Tiny Big Moments Podcast (Episode 1): Who you are is how you teach

Updated: Jan 31

Listen time: 19 minutes

The following is a full episode transcript. Want to dive into all episodes of Tiny Big Moments? Listen here.

Ms. Andrea: Well I just have to say 2020 has been something else. And the biggest enemy of 2020 is wifi.

Ms. Wanda: We were singing, the other day we were singing, and we used to get cut off. So what you hear was like [vocalizing skipping sound]. And I was like “oh I don’t know what to sing.” So I’m clapping away and [vocalizing skipping sounds] I’m like “oh my god.” It’s bad cause we don’t have wifi in the classrooms. There’s only certain areas in this building - like for example, this room. Sometimes I think it’s me and I’m like what am I doing wrong? Oh, what am I doing wrong? But it’s not me. But since, you know. You know me and technology, so I always blame me. Well, we gotta do what we gotta do.

Ms. A: I’m telling you, wifi is the enemy of 2020. I’m telling you.

Jennifer Vargas: That was Ms. Andrea and Ms. Wanda sharing stories about the unique challenges they faced during the past tumultuous school year. They are both preschool teachers from the Bronx House community center.

Cindy Gray: Hi, I'm Cindy Gray. I use she/her pronouns, and I am a ParentCorps Educator. In a past life, I taught early childhood special education and worked with preschool age children with disabilities.

JV: And I'm Jennifer Vargas and use she/her pronouns. I am also a ParentCorps Educator and a former Pre-K teacher.

And this is the Tiny Big Moments Podcast from ParentCorps. Tiny Big Moments features true stories from teachers that highlight social-emotional learning moments from the pre-K classroom. Thank you so much to Ms. Andrea and Ms. Wanda for sharing their stories with us.

CG: Yes, thank you so, so much. And I think we have to take a moment just to say: This year was hard.

JV: This school year was a roller coaster. The COVID pandemic and the ongoing movements for racial justice impacted us all in one way or another.

CG: Yeah. I mean, personally, the isolation during this time was incredibly difficult. And for me as a biracial East Asian person, during this time in the rise of anti-Asian violence, when I needed a friend, it was tough to reach out. I didn’t know what to do sometimes.

JV: For me, I just, I’ve been sitting in a lot of gratitude and privilege for having my health and then also feeling guilty that I wasn’t supporting teachers in the ways that we usually do in another school year. So just navigating those feelings for me was tough this year.

And on top of everything that may have been happening in their personal lives, teachers also had to be so flexible at school. Adapting to teaching virtually, then in person or blended, back to virtual again. It could be so confusing, frustrating, and exhausting.

CG: So exhausting, I’m sure. And every single day though, teachers still showed up. They had their virtual parent-teacher conferences, they sent home activity bags, they made videos of them read alouds, and so much more. I mean, I had the privilege of staying in touch with several teachers this past year, and they shared so many of their stories with me. So today, we are looking back and reflecting on this whirlwind of a year because, at ParentCorps, we have a huge value for self-reflection.

JV: And when we say “values,” we mean that everyone has a set of ideals, principles, and beliefs that matter to them and ultimately guide their actions. These values are essentially who we are and what is most important to us, and our values and beliefs guide how we show up personally and professionally.

Self-reflection can be difficult, especially in a year when everything was changing and it felt like we could never stop. But what would it be like to press the pause button - just for a few moments - to reflect on this year?

Today, we’re sharing some tips to practice reflecting on our values in action and you’ll hear more from Ms. Wanda and Ms. Andrea along the way.

CG: So as educators, we often already reflect on our teaching practices - the activities that went well, the lessons that went well, and the activities and lessons that didn’t go so hot. But today we’re encouraging you to take a moment to reflect a little bit more deeply - a little more personally. And that’s our first tip: know thy self - take time to reflect on what values you hold, and how they show up in the classroom.

Tip #1: Know thy self. Take time to reflect on what values you hold, and how they show up in the classroom.

When I was teaching, I definitely had this mentality that home was home, and work was work. So it didn’t matter what was happening in my personal life. I just told myself, “Leave it at the door and just go into the classroom and do my job.” After a while, I realized if we all left everything at the classroom door, all of our classrooms would look and feel exactly the same.

When I started teaching in California, I was one of two classes and our classrooms couldn’t be any more different. So my colleague who taught in the other class, she really valued having a democratic classroom. So every month, she would hold a classroom meeting with her preschoolers and they would decide the theme of the month. Awesome. Really cool. I don’t play like that.

Democracy in the classroom was a value for her, and it showed up in her classroom. Organization and planning was a value for me. That showed up in my classroom. So our classrooms looked different because of who we were.

JV: So for me, it was actually the reverse experience in my classroom. Like, I really valued creativity, freedom, and seeing that come out in the students. But my coworker, she really also valued organization, and being prepared, and having a really thoughtful, planned out curriculum for the children. And that showed up. But luckily, we were able to work together for a few years and we were both able to bring in our values in a way that felt good to us, and also really created a cohesive classroom community.

CG: So, we develop our unique set of values based on our unique set of experiences. All those experiences can come from an education program that you just came from, you can develop that based on where you grew up, your race, your culture, your beliefs, etc. And this is why we also think it’s super important to get to know what values and experiences you are bringing into the classroom every day because we are.

Often, our values come from how we were raised or our families.

Ms. W: And my grandmother always, always told me right after your parents the person you have to respect the most - after your parents - are your teachers. Because they teach you everything you have to know in life. And it’s so true. She used to tell me when I was small and I was like “yeah, right.” But it’s true. It’s true.

CG: That was Ms. Wanda reflecting on her value of respect for teachers and her profession. Her grandmother passed down this value, and it’s clearly one of the reasons she has so much pride in her profession. Even with the challenges of remote learning and her own hesitations with technology that she shared at the beginning of the episode, she took her job seriously. That’s her value of respect showing up in the classroom. I’m just curious, Jennifer, what comes up for you when you reflect on a value that is important to you?

JV: One value that comes up for me is community. My value for community comes from my family. I am the daughter of Dominican parents. Both of my parents are from small towns in the Dominican Republic where the people in the towns really looked out for each other. My paternal grandmother, my dad’s mother who is now 96 years old -- her name is Lula -- she had 10 sons. And not only was she raising her own children, but her and my grandfather would often take in children from the community whose parents were struggling. So my grandparents, they were always taking in and inviting, not only other people’s children into their homes, but anybody who really needed a place to stay.

So, for me, I think that that value for community really showed up in my teaching. I valued collaborating with my teaching team. And in my classroom, I really valued creating a community of learners where everyone felt valued, seen, and respected. And the same for families because I really wanted families to feel safe.

CG: That history, that love, that kindness came to you in the value of community. You brought that into your classroom and even just reflecting on, like, why do I care about this so much? It helps you to understand,