Libby Interview Full Transcript

Caroline Gardner 

All right. So, I'm gonna close my door because my sister is yelling.

 

Libby Whiting 

(Laughing) Naturally,

 

Caroline Gardner 

Naturally.

 

Libby Whiting 

That is what being home is like.

 

Caroline Gardner 

Okay. Um, so if you wouldn't mind just starting by telling me like kind of introducing yourself and telling me where you teach and how long you've been there.

 

Libby Whiting 

Okay so, um, I graduated from Indiana University in December 2019. Before that I did like my student teaching and kindergarten at an IPS school, Center for Inquiry, it's in Meridian Kessler, awesome. And then I got a kindergarten teaching position, in Washington, Township, at a school called Willow Lake. So it used to be Hartcord Elementary they tore that down, built Willow Lake brand new, this is their very first year that it's a school. And so two teachers quit this kindergarten class, and my class is just, off, off the chain kids, jumping on tables throwing crayons everywhere. Um, but, you know, I came in and it got better. They learned how to be in school and stuff and I obviously I loved it Willow Lake's a great school. And then, you know, three months in elearning starts so that's been interesting. Definitely because a lot of my kids especially in just like Washington, Township kind of as a district, but also just like very specific to the school that I'm at is very low socio economic like close to 90% of the population's on free or reduced lunch. Every kid gets free breakfast which is awesome. And also I mean my class specifically, the parents and the kids had two teachers quit on them, so like me being a first year teacher and coming in. Um, I had, I had like hesitant parents, you know like who don't trust me, I don't blame them at all like why would you? But that being said I also have like really involved parents some awesome parents so it's been, I mean, a lot of them don't have the resources to do elearning at home, which kind of sucks and some of them. I've told their parents I'm like look like you worry about your kid being healthy and like, well, and safe. First, and if e-learning doesn't fit into that. That's okay, like, keep your child, healthy. Um, but, Washington, Township, and I know like IPS students so IPS is only allowing technology rentals out to high schoolers last I heard, and so like if you don't have technology like you're just out of luck, and Washington, Township did second through 12th grade so since I'm kindergarten, originally like if my students don't have technology at home, they're not going to get anything from the district to help them. So that's interesting, there's like a lot of a lot of families can't afford like Wi Fi all the time like connectivity problems. And then also, it's one of those things like I do teach kindergarten and that's, it's not mandatory in the state of Indiana, so I can't really like for like assign anything or like force anything to be do, which is, I mean, not that I would do that anyway because like, I'm not giving kindergarteners grades during this time obviously. But I think that is harder because parents kind of do feel like, oh, like I don't necessarily like if I don't have to do it, then I just want, maybe it's easier for them. Then, I don't know, I'm trying to just like I don't know what they're telling their kids about coronavirus, and so like, I'm trying to let the parents kind of deal with it on their own terms because I can totally see some, some of my parents just being like, it's summer. Like, you can't go outside or whatever I don't know. So it's been very interesting but I love my job so much like tell people like I just get joy, every single day from it like when I was in the classroom. And it was been pretty hard like not being able to see my kids, especially because for some of them like they're always hungry like I always was sending more more food at home with them, or like, you know, they show up to school with a black eye, and they say it's from one thing, but you don't know it's just I feel very protective over my kids and I can't see them physically anymore, which has been hard I do like zoom calls but like the most I've gotten on his like six kids, just because I also get it it's like if a family only has one computer or iPad or phone. Why would you give it to the kindergartener for, like, a video call, like I get that if someone has real work not that's not work but like a job or an assignment to do? It's not gonna go to that kid. Which sucks for them, but I think it's just kind of how it is. Yeah.

 

Caroline Gardner 

Yeah. Um, so, have any of your kids asked you, like how do you explain the pandemic to a kindergartner like have you been in that position?

 

