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Jennie Drummond is an art educator from the Bay Area in California and one of AOEU’s newest magazine writers. In today’s episode, Tim welcomes Jennie to the show to introduce herself and give us a look into her classroom. Listen as they discuss Jennie’s experience as an out educator, the importance of allyship, dealing with difficult topics, and some of her best ideas for student engagement. Full Episode Transcript Below.
Tim: Welcome to Art Ed Radio, the podcast for art teachers. This show is produced by The Art of Education University, and I’m your host, Tim Bogatz.
This episode today is a little bit late. Usually, when a new writer comes on to the AOEU team, I have them on the podcast, introduce themselves, to talk about their articles, and give listeners a better idea of who they are and what they’re interested in. Today I’m going to be talking to Jennie Drummond, who actually started writing this summer and somehow we have waited this long to bring her on. So apologies for that, but I am very excited to talk to her today.
If you are someone who listens to Art Ed Radio on the regular, I had a conversation earlier this month with Ray Yang. And during that conversation, Ray mentioned the critical race theory article that we had published. We had a little bit of discussion about that, and they were very complimentary about that article. But Jennie was, in fact, the one who wrote that article put a ton of time, a ton of research into it. It was a great, great piece and I want to talk to her about that article and about a lot of other things. I think she’s ready to chat, so I’m going to bring her on now. Jennie Drummond is joining me now. Jennie, how are you?
Jennie: I’m all right. I’m tired, but I’m all right.
Tim: That’s the theme for teachers this year. Just like we are very tired all over the time. It’s just how things are, but I’ve wanted to do this podcast with you for a while. You’ve been writing for a while for AOEU, and I usually have people on sooner than this. But you are finally here, I’m glad we can introduce you to the audience. But can you just take a minute and tell us a little bit about yourself? Who you are, where you teach, what things you’re interested in, either inside or outside of the classroom?
Jennie: Yeah, sure. My name’s Jennie Drummond. I am born and raised and live in the Bay Area in California, and I teach at a high school. It’s actually the rival high school to the one I went to, and I teach all levels of 2D. But I’ve also taught 3D art and animation and I’m also the yearbook advisor. I am the one teacher on campus who uses a service dog, and her name’s Shadow. So she’s around all the time.
Jennie: As far as fun stuff, I guess, I go to as many concerts as I can. I’m a huge fan of Country music, and I know I don’t look like it but big fan of Country. So I go to a lot of Country shows whenever there is one in California. Not too many artists make their way out here, but I also make a bunch of art. My favorite medium’s watercolor because you can only control it like 70% of the time. I also crochet and I’m a big Oakland A’s baseball fan as well.
Tim: All right, fantastic.
Jennie: Which means I’m paying little to no attention to the playoffs right now.
Tim: Those have passed you by a while ago, unfortunately.
Jennie: It always does.
Tim: Cool. Well, I want to talk about some of the things that you’ve written. I’ve been really impressed with just about everything that you’ve done. I really appreciate your article back in June, I think it was. Just introducing yourself as an out educator, talking about your experiences, talking about the importance of allyship. Can you share a little bit just about your experiences being out in your classroom? What is maybe some of the benefits, some of the drawbacks, if there are any drawbacks? And maybe talk a little bit about how you being out has helped your students?
Jennie: Yeah, well, like I mentioned, I teach in the town I grew up in and it’s a smaller town. When I was a student had made a name for myself as more of an activist. I’m 30 now, so when I was in high school, my senior year aligned with something called Prop 8 in California, which banned same sex marriage. And me and my friends and there were a large group of student activists that, after that happened, we realized we needed to band together and support one another because LGBTQ youth are… they go through a lot.
Jennie: Mental health is lower, suicide attempts are higher, use of drugs is higher as well, and so we had to find ways to support one another. What that meant was after high school, when I came back to teach, I came back at 21. I wasn’t gone that long, and I went back to a district that already knew that reputation. It was fairly easy for me as far as coming out at work to just continue being the person that I have been because a lot of the staff knew me already. I actually work with one of my high school art teachers now.
