Changing Course: Seated At The Table
Host Jonathan Santos Silva reconnects with students and educators featured in the first season of Changing Course.
In this special bonus episode, host Jonathan Santos Silva gathers students and educators from season one of Changing Course for a live roundtable discussion about the power of student-staff partnerships, the impact of diversity and authentic cultural representation, and the importance of failure.
JONATHAN: From Teach For America’s One Day Studio, you’re listening to Changing Course.
All season long, we explored what education can look like when students take their rightful place at the table. Today, we’re giving you a bird's eye view of that table.
Back in June, we hosted our very first live event, bringing together students and educators from some of the schools we had the privilege of learning from this past season. We explored what’s happened since we first shared their stories here on the pod and went a little deeper into what transforming education through student-staff partnership means for each of them personally.
Please note, this event was held on Zoom so the audio may sound a little bit different in a few places. While the Changing Course team is gearing up for season two, (Yes, season two is on its way!) we hope you’ll enjoy this special roundtable discussion.
To kick us off, here’s Hailey Ho, rising seventh grader, from DreamHouse Ewa’ Beach in Kapolei, Hawaii who says her school’s hands-on approach to leadership has really helped her flourish.
Jonathan Santos Silva: You've been at, uh, DreamHouse for a little while now. When you look back on the decision to, to go to DreamHouse, what are some of the biggest highlights of your experience that make you confident that you made the right decision?
Hailey Ho: A lot of the activities and classes we're able to take. Specifically entrepreneur club. I do entrepreneur club where we sort of make things to sell at a Mother's Day Makaka every year.
Jonathan Santos Silva: Mm-hmm.
And I, me and my group decided to make tote bags, like pencil pouches and block printed onto them.
Jonathan Santos Silva: That’s very cool.
Hailey Ho: Something I'd like to mention for future educators that want to pursue a space for students, is definitely try to open up clubs, possibly teacher-pursued, and definitely encourage students to have student-pursued clubs.
I have enjoyed talking with my, my coaches, my friends, learning about things that I've never known before, like going over stuff that has never been presented to me, along with being able to have a say in what I'm doing and in my own work.
Jonathan Santos Silva: Mm-hmm.
Hailey Ho: And like a lot of my experience in schools and stuff like that.
Jonathan Santos Silva: That's beautiful. That’s sort of like- I think you know folks loved going on this journey with us this season because each school was unique. Each school had a different story.
I, I wanna ask you this question. There's, there are a bunch of folks who wa- who listen to the show and are inspired. Right? And they, they hear what you're doing, and they want to create that. They want to create spaces for young people to exercise their voice, exercise their power, and have, like, a decision-making in their education, but it's scary, right? Like, you giving up control and what happens if they make mistakes? What happen if it doesn't go the way I intended? What advice would you have for folks who may have been inspired by what they heard from you but a little afraid to take the leap?
Hailey Ho: You're just gonna have to take it. You have to take a leap of faith. And the thing about seeing if things won't always go your way, not everything is gonna go your way in life. You have to be able to back up and have a plan behind it if things don't go your way, but also to not be afraid of failure as well.
Jonathan Santos Silva: Hmm.
Hailey Ho: Failure isn't a bad thing, though I know it is labeled as. Failure, in my eyes, is something I'm able to learn from, to grow from, to be able to get through because failure doesn't last forever. You go through it, you get over, and you go on.
Jonathan Santos Silva: Hmm. That's a lot of wisdom, and I think it took me a long time to learn that, probably until adulthood. Do you have an example? It could be from your educational experience, but maybe it could be from outside of this as well, where, you know, learning from failure led you to some beautiful learning down the way?
Hailey Ho: Um, a growth mindset.
Jonathan Santos Silva: Mm-hmm.
Hailey Ho: A really big part of my education and what I've learned in my life has becau- is because of a growth mindset. Because I've kept pushing myself and I've learned over and over again, and I tried and I failed. But having a growth mindset has definitely helped me with that. And every time-
Jonathan Santos Silva: Hmm.
Hailey Ho: ... I fall, and every time I didn't go through something, well, I had a growth mindset to keep myself up.
JONATHAN: Also representing for the students during the roundtable, was Katie Rodriguez from the MET School in Rhode Island. We first met Katie as a Certified Nursing Assistant (or CNA) working at a local hospital, while also completing her senior year of high school. Since then, she’s graduated from the MET and will soon receive her phlebotomy license before heading off to college in the fall.
Like Hailey, Katie’s time at her school has also encouraged her to embrace risks.
Katie Rodriguez: When I was in 11th grade, that's kind of where we had our whole year that was completely, um, virtual. And I was very, like, I was less motivated. I didn't really want to do much since we were always at home and I didn't get that, like, contact with other people. Um, but my advisor, um, she told me about a CNA course that was going to be happening soon, and she thought it would be perfect for me. And I wasn't originally going to do it, which I'm glad I did, because I want to do nursing, and that would be, you know, the first step to that. And so I wasn't going to do it.
And now I have, like, completed it, I passed, I got my license and I've been working as a CNA for almost a year now. Um, and I have learned so much for my experience as a CNA. I've got to hear people's life, um, story. I get to speak to the other medical team and, like, about how they've gotten to where they are. Because I look up to them as well because that is what I want to be. Um, and just like my experience in general, like, I have, like, put myself out there. I've learned how to kind of approach people like in a... You know. Because in the medical field it's kind of difficult and you want to be that helping hand for that person. Um, so I've kind of learned that, and I feel like if I was just to, um, complete nursing school and then start off as a nurse, I would not know how to have that-
Jonathan Santos Silva: Mm-hmm.
Katie Rodriguez: ... like, patient, um, and healthcare provider contact, like I do now. And it's also great just being that comforting person for them. Um, at my job, like, all of the residents, they kind of come to me. They enjoy my company, and it's a, really a great feeling. Um, and I learned so much from them. Uh, I learned so much from my instructors from the CNA course. They have helped me a lot too. So, overall, I'm very glad that I did that, because I really wasn't going to, and I thought it was gonna be difficult. I didn't think I was gonna do it. But with the support of everyone around me and my advisors, my principal who recommended me for the program as well, they're the reason why I did and why I've gained so much knowledge and experience from working as a CNA.