Libby Whiting 

Um not really so it was kind of, it was very strange because basically like. Indy, like we stopped to go to school on a Thursday like after that Thursday, school day, it was done. And they had just told us that morning that like like that it would it could it be a possibility that we're going to like hybrid or like at home learning for a little while. And so like that day I was like pushing out a lot of stuff and kind of like just saying okay like these are just going home like in case we have an E learning day, and they know what you learning days are because, like I've talked to the amount that before and stuff like that, but not to the extent obviously of what's going on, and I didn't say like anything about the coronavirus because I hadn't talked to any of their parents about it, and like I do have some parents that probably would have been upset not that like they think I'm like describing it in a bad way or something, but probably just upset that I didn't talk to them about it first. And like I think it's like you're doing pretty careful about your like wordage, when talking to kids about it because it can make it seem very very scary. And then make them not want to go outside like ever again. So, um, I've given like parents and stuff like resources of how to talk to him about it, but I kind of was like, I'm not going as a teacher, like, like on a zoom I'm not gonna be like how's Corona like I don't ask them that they do talk about they're like, Oh, we can't go outside because of germs like some kids say that. But like other, so like I'm nannying a kid kindergarten right now and my cousin has a kindergartner who facetimes me all the time because I'm a kindergarden teacher, and they I mean, but they're I speaking very like broad strokes, they are from like upper class families and like they do have the technology like each, each of these kids has their own iPad and they do know they understand what's happening and be like oh it's not safe. Outside like, well it's not safe for people like there's a sickness going around. And so they understand it but I think it's because. Sorry, their parents, kind of have the tools to talk to them about it, like some of my kids like I had a few kids in my class where all of their behavior problems stemmed from how they were their parent at home. And that makes sense. So, it's an I'm not a parent so like, I try to be like, this is not like say Bible or anything and I tell parents that I'm like, I'm not a parent like, I don't know what it feels like to raise a kid, have a kid you know like I just don't know. So I'm not going to try to tell them like, Oh, you should do this, but like I have some kids that like have never heard about time, like go to bed at like 3am, and they're five years old. And you're like, Okay, well maybe they're lying to me but also like that would make sense why they're sleeping all the time. And that parent probably isn't going to have the tools to talk to their kid, about a global pandemic in a way that's not like really really scary, I think. But I'm, I don't know, maybe they're doing a great job I hope they're doing great.

 

Caroline Gardner 

So, how do you like how do you deal with that. This kind of like a personal question about you-

 

Libby Whiting 

Yeah.

 

Caroline Gardner 

Like how do you deal with the stress of not being able to see your kids and kind of like having this worry that you're describing like what do you do to take care of yourself at a time that's like already scary for you but then like with the additional burden of like a bunch of five year olds.

 

Libby Whiting 

I think it's like something that has been like very very helpful for me is like I at least like FaceTime or talk to my friends, every single day, and like my family is so supportive of me like I have these flowers in my room right now so cute, like one day like you're the best teacher ever I'm like I've been a teacher for three months but thank you. It's, it's hard, and honestly, something that I tried to be good about at the beginning of the year it's just like when you are working with kids that come from, like, I mean, this is 10 minutes from like this is like seven minutes from your house, and like the level of poverty that you see. It's just like something I've never really experienced before. Just because, you know, sheltered. So, it's one of those things where like, I was, I think, they call it like little t trauma. Have you ever heard of that? Um, so, like, my admin like principal and vice principals, were really good about saying like, look like these kids like they will drain it all from you if you let, you know, just like that it will happen so you need to be pretty good about like, when I left the building I tried to be like done with work. If that makes sense. I was just like you know what these next four hours before I go to bed, I'm just going to be focusing on myself, because you can't like I noticed myself like if I were staying at school too late, or I'd get home and work on stuff and like, it's just a very easy place to get into that oh my gosh like I wonder what he's doing at home right now or like are they getting enough to eat all this, like random things racing through your head. And so it's been harder to do that when like I don't see them and I don't have like the physical like okay like I'm your teacher I'm not your mom so like, you know, I don't do mom stuff but it's been harder to like, like not let go, but kind of like get that like, okay, like I did my part like that's as much as I can do like at the end of the day I'd be like, I know I did my best. So like, that's all I really can do leave it at school you know don't bring it home, but now I'm like, I don't know how to do my best really like I don't know how to best serve these kids. And like a lot of the work I'm doing is for like six out of my 26 kids, which I will happily do like, obviously, you know, want them to learn and be healthy and safe and all that good stuff. But it is really discouraging when like you to put so much work into it and like not even half your class sees that. So it's been hard and it's just like I do like the reason I am a teacher is for the students. Some because like I like making lesson plans and I like, you know, behavior, like classroom management styles like it's, it's for the kids and the connections that you have with the kids. And that like really goes away when it's not in person I feel like

 

Caroline Gardner 

so.

 

Libby Whiting 

But

 

Caroline Gardner 

Oh sorry, go ahead.

 

Libby Whiting 

Oh, you're good. Go on.

 

Caroline Gardner 

No, no. Finish what you're going to say.