Tim: Oh, wow.
Jennie: Even though I’m at a different high school. But, although it’s in California, the community I work in can be politically conservative and very traditional in a lot of their values, which means that up until a couple years ago, I was the only out teacher at my school-
Tim: Oh, wow.
Jennie: … on a staff of like 100. When I say out, I mean out to the kids. But it was one of those things of I felt like coming into teaching, even though I started so young, I needed to be the teacher I needed when I was in high school that I didn’t have. That’s been a lot of it. It’s also meant that one thing I’ve noticed in being honest with my kids about who I am, they’re more willing to be honest with me about their whole lives. Like a lot of the work that goes into developing those relationships is already done by me being my genuine self. That doesn’t mean like discussing my dating life or anything. As far as they know, I don’t date anyone ever.
But it means just like having pride flags around my room, openly talking about growing up as a bi person in this town, and then they’re going to tell me if they’re having a rough day. They’re going to tell me if they’re super excited about something that’s like a personal achievement or stuff like that. I’ve found that it’s just a lot more fun to have them meet you at that. It is a lot of extra work taken on when you are one of the few safe out teachers that the kids are like, “Ah, yes, that one. I’m going to go to that one to talk to about my issues.” That’s fine, I always feel very privileged with that.
It does weigh a lot. It can be very heavy at times, but it also means that these kids have somewhere safe to go and they have someone not just safe, but someone who’s like them that they can look at and see, “Oh, I can grow up and be a teacher. I can grow up and be this super ridiculous human and I can have the pink mullet. It’s fine.” I think it’s an absolutely freeing thing. It does help that I have the support of my admin and that I always have, and that my colleagues also look out for me. There have been a couple instances of hate direct at me by students who were not my students and by parents whose children do not attend this school.
So people who don’t actually know who I am, but rather just see this educator is out and they are now a target for me because I have this whole idea in my head of what these people are like. Rather than actually sitting down and learning that I am quite qualified and I’m a decent teacher and a decent human as are most queer folk.
Tim: Yes. No, that’s a lot, but that’s all very well said. I think you really speak well about the power of creating that space for kids, where they have someone to look up to, they have someone to relate to. And beyond just those kids, it’s good for every kid to just see those educators in the real world. I think that’s a very good thing for all students. Now, I also wanted to ask you, as we’re talking about things that are politically charged, you did an article about critical race theory, which was fantastic by the way, like so thorough, so well researched and very nuanced, which I think that discussion needs. But my question for you is like what makes you want write about that? Why do you want to write about CRT? With all of the controversy surrounding it, all of the political heat that comes with it, why is that a topic that you wanted to take on with your writing?
Jennie: I wanted to take it on because I don’t necessarily see it as a political issue. It’s a phrase that has become politically charged, but I’ve used it in my classroom since I’ve started teaching. What critical race theory boils down to is looking at how systems that are put in place like everything from the school system or the real estate market to like a homeowner’s association. And how people of different races may be interacted with differently or may interact differently with the system. It’s just an overall thing. For me using it in my classroom means that I’m looking at my curriculum and trying to make sure that like, “Okay, so for my English language learners, am I providing spaces for them to be able to check for understanding? Do I have enough visuals for other students making sure that they see people who look like them in the curriculum?”
And making sure that I teach respectfully about cultures that are not mine. As a white person who teaches in a white community, I think it’s really important for like just to grow your global understanding by knowing all types of stories from all walks of life. By using that lens of am I making sure that everybody can interact with this and interact with this well, it makes me a better teacher. Even though it’s a politically charged phrase now, the idea in and of itself really I don’t think is. Which is why I wanted to talk about it is because I learned about it in university, through my political science classes, and then in my art history classes as well.
When I started seeing it in the news, it was an, “Oh, I know what that is.” Then I’m seeing people talk about stuff that it’s not. I thought that by writing about a little bit more the history of critical race theory and all the nuances of it and how you can bring it into your room in a way that make sure that all students are seeing themselves in your curriculum and learning how to advocate for themselves, and really make their learning their own. I thought that, that would be well worth it.