Jonathan Santos Silva: Oh, man. That's amazing. We're proud of you. And we're gonna be in your corner.
Katie Rodriguez: Thank you.
Jonathan Santos Silva: Same question I asked Hailey. You know there are probably folks who listened to the six episodes, maybe even particularly the episode on the Met, and they got inspired and fired up and like, "This is what education ought to look like or more like this," and, and there, and they want to do it but they're still scared, or maybe they feel like the obstacles are insurmountable. What advice do you have for adults about sharing power with young people and supporting them in creating authentic paths for learning?
Katie Rodriguez: Um, definitely do it. Um, the Met has this model that it's goal's like, "One student at a time." Because there are so many schools where there are so many students, and one teacher might not know all of them. And so, it's also, like, kind of weird to hear everybody speaking about, um, you know, what they're learning and what they're doing. Because, like, my school, we have been doing that since the Met was founded. I'm, like, "We do all of that." So hearing a student's voice and what they want to do really helps them pursue what they want to do and also have an idea of what they want to do before heading out to the real world.
I know a couple of my friends who say they wish they have gone to my school because their traditional school just kind of focuses on the, like, just all of their classes and test scores and hoping that you're doing well. But the Met really focuses on your, like, you're learning what you want to do, and how they can better you and prepare you for the real world to do-
Jonathan Santos Silva: Mm-hmm.
Katie Rodriguez:... what you want to do. And so, just hearing a student's voice, we each have learning plans that are individualized for each one of us that just, um, focuses on all of our interests and what do we want to do. And I think that's great. A lot of people should do learning plans because it's been very helpful, and it's also very impressive to look at. I mean I was 14, already interning at a veterinary hospital, doing so many things that I would not have done. Um, and that's all thanks to, like, their listening to the students' voices and the internship. So, I would definitely just kind of have that conversation, focus on the individual learning of your student.
JONATHAN: Throughout the season, we spoke with many educators who know all about positioning students to lead their own learning.
Andrew Spector, Co-founder and Program Director of TulsaChangemakers in Oklahoma, Dana Haakaus, Principal at Todd County Middle School in South Dakota, and Jamilah Bullock, Lead Designer at North Phillips School of Innovation in North Carolina, sat down with me to discuss how they have positioned students to lead at their schools.
Jonathan Santos Silva: We, we just, you know, had a great talk with Hailey. And her parting wisdom was more student groups and more student-directed student groups, you know, where, where student interests are the driving force. I mean, that I felt like she was making a pitch for Tulsa Changemakers. Like, why, when you, you know, as a classroom teacher, what was it about, uh, the student group or the after school or out of school time environment that felt like the right angle to make an impact?
Andrew Spector: The idea for Tulsa Changemakers was really the product of two experiences that myself and my co-founder, is also a first year TFA corps member at the time, we had when we moved to Tulsa. Um, the first experience was just feeling really positioned as leaders in Tulsa right away. Um, really appreciated, really welcomed, really well-connected. And in the sec- second experience was going into our respective classrooms. Um, for me, my sixth grade classroom. For Jake, his fifth grade classroom. And just being really impressed with our students. Um, they're bright. They care about their communities. They, um, had leadership skills that rival adults that we knew. And we were really struck by this juxtaposition between the amount of investment we were receiving as outsiders and newcomers to Tulsa and the investment that young people in our classrooms are receiving. And what struck us the most is that the young people in our classrooms, um, already have the leadership skills, but they're also better positioned to be driving impact than us because they actually live in their communities and know their communities in a way that me and Jake didn't and still don't-
Jonathan Santos Silva: Mm-hmm.
Andrew Spector: ... uh, because we don't live there and we're not them. And so, um, when we were thinking about what to do, uh, we wanted to create a space that didn't exist before. Um, and it seemed like a, to us, that the right space to do that was after school. There's still opportunities, of course, to, to build youth leadership, voice, choice, power into the classroom and during the school day and into the infrastructure in the systems and processes at school buildings. With that, there's also something powerful about a separate small team of students working together after school, um, the sort of flexibility that offers. Um, we're also creating that space. I'm at a time that students may have not had opportunities going on after school too.
Jonathan Santos Silva: Mm-hmm. Jamilah, Dana, I feel like Andrew was teeing me up so perfectly, right? He's talking about, you know, leadership of folks who live in the community, who are connected to community deeply and really understand what the opportunities are and that sounds like you two as educators, both from the lead designer perspective and the principal perspective. I want to start with you Jamilah. First of all, always good to see you.
Jamilah Bullock: Always great to see you, Jonathan. (laughs).
Jonathan Santos Silva: What was, like... What was it like after doing the episode and elevating the story that it's, it's so rich, it's so diverse, so dynamic? What type of feedback and interaction did you get, either from your colleagues, from the community, about doing this episode?
Jamilah Bullock: Um, I think there's always a lot of excitement, you know, anytime that we get to share our school story, um, our community in Edgecombe County, our story about how we're leading in innovation, and just leading in, in our community response. Uh, I was excited to get the excitement/big response (laughs) from our community, um, and just to be able to share more broadly, you know, the work that we're up to. And you all know that something I'm very passionate about is not centering on, like, just me as the voice that's amplifying our community, because it really is a collective that is driving this work, and it's not solely just the school. It's our whole community. So to be able to share that on a, a larger level, and to be able to share the excitement that I have going to work in my community every day, uh, was really awesome. So-
Jonathan Santos Silva: Mm-hmm.
Jamilah Bullock: ... it's a great thing.
Jonathan Santos Silva: Cool. What about you, Dana? Did any, has anybody razzed you? I mean, as you all know from the episode, I spent a, a bit of time in Todd County, visiting and hanging out with educators, and I have to imagine that somebody had something wise to say to you after listening (laughs) to the episode.
