Albany High School Listening Campaign Transcripts
Interviewee: Abegail Shores, student (Senior)
Interview Location: Albany High School
Date: November 29, 2016
I: [00:00:06.24] So, we're working with leaders from around the county to create a plan to bring arts and creativity to students at all schools every day across Alameda County. We would like to hear your thoughts or experiences so we can make a plan that really works for schools. And to ask you questions to help us. So, can you please say your name and spell it for me please?
AS: [00:00:43.01] My name is Abegail A-B-E-G-A-I-L Shores S-H-O-R-E-S.
I: [00:00:52.02] Thank you. What makesyou want to go to school every day?
AS: [00:00:57.02] Honestly, this year, going to school is very enjoyable because each of my teachers they've tried really hard to build a community within the classroom So, every day you're excited go see those people. A lot of my teachers found ways to just sort of make the curriculum or learning really interesting. So, it's something to look forward to, to actually go to class and learn about what we're learning.
I: [00:01:27.15] That's great. When I say "the arts" what comes to mind?
AS: [00:01:32.25] For me, honestly, I've done choir so that's an art. Any kind of musical theater. Of course, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, writing. Pretty much all of those and more.
I: [00:01:50.18] Do you do any after school activities related to art or theater?
AS: [00:02:00.19] Well, not exactly.
I: [00:02:04.00] Anything in general like anything after school, any programs? Weekend programs? Or at home on your own time?
AS: [00:02:12.28] Well, I do mountain biking which is a club sport here. That's pretty much like my main after school activity. Yeah, that takes up most of my time.
I: [00:02:26.18] What do you think when I say "arts education"?
AS: [00:02:32.17] I'd say just informing people and students about the community of art, the different types of art, different cultures and what art means to different people.
I: [00:02:52.17] Do you feel like that's providedhere at your school?
AS: [00:02:56.14] Definitely. Yeah.
I: [00:03:00.12] That's great. Well, I guess that answers the question does your school include arts education. What does creativity mean to you?
AS: [00:03:11.28] For me, I guess creativity is being able to take what you feel or what or see or what you've experienced and sort of put that in to whatever you're creating, like, whatever medium of art it is, yeah.
I: [00:03:35.16] What do you think motivates your creativity or imagination or your passion?
AS: [00:03:40.11] Probably just the things I enjoy doing in life. So, getting out into nature. I realize that whenever I paint or draw it's always like the color schemes are all very nature-y and generally like the subjects that I draw or paint is related to that.
I: [00:04:00.28] So, you mostly paint?
AS: [00:04:02.01] Yeah, I like to paint and draw. I'm not very good at it, but I really enjoy it.
I: [00:04:07.15] What can your school do to inspire your creativity? Or do you feel like that's already provided?
AS: [00:04:20.05] I feel like it's definitely provided to some extent. It definitely varies from person to person like what inspires you but I think the environment created and the support we have is definitely, I would say a good start to that, that we have at our school.
I: [00:04:46.11] And do you feel like you're getting the most out of your education?
AS: [00:04:49.09] Oh yeah, definitely. Just the teachers, everyone's very supportive. We're very lucky at Albany to have a lot of counselors to help us, to have teachers who really want us to succeed and sort of help us go through that journey of high school.
I: [00:05:05.09] And do you have friends that go to other schools?
AS: [00:05:09.26] I guess I have acquaintances but most of the people that I'm close to do go to Albany.
I: [00:05:16.01] And when you talk to them about the schools that they go to is it a different experience for them? Do they get all the same?
AS: [00:05:22.10] Unfortunately not. Especially through the sports that I do I get to talk to people from all over the Bay Area and unfortunately - we're very privileged and very fortunate to be in this school system where we have a lot of people who are there every step of the way to help us. So, I have people that I know at El Cerrito, I know they only have like two counselors there and their school is like double our size which sounds insane. Yeah, goodness. Yeah, so we're very fortunate here in Albany.
I: [00:06:00.13] Do you believe you are in a safe learning community?
AS: [00:06:04.27] Oh yeah. Pretty much from day one it's established that there's no hate, no homophobia, very accepting, like it's OK to be wrong. So, yeah, they do a very good job of that here.
I: [00:06:20.12] What opportunities are opening up for you from going to this school?
AS: [00:06:27.00] I mean with college just right around the corner, there's definitely a lot of help there. There's a lot of opportunities to volunteer. We have a lot of different clubs so you can pretty much have a club that is for anyone's interest. If you just have a small group of people who are like-minded. Yeah, opportunities to get to know people and different backgrounds and ethnicities, it's a very diverse community here.
I: [00:07:00.19] And was there something specific that contributed to it or a person who helped that opportunity to happen?
AS: [00:07:09.16] I definitely would say just in general the teachers here. They definitely really - they try to get people to go and you know join things, find others that have similar interests with them and just sort of find out what you like to do so further down the road in life you can pursue whatever makes you happy.
I: [00:07:40.06] Is school relevant to what you want to do in your life?
AS: [00:07:44.18] Definitely. Yeah (laughs), academics very important to me. I want to become a nurse so all the science is really important, math, all of that. And then just hobbies and things I enjoy also contribute to that.
I: [00:08:07.19] What do you want out of life or what do you need from school? Since you're getting that what do you like - what is it exactly?
AS: [00:08:20.00] Let's see, well getting things from school - I mean, I'd consider that I have mostly all my (inaudible) resources and people. And I guess what I need is for that to continue to always have the support system that I have at school to help me to get on the path I wanna be on and stay on. Yeah and I mean the goal - of course it sounds cliché but just be happy with what I'm doing and where I am, wherever that may be.
I: [00:08:54.20] Do you feel like you're getting the education you need to prepare for your adulthood?
AS: [00:08:59.03] Definitely. That's one of the things I would say about Albany is - I have a sister, she's in college and she goes to college and she's always talking about how the classes are so much easier in college than they are here. Definitely most of the teachers here really try to prepare for that so it's an easier transition. So, for me personally, I'd say I'm getting what I need educationally.
I: [00:09:25.25] Do you feel like it's just preparing you for college or is it preparing you for outside adulthood?
AS: [00:09:32.10] Both I'd say. And in a way it depends on who you have for teachers so it's a little different for everyone at the school. But we have a lot of classes set up to help you with adulthood depending on all the situations whether like you'll be working straight out of high school or whether you want to have a job while going to college and what life will be like when -
I: [00:09:59.05] Do you know exactly what those classes are called?
AS: [00:10:01.03] Yes, I do. We have a class and it's actually through the SF State, it's called Step to College. And so my teacher she took us through the entire process of getting to college and then just sort of exposed us and shared her experiences of what college will probably be like and life after high school and getting through that by yourself. Yeah.
I: [00:10:29.26] And the other class?
AS: [00:10:30.13] And we have IHS for all the freshman. And in that class they definitely - even though it's a class for freshman, they still go over this is what happens when you're going through all the stages of leaving home and what to be prepared for.
I: [00:10:50.17] Thank you for your time.
AS: [00:10:50.20] Of course.
Interviewee: Angela Ding, Student (Junior)
Interview Location: Albany High School
Date: November 29, 2016
I: [00:11:16.02] So, we're working with leaders from around the county to create a plan for brining arts and creativity to all students, all schools, every day across Alameda County. We would like to hear what your thoughts are and experiences so we can make a plan that really works for you and your school. Can I please have you answer some questions? Can you please say your name and spell it for me, please?
AD: [00:11:47.14] My name is Angela Ding A-n-g-e-l-a D-i-n-g.
I: [00:11:53.26] Thank you. What makes you want to go to school every single day?
AD: [00:11:58.21] So, whenever - every night when I go to bed I always have to list three things at least that I learned from school. If I do not succeed in listing those three things going school was pointless, going to school that day was just a waste of my time, I shouldn't have done it. And I never fail to list three things every single day this year. And I think that's a really powerful thing. I started this initiative in sophomore year when I realized that my classes were horrible.
I: [00:12:28.27] What was horrible about your classes?
AD: [00:12:31.04] I feel like my real freedom came this year - I'm a junior this year - and in sophomore year I felt like there were not many choices. I had to take PE because I didn't fulfill a sport requirement though I do do sports outside of school, those just didn't count. I had to do English, I had to history, I had to all these classes with mediocre teachers at best. There were no teachers that inspired me to really learn the subject and engage with them.
I: [00:13:01.28] And was that at this school?
AD: [00:13:03.21] Yeah.
I: [00:13:06.20] When I say "the arts" what comes to mind?
AD: [00:13:10.13] A cathartic way of kind of getting your ideas out when words can't speak, when you're mind just feels it's about to shut off, I guess. But, at the same time it could be a positive experience to get it all out.
I: [00:13:28.22] Do you do any things that are outside of the school? Afterschool, weekend programs or just on your own time at home?
AD: [00:13:38.28] I have a job at my Tae Kwon Do center. I'm training to be a black belt and I'm also training a ton of young children. Training these young kids is really a passion of mine. I also - I obviously do art outside of school, I play the piano and I guess that's it.
I: [00:14:01.06] That's a good amount of stuff. What do you think when I say "arts education"?
AD: [00:14:12.07] I can imagine that when I started at this school I thought that you can't educate someone in art. You either have it or you don't. You can't tell someone, hey let this tree run through your veins and just watch it breath, you know? You don't teach a child how to watch a tree breath. You don't teach a child to do these things. But, as I start knowing this art community more I realize art education doesn't really encompass what art - what it is. It's not necessarily education, it's more like a safe place where you can express your ideas and no one's afraid of it.
I: [00:14:50.17] So does your school include arts education? I'm sure it does.
AD: [00:14:55.22] Yes, of course.
I: [00:14:58.16] What does "creativity" mean to you personally?
AD: [00:15:03.19] To me personally, simply a way I express myself in what I'm thinking. And it's not gonna be - I'm gonna do what a printer can do. Anyone could do what - I mean, not anyone but those really skilled artists who could just draw a person’s picture in a minute, those don't impress as much as someone who puts critical thought into what they're doing. So, that's what creativity is to me.
I: [00:15:33.18] And do you feel - what inspires your creativity and imagination?
AD: [00:15:48.16] My senses do.
I: [00:15:49.13] Your senses. Can you go into more detail?
AD: [00:15:53.00] OK. I believe that my purpose - I know that this is getting way too deep but my purpose on earth is to fulfill my senses. That means taking all these experiences and try to narrate them to other people. Or just even narrate it to myself, just get it out there.
I: [00:16:14.13] What can your school do for you to inspire your creativity?
AD: [00:16:21.16] OK, so this is a bit of a swerve in another direction but one problem I found with some school systems is - this is especially observed from my younger sister whose been in the common core system a big chunk of her life at this point. One thing I notice is pretty much I prefer teachers with a horrible, the worst personality ever than a teacher with no personality. I feel like a lot of teachers they teach like they're following a script day by day and that really bother me becausea lot of teachers here have changed my life either in a good way or a bad way. And I prefer a teacher whose changed my life in bad way than a teacher whose changed my life in a good way. And, I mean, I prefer both of them but I feel like there's something powerful about a teacher with a bad personality than a teacher with none.
I: [00:17:13.01] Hmm, it prepares you for life outside school.
AD: [00:17:16.04] Yeah. I feel like teachers who follow a script don't necessarily stimulate this creativity that is in all children. I mean, it's kind of in our biology, right? When we tell a child "don't jump in a river full of crocodiles", they're going to listen to you because we're hardwired to. So, when you don't get a child to get into creativity at a young age then they're gonna be stuck in this narrow mindset their whole lives. And that's what I'm scared of. These teachers who probably don't care about their kids and follow a script because tenure lets them to be there in this room full of forty kids and not care. And that's forty kids’ lives that they're ruining.
I: [00:17:57.02] So you feel like your teachers here really don't really care?
AD: [00:17:59.23] No. I feel like there's certain teachers who do that and that really bothers me. And I feel like it's something we should change. I feel like my teachers are extremely competent.
I: [00:18:14.08] This might sound kind of repetitive but do you think you're getting the most out of your education?
AD: [00:18:18.15] No, because I always strive for more. I guess that's the only reason why but I really didn't feel like that in freshman year and sophomore year. I felt like a lot of my classes were a waste of time and maybe I was going through these angsty years but surely my teachers didn't help me. I'm pretty sure the only teacher that stood out was my French teacher because she actually started talking to me personally like, "hey what's up with your grades?" But, this year I feel like either I care more about the subjects or I mean, I guess it's both, I care more about the subjects and the teachers more. I'm getting more out of it but I still think I can't get enough.
I: [00:19:02.20] And I'm also gonna ask you this question. Do you have any friends outside of this school.
AD: [00:19:09.25] Yeah.
I: [00:19:11.04] Do you speak to them about how their school is set up and how it is for them? Do you feel like it's a different experience?
AD: [00:19:20.12] Yeah, I feel like totally. I have a lot of friends who go to private schools so that's definitely worlds different. I have another friend who goes to a college prep school so that's definitely different.
I: [00:19:31.13] Different how?
AD: [00:19:32.11] I feel like - she does this thing called Forced AP Classes. I don't think that's a good idea at all. But, then again she signed up for it and she actually thinks it's gonna bring her to success. I'm happy for her. It's just something that wouldn't work out for me but I have acknowledged the individual desire.
I: [00:19:52.21] So do you think the kids who go to the prep schools have a more positive experience at their schools than you?
AD: [00:19:59.06] Well, I feel like when parents force their child to do it, definitely not. But, if it's out of individual choice, definitely. I don't understand the people who would but I respect their decisions if it's their decision. If it's someone else forcing them to then I have no respect.
I: [00:20:19.02] Do you have any friends that go to public schools outside of here?
AD: [00:20:22.02] Yeah, a couple.
I: [00:20:23.24] Do you feel like their experience at their schools is more positive than what you have here? Or more negative?
AD: [00:20:30.10] You see, here's the problem - my friends have different personalities than I do. I have a friend, she goes to a public school that I think I wouldn't like as much but she's really into it. It has a different system. The tests I feel like are harder and that the classwork is easier from what I've seen and that's a bigger difference. I'm more into engaging in classwork. But, she likes this idea of harder tests. So, I have to acknowledge the individual. I think that I can't - in other words I can't answer that question really.
I: [00:21:07.24] Your friends who go to public schools usually have more positive experience in their schools?
AD: [00:21:14.24] Well, none of them really complain about their schooling mostly because the last thing we wanna talk about when we hang out with each other is school.
I: [00:21:22.21] Understandable. Do you believe that you're in a safe learning environment?
AD: [00:21:28.25] Yes. I mean - how do you define safe?
I: [00:21:32.29] Safe - do you feel safe emotionally and safe physically?
AD: [00:21:38.01] Yes. I mean, I feel like the only problem with our school is safe in terms of freedom of expression. I feel like if I came out as a Trump supporter I would get so much backlash. No one would like me. I think that's the only way in which I'm not safe.
I: [00:21:55.06] I feel like freedom of speech is not allowed in most schools which is - it's frowned upon. That's disrespectful.
AD: [00:22:03.18] I understand the freedom of expression, I just I believe in diversity of thought.
I: [00:22:11.10] What opportunities have opened up for you from your education here?
