Episode 7: Fred Lynch of Rachel’s Challenge

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My guest today is Fred Lynch, San Diego director of Rachel’s Challenge, an organization founded by the parents of Rachel Scott, a victim of the Columbine school shooting. The organization visits hundreds of schools each year to drive its mission of, “Making schools safer, more connected places where bullying and violence are replaced with kindness and respect; and where learning and teaching are awakened to their fullest.”

With so much current attention on school safety, I wanted to get a sense of what programs like Rachel’s Challenge do to shift the culture of schools.

We cover a lot of ground here, and I love talking with Fred. Among other things, he talks about the work of developing kindness and compassion as skills to be practiced and honed, and about giving students ownership to determine how to establish cultures of kindness at their schools.

We also talked about identifying students of influence, and how those aren't always the poster child, straight A students, but those across social groups that influence their peers. That’s a big part of getting buy-in by entire schools.

We also address those who may feel that programs like Rachel’s Challenge are too touchy-feely and can't possible make schools safer. Spoiler alert: they do.

Enjoy, and my all means check out Fred and Rachel's Challenge. Here are some links:

Rachel's Challenge Website
Rachel's Challenge San Diego Instagram

Episode 6: Annika Goodin; Next Generation Science Standards, OER and more

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One of my goals with the podcast is to get past the insider edu-speak and all of the anagrams that we’re faced with as parents, and have more direct conversations.

We do that on this episode, though it’s choc-full of anagrams to break down.

My guest is Annika Goodin, the science department chair and an English learner coordinator at El Cajon Valley High School. Annika and I are going to talk about two separate but connected topics today.

The first is Next Generation Science Standards, or NGSS. As you may recall from a past episode with Cara Dolnik, NGSS is a sort of next step of Common Core in terms of encouraging critical thinking and the learning process, versus rote memorization.

Annika leads a district team to create a Next Gen Science curriculum for earth science, and is part of her district’s NGSS vision team. The method of designing the curriculum is using our second topic of discussion, Open Educational Resources or OER.

If you’re wondering what Open Educational Resources are, here’s a rough overview: Any federally funded research comes with a mandate that the research be made public for no cost. That allows for educators to integrate the latest scholarship into curriculum now, instead of waiting years for textbook companies to maybe utilize it, and for schools to have the funds to change out textbooks.

Annika explains it far better than I do, but OERs could force a massive shift in how we keep up with the latest scholarship, and how our students are equipped to use that scholarship.

It’s a fantastic conversation and I hope you enjoy it. And away we go!

Episode 5: Common Core with Cara Dolnik

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This episode's a fun one, because we’re talking about Common Core! It's an oft-cited but, I find, less often understood development in education. My guest today is Cara Dolnik, Principal of Carmel Valley Middle School in San Diego. Cara has a distinguished career in education, having started off as a middle school math teacher before moving into administration. She’s had those roles in pretty equal amounts, and she brings a depth and breadth of insight to the topic that informs our conversation.

We cover a lot of ground on this, ranging from the difference between memorizing and learning, to the fact that Common Core is not a curriculum but a set of benchmarks, as well as the process of implementing new teaching methods and how teachers have been involved in and training their peers on Common Core for years.

So get ready for a fun and informative conversation into the facts, myths, misperceptions and advantages of Common Core, here on In The Tank For Education.

Jenny Chien - Part 2: Teacher of the Year, Context Informing Learning, Wonder Woman and The Debut of Rob’s Rants

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Today I’ve got part two of my conversation with CA Teacher of The Year Jenny Chien, and if you liked part 1, this takes it to another level.

We talk about a ton of things, including, and get ready for this: her role as CA Teacher of the year; a trip to Japan, including Hiroshima, and how context informs learning; the shift away from a one size fits all approach to education; Comic-Con; Wonder Woman; The Big Bang Theory (the tv show) and professional development.

We've also got a new segment that’s debuting today. It’s called Rob’s Rants. My good friend Rob Coppo is the Principal of Torrey Pines High School in San Diego's Del Mar / Carmel Valley, and a long time educator with experience in the classroom as well as in administration.

Rob will make the occasional visit to the show to give some spirited insight into various things that he sees happening in education today. Today he takes on everyone’s favorite subject: homework. And more specifically, the notion that more homework = more learning. Let’s just say that Rob’s not a fan of that idea.

I hope you’ll consider subscribing to the podcast via the iTunes store or at PodBean.com. Giving good reviews and 5-star ratings couldn’t hurt either if you’re up for that.

Thanks for listening. First up is the debut of Rob’s Rants, and then part 2 of my conversation with CA Teacher of the Year Jenny Chien. Enjoy!

Elizabeth Vaughan: Farm To School, Equal Access To Good Food, and Recruiting Salad Bar Champions

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Elizabeth Vaughan is the Food Systems Manager for Community Health Improvement Partners, or CHIP. Elizabeth is a leader in San Diego’s pioneering efforts in the national Farm To School movement, helping schools and other institutions work with local farmers and agriculture producers to purchase fresh foods.

Schools, hospitals and other institutions have significant buying power, and in recent years they’ve been aggressive in working with local food producers (farmers, fisherman and the like). This Farm To School movement helps in a number of ways, including:

  • Bringing fresher foods into schools.
  • Lessening the environmental impact of shipping food. And
  • Supporting local economies.

On top of that, it’s also addressing the issue of equity in our food systems. When schools can partner with local farms, students are getting some of the best quality food around. And that flies in the face of the traditional narrative that school food is the worst, cheapest food around.

There's lots more here - enjoy!

Jenny Chien, Part 1: CA Teacher Of The Year; STEM & Girls In STEM; Learning Capacity of K-5 Students

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My guest for this episode is Jenny Chien, a CA Teacher of The Year for 2017, and STEM Specialist at Casita Center for Science, Engineering and Math in Vista, CA. Jenny teaches STEM, including coding, to K-5 classes – yes, kinders can code – as well as teaching a broadcast journalism class, which sees her 4th graders produce a news show for the school.

I’ve gotten to witness Jenny’s classes in action and they are remarkable. Creative, engaging, challenging and fun. She clearly gets a lot of joy from guiding kids through the process of learning, even if they aren’t aware of how much of that they’re doing.

This is part one of a two-part interview with Jenny. When we were recording we got on a roll, and there’s so much to cover that I broke our conversation into two parts.

In this episode we’re talking about STEM, what it is, and how it enhances all learning. We also talk girls in STEM, as there’s still a pretty big gender gap in math and science careers, and Jenny is doing something about that. We also get into what it’s been like to be a state teacher of the year and the platform and opportunities that come along with that.

Episode 1 - Anthony Devine Librarians, Ninjas and Comic-Con

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On our first episode, I’ll be talking with Anthony Devine, a good friend who also happens to be a teacher-librarian at El Cajon Valley High School. Anthony is also a Google Ninja (yes, that’s a real thing), a bullish advocate of students creating digital portfolios, and a teacher who believes in empowering students to think critically in whatever area they’re studying. 

We also talk about Comic-con and graphic novels and more. Anthony’s a far cry from the stereotypical librarian, and I hope you enjoy our conversation.