Easy Ways Listen to Your K-12 Student Needs with Christi Hartley

Click above to listen to this podcast episode. Below is the transcript for Student-Centered World Podcast Episode 28: “Listening to Your Student Needs with Christi Hartley

In today’s episode of the Student-Centered World podcast, I get to chat with Christie Hartley, a 61-year young teacher from New Mexico, who is also one of our Passion for Progress students. In our conversation, we go over all kinds of things that she’s been doing in the classroom this year, how things have been going, and of course, how she has been dealing with teaching and during a global pandemic. She’s got a lot of great ideas, and I think you will get a lot of great information out of this.

Since this episode orignally aired, Christi has retired. Congratulations, Christi! Enjoy the time…you’ve earned it!!

Welcome to the Student-Centered World podcast where we talk about all things hands-on teaching and keeping your energy and sanity in the classroom. This teacher turned consultant is making it her mission to help as many teachers as possible become the best version of themselves and keep their passion for teaching on fire. It’s her hope that we never forget why we desire to have a passion for educational progress. This is Student-Centered World, and this is Jenn Breisacher.

Jenn Breisacher: Okay, so in getting started, can you take a couple of minutes and just tell everybody who you are, where you’re from a little bit about your teaching career,

Christie Hartley: I would love to. I am Christie Hartley. I am from Clovis, New Mexico. I’ve lived here most of my life. I started my original career as an interior designer. Once I had children volunteered at their schools so much that I decided that teaching probably was where I needed to be. They were Montessori for a while, and I loved that. When we got to a regular school or a normal school it was horrible.

Jenn Breisacher: Yes.

Christi Hartley: I could not understand how we could teach that way still. So, I decided I would go back to school and see if there was another way to do it. I volunteered at their schools and the teachers would say you can’t do it that way. I would say it’s really funny that you’re telling me that all four of my children have learned that way and they’re all for and gifted classes and they’re all for leading with your test scores, but I can’t teach that way.

Jenn Breisacher: Right.

Christi Hartley: So, I went back to school and decided I would teach the way I wanted to.

Jenn Breisacher: Good plan.

Christi Hartley:  The year that I graduated, the year that I started school, I started with a woman who was teaching, wanted to start an Arts Academy here in Clovis wanted to teach using the arts. Luckily, her husband was superintendent, and they were able to get that done with a school that was failing. She was one of my professors and loved my lesson plans and said we need you. So, I graduated and started there immediately and have been there ever since.

Jenn Breisacher: Oh, that’s fantastic.

Christi Hartley: Like 20 years of that, because I believe I mean, I like that Montessori student-led type of thing. Now. our Arts Academy is in a zone that it’s not a magnet school anymore. So, it’s a little bit tougher to really teach that way.

Jenn Breisacher: Sure.

Christi Hartley: But we do it and we do it the best we can.

Jenn Breisacher: and you could find ways.

Christi Hartley: And we can find ways and when you close your door, sometimes you just close your door.

Jenn Breisacher: No one has to know any different.

Christi Hartley: No. Our Arts Academy is in the lowest socio-economic section of our town. Now, mind you, our town is only 36,000 people. So being the lowest is not the lowest as compared to some big cities.

Jenn Breisacher: Sure.

Christi Hartley: But it’s low. I mean, it’s what it is for our small town. We have both housing projects in the town. So, whatever we can do for kids is good. Honestly, whatever we can do to help them learn no matter what it is, is really good for them.

Jenn Breisacher: Absolutely. Do you find that you’ve been having a lot of success with the more hands-on with those kids? Do they balk at it a little bit with wanting more traditional because that’s what the other teachers do? What have you seen there?

Christi Hartley: It depends on. I mean, it really depends on. I find that there are some kids who really thrive with it, I guess maybe the same as anything else you do, the learning styles of children. Some really, really thrive. I have noticed in the past that I have some who are considered gifted, who want black and white and that’s all they want. Getting out of that is very difficult for them.

I have some of my special-ed kids who do 1000 times better with hands-on. So, it just depends on the child every time. So, I’ve gotten really good at watching them for a little while and kind of letting them lead me into seeing what they do better and adjusting it that way.

Jenn Breisacher: Yeah, giving the students the. I don’t want to say control over the classroom because somebody will hear that and get very scared. But certainly, watching them and seeing what they adapt to best is phenomenal. Some of the hardest pushback I ever got from students was again, some of those really high flying kids that were very good at memorization and very good at being able to spit that information back, but weren’t necessarily good at applying it.

Christi Hartley: Right. That’s exactly what I find is that they were really, really good at reading a book and knowing every word in it but then they didn’t know what to do with it. So, I did, I’m full-on virtual now, but I do like cooking in class. I do a lot of things a little bit differently than some of the teachers do. 

Like by cooking in class, I had we had a big bake-off last year. We did baked bread, and then we have the other classes come to test it to see which bread won and things like that just to not be doing the same thing over and over again.

