Karen Rogers, thanks for joining the YouSchool podcast- you are here, one because we're neighbors. And too, because you're smart. And we're going to try to kind of pull out some of that smartness today, no pressure. If you can't form a coherent sentence, we will do some wonders in editing. But we're here to one get to know you. And secondly, there's parents and educators who listen or watch this, who were really keen on helping their kids grow up well. And I know that's obviously near and dear to your heart. So before we get into the topic, could you introduce yourself kind of professionally and silho context who you are personally?
Yeah, well, I am Karen, Elaine, I've been going by that since the pandemic, thanks to the Karen movement messed up my beautiful, beautiful name. So I added on my middle name, think about satisfied with it. It's my whole self now. Yes, I have been a lover of children and families since since college, I studied child development. And I really fell in love with what what I felt like was given the key to a child's heart. And there was a director a professor, she was a doctor of the entire department. And while many of my friends were going at credential route at the time, I fell in love with early childhood. And I wanted to be her she was director of IT and the power of influence you have families and what I learned about the science of the brain, and how early it starts, I couldn't not be part of that. Now. I'm so that's my Guts and Glory from the beginning. Like that's really where my essence comes from. I've spent a lot of years doing work, starting schools, revamping schools, I love that that's my whole vibe is like getting in there and shaking it up, trying to get them accredited. And just all the things where we can make it excellent. So not just status quo, but really pushing it. So that's when we started. And I got to be part of a nonprofit for 10 years, running all the way through the full elementary years. And that's been That was so fun to basically at that point, it's all volunteer. So there's no paycheck to when you're working with volunteers, there's no paychecks for motivation. So it has to come from vision. So it was vision and inspiration. So that's where we spent a lot of I got to spend a lot of years just cultivating leadership teams, and then people teaching like 200, some people how to teach how you teach children, how, what's the essence of what teaching is. So that was a lot of fun for a long time. And then it worked in special ed for a while. And that was really exciting to come back into starting come back into education in the realm of all talk about learning styles, so many different oh my gosh, especially when you start in early childhood, they have yet to figure out diagnosis that are everybody's trying to figure out well, they kind of all get lumped into the special day classes, but they're not all autistic. So there's so many different types of children with different types of learning styles. So you know, we're using heavy mats for people with sensory issues, then we're moving chairs far away from those that are like throwing chairs, and we're, we're trying to get those out here, we get them really close. And then with vision issues we have. So there's so many different ways to get all the kids. And then we foster and adopt for a lot of years. So I did a lot of foster care for many children, and eventually adopted four children out of foster three out of foster care and one a private option. So I've done a lot of work with families. And I care a lot about all types of children coming from all types of places.
So if you're listening or watching this, you're welcome. I pick the right person for this topic. And obviously your passion comes through Karen, we're talking about learning styles. And I frame this in, in a larger context, not just specifically about education, but about helping a kid have the building blocks and the foundations to live life well. And obviously, academic success is an important part, especially to parents and educators, for their kids. But it to widen that out. Part of my question for you. And I'm just curious, what you have to say is when it comes to helping a kid figure out his or her learning style, why is that important? Not just for academic success, but why do you think it's important for life success?
Great, great question. Well, the obvious for life successes, if you don't feel successful early, you're you're going to be inhibited later. We see it on teams all the time. We were just talking to my director about this yesterday. And why is it that some people on teams just aren't as successful as other people like? Well, because they weren't successful early and so they don't know how to be successful on a team now. So it's just it's like it goes all the way through your life affects your career, it affects your family, it affects everything. Now, what's exciting we talked about why for how do we figure it out what we know why would we figure out learning styles with young ones what we know you know, from science base from we have data for it. is starting there's beautiful graphs, you know, I always show my families every year like, here it is, here's this. Here's the here's the graph, data proven graph. at kindergarten at five years old, it is proven. I mean, there's really studies on it. It's amazing. Blow Your Mind. It's proven that five years old, you are at the peak of your creativity, of your, your innovation and your inhibition. Your lab, you're just you're uninhibited, you are uninhibited. We'll share things with us. You're super creative. You're uninhibited. You got your big voice on like, it's proven that they have it's like you you want to know something going on the world. You invited kindergarten if I'm a CEO of a company, I would like to invite a kindergartener kindergarten through third grade, like, bring it if I'm a CEO, I want to I would, I would really challenge that I think that's where it's exciting, because there are so uninhibited now, it's the data shows sharp decline all the way through the school years. And where does it end? retirement, and retirement, you see it go back up. Very interesting. So all the way through school years, and then even through our workforce, by that point, we're just not that creative. And we're not that uninhibited, and we just don't have that big of a voice. So it's really scary and really sad. And that alarms me when I think of education. That's why I started in early childhood, because that's where you just the brain is like, oh, so I tell my kids brain on fire, you know, like, my goal. And now I moved grade levels. I've jumped like few grade levels this year. So now I'm in third grade now this year, and I love it. Because if you want to teach all the grade levels, like it's so exciting to teach the different ones to see. But the goal is, how can we work harder and better? To see that all the way across? Like, what if it doesn't have to decline? What if, by the time we're leaving our education, we're so alive and inspired. And we believe in ourselves so deeply, that we're ready to launch into the workforce, and they'll be 10 times more creative?