Tim: Yeah, I think so. I think you did something important, which is open up more discussion and ask teachers to reflect on what’s happening in their classroom. How they can deal with these issues in their classroom? Like I said, just reflect on their own teaching, and I think that’s always something that’s really valuable. So I applaud you for that. I think that was, like I said, that was very well done. I also wanted to talk a little bit more about just specific ideas for the classroom. Like being a secondary teacher, I really enjoyed your article about interactive ideas to review with advanced students. So could you share maybe just one or two of those ideas for people who haven’t read that article and maybe talk a little bit about why that type of review is so important with your advanced students?
Jennie: Yeah. What I’ve run into this year, and I’m sure a lot of secondary teacher… I think every teacher I’ve talked to has acknowledged that there’s this like year and a half gap of it’s not a learning gap because there was a lot of learning done.
Tim: Yeah, we’ve tried to stay away from that phrase.
Tim: Kids are learning a lot still, just not traditional things.
Jennie: Yeah, learning gap and learning loss are not real. It’s just what we are so used to having kids come into the classroom with, they didn’t have that opportunity to learn how we’re used to teaching them or how we’re used to having them come in. There’s a lot of revamping that needs to happen with our curriculum, but also some, I guess, refinement of our student skills. And looking at my advanced in AP kids, because they haven’t been in a studio environment. A lot of them, since their freshman year, or if they’re juniors or sophomores, ever. So really getting them used to working in a studio environment and then a collaborative environment while also brushing up on some rudimentary skills has been fun.
My favorite one has been looking at creating your own tutorial videos because they all love like TikTok and giving them the opportunity to record themselves being like, “And this is how you draw a mouth. This is how you decide the planes of a face. This is how you simplify something from realism into a symbol.” Like getting them to make these videos that are just goofy, but really do allow them to go back and have to explain things that they’re doing is super helpful. And getting them excited about sharing what they know, but also getting them to sort of brush off those skills that they didn’t have to use for a little bit.
Tim: Yeah, for sure. I mean, they’re still doing the work, they’re still doing what we traditionally think of as what needs to be done, and yeah, that’s a great way to do that. That’s awesome. Just one last quick question before we go. I’ve been gushing over your articles all day, but can you tell us a little bit more about what’s coming up? What are you going to be writing about in the near future here?
Jennie: Well, that’s a good question. I just set them all up too for this month. I think fine art and learning how to turn off your brain and really access the automatism part of surrealism. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a big challenge with secondary kids because they’re so afraid of making something ugly-
Tim: Right, so interesting.
Jennie: … and they’re afraid of doing something wrong rather than letting themselves be creative. It’s one of my favorite lessons and I get to share that. There’s also something about blending, trauma-informed learning, and SEL practices and social justice learning. How all of those come together there and ways to apply those at different levels of learning and different grade levels, and what all of those things mean too. That’ll be coming out I think in November. Especially, if you’re in a school like mine where you get funds once a year that are from fundraisers and how do you stretch that throughout the year? How do you go into your second semester without that big order? That’s another thing.
Tim: Yeah, no, those are important things. Those are things that teachers need to think about and need to talk about. I think that’ll be something to look forward to for sure. Jennie, thank you so much for your time. It’s been awesome reading everything you’ve written. It’s been great to finally talk to you and thank you for coming on.
Jennie: Yeah, thank you. I’ve been a big fan of your podcast for a long time.
Tim: Thanks. Thank you to Jennie for coming on. It’s really good to get to know more about her, and I enjoyed talking about a lot of the things that she has written. More than anything, I appreciate her sharing so much about herself and her story as well. We will link to the articles we discussed today, so make sure you check those out if you have not read her work already. And make sure you continue to look out for her articles in the near future. I’m really looking forward to the one coming out in just a couple of weeks about art room hacks and supply organizations, which should be a really, really good one. So make sure you give that a read when you see it come across the AOEU website.
Art Ed Radio is produced by The Art of Education University with audio engineering from Michael Crocker. Thank you as always for listening, and we’ll talk to you next week.
Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.