Jenn Breisacher: Right. That stuff that will have an impact on your students. That’s things they’re going to remember. In years, they’re going to say to their kids, I remember one time we baked bread in class, and it was…

Christi Hartley: And you hope that they understand why we did it or we hope you understand the fractions of it, and the science of it and all of that sort of thing. But if it’s something that makes them want to come to school, eventually I think that it works for them. Eventually, I think they say, going to school in this class is fun. So, we go every day.

Jenn Breisacher: Yeah, as soon as you get that buy-in, you can have them doing anything because they trust that you’re going to make this some type of spectacular assignment for them.

Christi Hartley: Well, you hope so anyway.

Jenn Breisacher: Right, right. Yeah, I always laugh that when you have the students first buying in it’s almost like the stages of grief and the whole thing. At first, they think this is fantastic. We don’t have to do work, as they say, because you’re doing these activities and they realize you have to be doing things in class every day, and they can’t slack off and just sit back and take it in. They have to be active. But then as you see them one by one buying into the process, all of a sudden, you have all of them and you can have them trying anything and they’re learning by accident like I like to say…

Christi Hartley: They are.

Jenn Breisacher: …because they don’t realize what they’re doing.

Christi Hartley: They have a hard time if you’re doing it and happens to be a science experiment and you’re saying now we have to write up the science lab report from this. They think, oh, now we have to write, and you just have to figure out how to make that work for them and model it well and have them work in collaborative groups. It seems that they can do that just fine if you’ll let them do that.

Jenn Breisacher: Yes, it’s all about finding that balance for sure. Yeah, I mean, you have to. I always said that with my kids. Sometimes we have to do boring things. There are things in the curriculum and things that I have to teach you that I can’t make exciting, but it will always lead into something else, or it will be coming off of something else that gets your hands dirty with it. These kids are going into a world that’s just so different than any of us ever dreamed it could be. They’re going to be vying for jobs that don’t even exist yet.

They’re all going to be the ones where they need to know technology and they need to be able to think on their feet and take information and apply it. It’s not the same industrial type jobs that there had always been over the years. It was always the same type of thing and then you had the boom of the factory system, which is when education started. It was, train these people to know how to listen to instructions and do a task and then move on to the next thing. That’s not the world these kids are going into anymore.

Christi Hartley: Well, my husband and I had this discussion the other night, because he said kids really need to be in school. I said, you know, think back? You’re 80 years old, did you have to be in school? Did you learn at home? Did you go build a garden? Did you go build a birdhouse in the backyard? Did you do some things that you learn? Did you have to be in school to learn? We talked about that for a little while because there is a way to learn without being in a structured environment like that.

Jenn Breisacher: Absolutely.

Christi Hartley: We’re both older, and we decided that it would be better for me to virtually teach this year. So, I took your class, and I took several others this summer to be prepared for that because I don’t want to be that 61-year-old teacher who had no idea about technology and how to make this work, how to blend, and what was going to happen with us. So, I find that if I can blend it well, I can tell kids all right, here’s, here’s my idea, what can we do to learn this particular standard? What do you need for this?

Jenn Breisacher: Right. I think it’s so good that you were open to that because a lot of teachers that have been teaching for a long time we’ll say, are so resistant to change because they’ve done the same thing in the same way for so many years, that they aren’t interested in the new technology that’s out there, because what they’ve done has always been fine.

But you being open to trying to find the new methods and find things that are going to work are probably making your life a whole lot easier than it would have been if you were resistant to that.

Christi Hartley: Well, I told my principal one day, she calls and checks on me regularly and she said how are you doing? I said you worry me calling me because you’re making me anxious that I’m not anxious. I mean, I feel fine. I feel like I’m doing what I can do. I listen to all of you say do half, don’t try to do everything. Don’t go in-depth about the one or two things you are doing. Don’t try to surface teach 1000 things.

So, I feel a whole lot better about that and I feel like I learned it from three or four of you guys this summer, who really beat that into me and so there is no reason for you to take that standard and skim the surface of it and then get to another one very quickly. So, that feels good to me.

Jenn Breisacher: Yeah, and especially…

Christi Hartley: It’s like I’m teaching with depth now.

Jenn Breisacher: Right, exactly. If you can interconnect those standards and be killing two birds with one stone pretty much trying to figure out, and when you’re doing the hands-on lessons, and you know, when you’re virtual, it’s not necessarily hands-on, but you know, the different simulations and whatnot, you are hitting multiple standards in one assignment. So, you can say at any time I did it, and go to whatever you need to.

Christi Hartley: That’s exactly what I do and the thing that I find difficult is dealing with the administration part of it when they say, well, which standard are you doing or what are you going to put as a learning objective? Well, we’re learning about 10 things in this. Do you want them all or do you want me to just say students will be able to do blah, blah, blah? Because learning objective to me, writing that on the board and saying, today, we’re going to do sentences with periods at the end.