 

Libby Whiting 

I was just saying, I think that like, I'm relocating to Chicago, so I'm like right now looking for jobs and stuff. I think that just like the nature of how this all started kind of set it up to be a bad experience for a lot of people is like, you know, you don't you don't know you don't have the tools at home, or like you don't have to know how like you don't know what you're supposed to be doing really, I think that when like school does come back. It'll be definitely hybrid like it won't be full capacity and will, I'll be able to like prepare my students for something like this happening. Like if I could have prepared my kids and been like okay like who needs stuff, like I would have just started like. I mean, you know like I could have. I like talk to the school social worker because so many people came up to me like for Brebeuf Cathedral like you had to have like a device like an iPad or a laptop or something like that. So like I know so many people that just have old ones laying around because like, they get a new one and then they're like oh whatever like this. So I was like I could clear that like so many people were like, do your kids need technology. I'm like yes like so I could have done more under the table stuff like being like, Oh, this is rented from Miss Whiting. But like the school like the district doesn't allow you to like obviously give out technology, but I think that like if it was more in person that I could get away with like helping the kids and it's not like I don't think giving them technology out like giving them personal stuff is a bad thing, that's just kind of like, like your what you're comfortable with as a teacher for me I'm like yeah if they don't have anything at home like people are offering me stuff like I want to help them.

 

Caroline Gardner 

Yeah, for sure. Um, so for those six kids that you are talking to regularly on zoom like what are your lesson plans look like?

 

Libby Whiting 

So I call them zoom playdates just because I'm like, I know you don't want to do anything like, really. So what we do is, I teach so the school I teach I just like Responsive Classroom I don't know if you know what that is, but, um, it's basically just like a, like a teaching theory kind of practice, basically that, like, you have like stuff like morning meeting, and like instead of rules you have like essential agreements. And so like I try to do our like zoom playdates like how we would do morning meeting, which is like you do, like, share, or a greet. So like, we'll do like fun songs like when we were in the class like we do like (singing) Chicka chicka boom boom Look who's here and our room - and then everyone would go around and so when we're doing on zoom we do like (sing) Chicka chicka boom boom Look who's here on our zoom, or like so I do like fun stuff like that. Um, and then I always am like I always ask them to like bring writing or something that they're working on no one ever does. Sometimes we've done show and tell before, which was really fun. But I always will read them like I'll have a bunch of books out and I'll like do like short little like, Oh, this looks awesome like this is what it's about. And then they'll get to vote on which books they want me to read. And then we do. I don't you probably don't know what this is. Go noodle it's like this movement activity kind of like website it's like YouTube for little kids, kind of, I guess, but I did it all the time. In my classroom, like before because they're five, they have to have like little breaks, and they're just like cute little dances and they're kind of educational. So we'll always do two go noodles. (laughs) So like, I'll share my screen and we're like, they're like so. My sister always films me doing them because she's like you, our jobs are so different. You're doing this for kids right now. Um, but it's so cute literally every single time I'm like, do you have anything to share at the end I always like I'm like, you know, this is your chance to talk to us for the week. And they're always like, I miss school, like I want to go back and it makes me so sad and I have to be like, I know I miss it too. Like when are we gonna go back I'm like, I don't know,

 

Caroline Gardner 

Like tomorrow if I could wave a magic wand.

 

Libby Whiting 

Yeah, seriously. Like I won't be there next year but I'm not gonna tell you that right now.

 

Caroline Gardner 

Oh, well, congrats on your job searching that's exciting.

 

Libby Whiting 

Well yeah let's hope I find a job, but thank you.

 

Caroline Gardner 

Fingers crossed. Um, Okay, well, this was a really, really great. Is there anything that you think I should know about like your life or the lives of your students. Oh wait, actually, I do have one more question if that's okay. Yeah. Um, so you said like most of your students were on free or reduced lunch, how are they getting food? and like,

 

Libby Whiting 

oh so this is actually awesome

 

Caroline Gardner 

okay

 