AD: [00:22:19.10] In Albany High School particularly? Alright. I've been introduced to many cool people, you included. I feel like Ms. Tremblay especially, she opened my eyes to just all these possibilities. There was this dude who came last year in Ms. Tremblay's class to talk about Savannah College of Arts. He got me interested for a moment and that's the type of experience I wish I had earlier. I wish I had that in some other classes. Like, pretty much every year we have this thing called Career Day. I think it's a disaster. I think what we need is some witty dude who represents a college, even if he doesn't represent a college but just at least a witty dude talking like he likes his job engaging with students who want to learn about it. I think that's what we need.
I: [00:23:11.20] OK. Do you feel like your teachers help you succeed?
AD: [00:23:24.18] Yes. I mean, how - wait, what's succeed?
I: [00:23:30.15] Like, do you feel like they're pushing you?
AD: [00:23:34.27] I mean, they're pushing me forward in terms of grades sure, if I wanna learn. I feel like if -
I: [00:23:45.06] But not towards life?
AD: [00:23:48.03] I guess how I'd explain it is -
I: [00:23:51.28] So, are they pushing you to be the best? Your best self?
AD: [00:23:59.25] Yes. I mean, everyone has a different learning style. I kinda feel bad for the teachers who are assigned to so many students with different personalities, honestly, I feel so bad. They need to get paid more. Anyway, the thing about - for instance, I'm taking a class where most people are taking because it's an easy A but I feel like the teacher needs to push more this idea of "hey, you're learning something, what I want more is effort that you're trying to learn it." I think that's the type of success I - that's what I define as success. The desire to want to learn.
I: [00:24:37.22] Do you feel like it should be mandatory that people have a desire to want to learn?
AD: [00:24:44.22] Children are just born like that. I feel like it needs to be - like I said, children believe what they're told at a young age that's why we have both screwed up children and really, really intellectual children. It's just we need this learning environment that says - it doesn't say you need to be good at math and science. It needs to say you need to be good at whatever you believe in.
I: [00:25:11.11] To help what you're gonna do further in life.
AD: [00:25:15.00] I mean, I don't know much about this preparing for the future thing but I do know what I want now. And I think that's what children need to know. What they want now.
I: [00:25:27.08] Is school relevant to what you want to do in your life?
AD: [00:25:32.16] I have no clue yet because I have no clue what I want to do with my life.
I: [00:25:38.09] What would make it relevant?
AD: [00:25:41.24] If I knew what I wanted to do with my life.
I: [00:25:46.20] Do you feel like you're getting the education you need to prepare for adulthood?
AD: [00:25:51.21] I don't know what I'll do in adulthood. I feel like these questions are kind of redundant.
I: [00:26:00.12] Yeah, they kind of are but adulthood is kind of different from what you want to do. Career wise is different from basically adulthood. Adulthood is basically paying bills, paying taxes, being responsible for yourself and moving forward and I guess that would be different than what you want to do as a career than being -
AD: [00:26:24.05] Oh, yeah, that's a good point. You won me there. So, here's the problem: I can't tell whether the schools hardwired me to think that adulthood doesn't exist or I'm just a stubborn brat because I don't care about adulthood. And maybe the school made me this way and they failed or maybe it's just something that's just me. I don't feel this concept of adulthood although I'm about to become one.
I: [00:26:49.10] So you feel like you're gonna be a child forever?
AD: [00:26:53.14] Yeah, I like to live and pretend that there's no tomorrow or else - no, not that dramatically or else I'd be so screwed up. But, I like to live and pretend that it's to my fullest I guess. And I feel like starting to think about taxes at a young age - everyone around me is growing up and thinking of college apps and where they're gonna be in life and all I wanna do is play in the sandbox for a couple hours, you know?
I: [00:27:21.20] So you don't feel like - you don't need any preparation? Sometimes when you hit a situation you may not know how to solve it and then you look back in your life, "oh, if I had been prepared" -
AD: [00:27:36.04] Yeah, I'll worry about that once I become an adult, I guess.
I: [00:27:43.09] I guess, that's fair. Thank you for your time.
Interviewee: Becca Burns, Counselor
Interview Location: Albany High School
Date: November 29, 2016
I: [00:00:01.01] Well, hi. Could you please tell us your name and what you do at this school?
BB: [00:00:06.13] Sure. My name is Becca Burns. I'm a counselor here.
I: [00:00:09.19] As a counselor what makes you want to go to school every day?
BB: [00:00:19.03] I love my job. I love my job because it's something different every day so I never know what to expect which I need and crave, you know, new things. And I love my students. I just think that they're the awesomest people on earth and I'm here for them. So, that's really what gets me here.
I: [00:00:38.13] Cool. What ignites your creativity, imagination, and passion?
BB: [00:00:46.01] In my job? My job has a lot of problem solving which is a different kind of creativity I think. But it's working with teams of people including my colleagues and my students to figure out how to help them best. I also get to do things like presentations and - this seems dumb, but I write a lot of letters of recommendation which is creative writing and it's not the kind of creativity that you get to do in an art class room but it definitely feels creative to me. So, I do get a little bit of that too.
I: [00:01:23.03] Yeah, well, creativity is very broad. It always can reach any place, you know? Even with building and all types of different things. Writing. What can your school do better to inspire your students’ creativity? What do you think would make things better for the students better?
BB: [00:01:49.20] In terms of creativity? I think all of my students, even the ones who don't claim that they're creative, are really creative. I think this is an age group where creativity is just like in every blood cell. I think it gets squashed by things like homework and that's coming off a meeting I just had about a sad kid over his homework. But, there's a lot repetition. There's a lot of sort of firm expectations in many academic classes that really feel like the antithesis of creativity for kids is my inside observation as a counselor. I know homework is important but I think there are ways to approach it in every subject level that could give them a little bit more freedom of expression I guess could help. I'm being kind of vague but I see just ample opportunity that's kind of being wasted and letting kids figure out their own ways to demonstrate their learning, I guess.
I: [00:03:03.11] What do you see as being the role of art in educating young people? How do you think art and education mix in the students’ lives and how it affects the students?
BB: [00:03:24.21] I think it's pretty essential. Not just as an outlet but I think that's a really important piece of it. A way for them to express themselves - especially for teenagers who especially in our current times may not feel like they have a lot of ways to be heard. And that education kind of can't happen without that. It feels like a factory if there's not that ability to make their voices heard in the ways that are meaningful to them. Does that make sense?
I: [00:03:59.03] Yeah, of course. As a student, creativity is one my strong points as a person. Everything I do, everything I want to do as a person, has to do with creativity and art. My talents are ranging so creativity is very important to me and I'm sure with other students - it's a big factor to our lives because it's what we have. And we all have our thing that we're good at and some of us are good at arts. What do you hope to accomplish when you decided to become a counselor? And were you able to achieve this with your students?
BB: [00:04:48.27] I don't know that I had an expressed goal of what I wanted to accomplish. I think it was more of a combination of I like doing all these things and I'm good at them so I should go into this as a field. Probably it was selfishly that I enjoy it and I really enjoy working with students and so it was what I got out of it. And I definitely am getting that out of it. And we have our ups and downs every year but it continues to be just so rewarding. And the cliché answer is I wanted to help people and I think I'm doing that but I think they're helping me just as much.
I: [00:05:24.23] I think we have enough so it was wonderful getting to speak with you.
BB: [00:05:35.23] Thank you. It was wondering getting to speak with you.
Jack Nevada Morton
Interviewee: Jack Nevada Morton, student (Junior)
Interview Location: Albany High School
Date: November 29, 2016
I: [00:00:05.18] Can you please state your name?
JM: [00:00:10.17] Can it be my non-legal name? OK, cool. Jack Nevada Morton.
I: [00:00:17.19] Can you spell your name?
JM: [00:00:18.02] J-a-c-k N-e-v-a-d-a M-o-r-t-o-n.
I: [00:00:24.25] And your grade?
JM: [00:00:25.29] Eleventh.
I: [00:00:27.01] What makes you go to school every day?
JM: [00:00:32.17] I have art first period so I always enjoy starting with that. Although I wish I could start with PE but I don't have PE anymore which also great. But, I dunno. I like doing art first thing but I also like hanging out with my friends during lunch and going to clubs. I like choir. I'm in choir. That's fun. Right now it's very stressful because we have a performance this weekend. That, and also being scared that if I don't come and don't turn in my homework I'm gonna get a bad grade.
I: [00:01:07.21] If you don't want to go to school every day what would help you want to attend?
JM: [00:01:12.19] For a while, two years ago, I didn't want to go to school and I didn't go to first period at all for a while even though I had a first period. I think that what made me want to go back to school was they changed the system that was bothering me. For me, it was gender issues so like the PE was separated by gender for warm ups and I wasn't comfortable going to either side yet. So, that was a problem for me. And going into the locker rooms was a problem so I just skipped. But, I talked with the counselor and then they changed it so it's separated by class not gender. And I was like, yeah! Also, friends. (laughter)
I: [00:02:00.21] When I say "the arts" what comes to mind for you?
JM: [00:02:05.29] Stilts. That's the first word. I mean, I go to a summer camp every year for two weeks overnight called Camper Rainbow. It's a circus performer camp. It's art camp - whatever. So, whenever I think about arts the first thing I think of is stilts and circus stuff and the second thing I think of is painting, drawing, sculpture.
I: [00:02:31.20] Do you do any of these things during school like painting and drawing (inaudible).
JM: [00:02:37.10] Yeah, I can't have stilts during school, sadly. I'm in AP Studio Art which is the class first period so I do painting during class and drawing during class and often in my other classes I doodle or work on my assignment for the art class or something. And I draw on these walls sometimes.
I: [00:03:01.12] (inaudible)
JM: They're all from the plays that we do. They're all random lines from the plays we do.
I: [00:03:08.26] What do you think of when I say "arts education"? What comes to mind?
JM: [00:03:17.13] I think of the whole arts program where choir, theater classes, physical-visual arts classes come in and they don't just educate you about how to make art. They educate you about the history of how art came to be in this certain specific way and the different styles of art and how it can be turned into a career and make money. How it can be used to express people or to help people like art therapy. People write songs about stuff they go through.
I: [00:03:52.04] Does your school include arts education?
JM: [00:03:58.03] Yeah. Actually we don't have a theater class. It's all run by the students usually. Three of my friends, two of them do lights, four of them do sound. I usually am set crew but I'm gonna be learning lights next. We do have arts education. We have a director that we can hire for this, for theater. We have seven - well, our choir teacher teaches seven choirs plus one at lunch, which I'm in. We have eight studio art, TV foundation, 3-D foundation, honors art, honors drawing, advanced art. Those are all the visual and sculpture stuff.
I: [00:04:39.27] You have a very artistic school.
JM: [00:04:40.08] Yeah, I know. It's great.
I: [00:04:43.09] What does creativity mean to you?
JM: [00:04:45.07] It sort of means originality. But not just that because I feel you can take things that aren't yours but still be creative with it. You can take a Van Gough painting but put it in your own style and add something else to it and that's creative. Just kind of like changing the way things are in a different way than it's normally thought of. So, it could also be with math, you know? And English, I dunno, science. (laughter)
I: [00:05:17.11] What ignites your creativity, imagination, and passion?
JM: [00:05:20.29] Things I enjoy. When we have an assignment in art class that I'm not really into, I don't really care about it. We did a shadow thing - our last project was shadows and I kinda liked it but I wasn't really into it so I didn't really have a lot of thoughts and ideas about it. But, once I found a way that I could do it that I could like and be into I found so many more ideas of how to do the thing. Stuff like that. So, it's basically just stuff I'm passionate about or interested in.
I: [00:05:55.20] What can your school do to inspire your creativity?
JM: [00:05:58.22] In art class let us have a little more say on the materials we use. That's kind of part of the assignment but yeah, a little more say in the materials we use. And then for English it's more like, there's not really a way to fix that. (laughter)
I: [00:06:21.09] Do you think you're getting the most out of your education?
JM: [00:06:25.14] I think I'm definitely getting a lot. I don't think I'm getting the most. I don't think anyone's getting the most because it's not a one-on-one education, it's a class. I'm definitely getting more because it's a class. I get critique from other people but at the same time I don't get personal education and advice on the things all the time.
I: [00:06:52.21] Do you believe this is a safe learning community?
JM: [00:06:56.18] For the most part, yes.
I: [00:06:57.28] For the most part? What part do you not feel is safe?
JM: [00:07:01.13]Well, I don't know about safe. It's not like it's dangerous. But sometimes there's some classes where there's some people which are not as great. They're fine people but they have opinions that are harmful. There was a person in my U.S. History class that did a presentation on cultural disparities - that's what it was, racial and cultural disparities. And everyone thought it was gonna be cool. You're gonna point out all the cultural and racial disparities in the U.S. and how we can fix them and whatever. Turns out, he was like, "hmm and where's the white privilege when whites get no boost on the SAT test scores but black people do and Hispanic people do and Asians get minus fifty" and whatever. He was just pointing out that Asian people and white people are better. Everyone in the class is like (makes noise). Most of the classes are pretty good. That was a big exception. But, yeah.
I: [00:08:05.10] What opportunities are opening up for you from your education?
JM: [00:08:11.01] I don't know. I'll be able to go to an art school which is pretty cool. I don't know if I want to do that yet. I don't know what school I'm gonna go to. I mean, learning lights and sound so I can work in places where they do DJ'ing or work in other theater companies or whatever. Choir is cool cause then I can actually know what note I am singing which I used to not and I was super out of tune and it was really bad (laughter).
I: [00:08:47.01] What helped you learn lights? Was it teachers? Was it students?
JM: [00:08:50.11] Students. Cause the theater program isn't run by a teacher.
I: [00:08:57.20] Basically the same question. (inaudible) like you said students and teachers.
JM: [00:09:04.18] Yeah. Teachers require teacher for art. I took an art class at VCC. Yeah. My friends don't have a big interest in visual art like painting and stuff so they don't really do much.
I: [00:09:24.09] Do your teachers help you succeed?
JM: [00:09:26.00] Most of them do, yeah, definitely. My high school career, I've actually gotten the better teachers out of this school surprisingly so I'm really expecting that next year I'm gonna get the worst teachers because I've had such a good run (laughter). One of my friends has gotten the worst teachers. Not the worst but the worser. I think my teachers have definitely helped me succeed. Some other teachers don't help.
I: [00:09:56.21] Is school relevant to you and what you want to do and what you want out of life?
JM: [00:10:01.09] I'm not totally sure what I want out of life. I don't really know. I mean, I think it's relevant to me. I like learning. I just don't like the stress and the environment of school sometimes. But, I don't know. I think it's definitely gonna be useful if I wanna go to a four year college. I know I'm gonna go to some college. If it's gonna be community or if it's gonna be in Scotland or whatever. And I think school and learning is very useful and helps teach me social skills. But, I don't totally know exactly what I want to do in life or be or get out of life.
I: [00:10:42.07] You have no idea right now, out of life?
JM: [00:10:45.00] There's just so many options that I don’t' really know. I kind of want to be a surgeon because I'm not squeamish around anything and I find insides of bodies very interesting. I got really mad when I went through surgery and they wouldn't let me stay awake to see it. I mean, it was on my hand so it wasn't like a major thing. I kind of want to be a kindergarten teacher. Cause I went back to my old elementary school which is a K-8 and I helped my old teacher with her kindergarteners and that was pretty cool. I also kind of want to be an artist or a singer/songwriter person, thing.
I: [00:11:23.05] You want a lot! What do you think you need from school to get to being a surgeon or a music songwriter/producer, singer, all that - what do you think you need?