I think, oh, yeah, we are but we’re going to do nouns and verbs and we’re going to spell correctly and we’re going to… All the things that go with and we’re probably writing about something that we in science, or writing about something in social studies. So,  we have too many things tied together to say that I’m sticking with that particular standard,

Jenn Breisacher: Right and the standards are tricky. When I was teaching, I was in New Jersey, and I taught history. We had two sets of standards we had to do. We had to do the core content standards and then we had New Jersey State history standards. So, you would have to like mishmash all these standards together in every lesson, which is fine but then you would have people telling you what you really should be mastering one standard per lesson.

So, there are not even enough days in a school year to do that if I’m really legitimately supposed to be hitting every single one of these standards. So, if I can look at them all and say, all right, we’re going to do a project. And it’s going to have this building piece, this writing piece, this talking piece, this interactive piece. Now I’ve just hit 20 standards in something that took me three or four days as well.

Christi Hartley: Well, and I love that. I don’t know exactly, I’m still not at the point with all this yet where I can say, yes, my virtual students have mastered it. But I can say they’ve been exposed to this. This is what it looks like. This is what the ones who are turning things in and talking to me regularly. This is what that looks like. So, yes they’ve been exposed and yes, these are the standards that I’m doing. Yes, that’s where I have the hardest time is saying, well, maybe they’re not mastering them.

Jenn Breisacher: I mean…

Christi Hartley: …or doing them and understanding a little bit of what they’re doing.

Jenn Breisacher: Right. Right now, we’re recording this in October and it’s still a big mishmash. There’s no better way to say it. We don’t know what’s coming. Some schools just started not that long ago, because they did an extended summer in hopes that things would go back to normal. There’s a hybrid, there’s distance, there’s in-person depending on where you are, I don’t think any kid is going to get a full educational experience, like it would be in normal times this year, no matter what I mean.

In my opinion, as long as they’re doing the work, engaging, it seems like they’re learning something. On the flip side, their emotional state seems to be okay and their mental state is okay. That’s really, really what I think we should be worrying about right now anyway.

Christi Hartley: I agree with that. I’m up to 25 students this week, several have moved out of the cohorts that are in school, a couple of the hybrid AB model.

Jenn Breisacher: Yeah.

Christi Hartley: They’ve moved out, they’ve decided because New Mexico is a state that’s in the horrible dark red of cases right now. But they’ve decided they don’t want their child to be in school. So, my group is up. I started the year with fourth grade and fifth grade and then had 40 kids before you could blink, and they decided that was too much. So, they took fourth grade and left me with fifth grade, which is fine. That’s what I’ve taught forever and ever. But the keeping the social-emotional side, and I keep open office hours every day.

I have a couple of times of meeting a week, I don’t try to force any of it because I don’t know when they can be online. I don’t know how good; they may be using a hotspot or something like that. So, some of them I don’t see maybe once a week, maybe once every two weeks, but we stay in touch through email or we stay in touch through the stream of Google Classroom. They do come into office hours, maybe for two or three minutes and say Yes, I’m fine. I’ve got this. I just need this question or something like that. So, it seems to be okay right now.

Jenn Breisacher: Yeah. I think that’s the best way to possibly be doing it. I know there’s a lot of teachers out there that are like they’re supposed to be logging in every day and they should be having this assignment completed. You can’t do that right now. I mean, it’s hard enough to do that in normal school making sure kids are turning in things, and they’re fully engaged and this and that, let alone when you have no idea what’s going on at home, and they’re trying to do some type of traditional learning at home.

Some of them may, in fact, be doing a lot with their families learning things. I know, with my own kids, they never stopped going to school.

They were virtual, but they still had to log in every day and we’re in a situation where that was totally fine. But I was, you know, trying to garden with them and my husband was showing them how to change a tire and stuff like that. I think that’s one of those silver linings that there are a lot of blessings of my kids might not have learned how to do that until either later or maybe never because maybe we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do that.

I know, there’s a lot of stories out there where the kids, it’s sad that they’re home. There’s certainly enough of that out there but on the same token, a lot of kids are learning positive things about their families that they wouldn’t have if everybody wasn’t home. I think there’s just a lot of different ways to look at all of it.

Christi Hartley: I do. I have a student who got to travel this year, who would not have gotten to go with his parents somewhere.

Jenn Breisacher: Yes.

Christi Hartley: They got to go visit and he said, what homework do I need to do? I don’t know if I’m going to have Wi-Fi. I said you don’t. You need to journal your trip. I need a journal of it. I need you to do the math, figuring your distance and mileage, I need you to figure out how much gas costs. I need you to think about decimals that way. I need to know what all science is. You’re going to Indiana or somewhere and, I need for you to think about the difference in the rivers and the lakes and whatever that you are seeing that we’re not going to see.

That’s what your learning process is going to be in the traveling of the whole thing. Well, it shocked him and his mother both, but they came back with a great thing going on. He was able to, you know, tie in with what we were doing and have great conversations with students who never have gotten out of Clovis ever. So, that whole learning process to me was a better learning process than anything I could have come up with.

Jenn Breisacher: and that’s fantastic. That’s something you know, that was literally in a journal, he will probably keep that forever.

Christi Hartley: He came home and did it on Google Slides.

Jenn Breisacher: Okay.