Next? How do you do it? How do you help a kid? Or if you're talking to a family? How do you help parents help their kid? Unpack? How'd they learn? What does that even mean? I've heard of the big things auditory visual, kinesthetic. I'm just curious. I'm coming to you kind of like an idiot? I don't know.
Well, yeah, it's cool. You know, we call it universal learning design, you know, so it's all about UDL, because we're trying to figure out like, there's so many there are ways to do there's a way to design your instruction, where you're kind of bringing all those in, right. So my best day teaching is when I have got full gestures. So you're seeing, you're engaged, my voice, inflection is changing. I've got visuals, you can see it, there's something you can see. And we're touching and doing, you're you're kind of you're trying to involve there's actually activity happening in your body, like it's coming out whole brain learning all kinds of terms for it. But it's, it's like, you're not going to learn it. So it will be like mirrors up, you know, do what I do. And suddenly, there's just so much more engagement, and we're not gonna remember you talk at me, I'm done. I'm not gonna remember any Tuesday. But you might remember if I showed you an image and made you repeat it, and we did it like that. It's that kind of connection. So when we talk about how, how well, I mean, I think everything with this starts with a relationship. So the foundation is relationship. So you're totally onto it with asking the parents, the parents already know that sometimes there's some surprises. And that's fun. And that's where teachers and parents can kind of partner together. Because there's different facets of kids, you can kind of see in different, or ask your family members in your community. Like there's different things, you see that rise in your kid. But a lot of times the parents kind of already know. So that's always the best thing in the beginning years, like tell me more about your child, and really getting more creative on how to ask that and ways to engage families with that, like, I got four kids, I get a letter from a teacher, that's not I don't I'm just like, oh, no, he's a good kid. Like, yeah, it's too much. It's we're oversaturated. So it's really trying to figure out how do you partner the parents to really learn more about their kid because they already know, as a, you know, educator, you're not going to be able to find learning style. If you don't know them, you kind of everything starts from the relationships, are they are they able are students able to feel safe and loved to be able to, you know, beautifully articulate what they need, and how they learn, like, do they feel safe enough to even be able to tell you that? Know, if they don't know you, they're not going to even be able to tell you that to discover that they or do they feel safe and loved enough where they actually can discover it. And then the whole point is discovery to go. Wow, I noticed this. Did you see that? Well, actually, I think I might be good at this. I wonder about like, you just start building this relationship. So that's where it gets exciting. Like nobody can teach a mind you can't just teach my mind until you know, I know that I'm loved and cared about. Yeah, that's that's where that starts. Its relationship.
Let's Let's pretend just for a second. I'm a parent. And I've got a kid who's in a classroom, who doesn't have a passionate creative teacher, like you, who understands the different styles. And it's, it's one way their way or the highway. So how do you help a kid? Given that context and maybe trying to meet the teacher doesn't really go well. You know, if you're in the classroom and your kid, what can you how do you kind of navigate that and I know that it becomes even more probably relevant in middle school or high school when you have a series of different teachers and they all have different styles. So what do you do if your your style as a student isn't matching what you're getting?