JM: [00:11:35.06] For a kindergarten teacher, how to deal with kids. Nobody learns that in high school. They just assume you know how to deal with kids. A lot of people do not know how to deal with kids. I was lucky because I grew up in a place where there lots of five and four year olds. For artist and musician - for choir we don't write our own songs. I feel like we - have finals where we cover songs with a group of people but I feel like we should have the opportunity to write our own songs and make those our final as well. For art, give us guidelines like they are but loosen up a little like I said on the materials and maybe the subject matter. And let the ideas be more abstract that we're trying to cover. Like, if it's a shadow maybe somebody could make like a shadow monster rather than something actually casting a shadow or something. Oh, surgeon, that was the other one. I don't know. I mean, we have a good anatomy class. I'm not taking it but other people say it's good. And sports med class, that's pretty cool. And biology but I don't take any of those.
I: [00:12:47.24] Do you feel like you're getting the education you need to prepare yourself for adulthood?
JM: [00:12:53.04] I think so. I think we should add a class about taxes. And how the housing market works and how rent works and how getting a job works and that kind of stuff. Cause I feel like that prepares me more than reading "of Mice and Men" and writing an analysis of the characters who I forget.
I: [00:13:15.09] Smart. What (inaudible) we need that.
JM: [00:13:20.12] Yeah, they used to have it and then they took it out. And in England they have it.
I: [00:13:25.26] That's kind of like all the questions. (Inaudible)
I: [00:13:34.27] No, you did a really good job. That was one of the things that I had said too was that - as far as being prepared for adulthood, you know, high school didn't really teach you (inaudible) loan process, college -
JM: [00:13:51.17] Have us set up a bank account like I don't know how to do that.
I: [00:13:56.09] And especially with taxes and just learning all that stuff - that's inevitable going in to adulthood.
JM: [00:14:03.16] And learning what happens if you don't file your tax (inaudible).
I: [00:14:08.00] Exactly. Building credit and whatnot. That should do it.
Interviewee: Jeff Anderson, Principal
Interviewer: Matt Weir
Interview Location: Albany High School
Date: November 29, 2016
I: [00:00:00.24] And you are the principal? And could you just state your name?
JA: [00:00:04.20] Yeah, my name is Jeff Anderson, Principal of Albany High.
I: [00:00:07.24] OK, cool. My name is Matt Weir. We're working with leaders - oh, I'm sorry, could you spell that?
JA: [00:00:14.26] Yeah. J-e-f-f A-n-d-e-r-s-o-n, A-n-d-e-r-s-o-n. Jeff Anderson.
I: [00:00:24.17] And my name is Matt Weir. We're working with leaders from around the county to create a plan for bringing arts and creativity to all students at all schools, every day across Alameda County. We would love to hear your thoughts and experiences so we can make a plan that really works for you and your school. Can we proceed and ask you a few questions?
JA: [00:00:42.12] Yes, absolutely.
I: [00:00:44.00] What makes you go to school every day?
JA: [00:00:48.03] What makes me want to come to school every day is probably to be connected to what you're talking about. It's being around the students and tapping in from my own personal energy, their energy. And that includes creative energy and listen to how they think about things and observe things and express themselves about the world around them. And certainly that is something they obviously get the opportunity to do in art class.
I: [00:01:16.19] What does creativity mean to you?
JA: [00:01:18.27] I think creativity means - what it means to me is thinking about different ways to look at things and then express them. It could be solving a problem and thinking of a creative way to think about something. And therefore, come up with maybe a different kind of solution that no one's thinking about. I think creativity certainly with regard to art is an opportunity, as I said earlier, for students to be able to express themselves in unique and individual ways. And, again, bring their own perspective to something that maybe people thought was sort of, oh, I know what a landscape is but did you ever think of it the way Matt's thinking about it. That kind.
I: [00:02:06.10] What ignites your creativity, imagination and passion?
JA: [00:02:10.21] I think that what I think ignites my creativity or anybody's creativity is a safe and encouraging environment where people are allowed to sort of think freely and talk about what they're thinking about without feeling like they're gonna be criticized or otherwise negatively judged. I think that imagination and passion is something that needs to be stimulated by people around you. I think that there's certainly geniuses that come up with it on their own, often times. But, I think for most people it's being around other people that are passionate and creative and expressing their imagination. I think that probably getting away from some of this stuff is probably important at least for imagination, I picked up my cell phone, my I-phone. I think that one of the dangers that we have is that people are being told a lot about what is rather than them being able to think about it and sort of dream up what is for them. It's being fed to them through social media, television -
I: [00:03:20.26] That's this way and only that way -
JA: [00:03:22.09] Yeah. Or you know I just watch TV and I just look at Facebook and that's sort of shaping what I think rather than that's absent and you can somehow mentally become on a desert island where you're forced to think about something your own way, what happens now. That's not to say that you don't draw creativity and imagination from things that you've seen and examples that you know. I think it's important to be able to have the time and the quiet - is maybe the word, to sort of let your own imagination develop a little bit.
I: [00:03:51.22] Definitely. Kind of unplug every once in a while (laughter). So, would you say that's kind of what ignites some of the teacher's creativity (inaudible)?
JA: [00:04:04.25] Yeah, I think that what they need - it's a little bit different for teachers I think in the sense that what is their biggest hindrance to creativity, imagination and passion is probably, one thing is time. And having the time to sort of get away from the routinized day of a school, period one, period two, period three. And sort of feel like they just gotta take care of business every day and get it done and that comes across to kids as probably not very creative and not very imaginative and seems sort of stale. So I think what they need - one thing they need is time to be able to think creativity and imaginatively. I think they need to collaborate with each other too because I think that creativity and imagination definitely come from not so much this but talking to another live person. And getting ideas and thinking about things a different way than maybe you would have if you hadn't talked to that person. So teachers need to collaborate with each other and get out of their little - it becomes very siloized or becomes a silo over there. Ms. Tremblay, second period comes in, fourth period comes in and sixth period comes in and another days over. And if she stays in her room and just deals with what walks through the door and tries to be ready for them, she may do a great job but I think that in terms of creativity and imagination and passion it's sharing with other people what you're doing or what you're kids are doing. Getting compliments and you know, positive feedback from what you're doing with your students. And then also learning from the other teachers and what they're doing and seeing what they're doing with their kids.
I: [00:05:42.13] Kind of break out of the comfort zone and build off -
JA: [00:05:44.08] Yeah, well definitely it's breaking that to be able to be creative and imaginative - I think that just is by definition, you're breaking out of your comfort zone. If you're worried about your comfort zone I think you're gonna be probably less creative and less imaginative, right? But, it's really getting out and talking to other people and seeing what other teachers are doing and seeing what they're doing with their kids. And going, oh wow I can do that, that's a great idea, I never thought of that cause I'm stuck over in my classroom for the period. So, yeah, the creativity for teachers is the time and then the interaction with other people that are colleagues.
I: [00:06:17.20] What do you think are some ways your school can inspire some creativity?
JA: [00:06:24.14] Well, certainly one of the ways that I think we inspire creativity is by the sharing of what the art department does and the music department does. They show student work, display it all through the school at different times they have - what's it called when you put paintings out, the words escaping me, but - a showing. And they do that a lot and every body really enjoys that. And I think that sparks for other people, oh wow that collage, I could do something like that in my social studies class, you know? Or maybe I could collaborate with the art teachers and we could do it together. So, seeing student work and seeing how really talented they are I think stimulates creativity. It certainly makes us feel good. But I also think giving them the latitude intellectually and thought-wise to not say, oh you can't do that, it's against the state regulations or it's against this rule. As long as it's not hurting anybody and it's not profane and it's not degregating any other group or individual. You know, think creatively how would you like to do this lesson differently. And I think that I tried to encourage that among my teachers. I think even though I've given them permission, they're kind of reluctant because it's kind of like, really? He's trying to set me up (laughter). And I'm not. And so I think part of the thing we need to break out of again is this sort of, I'm an English teacher, you’re a Social Studies teacher, you're a Math teacher, you’re an Art teacher. We're all teaching students a lot of different skills and a lot of different things that maybe aren't even about the curriculum - the math or the history or the English - it's really about kids being able to learn and engage. And part of that is letting them be creative and letting them use their imagination so encouraging the teachers to do that is certainly a goal of mine.
I: [00:08:20.20] You would agree that's some of the ways you try to inspire teachers -
JA: [00:08:25.22] Yeah, it's giving them permission. Give them permission and encourage them to have them see what other people are doing.
I: [00:08:35.08] Do any of your teachers integrate the arts in their classrooms?
JA: [00:08:39.15] Yeah, most notably I think social studies, English and foreign language definitely let students express themselves or express their knowledge about a content by doing art projects in different ways. Presentations - some of them, you know, beyond a pencil and paper test or writing a paper,.
I: [00:08:59.07] More hands on.
JA: [00:09:00.04] Yeah, definitely. OK, you understand this information, show me how you understand it by displaying it in a creative way and use your imagination. So, we do that a lot. Most notably, Ms. Tremblay, she collaborates with the foreign language department - world language department is what they liked to be called actually.
I: [00:09:18.13] And what does she teach?
JA: [00:09:19.14] Ms. Tremblay, you're in her room.
I: [00:09:22.03] She's the art, OK.
JA: [00:09:23.02] The most recent one is they did Day of the Dead on November 1st with the Mexican art about respecting your ancestors. You've seen that kind of - skeletal work that they do, they dress them all up and we had posters that may be still out there on the wall. So, definitely the world languages and then social studies and English also often times give students an option of making some kind of video or some kind of art project to express what they understand about some content.
I: [00:09:52.17] What do you see as being the role of arts in educating young people?
JA: [00:10:00.03] I think it's really, really important for a number of different reasons. One, obviously it inspires their creativity, imagination and passion. It gives them an outlet if it's not in math or science or some other core academic class. It gives them a place to go and be away from sort of a prescribed content that says this is what you need to know and you need to tell it to me at the end of the week in a quiz or whatever. They can express themselves. And I think that - and they can find themselves. They can understand whether or not they wanna pursue art as an ??? or a vocation. I think that we all grew up coloring and drawing as little kids and at some point some people stuck with it and some people gave it up. And I think that a lot of times they gave it up just because they got out of practice and other things started crowding out the time and the opportunity to do art. So, I think it's critical. And I think it's critical for what you're other questions are asking. It's not only a way to express yourself with regard to some artistic concept, like a still life or a landscape or whatever or throwing a pot. But, it's a way to express your way in other content areas to say this is how this whole civil war thing seems to me. Or this is what whatever - this is how I see it. And I've got some of the elements in there that show I have the base facts but then this is how it appears to me or this is how I would express it. So I think it's not only important for art for art’s sake but it's important because it can also help them express themselves in other areas that would make them more engaged in the content of the school maybe unless if they didn't have it they might sort of go (inaudible). Just taking a test and writing a paper, boring. But, if I can do a project where I get to express myself creatively maybe I'll stay engaged and stay interested.
I: [00:11:55.14] I agree with that just off of some of my experiences out of school and everything. I have one more question for you. It was kind of related to one of the students but do you feel like they're getting the proper education for adulthood? Like, all around?
JA: [00:12:12.14] In art or in general?
I: [00:12:13.28] Just in general.
JA: [00:12:14.12] I think it's really changing, Matt, right now. It's Matt, right? Yeah, I think it's changing because what's changing is that it's not so much about the content of the classes anymore. You can find all that right here. I can find out who Abraham Lincoln was in five seconds. I don't need a teacher to tell me. It's what to do with that information cause I think once you get out of here, information’s available. You have a job, they have manuals, they have things. You don't have to study for it and take a test. It's like there's the information over there. It's how to make sense of it and utilize it and apply it. And we're still in this transition in high school for sure between teachers being the experts that tell you stuff and other teachers that say, OK here's the stuff, now do something with it. Be creative. Here's a bunch of information, mathematical information, build a little toothpick bridge. Or do something that where you are asked to problem solve and think through which when you’re creating art you're doing all that stuff. How does this need to look? What's the proportion it needs to have? How do I set it up? What do I need to think about from perspective? Who's my audience? All those kind of things that you do in art education and music education is really sort of where it's becoming. Because when you get out into jobs, I think what we're figuring out is that things are changing so fast you gotta be able to think, not necessarily know the answer because the answer may be different. (inaudible) Yeah, the next day or whatever. It's problem solving and it's thinking about planning and it's collaborating with other people. That's what kids need to do to be prepared for the next step of their life. We're still a step behind I think in the sense that we're still trying to teach them base knowledge that is important and you can do that but that dominates the time in a class rather than being a smaller portion of their doing something with the information in the bigger part. Because that's where the problems come in and you gotta figure something out. Figuring things out and using your head and having to solvea problem of having to create something is I think a mental exercise that they need to be doing more.
I: [00:14:33.15] Yeah. Do you guys have any classes here that kind of revolve around taxes or debts and loans?
JA: [00:14:43.17] Sort of like applied math for finance for basic -
I: [00:14:48.02] Yeah, just kind of like the finances you get into as soon as you kinda get into -
JA: [00:14:52.27] Yeah, well they do that somewhat in the economics class which is for seniors which is probably when they're most ready to hear it because they're looking at life being just around the corner as they get to graduation. Whereas you try and talk to ninth graders about it - it's too far away. There's that and we also have a venture program in our school which is a business program so they run the student store, they run the football concessions, they run basketball concessions, they bake muffins and sell them to the cafeteria so there's a business program that you can be involved in if you want. And obviously all of that is right around what you're talking about as far as figuring about how to make a budget and stick to it and not overspend and get in debt and that sort of thing. But there's really not an explicit course that says this is math for real life. They used to have those things but as more and more requirements got closed in for college preparation that sort of went away because colleges sort of went, no it's need to algebra, it needs to be geometry, it needs to be algebra two, it needs to be these specific academic classes that you need to get into the JC or the UC or whatever. A lot of the applied courses got sort of crowded out. But, what we're seeing now is what I was talking about earlier, those are starting to come back cause people are realizing that's pretty fundamental and if they graduate from high school and don't know how to that then we really didn't do our job. A lot of that's coming around again.
I: [00:16:21.17] Well that about wraps it up for all my questions. Thank you for your time.
JA: [00:16:27.12] Yeah, thank you. It was a pleasure.
I: [00:16:29.16] (inaudible) it's great. And just all the arts - I'm a artist too and I do paintings and murals and stuff so the hallway looks awesome.
JA: [00:16:39.13] Well we gotta talk about it cause some of it's kind of dated and I'm ready to do sort of a white wash and say, hey we got a new clean canvas here, what do the kids who are here now wanna do. Cause some of those - they're great and everybody looks and says, "who's that British guy?" The Rod Stewart. That's Rod Stewart, you probably haven't heard of him but he was big in this time.
I: [00:16:57.21] Yeah, something a little more up to date. (inaudible).
JA: [00:17:00.10] Yeah, a little more relevance, you know what I'm saying? But it's funny cause you might expect that there's some ??? to paint over stuff cause it's like that's been here for a long time. It's not Mona Lisa.
I: [00:17:14.11] People have some connections to it that they don't want to see it gone.
JA: [00:17:16.10] Well, more and more they don't so I think we might be ready to get some new white canvas where people can start and do something different. Thanks for your time, I appreciate it.