Christi Hartley: I told him, I said, if you’re going to stay in Clovis now those stay with you. If you guys move, I’ll have to teach you how to get those out of the district stuff and you’ll have to be able to take them with you because they are something you can expand on in your school years from here on.

Jenn Breisacher: Sure.

Christi Hartley: You can make those something a great story or a great… Whatever you want to do with those, you can use them forever.

Jenn Breisacher: That’s amazing. I also saw a history teacher. She was teaching all virtually and she started traveling to the places that she was going to teach about.

Christi Hartley: I heard you say that. I thought that was the neatest thing I ever…

Jenn Breisacher: Isn’t that great?

Christi Hartley: Before all of this went on hiatus we had two fifth grade teachers and one who was a permanent sub because we couldn’t get a teacher. So, for our reading block during the day, we would all 60 of the kids go in one room and we would read part of a novel every day.

For a while, we worked really hard at trying to go through Google Earth and putting the settings on that novel and following through with the whole thing for the kids so they could actually see where these children were traveling to or what was happening and what city they were actually living in. So, we used the technology then. So, I’m trying to do the same thing now.

Even though it’s not on a whiteboard, I’m buying it online or virtually with the kids. When we read something or when we talk about where it is, I’ll say let’s get our Google Maps out and, you know, look for that or they’re telling me right now, by their actions that they can’t map.

They can’t tell me where something is in our small town. They can’t guide me to it.  So, I’m putting together some sort of a mapping lesson. I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do with Google Earth and have them map their area. I mean, I just have to figure out how to do it because, in their actions, they don’t know how to get around town, right? No, it’s over there.

Jenn Breisacher: Yeah.

Christi Hartley: So, I want to try to put together something they can use. I know when I did my Google classes this summer, the Google Educator classes, that there’s something in there, I just haven’t gotten it all pulled back out again …

Jenn Breisacher: Right.

Christi Hartley: … to put together but it is definitely something I think would be feasible for them to enjoy even if they just went out. Even with a tape measure or with steps, knowing how big your steps are, you could kind of map something out…

Jenn Breisacher: Yeah.

Christi Hartley: …and do some math with it also.

Jenn Breisacher: That’s like a life skill and it’s something that will get them up and moving and not just sitting in front of a screen

Christi Hartley: In front of a screen. To try to get a little bit away from screens.

Jenn Breisacher: I find that a lot of the virtual teachers are struggling with that because their school is saying okay, you need to be actively teaching for X amount of hours or minutes or whatever it is. I’m trying to explain that actively teaching doesn’t mean necessarily lecturing to them the whole time.

It could be alright everybody, I’m going to give you 10 minutes to go find something in your yard, in your house or whatever. Come back here and I want you to be able to talk to me about it or we’re going to go into a breakout room and you guys are going to discuss what you found. There can be ways to get them up and moving and not just having the blue light radiating their eyes for hours and hours and hours.

Christi Hartley: Exactly. It’s one of the things that we’ve talked about as a group and listening to you guys this summer in all the classes is exactly that. How many minutes did you actually stand in front of a class and teach when you were there for eight hours a day? You didn’t teach for eight hours.

I mean, they were out of your classroom for lunch and recesses and specials first of all. You had bathroom breaks that took time in the day and if you stood in the front of the classroom for an hour at a time then you were not really teaching because nobody was listening to you after 10 minutes and you know no one was listening. You weren’t even really listening to yourself. You sounded like Charlie Brown’s mom.

Jenn Breisacher: Right.

Christi Hartley: It’s one of the things I say think how long you’ve taught before and think how long you really want to speak in front of people now.

Jenn Breisacher: Yeah. Right. I mean, and the kids are smart. They know how to split their screen and have you up but have something over here and you can’t tell the difference. I mean, yes.

Christi Hartley: Well, I have that one who’s really good at just staring at me for a while. You have all of them and I just smile and I’m not the teacher who asks them to not put their cameras on. I just once in a while, say, let me see your face, then you can turn it off if you want to. But this let me see your face for a few minutes and we’re good to go.

Jenn Breisacher: Yeah, I personally struggle with the camera debate. I understand. not requiring them because you never know again what home is, where they are, and you don’t want anyone to get made fun of or anything. I understand that. But when I taught my hybrid class, I did have a moment where all of a sudden, we realize a kid had turned off his camera. I mean, he was in high school, but literally left, wasn’t even there anymore. The kids who were friends with him were able to track him down. He wasn’t even home. So, he had called into the class and wasn’t there at all. So, I’m like no.

Christi Hartley: That is a tough one but it’s one of those things that is that the battle we want to fight?

Jenn Breisacher: Right. Right now, I don’t think so.

Christi Hartley: Yeah, you know, when I think of everyday things I’m doing and I think that from what I’ve learned this summer, and what I continue to try to study and what I continue to listen to you and others, I just I feel like I’m doing the best I can do and I’m not going to beat myself up over it. I’m presenting things to these students that they are going to eventually need, and I can only ask so much of all of us.