Dana Haukaas: You know, I think, um, the, the, the biggest response was just, was just pride that they were (laughs) involved with, with, um, uh, what we do there and, uh, what we do with our kids and, and for our community in that basis. So, it was, it was nice to get feedback, and excitement, and, and reigniting that fi- that fire of we can make a difference. And we're still doing it, um, coming from the pandemic, you know, off of really (laughs) tough year. It wa- it was inspiring and people were excited and proud, very proud of, of what we do in, in, the community and the, the students that we serve.
Jonathan Santos Silva: I know that having a lot of student choice, Dana, for young people in their out of school time hours has been a part of Todd County Middle School for a while. But it's, you know, it's, you know, found its way into the, the school day as well. What, especially amidst the, the pandemic when you're trying to keep kids engaged, when there are so many other draws on their time and attention they may have, you know, responsibility in their family to take care of younger siblings, uh, like, what is it meant for young people to feel such a connection to their school? Like, when... I mean for me, when I hear young people say, "I chose to go to Todd County. I transferred there because I heard about community," like, what is that meant to preserving community in such challenging times?
Dana Haukaas: You know, I think it's probably now more than ever been, been a focus for, for our entire group and having... Traditionally, that's who we were as people, was community-based and everything was for the people about the people. Um, and, and not just the people that you sit right next. Everybody that's around you. Our, our entire Tiyospaye or our entire family group. And, um, it has, uh... The challenges that the pandemic put in front of us, it was amazing to see kids and families reach out, um, to stay connected. And we did everything that we could to stay connected. Um, we, we didn't go back into session. Um, we had, uh, the, the shutdown.
And then that following year, we s- we remain remote, uh, just for the safety of our, our students, our communities, and our elders. And, uh, it was, it was, uh, a good experience, and it felt, It was hard not to see people in person, but we did a lot of things that (laughs) we saw kids every day. So I just laugh because some of the things we, we (laughs) have done, (laughs) were, um, um, a little out of the norm. And we would get pushback because we're a public school, um, you know, from, from the district. Um, But I think, you know, we, we never, um... The relationship thing was so, is so huge for us and it's, it's foundational to what we do. I think, uh, (laughs) we got through it and, uh, we, uh, made some changes that, that enhanced, um, relationship building with our families and our, our students.
Jonathan Santos Silva: I want to... the next question. I'd love to give each of you the opportunity to respond to in your own ways from your vantage point, but something that I th- I thought was, uh, powerful about Todd County Middle School, North Phillips School of Innovation, Kendall Whittier, none of these were, uh, like, um, you know, magnet, you know, special programs where we sifted through and admitted quote unquote, you know, the high promise, or the, you know, whatever we want to say to kind of provide opportunity to some and leave others out. Thi- you know, these are community, you know, schools. These are neighborhood schools.
Jamilah, since we did our episode, are there new things that you're doing, right, to capitalize on the momentum, to capitalize on all the good work that's happening, that's been happening at NPSI to, you know, even just further outpace what people think no- you know, the typical community school can do?
Jamilah Bullock: Yeah, absolutely. Really excited that Katie from the Met is here, um, because myself and my principal, Shavon Brown, we had a chance to, um, visit the Met in October and we learned a lot from that experience of, uh, visiting the Met. And so, we're excited to launch our internships in the fall, um, and continuing to build on the experience that our young people were asking for. You know, our, our young people ask for opportunities to some expand their region and the work that they're doing in the design for change courses, um, and opportunities to partner with our community partners, and learning hands-on, and finding ways to give back and come back to Edgecombe County and give back to the next generation.
So, I think that, since the episode, and I know even beyond, one of the things that we are continuing to do is design with and not for, and aligning ourselves with the right, folks, whether that's our young people, their families, our community partners, different expertise levels in the school building, so that our, our students have the opportunities to do whatever it is that they want to do and have the appropriate resources and have the appropriate experiences. So that's something I'm really proud to say, that we are continuing to build going into the next school year. And it's because the schools, like the Met, they allowed us to come and learn where we really had an opportunity to say, "Okay, we can do this, you know. We can make this real for, for our families." And our families are really excited about those opportunities because they're like, "We're still doing internships, right, next year?" I'm like, "Yeah. (laughs). It's coming."
Oh, so, this is really cool to be a part of that with our community of folks and the excitement that's coming whereas, I think, sometimes there can be a lot of fear of the unknown and not really know what's gonna come next, and experiences, especially if it's something that's new, but I think that we're bringing that with a lot of excitement, even from the district level, from, like I said, our families, the community partners. Both are excited about these internships, and our interns from North Edgecombe. And I am just so excited (laughs) to continue building it. So, yeah. I can go on and on, like there's just so much. There's so much good in our community. I'm really proud of it. And-
Jonathan Santos Silva: Mm-hmm.
Jamilah Bullock: ... I'm proud of the work that we're gonna continue doing, um, as the school feeder pattern and as NPSI.
Jonathan Santos Silva: That's beautiful.
Jonathan Santos Silva:Two things that I want to say. One is, um, it's really cool that y- y'all went to the Met and that we didn't know that, and we're all connected in multiple ways now, and I anticipate that y- y- that NPSI and that Todd County and that Kendall Whittier and DreamHouse will be on other folks' schools to visit list because of the amazing things y'all are doing. So that's the first point. And the second point, just is to follow up on that is, I want to confirm that there is a lot of excitement at, at the district. Because I, just by chance, ended up, um, in a big virtual gathering with, like, a district leader. And I was like, "Hey, you know, I'm Jonathan. I'd... You know. I was on the podcast with Jamilah and everybody from NP-" Oh my God, they were so thrilled. So, use that for all it's worth, you know. Get, get everything you need out of the district right now, you know. (laughs).
Jamilah Bullock: (laughs).
Jonathan Santos Silva: Andrew, um, on that point, right? Like, Tulsa Changemakers doesn't, you know, doesn't, like, strategically identify schools with, you know, whatever's extra resources and “super this and super that.” You go where kids, uh, where, you know, wherever the kids are and wherever they want to be. Um, what if anything is, is new since the episode? Are you... Are there new schools that you're partnering? How big? How many kids are engaged? And what's, what should we be, uh, be excited to hear about coming maybe in 2022, 2023?