All right, at that point, you gotta already know, you got to know what you know. So that's it's hard. It's a hard question that the first responses I is we've all been doing, you know, you advocate like crazy and try to get in a different class, try to sign up for the more creative school and you know, like we're all trying to get there, I find it very interesting to talk to most people, not all the most people, and we're all trying to get to something more inspiring. And so that's, that's something I think we all need to be mindful of inspired by. It's frustrating. And there's a lot of pressure on educators where, you know, it's like, well, we've got these things to meet. And I do find that this series usually works pretty well. And you just, it's so hard to not get out of that, once you kind of find like, it's kind of works, it kind of tried and true. And now I'm not going to deviate. But when you start losing, you start losing kids accidentally, you know, and so, what do you do is you're a student, hopefully, you've had a chance to develop something. If not, you know, why don't we do a great question, what do we do for kids who haven't discovered it? I mean, that's my heart and passion is to help them discover before they get that far, but let's just say, you move me on over to middle school, and I got a whole land of students that don't know anything about their learning style. So obviously, I think I would teach how to learn your learning style and how to do that. But if you're not, if you're not, I think as a parent, is what you can do is really help discover it on your own. So you're working with your student trying to figure out what's what you've already done as a parents what every parent is really doing anyway, you guys already know your kids. So you're trying to help figure out look, I'm finding that when I sit and do this with you, like, you're not gonna hear me if I'm talking to you, but when you do it when you show me and I'll just say, show me, and you just test a few things out, show me, let me let me see it. Let me say it sometimes I have some students, and they'll just say, you know, Mr. Rogers, can I just record a video for that? And I think about it like, well, how important that writing? Is that something I really needed to see the technique? Or did I just need them to explain to me how to compare and contrast, I don't know that I needed that to be fully written out in some detailed document. Like, I'm like, Yeah, I'll do a video for that. There's some options. And you should see the student they get on there, like, Hello, my name is going in there, nail it, like the connections they made with the text and the two texts, and together, I'm like, This person is made for TV or some brains just work different. You have to ask yourself, which, which thing Do I have to die on? Is it is it on the like writing format? Or if there's a writing format? Which different way can we do a writing format? It's a you're trying to help your kids discover what they what they what makes them tick? What makes it like you already know like, if they're really into gaming, the gamify it figure out how they make that social studies project again, figure out how and suddenly they smile.
That's cool. And totally alternative scenario at it. I'm not sure if I can frame this really articulately, we'll see. Let's say you've got a kid, I've got a couple of them that breeze through school. And I'd say they're good at school, the way that they're receiving it, they're doing it well. Grades are fine, no problems. But the problem is motivation, excitement, interest, engagements, that I don't see them necessarily passionate about learning. I mean, they're not digging in, they're not like you use that phrase, their brain is not on fire. And as a parent, you know, is that a concern? Number one, because they're doing well in school, and they're probably gonna get off, you know, go on the next track the next train station, which is college and, but through the lens of helping them build a meaningful life, that's a big bummer. And what I want to do is have conversations with them, and help them explore what they're learning and how they're learning it. So again, I don't know how to ask that question, necessarily. But what do you talk about with a kid who's just kind of doing it well, and yet isn't coming alive?
As a parent or as an educator?
You know, my daughter is one of those my youngest daughter, she, she was just getting straight A's, you know, she was doing fine. pretty stressed about it, like, you know, really wanted to do well, but I didn't, I didn't, I didn't think it was anything exciting. Nothing. What are you learning? Tell me about like, nothing exciting happening, you know. And so, you know, I pulled her for a variety of reasons and put her in this, you know, new adventure that we're doing over here at the school. And it's been fascinating to listen, because I was just assuming maybe she would maybe not like it, you know, had a different format. And it was more virtual or whatever. She was saying the opposite. And I said, Tell Tell me more. And she said, Well, I mean, sure I could go back to their school. She's like, I just wouldn't learn anything. So what do you mean, you've got like straight A's? She's like, Yeah, I mean, I just, you know, it was like, worksheets and stuff. Like, I just memorized it. And I don't remember like, it's really weird mom, they, they do the pre assessment here. And so they, they find out what I know ahead of time. So they say, Hey, we're gonna learn this thing. Here's the pre assessment, what show us what you know about it. And she's like, I know, I learned it at the other school. I remember I know, I'm supposed to know it. Like, I just can't remember it was like here, when they teach things I remember it was like, Yeah, I'll say more about that. So it's been fascinating to listen to, you know, when you really listen to it, you know, 13 year old tried to explain that to you where she was doing just fine. I, in fact, I would even say our grades are better than they are. Right? Like, what do you what are you doing, but it's actually finds it more challenging here and she got so excited. It was the first time I'd ever seen her go, she like connected with her birth brother who's in Mexico. And she's like this. He's really He's really good at Minecraft. And she's like having him help her to this huge project, she had to make this giant cathedral for this project for social studies or whatever. And she I don't even know if she ever even presented or I don't need to know honestly, because the culmination wasn't the thing for me, as a parent. And as an educator, for the first time I saw her alive, I saw her going and stopping at nothing to find whatever resource she could to make something happen that she knew she couldn't even figure out on her own. And she wanted to figure it out. And that was, to me, that's the beginning of she'll still remember that cathedral project forever. She will always she'll probably know a lot more about cathedrals. No, it's just I hadn't heard her talk about anything like that before. So we're just quick memorization. And that's not the same as learning. And I want her to be excited about what she's going to do next. And what she has to contribute. What is her note, if they don't leave education, knowing what their note is to play in the world? Experts at it, I wasn't. But I had a few Inklings. And it was, you know, a few moments where somebody pulled me aside was like, see what's happening here with this writing? This is interesting. You got you got a gift here. I'm like, say what? Like, it was very exciting, you know, our speech or something that I usually was terrible about. And all of a sudden, I like kind of had this moment where something came out, and they're like, ooh, right there, like that's where you are. There's it's coming out and like, oh, so those moments where kids get to kind of shine and do something even kind of crazy is really important.
