This month our Member Spotlight is with Shaina Glass, CS/STEM Coordinator in Aldine ISD in Houston, Texas and the President of the CSTA Greater Houston Chapter.
This month our Member Spotlight is with Shaina Glass, CS/STEM Coordinator in Aldine ISD in Houston, Texas and the President of the CSTA Greater Houston Chapter. We spoke with Shaina in late March, as many of the Texas schools began remote classes.
How are you handling the current crisis?
I’m well, I just got off the phone with over 30 computer science teachers in my district, where I serve as a coordinator for CS/STEM. Our district is currently teaching virtually, and we’ve been quarantined since around March 6 or so. Our strategy is to set up courses in our Learning Management System, and to create choice boards so students are able to have more decision power with what they learn. As we are a Title I district, we have to be cautious on how we are laying out remote activities, as students have different resources at home. This includes having plugged or unplugged activities.
What types of activities are teachers in your district using?
As it’s hard to teach new concepts currently, and we have been creative with activities that CS students can engage with. We have rolled out projects around digital citizenship ((specifically how social media is affecting their behavior) or creating a code for a dance party. Especially now, we need to give students something to control and understand. Examples of current technology we are using include BrainPOP and Code.org’s Code Break. Each of my teachers are creating nine different activities weekly, so we can have a surplus of activities to build from and use. What’s important to understand is parents may not know much about the concepts we are presenting, but our students are able to pick up and engage in these projects quickly. This is an unscripted opportunity -there are so many results that come from what you give students.
How can we support students currently? What are you mindful of?
As educators, we need to empower our students. Searching for CS resources, you can pull up so many. However, there are so many companies offering free products. We need to be looking at these with a conscious eye; these free products may be at a cost when you are back in the classroom. As CS teachers, in general, we do not control the narrative of what students are learning. Many of our students will surpass us, and you need to have that understanding that you are facilitating, empowering, and being a cheerleader for them – even now.
What positive news do you have to share?
Did you hear about the Italian hospital that used a 3D printer to print respiratory valves? These individuals had the freedom to do that without restraint because they thought beyond the traditional and current.
How do you stay positive and motivated?
It starts within my own department, in which we encourage daily disconnection from work and get outside on walks. Within my district is that I’m connected with my teachers virtually, beyond just meetings. We have a Google chat set up daily by subject. During meetings, we are always checking in on each other and seeing what’s going on in our personal lives and with our families. To start and end conversations with social-emotional connections is vital so we are making those personal connections. We forget to check-in with our teachers, but this is so needed. We need to take care of ourselves first.
What challenges are your teachers currently facing?
I’m mindful of my teachers’ schedules, as currently, they have an incredible amount of meetings. Teachers are worried about getting information to their students, and they are freaking out wondering what’s required for the rest of the year. Honestly, many kids cannot complete what is usually required in a traditional classroom environment. For virtual teaching, we have to make it the most inviting environment for students and parents and not stress too much about it. In my district, all teachers are required to call each student to check in weekly. They are getting various responses, as the focus of the home is going to be different. This is the first week in Texas that schools went virtual, and a teacher shared with me that his son was able to finish a week’s work of assignments in four hours. All kids learn differently, so the traditional method of how we teach may be how we change. We need to learn to manage expectations for teaching during this pandemic.
What advice do you have for teachers?
You have to take breaks, turn off your notifications, go for a walk, and create restricted work hours for yourself. No, you shouldn’t just stare at the screen waiting for responses or questions from your students. You need to create and communicate new norms, structures and hours. It’s not like when the student raises the hand. Let them know your availability as needed during that time frame. There’s always tomorrow.
What is a fun stress reliever for you?
Go Noodle has videos and information that’s actually for kids, but I love it for myself. They are literally brain breaks, ranging from various topics, physical activities and they are 2-5 minutes long. I set them up on my computer, and lots of things for social emotional learning, including breathing exercises. You can sign up for a free account. When I taught, my kids would love these Go Noodle videos -it helps manage stress.
What are you looking forward to?
Being quarantined has taken the excitement away from so many things in our lives. I’m honestly looking forward to the smaller things like more time to plan for my daughter’s birthday. I just keep remembering that our students will still have the opportunity to participate in all the events they are missing – they just may look different. It’s not if these things (prom, graduation, competitions, birthday parties) will happen but HOW. How we are going to make these traditions is going to change. There is a reason why we are at home currently. We need to pay attention to what’s around us and be intentional and look to each other.
What are you working on?
I’m in the middle of completing a few grants to expand computer science in my district. This has given me time to connect with computer science teachers and get more folks excited about it. I’m thinking about these resources that companies are now providing in an ongoing time period. How do you visualize this content long term as will I be able to actually use it in six months? Examining the equity of resources of these companies is vital, which is why I’m excited to be a part of CSTA because equity is at the forefront of conversation and community.
Is there anything you would like to share with members?
You’re not alone! There’s support, where people have been where you are. And share with others. This is what CSTA is all about, to support you within the CS discipline. The whole point of CSTA is to connect because that connection is key. Even if you got one thing out of it, that’s one thing you didn’t have before.