Andrew Spector: Yeah. A lot of growth. Um, so yeah. Our focus is, uh, Title I schools in Tulsa Public and Union Public Schools. And so, we, we focus specifically on Kendall-Whittier Elementary school because they have a really long tradition of the afterschool program, and just really excellent results, um, and just amazing stories to highlight. Um, and so, but we were at 34 schools this program year, and we're gonna be growing up to around 40 schools, um, in 2022 to 2023, which is super exciting.
Um, we have another program called Power of Youth, which is our civic advocacy program. And, that's actually outside the school building with students from across the city. And they focused on things like power building, power mapping, power protest, power petition, power public speaking, and they identify cause areas and take action around those. And so, we're growing that program from just a few cohorts a year to double that to around six.
And then we have some other programs we're doing too. And it's all about how can we, uh, create the infrastructure for youth power in different parts of Tulsa. And so, we piloted a youth-led philanthropy program with a foundation at a specific school site, uh, in Tulsa this past year. And we're going to run another iteration of that, um, this upcoming year. We piloted this year in intergenerational community, organizing program actually in the Kendall Whittier neighborhood, and, um, and partnership with a local organization and a foundation. Um, and we plan to do another cohort of that as well.
And w- we also do some, um, training and consulting with local nonprofits that want to create structures for youth power in the organizations, particularly with youth advisory boards or youth action teams. And so, we're just continuing to grow and to continue with all those, a- all that work.
Jonathan Santos Silva: Wow, that's awesome. Dana, I know, uh, Todd County Middle School was episode 6. So, mo- the more recent story but still, what new exciting updates can you share with our audience, you know, or even some previews? You know, it's always nice to get like a, like breaking news on the podcast.
Dana Haukaas: (laughs).
Jonathan Santos Silva: So if there's something that you haven't even announced yet, this would be an awesome time to give us the exclusive. (laughs).
Dana Haukaas: (laughs). Well, we... (laughs). I don't want to say that it, it's a secret, but we, um, are part of a colloquium, uh, through the state of South Dakota that is looking at competency-based learning. And that has been a dream of ours for a long time, to, uh, give students more choice and voice in what they learn and how they learn and how show us what they know. Still with that community-based in l- in mind. So we are moving to, um... We're piloting some flex management, manager classes, where kids will get to choose and be a part of, of what they want to do. Um, also, we're going to be doing a lot more and intricate disciplinary, um, project-based learning, um, taking things out to c- addressing concerns in the community, through a child's eyes or through our students' eyes, um, that they think need to be fixed. And then partnering with, with, tribal programs and, um, anybody that we can really to, to fix those things. So those are things we're really forward to. Yeah and a- that's really bou- that it for, for “new stuff” but we'll continue on the path that we're on, just add things as we go.
Jonathan Santos Silva: Oh, that's awesome. I think, uh, this is not a new, uh, conversation or topic of conversation, but the idea that, um, it is important for young people to have leaders and educators in the building who share, you know, some of their identity, characteristics, you know, whether that be, you know, racial, ethnic background, uh, in common, or coming from the community, um, or if, you know, if the students are, you know, uh, part of the LGBTQ community, having safe spaces for that, like, just how important it is for young people to see a version of themselves. Uh, so I want to start with, uh, Dana and Jamilah, as two educatio- educational leaders who do share the racial background of your students as, you know, Black and indigenous women. What have you seen over the last couple of years, right, in terms of your ability to connect with your students and see their growth in these in- exciting settings? And, like, what do we need to do better as a field to support the leadership of folks like y'all?
Jamilah Bullock: So something that I would say, is extremely powerful, I think about, um... I'm gonna use this example. I think about how, um, I have natural hair, right? And, it means something when I walk into a space in my school and my, my girls will be like, "Oh. Yeah, you look so good." I was like, "Yeah, girl. You know I got the twist." (laughs). And so we chat. We give them good conversation about, you know, how I'm protecting my hair right now. I'll probably switch it up in a couple of days. I think about, like, how that small moment, which is not academic, has nothing to do with the biology class they're about to go in or, um, the SAT they're preparing for to get ready for college, but it means so much in the context of building relationships and making sure that our young people are seen. And it's something that I'm very sensitive to and aware of in all of my interactions. And is, how am I making sure that every student that I come across in my day-to-day experiences, how do I make sure that they are seen and their identity is a- affirmed through my interaction with them?
Um, and that is what I think is so strong at NPSI, is that as a collective, we really prioritize loving first. And we really prioritize making sure that every student knows that they have at least one loving, caring adult in that building. And it's so powerful when that loving, caring adult can also share along common lines.
Um I think, like to also add or, like, answer the other question, Jonathan, I think one of the biggest pieces is to listen. And I I think for me, you know, being a, a Black woman, and not native to the community where I serve, um one of the biggest things that is important to me is to listen to those who are, like, from the community, born and raised from the community, have poured back into the community, and amplifying their voices as we're continuing to design, um, and build as a school community, and I also think that because we are listening and amplifying those voices, there's such a power that, um, is... It's designed, like, kids know. I think, uh, we may shared this. I mean, Sayre may have shared this in an episode. Kids know that their, their voices are going to be heard. They know that when they share something that... Things will happen, things shift, and it's not just, "Oh, the kids said that." (laughs). You know. They said that and, okay, that was cool for a moment and we tuck it in our back pocket. Um, it has weight and it has power. And, um, one thing I think... Continuing is continuing to listen, continuing to amplify a variety of voices, and continuing to leverage those voices to bring in the change, and continuing the innovation that, uh, we're working on.
Jonathan Santos Silva: Thank you. Dana, you have something f- for us too?
Dana Haukaas: Um, I think that for my, for my kids, from my students, that it helps them to know that I, I grew up in that community. I'm from there. I lived there the majority of my life. And, uh, when I first came back, they were like, "Well, you came back, blah, blah, blah." And I said, “but I had choices.” And I think that was the first, like, time that kids realized that I have a choice in what happens in my future. And re- reaffirming that to them that, and, um... I guess what I would say to staff is that don't put your eyes on a kid's future, you know. What, what they want to be good at may not fit what you think, or Western culture has thought, as successful. You know? Um, if my kids want to be the best mom they want to be, then you know what? We will support them and get them what they need to do that.