Yeah, I love that what you just shared, I'd love to have a high expectation that we share with our kids. That presupposes there is an answer. So I expect you to find your note, which means you have a note. And that note is to give. And if that's a continuous conversation throughout the years, even when it's boring or dull, they have a semester or quarter, that's just kind of lame and uninspiring. If you continue to ask that question, I just I like that there's an answer on the other side of that. And it might not come in 13. Hopefully, it comes at eight. So you know, maybe like you and I came a little bit later. But I knew it. I knew there was something out there, right? Or there's something for me to find something for me to do that was great and meaningful and important. Just didn't know what. And the same thing with me. I had one teacher, there's 14, say something not even a really great compliment, like, this is pretty good, what you're writing. And whoa, that I mean, that can absolutely make a big, big difference. So thank you to that teacher who saw something and decided to say it. And to a mom who said Yeah, I agree. I think you are too. So thank you to a mom. And then that partnership, what a look at my life and I write for a living. It's amazing, right? Would you wrap up? Wrap Up? Would you share about what you're doing at connect Academy? I think I what I love when parents can hear alternatives to the traditional. So please share about what you guys are up to.
Yeah, yeah, we're school district here in Poway Unified, or at school, a school new school where we've started this year, and it kind of came under the umbrella of virtual at first. And it's something people are kind of learning and discovering, because what we've done is really under independent study, which unlocks a whole lot of creative, alternative options. On your independent study, there's some more some more loose, flexible things that you can do. And it's really fun because with independent study, it becomes more about what is best for kids for their flexibility and structure. So they get to kind of choose so the schedule is very different. So it's not a typical like and then you'll be online for this time, all the way to the side. Like it's more it's kind of every day is a little bit different. Like we were moving and grooving based on what the kids need. And sometimes it's meeting a lot more one on one meetings, I've never met some one on one with so much with kids and I have here at the school, it's amazing, they're getting so much more one on one connection time and times have freed up and do something different is exciting. What we do is we it's more of a hybrid. And so we have a lot of different virtual we have different virtual schedule. Some of it's very, you know, very consistent like every morning through the login and we have a connect time everyone in the school we connect we as a call connect time connect our students because we are relationship driven. It's literally our first part of our Connected learner profile is relationship driven. So we have that's our biggest part of our passion here is building relationships. Then we move into our structure however we're structuring our, our curriculum we really move more toward a project based is probably one more you can describe it where the learning is more integrated. So I would think of it more as inquiry based learning. So we're kind of figuring out what the kids want to learn about what do you want to learn about we do a lot of that. What do you want to learn? Tell us more? We meet with them one on one. Let's have a meeting. Let's talk about your passion. What would you like to do for your passion project? So really trying to unlock that from a very young, even real early in the year? What is your what are your passions? Help let us help you discover them. Let's help find it together. So that's really fun way to begin the year. And then we have on campus experiences. So it's one of the taglines we use as the best virtual and the best of on campus. I mean, it's really the way of the future is going to have a blend Did Matt COVID kind of reveal that, and, you know, you can go on negative with me, like, you know, virtual learning was terrible. And there's lots to say about that. But there was also some things that have changed the world, we are all now connecting, and we can do these kinds of zoom things on these live things on Riverside or whatever you guys are gonna, you know, there's all kinds of ways to connect in the world. Now, we didn't realize and I'm finding as a teacher, there are some things I can do very effective online with students. And it's actually in some ways, I'm going faster. It's amazingly slow in a classroom, and you're doing all this management, there's so much time spent so much wasted, just managing, you know, I talked to parents for years about that. And they're like, oh, you know, well, you know, she was this person's frustrated from this little guy. And, you know, what are you gonna do about this kid, and my kids kind of bored, because they have to wait a lot, you know, they're waiting in line or waiting for their students to behave. And I'm like, gosh, that is, that is often the world of that like, unless you were incredibly good at management, it's tricky. Or you get a year where you have a really not a very balanced classroom, it's a