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It is a sign of the times… educators working harder than ever to keep learning alive during the pandemic. In this episode of the Supercast, hear the inspiring story of an American Sign Language teacher who says her passion and perseverance for teaching has grown during these unprecedented times.


Audio Transcription

Superintendent:
Hello and welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. Today we hear the inspiring story of one Jordan School District educator, who says her passion for teaching has actually grown during these unprecedented times. Rae Boren is an American Sign lLanguage teacher at Copper Hills High School. And she was recently recognized as an Outstanding Educator of the Year for Jordan School District. We'll visit her ASL virtual classroom. But first let's hear from Rae Boren, someone whose enthusiasm for the job during distance learning is keeping students engaged and finding success. Right. Thanks for coming on the Supercast.

Rae:
Oh my goodness, Superintendent Godfrey. I'm honored to be here with you today. Thank you for having me on the podcast.

Superintendent:
Well, it's my pleasure to have you today. Rae is one of the teachers who was honored by the Jordan Education Foundation. We did that by Zoom meetings and she's one of our very few teachers of the year. And it's really exciting to get to talk with you. Our Zoom meeting was so fun. You had all kinds of fans on that zoom meeting, faculty members, students. They love you atCopper Hills. That's for sure.

Rae:
Well, I feel very blessed. I have surrounded myself with really good people. And I feel very blessed to be there. I've been there my entire duration that I've been teaching and it really is a home for me there. I have my own little corner, my own little home. And like I said, I'm surrounded by amazing Grizzlies there.

Superintendent:
Being surrounded by good people is the only way I survive. And it's the only way to fly. So tell us about your role at Copper Hills. How long have you taught here? You've taught here your whole career?

Rae:
Yes I have. This is my 20th year at Copper Hills High School. And I have done a few different positions over the years, but I have consistently been one of the American Sign Language teachers there. And I'm a part of the World Language Department there, and this year I actually took on a new role. I also have had the opportunity to mentor our new first-year teachers this year. And that has helped me grow immensely, as well to having the opportunity to work with our teachers coming right fresh out of college and into the teaching field. So that's been a new position for me this year.

Superintendent:
Wha have you learned working with our newest teachers?

Rae:
First off, they come in with such passion and with such desire. They're ready to just delve in. They're ready to make their impact, make a mark. And I love seeing their enthusiasm to be open to feedback. I think sometimes as we progress, we get a little bit more like I've got this down. And I love that our new teachers are just so open to feedback and open to collaborating. That helps me as an educator just to see their openness and that mindset, and being able to collaborate with people with different content areas. I think you could always come away with new strategies and it's been phenomenal working with them.

Superintendent:
That's exciting. You put off a lot of energy and passion yourself, and so I'm sure that you're a great match with all those new teachers. Tell me, what is it that makes you so passionate about teaching?

Rae:
I think I finally have narrowed it down that I love to see growth. It fulfills me in a way that a lot of other things don't, and so seeing growth in my students, seeing growth in my new teachers, seeing growth in myself because as an educator, you have the opportunity to continually grow and this pandemic has most assuredly provided that opportunity. And so I think it's that growth that just fuels me.

Superintendent:
You've really hit it on the head. It is so exciting when you see the growth in the people that you're working with and the students that you're teaching. And when you feel it in yourself, as you interact with the people around you, and I think that's a very good description of what makes teaching so great. Now you talked about how much more we're learning as a result of the pandemic and having the soft closure. I don't think there's much that is soft about it. It's been pretty hard and a lot of work I know the teachers have had to do. What have you learned through that and how are you adapting?

Rae:
It has been an incredible time for adaptation and creativity. I think my class was very interactive and they interact with the language and I'd observed them while they're interacting or I'm up there using the language and they're watching me. It was so, so, so interactive. And so to have to go to this online format and to creatively problem solve, how are we still going to be interactive until they develop language skills you have to interact. Right? And so I think creatively finding ways to have discussions in Canvas and to do the live tutoring. So it's just being creative with using Canvas, new technologies, using Screen-castify, figuring out how can I still connect with these kids. How can I help them feel like I am there? I know I'm not in the room with them, but I'm here.

And I think it's something that I really have tried to do, because I know that it has been a time of crisis for everybody in so many ways. It impacts everybody differently. And my high school kids, I know, I have some that are watching their siblings as their parents are both trying to work from home, trying to manage that. I can't imagine. I think that they are managing some heavy, heavy loads. And so I think my principal has said, please teachers, just keep assuming positive intent. Please show them the flexibility and accommodations that you would like shown to you. And so I think that's always a good measure for us, right?  How would I want to be treated in this situation?  We know our own story. We know our own, this is hard or this is my roadblock. But we don't always know everybody else's backstory and where they are. And so I think just that has been a big part of my going to online too. Just remembering, I don't know what their household looks like right now. I don't know what they're encountering, the roadblocks and the setbacks. Just trying to help them still feel that there is somebody who cares for them. I think it's been something that I've tried to do.

Superintendent:
Well, I have no doubt that your students know how much you care about them.  That much is obvious, right? And you state very well that what we need more than anything is just empathy and connection. We need to understand that everyone is having a different experience through this. And there's no way of really knowing that. And we're all going through the same thing, but we're all experiencing something different based on our circumstances. And I'm just really glad that our students have you to connect with.

Rae:
Oh, thank you Superintendent. And I can assure you, like I said, I know who I work with. And there are so many amazing educators out there that I know are doing their very best to find ways to connect and just still help these kids feel like there is more learning going on. I think that's important as well because we know when someone learns their confidence increases and it helps them with that resiliency piece too. They feel like I'm resilient, I'm getting through this, I'm learning. I just submitted a really great short story for ASL that's just going to help them feel like now I can move on to my math or now I can move on to my science and  we grow line upon line.

Superintendent:
I think you stated that very well. There's a momentum that comes from learning. You learn, you gain confidence. The next thing becomes easier to learn because you believe that you can learn it because you learn the last thing and it just keeps growing. That relationship you have with students builds because their confidence is connected to their experiences with you.

Rae:
Yes. I think you're right. I think we all do that as humans. We look back, we'll have, certain mile markers in our life where we look back and think, oh, I did this. I ran that marathon. I got through, whatever it is. And you can always go back to that and think that was so hard for me. But I know because of that, I can do those hard things. And so I think you're right. It builds for us and it helps us see, I can keep thriving. I can overcome.

Superintendent:
And you forget to look back and give ourselves credit for how far we've come. I'll bet your first year teachers, when they get to the spring, you will remember when you had trouble even doing this and look how far you've come. So true. One of the compliments that I heard about you is the low turnover rate now at Copper Hills, because you work with so many teachers so closely, they all want to stay. It doesn't surprise me.

Rae:
I cannot take credit for that. I mean,  there's so many good people that are very good.

Superintendent:
I know you're at the heart of that. And that's a wonderful thing. I love the way you describe a teacher learning right alongside with the students under these circumstances. And I don't think we can underestimate how powerful that is because it puts all of us in the mode of being a learner. And I think when we remember how to be a learner that makes us an even better teacher and even better educator and even better person, because we have more empathy for what people are trying to accomplish.

Rae:
Absolutely, 100%, right. When we're in that learning mode, I think we are more compassionate. And I think that through this pandemic, because we were all just put in this crisis moment together, I think I've noticed that people are just so appreciative of effort as well. Even my students, even though I might have put something in canvas not quite correctly, I'll have a student maybe shoot me a message and then we're able to work through it. And I just see such an appreciation for effort. And I think that has been maybe the bottom line through all of this is. Kids can see that. Hopefully we can see that.

Superintendent:
Even as we're required to stay apart, having to do that has brought us together and has brought greater focus to the work we do and strengthened relationships.

Rae:
Yes. And then when we get to see each other again, isn't there just so much more appreciation. We always go a summer without seeing some of our colleagues, but I don't know it has really renewed appreciation just for seeing people and to having that real interpersonal interaction. I think it's given us a renewed appreciation.

Superintendent:
Well said,. I think it'll be a long time before the appreciation wears off because we've just missed people so much. And by the time we get back in a classroom with kids, whenever that is, it'll be the longest time they have been out of the classroom since anyone started. So it's a long, dry spell to get through, but we're making it, like you said.

We're going to take a quick break. And when we come back, we'll hear from Rae Boren's American Sign Language students. How are they doing with distance learning, stay with us.

Break:
Do you want to know what's going on in Jordan School District, get updates on the latest information that could impact you and your child, or just find an uplifting story about the good things happening in schools throughout the district? Check out our website at jordandistrict.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Let's connect at Jordan District.

Superintendent:
Now let's head inside Rae Boren's ASL classroom, and talk to some students.

Rae:
It's a privilege and honor to have you join our class today. It's mostly ASL one students. And then this morning I had a level three class and there were a couple that said they would join as well because they knew they could be part of a podcast, and it could be super fun. So there's a couple of level three kids here.

Superintendent:
So ASL one, do you have students from all three grades in that class? Sophomores, juniors and seniors?

Rae:
Yes. Predominantly though sophomores and juniors.

Superintendent:
As Ms. Boren has told you, I'm the Superintendent. I started in July and this is quite a first year for me. I have had a snow day and earthquake day and a school closure for a third of the year. So I'm really figuring things out. So you sophomores for whom this is your first year of high school, we're in the same boat. So I guess I would ask seniors first from ASL one or three. Are there any seniors? I'd love to hear from seniors about how you're feeling, the fact that one Friday was your last day of school and Monday you realized you weren't going back. How are you feeling? How are things going? How are you coping with that?

Student:
I was just kind of thinking about that earlier today. And it just honestly kind of makes me really sad about not ever being able to go back to high school and seniors are forced to grow up faster than we'd like to, because we thought we had a couple months left of school and of childhood, but who has this much attention? The Class of 2020 has all the attention on them. And I think that's kind of interesting because everyone feels so bad for us. I just think it's just really interesting.

Superintendent:
Thank you, Karen, who else has some thoughts about being a senior in this school closure?

Student:
For me, it didn't feel real until Governor Herbert said we weren't going back for the rest of the year. We'd been out for a week or two. It was weird that I had kind of had the hope that we were going back. But then when it happened, when Governor Herbert confirmed that we weren't going back, it hit like a ton of bricks. Like it's hard. I'm weird. I do really enjoy school. I like going and see my friends and teachers.

Superintendent:
What you described is how I felt too when the Governor announced that. It's not as if I didn't believe that was a distinct possibility and we hadn't been thinking about it. We had, but when he announced it, well, here we go. Things have changed. And what you said about it, going right out of childhood to adulthood, you miss that milestone that you got to look forward to.

Rae:
This class was live and we had about 50 plus kids on when the Governor made his announcement. Kara, I believe you were in here? You were only one here. Okay. You heard the announcement before I did, because I was facilitating the class. And she got on and shared that with our class. Like I said, it was a Wednesday, it was live here. And the chat thread that this Google Meet has that on the side bar. Oh my goodness. Just reading those comments was tugging at our heartstrings, seeing these kids, we were going through the emotions of it together because we were finding it out in the moment. Kara is actually here now who shared that with us. Tell us about that.

Student:
It was my dad who was listening to the Governor and his meeting. And he comes out and all my sisters were here at the table and I'm here in class. We're all enjoying ourselves. My dad comes out and he says, "You guys, aren't going back to school." And it was kind of weird to hear, I guess. And so I thought, well, I have the opportunity to tell these people, so let's just get this around now. Let's see how they feel about it. It was kinda weird to just hear it in that moment

Superintendent:
To be on a virtual class when that happened would have been particularly hard. Any other thoughts about what do you miss about school?

Student:
I think for me just to put it simply, it's the structure that it brought. I mean, I'd plan my days, my weeks, my life based around this, like the school schedule and what was going on. And so I think as soon as that was taken away, I kind of didn't know where to go from there. I mean, I feel like I'm all over the place. You never know what time it is, what day it is, but I think it all kind of just worked together. But really, as soon as it was taken away, I thought, okay, well I need to set a schedule because that whole structure was just gone. It was really quick to go away. But I think as time goes on, I've gotten more used to it.

Superintendent:
Yeah. You make a really good point about the time and the structure you get used to that routine and that rhythm. That's exactly right.

Student:
A place to be. I knew where I was going everyday. I know at the beginning of every day I'd go to miss Boren's room and just hang out and chill. I just really miss being with people and being used to talking to other people and seeing what's going to happen in their day, as well as mine.