Libby Whiting 

and I know Washington, Township and IPS are doing this just because like, I'm most connected in those districts, um, they I mean within the first week of no school. So like, it was called like like at home learning for a little bit, Washington, Township was able to give out like 44,000 meals, so they have food pickup, which a lot of the students are relying on for food. And I think it's like people who also are like receiving like food stamps and stuff like that. Um, I don't know cuz like I don't I you can see a lot on the kids profile and like our like nice stuff but it's not like this is what their household income is, um, but it makes me nervous because it's like so many of my kids just were like dirty not dirty but like you could tell that they aren't really like cared for in a way that like, I'm used to seeing children cared for, um, but that there's like still like super rich families that go to this school, but it's interesting, they're all in the kindergarten and first grade they have like, like two classrooms there's five classrooms in a grade. Two of them are like dual like immersion so all of their day is in Spanish. And like native Spanish speakers teach them which is really cool and then the other half is monolingual, so just like regular, but all almost all of the white kids were in the dual immersion classroom, like the two, and the rest were like kind of like Hispanic kids. And there was like a there's, I noticed and like I said this because it was very apparent in my classroom. I had like no white kids my classroom was all black, Hispanic and Asian kids. And I there was 11 kids with special, like, like special education needs already diagnosed in kindergarten and eight of the 11 were in my classroom. So I'm like, Do you not like I was just like, it's not that's not equitable, like if you're looking at this like all of the white kids are in two classrooms and then you have this one classroom like on fire. Basically, because like their parents aren't calling the school same my Kenny, needs to be here, like all this stuff. So, that was that was interesting to kind of see that like, even I mean, because like my experience with my classroom was wow like these kids are so, like, you know, to come from a different world. And then we went to the Children's Museum for a field trip, and it was like some of the moms in the classroom are like Park Tutor Moms. I'm like, what, what, what, where's that happen. I was so confused.

 

Caroline Gardner 

So do you think the coronavirus has like exacerbated already like racial and socio economic differences for the children?

 

Libby Whiting 

100%. I think that like, I mean, I don't know what you study in college but like I became like really critical about like, kind of like race and like public policy and how that plays into like minorities just because as a white girl from Indianapolis going to private school my whole life. I never thought about stuff like that. Like no one ever really talks about it either. Um, but like teaching. And just like learning about it and kind of getting a glimpse into like what it's not like to be like white and college educated, is that I think that it's affecting the populations like a lot more than it is people who can like afford to like call their concierge doctor and get a test and like, be able to quarantine by themselves like sometimes it's just like not physically capable capable for people to like self quarantine if you're living in a one bedroom apartment with seven people. Um, I don't know because I mean I haven't like talked to any of the like families about like health stuff, but I am curious like I've seen reports that like, like black communities are being hit like a lot harder with coronavirus than other people but, you know, no one talks about it because they're not white people why would you I guess? Their opinions. Um, yeah so i don't know, I mean I say so but

 

Caroline Gardner 

Yeah, no, that's really, um, I'm sure that you have a unique perspective kind of having like the firsthand view of everything. Um, okay so I think that's all my questions I know you need to run, but is there anything else. I'm missing about like your life or the lives of your students or like.

 

Libby Whiting 

I mean, the kids just like I think that people like you can obviously like do a lot of things online for school, but there's so much about school that cannot be like replaced virtually. And so much of what's learned and like primary grades, I think, is like social skills. Can't really teach over a computer unless it's like cyber etiquette, I guess, or like how to not scream on a zoom call the kids are like that, (sits close to the camera) and they're screaming the whole time in the camera.

 

Caroline Gardner 

That's so cute

 

Libby Whiting 

Wait, what was I gonna say, shoot.

 

Caroline Gardner 

You're just saying, primary school

 

Libby Whiting 

Its all like all about like routine and like for my class and like, this is true for a lot of like, lower socio-economic schools is that you're never really going to be on grade level like you're not going to my kids are already behind, but it was so much about teaching them like how to behave in a classroom and like, like acceptable ways to like express themselves, just because like, that's not something that they get at home. And I think that's kind of hard to do, like you can't like. I like for so many of my kids I'd have to like not bribe them but like do a lot of like positive reinforcement and like monitor their behavior, constantly throughout the day, and I mean I had an aide helping me and I had a million other people in my room helping me do this. I think it's that's not something that's going to be able to happen at home, and like kids need structure and routine. And, but also is not doesn't like I feel like elearning, and at home learning, make it hard for like kids to like feel like they're like really like in a routine and like they're doing the same stuff every day they know what to expect.

 

Caroline Gardner 

Why do you think they aren't getting that kind of education and like behavior monitoring at home?

 

Libby Whiting 

I think just like the nature of it like I just think, I mean, even like kids go to like St. Luke, or Park Tudor, they're not getting at home, either because it's so you know like I think you watching your child and how they behave you have certain expectations for them. But when you watch your kid like socialize with other people and how they like treat other like authority figures, like I have so many kids that like they just like any man, they would listen to and they would have such a hard time hearing it from me. Just because that is maybe the culture that they are raised in like, I'm not gonna make I don't make broad, sweeping, you know statements about their lives I don't really know. But it's I think it's just a different thing of like you, there are certain expectations in school that like, obviously are not going to be expectations at home, and vice versa, I think, also, I, I don't know, it's hard because like I don't want to speak for all parents, and I'm not a parent like that's like, so I really struggle with that as a teacher I feel like once I become a parent I'm gonna be like I know freaking everything. But now I'm like, I don't know because I don't know what it's like to deal with the kid 24 seven. I know what it's like to deal with 28 of them for seven hours all the time but. And I think it's really important for kids to learn how to like be with other kids their age, that are different than them. Maybe they don't like look different but they like do different stuff and they have like different expectations at home, and I just don't like there's like a lot of formative experiences that they probably aren't getting.