And, uh, I think kids knowing that they are free to define their own future and not, um, us to put, like, to be si- "Don't you want to drive a big car?" or, "Don't you want this?" or, "Don't you want that?" because our kids don't see it that way. They see it more as how can I be of a use to the people I love, um, and that I'm around and support my, my community and my tribe. So, I think it helps a lot, kids, hearing that from us, um, but also knowing that I, I, I walk th- I walked their path. And, um, that, that helps us a lot.
And a lot of our teachers are, are not from the area. Listening is great. I, I agree with Jamilah completely. But also, um honoring, how we do things and, and holding that, true to what we do every day, and im- integrating culture into, using culture to teach rather than teaching culture, I guess, is the old adage. But (laughs) indigenous, native peoples have been here far longer than Western thought, and they had... They were the first scientists, the first astronomers, this and that, that, that we need to honor that and, and use that wisdom also, not just Western eyes.
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JONATHAN: We’ll continue with our roundtable discussion after this short break.
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JONATHAN: Before the break, we asked Dana and Jamilah about what it’s meant for each of them, as women of color, to authentically create safe spaces for their learners to lead. Here's Andrew with encouragement for educators who don’t share their students’ background, but hope to do the same.
Jonathan Santos Silva: Andrew, you already mentioned this. You're not from the neighborhood, you're not from that community, and so, what are the things that Tulsa Changemakers does to support educators that are, you know, leading these clubs, that are advising the young people so that they can support young people in becoming the leaders they, they wish to see? Um, I don't know, like, what type of training and ongoing coaching and support you provide that maybe, you know, could be an inspiration for fo- folks, listening, trying to think... in the meantime, while we're hoping f- waiting for our school staff to diversify and better reflect our kids, what is the role of those who wish to be allies and co-conspirators with our young people? What can we do better? I like to say co-conspirator because I just feel like we should be getting into good trouble all the time.
Andrew Spector: (laughs). I agree. Well, I’ll answer it in two ways. I think one is sort of what me and Jake's sort of like, uh, idea came from, was really this, this juxtaposition that I mentioned earlier, was why, as two, uh, white men, two Jewish men from the Northeast that don't really reflect any of our students, why are we receiving this extremely high level investment as leaders in Tulsa when the students in our classrooms aren't receiving that same level of investment, um, and positioning as leaders? And the idea of Changemakers, really, was how can we redirect this privilege, this resource, this investment to the young people, and create spaces for them to lead. And then to get out of the way, really, t- to create those spaces, um, and create a structure and a process, so that youth can really, be elevated. And so, when we look for coaches at school sites, there certainly is a limitation around, who's available as a coach, and a lack of, uh, demographic reflecting this in the educators at school sites, but we do have an intentionality on trying to find the coaches or the educators at schools that do reflect the identities of our students.
And then when we work with the coaches and we train them, we're training them in a curriculum that is all about how can the coach get out of the way, and as quickly as possible, scaffold to a situation where the young people are leading the sessions. They're in charge of opening and closing. The coach maybe is sitting outside of the circle, the students. They're really functioning as a facilitator. And really, by the time the students are working on their project, uh, the students are setting the agenda for the next day at the previous session, and they are telling the coach what they need from them, um, as opposed to the other way around. Um, and then we're training the, the adult also, the adult facilitator, in, sort of promising our best practices and authentic youth-adult partnerships. So they all come into contact, and we have deep reflection on, uh, f- the Freechild Institute's Ladder of Youth Voice. And we talk about how our goal is to really get to that eighth rung of the ladder of youth adult equity, where really the unique experience and perspective and insights of both adults and youth are valued. And coaching, um, the coach on how to do that.
Jonathan Santos Silva: Cool. So before we started this panel, I had the privilege of hanging out with Hailey. She said, you know, talked to us about encouraging adults to get comfortable with giving up power, sharing power, um, and pushing through the fear and uncertainty that comes with youth, true youth and adult partnership. I wanted to get each of you in our final, kind of, five minutes of this portion of the, of the, of the program. So maybe we can whip around and just like maybe you can add some advice, some wisdom, a gem for folks who, again, were inspired listening to these six stories but need that little last, you know, push to dive into this for next year. What can adults do, um, around developing the fortitude, the courage to partner authentically with young people?
Dana Haukaas: I heard, I heard something today that, uh, I'm, like I said, I'm at a conference right now but it, it was powerful for me and, and es- especially speaking to, like, what our youth go through and, and, and so on. But the presenter said, you know, "Kids can't come to school to be bored, and they can't leave us feeling like a failure." And, Hailey was, was powerful when she talked about how failure, failure and mistakes are how you learn and getting people to, um, remember that. So, not being afraid to fear, to fall or to, um, have failure because that's a growing opportunity. She was very powerful. I think I want her to come live with me and come to my school.
Jonathan Santos Silva: (laughs).
Dana Haukaas: (laughs).
Jonathan Santos Silva: See, Hailey, you got another job opportunity.
Dana Haukaas: (laughs).
Jonathan Santos Silva: Come on now. I hope she's taking notes.
Andrew Spector: So, I was, uh, doing an end-of-year conversation with one of our longtime coaches a, a week or two ago to sort of reflect on her experience as a coach this year. And she's been with us for a few years, and she's amazing. And she was talking about how, um, her experiences as a Changemaker coach, how it's influenced her role as a librarian of the school site. And she said she'd always had a little jobs for students to do here and there. But over the past year, she's really elevated the amount of leadership she gives students. And she attributes that to sort of the skill she's been building with Changemakers. But her real advice and her real reflection was, um, she learned to let go of control. She said it's okay if the first time that they're in charge of this aspect of the library, the book gets a little bit misplaced or this thing goes a little bit wrong.
And so, what Hailey said really resonated with me too, and I think connects to that sort of mindset, is that failure is not the opposite of success. Failure is part of success. And without failure, we don't have the opportunities to, to learn and to grow and to be successful. And so, those little stumbling blocks along the way, um, are really powerful developmental experiences. And now for this coach who's also a librarian, um, her library is just this bastion of youth leadership. And ev- because every student get, comes into contact with her at the school building, this has ramifications for the whole school site, both in terms of the student's experience and what other teachers see. So I think it just, just start, just do it. And even though it's a little scary, it'll be okay. (laughs).
