionally. It has a lot to do with having a growth mindset, and as it relates to the world of education George Couros delved deeply into this topic in The Innovator's Mindset: "My focus, and the 'why' of this book, is developing schools that help individuals embrace the innovator's mindset. When forward-thinking schools encourage today's learners to become creators and leaders, I believe they, in turn, will create a better world. That's my 'why', and it's the way, I believe, we must approach the 'what' and 'how' of our work as educators." Replace "schools" in that excerpt with 'teachers' and this is the point that Tisha and Jamie (co-facilitator of the session) drove home to the educators in the room. Based on the evaluation forms I read later, they really made an impact on teachers in this session. Also, the inspiration in the room during this session was especially palpable, which was a magical thing to be a part of. BTW, Tisha expands on this concept in her book, in a chapter titled "Innovation", so if you get a chance go to www.tisharichmond.com to learn more--she's got a great blog too!

     Three, the "Pirate Guy" was the phrase of the day. A few teachers in the room did not know Dave Burgess' name, but they knew of his work, and we were lucky to have him speak. I wish I would have recorded him, but his moving 40 min motivational speech in essence revolved around a short paragraph in his popular book, Teach like a Pirate: "Seeking greatness, on the other hand, is a journey that can ignite, stoke, and continuously fuel a raging inferno. That journey begins the instant a teacher chooses to shift his or her mindset and says, 'Yes! I want to be great!'" I saw this shifting mindset in the room throughout the day, but it takes leadership initially because not everyone can spark this magic in themselves. I struggle with this, I always have, and my mentors are teachers like Tisha who inspire me and fill me with hope every time they speak--her keynote was all about her journey from near burnout to "raging inferno". Anyhow, along with the teachers who were inspired by the "Pirate Guy" a few weeks ago at the summit, I have been "seeking greatness" my entire career and will be doing it a lot more intentionally this year through my work of supporting local teachers. I will report back in a follow up blog about how various teachers in my area seek greatness?

     Lastly, I'm not sure if anyone reads these blogs, and I'm just as insecure about writing as anyone else, so if you stumbled upon this blog and I said something that caused a twinge of maybe a sort of response inside of you--critical or celebratory--just respond with a short post. It would be fun to have my first exchange on a blog in my short history of blogging. Also, how do you seek greatness?


If you wish to respond to this blog post please email me at Bengarcia01@gmail.com and I'll post your comment below.

A Brave New Venture

Posted by bengarcia01@gmail.com on April 5, 2018 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (0)

As Polonius put it in Hamlet ““Since brevity is the soul of wit / And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will be brief…” which is sometimes a difficult task for me, but I will try. Thus, to quickly get to the point: why did I leave the classroom to become Southern Oregon Public Television’s "Teacher Ambassador" for the PBS Teacher Community Program, and how’s it going so far? It’s a long story, but the short and skinny of it is that after six years of teaching I got burnt out and actually switched careers entirely. I was six months into a new job, as an employment specialist, when the sirens call of education lured me back into the field. And I’m so blessed to have returned because I feel my current position is an opportunity of a lifetime. I get to do the incredible work of supporting local teachers, and maybe just maybe, I might even help put a tiny dent in that daunting burnout figure where about 40% of teachers permanently leave the profession within five years of starting. This isn't my only goal, and to borrow a few lines from our station’s sleek elevator pitch (designed by a professional PR firm!) about the program: “In my SOPTV Teacher Ambassador role, I’m working to address educator needs in our community in ways that are authentic and effective. My goal is to connect local educators with each other and with the station, which is a resource for them to network, access peer-to-peer professional learning opportunities and enhance their teaching practice.” But, before I get into the details of my work I will quickly relay some related background information about yours truly.

I started teaching in Portland Public Schools, in an all girls high school, and one of the first skills I quickly yet painfully learned was the art of building relationships with my primarily African American students. They weren't quick to recognize me as someone who deserved respect, and I was a bit too eager to offer them anecdotes about how as a Latino growing up in extreme poverty I knew what it was like coming up with unique struggles and hardships. It was a fight to earn their attention, and recognition as a human being who was worthy of dignified treatment, but by the end of the school year I felt I was a dynamic person in their eyes; I was more than the static “new teacher” character. With each new teaching job I felt I have fought this same fight over and over again, whether it was the super elite Chinese students I worked with in Guangzhou China, or ultra wealthy Mexican students I worked with in Mexico; I had to prove I was worthy enough to be their teacher at each stop. Even though I’m back in my hometown, and I know a lot of teachers and administrators here in the Rogue Valley via one or two degrees of personal separation, I’m again fighting this same fight: am I qualified enough, worthy enough, distinguished enough to be a PD trainer, a workshop leader, a conference organizer, an Ed tech integration specialist--or however it is that local educators see me and interpret my work as a “Teacher Ambassador”? I’m fighting not only for visibility, but relevance and validation.

This TCP undertaking is a beautiful struggle, and I’m privileged to support the noble work that teachers do every day as educators, role models, therapists--swiss army knife adults--and in general mentors to many young Americans. I experienced this first hand in my short six years as a teacher, but it’s a little bit different now that I’m in a support role and I get to experience education from a different lens. To get teachers to invite me into their classrooms was a hard fought battle. For example, a few months into the job I started to offer PBS LearningMedia 101 workshops--getting the word through any means possible--and of the handful of teachers who came to my first workshop a teacher named Geoff decided to gamble with his career, telling me after the workshop “sure I’ll take you up on your offer of support because I think that teacher ‘Lesson Builder’ tool could really be useful for me; I just need help learning how to use it and connect it to my Google classroom.” And thus a synergetic relationship sprung to life and eventually he was helping me form a PLN at his school and co-facilitating my quarterly PBS LM 101 workshop. So through some luck, and a little hard work, I’ve built a loose network of teachers who see value in the various projects that are now in motion.

The Southern Oregon Public Television (SOPTV) Teacher Community Program (TCP) is now in up and running, and there are so many stories I could tell about hardworking, overwhelmed and overachieving teachers that for some reason chose to work with me. I’m proud to say that all our work reaches groups of other teachers and offers tools, strategies or even inspiration that helps keep other teachers motivated and interested in their craft. My goal with these blog posts is to tell the stories of these heroes, and the work we are doing together to “support our shared goal of improving learning outcomes for the region’s students.” I hope this very short (insert wink emoji here) post has provided you with some insight into this grand experiment that is SOPTV’s TCP.


If you wish to respond to this blog post please email me at Bengarcia01@gmail.com and I'll post your comment below.


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