 

Caroline Gardner 

Yeah,

 

Libby Whiting 

No, they just, I don't know how like kids are gonna start kindergarten online, that's been something I've been thinking about,

 

Caroline Gardner 

because I feel like the first day of kindergarten is like such a big deal for a lot of people,

 

Libby Whiting 

big deal, oh my gosh

 

Caroline Gardner 

because I feel like I mean you probably know better than me but, um, I feel like preschool in Indianapolis. Isn't that like, it's not required by Indiana in Indiana, right. So, how many of your students. Yeah kindergartener is but like, how many of your students went to preschool.

 

Libby Whiting 

Oh, I don't want to say more than 10.

 

Caroline Gardner 

Okay.

 

Libby Whiting 

And I had 26 kids. Um, I had, like, but it was really interesting because there was one kid that opened like oh he for sure went to preschool, but no like has like his mom just rocks like he's just a well behaved kid. There's other kid I was like, oh he's never been to preschool, he went to preschool but his mom was his teacher, so I'm like well that makes sense. You know, a lot of them like it's kind of like daycare rather than preschool, and so they view it a lot more of like play. And so, I think the problem with that is that, and this is just very specific to my class is that they did have two teachers quit so they didn't really get the whole school thing. They thought they were just they're like, Oh, you know, daycare. Time to do whatever I want. Yeah. Um, yeah, it will be interesting to like, see how kids who have never had any formal schooling, go online right off the bat. Yeah. I don't want to think about that right now,

 

Caroline Gardner 

Kind of me either, I am not going to lie.  Well thank you so much. It's great to see you over FaceTime and

 

Libby Whiting 

Text me if you have like any if you're writing and you know

 

Caroline Gardner 

Wait, I have one more question. I know I said that last time. But this is actually I promise okay so how many are like how many, how have has your experience being a first year teacher affected like this experience like your ability to all of handle this.

 

Libby Whiting 

Honestly I go back and forth. Like, I sometimes I'm like this is like a great experience like I'm learning a lot and it's like I feel like at the end of this I'm gonna be like, oh, like, I can handle anything. But the other part of me is like I have only been teaching for like three months like actually. I mean, well now four or five I guess because it's May, but I just don't know how to count. And, but I feel like, and I don't think another teacher would say this to me it's probably just like me personally I feel like I like didn't like I don't have enough experience like I've been in like the actual uncharged teacher in front of the classroom, you know, like I really only did that for three months and then it stopped. And you do that during student teaching too. So it makes me like, like I feel like I'm not like credible enough and I know that's just like that's just like an insecurity of mine and I think that's kind of like a first year teacher I'm like okay like. It is hard because no one's gonna say like, Oh wow, like, you know, that happened your first year teaching like you know like what an explained you you know you can handle anything now, but also at the same time it's like, there are certain like getting really technical like the two weeks before spring break and like are like crazy like it is like the kids are off the chain there's a bunch of like testing you have to do so I was like, like looking forward to that but like, it is stressful and like really hard to be a first year teacher and like you're working on a bunch of different stuff all the time. so I was like I feel like, because I kind of got this break, which I was of course like thankful for because, you know, I was like working really hard and like okay like the first week I was like this is great like I can sleep for more than like six hours and you know I can work out or whatever, but by the second week I was like wait no like I want to be back with my kids. I don't want to do this anymore. And I don't know, it is like I would have loved like end of the year it's just like, I think like the best time. So like I didn't get to experience that as, like with my costs like my first class and it makes me sad, but I don't know nothing you can do about it.

 

Caroline Gardner 

Yeah, for sure.

 

Libby Whiting 

Something fun we did today though, is like my school. It's like Teacher Appreciation Week and so we did this giant parade there all the neighborhoods around Willow lake and there was like kids signs and like it was awesome. That's one of those things I was like I felt very connected. Today more than I have in a while, which is nice, good I'm so happy that happened but yeah, definitely.

 

Caroline Gardner 

Oh, that's great.

 

Libby Whiting 

Yeah, just text me if you have any other questions.

 

Caroline Gardner 

Thank you so much. No, you're good to see you.

 

Libby Whiting 

Good to see you too. Good luck.

 

Caroline Gardner 

Thanks.

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