Jonathan Santos Silva: Jamilah, what do you have for us?
Jamilah Bullock: Adding to what has already been shared. Um, don't be afraid to, um, build and then iterate on that. And as you learn more, continue building, continue iterating, continue saying, " That doesn't work. This does work." It's all a part of the process, and it's all a part of making sure that we have the best possible models for our community. So, as you're building, um, don't be afraid if you get into something and you're like, "This isn't working," or, "This actually isn't what is, like, our community ask for." Or as you have partners with you that are doing the work and they're like, "This actually doesn't work," don't be afraid to stop and try something new, um, because that could be the very thing that continues to propel the vision.
Um, and the last thing that I'll say is, um, remember to love first. Remember that it's, um, not about self. It's about the collective. It's about all of us. It's about the power of “ubuntu”. Um, ‘I am who I am because of who we all are’. And centering on loving first and putting relationships first is going to propel you way further than all the knowledge in your head.
JONATHAN: It’s not just about the knowledge in your head, but about how that knowledge connects in relationship to others. Collective learning and shared knowledge help us move forward. In that vein, let’s get into some Q+A sourced from our live audience.
Jonathan Santos Silva: We've got a bunch of good questions. I wanna start with, Liza, and here's what she said. She said, "Dana laughed as she recalled times her school tried things out of the norm, you know, for community building during the pandemic. Could she provide an example of when they did things that were out of the norm? And what was the response and how did they, did you respond to that feedback?" She said, "I'd love to hear of any community building efforts that you continue to use based on what you learned. Um, she said this is my first episode so I'm likely missing context."
Dana Haukaas: I was laughing because all of the teachers had to get out of their comfort zone and get, be- become audio-visual, technical gurus. We did not do any, um, like, packets. We didn't use Zoom. We did, um, YouTube Live, and then we would, um, have another teacher or, a para do the chat and answer and respond. Community-wise though, uh, we had a wildcat wagon. We took... Um, our communities are really spread out. And we're a feeder school, in the main area on the reservation. Um, be we serve mostly students from Rosebud, from Antelope, and then from Mission. And, uh, we went on a, a walk. All the teachers- And I laughed because one of our, our TFA corps members was the wildcat. And he (laughs), he was, ran down on the streets and we waved at people in their houses and we dropped off snacks and, um, gave them all t-shirts that said- had the wildcat on the back, and then had, um, “essential” 'cause we heard essential personnel all the time. Every day. And all of us were essential so we gave those to families. And, um, it was just a lot of fun. And we partnered with the elementary school, but we walked, through, like, three of the main areas of the community in, um, Antelope, North Antelope, and then the Sunrise, uh, which is on the other side of Mission but...
And then, the wildcat wagon would go out to all the different communities, um, twice a week. And we would deliver, um, food, uh, lunches, breakfast and, or... Th- there was a breakfast and a lunch in each bag. The lunch for today and the breakfast for tomorrow. And we did that every... We went out twice, twice a week. And then, um, the community would send people in to get food and take it out so our kids were fed during this time, but the wildcat wagon had, was staffed with, teachers, uh, that we... We tried to have a math teacher, an ELA teacher, and then, um, even our PE teacher, you know, would go out and, in a safe dif- distance to do workouts with (laughs) kids.
It, it was, it, it was a challenging time. But you know what? We learned a lot about what we can do, um-
Jonathan Santos Silva: Mm-hmm.
Dana Haukaas: ... and didn't focus on everything that we, that we were, people were saying we can't, we, we shouldn't, but that's how we kept connected. We did an assembly online, which (laughs)... That was really funny. Um, but it was good. You know. All of our kids tuned in, um, when the Mars rover landed, we did that with our kids and our families. So, anything we could do that would, would keep kids, s- still tuning, 'cause that was the hardest thing, is, is getting kids to tune in every day.
Jonathan Santos Silva: Mm-hmm.
Dana Haukaas: And, um, we had really good success at the middle school. But like I said, we didn't use the Zoom or any of that. We, we did YouTube Live. We had kids do their own videos. We shared them. Music. We did our concerts online. Our choir pr- uh, our choir, um, performed virtually from their rooms. It was amazing. I was blown away on how well they did. But, again, keeping kids engaged in things that they still cared about... you know, not that they don't care about math, but we had to find a way that would keep them engaged, um, in a virtual world. So, those are some of the things that we did.
Jonathan Santos Silva: Cool. Um, we got another question from Steph. And I wanna adapt it 'cause I wanna get Hailey and Katie involved. What's your favorite story about partnering with the adults around you to do something special, whether that was create change or to learn something really valuable? And adults, you can be in the background thinking about your favorite story of partnering with young people to do something powerful.
Katie Rodriguez: Um, okay. So I'll go. Um, At my school, we do a lot of things to, like, help out the community. And I know, like, every day on Earth Day, we go out into the community and we pick up trash and stuff. And that's something that the students and the adults plan together, because we all kind of find, uh, it very helpful to go around and do that. We also on, like, holidays as well, we all get together and we make sandwiches for the homeless. And we go around and pass that. We pass that around too. So, I think that's, like, the best time where we really partner up, um, altogether, like, as a community, the students and the teachers, to make a change in the world, and something that we believe in, um, that will help others. It's really great to do.
Jonathan Santos Silva: Cool. Hailey, or any of the educators, yeah, what do you have to add to that? Your own, uh, stories of partnering.
Hailey Ho: Uh, for me, it was during a field trip, actually. Uh, we were doing this comet thing where we went to this space station, but it was actually out of school, where we had two adults that were, like, astronauts, basically, for this field trip. And we were trying to locate a comet. It was really interesting.
Jonathan Santos Silva: Cool.
Hailey Ho: [inaudible 01:10:03] where we had to access it, where we each had jobs where we had to communicate with the space station. We had to communicate with the satellite, how to use, um, graphing to find it. It's definitely one of my favorite stories about working with adults as a student.