I: [00:17:24.00] Thank you, 'preciate you.
Interviewee: Jessica Park, English teacher
Interview Location: Albany High School
Date: November 29, 2016
I: [00:00:02.25] Alright. (laughter) We're now starting an interview. First off, I'd like to say welcome and would you like to say your name and what you do?
JP: [00:00:16.11] My name is Jessica Park. I am an English teacher at Albany High School.
I: [00:00:21.24] What makes you want to come to school every day?
JP: [00:00:26.07] For me, it's the students. I know that that's a normal answer for teachers. But, I think - well, I know I chose this job because I want to work with people and I don't want to just sit behind a computer all day. So, seeing a hundred and fifty people a day and working with them is pretty great.
I: [00:00:48.15] What does creativity to you?
JP: [00:00:53.04] Creativity to me is more about a mindset than it is creating art or creating podcasts or movies or whatever. Creativity is thinking about things in a not normal way. Looking at, I guess things that might seem normal or mundane or regular and deciding to look at them in a fresh way or turn your head upside down or decide to do something different with what you're given.
I: [00:01:26.24] You said you were a teacher so what subject do you teach here?
JP: [00:01:31.10] I teach English.
I: [00:01:32.14] You teach English? How do you think you're students get creativity from English?
JP: [00:01:42.22] I have problems with this. Do you wanna hear the whole story? The whole story is there's a lot of things that society tells our kids that they need to know in order to go to college, in order to be successful, in order to do all these things. I still think it's important for them to learn that cause they have to live in our society. Then there's all this other stuff that's happening (inaudible). There's all of this other stuff that I think kids are more interested in that can get them to think critically and be interesting members of society and think creatively and do cool things with the literature that we're reading or the things that we're talking about or any of that stuff. And so I try to create space to do that. So sometimes some of my seniors are doing podcasts right now. Sometimes I have them read and make comics. Sometimes there's acting that happens. Sometimes, I don't know, I try to get them to do things differently than just like, I'm gonna write an essay now.
I: [00:02:56.28] Than the typical norm of writing a letter or writing an essay -
JP: [00:03:01.25] But then there's also normal creative things that teachers do like, here why don't you pretend you're the character and create a statue. That now has become pretty normal in classes so I'm always looking for something new to do that's different or that makes people think in different ways.
I: [00:03:20.07] It sort of creates a special vibe in the classroom so the classmates can come together and have a great time and look forward to coming to your classes.
JP: [00:03:31.14] Yeah, exactly.
I: [00:03:33.06] How does that make you feel?
JP: [00:03:35.08] Sometimes it doesn't work and that's frustrating. But, I actually think it's really rewarding when kids who normally are like, ugh school I don't want to go to school - when those kids get interested in what we're doing in class. They probably won't become an English majors or anything but maybe they'll find something that they're interested in and then they can go take that and go look up on the internet how to do it more seriously and then go find jobs and do all that kind of stuff.
I: [00:04:09.10] Sounds good. What ignites your creativity, your imagination or what you love to do?
JP: [00:04:16.21] I used to be a competitive ballroom dancer. I did ballroom and Latin - like full dancing with the stars - business. I think that was really different for me. I was a total nerd in high school and before I started doing this dance stuff. So it was all about my brain and then dance is suddenly like I have to move my body through space and I was like, ah how do I do this? I still like to dance. I do salsa and swing and all of that on weekends. I don't know. I like consuming media so going to movies, watching TV, thinking about how people put these things together, going to plays. All that kind of stuff.
I: [00:05:05.05] Did you ever feel like your career would just go straight into ballroom dancing or just dancing in general?
JP: [00:05:16.13] No cause it takes too much money and I started too late. I started when I was in college and most professional dancers start at when they're five. For me, it was never "I think I can do this fulltime."
I: [00:05:31.23] So you consider that a number one hobby?
JP: [00:05:34.15] It used to be. It's not anymore cause I don't have time for it anymore to do it competitively. But, I spent a lot of time doing it. It was lots of fun but those days are over.
I: [00:05:48.15] Since that's not your number one hobby anymore, what is your number one hobby?
JP: [00:05:54.26] What is my number one hobby? I don't know. I think I'm pretty boring. I'm gonna say cooking. And that sounds really boring because you do it to make meals all the time. But I really like making new and interesting things and I like feeding people. So, that's also creative to me because you have to think about how do flavors work together? What's the whole menu gonna be? How do you make sure everything ends up on the table at the same time so it's not like we're eating this one dish and then this other thing is coming out of the oven three hours later? To me, that whole process of bringing together friends and then cooking dinner for them is a creative process too. I probably do that the most out of all my random hobbies that I do.
I: [00:06:46.13] You think you got better at cooking or maintaining your cooking?
JP: [00:06:50.01] Yeah, yeah. It just takes - have you heard of the ten thousand hour thing? This guy, Malcom Gladwell, made - I think he made up the number, but he said that it takes ten thousand hours to be good at something. You have to do something over and over and over again over - you have to do something for ten thousand hours and then you can then you're good at it. So, I'm getting closer to ten thousand hours with cooking.
I: [00:07:18.04] What ignites your teachers creativity?
JP: [00:07:27.06] My creativity as a teacher?
I: [00:07:33.12] What ignites you to create something for your students?
JP: [00:07:39.09] For me, it's about keeping my brain on when I'm not teaching. I like to whenever I go places or if I'm doing things that are unrelated to my job then one of the questions in the back of my head is always how do I adapt this to use in my class? When was the last time that this happened? I don't know. I visited one of my friends at their work place and they work in fancy tech stuff down the peninsula. I was like, that thing would be really great for my classroom and this whole wall painted with whiteboard paint would be really great in my classroom. I was going around their office and being like, hmm how can I take all of these things? This furniture and stuff and make my classroom look like this space which is way more useful and interesting. it's not filled with desks.
I: [00:08:34.18] Bring good energy to the classroom.
JP: [00:08:37.09] Yeah. I like to think about how do I take a thing that's not made for education and turn it into a thing I can have my students do or have my students experience.
I: [00:08:49.22] Have you ever felt like you couldn't sleep cause you think about something new for your classroom or something new for your students?
JP: [00:09:07.05] Yeah. That happens a lot actually. I'm trying to give you a specific example but my brain is kind of fried from the whole day of teaching. One of the classes I teach is a science fiction class. I'm kind of a nerd - I said that before, but I'm a nerd about science fiction so especially over the summer whenever I read something or I see something and I'm like, this thing! - my kids have to see, I don't know, Black Mirror or Ex-Machina or something. I have to use this in my class. How do I turn this into a thing that I can have my students get excited about? I think a lot of it is about that where I'm like, OK I know I either wanna use this movie or I wanna use this comic or I wanna use this thing. But then the question that keeps me up is how do I use it? Or how do I fit it into some space cause who has time in the school year when you're like I have to do all of these other things. That's the kind of stuff that keeps me up.
I: [00:10:22.06] Cause you can't. It seems like you wanna do a lot so you're just thinking, oh this is gonna be cool and then it just keeping you up cause you can't wait to do it. And you can't wait to do something for you students so that seems pretty cool. That's seems like something to ignite student's creativity or something that they're very interested in.
JP: [00:10:44.26] Yeah. Or I hope that they'll be interested in cause I'm interested in it. And then I'm like you should be too, let's talk about it for days and then sometimes they're like, ugh Ms. Park ugh. And sometimes they're like, yeah let's talk about it.
I: [00:11:00.16] Do you think the school inspired your creativity?
JP: [00:11:10.14] This school, you mean? I'm gonna say kind of in that they don't dissuade me from being creative. They give me space to be creative which I really appreciate. But, I don't know if that's actively fostered, you know? Nobody is being like, we need to create more space for creativity, we need to do more creative things. Nobody's really saying that. But, they're letting me do my thing and so nobody is being like, no you shouldn't do that, you should go do this other thing. They let me do my creative thing in my own classroom. They're like, yeah that sounds great, you should keep doing that.
I: [00:11:56.00] It's like supportive of the staff and also the students. Sounds great for this school.
JP: [00:12:03.01] Yeah. I like working here a lot.
I: [00:12:07.26] Do you think you're a big role model to the students or to certain students?
JP: [00:12:14.12] That's a hard question to answer. I think that -
I: [00:12:19.24] I mean you don't have to be a big role model, just like showing that you have interest in your students which can help them give a push to what they want to do?
JP: [00:12:31.15] Yeah. I hope that they feel that way. I want them to feel that way. I hope that I show interest because I am interested in my students. I am interested in helping them and supporting them and doing all that stuff. I think some students show that they see that in me. I have good relationships with my students. But, who knows, right? I don't know.
I: [00:12:57.24] So you say that you teach a science fiction class? I didn't know they had a science fiction. Can you tell me more about science fiction, the class?
JP: [00:13:07.08] The way our school works is our English classes are pretty boring in terms of all freshman take English 1, all sophomores take English 2, all juniors take some version of English too, but then seniors get to choose electives. When I came here about six years ago they were like, you're gonna teach seniors, you're gonna teach non-fiction. And I don't really like non-fiction, sorry, but I don't really like non-fiction. So I was like, I'm gonna create my own elective so I'm gonna create something that I'm interested in which was science fiction. I put together this class where - I mean, when most people think about science fiction they think about robots and explosions and aliens and things like that. But, really what science fiction is about is asking what if questions? Like, what if technology did this thing? What if robots were smarter than humans? What if aliens came down to Earth? How would we interact with them? What would our political system do? What would our military do? It's asking all of those questions. I think of that whole class hopefully as a creativity generator where kids are constantly asking that what if question. So, they're seeing how other people have answered that question and they're like, no that's not true anymore, that was written ten years ago. Things have changed since then. What if that same thing happened but we started with 2016 and then we moved forward? That class is all about giving them examples of other writers and other people who have asked that speculative question of what if this thing were slightly different. What if we could time travel? What if we could - I don't know. What if had nanobots that could fix us medically? What are the problems with that? So, thinking through all the ethical issues and thinking through all the cool, fun stuff too is part of that class.
I: [00:15:03.20] It's kind of like philosophy but more of a science or a world way, finding something different. That's sounds like a class I'd really be interested in -
JP: [00:15:15.12] You should come to Albany and you should take it.
I: [00:15:18.23] I wish but I'm a senior now. I wish I couldn't come here sooner. For me, I like to ask a lot of what if questions. What if this happens? What if there's different dimensions or whatever. It seems like something I'd really be interested in cause I ask a lot of questions -
JP: [00:15:38.29] Some people don't have time for those questions?
I: [00:15:41.26] Yeah. Where I reside it really seems like a logical mindset like logic like facts.
JP: [00:15:55.04] Here's the task, do the task. OK, I did the task, here you go. And the teachers like, I'm marking down that you did the test. There's definitely some of that too. But in an ideal world all of my students would come in interested with tons of questions and they'd all be like, let's talk about this issue. And I'd throw out an issue and then they'd talk it through and have questions and think about it in creative ways. And they'd be like, but if you take this other thing into consideration then there's this whole other side of things. But, you know some kids aren't that excited about school. It's also their first period of the day so they're all tired so sometimes it's really good and sometimes it's not as good as I want it.
I: [00:16:39.19] It brings controversy though which makes people come together and have conversations which results in really being social and having those friends that you could really talk to about something about anything. Science fiction or whatever. That's sounds really cool.
JP: [00:16:59.15] Yeah. I enjoy it a lot. I'm glad I put the class together because I don't think I would want to teach non-fiction for six years. But I'm happy to keep teaching science fiction. And I keep changing things out. So as new things comes then I'm like, oh I'm gonna use that movie or oh, I'm gonna use that story as I keep reading more. So, I like it.
I: [00:17:19.28] Do you have a full class in your science fiction?
JP: [00:17:22.02] I do. I have a class of thirty kids and the max number is thirty-five. This counselors trying not to give teachers thirty-five kids here but sometimes it happens. I'm at the top of that number.
I: [00:17:38.24] That's cool. That seems pretty cool, science fiction
JP: [00:17:42.29] Yeah. What are you taking right now? Just a regular English class or do you have a specific elective?
I: [00:17:48.18] I have a regular English class. And then my electives are not science fiction or anything like that. The only thing close to it is government and I don't really think it's close to science fiction.
JP: [00:18:02.06] Do you get to ask - it sounds like you’re interested in philosophy, do you get to ask philosophical questions in gov?
I: [00:18:07.28] No. It's more of a logical, you do this task (inaudible) alright, whatever (inaudible)
JP: [00:18:17.13] Are you planning on going to college?
I: [00:18:18.26] Yeah. I plan to go to Berkeley City College.
JP: [00:18:21.10] Nice. You should try to take a philosophy class there. All they want you to do is ask questions. You should do it.
I: [00:18:28.29] Yeah. I'm pretty sure I'd ask a lot of questions and be really interested in what other people say.
JP: [00:18:36.05] It's a good habit. Helps you to keep learning things that you didn't expect to learn. I think that's one of the saddest things about teaching seniors is when they're like, oh we know everything, we've done everything. And I'm like you're eighteen! Right? You have sixty years of life left or more. You should keep asking questions and you should keep learning but they're like, no I'm OK, I'm good, I'm not gonna ask questions. I'm like, OK well -
I: [00:19:06.11] It makes your class (inaudible) like some of your students?
JP: [00:19:10.03] I hope so.
I: [00:19:10.29] Cause I know it's like there's students where they're really shy and they don't talk. And then there's seniors - or like - not seniors, but students that want to talk but don't feel that they're heard. Do you feel like the science fiction class makes them heard?
JP: [00:19:30.13] I hope so. I hope that it helps them to want to speak up because they're interested in something. Some of these kids are fighting twelve years worth of people telling them that they shouldn't speak up, right? So, I see this in my freshman - cause I also teach freshman. And I see it in my seniors where some people have really good ideas and they refuse to share them with anyone because they don't believe that they're good ideas. So I see them cause they're writing them to me and they're just passing in assignments to me but they're not saying them out loud. Part of me wants to be like, come on, speak up. But they've been trained because they've been with these people for their whole lives. I see that changing with some students. But some other students I'm like, you, you have good ideas, you should speak up more. And they're always like, hmmm I'm just gonna sit back here. I know that they're thinking and I know that they're asking questions and they have comments and stuff but they just won't share. It's one of my jobs, is to pull them out of that.
I: [00:20:37.16] As far as it being just a job, do you feel like it is your goal or something you want to change for to have kids speak up? Just like one of your goals?
JP: [00:20:53.19] Yeah. I think - I mean, I kind of said this at the beginning of this interview but I think one of the reasons why I like this job is because I like the relationship aspect of it so I like seeing students change over time. I like being a part of that change. I don't need to take credit for it, for sure. I don't see them that often. I'm just one of their seven teachers. But I like that relationship aspect where as a community we're making people into better people. That's one of the reasons why I love my job is because I get to help do that. It's not just like I see you for fifteen minutes and never see you again. I'm in a relationship with all of my students in the sense that I see where they started at the beginning of the year and over the course of the year I can see them grow and I can see them change and I can see how their thinking has changed. That's really what keeps me coming back to teaching every day.
I: [00:22:03.09] Great. It was a great interview. I felt more of a (inaudible) you know? It was really great. Especially when I heard about you trying to have creativity for your students. And just the science fiction class where everybody can just come together and just have a conversation. I feel like it's really great. And you're doing a great job putting students together and just having a relationship between you and another student. So that seems pretty great.
