MindShift Podcast The MindShift podcast explores the innovations in education that are shaping how kids learn. Hosts Ki Sung and Katrina Schwartz introduce listeners to educators, researchers, parents and students who are developing effective ways to improve how kids learn.We cover topics like how fed-up administrators are developing surprising tactics to deal with classroom disruptions; how listening to podcasts are helping kids develop reading skills; the consequences of overparenting; and why interdisciplinary learning can engage students on all ends of the traditional achievement spectrum.This podcast is part of the MindShift education site, a division of KQED News. KQED is an NPR/PBS member station based in San Francisco.You can also visit the MindShift website for episodes and supplemental blog posts or tweet us @MindShiftKQED or visit us at MindShift.KQED.org.
MindShift Podcast

MindShift Podcast


The MindShift podcast explores the innovations in education that are shaping how kids learn. Hosts Ki Sung and Katrina Schwartz introduce listeners to educators, researchers, parents and students who are developing effective ways to improve how kids learn.We cover topics like how fed-up administrators are developing surprising tactics to deal with classroom disruptions; how listening to podcasts are helping kids develop reading skills; the consequences of overparenting; and why interdisciplinary learning can engage students on all ends of the traditional achievement spectrum.This podcast is part of the MindShift education site, a division of KQED News. KQED is an NPR/PBS member station based in San Francisco.You can also visit the MindShift website for episodes and supplemental blog posts or tweet us @MindShiftKQED or visit us at MindShift.KQED.org.

Most Recent Episodes

Dropping Out and Coming Back: Stories of Persevering for a Diploma

On a sunny day in early June, 12 young people received their high school diplomas at a moving ceremony at the Oakland Museum of California. Graduations are always full of emotion and excitement, but this one was a little different because these young people dropped out of high school, but came back to get their diplomas. The friends and loved ones gathered to celebrate their achievement knew exactly how hard they had worked for this moment and the obstacles they'd overcome. "When I came here, you know, I wasn't ready," said Jorge Plata Zuniga in a speech from the stage. "I dropped out in '07. I dropped out of high school. Came back 2016, I wasn't prepared. I overcame my obstacles, you know, and I did it." They are graduates of Civicorps Corpsmember Academy, a program for 18-to-26-year-olds who have recommitted to getting a diploma despite a range of academic experiences. Some come back to school at a fourth-grade level, while others are just a few credits short of graduating from their original high school. No matter their level, Civicorps focuses on supporting their physical, emotional and mental health needs in addition to coaching them academically. "High school dropout is a label I'm thankful to tear off me as a person," said Jeremy Ward during his graduation speech. For many of these graduates, getting a diploma felt like an insurmountable challenge. About 40 percent of Civicorps students are homeless, some have been involved in the criminal justice system, and others are young parents, all barriers to completing their degrees. At Civicorps, they participate in outdoor conservation work, doing things like clearing brush and maintaining trails for the regional parks, while completing their academics. That means they get paid while they're in school, often an important requirement for people who have to support themselves and their families. "I never thought I'd see the day; I'm not gonna lie," said Antoine Marigny. "It's an unbelievable feeling. I never thought I could do it." Listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, NPR One or wherever you get your podcasts to hear three Civicorps graduates share their stories: why they didn't graduate high school, what convinced them to come back to school, and how they made it through.