Jonathan Santos Silva: Cool. Thank you.
Dana Haukaas: I think, um, my favorite memory, or one of the many that, that stands out was the time when the governor of South Dakota came to visit our school, which has never happened. And, um, she came to our school. And, um, it was powerful to watch our students converse with her and tell them about who they are, what they do there, what school means to them, what their plans are in, in the, the environment that were in. And it was, it was beautiful to see students in action, and really just have to stand back and watch them be the best versions of themselves in front of, of the decision-makers in the state. So, that was powerful for us.
Block 3: Closing Thoughts
JONATHAN: There’s an old saying that goes “How do you eat a whale?” “One bite at a time.” It’s the idea that a big task is completed in small steps.
Transforming education can sometimes feel like that whale–this colossal goal that, at times, seems far too big to actually achieve. But like that old saying, it happens in steps. Education is transformed one step at a time.
Here are our educators with some thoughts on taking that first step.
Jamilah Bullock: The first thing that I would suggest is to get curious. So I think back to, like, how we even became NPSI and, um, I think about, like, the first iteration of our current model, was a micro school. And before we even had, like, a design for the micro school or knew who our, our students would be, it started with just curiosity, like, what, what'd look like if we did school differently, and out of, like, those questions came empathy interviews. So, we talked to parents. We talked to other family members. We talked to community members. We talked to teachers. Most importantly, we talked to students. And out of all of that, um, out of all of those empathy interviews, that's how we started to design, like, the first iteration of what is now NPSI, and that, of course, I've been, like, with a small team of us. But then, we always would check it again, our, our community partners, our families, our students.
So at the beginning of all of it, like, get curious. Even a big question, very big question, but can spark a lot of ideas. What do we want to be true about education and learning in our school community? And then go ask people, (laughs) you know. Ask, uh, ask your, your families, ask students, ask your community members. Um, because often, they have a perception and a perspective that it's helpful, that sometimes I don't have because I'm always in the school building. Um, and so, it's always really interesting to, to hear those things. And, you know, I bet you, if you ask, just start with asking a question, um, so much will be sparked out of that, and that will help to propel you into continuing your model.
Dana Haukaas: I love that, Jamilah. That is exactly what we did as a staff. We... And that what I would s- suggest. I... In counseling there's this thing called the miracle question. And I posed that to our staff and, 'cause that's kind of where my world started, was in counseling. And (laughs) being curious on what could it be, that's awesome. That is exactly... Just remain curious. And, and the what ifs, find a way.
Andrew Spector: Yeah. I totally agree. Um, the, uh, one I would start with, for sure, asking students. It's a great way to, great place to start in terms of how you can be introducing more youth voice, is asking youth, about youth voice, but the second piece I, I would recommend is using that ladder of youth voice that I mentioned earlier, um, and thinking through, uh, first as a reflection piece, where are you currently at on the ladder of youth voice for what parts of your job. Um, 'cause I don't think you can expect that you're gonna always be at part of the ladder at all times, nor, will, every student feel like they're at all parts of the ladder. Um, be on the same parts of the ladder and in, in a different context. So, using the ladder as a tool for reflection to think about where you're at, and then use it as a tool for planning too to think about where you wanna be. And then be comfortable, that being at different places on the ladder. I don't think you wanna be at the bottom where you're manipulating or tokenizing students, but it's okay if you start off at youth as advisors, where they're informing, informing the work at their, you're doing. And then, you slowly work your way up to, spaces where there's youth-adult equality, where it's completely youth-driven or that you're achieving youth-adult equity.
Jonathan Santos Silva: Mm-hmm. Yeah. And we have a couple more questions from our audience, uh, but I wanted to pause and invite any of you, as panelists, if you have questions for one another. This would be a great time for, like, that crosstalk. I mean, we've been having this a- awesome journey, but each story has, like, i- existed in isolation. So, if something that someone said, either on the show or today, sparked your curiosity and you wanna know more, this would be an awesome time to, to just throw that question out.
Andrew Spector: Uh, I was curious to ask Hailey. Y- you shared that idea earlier about student-led clubs and teacher-led clubs. I, I was just curious about if you could share more about where that idea comes from. Um, it seems like you, it was important to you that you shared that in this space, and I wanted to hear more about the reasoning.
Hailey Ho: Mm-hmm. Where that comes from is heavily from our leadership and from our school encouraging us to be leaders and to lead others while also leading ourselves. For example, Wahine Rising. Wahine Rising technically isn't a student-led club, but it's adapted to be. Wahine is the Hawaiian word for a woman. And the rising part is we're rising to be strong and independent and work through in life. What we do in this club is we talk, we reflect heavily, we help our community, we talk about what our minds have been through, we open to each other. It's, it's a very comfortable open space for young girls in our school, which is definitely one of the more important clubs that I think I've joined during my time at DreamHouse.
Jonathan Santos Silva: Cool. Very cool. What other questions do y'all have for each other? This is so cool. It feels like my world is melding together, episode 2 to episode 4, whatever. They all just connect. (laughs).
Dana Haukaas: So what did... Did any of, um, of you guys have obstacles when you, when you... What were some of your biggest challenges, I guess, Jamilah and Andrew in starting this road?
Jamilah Bullock: Um, I so that's such a great question because I think a lot of times, like, we talk about the successes and don't always say, like, “this is a time where it wasn't so great.” (laughs). And that also is okay. Um, I think getting started initially, it, it was like, "Where... What are they doing over there?" You know, like, this is something not normal, our traditional or normal. Um, and also, like, h- I think a big part of that was how we were communicating, if I can be honest. So as educators, we can use these really big words that only educators know what they mean, um or get, like, the context. And that becomes a huge disconnect and a huge barrier to, um, having people connect with what we're doing. And I, I often wonder, you know, if we had, like, really been intentional around, like, the language around what we were doing, would we have had more success at the onset, um, with, in terms of, like, getting more raving fans of the work that we're doing.