Jenn Breisacher: I think a lot of it comes down to how administrators are portraying or demanding, however you want to put it, what their expectations are. I think some of them, don’t know the answers and they don’t know what’s coming and they don’t know what the best option is. So, they’re trying to keep things normal.

But you can’t have things normal right now. So, saying you have to be teaching for this many hours because normally in school you would be but that’s not what’s happening right now. So, a lot of it I think comes down to people being stressed out or worried that they’re not going to do what is expected of them. But the expectation is also not being given out in a way that makes any type of sense with what we’re dealing with right now.

Christi Hartley: Well, for me, it feels like that comes from above them probably

Jenn Breisacher: Yeah.

Christi Hartley: Because we’ve been told for so long the way education is supposed to be because it’s been that way for so long and nobody’s wanting to really step out there. But now that door has been opened and that’s what I felt like this summer when I found your class and when I found Casey Bell’s book and several people. I’m following Alice Keeler a little bit. All these things that I’m trying to stay up with. Catlin Tucker, just people that I’m, like saying, okay, why haven’t these people been strong enough to push some of this through before now?

But then when I take the SC classes and realize there have been virtual schools for 10 years? I didn’t know that. I mean, it’s crazy. Why are people so crabby about it when it’s been going on for a long time and some students thrive in this environment? My son would have been one of them. If I could have found that for him. It would have been the perfect thing for him.

Jenn Breisacher: Yeah. Yeah, it’s crazy. There are people that they’re just so adamant that this is putting our kids back years. They’re never going to catch back up. They’re going to catch back up because it’s not kids that aren’t resilient. It’s adults.

Christi Hartley: It’s adults. I agree. I think that what are they going to catch up with? Every single country is going through this.

Jenn Breisacher: Right.

Christi Hartley: The world is going… Who do you want them to catch up with?

Jenn Breisacher: Yeah, they’re still meeting the criteria and if it happens to be that next year, I don’t know, grade levels are just a little bit wonky, because you’re putting kids together that are on grade level, not on grade level. That’s been a big debate for years now. Do you have kids together that are at different levels? Do you have kids together that are on the same level?

There are pros and cons to both but maybe we revisit that next year to try to figure out what’s the best way to catch all these kids back up. I mean, there are so many conversations to have, I would just like to hope that one day we actually get to that point and that people want to have that conversation.

Christi Hartley: And that we do something with it, that we actually do something with it that, that conversation happens and then we say, okay, why. We have an English language learners program that we use at our school.

Jenn Breisacher: Sure.

Christi Hartley: Some of them are like Level A, some level B, some level C. So, we just decided among the third, fourth, and fifth-grade teachers of us if they are level C, put them with Miss Hartley. I set up a Google Classroom for them. We’re going to try, we’re starting it tomorrow, where some of them are A, hybrid A, some of them are hybrid B, some of them are full virtual, but our Wednesdays are open.

So, we’re all going to meet together on Wednesdays, and we’re all going to start the lesson together on Wednesdays. The teachers, the kids, and I think there are 13 of them. Now, if they all show up for this meet, and we have four teachers in there, then we’re doing this whole lesson together and then they can take it off and go with it what they need to with their A and B hybrids and we meet again next Wednesday and see where we need to go with it from there.

To me, I have third graders, I’ll have fourth graders, I’ll have fifth graders. We’re using a dinosaur book, it’s all a lesson about parts of speech, basically, but we’re doing it through a book and we’re using Google Sheets to list our parts of speech. We’re using Google Slides for everybody to add their own slide in to find a word they don’t know and be able to give a definition of it and use it in a sentence and those sorts of things.

So, with 13 kids, if we get 13 slides and 13 new words, we’re going to have something good going on. I mean, I just think it can’t hurt to have all those age groups together working on the same thing.

Jenn Breisacher: Sure. Absolutely.

Christi Hartley: I’m hoping that it will really be a cool thing and it would be something we could do forever even if you go back to school, and kids open Chromebooks and a group of third, fourth, and fifth graders are in a reading group together that nobody really knows in that classroom. They’re in that reading group together.

Jenn Breisacher: Right.

student needs

Christi Hartley: I think that makes sense for teaching instead of trying to differentiate a bunch of fifth-graders in one room where everybody knows who’s in the blackbird group or the bluebird group.

Jenn Breisacher: Right. I agree with that. I always felt that, and I’ve had this debate with people that in order to help a child, you need to meet them on the level that they are. But a lot of it came down to stereotypes and you don’t want certain kids to know those other kids… But when you’re on the computers, nobody knows unless they tell each other.

Christi Hartley: Exactly. I mean, one of the things you said, one of the things Alice Keeler says is to put everything on your computer on whatever LMS system you’re using. Put everything on there, because then they’re reading directions on their own and you’re not trying to be up there doing it, so all the other kids don’t know which directions they’re reading.

So, to me, that’s what I learned from you guys that I mean, and you were one of the ones. Not everybody needs the same directions

Jenn Breisacher: Yeah. Then you have programs like Newsela, that they all have the same article, but it’s got the different Lexile levels.

Christi Hartley: Yeah, different levels.

