Staff Perspective: Jeremy Goldson, MVHS

Staff Perspective: Jeremy Goldson, MVHS
Posted on 06/18/2020
Staff Perspective: Jeremy Goldson
Mountain Vista High School

Jeremy Goldson teaches several theatre, sports broadcasting, and film classes at Mountain Vista High School (MVHS). Douglas County School District (DCSD) Communications Coordinator, Stacy Blaylock, sat down with Goldson to learn more about how and why he switched from prioritizing content to prioritizing community with his passionate students.

How did you begin the remote learning period for your students?

In the beginning, I felt like I had to provide students with meaningful, compelling content and assignments. There was still a lot of uncertainty about whether or not we’d return to the building, so we were kind of in limbo for a few weeks. And I got fixated on keeping them inspired solely through the content. I lost a lot of students. They stopped turning in assignments and showing up to class. I realized that it was more important to maintain a community with the students. With these classes being electives, many students are returning next year, so keeping them connected helped then and down the road.

Why was rebuilding the community among your students and yourself so important?

One of the biggest things I learned is how important the bricks in our building are in confining us and giving us permission and guidance in addition to a space to work. There is an understanding of the community housed within that structure that I took for granted. I will thank the school building itself when I get back. I didn’t think about how hard that transition from in-person to remote learning would be for me. Just a couple of weeks away really made it challenging to keep the momentum going. Once everyone got to their basement, they were harder to get to and harder to connect with.

How did you go about reconnecting your classes?

I was very upfront about inviting them to come to the online class meetings and try to make the meetings feel important. They’re still young enough as human beings who need the structure, and they need the intention to know why they’re working on something, especially in an elective class. They signed up for the class because they want to become better actors, and it’s a chance to connect with other people. My hysterically bizarre Theatre III class really benefited from having that opportunity. In only 15 minutes, three kids were talking over each other, one kid making jokes, another kid had left the video to turn on a record player he wants us to hear. One student was shaking her head and saying, “This is exactly what it’s like when we’re in person.” It was this moment of, “Oh my god, we can be who we are even in our bedrooms or our basements.” It was lovely.

I also started offering one-on-one office hours for students, which was psychologically good for all of us. I didn’t have a lot of students come in with significant questions. My most regulars were a couple of Sports Broadcasting students who just wanted to talk to someone. It was really fun to get to connect. I wouldn’t have had any chance to spend quality time, even if it’s only 15 or 20 minutes a week, with those kids one-on-one where my focus is solely on them. That wouldn’t happen if we were still in the classroom. We would be scrambling just to broadcast tonight’s baseball game!

How did your students react when school was closed for the remainder of the semester?

The Seniors in the Theatre Production Ensemble class mourned for a while. That class traditionally ends with a play production that the students create from scratch. The students were still rehearsing when we learned that school was closed for good. Certainly, those kids would have liked to do some sort of cumulative performance for their high school career, and that just didn’t happen.

They worked incredibly hard and were very high-achieving right up to the day we stopped -- they were in the middle of some Shakespeare scenes. They’d performed a play for the entire school as the heart of the wish that Mountain Vista fulfilled for Wish Week 2020. They’d auditioned for colleges. They’d done all the work they were going to do, and there was nothing I could come up with from my basement that would remotely match the work they’d done in class. They’d done such incredible stuff from August 7 to March 11! How could I possibly create something truly meaningful for a group of Seniors who have taken four years of theatre and who are getting ready to go to the next level? I couldn’t, and so I made the call to pull the plug. They wrapped up the year writing letters to the next Theatre Production Ensemble class. It’s a really unique special kind of class. I’ve always had them write a letter to next year’s class. It’s this idea that you’ve accomplished something, and you’ve gone through this program, and you have a little bit of extra knowledge you can give back.

What did you do with your Sports Broadcasting class?

For their last project, I asked them to interview someone in their house. We focused on what’s the quality of the shot? What’s the background? Are you framing it correctly? I encouraged them to come up with conventions for interviewing. Are you going to be on camera with them? Are you going to set up your camera where both of you are in the frame? Is the person being interviewed looking out of the frame? Where’s the interviewer going to be?

Their subjects were limited to the people in their house, so they had to look harder than usual for an interesting story. They ended up being great and fascinating! One kid talked about how his mom was in the earthquake in San Francisco in 1989, another interviewed his little brother about breaking his leg, and another student interviewed her dad about being a sports fan in the late 80s. Sure, there were technical hurdles, but they grew as journalists. They went out and did something. I really enjoyed the work they did.

What changes might you bring back to the classroom?

There are these questions that I have not figured out how to answer. I’ve always opposed the ligature of grades, and I’ve moved away from using grades as a punishment over the years. That’s something we’ve worked on at MVHS as a whole. Now, given an opportunity to not use grades, I found myself unable to fully take the leap that I always told myself that I would and could.

So I think that, as I go back in the next year, I have to really think about how to make grades not that central part of what we’re doing. For the students who are doing the work because they’re really passionate about it, maybe there’s a better way to reward learning. That puts more pressure on me to make the feedback meaningful and make the educational experience meaningful, but that’s always been important to me.

Thank you for your time, Jeremy, and have a great summer!

Thanks, you too!

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