trickier year, you're just when you're in this format that just goes away, you're just you're just moving and grooving everyone's comfortable and safe in their own environment. And you can just go, so then when they come on campus, we're getting the best of that. So instead of just, you know, filler projects, which we know sometimes have to do when we're on campus, we're doing a lot of cooler things. As we do transitions and whatnot, we're not, there's no filler here, where everything is very intentional, very inspiring, very exciting. So when we come on, we do really great, exciting things and projects. And so it's fun to connect the, the all the projects where it's all of the interdisciplinary, so it's all the different subjects are kind of coming together. So that's one way to call it you can call it project Bayesian call interdisciplinary. But the idea is, you're, you're bringing in all the different subjects, but the kids aren't remembering that they just did math that day. Like sometimes sometimes I'm, like, pretty off the hook. But yeah, in general, they remember that we were, you know, studying animal adaptations, or life of the sustainable life of the Kumeyaay tribe, you know, we're learning about all kinds of different things. And that's what they remember. But they forgot that they were like, actually, you know, learning about fractions when we made them. They remember that the pizza garden was totally about fractions and area and perimeter and all the math concepts that we learned because we were doing. So that's that's where it's exciting. It also because it's independent study is built in so much collaboration. So the staff has so much collaboration, we're able to create things that I've never seen be created anywhere else. So such a high level of teachers that want something different, they want to have freedom to really create. So everyone's trying things that we've never tried. And it's so exciting. And, you know, kids really excited. So I think the learner profile is really where it's at. We start with the relationship, we move into integrity. So we're all trying to align our thinking so that we're becoming Integris. People. I think it's a structure you could use when you talk about what to do with parents, like how to parents do this. What do you say to a parent? Well, I'd say you know, create a structure the structure is you want it to be relational. You want it to have you want them to have integrity, you want them to learn to be communicative. How do they communicate in the world? What are the what are the ways you're going to teach them how to communicate? How can they be river reflective, so this is a huge part of our schools. We're very reflective. So all of our classrooms, everybody's teaching the students how to be reflective. When we look at connected community, they'd piece of our school, how do we connect to our community and build relationships? We do these things called Curiosity cabinets. So every Friday, there's a curiosity. And we've students chose them, we said, what do you want to learn about, and the whole school voted for all the things they wanted to learn about in the world. And the teachers based on our gifts and passions, tried to figure out match, select the things that we could teach, and we all launched them. So some of them are virtual, some of our on campus, and people choose their adventure, and they get to literally learn what ever they want to learn about. And it's not even like, we don't come up with all the lessons that kids do. But like, okay, hey, it's a music group. So I taught him music, curiosity, I'm a musician. So, you know, I was like, Okay, here we go, what do we want to learn? They're like, well, I'd like to learn how to play guitar, or actually, I'd like to do I'd like us all to do a song together. Or actually, I'd like to, I'm gonna like giving kids chords and teaching lessons and listening to recordings. And I mean, because they created it. It's not like Mrs. Rogers lesson like it was the kids created it. So that's where the collaboration and kind of the whole day this piece comes up. We're having a good time.
I mean, it sounds like the dream come true. That's awesome. You get to play there and create and see results, too. So if Is there a way to connect with Connect, if you're not in Poway Unified? Is there a way to follow you?
Yeah, connect Academy. You can tell we have a website. We have a video that just came out. So we're very excited about that. We were just in the Poway chieftain like the magazine. Yeah, we're in the magazine. Yeah. We have a whole article there. And then I think I'm we're not quite I don't think this year, we were having people from outside the district come in yet. Okay. I think it's on the, you know, conversation for this next year, for sure. So right now, it's just within Power unify. But we're hoping to see that out and we'll see what our options are.
Awesome. Well, Karen, thanks for joining us, you're, you've got a bit 1000s of hours of wise things to share. And we got to have like 20 minutes of it. So thank you to give to me give to the folks listening and all our best to what you're doing. Keep doing it. Keep doing it, and we hope it scales and grows and what if that's what school was So what you're talking about describing in general, so thank you, thank you
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