Jenn Breisacher: So, you can say, okay, you three, here’s your link, you guys, here’s your link, and when you do it in Google Classroom, nobody knows what link they’re getting.

Christi Hartley: No, they don’t. No.

Jenn Breisacher: the kids just know they get a link, they’re not going to compare links and be like, wait a second, yours has a Q here and mine has an N here. They’re not going to notice that they just like the link and they go in and it’s where they need it to be.

Christi Hartley: It’s the same. ReadWorks does that where I could give some of them. I mean, they all wore their headphones, but some of them could have the audio version of it and some of them could have the Spanish version of it and some of them. So, for me those kinds of programs that I found several years ago and used in the classroom were great. Getting validation through your class, getting validation that this stuff is really not bad makes me so much happier teaching this year.

Jenn Breisacher: Yeah. I mean, I’ve noticed that teachers who have dabbled in this at some form before have had easier times adapting to whatever crazy has been laid before them. It’s not easy for anybody but if you have found programs before that you’re like wait a second, I can do this online or now I can do this through the computers, or the kids can be at home and in school, working on it together because they’re all on this platform.

It just makes a huge difference. difference. It’s the teachers that are still trying to teach traditionally through whatever this method is that is laid before them are the ones that are having a really tough time with it.

Christi Hartley: I think so and I think there are moments, truly moments that I think, okay, should I do it this way or should I do it this way? Because my traditional self comes through also. I mean, at 61 years old, you look at it, or 60 years old, you look at it and go, oh, should I change this?

Then I think of my own children who are so advanced in technology and what they’re doing and who they globally speak with daily on things. I’m like, oh, my gosh, how can I hold these students in Clovis, New Mexico back from that privilege?

Jenn Breisacher: Yes.

Christi Hartley: How can I possibly allow myself to hold them back from the privilege of getting to know other countries and cities and other states in our country, and actually knowing people from there?

Jenn Breisacher: We have the world at our fingertips right now. I mean, obviously, you can’t do everything every single day, but not trying to push your students in that direction is just doing them a disservice, because they’re going to have to know how to do some of this in order to function in the world when they go out into it. For us not to at least be dabbling in it a little bit is just doing them a disservice.

Christi Hartley: Well, I love hearing you say that, because, in my heart, that’s the way I feel.

Jenn Breisacher: Yeah.

Christi Hartley: I mean, there truly are times that I look at and think am I doing the right thing. I’ll have a mom say, I don’t even get your directions. I said did you listen to them or read them? Which, because I do a verbal? I mean a screencast and regular directions. I just need you to do it with me right here online. Perfect. Call me, tell me what day you want me to meet online and I’ll walk through the directions with you.

Jenn Breisacher: Right.

Christi Hartley: That’s the privilege of doing this is I have three or four ways to help you with that.

Jenn Breisacher: Right. That’s huge.

Christi Hartley: It feels that way to me, but I don’t know.

Jenn Breisacher: No, I mean, that’s it. That’s the direction that education is heading and everything. I almost feel like this was the universe coming together and saying, all right, we need to find a way to propel everybody forward. We need to find a way to get everybody on the same page, and at the same time to mark the disparities that are out there, that have been shoved under the rug now for however many years that we’ve been pretending that these issues don’t exist. Well, now they’re out there, and people are talking about them. So, if nothing else, at least, there’s that.

Christi Hartley: Well, and I mean, the United States, I’m telling you, I live in Podunk USA, it is a very small town. In the whole United States, we’ve had stuff going on here forever and ever and ever. You’re right, we have pushed a lot of things under the rug but that needed to stop a long time ago. I mean, some of its opened some eyes, some of it, people are just saying, well, that’s just the way it is,  and I think oh, stop with that.

Jenn Breisacher: Yeah,

Christi Hartley: I’m working on elections in fifth grade. I mean, I’m trying to teach them what that whole… The electoral college process is very hard to teach. I’m skipping it this week. We had a data day yesterday. So, I only have four days. I said you know what, we’ll get back to that. Let’s get back to it next week. We may have all week and then two days, and then we’re all going to vote, and we’re all going to follow the map and do all of that on voting day.

Jenn Breisacher: Love it.

Christi Hartley: So, I may just leave a Google Classroom open and let them come in and out and talk about it all day long. Yeah. Because to me, that’s what that day is all about. Watch it on TV, keeping up with the news, watching those polls happen.

Jenn Breisacher: and keeping them factual, making sure they’re using facts to back up what they’re saying.

Christi Hartley: Yes. Yes. If it’s all day Tuesday, social studies day it will be, and here’s my problem is figuring out okay, how do you grade that? Do you give everybody 100 for participation? I don’t like old-fashioned grades. So, now I have to go through figuring that mess out?

Jenn Breisacher: I mean, you could probably create some type of rubric that’s participation-based.

Christi Hartley: That’s probably exactly what I’ll do is go through it and…

Jenn Breisacher: Did you participate? Check. Were you there? Check.

Christi Hartley: Yeah, did you? Did you participate enough that you had good thought process and were able to back yourself? Have good supporting details with what you’re doing?