Rae:
I miss that too. I really miss that.  Just seeing you guys and even having our casual, startup every day. Even though we've tried to do these online classes and we make videos for each other, it's some of those casual moments that we haven't had as frequently. I agree.

Superintendent:
That's a really good way of putting it. It's the moments. And I find that with meetings too. You know, normally there's the meeting after the meeting where you kind of linger after. Same thing with class, you know, you kind of have those chances to interact and make those connections and you don't don't get that chance.

I shared this analogy of my boys . We went hiking a couple of weeks ago and we saw a snake and as we see the snake, we could tell it was a harmless snake, right in front of our path. We're like, okay, it's harmless. We're just going to keep going. Well, then we go a little further on and there's a lady stopped on the trail because guess what she saw and heard sounded like a sprinkler, almost a rattlesnake. And we thought, Oh, we just saw a snake. Is it really a rattlesnake? And then sure enough, we looked and it's definitely a rattlesnake. And that tail is just like back off everybody, back off. And so we were just like, Whoa, okay, what are we gonna do? What are we gonna, okay, we're just going to wait it out a minute.

And there were other hikers that came up and they decided to turn around understandably, right. Everybody handled their journey individually and some opted to turn around. And I'm with two boys that are not going to hear of turning around. They were just like, no. And so we waited for a little while and the snake moved a little bit, and then we were able to get up. And some of our views that we saw were just stunning and amazing the view of these wild flowers, incredible that I wouldn't have had had if I hadn't pushed through that obstacle.

And so I've thought how it is kind of parallel to this COVID experience, how we have had some major roadblocks, major. You guys have pushed through some really hard stuff. You've pushed through trying to figure out your own structuring. You've pushed through trying to figure out, where's this online chat thing and how do I submit my Canvas videos and all of these things that you guys pushed through. You pushed through some major roadblocks. And so I hope now, like for me as a teacher, as I'm getting some of these final projects turned in, those are my views. Because you have persevered and you have found ways to continue to learn and continue to show growth. I think that's phenomenal. I can't say enough about how proud I am of you guys for persevering.

And I always have to keep one eye on the rattlesnake, but it's really important to remember the vistas. That's a great way of putting it. How do teachers like Ms. Boren help you stay connected to learning and feel connected with each other?

Student
She does discussion posts where we have to post a video of our assignment and then another classmate comments and everything. So we're still able to like see them and watch the video and like comment on their assignments and kind of have a little bit of interaction with them. And Ms. Boren is very good at spacing the assignments out so we're not too overwhelmed with everything, where some other teachers do that.

Superintendent:
I love that. So things are structured, but there's enough opportunity for you to express yourself and there's flexibility.

Student:
She is 24/7 willing to help you. And you just go at your own pace. And so that's been really nice.

Superintendent:
In a way, has there been some extra individual interaction that you haven't been able to have otherwise?

Student:
Certainly with like teachers and even with yourself, you've learned a lot of things about yourself and you've been able to talk to the teacher personally, without all the students around. And especially just with this class, I feel like it's a lot easier to have interaction because we're calling more and we're doing videos and it's easier to interact with just the teacher.

Superintendent:
I really miss being able to meet with students as well. So thank you everyone for all your tremendous efforts, you guys are doing such a great job. And Ms. Boren speaks very highly of you. I mean, accomplished, and boy it's been wonderful for me to be with you guys. Stay with us after the break. Rae Boren has some advice for parents whose patients may be wearing thin with all this added homework.

Break:
I'm Steven Hall, Director of Jordan Education Foundation. In today's challenging and uncertain times, it is more important than ever before to support one another. Here at the Jordan Education Foundation, we invite you to join us in making sure children are not going hungry. Your $10 donation to the Foundation will help us feed one student for a weekend. When food and meals may be very scarce for some, with food and hygiene supplies in the Principal's Pantries at Jordan School District being depleted and in higher demand than ever before. Every financial contribution made will help us to keep the pantries filled for students who would otherwise go without. The Jordan Education Foundation exists due to the generosity of people who care about kids. If you would like to donate to help children from going hungry, please visit JordanEducationFoundation.org, or contact the Foundation at (801) 567-8125. Thank you. Together, we can make a difference.

Superintendent:
Tell us Rae, tell us what advice you would give to parents for getting their students through what you described. Well, as just crisis learning, we're doing our best right. Things are happening, but it's a crisis. So what advice do you have for parents to help their kids get through it?

Rae:
Oh, I would say it's really important that \if their student is really struggling, that there's communication with the teacher as well, so that the teacher, anytime that we have more knowledge, it gives us more ability to understand. Okay, what do I need to do as an educator? How can I better accommodate this student?

Superintendent:
I want to go back to ASL. You talked about growth and the importance of growth and how rewarding that is. It must be a little bit different for ASL because it's not as if they've had that throughout their entire time in school, they probably start with you. For many of them, that's their first experience with it. So you get to see students start at zero and just take off from there.

Rae:
You just hit it on the head, Superintendent Godfrey. I have some kids there, three-year duration while at Copper Hills. And so can you imagine, like you said, they come in not knowing the alphabet. Not maybe knowing please, or thank you, or maybe, you know, maybe something prompted them to take the class, but really they come in with very little ability to communicate. And then when they leave, they can communicate, they can have full on thriving conversations. And how rewarding is that to be able to see that kind of growth in your kids from year to year and, you know, in two to three years time. That is something I have found that is just priceless. It's priceless.

Superintendent:
How exciting that kids get three years of your classes back to back? I'm sure that it's something they'll never forget and it's a skill they can take with them, their whole lives. And really you're about connection, the whole class is about connection. It's about being able to communicate with others and communicating with others that you may not be able to communicate with as easily otherwise, and learning the value of that connection. So that's exciting. I can't wait to come actually visit your class.

Rae:
Oh, I would love that. I would love that. But you're spot on. A world language class is all about connection. That is one of our standards. Culture connection, building that. You've got to have that interactive component in a class that you're learning a language. So it has been interactive and hopefully connections are more strong in that class as a result.

Superintendent:
I have no doubt. So tell me, as someone who works with new teachers, you're a passionate teacher yourself. What would you say to someone who's thinking about becoming a teacher?

Rae:
If they're thinking about it, I would say, get in a classroom. See if you can have an experience to guest, speak, to have that teaching moment, somehow experience it. I think once you get to help a student understand a concept, there's little like it. Like just to see some understanding click for a student. There is something that is so intrinsically rewarding that I would encourage them. I would say, I know it's the cheesy bumper sticker that says, "I teach, I touched lives". I know it's cheesy, but you know it's true. It's true. So I would say, what other fields are you going to make a more significant impact? I can't think of another one. It is a field where you can truly help kids have a better day. You have such a role that you can impact a student who comes into class, putting their head down on their desk. You can tell they've checked out before they've even started your lesson. And you can say, you know what, I'm going to get this kid engaged. And I am going to get them to smile today. And we're going to have some fun. And to be able to have that kind of role in a child's life. Yes, do I want them to come away with ASL and yes, do I want them to hopefully meet a deaf person and have a positive interaction and use it, like you said, throughout their life and be more patient when communicating with people? Yes. Wholeheartedly. Yes. But more importantly, I want all of my students to feel like they have a place, that they have a corner, that they have an adult who cares about them, that they have a home at Copper Hills, that this is a place where they can thrive and learn. And so, as an educator, you have that ability to help a person feel that they're at the right place at the right time. And it's powerful. It's influential. I would say you got to do it, do it, delve in.

Superintendent:
Great, great advice. Great advice. Ray Boren, it has been so nice talking with you. You are an incredible teacher, a wonderful person, and I'm so grateful we have you at Copper Hills and Jordan District.

Rae:
Thank you. II am so grateful to be in Jordan District. So grateful to be at Copper Hills, grateful to have you as our fearless leader, Superintendent.

Superintendent:
Thanks to everyone for joining us on another episode of the Supercast. Stay healthy out there. And remember, education is the most important thing you'll do today. We'll see out there.

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The road to success after high school can look very different for individual students, depending on their goals and aspirations. On this episode of the Supercast, school counselors talk about the most important things parents and teens need to be doing now before graduates leave the nest to face a new world on their own. We share advice for college-bound students and others pursuing future careers, especially during a pandemic.


Audio Transcription

Superintendent:
Welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. It's that time of year when seniors are graduating from high school and hitting the road to find future success. It's often an anxious time for parents who wonder if their teens are prepared for the road ahead, especially during a pandemic. Today, we're joined by two school counselors. Secondary Counseling Specialist, Stacee Worthen and Herriman High School Counselor, Jeffrey Cox are here to tell us what parents and students should be doing now as their post high school journey begins. This is an extraordinary circumstance we find ourselves in with the school closure, and we're just looking for some advice and ideas for parents on how to prepare students for that next step. And it's an extraordinary circumstance, like I said, because kids went to school one day and that night found out they weren't coming back and their next school experience is going to be college. So it's a big leap and I'm excited to have you both here. Thanks for joining us.

Counselors:
Thank you.

Superintendent:
So Stacee, start off and tell us a little bit, what should parents and seniors be thinking about now, if college is the next step for them? And of course there are lots of great next steps, but if college is the next step, what should they be thinking about and planning for right now?

Stacee:
So right now parents and students should be planning and working with their college advisor. They should already be working to build their schedule for fall. They also are probably on hold because they have to complete an orientation process. Now with this new situation, our new reality, that orientation is going to look different. So they need to make sure that they're in contact with their college advisor so that they understand that new admission process so that their classes are taken off hold because they've completed their orientation and they should also be finalizing their FAFSA, making sure that they have completed the FAFSA, that the FAFSA has sent information to their school that they're attending. Double-check financial aid with their financial aid advisor to make sure that everything is ready to go, that they understand whether or not they want to accept their student loans or their Pell Grants. Making sure that that whole process has been completed properly. And then housing, they need to consider housing. Where are they going to live? Have they already figured that out? Have they put their deposits down, just making sure that everything is finalized and that they're making sure they're checking those boxes to make their transition to university or college smoother.

Superintendent:
If someone is behind, everyone has had a big impact on their lives from school dismissal. Lots of family circumstances have changed. Let's say that someone was hoping to go to college in the fall, but didn't get things taken care of yet. They haven't applied. Is there still a chance for them to make that happen?

Stacee:
Of course. I mean, the biggest thing is if you haven't done anything yet, make sure you start today. Maybe your hope was to go to a big university. That was one of your dreams that maybe that maybe not is the reality. Now, you know, you can always go to an amazing school like SLCC or Snow College, or the schools kind of have more of the open enrollments to grade there. And then when the time comes, potentially transfer to bigger university, if that was your dream to go to the BYU and Utah and Utah States. So definitely, if there hasn't been anything done yet, once again, reach out to your high school counselor and say, Hey, here's my hope. Here's what I'm wanting to do. How can we make that happen? We're still actively involved with every one of our seniors, so if there's something that a high school counselor can do for you, definitely reach out to them so we can get you pointed in the right direction.

Jeffrey:
I echo those sentiments. Because you know, a lot of times that application process can be a little overwhelming, especially if you're a first-generation college student or your parents, like you know, they don't speak English. There's a lot of different situations, but you know, an application to SLCC takes 10 minutes. And if you're on a Zoom call with your school counselor, you can share your screen and they can walk you through that application process. The FAFSA application process can be a little bit overwhelming as well. But you know, that's what we're here for. We want them to be successful. It's never too late. It's never too late to go to college or university. It's never too late to actually reach out to your school counselor and say, Hey, I didn't think about this. And now that I'm here, I'm thinking about it. What can we do? What are some things that we can actually do to get me to college? And absolutely we can do it. We've been there, done that. We're happy to help. We love kids. We want them to move forward and transition to university or college and have the best experience possible.

Superintendent:
Well, that's really important too, for me to emphasize 10 minute application to SLCC. And like Jeff said, start today. If you had plans and you haven't followed through, don't give up, dive in, get the help of a school counselor. That's why they're here. And you can get a lot done a lot faster than you might think. Can the two of you tell us a little bit more about FAFSA for those who may not be familiar with what that involves. As you said, it can be complicated. Can you just give us a basic rundown of, of what that means and what it means for families?

Counselor:
So the first is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. And essentially, it's a way for families to put in their information. There's some financial information that goes into it as well. They get a score and that goes off to the university or college that they're interested in and they see how much money they could potentially be eligible for. Every college will be a little bit different on what they offer. But almost every college wants you to fill out the FAFSA so they know kind of what you're eligible for, what they need to step in at that point, to help provide as well. So that FAFSA document, it's kind of the initial document help you know how much money could you earn in Pell Grants, or if you have to take out loans, what that looks like for you, and that kind of helps get that process started as far as what your financial situation is going to look like when I'm entering college and what is going to be provided for me, and what do I have to make up myself and kind of get that process going

Superintendent:
Who should fill out a FAFSA application?

