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Navigating the world of online learning continues to present a plethora of challenges to teachers everywhere. In today’s episode, Tim brings on Jerald Robinson to talk about what he is doing with his students and how he is making things work. Listen as they discuss Jerald’s tech setup, his ideas for keeping students engaged, and how he’s planning on running an online art club for over 100 students. 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.
It is Tuesday, the day after Labor Day, and a lot of people have their first day of school today. Some people are going back face to face, some are doing a hybrid model, and some people are going to be teaching all online. And some people are saying “people are just going back now? I’ve been in school for a month already!”
But, no matter what your situation, I know everyone is looking for new ideas, good ideas, strategies that are working online. My guest today is a middle school teacher from Georgia, Jerald Levar Robinson. He has been doing a lot of great things with his students this school year, and I wanted him to share some of his best ideas. We’ll bring him on in just a second.
Before we do that, though, I wanted to talk about some additional resources we have on the AOEU website that can help you navigate everything that comes with teaching right now.
We are fresh off of our Return to Learn webinar last Thursday, which was a great evening of learning with teachers across the country, and presentations from Jenn Russell, Abby Schukei, and Joel Scholten. Those are all recorded and posted—along with a ton of resources—on the Return to Learn page.
Whether you are teaching fully in-person, are in some type of a hybrid model, or are doing all remote instruction, we have the resources you need to find success. we have organized resources for everyone no matter your teaching situation. We’ll link to that return to learn page in the show notes, and you will be able to find everything you need.
Alright . . . we are ready . . . let’s start the interview!
Jerald Levar Robinson is joining me now, how are you doing?
Jerald: Great, great. How you doing?
Tim: I’m doing really well. I’ve been impressed with everything that you’ve been sharing online, everything that you’ve been doing with your kids so I appreciate you taking some time to talk to me, I guess. Can we just start off with an introduction? Can you tell us a little bit about who you are, where you teach, and what your teaching situation is right now?
Jerald: Yeah. So my name is actually Jerald Levar Robinson. Levar is my middle name. But when you see me online. You see our Art by Levar, I guess. I don’t know why I started doing that, but that’s my little story behind Levar and I’m a teacher at Tapp Middle School, in Powder Springs, Georgia. We’re fully online right now and we’re a Title One school. And so we’re dealing with students, not having everything they need. Some we have to get computers, some we have to get wifi hotspots, or other materials, we have the full crazy spectrum of problems.
Tim: Working through it that, I know it’s a challenge for sure. I want to talk about that in just a second. But first, can you tell us a little bit about your tech setup? What do you have to record videos to show students what you’re doing, what does that look like, and what do you have all put together to teach your lessons?
Jerald: Yeah, I feel like I’m in a movie right now. One of those tech guys with gadgets everywhere. So I’m usually working from my school laptop and working on my Mac. And then I have my little bit of other stuff, I have a tab open with acouple of my apps that I’m working with. I can do the double screen because I’m facing the wall at my desk, like in a classroom, and double screens so you can see my screen behind me. I can show stuff on that to the kids. I was working on something this morning with that and I have my iPad up top on the mount. I’m giving PBIS points out, we do that behavior system that rewards positive behavior, so I’m clicking points on that for kids when they’re doing good stuff.
I’ve got the ring light up here. I also have my cell phones mounted up here. So if I want to videotape myself and drop a clip on Twitter or social and record. If they want to see my paper I’ve got that on the side so I can draw in or whatever they can see me working with me. So it’s just full spectrum gadgets 360 degrees around me.
Tim: I mean, you have a lot of different things that you have to do. So that makes sense.
And I guess I wanted to ask you, you know, with all of that going on, does that help keep kids engaged? Like, how, how do you get kids signed on, how do you keep them engaged with what you’re doing? Do you have any specific lessons that have worked really well for keeping kids excited about learning right now?
Jerald: Um, yeah, we have had a little fun with it. Like the flipgrid working at app and just having to discuss it. I didn’t think that they would be that engaged on that but you know they’re making videos on their Instagram, Snapchat and so they’re used to making the edits on those video clips.
I would give a topic every weekend for them to respond to. First one was, If you could be any art to what would you be, and how would you change the world? So they had a lot of fun working with that.
So that’ll be a good one and just things to keep them moving. I had the idea that they’re sitting at the computer and a lot of teachers may not think about, they don’t get to walk down the hall to the next class and run down and play or something like that.
The first one was just making the color wheel, the found objects challenge. So they had to run around the house. Finding things with different colors in a range within the color wheel. Yeah, take a picture and upload that so just little things like that that they can create some great stuff.
Tim: Can you give me a couple other examples of ideas, maybe like other questions you’ve had in flipgrid or other lessons you may have coming up that you think will be engaging?
Jerald: Even like the warmup from one of my friends on the other side of the county, just having them do a start class with that I see I think I wonder where I put a picture up or photo or painting or something from someone. And just to get sparks and our thoughts and creative thought. And they do their response and put that in my chat. So that’s also we take the roll for attendance. So I know everybody is putting that in the chat.
So I’m just thinking of different ideas like that, and what’s next, I don’t know. We’re just finding ways to work with minimal supplies, minimal to no supplies, that’s just part of what we’re working with, you know?
Tim: That actually was was the next thing that I wanted to ask you, because you know you mentioned in the introduction, you know, you’re at a title one school. I know it’s a struggle to for a lot of kids to get the supplies so can you talk a little bit about what you’re trying to do for kids that don’t have supplies? Like, how do you get those to them, or if you can’t, or they don’t have things . . . like how do you design your lessons around, you know, the idea that maybe kids don’t have what they need for or at least don’t have the ideal supplies for for making art?