How Teachers Designed a School Centered On Caring Relationships

Roberto Vega has taught at schools all over Los Angeles, but when he came to Social Justice Humanitas Academy he knew he'd found something special. Everything about how the school is structured and run is done with the best interests of students in mind. He liked it so much he decided to pull his son out of a popular high school located on a college campus and send him to Humanitas. "I brought him here for 11th grade and immediately my wife noticed a difference," Vega said. "She goes, 'You know it's weird, he doesn't want to wear his hoodie anymore.' He just seemed happier. He really came out of his shell. He got to showcase himself a lot more in the AP classes. He really did thrive here." Vega thinks that's because of great teaching, but also the underlying vision of this school: help students become the best version of themselves. With that vision guiding every decision — from how to support students on academic probation, to hiring — Social Justice Humanitas has built a school where teachers' voices are central, and everyone is looking out for one another. The school and the systems that govern it were designed by teachers and have been led by them from the beginning. The founding group of teachers were tired of being told what to do and how to do it by people who were not in the classroom. They felt they knew what their students needed if only the administration would support them to do it. "A lot of times in education, as teachers, we've been taught to wait for someone above us to tell us what to do," said Jeff Austin, a founding teacher. "And make your plans according to the district or the state, and we were just like, we want to make plans according to our students." There are a lot of systems woven together to help students here succeed. They have a robust advisory program, grade-level teaching teams, office hours when kids can get extra support, a fully integrated model for English language learners and special needs students to learn alongside their peers, and a strong school culture. Students can feel the difference. "It feels like a family because there's a lot of people who care about you," said Davis Tacún. "In a family everybody looks out for each other and that's how it feels here. Everyone's connected and no one is really isolated." Other students said they felt they could be themselves. They could trust and talk to their teachers, and they had spaces to open up about the difficult things in their lives. All of this enables Social Justice Humanitas to have a graduation rate consistently over 90 percent, even though the rest of Los Angeles Unified is only at 77 percent. Even more impressive, a majority of students graduate with the classes they need to go to college, and about 94 percent of them do go on to college. They're getting those results in spite of the fact that almost 90 percent of students here live in poverty. "What has made us successful, and I think a lot of people are starting to listen, is the huggy-touchy stuff," said Jose Luis Navarro IV, the founding principal of the school. "The stuff that freaks people out. Adults making themselves vulnerable. Building real relationships." Listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, NPR One or wherever you get your podcasts to hear what love sounds like in the hallways and classrooms of Social Justice Humanitas Academy, a school that's getting results with kids who are often on the losing side of the achievement gap.

The Role of Community in Creating and Healing Trauma in Kids

When kids live in violence-prone neighborhoods, the environment can enable trauma in their lives. The RYSE Center in Richmond, California, is seeking to change the community's culture by providing something to young people that's sometimes missing in their schools and home lives: love and support. The youth center is intentional about listening to the young people it serves, which means providing services far beyond typical after-school activities. In addition to offering classes, computer labs, recording studios, community garden, free food and a place to hang out until it closes at 8pm, RYSE spreads a culture of caring by showing youths what it means to care. "When we ask, 'How are you doing?' we really want to know," said Kanwarpal Dhaliwal, RYSE's associate director. "We are a witness and we are validating and we also, when it makes sense, want to push and challenge you with love to think about what could be different and what agency might you have even in a world where everything is sort of forced and you don't have much control." Gemikia Henderson and Dalia Ramos came to RYSE as teenagers about seven years ago. Gemikia came reluctantly for an internship and Dalia was looking for a place to be during the long hours after school. They were assigned to be "balance buddies" who check in on one another on a regular basis. Their experiences with mentors and peers at RYSE helped open them up to the possibilities in their world. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, NPR One or wherever you get your podcasts to hear how the RYSE Center is teaching a generation of young people — and adults — what it means to have a path for improvement for themselves and their community. "At RYSE we want to build that with each person but also collectively and in our community so we're building loving power in a way that really shift the conditions that brought about RYSE," said Dhaliwal.