Counselor:
Every student should fill out a FAFSA because there are a lot of factors that go into it. You know, it's kind of a misconception that if you know parents may make a lot of money that there's no reason to file the FAFSA form, but like I said, almost every college expects you to and wants you to, just so they kind of know  what you're eligible for. Here's kind of where we need to step in to give you X amount of dollars to make it work here in our university as well.

Counselor:
Yeah. A lot of times they look at the FAFSA completion and they they're aware of scholarships that they don't generally put out there. And so as they're looking at your FAFSA scores, they might see, okay, the family does make quite a bit, but this is a really good solid student. And so they might be able to offer a different scholarship or be aware of a scholarship that they can help contribute so that the student does not have to pay as much or to help that family with the student's financial situation. So it's really important to fill out the FAFSA. It does take 20 - 30 minutes and it could be somewhat overwhelming. Once again, reach out to your school counselor. We've done those multiple times. We're happy to help, or we can also help you reach out to Utah Higher Ed. And they have people that can help support you as well.

Superintendent:
What are the deadlines for submitting a FAFSA application?

Counselor:
So FAFSA opened up October 1st of 2019, but you can continue to fill that out up until, even if you decide to go spring semester to university or college, you can still fill that out and complete the FAFSA.

Superintendent:
In other words, you should fill it out if you haven't, regardless of whether you're going to college in the fall or later.

Counselor:
Absolutely.

Superintendent:
So what is the timeline for the year to come?  You know, this is in plenty of time for everything to be planned during the senior year. What should parents be thinking of that way?

Counselor:
October is definitely the time to get started. You know, a lot of times we go into the classrooms with our juniors who are like seniors next year. And we talk about upcoming dates they have, so we'll give them papers where they get information on the FAFSA form. They get information about deadlines for each university and just give them the information that you're going to need if you're looking to go to college for this current school year. And a lot of those will start in October. I know this year, BYU and Utah or Utah university of Utah, November 1st was their deadline, which is extremely early from what it has been in the past. So students need to get on and fill out the common app, which can be a timely process and get all that in by November 1st to meet priority deadlines. So October is definitely time to get it started. Kind of like Stacee said, it's not the deadline. October 1st is when it releases. If you fill it out later, that's fine. But the sooner you can get all that information in and get stuff going on, the better it's going to work out for you.

Counselor:
So if folks don't have things filled out yet, there's still time you can apply to SLCC. You can still fill out the FAFSA form. You still want to be in contact with your high school counselor about possible scholarships. And some deadlines have been pushed to June 1st. But if you're looking ahead to being a senior in high school next year, you want to think about September and October as the ideal dates that you're looking to apply so that you can meet those early deadlines and have everything lined up in plenty of time.

Counselor:
Absolutely. And I think a common misconception with parents is that they think they have a lot of time during that senior year to talk to their senior and talk to them about where it is that they want to go. Now is the time to talk to your juniors and start that conversation. Where do you think that you would like to attend college? Would you like to go on a tour? Let's go look at the campus. Let's schedule a tour at University of Utah, Utah State, BYU, because once you step on that campus, your student really starts to get a feel for, is this a really good fit for me? And then also start talking about what are some ideas for what you want to be like. What degree do you want to start pursuing?

If you want to be a surgeon and you want to go to BYU, that's really not going to work out for you because they don't offer that program. And so it's really good for you to start having those discussions, scheduling college tours, and really seeing, as of October, we're going to start working with deadlines and filling out those admissions. And Jeff is right. The common application is a little bit time consuming and you really want to represent yourself as well as you can to those colleges and universities. And also start thinking about who you've asked for letters of recommendation, because that takes a little time as well. And so you want to make sure you're giving those people a little bit of a heads up so that they can start thinking about what they would write and who you would ask. There are specific teachers and counselors that are inundated in the month of November for letters of recommendation. It would be nice to be asked in September.

Superintendent:
They can ask right now, if you're listening to the Supercast, that you'd like a letter of recommendation. Shoot your counselor an email right now.

Counselor:
Absolutely. Because we do get a lot of last minute and you never know what those people are doing, what's going on in their lives. And so you want to give them enough time to really do you justice and write really good letters

Superintendent:
Stay with us. When we come back, find out if there are changes to the college application process due to the pandemic.

Break:
Do you want to know what's going on in Jordan School District? Get updates on the latest information that could impact you and your child, or just find an uplifting story about the good things at the school throughout the district, check out our website at http://www.jordandistrict.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Let's connect at Jordan District.

Superintendent:
Welcome back. We're here again with Secondary Counseling Specialist, Stacee Worthen, and Herriman High School Counselor, Jeffrey Cox, with some advice for students and parents as graduates try to navigate the road after high school, especially for those headed to college. During the pandemic, I've heard that some universities across the country are delaying their start dates or their planning on online courses for fall semester. They've changed their orientation. Are you aware of changes that are occurring at in-state schools?

Counselor:
I'm not aware of any at this current time. I'm sure they will be releasing soon if there are going to be changes. But as I've heard, everything's kind of on a wait-and-see. All the deadlines and normal dates where you'd go back and make a change, with the orientations, they may alter how they do that. But I think for each college, they want to keep things as normal as possible if they can. And as things change on a daily basis, I think they've kind of held off a little bit to make any big announcements. But I'm sure they will be coming up here in the short-term so keep an eye on University of Utah. They're generally at the forefront of making changes. And I do know that my daughter is seeing that more and more on the classes that she was registering for in fall semester.

Counselor:
We're looking to be online. And so if I were you, I would absolutely reach out to your admissions counselor. One mistake that I made with my daughter when she went to UVU was that we didn't understand that they put a hold on. You are not able to register for your classes until you've attended orientation. And she waited until middle of summer to sign up for an orientation. So she had a hard time finding classes. So make sure that you sign up early for those orientation opportunities. The earlier you can do those the better so that they don't put holds on your classes. You can actually register for classes and get the classes that you really want, and the schedule that you want. I would assume that they're going to be more online options at colleges and universities as we're trying to transition back. But once again, I would contact your college admissions advisor immediately.

Superintendent:
You mentioned taking a tour. And I found personally that my oldest son really benefited from touring, Utah State. He had imagined he wanted to go there. His grandpa went there and when he went up there and visited. it just kind of fit. He could tell that's where he wanted to be. Do you find that's what happens? And how would parents arrange for a visit to a camp?

Counselor:
I think college tours are huge for the students to see themselves there. Can they see themselves there for the next four years? They're going to go up, see the campus and kind of see what it all entails. And it's either going to feel like home or it's not, you know. If you want to take a tour on your own, you just have to reach out to the college and they have tours all the time. Like I said, things might change with what we're in right now, but some of the high schools will set up tours as well. So it just kinda depends on where you want to go. And you can either set up yourself through the college or the high schools, maybe taking a tour to them as well.

Counselor:
Yeah, a lot of our high school counselors they actually set up high school tours. I know at Copper Hills, they go usually once or twice a month. I think that they usually hit almost every single university and college in the State of Utah. So you just make sure that you're listening to announcements, that you're talking to your counselors so that you're hearing about those opportunities to tour. Or absolutely call the university or college because they have ambassadors that will meet with you and then they will take you on tours and you can ask them any questions. They'll be honest and open with you about. Even the smallest question or concern that you might have, and they're really fun. The tours are really fun. I'm a firm believer of once you set foot on the right campus, you're going to know this is the place. This is the place that I want to go.

Superintendent:
I think that's true. I think once you visit, you really get a sense for whether that's the place for you and I was an ambassador for Weber State University, back in the 19 hundreds. It was a fun experience for me. And it was rewarding to help students who were considering Weber State, who were new.

We'll take a quick break. When we come back, hear about the support systems in place to make your students feel safe in a college setting.

Break:
I'm Steven Hall, Director of Jordan Education Foundation. In today's challenging and uncertain times, it is more important than ever before to support one another. Here at the Jordan Education Foundation, we invite you to join us in making sure children are not going hungry. Your $10 donation to the Foundation will help us feed one student for a weekend. When food and meals may be very scarce for some, with food and hygiene supplies in the Principal's Pantries at Jordan School District being depleted and in higher demand than ever before. Every financial contribution made will help us to keep the pantries filled for students who would otherwise go without. The Jordan Education Foundation exists due to the generosity of people who care about kids. If you would like to donate to help children from going hungry, please visit https://www.jordaneducationfoundation.org , or contact the Foundation at (801) 567-8125. Thank you together, we can make a difference.

Superintendent:
We are here again with Stacee Worthen and Jeffrey Cox to talk about support systems in place at colleges where your kids may be headed. Students are used to a high level of support at the high school level. I know our counselors do a great job of connecting to students and helping them through college applications, what their next step is after high school, or just getting through high school and graduating. I get the sense that there are more resources than ever, including mental health and wellness resources on campus for students. And you mentioned this a few different times. I think the underlying advice is to ask for help, get help. There's going to be help on the college campus as well.

Counselor:
Yes, colleges and universities absolutely are doing everything that they can to put support systems in place. They understand that you're going to need physical support when you have accidents or when you get hurt there's clinics on campus that you can go to. But mental health supports are also put into place now. So they do have access for you to get mental health support as a university student.

Superintendent:
One of you mentioned earlier, common mistakes that students make going into college. Can you tell me about some of the common misconceptions or mistakes and let's dispel those notions?

Counselor:
So one big misconception we talked about earlier is that they're on their own now, right? They're moving away from home, usually from mom and dad, they're moving into their own dorm room and there are supports in place to help them. And, you know, from an academic standpoint, they have academic advisors. They have people that can help you with the money standpoint and the scholarship office. They've got writing centers, they have tutors. And just to know there's a lot of support there helps. And, especially at the colleges, they've got a lot of fun stuff as well. Right? Well, students might think, I'm going to college. I go to class, I go home and study and I go to sleep. I get up and do the next thing the next day. But there's so much to do on the college campus.

So much fun stuff to do. I've been impressed on college tours at the amount of money and time that the colleges had put in to entertain the students, right? There are rock walls. There are student centers with state-of-the-art gyms, and there are prayer rooms, there are video game rooms. There are places where you can go, if you just need to take a break. So just know that when you go to college, this is going to be an amazing time of your life. You're going to get to study something that you love and are passionate about and set you in that next step. Know that it's hard work, but there are people there to support you along the way and help make sure you don't give up. And when it gets hard, reach out for those supports the colleges have in place for you to get you through those tough times, to reset goals, find a degree that gets you into a job that you want, or a profession that you want and the life that you want to live.

Counselor:
Another common misconception is that it's okay not to at least have some kind of an idea of what degree you're looking for. You need to at least have a couple of ideas and look at what that degree entails, because there are a lot of times that you need to take a specific math for a specific degree. And so if you've done your first two years working on generals and you've missed that specific math or those specific classes that are required for you to get into that program, you might end up having to take some additional classes that summer so they can allow you to get into that degree program. You don't have to have a firm decision at this point, but you do want to have kind of an overall general idea of what degree are you looking at and what are some of those classes that might be required for you to get accepted into that degree program.

Superintendent:
Yeah, it's a balance between being open to new ideas, but also having a starting point and a direction that you're at least headed in to begin with. Like you said, there are prerequisites that will sneak up on you otherwise. And a lot of times you can take one class that meets two requirements if you plan things out accordingly. So that makes a lot of sense to me. What advice would you give to parents who want to help their child begin to form ideas about what they'd like to study and what they might ultimately want to get their degree in?

Counselor:
You know, for our current seniors going into college, if you're not quite sure what you're doing or want to do, I think take those general classes that you know you're going to have to have, and then maybe take some other classes that you may be interested in and see what's out there for you. What classes could be ones that you enjoy. One thing I did that I thought was huge was I did some internships in the summertime when I had time to go around. I would be interested in a topic. I would see if I can go put in a few hours with people that did that. I learned really quickly some that I didn't want to do. But it was just a great experience to see, here's what I'm thinking about. Here's what I might want to do. And then doing a few things to see if that was the direction I wanted to go. You might pursue it a little bit, realize it's not for you or decide that it is and keep going. So I think just take those general classes. You know you're going to have to take English 101, English, 202, all those types of classes. But then you'll kind of mix in classes that you may or may not be interested in to see if that's the direction you want to go.