JP: [00:22:33.21] Cool. Thank you.
I: [00:22:34.17] Thank you for your time.
JP: [00:22:35.22] Yeah. No problem. it was great meeting you.
I: [00:22:37.11] I really appreciate it. Thank you.
JP: [00:22:38.09] I hope that you actually take philosophy classes and you get to ask all your questions and ponder the universe.
I: [00:22:44.14] I hope so cause I really like want to take philosophy.
JP: [00:22:48.13] Yeah. You should do it.
I: [00:22:49.19] I like philosophy. I like the interest of what - I'm interested in what people think about the world or what people think about society.
JP: [00:23:00.07] Yeah. You should totally do it. Alright, is this - do you need help with any of your equipment? Are you good?
Interviewee: Laura June, student (Junior)
Interviewer: Tauriq Hamilton
Interview Location: Albany High School
Date: November 29, 2016
I: [00:00:40.14] First, I'd like to say my name is Tauriq to introduce myself. I go to Seller’s Art School.
LJ: [00:00:48.05] In San Lorenzo?
I: [00:00:49.08] Hmm. So that's all the way in close to Hayward. (inaudible) And what is your name?
LJ: [00:00:57.02] I'm Laura June.
I: [00:00:58.17] Laura June? And what grade are you in?
LJ: [00:01:00.25] I'm a junior.
I: [00:01:01.29] You're a junior. That's cool. What makes you come to school every day?
LJ: [00:01:08.02] To learn things.
I: [00:01:13.18] To learn things?
LJ: [00:01:14.25] Yeah. To have social interactions. It used to be I mostly came for social interactions. But now my classes are getting more interesting so it's less social interaction with the classes and more engaging material. I really like my comparative government class. That's really interesting. That's nice. It's my first class so when I get up I know that's where I'm going to. So it's nice to have a class that you like first period.
I: [00:01:46.18] What's your electives?
LJ: [00:01:47.29] That's one of my electives, comparative government. My other elective is honors drawing and painting.
I: [00:01:57.23] Drawing and painting. Do you feel like your government class - I'm so sorry. Do you feel like your government class gives you ignites your creativity?
LJ: [00:02:11.28] No. (laughter)
I: [00:02:15.29] What does government does for you?
LJ: [00:02:18.02] What does it do for me? It's kind of like story time but with political scandals. So it gives me a broader idea of what's going on in the world and how things are different in other places. How you can use policy to shape reality. Cause we study the history of different things that governments have done and then the effects that had on the people. I think my art class engages my creativity because every time we get a project I have to figure out what I'm going to do and brainstorm ideas and then create something. A lot of the times I do things that aren't really exactly what we're supposed to be doing in the project. I always kind of break the rules a little bit. Maybe we were required to use this medium. Maybe I won't do that. I also do that in my English class a lot. We're supposed to write an essay about a specific prompt but, I don't really do that. I just write about what I feel like. It doesn't go over well when it gets graded, but (laughter) -
I: [00:03:32.20] You just write how you feel (inaudible) -
LJ: [00:03:35.11] No. I just write about whatever interests me. I try to stick what I'm supposed to be doing, but it doesn't always happen.
I: [00:03:46.06] So about art - can you tell me a story of your best day in art class?
LJ: [00:03:57.04] My best day in art class?
I: [00:03:59.00] Yeah. Or your most memorable day in art class.
LJ: [00:04:02.12] My best days in art class are always when I'm in the middle of a project or maybe nearing the end of it. I'm all in to it and making it happen. The vision is coming together. Those are my best days in art class. A specifically good day - I don't know, I spend so many days in art class over the years. I can think of this specific feeling I have had many times when I'm working on a big painting or something and I'm nearing the end or it's coming together. Yeah, that's the best days.
I: [00:04:42.11] How do feel when you do a lot of art?
LJ: [00:04:48.01] A lot of art?
I: [00:04:50.20] I mean like - never mind. What do you feel like when you go into art class? Are you just like, man I'm ready, I'm ready to go into art, I'm ready to go paint some new idea, I'm ready to push myself?
LJ: [00:05:07.07] Yeah. Yeah, usually. Especially if I have a project I've already started then I'm always looking forward to going to art class cause I want to finish the project if it's something I'm enjoying doing. Sometimes I get stuck in a rut though where I'll start a project that I'm not that into and I don't really like it and then I'm like, what should I do? Should I go in a different direction? Or should I try to keep going this way? I get more excited about some projects than others. Usually when we start a new project I'm really excited like when we start a new project I always have a billion different ideas and I'm all pumped and ready to go and do whatever it is I've become fixated on.
I: [00:05:54.13] That's cool. Do you want to do art after high school?
LJ: [00:05:56.15] Yeah.
I: [00:05:57.15] You wanna pursue a career in art?
LJ: [00:06:01.22] Yeah. Lately, I've been thinking about becoming a graphic designer. Very, very recently. Until recently I thought that wasn't really my thing because I like painting and drawing, like 3-dimensional things that exist in the real world. That's my favorite thing to do. I've always kind of shied away from character design and design. But, recently I was designing a poster and it was really fun and it came out really cool with a cool color scheme and composition and stuff and I was like, you know, this could be fun, I could do this. And that's an actual job I could get so I've been thinking about that.
I: [00:06:50.21] Yeah. A lot of places, they really need graphic designers. Movies for movie posters, like you said posters. Urban apparel, maybe like really fancy apparel and other things. In the school I go to there's this ROV class called Graphic Design. It's not at the school but it's at another place. But, we have a photography class and I remember last year that we were doing this poster for a movie. It was a movie for the juniors. I wasn't in the video junior class cause I went for photography but now I'm in the video class. We were just making posters for their movies and it was just great. I seen a lot of great posters and what people were doing and I was just like, man that seems so cool. It seems so cool to me. So, if you really pursue that it's gonna really come up. It's gonna really come up big. Especially if you're really a great graphic designer. I'm pretty sure everybody around California loves graphic designers or loves clothes and they see some good clothes, it's like a great idea. Do you feel like teachers ignite your creativity?
LJ: [00:08:41.15] Yeah. Cause a lot of the times a prompt that I'm given for an assignment is what helps me get ideas. It's sometimes having some restrictions to break helps you ignite your creativity. If you have no restrictions, it's kind of hard to think of what you should do because there's so many options. But, then if you're given restrictions you start to think in terms of those restrictions and they can help you.
I: [00:09:12.27] Just breaking out of that comfort zone. That really helps.
LJ: [00:09:19.18] How many interviews have you done today?
I: [00:09:22.20] I just did one.
LJ: [00:09:22.28] Just one? Oh, I was just curious if you've been doing them all day.
I: [00:09:29.03] No. I got here around four o'clock maybe. Maybe later. You're my second interview. What else do you like to do?
LJ: [00:09:40.27] I like backpacking.
I: [00:09:46.07] Backpacking? What is that?
LJ: [00:09:48.08] Where you go camping but you put everything you need in backpack and then -
I: [00:09:55.01] Oh, so something like this?
LJ: [00:09:56.18] Well, you need to carry a lot of stuff with you and it's really heavy so they make bigger backpacks.
I: [00:10:04.00] Like a travel backpack? (inaudible)
LJ: [00:10:08.24] Yeah. And they usually have belts so the weight goes on your hips and not on your back. You just hike along a trail and then when it gets dark you unpack and set up your tent and then cook your food. The next morning you pack it all back up and keep hiking on the trail. It's really fun because it's like you're not in civilization anymore. You're totally emerged in the wilderness. It's close to being self-sufficient because - I don't know, it's a good feeling to be out there in the middle of the woods and away from all the constructed society.
I: [00:10:49.29] Yeah, all that (inaudible) where all the pollution is just rising up cause of the (inaudible) and stuff. I never went camping before or backpacking. I never went camping. It was probably my mom, she went camping and I didn't want to go cause I didn't want to go with her and her friends so I never went camping. Then my grandpa was supposed to take us camping but then we ended up not going.
LJ: [00:11:18.21] That's too bad.
I: [00:11:19.19] Maybe when I graduate I'll go camping and just have a lot of fun.
LJ: [00:11:28.03] Yeah, hopefully someday.
I: [00:11:29.15] Cause - I don't know. I don't want to see a lot of snakes. I don't want to see a big old spider. Or a whole little web net in between two trees. I seen that in movies and I don't wanna go through life, that situation. Especially when they're like (inaudible). And I'm not going to Australia. I'm not going to Australia cause they got really big spiders.
LJ: [00:11:53.29] I grew up in the woods in eastern Washington. So, I have no fear of bugs. In fact, I work in an entomology lab at UC Berkeley and every time I go to work I get bitten by ants at least five times. So, I have no fear of insects. That's not true. There are some insects that are pretty scary.
I: [00:12:16.07] Like what?
LJ: [00:12:17.00] Like ones that would actually hurt you like Horse Flies. They bite you. That hurts. Or maybe a Brown Recluse Spider that's really poisonous.
I: [00:12:35.07] Oh, snap.
LJ: [00:12:35.26] Or like Black Widow Spiders.
I: [00:12:38.07] I can't do that.
LJ: [00:12:39.12] I've found some Black Widow Spiders underneath a rock once outside near my house back when I lived in Oakland.
I: [00:12:46.16] Really? How many were there?
LJ: [00:12:49.19] There was like a ton, like I opened up the rock and then three scuttered out, at least three, maybe more. I don't know I kind of ran away pretty fast.
I: [00:12:58.02] I would have ran too. I can't do a spider. These are the things I can't deal with - I can't deal with spiders. I can't deal with - I think that's basically it. I have a full fear of spiders and if I just see one in the corner of my little apartment I feel trapped. I feel really trapped. So, I can't do a spider. I don't like how they move. It's like one of those puppets but it's really smooth and see that what I can't.
LJ: [00:13:41.18] Yeah. I get what you mean.
I: [00:13:43.21] Yeah. I can't do a spider. Anything else that you like to do?
LJ: [00:13:48.11] I like to go swimming.
I: [00:13:50.14] You like swimming? I can't float. I don't know why. I can swim from point A to B but I gotta hold my breath.
LJ: [00:14:03.25] Well, what do you like to do?
I: [00:14:05.00] I like to film. Got the camera right there. I like to draw.
LJ: [00:14:13.16] What do you like to draw?
I: [00:14:15.04] I dunno. I want to draw abstract stuff but I don't know I suck at abstract. It just comes out like chicken scratch. But I'm really good at free handing. I'll look at a photo and then draw something out. (inaudible) I think I got my notebook in my backpack.
LJ: [00:14:36.23] Oh, cool. I'd love to see some of your drawings. I would share with you but I didn't bring mine.
I: [00:14:43.28] it's alright. I used to write too but I don't write anymore.
LJ: [00:14:49.03] Why not?
I: [00:14:50.13] I don't know. I'm not a rapper. But I do like to do poetry.
LJ: [00:14:58.16] I had poetry phase for a while.
I: [00:15:00.25] Really? Poetry is nice.
LJ: [00:15:03.16] It is nice.
I: [00:15:04.25] I like to do poetry. It brings up a lot of emotions. I really put that in the art category. It's art. So much expression.
LJ: [00:15:18.17] Oh, cool.
I: [00:15:20.17] I tried to draw Obama. It didn't work out.
LJ: [00:15:26.25] No, I think it expresses kind of his vibe, you know? He's kind of got that vibe.
I: [00:15:33.19] Hmm but his eyes were closed in the picture but I wanted his eyes open. Cause I was gonna go in the horror genre but then I just stopped right there.
LJ: [00:15:45.18] Well, you should keep going. It's cool.
I: [00:15:48.18] Maybe.
LJ: [00:15:49.17] Man, I'm gonna miss Obama.
I: [00:15:51.15] Yeah. I'm gonna miss Obama too. He was one of those cool Presidents.
LJ: [00:15:56.00] Can I look through?
I: [00:15:57.05] Yeah, go ahead. I have nothing in the back but everything else is - oh, yeah, never mind. Everything else is -
LJ: [00:16:03.26] Oh, that's so cool.
I: [00:16:05.10] Yeah. I tried to draw myself.
LJ: [00:16:07.18] That's awesome.
I: [00:16:08.21] Yeah, but I don't have all this anymore and yeah.
LJ: [00:16:14.22] That's cool.
I: [00:16:15.13] I drew that hat -
LJ: [00:16:16.07] I like the slouch.
I: [00:16:18.22] Yeah. I tried to have it -
LJ: [00:16:21.10] That's cool. I really like the teeth in there. I always have such a hard time with teeth.
I: [00:16:27.05] I have a hard time with legs. Legs and face. And kind of with hands but not really.
LJ: [00:16:34.25] This is awesome. Purple sky, that's cool.
I: [00:16:44.22] I wanted to take art class but I have to wait for next semester.
LJ: [00:16:57.20] I like this guy a lot.
I: [00:16:58.21] Oh, the one with the ski mask?
LJ: [00:17:00.05] Yeah, that's cute. I like his expression.
I: [00:17:03.14] Yeah, he has a plain expression.
LJ: [00:17:07.18] That's awesome. I like that stuff, whatever that is.
I: [00:17:11.09] It's supposed to be - have you ever seen a TV where it's just a lot of static? Or have you ever watched a VHS tape where it's just like all that ??? in there?
LJ: [00:17:22.18] That'scool. Is that you again?
I: [00:17:27.29] Yeah, a long time ago.
LJ: [00:17:30.25] That's cool. You have a character that is yourself. I like how all the words and stuff.
I: [00:17:44.27] I dunno. I just think of it and (inaudible) But, then if I think of something really abstract and really nice, it's not the same as in my mind.
LJ: [00:17:53.20] Hmm, I know what you mean. It's so frustrating when you have something really cool in your head that you wanna draw but it doesn't come out exactly how you want it.
I: [00:18:01.13] Yeah, And then you just have to rethink about the whole situation like, do I really wanna - I think of it as ah, I just messed up, I don't wanna keep doing it. In the back - I don't think you saw it but there's supposed to be - I was thinking of a mummy with his head up like Obama but more straight, not really a diagonal. It was this one. His head was kinda - I feel like his head was short and then I messed up with the rats -
LJ: [00:18:42.07] I think you should just try drawing it again.
I: [00:18:44.26] Yeah. I think I'm gonna draw it again. Cause I did want to be a graphic designer too. I like urban apparel and I wanna make my own stuff. So, it seems cool. You can keep looking through it, if you want.
LJ: [00:19:01.24] OK, thanks. Yeah. A lot of the times when I'm doing portraits I end up doing two. I do one portrait at the beginning. And then I do another one of the same person and the second one is way easier and way better just cause I'm more familiar with their face. Rules and I don't get along. That's cool. I like your different - I really like this type here and this. That's cool.
I: [00:19:35.16] I was thinking right here -
LJ: [00:19:40.02] That's cool too. I like that.
I: [00:19:42.01] Yeah. ??? we are the system so it's for youth and stuff. That ones just making stuff for my generation, I guess. I free-handed that.
LJ: [00:19:58.09] This is awesome.
I: [00:20:03.06] Do you feel like this school brings out your creativity other than the teachers?
LJ: [00:20:11.07] Yeah. Some classes more than others. My academic classes not so much. Some teachers are more open to kids being creative than others. Some teachers really squash the creativity out of people, you know?