Jenn Breisacher: That’s what you have to do? Did you back yourself up with facts?

Christi Hartley: Well, when you’re virtual, and you don’t get to see them, but a little bit at a time but you leave something open like that all day long. I think that they’ll participate and be able to do something fun with it. We’ll see.

Jenn Breisacher: You know, what, if it doesn’t work out, oh well, the next day, you just move on to something else.

Christi Hartley: I finally I think it’s the age. I think it’s the years of teaching that you finally get to the point and say, I’m not going to do it right every day and every time. No. So, this is my idea and if it works, it works. If a kid comes up and says, hey, Miss Hartley, if we do this, will this work better? Well, let’s try it.

Jenn Breisacher: Yeah, exactly.

Christi Hartley: I’m open to doing that.

Jenn Breisacher: You’ve got to be open to trying it out and know that maybe something won’t work. I say that in the course 100 times that most of the time when people try something if it doesn’t work, it’s the perfect way you envisioned it the first time they throw it out and go back to what they’re used to because you think that you’re a failure because teachers are perfectionists.

That doesn’t mean that it wasn’t great. It just means that something had to be changed or tweaked, or the kids weren’t used to it yet. There are so many different options there.

Christi Hartley: So many options and I think I got from your class, one of the things I got from your classes is that deal of kids fighting back with their own. I mean, you telling me they just backed up and didn’t want to do that, right. So, now I push them a little bit and go, okay, so what’s the way you would do it then? I get a little bit more response. Oh, I get what you’re saying now, and they’ll try. They’ll buy in a little bit better.

Jenn Breisacher: Yeah. It’s little, tiny pieces of buy-in and then all of a sudden you realize they’re all in and that’s all you can ask for.

Christi Hartley: Yeah, one of the things I did this year, I have a group that’s pretty high and I tried to present them as a project to do on their own. It was too deep. It was too much for this group because they haven’t been in school for a long time. They didn’t know how to do a few things and they didn’t know how to come and ask me. Even though we would meet regularly, they didn’t know how to ask me for help. So, we scrapped it.

I mean, we just scrapped it and I excused them from some other things that the other groups did and thought you’re brighter than that anyway, so I don’t need to worry about that grade on that particular subject or that particular thing. So, I’ll just excuse you from that part and we’ll work on it the next time. It felt a little weird at first.

Jenn Breisacher: Right. It goes against everything we’ve ever been taught to do, that’s why.

Christi Hartley: But none of us really. I mean, they didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to do. Their parents didn’t know what to do. It was better just to scrap it and start over.

Jenn Breisacher: Yep.

Christi Hartley: I thought, you know, what, we all had a learning process out of that. None of us failed. We had a great learning process out of it.

Jenn Breisacher: I mean, if it’s not an end-of-unit assessment, standardized, something, it’s not a big deal. As the teacher, you can throw a grade out and say, you know what, never mind.

Christi Hartley: Never mind. Well, and I don’t know that I would have done that without all the classes this summer. I don’t know that I would have been able to say, huh big deal.

Jenn Breisacher: Right. It’s a mindset shift. It’s all a mindset shift.

Christi Hartley: And it’s not all there yet. Let me tell you, that’s what I am saying. It’s not totally shifted yet, but it is coming along very strongly at this point.

Jenn Breisacher: Just like I said with the kids, your brain will buy in a little bit more, a little bit more, and the next thing you know, you’re going to be like, oh, let’s just try this.

Christi Hartley: That’s kind of where I am. I’m getting to that point. Let’s try it and see if it works. We’ve just finished some pre-standardized testing, whatever, that everyone thinks that you continue to have to do during all this. I think, really, what assessment is going to make any big difference right now. Supposedly formatted, they haven’t been in school since March. Do you know what I mean? Just things they haven’t done, but I did them and I actually was not disappointed in my results.

Jenn Breisacher: Good.

Christi Hartley: So, I said, here’s what I’d like to do with you guys. I’d like to meet with you one on one with your scores and I’d like to just to have a little narrative form we fill out and say, what am I going to do with this now? Where do I take this now? What do I need to do to be better at, and what am I already great at and what can I do with it?

Jenn Breisacher: Love it.

Christi Hartley: So, that’s our next step. We’re going to start those little meetings tomorrow. So, it probably won’t take us 15 minutes apiece. But I’d like to take your scores and meet with you on those things.

Jenn Breisacher: Yeah and those are the things that you have the luxury of doing all your virtual for sure because you can meet with them whenever. Those are the conversations that are meaningful, because it’s not just you learn something, and you move on. You’re now asking them, how are you going to apply it? What can you do with it, and that will stick with them more plus, they’ll feel that they have the choice in deciding what they’re going to do?

Christi Hartley: Well, I hope so and of course, I’ll invite their parents to be in there also if their parents would like to be. I just feel like it does give them that voice in their learning from the next step and this is the brand new term. We’re starting today with our brand new term. So, this is the time to go through them say alright, what do you want by Christmas? Where do you want to be? What kind of goals do we need to reset?