Counselor:
And I would add too, if parents pay attention to this Supercast, what they need to do is encourage their children from ninth grade up to take those classes in the CTE areas because if they're interested in automotive, we have auto classes. That's a free opportunity for you to figure out, yes, I really love working on cars. And so that might be a great career. And if that's the case, then Jordan District has a JATC Diesel Program that you can earn certifications in. And it's a really exciting opportunity. If another student is interested in the medical field, we have those opportunities. You could take those classes, you can earn those certificates in the JATC. And really, now's the time because those are free opportunities for you to figure out, yes, I love this. Or, you know this really isn't what I thought it was going to be.

And if you don't, you're not out any money. You've earned your high school credit. It goes towards graduation. But in college, if this degree isn't something that I want, it costs both time and money. Look at the JATC programs. There are so many new opportunities available for kids in the middle school and high school. Jordan does such a great job of offering so many different classes for students to allow them to get into those career and technical areas, to see if this is going to be a good fit. And if it's a great experience, great, then you can continue to move forward because they do have those opportunities. Or if not, then here's another opportunity for you to try and it's exciting and it's fun. And you might learn some things about yourself that you didn't even know. Maybe you really do want to be a chef and we do have that program available for our students.

Superintendent:
You're right. We have a lot of great CTE classes that can give kids experience in an area. I've interviewed a number of CTE teachers, especially at our academies for the Supercast. And each time they have said, this is a great class for kids who know they want to do this. And it's a great class because sometimes kids realize they don't want anything to do with this as a profession. And it's a valuable lesson to go into the class and say, Hey, I was interested in this. I liked the class, but I don't want to do this for the rest of my life. The earlier you can get experiences in areas where you think you might be interested the better, because then you can adjust your path accordingly. Well, this is great advice, any parting thoughts for parents and students?

Counselor:
I think for our seniors that are going out, we've really enjoyed working with them and we wish them nothing but the best. And in this current time, until they get to college, reach out to your school counselor. Let us know how we can help and support you to that next level. And then to that, our current high schoolers and middle schoolers, use your time to figure out what you enjoy, right? Find your passion, find that topic that you want to be involved with. And then as time goes on and you get to college, you kind of already know what your passion is, whether it's I want to work with people. That's all I knew after I got out of high school, what does that look like? Or I have a very specific skill set I want and learned. Here's what I want to do. So just use this time in high school wisely. Take classes that you may not enjoy because you never know if that's going to lead to something that you enjoy doing. And yes, just enjoy this time at high school and our seniors. We love you. Let us know how we can help you down the road.

Counselor:
One thing that I would say to our parents is just to understand that it's going to be hard for you to let go of your senior as they move and transition into being young adults. And it can be sad and it can be lonely, but just know that they're going to be amazing humans because you did such a good job. You impacted them and you are loving them and supporting them and just enjoy this experience with them and helping them transition. Just love them.

Superintendent:
It's been great talking with you, Stacee Worthen, our Secondary Counselor Specialist and Jeff Cox, Counselor at Herriman High School. Thank you both. Stay healthy and safe out there.

Counselors:
And we sure appreciate the support. Thanks for having us.

Superintendent:
Appreciate it. Remember, education is the most important thing you'll do today. We'll see you out there.

Show Audio Transcription
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What is it like for a teacher working from home during school dismissal with possibly a kitchen turned classroom? On this episode of the Supercast, we hear from Jordan School District Teacher of the Year, Rachelle Smith, about teaching during these troubled times and how she makes learning fun and is finding success.

Then, Superintendent Godfrey actually has a virtual visit with Ms. Smith’s 6th grade class. Hear what some very bright and animated students have to say about the school year and learning from home.


Audio Transcription

Superintendent:
Welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. What is it like for a teacher working from home during the school dismissal in what might be a kitchen turned into a classroom today? We hear from Jordan School District Teacher of the Year, Rachelle Smith, about teaching during these difficult times and how she is finding success in making learning fun. I also stopped by her virtual classroom and talk to some very bright and animated sixth grade students about their at-home learning experience. We are here with Rachelle Smith, the current reigning Teacher of the Year in Jordan School District. She and I have met a number of times and she's a delightful person, a wonderful teacher who is wildly popular among her students and faculty. So I'm really excited to have the chance to talk with her. Just before we started, we were both talking about how nice it is to connect with someone outside of our homes in this very strange time. I love to do the interviews in person, but the Zoom interviews at least give us a chance to continue with the Supercast. So Rachelle welcome. It's great to have you.

Rachelle:
Thank you. I'm really excited. Like I said earlier, before we were recording, this is me going out, so it's good to connect with people and to see other faces. It's awesome.

Superintendent:
You miss your kids, I have no doubt.

Rachelle:
It's been rough. We see each other as much as we can.

Superintendent:
Yeah. I'm absolutely sure that they're missing you desperately as well. You're teaching sixth grade this year. Tell me what you love about being a sixth grade teacher.

Rachelle:
You know, I was a little bit worried. I taught first grade for 11 years and decided to make that jump to sixth grade this year. I was just a little bit worried because my heart was really in first grade, but I knew that I had a calling to do something else as well. So really they surprised me. The kids are awesome. They laugh at my jokes.

First of all, I am the smartest funniest person in that room and they really make you feel loved. So they're not much different in that way. I feel like first graders come in and they already love you. You're their teacher, but you have to work a little bit harder with sixth graders. And I feel like I won them over. And then this happened, so I feel like we're incomplete, but we're still working on it, you know, with our Zoom classes and everything like that.

Superintendent:
You're incomplete. That's a really good way of putting it.

Rachelle:
There's a real cycle to the year. Each month feels different. And going through the year you grow together. They get to know every outfit you own. You get to know everything about them, and that is missing. That's a big missing piece and I'd almost rather have a chunk in the middle of the year and get the beginning and end than to have the year end and not be able to connect.

I remember the day so vividly. It seems like it was forever ago, but it was just six weeks ago one of my students said to me before we were leaving for that day, "Hey, Mrs. Smith. I probably won't see you for a long time. And I thought, what are you talking about? I will see you on Monday. We have another week before we go off track. And he said, "No, I'm pretty sure we won't be in school". And lo and behold, two hours later, Governor Herbert said we would be doing online school. So he was right. He predicted the future. I've got to shout that out for him.

But that end of the year is really special in a lot of ways. I was excited to experience it in sixth grade for the first time. They're going to middle school, it's a big transition year. But I think the most important thing is that we're just making it work and they all sort of understand that. I mean, this is going to be epic in their whole lifespan. So we're going to do what we can to make it as memorable as color.

Superintendent:
I think that's well said. It's a unifying event. We don't have many of those and it's one where everyone will remember how old they were and what they went through and what their particular experience was. And I am very impressed that he predicted that because after all this happened, I looked back and I thought, what were we thinking? Why didn't we say goodbye? Didn't have some sense that any moment this could be happening and it's very interesting. It's poignant.

Rachelle:
I sort of got a little annoyed with him though. So I had to apologize later because I had a student teacher as well. And so he said, "Goodbye, I'll never see you again, Miss Balls" saying goodbye to our student teacher. And I thought, you are going to make her sad. You're going to see her on Monday. And so I sort of got annoyed, but I have since then apologized.

Superintendent:
Well, I would be interested in knowing what stocks he thinks are going to go up and if there are any in particular that I opt to invest in. He's a great kid with the school dismissal and parents having to fill in for teachers in many ways and manage learning at home. What advice do you have for parents who find themselves in that circumstance?

Rachelle:
That's a great question. I think being flexible teachers are very flexible. Parents are very flexible. They already know how to do this. You know, it's all about giving yourself a little bit of grace and knowing that you're not going to follow a rigid schedule, you're not going to even get everything finished. It's about that relationship that you have with your child. That's the utmost importance. Even when I have parents reach out to me and say, my child doesn't  want to do their homework. What do I do? They're crying. They don't want to do this. And my advice is always, your relationship comes first. So make sure that you are nurturing that relationship and their mental health before anything else. And then as always, you might need a little bit of a schedule, especially for the sixth graders. They need a little bit of schedule. They sort of thrive on it. They cringe when they have to come back after a holiday, but they always love it because they're like, thank you. You got me out of bed. I'm dressed, I'm ready for the day. So I think a little bit of a schedule, but not being too rigid is advice that I would give parents in this situation right now.

Superintendent:
I am interested in more of the comparison between first graders and sixth graders. It really does make sense. The first graders love you simply because you're their teacher. Sixth graders take a little more converting. I taught eighth graders and juniors, and there's no less connection as they get older, but there is more of a warming up period.

Rachelle:
Yeah, I think any teacher knows that relationships matter over everything. Beyond what you teach, beyond what you do, the relationships that you have with those kids are really what matters. And sixth graders are still kids. And I had to learn that really as I was teaching it, they still love the things that first graders love. I mean, they love stickers and they love high fives and they love hugs and all those sorts of things, they love with them. They also have this very mature side where they are starting to go through some real-world problems that they might need help navigating. Not that first graders don't go through that, but their life experiences kind of catch up with them. And so I think that just relationship building is more in depth than it is on in a first grade level. My sixth graders would tell me things that they might not feel comfortable telling someone else. And so I felt that connection with them I didn't really feel with first graders.

Superintendent:
Yeah. I liked the way you described that and I'm really impressed that you wanted to take on the challenge, that you decided there's something more for me. I need to try what's next rather than staying where you were comfortable. What are some things that you've learned about yourself and teaching by taking this leap and teaching kids that are much older?

Rachelle:
The first thing I learned was that I was not the smartest person in the classroom, and there are many students in my class that are smarter than me and knew more than me. I learned a lot every day. And really the biggest thing was just taking it a day at a time. I couldn't learn all of that curriculum. It had been so long since I've ever even looked at something like that. And so I really just took it a day at a time and leaned on my teammates and the students as well. And I was not ever afraid of saying, Hey guys, I don't know the answer to that. I was okay making mistakes. And I think that's important as a teacher. You don't have to always be the boss or the queen as sometimes I get called. But admit your faults. I took it one day at a time and still I'm learning every day.

Superintendent:
I think that is interesting. You say that they're smarter than you. I remember when I was a student teacher, the principal of the school where we were working came in to talk with us and he said, "Just remember, some of these kids are smarter than you. You may have more life experience, but they're smarter than you. Treat them that way, treat them with respect." And that stayed with me. And it's obvious that's what you do.

Rachelle:
I also went and got my master's because maybe I thought I would go into some sort of administrative position. And my former principal told me before he retired, "If you go into administration, just know that your faculty is very smart and they're such good assets to the community." And he said, "You can take that to the community and to the school, you can take that in your sixth grade classroom and utilize that as well." So I have that mentality. I don't always have to be giving the information. The students can teach as well. Let made me think that if I ever do become an administrator, that's such a good skill. I never felt below. When he was talking to me, he always wanted to know what my opinion was. And so that transferred over into my classroom.

Superintendent:
Well, it's impressive when you are open and ready to learn from people of any age. In any level of experience, it's a great way to approach things. Now, I know that besides being a great teacher, you also do some things on the side that help share with others. Some of the things that you've learned. Can you tell me some of the things that you're doing and that you've done to share your experience and your expertise?

Rachelle:
Yes, I think I just figured that I really like to be a teacher. I couldn't even come up with a hobby that didn't involve teaching. So I started a teaching blog nine years ago, just to share my teaching ideas out there with other teachers who might be in a similar situation as me. I was sort of a new teacher, wanted ideas out there online, and that was a big deal. There were a lot of teaching ideas online. And so I started that with a friend of mine and it kind of molded into me creating lessons and ideas, activities that other teachers could use in their classroom. And then it snowballed into me presenting at conferences and sharing those ideas person to person in national conferences around the United States. So I've had a really great opportunity, not just teaching students, but teaching teachers, which also impacts students. It's been eye-opening. I've learned a lot in this, and that's sort of what I've taken away from my whole experience as a teacher, social media blogger. I'm a lifelong learner and I've learned through the process as well. I haven't just taught teachers and I haven't just taught students.

Superintendent:
If someone wanted to access your blog, where would they find you?

Rachelle:
whattheteacherwants.blog.com

Anthony Godfrey:
whattheteacherwants.blog.com and where did that name come from?