I: [00:20:35.26] Because it's like -
LJ: [00:20:38.18] Cause they'll come up with something and then they get shot down by getting a bad grade or something. That steers kids away from whatever they had thought of that was - by saying certain things are better than others the teachers restrict what we can do or what we do do.
I: [00:21:00.24] So, it's like students not getting heard? It's like students not really getting heard cause students want to have this creativity in them. Like you said, they get shot down with a bad grade or no, this is wrong. And then they look at the paper or they look at whatever and there's a lot of lines or a lot of X's, no, no, no. You're just like, dude I wanna have my creativity. I feel that same way too. In my government class I have no creativity in my government class. We're doing this - you ever heard of a cat project? It's like something like this. You find a topic for your society or your state or whatever. It could be criminals. Maybe police brutality. Maybe minimum wage. Maybe just like trash. It could be whatever. You do research about the problem. You have all these civic actions of ways of being a citizen. You make a PSA or an Instagram or whatever. I have five people in my group. My partner did a letter to, I think it was Eric Swallow? But, she did a whole letter and I read it and I was like, it's pretty good. It was creative and it got reviewed and there were so many questions, so many lines. My teacher wants to be creative but she's not letting the creativity happen for the students. Is that what you're like -
LJ: [00:23:03.15] Yeah, that's kind of what I mean. Sometimes it's useful if they give us constructive feedback. But, other times they just say no, don't do that. And that's one less thing you can do and then you're restricted and you have less option and less opportunity to explore things. I think that happens less in art classes than in academic classes because art classes are more about expressing yourself and you have more options.
I: [00:23:34.09] It's like an escape. It's like an escape for people who love to do art. That's a really good thing. But, maybe what if the people wanna do academic things? You can't really be creative. You have to stick to that norm and it's like, well I have to stick to this norm so I'm just gonna stick to it. My last interview - she is an English teacher and she also does science fiction - do you know her?
LJ: [00:24:03.05] Yeah, Ms. Park. Hmm.
I: [00:24:05.08] She’s does science fiction. I was like oh, that's cool. Cause I don't have science fiction at my school. Nobody does science fiction. (inaudible) and you wanna have electives and it's not there. It's not for students to escape from any of that. She was just telling me in her English class she does that. She does that creativity, doing stuff for class and her students. I feel like that's a great thing. I feel like the traditional education is always gonna be there but if more teachers start coming to the creative side then there could be less of that. Then maybe more students can go to college like all teachers want them to do like, go to college, do all this, do all this, go to college, graduate, do all this in college. You're gonna be great.
LJ: [00:25:02.13] It's because there is academic writing and it's in academia everyone kind of follows the same procedure and does the same things. When you're writing a scientific paper you have to follow - everybody does it exactly the same. They have their abstract and then their methods and then the results and then the conclusion. it is helpful because it helps scientists evaluate each other's work and learn from each other. You need to know how to follow those norms so that people will respect you. If I submit a paper somewhere that isn't written following academic norms where I use slang or I don't format it properly then they'll think less of me, you know? That's why they teach us to confirm to these norms. But sometimes it's not good. In my English class recently I wrote a paper where I did a different structure where I was comparing two different books with kind of opposite themes but they both used protagonists to convey the theme. I talked about oh, this one's more effective because the protagonist does better in his life by following this theme. It was a cool structure but it was a lot different from what they taught us. Even though I created something new and it was effective in the goal of the essay which is to make an argument aboutthe themes because I wasn't following that structure that they wanted us to do, I got a bad grade. (laughter)
I: [00:27:04.02] You got a bad grade cause you have that follow that norm to be traditional. I feel like it sucks. I feel like it sucks to not be able to be creative. You really felt like that was the best -
LJ: [00:27:26.10] I thought it was a great essay. I was like oh, yeah, I'm writing this, this is gonna be great. And then I was really shocked when I got my grade back. It was because I hadn't done the formatting that they wanted me to do.
I: [00:27:40.11] You said it was an F?
LJ: [00:27:42.09] No. I got a B- which isn't a bad grade but I normally get A's on my stuff.
I: [00:27:51.09] Just you wanted that higher grade but you didn't stick to the norm. I get it. I get it. But that's still kind of sucks though.
LJ: [00:28:02.20] Yeah. Cause it was so fun writing that essay. I was really proud of what I'd done but then I got that grade and it was kind of disappointing.
I: [00:28:14.12] It was just like - did you ever talk to -
LJ: [00:28:16.13] So, now I'm probably not gonna do that ever again. I'm probably just gonna write the essays in the boring structure that they give us with the introduction and then each paragraph is the same with your claim and your evidence and then they all lead up to your conclusion. I'm probably just gonna write all my essays like that in the future cause I know that if I do something different I'll get a bad grade.
I: [00:28:43.12] Yeah, that'll be hard. Did you ever look through the whole thing? You don't have to look through the whole thing.
LJ: [00:28:50.05] No. I just got distracted by our conversation. I wish I'd brought mine to show you. This is cool. You have a lot of satanic symbols and then mixed with machinery and guns and stuff. It brings in old things like satanic stuff cause people used to be more suspicious of that. And now people are less worried about it and more open to it. It's kind of had a revival. But, then you have modern stuff like guns. It's cool. They contrast each other.
I: [00:29:42.08] Yeah. I just get all these ideas from stuff I like and then the place where I used to live.
LJ: [00:29:49.08] This is awesome.
I: [00:29:51.13] Which one is that? Oh that's ??? I used to write.
LJ: [00:29:56.08] That's cool. I really - it rhymes.
I: [00:30:00.07] Hmmm. Go ahead and read some.
LJ: [00:30:03.12] Yeah? OK. "Black sheep cut khakis shirt bucket hat bikers on flat pockets need a thermostat my mind is flipping like an acrobat sitting back in a scene twenty frames like I snap chattin' it -
I: [00:30:31.03] I write kind of slurrish. I used to write and I used to do a lot of raps because I started off with raps.
LJ: [00:30:41.26] This is cool. "You talking too much. You need to close the door. Glitchin' like a virus. I restart, research, restore." That's cool. I think you should do that more.
I: [00:30:55.16] Rap? Na.
LJ: [00:30:59.03] Do kids at your school rap? Is it popular?
I: [00:31:02.09] Yeah. It's closer to the Bay Area like Oakland. Most of the kids are gonna rap so it's just like that.
LJ: [00:31:10.22] I remember people rapping middle school but then since middle school I've gotten - in middle school everybody was kinda in the same classes together and now, the higher up I get in high school the more of my classes are AP and stuff so I kind of have all the same kids in my classes. All the kids that are in to art and rapping and stuff aren't in those classes. So it's kind of as we've gotten older the school has gotten separated into the super academic kids and then the not super academic kids. It's mostly like White and Asian people in my classes now whereas there used to be more people of color in my classes. it's a sad trend but I'm noticing it that as I take more academic classes it's less racially diverse.
I: [00:32:04.00] Yeah. That's what I feel we was talking about before like how it’s just that traditional thing. I'm not that great of a academic (inaudible) oh, snap I'm about to get all A's, B's - I'm not that kid. I want to get my education. I have some interest for it but I have my creativity too. I have something that I can ??? to. So, it's something like this, like poetry and all that. Like I said before, film is just something I can ??? to. And I know there's something you can ??? too.
LJ: [00:32:56.20] Looking through this makes me feel something. That's the cool thing about art is it makes everybody feel something. So it kind of connects all humans. I don't think there's a single human on earth who doesn't have some kind of emotional reaction when they hear music, you know?
i: [00:33:24.03] I tried to draw myself. Believe it or not, that was me when I was eight years old. I had a perm.
LJ: [00:33:31.23] Oh, you had a perm?
I: [00:33:32.24] Yeah.
LJ: [00:33:33.20] I always wondered how those work. Do they heat your hair?
I: [00:33:37.07] I dunno. It's hot. It's icy hot but for hair. It straightens it down and once you finish it's done. The other stuff I was (inaudible) That one is my favorite one. That one that you just saw. That one is my favorite one.
LJ: [00:34:01.22] This is your favorite one ever?
I: [00:34:02.28] Yeah. That's my favorite one. If you really think about it, it has that really bad community, that hood aspect. For me, where I used to live - I used to live in West Oakland - you know where that's at? That's like right from down town.
LJ: [00:34:29.20] I've been down there. My dad works down there. He works in the Port of Oakland.
I: [00:34:35.08] That's cool. I lived in West Oakland. Where I'm from there, there are gangs so the one I was close by that was ??? there are many other ones but there'd be drive-byes and stuff. Or there would be shootings and I would have to run to the house or I'd have to duck and cover. It'd be crazy.
LJ: [00:34:59.29] That sounds terrifying.
I: [00:35:01.02] Yeah. You wanna hear one story of when I was younger? Alright. I was maybe about seven. I was living in these big high rises. I lived on the tenth floor. I was playing around - I forgot what else - oh, yeah I remember, I was just sitting in the living room and all I heard is skiiiirt, doo doo doo doo doo. I look out the window and this car pulls over and this girl gets out of the car. She got hit in her arm and then she gets back in. I guess they go to the hospital. Me, my mom and my sister we go downstairs take the elevator down, go through the back, there's this pink car. It has so many bullet holes in it. But, the crazy thing was that nobody was in it. For me at a young age I thought somebody died but thinking of it now it was just probably a dude in the wrong place at the wrong time. But, he got lucky which was a really good thing about it. I like when people get lucky. I like peace. But at the same time you're not really gonna get peace unless you fight for it. That's what I see in that story when I keep thinking about it. When you wanna fight for something, either you raise your voice, you do a peaceful protest ??? that radical aspect of it. Once it gets to that radical aspect of it, it's all downhill and it's not good. But, it's just something to really fight for. So, what we was just talking about before like you wanna fight for creativity. If you wanna fight for creativity, you should fight for creativity. Having it in your classrooms, you'd be like hey, do something different or talk to the principal that you just met earlier. Just be like we wanna do something different. I got another story for you. (background noise) Let me tell you another story. It wasn't that long ago. I'm in the film class doing the film thing and we have this new segment. We're trying to make something for our school so we have this new segment where we have announcements and PSA announcements and such and such. There was just one day where we had to kind of shut down cause our vice-principal was the censorship advisor (background noise). There was a PSA about suicide and I guess what triggered it was when he saw the words like "faggot" or something. A guy, the character the PSA was doing was writing a note and it was like, something, something, I am a loser, I am fat, I am a fag. Because that's what people do at school. They become bullies and people get riled up and so we got shut down for that. You wanna say something?
LJ: [00:38:46.07] What's the PSA?
I: [00:38:47.14] A PSA? The video of it? It was a public service announcement. You see on TV you see the little drug things like "don't do tobacco" that whole commercial, the one?
LJ: [00:39:03.17] Your principal did a public service announcement to the school?
I: [00:39:08.07] No. Our principal talked to our teacher who supervised the Revel Vison and he was like, you're gonna have to get watched or you're gonna have to shut that down or whatever. I remind you that our vice-principal is so traditional. He's trying to keep us really low. And what we did to fight it is we talked to the head principal which was a great idea. We brung her to our class and everybody spoke one at a time and she just let us do our thing. She was just like, since there's a problem, we just need guidelines and we're doing guidelines with Revel Vision - it's called Revel Vision.
LJ: [00:39:56.10] We had a similar thing happen last year where one person in our class did a big painting on bible paper. They took pages out of the King David's bible which is the bible that the Mormon church uses and then they painted a lesbian couple on it. Mormons, they're very anti-gay people. Then she did this as an installation piece and put it up in the school. I don't know if it was public but someone complained about it so they took it down. There was a whole ruckus. I'm in the GSA and we went and talked to the principal - not me personally, but the leaders of the GSA. Then, they agreed to leave it up for a certain amount of time and then take it down. There was a big ruckus about whether or not they should censor that because it was offensive to someone.
I: [00:41:04.07] What did it look like? Was it pretty sexual or was it just two people holding hands?
LJ: [00:41:09.24] It was two people kissing. It wasn't overly sexual. I think it was mainly just the contrast of the lesbians and then the King David's bible. And that's what made it offensive.
I: [00:41:24.28] The symbolic speech. That's crazy. I just learned symbolic speech not too long ago. But when I hear about symbolic speech, I'll be like, dude that's symbolic speech, that's crazy. And to think that someone thought to put that up that seems like a great idea to put up.
LJ: [00:41:41.08] Yeah, I thought it was a really cool piece of art.
I: [00:41:42.25] It seems so ??? not really sucky - I'm not gonna say - it's 2016 leave it up. Cause I'm not gonna put 2016 in that. If I wanna be a new person I be like, hey I'm a new person. I believe that is a great idea to keep up.
LJ: [00:42:08.12] I try to still imagine if I was a Mormon student going to school and I saw that on the wall of the school, how would I feel? And would I feel offended? And would I feel insulted?
I: [00:42:23.23] You have that symbolic speech and then you have to think of other people's side. That's basically how the world is. There's speech, there's whatever you want and then there's whatever other people want. And then you have to think of those sides. That's how basically life is. That's how school, work, life, whatever you wanna do. Graphic design, that's probably in there. Cause with graphic design you're gonna have clients that are gonna want something and then you'll be like, dude I made this for you, I'm gonna send it to you. And they look at it and they be like can you do this, this and this? And it keeps going. I was just in that situation. I made a video for this organization called HCAC. It's called Hispanic Community Affairs Council where all these Hispanics got scholarships from (background noise). All these Hispanics they got college scholarships, it was a lot of people. It was great. I was doing the video work, went into editing, I was like, I'm gonna finish this on time and I sent it in and they were like, can you do this, this and this? And I was like cool and I do that and send it back. Send back and forth, oh you messed up on this part. I was like, I did? And Isent it back. It's just a back and forth thing. The back and forth thing is basically back and forth. Sometimes you don't want to go back and forth you just wanna be like, listen to what I'm saying. If you really want your teachers to be that creative you should go back and forth. You should go back and forth. I wanna go back and forth so bad but I feel unheard at my school though. I'm really unheard. Think of it like this. There's this group of people and then this group and then there's these groups. And some of these groups follow that group. There's a situation where - you know Donald Trump became President, a lot of stuff. I was just playing around. I was like, don't go to school and then everybody went to school and everybody was like, oh that's so sad. This one girl, her name's Nalia, you probably haven't heard of her, I don't know I'm just saying. She's always exploring. She was like oh, we should do this, we should do a ??? and we should rally up and we should do a peaceful protest to show how we feel. I was like that's great but all of these people are just following that one single group. People don't have a voice. These people are everybody else’s voice and I want everybody to have a voice. But, it's not like that in my school. It's either you have that voice or somebody has it for you. But, for me, I got it. I got a voice. I'm not gonna follow nobody, I'm gonna follow myself. That's how I'm following myself with that notebook. I follow myself with ??? It's like - I'm sorry, I just like to talk a lot. Anything you want to talk about?
LJ: [00:46:29.17] My school did a peaceful protest too. I thought it was really great. Because so many people from my school went, more people than I expected. And kids that I wouldn't expect to ditch class and go do that were there. It was cool. I thought it brought the community together. We walked from here to the Berkeley Campolini which is I think three miles, maybe four miles. It was really nice cause so many people were there. I talked to people about Trump and how we felt. It was a good way to process you're emotions.
