[Chicago Slices raw: Amundsen High School]

GARY GOLDMAN, lecturer. Meeting with principal of Amundsen High School, two students, and a teacher, discussing innovative ways of teaching teenagers. Interviewed by Tom Weinberg.

00:00Copy video clip URL B-roll of Quality Student Leadership facilitator’s guide handbook.

00:19Copy video clip URL Interview with Gary Goldman. He says today’s meeting between teachers, administrators, and high school students will be about student involvement and the kind of education students should be getting in America, how student involvement can benefit the education system.

01:08Copy video clip URL Each member of the meeting introduces him or herself. High School students Sally Berkhia and Hector Escalera, teacher Mitzi Sobol, and principal of Amundsen High School, Ed Klunk.

02:53Copy video clip URL Goldman poses the question: Why are students not involved more? Escalera offers that kids might not understand the value of getting involved. He tells the story of how he started getting involved in school activity. “I wanted to do something other than hanging around.” He wanted to know how it felt to get involved and took a chance by founding and leading the Puerto Rican club. Students have opportunities, they juts need to take advantage of them.

04:26Copy video clip URL Berkhia adds that she did not want to join a club, but started with drama and French and discovered she enjoyed the involvement. Goldman says that many adults don’t know how to involve the students. He poses the question: is there an option to be seen but not heard?

05:42Copy video clip URL Sobol says a lot of teachers want to keep control over the students to prevent a free-for-all, but there must be parameters so that students can learn to be leaders. When students she worked with felt the joy of involvement, they wanted to do more.

07:04Copy video clip URL Escalera notes that to get other students involved in his club he coordinated with presidents of clubs at other high schools to challenge them to a friendly volleyball game, the loser buys pizza. It created a chance for the kids to get to know one another. Afterwards, his club members discussed and reviewed the experience and considered what other activities they could do.

08:14Copy video clip URL Berkhia says she did something similar as part of the Syrian club when they facilitated a parade. The scariest thing is contacting people, but once they conquered that and started talking to people the biggest obstacle was removed.

08:58Copy video clip URL Goldman talks about collaborating with Klunk in a program to help at risk teens build self esteem. He poses the question: What is an authentic person? A person who thinks for him or herself. Is that risky? It should be natural. It’s risky for people who aren’t used to it because it means they need to be accountable and responsible. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if teachers and students were in a partnership, respectfully agreeing or disagreeing?

11:00Copy video clip URL Berkhia says that’s hard for kids to do because growing up they are taught to not disagree with the teacher. Goldman facilitates a role play with Sobol as a teacher and Berkhia and Escalera as students. In the first scene the teacher is in control and won’t let a student speak for himself.

12:17Copy video clip URL Sobol and the student enact the scenario. The students and teacher are in conflict over a page ripped out of a text book. Goldman leads the follow up review: the students let you know something was missing from the text book and the teacher dismissed their concern. Now, he continues, redo the scenario using an open partnership.

13:30Copy video clip URL The scenario opens with Berkhia saying today she’s like to talk about Native Americans. Sobol, as the teacher, says that she had planned to talk about something else, but was willing to discuss Native Americans. They do with Berkhia starting by saying the treatment Native Americans endured by European invaders was wrong. The teacher offers that, right or wrong, if that had not happened, you would not be able to enjoy all the things you enjoy here. Escalera says that he doesn’t understand why a group of people who left Europe so they could enjoy their own freedom would take freedom away from someone else. Sobol says how would you handle the situation if you could go back in time?

14:55Copy video clip URL Goldman reviews the two scenarios. In  the first, the teacher dismissed the students voice. How did that make you, the students, feel? Rejected. It put a wall between student and teacher. It turns you off from wanting to learn. When the teacher was open and allowed everyone to contribute it encouraged learning and participation. If the teacher is open and authentic you will have a different kind of learning experience, and it will get the students involved.

16:40Copy video clip URL Klunk notes that success is based on the participation of everyone in an organization. In a school you want students involved for the school experience to be successful. In developing student leadership, involvement encourages communication and interaction and it allows people to get comfortable engaging in this kind of interaction.

18:18Copy video clip URL Escalera notes that the teachers are here for the students. Can you imagine if Mr. Klunk discouraged me from starting a Puerto Rican club? That would have destroyed my motivation. He shows us that we are responsible enough to lead.

19:33Copy video clip URL Berkhia notes that she and other students and teachers at Amundsen are putting together a carnival with Klunk’s permission. He told us, the students, to gather names of one hundred adults and one hundred students. It feels good to be trusted with this responsibility.

20:15Copy video clip URL Goldman notes that it’s important for teachers and leaders to show they are human. Why are adults so resistant to admit that they are human? The students suggest that’s because they fear students won’t respect their authority.

21:21Copy video clip URL Klunk says it all boils down to developing communication so you feel comfortable using it. Schools need to foster communication between peers and leaders. Sobol notes that teacher burn out is prevalent. But when teachers have a collaborative classroom, burn out is reduced. Escalera notes the difference between teachers who respect their students individuality and teachers who do not and how that positively or negatively affects the learning environment.

23:45Copy video clip URL Goldman tells the story of a summer program for at-risk students who helped clean the school and helped build a new student center.

24:50Copy video clip URL Escalera tells the story of getting kicked out of school by Klunk for being a delinquent.