Rachelle:
It was what this teacher wanted. It was sort of what people always say. You love your spouse, how you want to be loved. So I was putting out the information that I wanted to put out there and that I wanted to soak in. And so I started writing this blog and creating these ideas, but also searching out other blogs and getting ideas from those teachers as well. So it's just what the teacher wants.

Superintendent:
That's a long time to keep that up. I can't wait to check it out. That's awesome. What was it that made you want to become a teacher?

Rachelle:
I had a first grade teacher that I really loved and it was that I was the student in class. That was the child that wherever you moved them, they talked to whoever you moved them by. That was me. So I have many of those students in my class currently. They are me and I am them. So, she just embraced that about me. All of my other teachers kind of tried to stifle that and shush me. And she was like, "You know, you're a great student, you know?" And she would talk to my mom and just lift me up instead of trying to quiet me down. And I just thought, I want to be that type of teacher who would always say, warm fuzzies. I want to be that type of teacher that gives me warm fuzzies.

Superintendent:
So she lifted you up instead of quieting you down. That is such a perfect way of explaining what great teachers do and what you do. You find the best in people. You draw that out and you make the most of that and you help emphasize that. And it sounds like you're equally skilled at doing that for adults as well as kids.

Rachelle:
I try. I try. I thank you.

Superintendent:
So what's next for you? Are you teaching sixth grade next year?

Rachelle:
I am teaching sixth grade next year. My husband and I are expecting our first baby, but I'm still planning on coming back, teaching full-time and being a mom.

Superintendent:
Well, congratulations. That's fantastic. Well, we're very lucky to have you at Black Ridge. Your students are very lucky to have you, and I'm really glad that you're in Jordan School District.

Rachelle:
Thank you, Dr. Godfrey. I love it here. I tell everyone to come here. I try to grab every student teacher I ever get to work at Jordan District.

Superintendent
It's the best. Stay with us. We're going to take a quick break. And when we come back, a virtual visit with Ms. Smith's sixth grade class.

Break:
I'm Steven Hall, Director of Jordan Education Foundation. In today's challenging and uncertain times, it is more important than ever before to support one another. Here at the Jordan Education Foundation, we invite you to join us in making sure children are not going hungry. Your $10 donation to the Foundation will help us feed one student for a weekend. When food and meals may be very scarce for some, with food and hygiene supplies in the Principal's Pantries at Jordan School District being depleted and in higher demand than ever before. Every financial contribution made will help us to keep the pantries filled for students who would otherwise go without. The Jordan Education Foundation exists due to the generosity of people who care about kids. If you would like to donate to help children from going hungry, please visit http://www.jordaneducationfoundation.org, or contact the Foundation at (801) 567-8125. Thank you. Together, we can make a difference.

Superintendent:
Welcome back. We're now visiting Ms. Smith's virtual sixth grade class. Tell me, tell me how things changed for you once you had to learn from home and what you think of it.

Student:
I'm just really sad because end of the year is always the when the good stuff is. I mean online learning, it isn't too bad because I can go at my own pace, but I'm just really sad about the stuff that I'm not going to get to do at the end of the year.

Superintendent:
Yeah. We're, we're all sad for everybody who is missing out on those important end of year activities. Kayla, what are your thoughts about learning from home now?

Student:
I really don't like it because I don't get to see any of my classmates. I don't get to see them. I don't get a handshake at the beginning or anything.

Superintendent:
You miss all of that?

Student:
Yeah. We were all missing that.

Student:
I like online school is just a little more than regular, but yeah.

Superintendent:
What do you like about online school, Luke?

Student:
You just, you pretty much have like the whole day, if you finish it fast.

Superintendent:
So you can work at your own pace.

Student:
I'm sort of liking online school a bit because you don't have to like look good, you know?  Who is the one wearing the same color pants for the past two weeks? Me.

Superintendent:
All right. Thank you for saying what we're all thinking is about. That makes a lot of sense. Okay. How do you feel about the fact that the next time you go to school you'll be in seventh grade?

Student:
A little spooked.I think that's probably true.

Superintendent:
I think that's probably true. I don't have the best memories.

Student:
It is going to be hard because I have to remember my locker combination.

Superintendent:
You know, I was a middle school principal and remembering locker combinations is one of the main stresses of being in middle school. But I have confidence. You can do it. Just write it down.

Student:
It's kinda like scary. I don't know if I'm really ready to have all those classes and remember where they are and remember my locker combination.

Superintendent:
Well, the cool thing about middle school is they have the pizza line in the cafeteria every day.

Student:
Yum.

Superintendent:
So there's that other, other question? The pizza's really good.

Student:
Okay. I'm honestly kind of excited because I never get to do many plays and I'm going to do a ton of plays and I really love acting.

Superintendent:
There will be some good opportunities going forward. What's it like to be in Ms. Smith's class?

Student:
It's pretty fun. And sometimes she does stuff you don't expect. Like when you ask her to do something, sometimes she'll actually say yes, when you don't expect it.

Superintendent:
Like, what have you asked her to do that she did?

Student:
Like one time we asked you if we could pull another Kerplunk and she said, yes.

Superintendent:
Another Kerplunk. What's a Kerplunk?

Student:
This thing of marbles, and when you pull a thing, the marbles fall, and when we get all the marbles, we get a party. Can we just pull another one just because, and they were expecting, absolutely not. And I just did just because.

Superintendent:
So she's full of surprises. Is that fair to say? Isabelle, you didn't raise your hand, but tell me, what's it like in Ms. Smith's class?

Student:
Very laid back. She's not too strict when we have to get our science done and it's a little bit late, it's not the end of the world.

Superintendent:
So it's more about learning than it is about timing. Okay. Awesome. Who else wants to tell me a little bit about Ms. Smith's class?

Student:
Sometimes we'll like have the theme for the day. One time there was a day where it was like bootcamp and we like did challenges to like earn dog tags and stuff.

Superintendent:
So what were some of the challenges?

Student:
Well, we like did assignments and like we did pushups and jumping jacks.

Superintendent:
Well, Connor has his dog tags right there.

Student:
I don't remember the assignment necessarily, but they do remember the bootcamp. So I guess it was grammar. We did grammar bootcamp.

Superintendent:
I love grammar. If you were going to tell a fifth grade student who knew they were coming into Ms. Smith's class next year, what would you tell them?

Student:
Be prepared for some fun.

Superintendent:
Thank you, Tyler. Be honest. Why is that correct?

Student:
That's really all he cares about.

Student:
Don't expect  anything because it's always the opposite of what you would expect.

Superintendent:
So I guess she has your attention. Is that fair to say?  I see lots of heads nodding. How do you think Ms. Smith feels about you?

Student:
Probably thinks we're crazy, but also awesome.

Superintendent:
Crazy, but also awesome. I would agree. Malia, what do you think she thinks about you guys?

Student:
Well, hopefully she misses us. When we leave to middle school, maybe in a video or two she'll say, I miss you.

Superintendent:
What will you remember most about being in Ms Smith's class this year? And it can be before closure or after closure.

Student:
Halloween will never be the same because she has to make Halloween the best and we just had a really fun year. Oh, and we'll remember how good of a teacher you were.

Student:
Ms. Smith made reading fun. Remember just vibing in Ms. Smith's class in the mornings and then after lunch all day. School got closed this year and we just did a bunch of like random and totally unexpected things that  you don't forget this thing and ........ are you there? Yeah. Sorry. My brother just stormed in and asked me to print a coloring page. So what I'll probably remember most is when we've got to pull up Kerplunk, we would plug, we would drum roll and it was like calling, it would call right back to us kids in the other classes with drummer roll right back.

Superintendent:
Oh, so when you drum roll, the other classes would hear it and join.

Student:
You always thought there was like some sort of earthquake.

Superintendent:
Thank you so much. This was great. I could talk to you all day, but I will not take up your day. Can you guys care to give a shout out for Ms. Smith? Give me a nice applause for Ms. Smith because she's awesome.

Thanks to Ms. Smith at her sixth grade students for taking time to visit with me and share their thoughts on this school year. I applaud all teachers and students for the hard work and dedication that has gone into at-home learning. I appreciate all the parents are doing as well.

Thank you for joining us on the Supercast. Stay safe, stay well. And remember, education is the most important thing you will do today. We'll see you out there.

Show Audio Transcription
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On this special edition of the Supercast in honor of National Poetry Month, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey talks with Utah’s Poet Laureate, Paisley Rekdal. This U of U professor, writer and poet shares her thoughts on how parents can support a child’s budding passion for poetry and how that passion can grow and change lives.

Ms. Rekdal invites everyone to explore Utah authors and their creative work by visiting the Mapping Literary Utah website.


Audio Transcription

Superintendent:
Welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. Throughout the month of April, people across the country have been celebrating National Poetry Month. On this episode of the Supercast, we are celebrating as well. I had the unique opportunity to speak with Utah's Poet Laureate, Paisley Rekdal. She shared some great ideas on how parents can support the budding writer and poet in their own children. First, let's find out how Paisley Rekdal became Utah's Poet Laureate and where we can go to enjoy some poetry by Utah poets. Paisley, thank you very much for joining us.

Paisley:
Thank you for having me.

Superintendent:
I just want to dive right in. I'm a former English teacher. I'm really quite excited to be talking with Utah's Poet Laureate. I don't get nearly the time that I would like to spend reading poetry. I used to read a lot and had my kids write a lot when I was teaching. Can you just start by telling us what first made you interested in poetry?

Paisley:
Well, it was funny because I became interested in poetry in high school and I didn't think I was going to be interested in poetry at all. I was more interested in visual arts. I would draw things and make maps and collages. And then I was taking an English class where I'd always done really, really well. And for the first time I was getting a B, and the teacher said she would give anyone extra credit if they submitted a poem to this citywide poetry contest. And if you win a prize, you will get, you know, an extra A in the grade book. And so I thought, well, why not? So I wrote a poem and it won and I actually could not believe that it won. I thought no way it could because it was my very first poem.

And I think it's probably a terrible way to get started because it makes you think that poetry is nothing but awards and claim. So the rest of my life definitely taught me that it's not that easy, but it got me interested. I thought, well, why did I win? What did I do? That was so good. And my mother was a former English major. And so she had all these books around the house. She just let me read whatever I wanted to, which sometimes worked out really well, and sometimes didn't.

Superintendent:
That's fantastic. And what I love about that story is that there was availability. There were books of poetry readily available. And so you just picked them up. I remember reading books of my parents the same way, the cover intrigued me or the title. And I just started reading and I think that's an important point.

Paisley:
Books in the house, for sure. Yeah.

Superintendent:
Right, right. I'm going to tell my wife that because she really would like me to get rid of more of my books.

Paisley:
You never know what's going to happen. Kids get so sucked into all of these books and it's true. Sometimes it's just the cover.

Superintendent:
You're a professor at the University of Utah. You're a writer, obviously Poet Laureate. How do you find balance between those two and what different pleasures do you get from each of those?

Paisley:
Well, I love teaching actually. I really do. I don't love grading. I think everyone can agree that grading is not as fun as the teaching and working in the classroom with the students. But I get a lot of inspiration actually from some of the things that I teach to my students. Some of the conversations that I have with my students, I get insights into the books that we're reading, things that I never would have thought of. I've got some really good students. And then with the writing, I used to be a better, I'll have to admit. I used to be a lot better about being able to write a little bit every day, but actually with being a Poet Laureate now, a lot of my time has gone into different public projects. So it's been tougher to get a creative time just for myself. But that being said, I must say some of the projects that have been offered to me were so interesting that I enjoyed doing the research and I enjoy doing the writing. I wrote a book length multimedia poem about the transcontinental railroad which, trust me, I never, ever, ever thought about writing about unless I had been commissioned to write about the transcontinental.

Superintendent:
Well, that's the thing about a creative project. It can open you up to things that you weren't expecting would touch you. And I'm sure that happened with that project. Speaking of your writing, did your mom really meet Bruce Lee?

Paisley:
She worked in the same Chinese restaurant with Bruce Lee. Yes. And I have a little story about that in my book that my mother met Bruce Lee. I thought it was so funny. My mother is Chinese American and growing up, I thought that she probably was not a very interesting person because she was my mother. That's the only thing I knew about her. But then one night I was watching Enter the Dragon. I was a teenager and my mom stood there and she watched the movie and she said, I used to work with him. And I said, you worked with Bruce Lee? Yeah. And the best part was of the whole story, she said none of us liked him. Show off. And I just couldn't believe it. That's the big takeaway. It was right around the time that everyone was trying to be like Bruce Lee. Everyone had nunchucks and were smacking each other on the foreheads with them. And yeah, it was great.