Jenn Breisacher: A lot of them might hesitate because they’ve never been asked a question like that before. I mean, you could ask a senior in high school that question, and they will hesitate because nobody’s ever given them the opportunity to have a say before. So, if that happens, don’t panic, or say, well, maybe we shouldn’t drive them a little more, push them a little bit more to engage that conversation, and then you’ll probably get something really great out of the kid that hesitates.

Christi Hartley: Well, I’m hoping to because I am not a goal setter. I’m not that kind of person. I just do what I’m going to do all the time and that’s what I’m going to do. My dad used to wake us up and say today’s going to be a happy day. I mean, it was just what it was going to be. So that’s the way I am. So, I have to push that goal-setting also. So, I will. I mean it’ll be fun to kind of mess with it a little bit.

Jenn Breisacher: Yeah.

Christi Hartley: It’s a new thing. If it doesn’t work with everybody, it won’t work with everybody but if it does with a few, and they can take it and do something with it from here on…

Jenn Breisacher: You win.

Christi Hartley:  …then I feel like we win.

Jenn Breisacher: Right. Exactly. Those kids will start conversing with the other kids and then the next thing you know, oh, well, maybe it’s a snowball.

Christi Hartley: Hopefully, it’s that snowball thing.

Jenn Breisacher: Yep. Love it.

Christi Hartley: So, it is a silver lining. A silver lining of virtual teaching. When you do get one on one time with somebody you get true one on one, not messed with anybody else, you’re not looking over their shoulders. I have these small groups and when they come together as small groups, I’m not looking over to see what the other groups are doing or who’s messing around in the classroom or who’s doing whatever. My small groups get work done. We really learn something in those moments were together. I think that silver lining if nothing else, is awesome.

Jenn Breisacher: Yeah. I mean, it’s like I said, it’s a horrible time and it’s very stressful, no matter how many years you’ve been teaching. But, if you take a step back, there are so many good pieces that are coming out of it. So, it’s not all awfulness. There are good things that are coming out of it.

Christi Hartley: You have to be one of those kinds of mindset people, I think, who looks at that side of it.

Jenn Breisacher: Yeah.

Christi Hartley: I’m sure that there are things that I don’t know that are happening at home, that I’m silver lining over.

Jenn Breisacher: Right. That’s always going to be the case for sure.

Christi Hartley: I think that’s probably the case, even with kids coming to school, because I don’t nose into their lives when they’re at school. I wait for them to tell me; I don’t try to bug them. So, until they tell me I probably don’t know it.

Jenn Breisacher: Right. Absolutely. All right. Is there any advice that you would like to give a teacher who is trying to do it all right now?

Christi Hartley: Stop. Cut it in half.

Jenn Breisacher: Love it.

Christi Hartley: Cut it in half. No matter what you think you’re doing cut it in half. Turn your computer off at 4:30? Don’t turn it on until seven in the morning. Ignore everything else, because I guarantee you they’re ignoring you. They are. They have their own lives. They don’t want. Stop trying to do everything.

Jenn Breisacher: I hear my words coming out of your mouth.

Christi Hartley: I just turned mine off at 4:30. I talked to a mom today I said you are welcome to call me until 4:30. You’re welcome to call me at seven in the morning. I’m not going to answer you otherwise

Jenn Breisacher: They can leave a message. They can do anything. But I mean, that’s a…

Christi Hartley: I’ll answer your email at seven in the morning. If it’s there waiting for me, I will do it.

Jenn Breisacher: Right. And that’s a boundary people have to set. But again, that’s something that I’ve gone off on multiple times.

Christi Hartley: I’m probably the worst. I like writing my lesson plans on the weekend. I like doing that

Jenn Breisacher: I was always that way too.

Christi Hartley: I want to think about it and get out of the way of everything else. There are days now that I can maybe get a language lesson plan written or a unit thing done during the day. But I answer emails all day long. I’m available to kids all day long. It’s easier for me to write them on the weekend. It doesn’t take that long because I have it planned.

Jenn Breisacher: Sure.

Christi Hartley: So anyway, I would just say do half of what you think you need to do because they’re only doing half.  I don’t mean that in a negative way. They’re doing what they can do. They are doing as much as they can do. So, you need to just stop.

Jenn Breisacher: Yes.

Christi Hartley: That’s my piece of advice.

Jenn Breisacher: I love it. Love it. Love it. I also love hearing my own words.

Christi Hartley: Well, I learned something this summer.

Jenn Breisacher: Good.

Christi Hartley: I learned a lot from you.

Jenn Breisacher: This has been fantastic. Thanks so much for chatting.

Christi Hartley: You’re very welcome and I enjoyed it.

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After moving from a teacher-dominated classroom to a truly student-centered one, Jenn found herself helping colleagues who wanted to follow her lead.  In 2018 she decided to expand outside of her school walls and help those out there who were also trying to figure out this fantastic method of instruction to ignite intrinsic motivation in their students.  Read more about her journey with Student-Centered World at studentcenteredworld.com/about

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