Um, and I think over time, as we started, um, to think about, or, like, as we continue to build and we got more clear on, like, here's what we're doing and, you know, here's how this is exactly like what families are asking for, or, like, even talking to parent where they're like, "Well, why don't you all do this?" I'm like, "Hey, yo. Like, we actually do that. It's called this. Um, (laughs) it's exactly a thing." I think as we continue to grow, like, the more our raving fans have also grown to the model. And I think that that's, like, a very important lesson that I've learned, is that, you know, the education language that we often use... It can be helpful and also, like, I don't want that to become a barrier to continuing to build on the work that, that we do, and also just like with any new design, fall into a lot of challenges. Uh, whether it's logistics or down to, like, buses. Um, in our micro school, it was eighth grader and ninth grader, so I was in the world of high school and middle school. Oh, (laughs) so, you know, just all of, like, those logistics and planning were an initial challenge. And the thing that I think helped us continue building through those challenges was being starting to be honest about, uh, what the challenges are even when it's hard, saying the things that need to be said. And like I said, centering on, like, the “why” behind the work, and also, like, listening to, to the voices of the people who are directly impacted, which of course are our young people, so, um, and allowing them to really support us, and us supporting our young people as we're building a model. So, it hasn't always been easy but, it has been, hands down, the most worthwhile work that I've done in my entire life.
JONATHAN: We hope you enjoyed this special roundtable discussion featuring our guests from season one of Changing Course.
It’s been our pleasure to profile the incredible work of educators, blazing new trails and connecting with young people and their families through these uncertain times all season long.
We crisscrossed the country from New England to North Carolina, Denver to the Dakotas, Oklahoma to Hawaii and celebrated not only the work of our teachers, but the power of collaboration, and what it looks like when students take their seat at the table alongside their educators. We want to take a moment to thank you for being a part of this journey.
While we work on getting season 2 to your ears, feel free to revisit the stories from earlier this season.
And if you loved the podcast, be sure to rate, review and subscribe to ‘Changing Course’ on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Once again, thank you so much for listening and learning alongside us.
JONATHAN: Changing Course is produced by Teach For America’s One Day Studio in partnership with Pod People. Special thanks to my main man Michael Kress, Craig Hunter, Laura Zingg, and Georgia Davis from Teach for America, and the production team at Pod People: Rachael King, Matt Sav, Aimee Machado, Danielle Roth, the tag team champions –Chris Jacobs, Shaneez Tyndall and Erica Huang.
Last but certainly not least, thank you to the students and staff who shared their time and experience to help us make this special episode: Hailey Ho, Katie Rodriguez, Dana Haakaus, Andrew Spector, and Jamilah Bullock.
From Teach For America’s One Day Studio, I’m Jonathan Santos Silva. Peace.
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About the Show
Changing Course is a podcast from Teach For America’s One Day Studio that explores what’s possible when schools empower students in their own educational paths. Every episode, host Jonathan Santos Silva shares stories from students, teachers, and administrators about how they’ve reinvented traditional approaches to traditional education.
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Jonathan Santos Silva (South Dakota '10)
Jonathan Santos Silva is the Founding Executive Director of The Liber Institute and creator and host of The Bored of Ed, a podcast that amplifies the voices of inspiring BIPOC educators who are changing the face of education. He has provided technical support to South Dakota’s Native American Achievement Schools and has served as a school founder and principal, instructional coach, and education consultant.
Hailey Ho, Student
Hailey is a proud multiracial (Native Hawaiian, Chinese, and Portuguese) student leader from Kapolei, Hawai‘i. Her ultimate career goal is to work for Pixar as a computer programmer to tell stories of different people. She believes she is a leader because she tasks risk to pursue her passions. She is curious, has a growth mindset, and is willing to participate in new learning experiences.
Dana Haukaas, Principal, Todd County Middle School
Dana Haukaas is in her seventh year serving as principal of Todd County Middle School in Mission, South Dakota. Haukaas grew up in Todd County and is heavily invested in seeing the the community thrive in a post pandemic world.
Andrew Spector, Co-Founder and Program Director of Tulsa Changemakers
Andrew Spector (Greater Tulsa ’15) is co-founder and program director of Tulsa Changemakers, a youth leadership development and action organization. Since its founding in 2016, Tulsa Changemakers has hired, trained, and supported 62 educators to guide 627 students at 39 schools in Tulsa Public and Union Public Schools to plan, execute, and measure 120 community impact projects. Andrew started Tulsa Changemakers as a Teach For America corps member teaching 6th grade in Tulsa Public Schools. He and his co-founder incubated Tulsa Changemakers under the nonprofit umbrella of Leadership Tulsa, working there as program managers.
Jamilah Bullock, Lead Designer, 11th & 12th Grade Experiences
A native of Orlando, Florida, Jamilah earned a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Liberal Studies from Bethune-Cookman University. After graduating, she joined Teach For America as a corps member in Eastern North Carolina and taught high school social studies in Halifax, North Carolina and Tarboro, North Carolina. Additionally, she served as a Servant Leader Intern (SLI) with the CDF Freedom School in Rocky Mount, NC for two years. Jamilah holds a Master of School Administration degree as part of North Carolina State University’s North Carolina Leadership Academy (NCLA).
Currently, Jamilah serves as the Lead Designer for 11th & 12th Grade Experiences at North Edgecombe High School where she designs and implements key learning experiences for juniors and seniors. Additionally, she provides support to teachers across all content areas in curriculum planning and social emotional learning and engagement. Previously, she served as the Coordinator of the North-Phillips School of Innovation Micro School and as an assistant principal of grades 6-12. She also served as an Impact Leader with Profound Ladies, an organization that equips women educators of color with the mentorship, training, leadership and career development pathways so their students will experience the impact of a thriving woman of color leading their education. In 2020, she was nationally recognized by the Leadership for Educational Equity as a BIPOC Emerging Policy and Advocacy Leader. In her time of relaxation, she enjoys dancing, cooking, crafting, and traveling with her husband, Byron.
Katie Rodriguez, Student
Katie is a recent graduate of the Met High School in Providence, RI. She is interested in pursuing the medical field. In her time at the Met she has earned various certifications including CPR, AED, CNA, EMT and is about to start a phlebotomy certification course as well. Katie plans to work in these certification areas while pursuing her dream of becoming a neonatal nurse.