25:30Copy video clip URL Goldman tells the story of attending an assembly at one school. The adults talked and the students sat in the auditorium, bored. At the end someone on stage asked if there were any questions. No student did. From the audience Goldman raised his hand, went up to the stage and asked the students, “Is anybody here bored?” Nearly every student raised a hand. He asked, “Do you know why you are bored? Because you are not participating in your life. You’re listening and waiting for someone to spoon feed you. Are you little kids or are you young people who can think for yourself?” All of a sudden students wanted to talk and share their thoughts. The magic was giving them  the opportunity to wake up and get involved.

26:48Copy video clip URL Escalera adds that when addressing young kids you have to speak in their language, at their level. Goldman adds that when someone walks into a room you can tell if that person is being real or not. When you see someone who is being real you want to relate. You want people who are willing to risk and relate. He tells a story about being at University of Illinois and addressing 200 students about education and psychology. The professor tells me these students are her most apathetic class. But when Goldman got up to speak to them, the first thing he told them was, “Your teacher tells me you are her most energetic class.” And for the next hour, he notes, they were energetic. I asked the class, “What gets you excited?” In that hour he had students coming up, talking about their hopes and dreams. At the end he said your last risk is to turn to your neighbor, smile and introduce yourself. Bringing the human element is crucial. It’s up to students now to keep this going.

29:53Copy video clip URL Tom Weinberg interrupts to steer the conversation in a specific direction. He notes that some adults don’t give kids enough credit, stereotyping them as not caring. How do we break that stereotype? Most care and want to contribute and make the school experience better. Escalera thinks you start with the youngest generation, early elementary school kids. Give them the kind of education they need to be leaders. Sobol notes that we also stereotype leaders and what a leader is. Once the students finds out what their specific leadership skills are, even if they are different from the skills of the next person, they will start to feel more confident about their abilities. We work to foster that part of them that is good.

33:15Copy video clip URL Berkhia notes that in junior high she was inactive in any school activity. A counselor encouraged her to get involved in clubs and she had the time of her life. She had the experience of being a leader. We aren’t dumb, but people lack enthusiasm.

34:49Copy video clip URL Escalera notes that his counselor also pushed and encouraged him to get involved. Leadership is power over problems, not power over people.

35:25Copy video clip URL Goldman asks how do we break this us versus them fear? Students versus adults, adults versus adults. Learn to trust. It will take people who care to make a difference.

36:50Copy video clip URL Klunk offers that those in education need to create the motivation to bring our the best in a student and motivate them to perform. Some teachers look at students as passive recipients. That’s not our responsibility. Our responsibility is to create a situation that invigorates young people to learn something and to see what they can do for themselves.

37:56Copy video clip URL Goldman notes that the risk in this type of self-empowering education is that a person has to change. We are not taught that change is okay. He talks about working with kids at a Juvenile Detention Center. He asked the kids in there if they wanted to be successful and make a difference. Most did. One did not because, he said, “I can’t make by successful.” So Goldman ask the kid, “What if you could be successful?” He talked to the group about what success was and made the point that success was not something outside them, but inside them. He next had the kids identify two qualities of success such as happiness and freedom. He then challenged them to take a risk and stand up and say, “I want to be free and happy.” The others in the group must support this and encourage the youth by telling him, “you got it!” when they had affirmed their want of happiness with conviction. It’s up to us to say I won’t settle for mediocrity, and to understand that change doesn’t happen overnight.

42:53Copy video clip URL Weinberg poses the question, aren’t there some people who will never change or conquer their fear even with the help of the most motivated people? Berkhia says we are taught that there is always someone above us to lead. Sobol adds, teamwork is important. If you have that then you won’t feel that you are the person every day to have to be the one to motivate your students. The school needs to become a support team for itself.

45:35Copy video clip URL Goldman says that in his workbook he has section on commitment. The difference between being 99 percent committed and 100 percent committed is big. He poses to the group what is your 100 percent commitment to life. Escalera says his is to get the best education he can to be a lawyer to help his community understand their rights. Berkhia says her commitment is to live life to the fullest and not become a couch potato. Sobol’s commitment in education is to be part of the change in how students and parents and teachers work together to make education a positive experience. Klunk’s commitment is to provide the opportunity for every person in Amundsen High School to be successful in life, whatever that is for them. His personal commitment to himself is to live to be 100 years-old. Goldman says his commitment is to keep learning from everyone he meets, to care, share and grow.

51:05Copy video clip URL Goldman says that people are often surprised when students open up and share. Adults get so accustomed to a stereotype. Berkhia says there was a teacher who put us down telling us that some of us who are poor or who come from immigrant families or low income families lack motivation and can’t be “regular” people. We had an assembly here requesting the teacher apologize to us and we got a lot of positive reaction from adults and students. Sobol notes that after a fourteen year absence, she returned and had a horrible year because she operated the way she had over a decade before. The second year approached the situation differently and took a risk to be more human to the students and the administration and as a result had a better experience.

54:58Copy video clip URL A series of B-roll and reaction shots recorded taken from various bits of conversation: Weinberg says the truth is how many students really buy into this? There’s a lot of anger in this system at this school. The videographer cuts in the middle of his statement.

55:56Copy video clip URL Video start rolling again with Escalera in the middle of a statement. Goldman talks about how involving a student will awaken the adults, the teachers. Sobol tells the story of a student who did everything he did to get by with a D. After taking a motivational training session he started making A’s.

57:44Copy video clip URL Sobol tells of a student who was killed. Another student said “I’m not scared of death.” And I asked him “Are you scared of living?” He said Yes, I am. So I said let’s take a look at that.

58:33Copy video clip URL Berkhia and Escalera note that school is a kid’s second home, you spend so much of your time between age 6 and 18 there.

58:59Copy video clip URL END

 

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