Superintendent:
Well, as a pop culture fan, it's just amazing that you would be sitting there watching virtually on TV and your mom says, Oh, I used to work with him. Crazy. That is crazy. Did you think that maybe your mom knew martial arts more than she led on when she said she worked with Bruce Lee?

Paisley:
Yeah. No that never did. My mom, she fights with words. She doesn't fight with fists.

Superintendent:
Words can be much more powerful, that's for sure. So tell us, what has your path been from a prize winning author as a teenager to Utah's Poet Laureate?

Paisley:
It was all downhill. I kept writing, like I said, in high school and in college I took some classes as well. I thought I was going to be a journalist. I applied to journalism schools and then I applied also to go to a PhD in medieval studies. I started thinking, I'll just be a professor of medieval studies. I went to graduate school and all I did was write in the mornings. I would get up at four or five in the morning so I could write for a couple of hours before I could take the bus into school. And that's when I realized that I was probably not going to be a great scholar, but I could be a good poet. Then I went to the University of Michigan and just kept writing. Then I had books and then I got into academia. It was sort of a roundabout career trip trajectory. But I think almost all the writers I know ended up doing many different things and sort of fall into finally a job that allows us to both write and create and be supportive in the community.

Superintendent:
Tell us, what are some of your duties as Utah Poet Laureate and what are some of the unique approaches you're bringing to the position? I know you're doing some things that maybe haven't been done yet.

Paisley:
Well, the duties that I have are to mostly go and visit K-12 schools, as many as I can around the State. And so I've been doing that and that's just been a real pleasure. Let's just come in, bring creative writing exercises and work with the students, talk about poems, things like that. And then basically just show them that if they were interested in becoming writers, that's possible, but each Poet Laureate also has his or her own project. And so the one I proposed was something called Mapping Literary Utah, and it's a website. It's a web archive of Utah writers, past and present, and it just went live. We're really, really pleased with this. This site is http://mappingliteraryutah.org and on it, there's about 130 writers, storytellers, slam poets, cowboy poets, Utah, State poetry, society people.

We have essays on young adult literature and Orson Scott Card and the Literary Legacy of Topaz. We have basically all the different types of prose writers. You can imagine, we've got young adult fiction writers, we've got science fiction writers. We've got playwrights. I mean, it's supposed be a compendium of Utah writers and some are deceased, but most are living, and we're hoping to continue to expand that archive. So we're always asking for more people to come forward and say, "Do you know this person, or let me put you in contact with someone else?" And almost every day we get more people saying they would like to be part of this website. So that's really great. We not only have biographies of each author, we have photographs and samples of their work and also audio and visual stuff too. We have Native American storytellers and you can listen to them performing. So we're hoping that people can see writers performing their work here now. You can get online and you can get a sense of what Utah's culture is like right now, at least for the writers.

Superintendent:
I stopped by the website and I absolutely love it. It's very appealing visually and the variety of authors and the variety of voices that you have represented there is just incredible. I thought everyone talks about eating local. I think we need to read local. That is a really good resource to just say, there are people around me who are authors. And I think that would inspire kids to feel like they can become authors themselves, when people right here in Utah are so successful.

Paisley:
That is exactly the point of the website. Obviously ,it has historical value so that people know who was here and who was producing what at what times. But the thing that's most important to me is that students can get a sense of the possibility of becoming a writer. When I was a kid in Seattle many years ago, Seattle was not cool. I'm bi-racial and not a lot of people wanted to be at that time. When I knew I wanted to start writing, my dad got me Poetry Anthologies, and I looked at the biographies of the writers in the back and no one was from Seattle. And I thought, oh, I didn't go to Harvard. I didn't grow up in New York. I'm doomed. I'm never going to become a writer. But I kept doing it. It would have been really great and useful to see an anthology or myself in some ways reflected. And that's what I'm really hoping that people get from this site. They can go online and they can see people coming from their own communities that have made a life in literature, and that's so important.

Superintendent:
I think it does a great job of conveying exactly that. And I hope lots of students, teachers and parents will visit it. Can you tell us the web address?

Paisley:
Yes. It's just http://mappingliteraryutah.org . It's all lowercase, altogether. If you just go to my own personal website, I linked to it as well. You can find it there and every week I tweet or Facebook out a Utah Writer of the Week to go through our archive and sort of ask, do you know about this writer? Take a look at this person's work, you know, and hopefully people will start to call it that.

Superintendent:
And Paisley's last name is spelled R-E-K-D-A-L. Is that correct?

Paisley:
That is correct. And Paisley, just like the print P-A-I-S-L-E-Y.

Superintende:
So it's just http://paisleyrekdal.com and you can find a lot of great resources there too. I love that website and I'm going to spend a lot more time there and we'll be promoting it in our district, sending that out to teachers. I think it's remarkable. It's a really great site for anyone who has an interest in anything literary.

We're going to take a quick break, but when we come back more from Utah's Poet Laureate, Paisley Rekdal, including tips for parents and aspiring writers.

Break:
I'm Steven Hall, Director of Jordan Education Foundation. In today's challenging and uncertain times, it is more important than ever before to support one another. Here at the Jordan Education Foundation, we invite you to join us in making sure children are not going hungry. Your $10 donation to the foundation will help us feed one student for a weekend. When food and meals may be very scarce for some, with food and hygiene supplies in the Principal's Pantries at Jordan School District being depleted and in higher demand than ever before. Every financial contribution made will help us to keep the pantries filled for students who would otherwise go without the Jordan Education Foundation exists due to the generosity of people who care about kids. If you would like to donate to help children from going hungry, please visit jordaneducationfoundation@jordandistrict.org, or contact the foundation at (801) 567-8125. Thank you. Together, we can make a difference.

Superintendent:
We're back with Utah's Poet Laureate, Paisley Rekdal. You told us that one of your main duties is to visit K-12 schools. When you visit, how do you engage students in poetry?

Paisley:
Well, I think we'll be speaking to issues that they're interested in, in language that they themselves recognize. So even though I love John Dunn and Shakespeare, I don't tend to bring in poets like that. I tend to bring in poets that are still alive, very contemporary, writing about anything from you know a tree outside the window to a TV program or music or something like that. I want the poems to be accessible in ways that students can recognize their world in that poem too. And I also build creative writing exercises around the poem. I want students to not just read poems and talk about poems, but try writing them themselves. One of the great marks of fluency in the language is you can create a minute. So getting students to play with language is actually not frivolous. It's a foundational way to get them to be fluent in their own language.

Superintendent:
It makes a lot of sense, that writing can reinforce reading. And even if you don't think that the product you create is going to be something that others want to read long into the future, or that will win you a local prize or extra credit in your class, at the very least, you're processing. And you're working with words and that sparks the brain and it cements some language skills that maybe we can't cement in other ways.

Paige:
One of the things that I was trying to do also with the students this year, and I'm disappointed again, it didn't work out. I was going to schools this spring and asking them to write what we call pistol area poems, little letters and the letters would be written to a stranger because what I was planning to do as an April Fool's prank, where the parking enforcement officers would deliver parking tickets, but they would be with student poems. And everybody was on board. The mayor was on board, the parking enforcement people were on board, the police, everyone was on board, except the lawyers. It turns out it's illegal to put any kind of flyer on a car. So unfortunately, that was one of the exercises I had with the students. And so then I tried to take those poems and turn them into menu inserts. And obviously that didn't work either. It's a lot of my best ideas this year have kind of gone by the wayside, but I usually try to get them to at least create something that will be used in another kind of way. Maybe a public performance something you can share with other people.

Superintendent:
It's making the poetry engaging and active and interactive by putting it in a menu or a parking ticket.

Paisley:
Yeah, I think when you have an idea that you're supposed to come across, poetry in certain particular ways in classrooms and things like that, and obviously, lots of cities have poetry on buses and things like that. I think we even do. But I like the idea of just getting people to recognize that poems are really all around us all the time. We don't have to treat them as these sacred or special or difficult or intimidating things. Some poems are intimidating, but other poems are just easy and delightful. You can have a lot of different types of relationships with poetry. You don't just have to sit there and feel like you're stupid if you don't get it. I think that's the thing that I really want students to walk away with. If a poem it's written in a length in their language, they can look up these words up online or in a dictionary and they can access it. It's not a riddle. It's not there to make them feel stupid. I think a lot of people feel like if they don't get it immediately, it's a sign of that they're not up to the task, but that's really not the case. Poems ask us to spend time and slow down and read and savor things. It's a different kind of reading and I'm hoping students feel comfortable with that.

Superintendent:
I like the way you described that. It is something to be savored, and we're not used to that. We're used to consuming things very quickly, dropping in, getting the point and moving on. And the pleasure of poetry is being able to sit with it and stay with it and really absorb it and understand it. But it does take time, like you said. If there is a parent out there whose child really enjoys poetry and they know that they like to write, are there suggestions that you have for a child in that circumstance? And then I want to ask if it's intimidating to people? What would be a point of entry for folks who are intimidated? Parents may be looking, especially now, for a way to encourage their student who is already interested in poetry or to have a child who may not be interested to get started.

Paisley:
With kids, you're very lucky, depending on how young the child is too, there's a surprising amount of children's literature and young adult literature that's written in verse. Jacqueline Woodson is a very famous young adult fiction writer and she writes a lot in verse and it's an easy way to get students hooked. You know, they're reading a narrative, but they're reading it in rhyme and suddenly it's something that seems really natural to them. The New York times just did a whole big, special on children's poetry. I think you can look that up online. I'll try and find that link and maybe send it to you. Maybe you can send that out to your parents. But there are 8 or 10 books that just came out. So if you just go to any bookstore, you'll be able to find very quickly children's books and young adult books that are actually written in rhyme and meter with poetry.

But you know, the other thing that I think might be a good start for parents, with slightly older kids, maybe high school age, there's a few resources, some are free at online poets.org and poetry foundation have a poem a day that gets sent out over email. And you can subscribe to poetry daily as well. These are threes online subscription services, totally free. You get a poem in your inbox every day. And a lot of them are written by poets that are alive right now. And so you can go look up their work and get more of it. If you're interested, a nice anthology to get might be The Best American Poetry series for more advanced high school students where you get 75 poems written by different American poets. Some of them are very funny. Some of them are hard, but some of them are also light and interesting and tell stories. It gives you a real sense of the breadth of American poetry. If you don't like a poem, it's okay. There's so many more.

Superintendent:
I actually started buying The Best American Poetry series in college because my professor said, if all you're reading are the dusty old leather tones of the past, and you think you're going to be a writer, it's not going to work because you have to read what's being published right now if you're going to have any chance of doing that. And that concept intrigued me. I hate to admit, it seemed odd that people were still writing poetry a little bit, because you think about it as something that was so popular in the past. I started reading that and I have every volume of that since 1987.

Paisley:
That's amazing because I'm The Best American Series guest editor for this year. My volume is coming out in September. I'm not kidding. I spent the last year reading for Best American Poetry. So I'm their guest editor.

Superintendent:
That is fabulous. I may get my first autographed Poetry Collection if I can get to the festival in the spring.

Paisley:
Absolutely. I'm more than happy to sign that. I read so much poetry for an entire year, but I agree with you. When I was just starting out, even in college, I thought that I was maybe one of five poets left because no one was out there. I didn't know anything like that. So something like Best American Poetry was really helpful for me because it taught me that there were people who were alive who are writing it still. That's the value of it.

Superintendent:
Well, and I think that's an important message for kids who are interested in poetry. There are a lot of great ways to publish poetry these days. A lot of people wanting to write that it feels like a bit of a resurgence to me, just because there has been some best-selling poetry out there lately. And and that's exciting. Is there anything else that you would suggest for parents or for students who want to get started writing? Are there any activities that you can think of or ideas for maybe habits that an aspiring writer might want to consider trying? I know that some authors I've spoken with will set aside time and a certain time of the day, during that time or we'll warm up. I know John Updike used to write reviews before he would write his own prose and poetry. Are there any habits that you would suggest students try or any activities?

Paisley:
So there's a couple. The first is, poetry to me usually starts out as a kind of game. I give myself an exercise. There's lots of books of poetry exercises, one by Chase Twitchell and Robin Vain called  The Poet's Handbook is really good, but there's another one that's even better, potentially. It's called The Little Book of Poetic Forms. It's by Louis Turco T-U-R-C-O. It is a list of every single kind of poetic form in every language across time. What I would do when I was blocked or just wanted an exercise, I would just randomly flip through the book, point to a poetic form and say all right, I'm going to write something, but in this poetic form. What I mean is that like making poetry a kind of game when you're trying to think about rhymes.