Jerald: Right, yeah. I started out the first week and just sent out a survey. So I want it with the kids just see what do you have or what can you get. Can you get it, or do you just not have anything your parents didn’t get it. So trying to just get a list of kids who need stuff and put a little package together.
And schedule a day just stay late and see your parents can come pick up and then we’ll see who could pick up also and try to get that out to them. So I’ve got some donors already. I just brought in a couple cases of sketchbooks. Soon a couple of churches and organizations around will be donating so hopefully I can get a nice group of packages together and see if we can do distribution on that. But, you know, while we’re waiting, I started out with just basic pencils. You have a pencil and some paper at home. You don’t have to be a sketchbook, whatever you have. Art is everything and artists are everywhere. So we find ways to just work with them because that’s how I started you know? Because I come from that school, I come from that background. So I understand.
Tim: Yeah, that’s cool. Do you just have kids like if they just have pencil and paper, you just have them doing like observation drawing? Do you have them doing creative stuff? Do you have them writing? What kinds of lessons are you doing with minimal supplies?
Jerald: Yeah, just starting out with the, you know, basic elements and principles. So being able to go through that through a few sketches to a few techniques we just worked on some basic techniques that we started out with. Since we are a couple of weeks behind anyways. You know, that’s the scaffolding. So the elements and principles are gonna be the beginning and what we base everything else on.
Tim: Yeah, yeah, that’s cool, man, that works well. And then I also wanted to ask you, I saw a post of yours. You had like 100 kids signed up for art club How are you feeling about that? And then secondly, like how are you going to manage that? Because I feel like teachers can’t wrap their head around doing that, for instance, like, what, what are you going to do with that? Like, how are you going to run that?
Jerald: First, we gonna pray about it. [laughter] But this is very new. Last year, I think I had about 16 kids and now it’s like 100! I think sixth grade has the most where I’m going to split it and meet every other week with them so sixth grade will meet the first and third Thursday, and then the seven-eight group will meet the second and fourth and just keep the same activity. Simple. I think we will start out just doing digital photography. Something simple, so we may do black white challenge of working with shadow or different things, and probably plan our first art show with the art club. A nice little art show, I want to get just like black and white photos and see if we can do that. Maybe with parents or siblings or something. So I’m working my head around it but just doing simple things like that. Not trying to overcomplicate it, if we could find any competitions out there, we’ll just keep doing that. I like to keep kids getting as many as they can with that too.
Tim: Yeah, I think that’s good. I think that reflects really well on you, you’ve got so many kids who were excited you know about working with you, excited about doing art.
I think those would be some good ideas but that feels like kind of the, the theme of this school year. Just keep it simple, like make sure everything’s manageable.
Jerald: A big thing a lot of people I think are over complicating it. I don’t know. Some people do whatever but I just, I don’t. That doesn’t work for me and where the kids come from.
Tim: Yeah, yeah, that’s fair. Hey, just real quick one last thing before we go. I know you do so much and you put out so much content. Can you just talk about, you know, the podcasts that you’re doing, or anything else that you’re putting out there that you want to talk about?
Jerald: Oh yeah, this new fun that we have and I’m trying to get content out too. So we just started a couple weeks ago, I have a podcast called Rooted in Love. So we’re basically, you know, top of the family and friends, you know, older folks and some younger age and whatnot. But people that’s been through situations, has been through things and still doing good, and finding a way to make through life. So the first guest is my uncle who spent 12 years in prison.
Tim: Yeah, I watched that it was fascinating to listen to some of his stories.
Jerald: You know, he had no chance in life and he hasn’t declined. So just some that motivate the youth and show them that you can still make it through situations. And my other thing is I also have my own company that does hip hop and events promotions company’s called Super Dope Fresh. So a lot of people don’t know. I’m also break dancer and everything. So that’s how I started with the breakdancing to selling apparel and events and all, but on those shows we are just talking to local people to connect it through hip hop. What are they doing and connecting it to real life. So, you know, we’re always trying to promote and lift up the youth and kind of motivate. How are these people making it in getting real jobs, showing them how to get jobs, seeing what these people are doing where they’re going and just have to make it through, you know, because we don’t see this good side of hip hop like that. Don’t get them a spotlight. So we want to put the spotlight on you know guys like me as a teacher. That’s, that’s not too popular in the world of hip hop.
Tim: Right, right.
Jerald: Now we have motivated kids and we’re working in community and whatnot. But we’re doing it everywhere, the break dance communities worldwide, and most people just don’t even know. So connecting with folks like that and just talk to her brother from Africa was going to be promoting this event, you know, in Uganda. I may go there when the world opens back up.
Yeah, so lots of fun with that you know just just promoting that positive side of hip hop.
Tim: So that’s really cool. And then where can people find you online if they want to follow you?
Jerald: All right, Art By Levar, Levar is the middle name. And Supadopefresh. So, you know, we try to just like hip hop do a flip, flip negative words and make it positive like that dope, you know, just dope misspelling good . . . feeling great and doing good things.
Tim: All right, love it. Thank you so much for joining me. I appreciate it. Taking time and sharing everything that you’re doing. It was good to talk to you.
Jerald: Yes, great to talk to you to can’t wait to get back with your next event.
Tim: Yeah, for sure.
Thank you to Levar for coming on, sharing his time, sharing his ideas.
We’ll be back next with some big picture thinking with Jason Blair, talking about creativity, collaboration, and learning. I think it’s going to be a great episode.
In the meantime, check out that return to learn page that I talked about on the AOEU website, watch the webinar recording, grab the resources you need, and hopefully they can help you as you get started with this school year. Good luck!
Art Ed Radio is produced by the Art of Education University with audio engineering from Michael Crocker. Thank you for listening, and we will be back with Jason Blair 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.