I: [00:47:17.06] Having people, their voice be heard. That's sounds really like a great idea. I think somebody, this girl named Stephanie, she was saying the same thing you were. I was like for her and then for other people, I was like, alright I'm feeling what you're talking about. I wish I could have gone but I had to work. It's like I'm feeling it. You changed how I felt and you're like man, I hope this goes well and it did. But, I'm thinking that the other people and I'm just like, are they really interested? Are they really trying to put something together? Are they just trying to escape class?
LJ: [00:48:02.21] That's a good point. And then one other thing is a lot of people were chanting -
I: [00:48:14.13] Oh, it's time? I'm sorry. We just had a good conversation. ??? Thank you.
LJ: [00:48:23.10] That was a nice interview.
I: [00:48:23.26] Yeah, it was great.
Interviewee: Simone Mitchell, student (Junior)
Interview Location: Albany High School
Date: November 29, 2016
I: [00:00:02.23] Hi, welcome to the arts and creativity, for the love of school and a better school future, listening campaign. Could you please tell us your name and what you like about this school.
SM: [00:00:17.12] My name is Simone Mitchell. The thing I like about this school is that it's not your typical school. Meaning that our football team sucks. Our Cheerleaders can't do much. The band, the choir kids are the popular kids. (laughter) It's a little backwards but there's no very mean people. There's people but everything’s really chill here. Everyone's embracing what you do. There's no, why would you do that? It's like oh cool, I wish I learned how to do that too. The supportive backwards atmosphere.
I: [00:00:58.04] Sounds very casual and fun. What makes you want to go to school every day?
SM: [00:01:07.27] See my friends, hang out with people. A lot of the classes and courses they have are really cool. I guess not having the same classes every day you kind of have something different to look forward to in a sense.
I: [00:01:23.18] Cool. Is there anything that would make you want to come here more? Like if you ever felt school wasn't as fun a certain day what would automatically turn that frown upside down and make you wanna come?
SM: [00:01:41.12] If I was doing something not academic, basically more fun and creative. If I knew there's gonna be a special something happening that would probably get me really jazzed. Sadly, I'm not taking any art this year so I'm kind of in that need for something colorful. Something along those lines.
I: [00:02:05.16] What do you think of when I say "arts education"?
SM: [00:02:19.02] First, when I think of the arts I think of painting, sculpting. I think of music, arts, singing, dancing. Think of all of that and someone learning to harness it and embrace that art craft.
I: [00:02:38.03] With that in mind does your school include arts education?
SM: [00:02:43.20] Yeah, we do, it's kind of a big thing. Pretty much if you're not doing a sport you're usually in some type of art. A lot of people do both. Considering we have a separate art building I'd say we are pretty heavy handed in the arts.
I: [00:03:03.14] What does creativity mean to you?
SM: [00:03:07.05] Creativity means to me just going against the current. Doing your own thing. Being unique.
I: [00:03:19.17] What do you think ignites your creativity, imagination and or passion?
SM: [00:03:30.26] I'd say what ignites it is trying to look at it a different way. Try to find a little humor here and there. I daydream a lot during class, that helps. I think just seeing that there's little arts. I guess a lot of people's style in class and people walking around influences you. It's good. There's a lot of murals around here too.
I: [00:03:58.09] Very beautiful and inspiring. If I'd walk by those everyday I'd feel so artsy inside. What can your school do to inspire your creativity?
SM: [00:04:16.03] I guess to have more art events. They have sporting events. You have to do PE. No, we don't have sporting events at all but they're there. We have some art galleries, maybe two. There's two dance shows. There's two choir performances. But, if we had them more often and it'd be good if they're free. If we had those more often I feel like that would maybe inspire more people and myself. I know this won't actually happen but if there was some sort of required art. Even in classrooms and you have a project if they gave us more of an art-based thing rather than everything has to be essay, everything has to be report. Rather than make a poster on it. That little thing like just getting arts more in there.
I: [00:05:20.26] Being more creative in class. Turning something super boring into something more fun. Of course that sounds better than an essay. Anything's better than an essay. What do you think you're getting out of your education? What are you getting out of school more than anything else?
SM: [00:05:48.14] The pressure to get good grades. there's a lot of eggheads a little bit. A lot of people that are really on track for college. That's kind of like the main focus. Whereas, usually you see your typical, oh you got an A, you're such a nerd. It's really like you got a B? 'Bro, come on, that was so easy. I got an A, I got ninety in the class. A lot of pressure on grades, trying to get the better grades, look good. Not much of anything else really.
I: [00:06:25.14] I understand that. I went to a school that if you didn't have A's you were basically on the not so great kids. It wasn't really about style it was more about whether you were as smart as they expect you to be as far as school levels and stuff. Do you think that - I almost read the same question, I apologize. Do you believe you are in a safe learning community? Do you believe that this a safe place where you can express yourself as much as you want as far as your wings can flap?
SM: [00:07:11.27] Yeah, I do. Us being in our Albany, Bay Area, California, we're kind of all in our own little bubble. You see crazy people all around. You see people doing whatever they want. It's like how this whole gay rights movement coming on, no one here's gonna really give you that cold shoulder. It's like, your gay? Cool. Keep moving with your life. Yeah, everything’s cool. Nobody's hating, racist. People are generally supportive.
I: [00:07:54.25] California usually has that vibe. We're more of the freedom states. We are chill. We are ??? all of the above. Is school relevant to what you want out of life? When I say that I mean do you think that your school education is going to further you in life? Is it gonna help you get to where you wanna be? Not just saying it's gonna help me get into college. We're talking about your future. What you really want to do.
SM: [00:08:33.10] I think I'm kind of in a little fork in the road with my want for life. I kind of want to go into the medical field so schooling in biology courses and science courses will help. At the same time I want to wake up in the morning and be able to travel, paint, color, be creative. Just do whatever. In a sense, me needing to know a formula for something doesn't necessarily help all the time. In the sense I guess so. At the same time no because I'm never gonna probably use history again. I don't need to know what happened in the civil war for nothing else. I think it's good to have. But for the most part I think that for everyone there's usually just maybe one class that everyone can say yeah but the rest of them is kind of not that much.
I: [00:09:35.28] Always understandable. For the things that you said no to, what would make it more relevant? The example you used was history, what would make history more relevant to the times? What in history would spark up more of an interest for you?
SM: [00:09:57.15] If anything, just focus more on where we are now rather than the traditional. In the history course you start at one place and by the end of the year you slowly get up to now. If we focus more around now, I'll probably be more aware of what's happening. For example, that whole election. The one good thing that came out of that was I think everyone became more aware. A lot more people definitely got registered. Everyone became more aware of political differences and definitely pay attention more often since they got a foot in the door for this time. Even then ??? here and there but if it was more A, B, C happened, Kanye was hospitalized, saying a little bit about that. Make it more relevant to the times.
I: [00:10:59.29] That makes sense. We do need to know more about those things because that's going to be our future. The next election is in four years and that's when we're gonna be voting. Of course, we wanna know how we should look at it. What aspects we should be looking at? What's gonna be going on? Learning it at a younger age is always good to keep building on. Do you feel like you're getting the education you need to prepare for adulthood? Which of course math and science and whatnot isn't always gonna be what you need in adulthood, but some aspects of it will. So, always think about that when you're answering this question. Things we learn in school might not always be what we need in adulthood but it can help us in our adulthood.
SM: [00:11:55.24] I'm gonna have to go with no. School does prepare you to manage your time and learn how to do X, Y, and Z. My thing is that I'm sixteen, I don't know how to do taxes!
*I: [00:12:11.16] I'm pretty sure if there was a math segment teaching us how to do our taxes in high school that would be great for senior year. I feel the exact same way.
SM: [00:12:26.13] There's a couple of things, just little things that we probably need to learn more. Actually I used to work on a campus in student housing. You'd be surprised. Berkeley, you think of geniuses right? There's kids that didn't know how to use a dishwasher. People didn't know how to do laundry. People holding the entire vacuum over a trash can trying to empty it. I ask to help and they're like oh, no we got it. OK. Even like if the school provided a driver's ed course. That's kind of one of the biggest things that everyone's trying to do.
I: [00:13:08.21] Definitely. The things that would affect us more not as far as what job we're gonna have in our future but just living. Culinary classes actually really helpful. let's know how to make eggs without burning the pan.
SM: [00:13:27.10] It's like simple things you can incorporate. In history you learn about jury duty, learning about how to pay bills. I know they have a lot of ??? like come to this meeting to learn about this. But, if it had set time in the curriculum to make sure you got it I feel like that would help a lot of people soar.
I: [00:13:53.23] I can understand that definitely. I think that is a huge part as well. Since we're coincidentally the same age so we're at that age we're preparing leaving to leave the house. We're at that time where we're just building up to that moment where our parents are just gonna wave us goodbye at the airport or at the campus.
SM: [00:14:22.20] Throw that peace sign and fade out.
I: [00:14:26.06] Exactly. We're just gonna be off having our college life or apartment or whatever, our dorm. When we're there it's not like we're gonna have mom and dad to clean after us, feed us and whatnot. So, knowing how to do those things are super important including our education and stuff. So, including more things that would help us with our adulthood in our education would definitely be a plus. I think we are done.
*note: at [00:12:11.16] time, the two girls speaking over laps one another and it is hard to tell who is who for the rest of the interview. No more official questions are asked and the girls are merely conversing back and forth. But, they sound extremely similar so I am not positive that I have the correct speaker under the correct name. I listened to this over and over trying to differentiate but I had a really hard time.
Interviewee: Virginia Geoghegan, Art teacher
Interview Location: Albany High School
Date: November 29, 2016
I: [00:00:11.25] We're working with leaders from around the country to create a plan for bring arts and creativity to all students in all schools every day across Alameda county. We would love to hear your thoughts and experience so we can really make a plan that works for you and your school. Can we ask you a few questions? Can you say your name and spell it out please?
VG: [00:00:29.28] Sure. My full name is Virginia Geoghegan. V-i-r-g-i-n-i-a, my last name is spelled G-e-o-g-h-e-g-a-n.
I: [00:00:44.11] What makes you want to come to school every day?
VG: [00:00:46.17] I'm a teacher so I guess the thing that makes me want to come to school every day is the idea that I might be able to help my students want to come school every day, if that makes sense. Just the idea - my favorite kind of day is what I call just a studio day. When students come in, I've already introduced the project, everybody knows what they wanna do and I tend to chit chat at the beginning and I can just see everybody's like OK, stop talking cause we wanna get working! That's my favorite kind of day. Especially when I know we're having a day like that where everyone's really into what they're doing. That makes me really excited to show up.
I: [00:01:27.17] Do those days normally happen often?
VG: [00:01:29.13] I mean when we're in the middle - that's the middle of a project, so not the beginning, not at the end when I have to do the grading which is my least favorite part. So, I'd say that's like fifty percent of the time we're mid project which is awesome.
I: [00:01:45.04] What does creativity mean to you?
VG: [00:01:47.15] I had these questions ahead of time, I should have thought about them more. What does creativity mean to me? Creativity means being in the state of mind to have real ideas that are really interesting and exciting and that you want to act on in some way. So, that could mean a lot of different things. In the realm that I'm familiar with which is visual art that means having the idea and realizing that you want it to have a physical form in the world whether it's a painting or a sculpture or a performance piece or a conceptual piece. That there's something inside that wants to get outside and you are excited enough about it that you put in the time and the effort to make it happen. I think creativity is something that has to be - people always use the word fostered, but I think you just have to kind of create the right environment and also a sense of safety because a lot of the times the things that people are trying to externalize can feel kind of scary or weird or bad. That people are kind of trying to get stuff out that is hurtful to them if they don't process it in some way. So, creating that safe space is a big priority for creativity in the way that I think about it.
I: [00:03:12.26] What ignites your creativity, imagination and passion?
VG: [00:03:16.02] I would say stuff like this, like collaborating with people is really - makes me feel - it gives me lots of ideas. I think that when I only work on my own for a long time, me personally, I just have fewer and fewer ideas. Whereas the more I collaborate with people, which is why I love being a teacher because I collaborate with one hundred and fifty students and then plus all my colleagues here, all the other teachers and counselors and administrators that I work with, and then people like you guys that I get to meet through my work just give me so many ideas about projects but also just about ways about being in the world that I haven't thought about before. For me personally, partly because I think I'm pretty extroverted, talking and working with other people is what gives me the most ideas.
I: [00:04:13.10] What ignites your students’ creativity and imagination?
VG: [00:04:16.26] It really, really is different from person to person. Like I said that having that space, that studio space to feel like your ideas are precious and that they're respected and that you have the time and the materials and the space. But also that your perspective is really respected and honored I think is a really big deal. Because there are students coming from all different kinds of places and situations and I think a lot of them go through the world thinking that they have to keep who they are private and a secret. So, trying to make the studio a place where anybody can do the work that they want to do, I hope is what makes them excited to come and do that work. I just mentioned being a little bit more extroverted, something I've been thinking a lot about over the last year is actually how I run my class to favor extroverts. I do a lot of projects where I'm like, talk to each other, you'll learn more by talking to each other, have a discussion. I do critiques where we're looking at each other’s work. And I've been thinking a lot more about how introverts might feel a little less like they're able to be creative and be themselves in my class because I was sort of unknowingly favoring those sort of more extroverted forms of communication and expression. So, this year I've been thinking a lot more about how can I create a space for my introverted students who probably want to just sit and think quietly and that's what helps them to be the most creative self and how can I create a studio environment that is stimulating for them? Meaning probably a little bit quieter and where they're not having to talk all the time, they're not having to process with other people all the time. So, just keeping in mind that there's so many different kinds of people and trying to have something for everyone. Probably not all at the same time, but throughout a representative period of time.
I: [00:06:18.17] Do you think that you're students feel that you have successfully done that for them, that you have made them feel like they can openly create art?
VG: [00:06:26.27] I think for some of them, yes. One of the students who was here earlier was like, oh, it's so nice to be back in this room. I have such good memories. And that's like the best thing for me to hear, right? That they have a visceral response to this space that's positive. That's amazing. I know for a fact that hasn't been the case for everyone that I've taught. And if you look at it realistically, you are the way you are, right? So, you're not going to - you have biases - and by you I mean me. I have biases the way that I think I should do things. And that's not gonna be interesting, stimulating, exciting for everybody who comes through my door and I just know that's the case. But, that doesn't mean that I just throw up my hands and go, well my teaching style doesn't work for some people so oh well! I always have to keep thinking about what works for the students. I always come back to this one student that I taught a couple of years ago who had just recently come to the country and didn't speak a lot of English who was very, very quiet. I have a lot of students like that, that was nothing new but he just didn't was always very, very withdrawn, didn't participate very much. And I mostly just tried to give him his space and I made sure to check in with him every day because I always try - well, every day I have that class three times a week - and I do that with all my students but at the end of the year when we were sharing out something about the year and he said something like, "nobody in this class even knows my name" - something like that. And I just felt like I had been stabbed. Not really, that's a really melodramatic thing to say but it felt so bad to hear him say that at the end of the year that he didn't feel seen and respected cause that's my job. That's totally my job and I felt like I really had failed him. And how could you feel like you could be creative and your best self if people don't even know you exist. So, I think in trying to give him his space I actually kind of isolated him. That's an example of a lesson that I've learned and I'm trying to carry forward and try and make sure that what I do works for everyone.
I: [00:08:48.09] What can your school do to better inspire your creativity?