Overcoming Childhood Trauma: How Parents and Schools Work to Stop the Cycle

Many people have experienced some kind of trauma in their childhood, such as loss of a caregiver, substance abuse in the home, homelessness or abuse. There are ten types of "Adverse Childhood Experiences" that were identified in a study conducted in the 1990s. The total number of childhood traumas someone has experienced determines their ACE score. About 2/3s of the people in the groundbreaking study had at least one ACE, but the researchers also found higher rates of adult physical and mental illness associated with the amount of trauma people experienced as children. But the impact of trauma can be tempered with interventions, including ones that focus on building and repairing relationships with adults. Residents of Butte County, California, have some of the highest ACE scores in the state. Public health and social services employees aren't sure why this is, but cite poverty due to a lack of jobs, and high rates of methamphetamine addiction in the 1990s. The county's office of education took extraordinary steps to address kids' needs by taking a trauma-informed approach to educating students. "Children have to be healthy enough to learn," said child psychiatrist and Stanford professor Shashank Joshi. "That's something that all school districts can agree on. And mental health is part of overall health." At Honey Run Academy in Paradise, California, principal Dena Kapsalis and her staff are careful not to assume anything about their students — what kinds of homes they come from, or even that they have homes. If it is the case that a student is homeless, which Kapsalis said is common, she and her staff consider this when acknowledging a student. "We know that there's nobody getting you up in the morning. We know that you're on your own and yet you're here," said Kapsalis. "It's five minutes before the school starts. That tells us that you want to be a student today that tells us you want to be successful today." The school's environment is built from the idea that each student is an individual and that every interaction is significant. Even a student's added selection of fruit with a meal is recognized. Multiply those moments over the course of a day, a week, a month and you start to see children growing healthy enough to learn. TRAUMA AND PARENTS As a parent, Sabrina Hanes, 33, is conscientious of the experiences she wants to pass on to her daughter, Aroara. She experienced a lot of pain, violence and neglect growing up. "I have a score of 8 and that's huge," said Hanes, referring to her Adverse Childhood Experiences score. "But here I am still, I'm doing it. I'm making it work." When she first learned she was pregnant, a doctor recommended she seek services from Youth for Change, a nonprofit in Paradise that, among other things, helps kids and adults who've had serious childhood trauma. For years, she took advantage of their parenting classes and child development offerings. These days, she and her daughter participate in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy. This type of therapy, which focuses on improving communication between parent and child, has been proven to help with behaviors like tantrums and aggression in kids. Hear how staff and teachers work with kids who've experienced serious trauma, and how Sabrina and Aroara heal together on the latest episode of the MindShift Podcast. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, NPR One or wherever you get your podcasts. This story was produced as a project for the USC Center for Health Journalism's California Fellowship. You can also learn more about Sabrina and Aroara Hanes in this California Report story.

Overcoming Childhood Trauma: How Parents and Schools Work to Stop the Cycle

Why Ninth Grade Can Be a Big Shock For High School Students

High school is an important time in the life of any teen: hormones are raging, social cliques are forming and the pressure is on to develop a college résumé. Teens gain more independence as they get older, but adults also expect more from teens without providing as much of the nurturing and guidance of their earlier years. Starting high school is a big transition and, it turns out, the ninth is grade a pivotal moment for teens' potential success or failure in high school. When students enter ninth grade at a traditional high school, they experience "ninth grade shock." Kids experience a "dramatic drop" in their academic performance once they transition to high school, according to research conducted by Nikolas Pharris-Ciurej while at the University of Washington. The differences are understandable in this period of change — in addition to adjusting to a bigger school environment, students are faced with more rigorous coursework that carry greater consequences. Many students get back on track and recover, but researchers have found that students who fail courses in the ninth grade have a harder time recovering and making up those credits; catching up to their peers becomes more difficult and these students face a greater risk of dropping out of high school. At Hillsdale High School in San Mateo, California, educators are combatting "ninth grade shock" by developing the kind of community kids don't want to miss. To create this environment, the public school applies strategies that are centered around relationship-building and meaningful work. Students enter the school belonging to a "house," which is comprised of about 110 students, to help carve out smaller learning communities on this campus of about 1,400 kids. Students learn four core subjects (math, social science, English Language Arts and science) together within their house, and those subjects are taught by the same four teachers for both ninth and tenth grade. Students also stay in the same advisory for both years. These four core subject teachers meet several times a week to discuss each student's academic progress and personal dilemmas. Through sharing what they know about each student within their house, this team of teachers can see multiple sides of a student, not just what that child's performance is in one subject. Teachers Danielle Robledo and Mike McCall have their weekly house meeting to discuss what's going on in the lives of their students in order to identify areas of need. (KQED/Samantha Shanahan) "Since we're sharing kids, nothing really gets through the cracks," said House Marrakesh social sciences teacher Danielle Robledo last spring. "We celebrate together we grieve together. We are a team with this one group of kids for two years and so you get to know people." But for all the support systems Hillsdale has in place, kids still have challenges that can get in the way of learning. Hear how student Jeffrey Aragon overcame some of the failures he experienced in the ninth grade to find success as a high school junior. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, NPR One or wherever you get your podcasts.

Can Inviting Teachers Over to Your Home Improve How Kids Learn?