You're trying to think about numbers of syllables. And you're trying to think about numbers of stanzas. Oftentimes we are most creative and we have the most constraints and sometimes playing with those constraints will push you to do something you wouldn't normally do. So sometimes telling students to go out and write a great poem shuts them down. But if you tell a student to go write a poem where every line, first word begins to the different letter of the alphabet going from A to Z, they usually do that one because the constraint helps them. So that's one thing I would suggest. The second thing is sort of fun. Poetic exercises that you can get off of. I think it's Poets and Writers Magazine. They offer some free poetry and fiction writing exercises each week. So you can just go to the online and look at those. Keep lists of images, take a notebook with you everywhere and just write down strange things that you see over here, and then use them as a sort of starting point for speculation. What is it about this image that interests you? What is it about the sound or that snippet of conversation that really attracted you?

Superintendent:
Those are great suggestions and I love the concept that constraints actually help creativity and that when you're trying to write a poem within a particular form, it can spark something. I had The Princeton Book of Poetry and Poetics, and I would find these obscure kind of strange rhyme schemes from medieval times or when there was this a complicated form of a poem that was written during a certain period of time. And I did that. I tried to write that way and it makes you appreciate the poetry that is written in that form at a deeper level when you try it yourself too.

Paige:
Yes, it does. And it usually means that you end up abandoning the exercise. Something else comes forward. You're like, wow, I didn't really like that form, but I did like these images. And I do believe that constraint is ultimately our friend. I mean, how many of us have written that paper because it's due in four hours or something, right? It's that sense of the deadline. When you're thinking about the constraints, you're often freed up to imagine more fluidly, creatively, because you're just trying to make something work that you know logic would normally defy.

Superintendent:
You know, given the times we're living in, they're very unique. And this is something, it's a historical time that kids and families and people in the future will look back on. Is there maybe a starting point for kids to write a poem, maybe that relates to the times they're living in right now and the things we are going through?

Paige:
First thing I would suggest is never tell a kid what they're doing is deep or important. I wouldn't tell an adult that either because it shuts us down. When you think this, we have to write about the times that we're living in, it's too much to process. We're adults and I don't know about you, but I'm struggling to process this. I don't think I have a language for this. So what I usually do with students and I taught around 911 as well, one of the things that I did was ask them to keep what I would call an image journal. There's a wonderful book called The Pillow Book by Shawnigan. And she was a Japanese cortisone in 1000 AD in Japan. And she had this book where she just recorded her impressions.

She kept lists of things like things that make your heart race, things that make you grow cold with disgust, deceitful things, lovely things. And she would just keep lists of these images. And they were really surprising things, like lovely things as a black cat with a very white belly, wonderful things like the smell of perfume on old silk, things like that where you're like, wow. So what I would ask students to do or a child to do is to say, can you just come up with a list of things that give you delight, or maybe make you afraid and just try to focus in on an image, something that gives us a concrete sense of taste, smells, sight, touch. Get them to interact with their memories in the world that way. And it's small, but oftentimes I think that it will give you a portrait of how they see the world.

I myself have been keeping lists because, for instance, now that it's so quiet, I'm able to hear birdsong that I've never heard before ever. I didn't even realize there were birds around me, I guess. So I'm writing down the sounds of things that I'm hearing. And in that I am giving a depiction of this world. I think that I would recommend trying the second thing. I would say, really quickly, this might be harder to convince your kids to do because they might not ever have written a letter before, but the epistolary form of poetry, which is basically what feels like a very casual form of poetry, you basically write a letter to somebody and you list what it is. You tell them what you've been doing and what you've been thinking. Having them write a letter to someone that they miss, someone that they're not being able to see right at this moment, that might be a really good exercise for them, right? It gives them something concrete and someone concrete to imagine, and to write.

Anthony Godfrey:
How early should we try to engage students in poetry?

Paisley:
I think as early as you can. One of the things that I notice when I go to schools is the younger, the students, the more eager they are to participate, to speak, to play, and somewhere around middle school, they become really self-conscious of that. And then in high school, it really starts to divide between the students that are going to be interested and the students that feel like this is just another joyless exercise. I thin, I don't know what is happening, but I suspect a lot of it has to do with the ways that students or children have a natural sense of playfulness. They love Sonic rhyme and games, and they love wordplay. And when we start teaching them that poetry is a riddle, they feel that they're stupid. If they get it wrong, I think it kills some of that joy. Some part of poetry s beyond just the analytical

Superintendent:
We all start naturally loving that and it kind of fades. And if we take advantage of that, you probably can't do it too early. When my youngest was little, he sat on his leg for awhile and it fell asleep and he said, dad, my leg is spicy. I didn't know what he meant at first, but that was a poetic image for me. I've never forgotten that one.

Paisley Rekdal, Utah's Poet Laureate, it's such a pleasure having you on the Supercast. And honestly, I'm going to look, I'm going to have to listen back and write down every book and author you mentioned, because it all sounds really exciting and it's a perfect time to dive in and kind of reignite a passion for reading and writing. I would love to hear you read either one of your poems or a poem that's a favorite for you.

Paisley:
Well, I will read a poem that I do find inspiring if not necessarily inspirational, because I think it is important to find comfort in this moment and to take some sense that there's more more joy to be had. This is not by me. I'm not a terribly hopeful poet, unfortunately, but this is one of my favorite poems. And I've read it before for other people too. It's by the Poet. Jack Gilbert, and it's from his book, Refusing Heaven.

And it's a poem called A Brief for the Defense.
Sorrow everywhere, slaughter everywhere.
If babies are not starving someplace, they are starving someplace else with flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.
Otherwise, the mornings before summer dawn would not be made so fine.
The Bengal tiger would not be fashioned so miraculously well.
The poor women at the fountain, they're laughing together between the suffering.
They have known and the awfulness in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody in the village is very sick.
There is laughter every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta and the women laugh and the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction, we lessened the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure, but not delight, not enjoyment.
We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world to make in justice.
The only measure of our attention is to praise the devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down, we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the proud again, of a small ship anchored late at night in the tiny port, looking over the sleeping island.
The waterfront is three shuttered cafes and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars and the silence as a rowboat comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth all the years of sorrow that are to come.

Superintendent
That's beautiful, beautiful, thank you.

Paisley:
Thank you so much.

Superintendent:
It's such a pleasure talking with you and I really look forward to meeting you in person and I promise you, I will have a copy of the latest Best American Poetry volume for you to sign.

Paisley:
Oh, that's great. That's really exciting for me to know that somebody with all of those collections will be there with it. So thank you again.

Superintendent:
Thank you very much. It's been a pleasure having Utah's Poet Laureate, Paisley Rekdal here on the Supercast. Remember to visit https://mappingliteraryutah.org/ to see the wonderful website that she has created to highlight homegrown authors and poets. Thank you again for joining us. And remember, education is the most important thing you will do today. We'll see you out there.

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Is it normal for children and their parents to experience high anxiety and sadness during these uncertain times? In this episode of the Supercast, we hear from a Clinical Psychologist who specializes in treating anxiety, particularly in children. Find out what advice Dr. Kristy Ludwig has for families trying to cope with being cooped up, staying home and staying happy.


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Anthony Godfrey:
Welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host superintendent, Anthony Godfrey. Today we are joined by a local clinical psychologist who has some advice for families feeling stressed as they are cooped up at home because of COVID-19 find out if it's actually okay to feel sadness and experienced anxiety during this time. And we want to talk with her today about the impact of the current circumstance. We find ourselves in on families and on children and maybe some things we can do to help make our way through Dr. Ludwig. Thank you very much for joining us today.

Dr. Ludwig:
Sure. Happy to be here. It's very interesting doing interviews, always using social distancing and my iPad has had more use than ever before, but it's very nice to see you. I hope to one day meet you in person.

Anthony Godfrey:
I this, like I said, a very unique time. Obviously it's something none of us has experienced before. What are some of the impacts that you're seeing on families and our children?

Dr. Ludwig:
I agree. I do think it's a really unprecedented time and I think what's so interesting about it, when you think about the implications for mental health, one of the things that we know about anxiety is that it's a normal, and it's an adaptive emotion. It's an important emotion that we have that essentially prepares us to respond to valid threats. The current situation that we're in does consist of a valid threat. Coronavirus is a valid threat to all of us. The most important thing to start off with is just that it is all valid, that it is normal to be anxious. It's normal, it's valid to be stressed. It's valid to feel sad. I think about the seniors in high school this year that just, as an example, are missing out on a lot of things that they have planned for and expected for a long time.

So I think that there's the developed threat. And then there's also all the things in our world that have changed. And I think part of the challenge and the opportunity is to practice and learn how to tolerate a certain amount of uncertainty. What probably is the most important place to put our attention is into our families. And rather than being pulled in lots of different directions, I think being really thoughtful and mindful of what we are exposing ourselves and our families to. In regards to media, we do need information, but I think we also need to be thoughtful of putting limits on that for our own anxiety, for our own mental health, as well as modeling that and helping to limit that for our children. Information's important, but we also want to make sure that we're not overwhelming ourselves with the desire to try to create certainty or to just continue to feel like we need to get more information.

Anthony Godfrey:
Interesting phrase, trying to create certainty. And I can absolutely see that happening where we are just checking in with the news constantly. We're looking for updates and things are changing rapidly. It feels like every day, there's a change in what we're hearing. And we may start to think that the more information we consume, the more we can get a taste for some certainty, and we can see a path forward.

And yet I think that we have to really be mindful of that because the information we get may not be creating that certainty that we're striving for. Another piece that I think is really important that a lot of families are probably already well into doing this, as we're five weeks into this. But I do think having some structures, some routine, some consistency and predictability in family life is actually really important for kids of all ages, from the little ones to to our teenagers.

Anthony Godfrey:
Yeah. I think that's true. You get into a routine whether you want it or not. And sometimes it's not a deliberate routine. It's the routine of staying up too late and getting up too late and maybe not taking care of ourselves the way we ought to. There's something else that struck me earlier in what you said, that is the importance of connection with family. And what I found is that just because we're in the same space, doesn't mean that we're necessarily connecting. And with my own family, I've had great moments of playing board games, long sitting on the shelf that we haven't gotten to and we've really engaged. But there are other times where we all have our various devices and we're not engaged with each other. And so I do think even though we're in the same physical space, we have to be a little bit deliberate about reaching out to each other.

Dr. Ludwig:
Absolutely. And I think part of that structure is I think some of the most important things. We need to structure in our fun family times. And particularly, I also think related to that positive parent/child interaction time so that we're being really thoughtful and deliberate. Like you said about really creating the time and the space for that. And I think that is as important as anything else that's scheduled within the context of a day. I think other things that are important are things like we mentioned, some structure and bedtimes and wake times. I will add a caveat with that. If you have a child who has never been a morning person, trying to fight them to become one right now is probably not something that you need to do. But also, I don't think it's a good idea to have teenagers sleeping into the late morning, early afternoon, and then being up all night.

So I think finding kind of a balance in that for some structure and some consistency. I think the other thing we really need to be thoughtful and scheduling in is physical activity. When kids are in school and when they're on sports teams, they're moving around and there's a lot of activity that's happening. And I think right now we have to be a little bit more deliberate in making sure that we're scheduling that for ourselves as well as for our families going on where it's possible and safe going on a walk being outside, doing some things that, that we can in obviously while also maintaining social distance and the abiding by the necessary guidelines. But I do think finding those kinds of opportunities within the context of our schedule are really important as well.

Anthony Godfrey:
I agree. I decided one afternoon when I had quite a few phone calls to make that I would just fire up the AirPods, leave the house and walk around. The dog was very happy. I decided to invite her along as well, and I was gone for hours and I didn't realize how much time I spend on the phone without locking. It was very nice. And I got quite a sunburn, but it did feel good to be out and about. And you're right. It just totally changes your perspective in ways that even as you're sitting on the couch, thinking about going out for a walk, you, you, you underestimate, I really like what you said. I wrote down three reasons that we ought to be giving ourselves permission, to feel sadness, feel anxiety, and realize that that is an okay response for us to have.