VG: [00:08:52.27] My school can be excited about art projects and activities that are happening and actually people can come to - I'm the department chair for all the visual and performing arts so I know for a fact that a lot people don't come to the concerts and a lot people don't come to the dance performances. Everyone loves them when they do see them. And we're all really busy and it's not like only the staff here should be going to those events but I think our school could do a better job at honoring the work that's being put in. This is some students total - their truest selves that they're putting out there when they dance or when they perform or when they create an artwork. I think it's important, especially for students who struggle in the more traditional academic environment than whose teachers who only see them as, "oh that kid with a D in my class." And they don't mean to think of them that way but they do because that's the way we just tend to generalize people, right? So, when you see that student with a D in your class - even if they're not that great - you just see them really engaged and doing what they love, I think it's really important to see that. I think that something my school can do and it's something that we - it's not totally not there, but it could be there more, is just make an effort to show up and see students doing their thing. For some of them it's sports, it's not the arts or other kinds of things. But, I think that just sort of showing up and seeing those events. And, of course the obvious answer is that we could always use more funding, we never have enough funding. Every year I have to beg for more money to run our classes and we always run out. And that's pretty much true across the board and of course, everybody can do more than what we have. I'm really happy that we classrooms and I'm very grateful for what we have but I look at some of the other departments who get five times the amount of money than we do and it's just like, really? I don't know. I'm lucky to have administrators who are on board with that and agree and are like, "we wish we could give you more". So, it's always like this tension of always trying to satisfy everyone which is completely impossible. Everybody's always gonna want more money. So, I kind of always go back and forth with it and try not to be entitled about it. But, the truth of the matter is that we have students who want to go to art school, they wanna become competitive visual artists right out of high school which is certainly possible. They want to be working for design firms or animation studios or you name it, screen printing - whatever, and we just don't really have the facilities to support them at a high level. We really don't. So, that's disappointing for me when I see those really gifted students.
I: [00:11:52.03] Is it just the Arts Department that are not getting equal funds and what I guess other classes like the general education, English and Math are getting more money? I feel like it's more towards -
VG: [00:12:05.19] Well, I happen to see the whole budget and yeah, science gets four or five times what we get. And the VAPA department - Visual and Performing Arts, we have a lot of consumables, right? We have materials that get used up and then our gone. And science is like that too. They have chemistry equipment, beakers break, all kinds of stuff that they use for their labs. And so I know that they need it but we also need it. They get twenty thousand and we get five.
I: [00:12:35.05] Do you think it's because they don't view art as important?
VG: [00:12:38.11] Yeah. It's not just the school, it's just the way - I feel it's a societal thing. And so you can trace it back to up to the highest levels, right? There's still this over-riding perception that STEM fields - Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math will get you into a high paying job and the arts will not. But, we know that that's not true. I mean, we know that STEM is a pretty safe bet, right? But, we also know that this is California and there are thousands of creative jobs. Thousands. I mean, there's people in this community who work for all kinds of different start-ups - big, small, whatever - working on their own and making really good money. It's such an old perception that you're gonna become an artist and live in your parents basement. And that just gets passed down and passed down. I hear it from parents who wanna be supportive but also have this real anxiety that their kids are not gonna be provided for if they go into the arts and so that goes into the decisions about what they study and their decisions about what jobs they take. That all informs the money that we get because somebody has to make a decision to allocate. I mean, it's sort of like the higher ups putting their money where their mouth is, honestly. Science is four times as valuable than the arts. That's what they're saying. And I'm not saying science is invaluable and it's totally not my point - I would never squabble with the science department about that you shouldn't get that much money. That's not the point. The point is that there's a value piece missing.
I: [00:14:18.21] It's more valuable to some students.
VG: [00:14:19.22] Yeah, absolutely. Those students that are really - I feel like we're not serving them. Because they can't be competitive the way students that go to other schools that have better facilities are preparing them. And you know, to some extent I'm like, whatever, really amazing students are gonna find a way no matter what and they'll be fine. So, there's that too but it just kills me, like, oh, if we had tripods we could do a really nice job with this project. I have a ceramic studio and I'm like if we had a pug mill then I wouldn't have to recycle all this clay by hand which takes me a really long time and prevents us from doing some other projects cause I'm spending all this time recycling clay. Just little things like that that seem really inefficient. But, I just wanna come back to the fact that we are so much better off here than many, many schools I know that.
I: [00:15:09.22] That was gonna be my next question.
VG: [00:15:12.01] Which is just so crappy, right? I've had colleagues who have worked at schools where they couldn't get pencils and they couldn't get paper. And I have colleagues who have worked at schools as art teachers where they were the only teacher in the whole district K-12 and so they saw every single grade for one class every week. So, that's like how ever many hundreds of students. You can't make relationships with those students when you only see them for half an hour once a week. Those relationships are really the only important part, I feel like. All the stuff about the supplies and whatnot are sort of the nice to have things. It would be really nice to have them. I think it would make a difference. But, nothing makes as much as a difference as having staffing that allows you to have meaningful relationships with students where you see them often and you know what's going on in their lives and you don't feel like totally stressed and freaked out. One thing that this district does do reasonably well is staffing for the arts because I have a full time job, my colleague has an almost full time job and we both work here at a relatively medium sized school. There's a full time art teacher at the middle school. And then elementary is kind of a different deal. But, that's not the case in a lot of districts.
I: [00:16:27.28] Yeah, cause when I first came here to do the interview I was super shocked. Going to my school was nothing like that at all. We actually struggle getting pencils and paper. A lot of arts got cut. You only have - you don't even have a regular - I guess we had a regular art class. But, it was general. It wasn't specific to anything. And then you'd have - if you wanted to do music or jazz you'd have to come super early in the morning and it'd be considered zero period. That'd be it.
VG: [00:16:59.13] This idea that the arts are extra or that it's on you if you want that. That it's not essential is a huge problem. I think it's where the rubber meets the road in a lot of districts that are struggling for funds. I have friends who are teachers or administrators in schools where the arts are just sort of one of those nice to have things and just not treated as essential. And who's to say? I can't really say because I don't work with them. I know that they're just trying to make it work and it always feels like everything’s falling apart all the time. It's sort of like we don't have enough counselors like we have to deal with that before we deal with having - it's like - so, it's just hard for me to hear because I do think that the arts are essential. I think the arts save peoples lives, literally. Not everyone but for people who - like I was talking about that mode of expression, if that's what they need in order to get through their lives at that point, it's just crazy not to have that. It's really crazy. So, we are really lucky here in that regard that we have the staff and we have rooms, we have significantly more than just pencils and paper. I do feel really grateful. And then when I get really in my head, I'm like, oh if we had a printing press! Because there's always a continuum, right? There's the schools that have nothing and then there's schools that are just tricked out and practically like college studios. That's what I have in my mind, right? Because we get all these things from the AP people and I look at the people whose work is featured and the people who score really highly on those portfolios and they all come from these really elite schools where they have all this stuff. I just sort of just throw up my hands and go well, our kids can't compete with that cause we don't have that stuff. But, how much worse is it for students who can't even get pencils and paper and don't have a teacher, you know? So everybody - it's a disservice to anybody not to have at least something and probably I should think more about gratitude for the things that we do have.
I: [00:19:17.09] I guess it's looked upon when you go to school you're supposed to bring your own pencil and paper. It's not supposed to be provided for you which it's kind of like paying for school. You're supposed to be going to school but you have to provide for yourself.
VG: [00:19:35.23] No, that's not the way it's supposed to be. I really think that - I mean, I don't think that we should be providing everything ever but if you don't have a pencil and paper, we should sure as heck be able to give you a pencil and paper, at a basic level. I think about - these days I've been thinking a lot about what public education is and it goes way beyond the arts, right? It's really about providing access to a good education for anybody and everybody, everywhere in the United States. And that just doesn't exist right now. And I really worry that what's happening is people are like, oh the public school system is broken, we need to move to private schools because private schools are magical and that somehow that will fix everything because public schools are subject to all these regulations and all these rules and standards. If everyone could just choose their own private school then this whole thing about vouchers and I'm like it's essentially an undemocratic proposition. Because it's our job to provide qualified teachers, to pay those teachers so that they actually are getting a living wage and are incentivized to get the qualifications to do a good job and actually want to do their job and show up every day. And we need to be providing those safe spaces. Schools are the hub of a community. If you take that away and you say, oh you know, you can just go wherever you want and do whatever you want - there's always going to be people who are disenfranchised by that because there's always gonna be people who either are new to the community or just don't have the same level of access as frankly, wealthy white people. There's always gonna be people who aren't gonna shout and wave their hands and be like, I need to get into this school. That's the problem with saying everyone can just pick their own way because it assumes that everybody has the access to do that and that's just not true. There's all kinds barriers keeping - especially now, there's so much fear keeping people from advocating for themselves and for their kids. To just be like, oh people can just pick their school, there's mountains of paperwork that you have to do. You have to have that information and know which schools are good. You have to know what a good school looks like. You have to have a positive relationship with schools. So many people have had negative interactions with their own school, they're afraid of school. There's just so many layers. I just think that's crazy. I'm sorry, I got kind of away from - but, I think the arts and education are kind of really related.
I: [00:22:32.27] What did you hope to accomplish when you decided to become a teacher?
VG: [00:22:41.26] I guess I hoped that I could help some students to feel like I said they have a place at school. Some students have a really negative relationship with school. It's something I really was looking into quite a bit when I started teaching, this idea of like, oh like I don't do schools, that's not my thing, it's not for me because they've had so many sort of negative interactions with teachers and other students and things along the way. So, just trying to create that safe spaces was really a big goal of mine. And then also to teach students real skills that they can apply throughout their entire life and to develop an art practice where it's a discipline where they actually learn. Maybe for them it's to keep a sketch book or maybe they decide they really love photography so knowing how to use a camera, what focal point is. It's not the vocabulary so much, it's the routine and the practice and the know it like the back of your hand kind of knowledge that I was hoping I could help some people tap in to so that they could have that as a resource for the rest of their lives.
I: [00:23:59.23] You think that school should be an all-around positive experience for all students?
VG: [00:24:04.11] I think that's our only job really. Well, that's not true. I think what I just said about teaching people real skills that they remember and are useful to them in their lives is a huge thing. But, the social-emotional component is also really, really huge. Because if a student is deeply unhappy they're not gonna learn anything. They're not gonna want to show up. They're gonna be checked out. They're gonna be maybe, possibly depressed and that manifests in all kinds of things like anxiety, fatigue, tiredness, all kinds of things. It's our job to create a positive environment. Not like, oh well anything you want to make you happy, I don't care if you learn anything. The learning is as important but I feel like the happiness piece and the feeling safe and protected and seen like I was mentioning earlier is just as important. Because if that's not there you're not going to be able to learn anything. So that's our job too.
I: [00:25:04.06] What is your main goal as a teacher?
VG: [00:25:05.28] I think that's it, the social-emotional piece is really, really huge. Helping students feel seen, feel like they have a creative outlet that helps them process things that are part of them and part of their lives and things that may happen to them that need processing in a way that might not just be talking but might need a different kind of outlet. Helping students to build the skill that they want that will get them to where they need to be and know who they are in the world.
I: [00:25:39.21] How do you use art in the classroom?
VG: [00:25:42.17] Oh my god! I'm an art teacher so that's different maybe then a regular classroom teacher. I guess maybe a better question would be how do I use the other subjects in my art classroom? Which I do try to do. One of the coolest things when one of my students makes the connection to something that they've learned somewhere else. So, for example, I was teaching about color schemes the other day and I was teaching the term monochromatic color scheme which is all tints and shades of a single color. And one of my students was like, "oh yeah like we were learning about monocultures in science". A monoculture is one field of all the same crop, like a field of just corn. I was like, that's so cool! You just made a connection that was about that word and the fact that it had the same beginning on the word so it's like a verbal language thing. But, it's also a thing that you learned in science that now is related to a concept in art. So, I just really love that. Maybe that student really liked science and so the way into the art was through the science for them. Maybe that student really likes words and so the way into this concept was through the word for her. So, trying to provide lots of different ways in instead of just being like, this is the way you do this and this is what it's about. I really like it when people connect to things outside of me because I can't do that for them. They have to do it. So, I really like it when they share it with everybody.
I: [00:27:00.20] What do you see as being a role in arts in educating young people?
VG: [00:27:10.06] The role of arts in educating young people, I think that for some people, the arts are really the way they understand things. I just mentioned that student maybe science is the way she sees the world through and so that's a lens that she applies that helps her better understand other subjects. And for some people that's art. I have a student who can't write a sentence but can draw a freaking amazing comic strip. It's so good it would blow your mind. And that's how he takes notes is through comics and drawings. Some people, that's kind of an extreme example, but some people really in order to viscerally, really deeply understand something and my definition of understanding something is being able to recall it later, so being able to remember and also being able to apply it in a different context. So that example I gave earlier with the science thing, she thought of that in a context that was totally different than where she learned it. So I would say that she really understands that concept because it's really lodged in her mind, right? My job I think is to help the arts be a way to understand really complex things in the world that are kind of mind-blowing like institutionalized racism. You can write an essay about institutionalized racism for something you read in a book but it might just be words. Or maybe you love words and maybe that's the way you understand it. But, you look at a painting by someone like Titus Kafar, for example, you really viscerally understand what institutionalized racism means even if you can't express it in words, it's just so powerful. I like to show lots of work to kind of get at those crazy concepts. Literally you can't spit it out, it's just something that you feel and maybe it's a feeling that you've had in your life that you can't really place. I forget what the original question was but - oh, what's the role of arts in education. So really understanding really big, crazy things that are sort of beyond something you might read or write or even think. Like, creating a dance about something or creating a piece of music. I'm not trying to dis other forms of expression but for me, as a visual artist and as an art teacher, I think some people need to see things or create things in order to really understand them.
I: [00:29:50.04] So you feel like schools only have a one track - like this is step, step, step, this is how you do it instead of like, oh to get there you can do it your own way.
VG: [00:30:01.17] Do I think that that is the case that they're designed in the step way? Yeah, I think they are. I think that they've been that way for a long time. The school systems are based on a factory model with bells and certain times and grouped together by the same age and different classes. I can't tell you how many students I bring something up and they're like, this isn't math class or this isn't English class, and I'm like, this is your life! You're life does not exist in these different boxes. You have to be able to think just generally. But, we -
I: [00:30:32.29] Memorize things.
VG: [00:30:34.17] Yeah, but we haven’t' trained students to think about everything that they know. We've trained them to think about one thing at a time. That's what I mean about re-contextualizing. Breaking those really rigid boundaries between subjects or between ideas really or types of ideas. Especially between STEM fields and humanities. Yeah, I do think we have a problem with the ways our schools are structured because I think that they don't actually promote creativity. They actually squash creativity because it's like sit here, be quiet, do this, this is what we're working on, read this. Some people can be really successful and some people are taught that they are a failure and that they don't have anything to offer the world when in fact it's the system that has failed them. That's kind of a cliché thing to say but I really feel that with students I know to be really amazing and smart and to have something really great to offer who are just so beaten down by all these negative interactions with schools. We have a long way to go. I think the arts are really important because very often that's where those students find their mode of expression. So we needto make sure those programs exist.
I: [00:31:49.26] That concludes our interview. Thank you.
VG: [00:31:52.10] Thanks you guys. You did so many interviews today you must be tired.