When parents are attentive to what their child is learning at school, supporting their learning at home, and generally advocating for them, academic outcomes for the child improve. But getting parents engaged with school is often a big challenge, which is why so many schools and districts are trying to move beyond traditional models of parent engagement. Some are offering wraparound services like health care at school sites, while others offer English classes or parenting seminars to entice parents to campus where they can hope for more face-to-face time with them. But efforts focused around getting parents to come to school may not be the most effective. One of Yesenia Ramirez's six daughters was reading at a second-grade level when she was in the seventh grade. The girl was having difficulty accessing the material so she acted out in class. Then her reading teacher, Mr. Ford, visited the family at home. He listened to Yesenia Ramirez's concerns about her daughter and helped her develop an action plan; and everything turned around. "It was the best gift I've ever received when it comes to my children's education because he taught me how I needed to be an advocate for my children," Ramirez said. This experience inspired Ramirez to start the Parent Teacher Home Visits project training teachers around the country in the model. She passionately believes that home visits go a long way to build trust between teachers and families. Ramirez says the teachers she trains (in 20 states) are almost always hesitant at first, but she works hard to help them see the value in home visits. MORE THAN A SCHOOL CONTACT Pam Buric teaches newcomer English Language Learners at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento. Recently she has had several newly arrived families from Afghanistan. When she visited the family of her student, Ruhullah Masomee, she not only met his parents, but also his three siblings. During the visit Buric told Ruhullah's family how hard he was working and how much his English has improved. His parents asked if he was using his cellphone in class and how they could help him at home. At the end of the visit, Buric gave Ruhullah's father her card so that he has a specific contact at the school. Making sure parents have this kind of personal connection is one of the goals of the home visit. The hope is that if anything comes up for the student that the school should know about, family members will feel more comfortable reaching out. Buric's colleague at Luther Burbank, Jennifer Adkins, was a bit more skeptical of home visits. Before coming to Luther Burbank, a school with more than 1,700 students, the majority of whom receive free and reduced price meals, Adkins taught at two private K-8 schools. In that setting, parents weren't just involved, they were intrusive. They emailed and called her at all hours and showed up at her classroom in the middle of the day. She's happy to have a conversation about a child's progress, but found the constant bombardment from parents overbearing. When she heard about the home visit program at Luther Burbank she was not interested in participating. A colleague finally convinced Adkins to give home visits a try. At the training, she learned the five non-negotiable rules of the program: The program is voluntary for teachers. Teachers go in pairs. Teachers make sure the parents agree to the visit by making an appointment and following up before arriving. Teachers focus on the family's hopes and dreams for their child. Any student can get a home visit, so it doesn't become a stigma. "I was a little scared and intimidated," Adkins said. She worried the parents wouldn't want her in their home and was skeptical that the visit would really make a difference for her student, Hernan. For his part, Hernan thought Adkins was there to tell on him. "I actually felt like she was going to tell them bad things about me because I wasn't doing too well at that time," Hernan said. Listen to the rest of Hernan and Adkins' story on the first episode of Season 3 of the MindShift podcast. You'll hear more about why teachers and parents are skeptical of home visits and get to go along on one with us! Find it on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, NPR One or anywhere you get your podcasts.

MindShift Podcast Season 3 is Coming Soon!

It's that time of year! We're back with a new podcast episodes. This season, we investigate the intangible, and often overlooked, elements of academic success: emotional safety, trust, and relationships. You'll hear how teacher home visits can help parents see themselves as a valued a partner in their child's education; how far a public high school goes to develop an inclusive experience for the crucial transition to ninth grade; how parents and schools can address childhood trauma so it doesn't become an obstacle to learning, and what parents and communities can do to help kids grow. Join us for new episodes beginning August 28! Listen on Google Play, Apple Podcasts, NPR One or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also catch up on earlier episodes that are still relevant today. Hear how middle school principal Michael Essien transformed school discipline by sending counselors to the classroom to help teachers with disruptive students, keeping kids in the classroom; hear former Stanford dean of freshmen Julie Lythcott-Haims talk about how overparenting is creating "existential impotence" among young adults; and how students helped high school teacher Michael Godsey unlock a better way to read and learn English Language Arts through podcasts.