That is number one, there's a genuine threat. There is a health issue out there. There's a genuine threat. Some of us are more susceptible than others. Everyone's circumstance is different, but there is a threat number two, this is a change. We're all having to do things differently. Now this is now what we're used to, and it was an abrupt change. We were thrown into the deep end of the swimming pool on this one. And then number three, the uncertainty that you mentioned, and that we talked about, all three of those just individually would be enough to justify some level of anxiety or sadness or difficulty in our lives. But when you have all three thrown at you and everyone's experiencing that to one degree or another that's that, that creates a difficult circumstance for kids.

Dr. Ludwig:
Absolutely. And I think one of the most important things is to really validate, listen to and validate that emotion both within ourselves. I think we've got to allow and understand we're feeling emotions. In addition, it's really important that we listen and validate for our kids. I think we want to jump to fixing when kids are struggling and I think there's some of this we can't change. We can't fix it.  It is what it is. And I think giving them useful information is good, but I think a lot of it is just listening to and validating the fact that it is hard and it's real.  And then also going to a place of really reminding them of strengthen and the things that we can gain and learn from the experience and the fact that we're being safe.

I mean, there's ways to communicate with kids around some fears, but I also think we have to be thoughtful, not excessively reassuring, so that it is just validating and acknowledging and saying, yes, we're all feeling weird and kind of different, strange, bad, sad. And then also helping them to find things to do that can help them to try to feel better. Sometimes when we're feeling really down, what we need to do is a little counter to how we feel. So it's this nice balance where we really have to validate and listen and let them have that experience. And then also provide an opportunity to do some things that can help them to feel better. That's the fun, that's the being outside, the moving around eating regularly, those kinds of things that really help to manage and maintain that self care.

Anthony Godfrey:
Did you say eating regularly or eating constantly because we're eating constantly.

Dr. Ludwig:
I do think that it's good to remember to eat and keeping that in some type of a schedule. It's funny. I think people do the extremes. I think we can be eating constantly. And I've also talked with some kids that are forgetting to eat lunch. I think we've got both extremes.

Anthony Godfrey:
Eating lunch is one thing I don't forget. Are there some ways that children are going to react to this type of circumstance that might confuse adults or might be different from the way an adult would react?

Dr. Ludwig:
I think sometimes kids might not be as good at articulating why they're not feeling good. So you might see behaviors coming out from the emotion. You might see things that look like more irritability. You might seem kind of more argumentative. You might seem more withdrawn. And I think those all could be indicators of emotion that are happening that kids are experiencing, whether or not they're wanting to acknowledge that. So I think those are things to be mindful of. I think, obviously having limits and expectations for behavior and how we treat each other are important. But I also think being mindful of what certain behaviors might be communicating. A child that's being really argumentative or really irritable in this context, there might be other things going on underneath that.

So kind of taking time to listen and acknowledge pointing out behaviors. You seem more irritable, there's a lot that's going on. It's really hard to be stuck at home, trying to label what you're seeing rather than making judgments on it. I think sometimes we're quick to thinking, oh, you're being disrespectful or a kind of making judgements. You're just trying to upset me. But instead, really trying to label it and then trying to give the space for kids to talk by trying to just be there and listening. So I do think that's one of the things. That we just need to be mindful of the behaviors we're seeing. And I'm not saying we have to validate that are still not acceptable, but I think just also being thoughtful of some of the emotion that might be underlying those.

Anthony Godfrey:
Process it, and also understand that might be coming from a place that isn't immediately evident.

Dr. Ludwig:
Exactly, exactly. It might be that, that your child was feeling really sad and missing out on things. But instead of being able to say that they're kind of arguing with everything you're trying to get them to do, we'll take a quick break, but when we return,

Anthony Godfrey:
We'll talk more with Dr. Christine Ludwig about dealing with the student and parent anxiety.

Break:
I'm Steven Hall, Director of Jordan Education Foundation. In today's challenging and uncertain times, it is more important than ever before to support one another. Here at the Jordan Education Foundation, we invite you to join us in making sure children are not going hungry. Your $10 donation to the Foundation will help us feed one student for a weekend when food and meals may be very scarce for some, with food and hygiene supplies and the Principal's Pantries at Jordan School Districts being depleted and in higher demand than ever before. Every financial contribution made will help us to keep the pantries filled for students who would otherwise go without. The Jordan Education Foundation exists due to the generosity of people who care about kids. If you would like to donate to help children from going hungry, please visit jordaneducationfoundation@jordandistrict.org, or contact the Foundation at (801) 567-8125. Thank you. Together, we can make a difference.

Anthony Godfrey:

We're back with Dr. Christine Ludwig when students do return to school, and the earliest that will happen will be the first day of school for the 2020 - 2021 school year. That will be in the middle of August. So that would be five months between the time that school closed and school opened back up. And that would be the longest that any of these students have ever been out of school since they started. What type of or worries might you expect from kids as they return after a long break?

Dr. Ludwig:
Yeah, that's a really good question. I think one that we're going to grapple with for a while as we move this forward. It's really interesting because I think some students that may have historically rather not gone to school or tried to get out of going to school, now are actually missing school. But I also think that having been out of the habit of going to school, that the idea of going to school is probably going to bring with it some relief and escape, get me out of my house, welcomed and I want to be with my friends. And so I think that there's going to be some of that, but we already know that kids have trouble with anxiety associated with going to school. Whether it's related to the schoolwork or the environment we already know that prime times for school refusal come after breaks, and this is a particularly long break.

So I think that there is some risk of that. And I think the more that we can, and again this is hard with the uncertainty, but the more we can kind of prepare students to know when that's happening, I think that's helpful. But the temptation sometimes could be to fall into letting the student try to get out of it because it's really uncomfortable. And because they've been home this whole time, the challenge is going to be with some of those kids that are actually going back to school or leaving that house comes with a lot of anxiety. And I think one of the most important things we'll need to do is to create the expectations that those things have to happen. That said, one of the things I've been talking to folks about that they struggle with anxiety and where the anxiety of being in a comfortable place for a long time, and then being asked to leave that comfortable place.

I think where possible, if you know that your child is a little bit more anxious or that really resists uncomfortable situations, to try to create opportunities for them to feel uncomfortable, whether it's really encouraging them to reach out to friends, sometimes that might make them a little more anxious having them do Zoom calls with. Friends and family, having them try to think of things that they can do for other people. It just depends on the student, but I do think anything that we can do during this time to help students that are a little more anxious to do some things that might make them feel uncomfortable, just so they're in the habit of doing some of those things, I think could be really valuable.

Anthony Godfrey:
Dr. Ludwig, what are some other tips that you would give parents of children who tend to be anxious, prepare them for the challenges that are ahead and deal with the challenges that they're experiencing right now, because even though we need to be deliberate and intentional about making that happen, there are more opportunities than ever before, in most cases for this interaction between parent and child.

Dr. Ludwig:
So I think, similar to what I just mentioned, in trying to create opportunities for children, teens to do things that are uncomfortable. I think one of the things that we oftentimes think about with anxiety is, I want my child to feel comfortable and then they can do these things that are hard. And what we absolutely know is that the way to overcome anxiety is to do the hard things. So I do think, in general the structure and consistency in having kids know what to do, those are all really helpful for kids that are anxious. They're helpful for all kids. And if your child is particularly anxious, I think really being mindful of trying to encourage, support, reward, reinforce behaviors that are brave as I often like to say. When they are doing things that are uncomfortable.

So for example, if a student is struggling with an assignment ,encouraging and trying to coach the student to be able to reach out to the teacher, obviously age appropriate. If it's a first grader, probably the parents should be reaching out. But  if it's a high school student or middle school student and it's reasonable that they could reach out to the teacher, encouraging them to be able to make that contact rather than jumping in and doing it for them, not that you couldn't on the side also be supporting them with that. But I think the thing that we want students to do is to do those things that feel uncomfortable and really coaching them on how they can advocate for themselves, or have a conversation with an adult in some ways that's really uncomfortable, that those things could be really helpful.

We want to support them in their schoolwork. We want to definitely communicate with teachers as is necessary, but I think oftentimes we tend to jump in more quickly than might be helpful for our child, particularly an anxious child. To be able to do some of those things that might make them uncomfortable. So I think if we encourage them to do those things to reach out to teachers, to contact friends, to ask them questions and then within the context of our homes it just wherever we can, it's a little bit tricky at home to think of how we're going to create situations for our children to do things that are a little less comfortable, but where you can find those opportunities. I think that's the key, finding things that they're not as comfortable doing or that they haven't done successfully in the past.

It could be starting a new project or doing some painting as a family or something that a child might not be as comfortable with and giving them that opportunity to engage in a new behavior. To do something that makes them feel really anxious and uncomfortable. I think anything in regards to connecting and reaching out with others, I do realize for some students and some children that is not a problem. But I do think it's really important for all of them, especially now that for some students, they might kind of get comfortable not reaching out to any friends or anybody outside of their home. And so I do think having some contact with others outside the home virtually is also really, really important.

Anthony Godfrey:
That really resonates for me. The idea that you redirect, if the child is spinning. You don't want to overindulge, you want to understand, you want to listen, you want to validate, but you don't want to reinforce to the point that the student can't escape or the child can't escape this particular way of thinking and you move on together. So that makes a lot of sense.

But I think sometimes the family will accommodate the anxiety. And so the child is comfortable essentially because they don't have to do the things that are uncomfortable for them. The entire family, the functioning of the family is revolving around making sure they're maintaining all of that. So I also think that would be an impairment in functioning that would also require the need for some intervention.

And if parents find themselves in the circumstance you just described, then really a good first step is to contact counselors and psychologists in our schools. Every school has counselors and psychologists who can help them.

Dr. Ludwig:
Yes, yes. And I think that they can do one or two things. I think they can, in many cases, provide the services that are needed. I think that your District has some really wonderful people. I've had the opportunity to work with some of the counselors and some of the folks in your District. And I think you're really fortunate and have a really great system. And I think if they can't provide the service in whatever way, I think they also can be really helpful for connecting and giving referrals for outside services.

Anthony Godfrey:
Dr. Ludwig, what other advice would you give to parents and students who are just trying to do their best navigating these difficult waters?

Dr. Ludwig:
I would say to both students and parents and families to give yourselves a break, to cut yourself slack. I think it's an interesting time because, on one hand, and I'm particularly going to speak to parents for just a second, that I think we feel like in some cases I've heard parents say, I should be able to do more or I should be doing this or I should be doing that. And I think the reality is that this current crisis involves so much change. And so many things have happened differently that I don't think the idea that we should be doing more. I think really giving ourselves a break and making sure that we're giving time to support our self-care, our mental health.

Anthony Godfrey:
It's clear that we need to take care of ourselves because we can't take care of each other. I also think about employees of the District, and we have lots of employees who are doing different tasks from what they normally do. We either have bus drivers who are acting as custodians or helping you with lunch workers. And as a District, we've allowed and encouraged anyone who wants to continue to work and earn their hours is able to do that. And so we have a lot of employees who are doing different jobs, and then teachers are doing things very differently. Now they have to teach in a completely different way. And I feel like there's a chance that teachers are in a position where they have to absorb the anxiety about online learning that all of their students have to experience. And so now they get this concentrated load and this concentrated weight that they carry, because they're trying to help so, so many kids get through this. And I think that creates a really heavy burden on teachers that we maybe haven't talked about. It's not just that teaching in a different way is stressful. It's helping so many kids manage such monumental change that can create stress that really doesn't stop. And do you have any suggestions for them?

Dr. Ludwig:
Yeah, I think that's really interesting that you mentioned that because just earlier today, on another meeting that I was on, we were talking about how I think right now, in regards to our children, our teachers are very much the ones on the front line. I know there's a lot of support people within school buildings that help to share and carry that load. But I think right now, in this context, the teachers are really very much on the front line. Not only doing the educating, but also having to hold the stress, the anxiety. And in many times, maybe even the only communication that kids are having as far as someone outside of their family. And so I do think that one of my thoughts for teachers is, they absolutely need to make sure that they're giving themselves the time and taking care of their own self care. And also, I think one of the things is just acknowledging that this is really different. I don't know that all the teachers in the classroom are trained to do this type of teaching. And I think it's just a time where we all have to cut ourselves some slack and do the best we can.

Anthony Godfrey:
Thank you very much, Dr. Ludwig, I feel better just talking with you. It's great to process all of this. I think we have a lot of difficulties, but we have a lot of opportunities that we have before us right now. And I think that if we try to connect to each other and take care of each other in the way that you've described, we can come out of this stronger. So thank you Dr. Ludwicg. It's been great talk. Thank you. Thank you for joining us on the Supercast. Be safe. And remember, education is the most important thing you will do today. We'll see you out.

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