Courage To Change: What It Takes to Shift to Restorative Discipline

The Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) has become well known in the charter school movement for getting low-income kids into college. But KIPP schools also have a reputation for strict discipline and classroom management practices that require conformity. Over the past decade, many KIPP schools have been shifting their strategies, moving from strict no-excuses style discipline to restorative practices. There's a recognition among educators in the network, and outside of it, that kids need opportunities at school to practice the social and emotional skills that will help them be resilient after they graduate. KIPP Summit Academy in San Lorenzo, California has been leading the way in this effort. The school began shifting to restorative practices seven years ago and now they're seeing the academic and social results of that work. Teachers spend significant time and energy planning activities that push students to talk about difficult or emotional subjects, like friendship — a hot topic in middle school. They're trying to help students build an emotional toolbox, so they have the language to discuss conflict when it arises. It's been a long hard road, but one that has worked well enough that all KIPP Bay Area schools, and many in other regions as well, are making the shift. But implementing restorative practices doesn't happen overnight; it's a long, deliberate process of shifting mindsets among educators, parents, and students. And it doesn't always go smoothly at first. "The way most of us grew up in education was that the teacher knew everything, the student knew nothing; the teacher gave directions, the student followed directions; the teacher talked, the student listened," said Ric Zappa, director of school culture for KIPP Bay Area Schools. He led the changes at KIPP Summit Academy and is now helping other school leaders making the shift. He knows how hard it can be — he's been there. This fifth and final episode of the second season of the MindShift podcast takes us inside two KIPP schools: one has already made the transition to restorative justice and has all the staff and students on board. The other is just beginning the shift and running into snags along the way. Restorative discipline practices are becoming more common in schools around the country, but what does it take to do it well? Listen and find out on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, NPR One or wherever you get your podcasts.

How Listening to Podcasts Helps Students Read and Learn

High school English teacher Michael Godsey's favorite work by William Shakespeare is Hamlet. But a few years ago, he stopped teaching his students about the centuries-old classic in favor of a story that was unfolding in the fall of 2014: Serial, the podcast. The story of Adnan Syed, Hae Min Lee and the community at Woodlawn High School captivated podcast listeners around the world, including Godsey. The story was so engaging, he made listening to Serial in real time an assignment for his students and eventually made podcasts a regular part of his English class. He also teaches with episodes of This American Life, RadioLab and Serial Season 2 that cover subjects relevant to the lives of students. When he first started teaching with podcasts, students were applying English Language Arts critical thinking skills to podcast episodes, much like they would after reading a book. However, the more he taught with podcasts, he began to discover that his students were learning in ways he hadn't anticipated. Godsey developed lesson plans for teaching with podcasts and started hearing from teachers around the country about how podcasts were getting students excited about learning again. Hear from Michael Godsey and his students on the latest episode of the MindShift Podcast. Find out how he uses podcasts in the classroom and how his students were transformed by the experience. Find us on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, NPR One or wherever you get your podcasts.

Be The Change You Want To See

When Catlin Tucker pulled into the Windsor High parking lot for a staff professional development day at the end of Christmas break she was feeling less than inspired. She'd started to think that no matter what she tried in her traditional high school English classroom she wasn't really preparing kids for the world they'd find in college and beyond. And she wasn't optimistic that the jam-packed schedule of workshops would make her feel any better. But to her surprise, the talk delivered by the keynote speaker, Will Richardson, spoke to everything she'd been feeling. "He just spoke to me, to everything that concerns me about education and the way we're shuttling kids through classes and losing so many of them, and how we have to reimagine learning for kids of this generation," Tucker said. It was the validation she needed to top wishing things could be different, and start making big changes in her own teaching. "I walked out of that keynote and right into my principal's office and I was like, 'I want to do something different,'" Tucker said. The principal, Marc Elin, didn't shut her down; instead he let her explore the idea. When Tucker approached Marika Neto, a rookie teacher who was already proving herself to be restless with the traditional model, a partnership was born. Catlin Tucker (left) and Marika Neto. (Courtesy Catlin Tucker) Tucker and Neto created a program in which they share sixty students, a mix of freshman and sophomores, every other day. The interdisciplinary program blends science, English and technology learning standards into projects, and students are given more choice and independence over how and what they learn. Tucker and Neto hoped that by redesigning the classroom experience they could shift what students value about learning. Instead of being focused on grades and points, they're pushing students to see the value in self-reflection, self-assessment, and creative thinking. Listen to Episode Three of the MindShift Podcast to get a feel for this alternative classroom model, and to hear from the students, teachers, and parents who were willing to give learning this new way a try. Shifting long-held expectations of what school looks like hasn't been easy, but Tucker and Neto say it's been incredibly rewarding. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, NPR One or wherever you get your podcasts.

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