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Teacher spotlight: Dodson Middle School’s Joshua Sensabaugh on why the arts can stimulate learning and how the community can be involved

Joshua Sensabaugh, who teaches English at Dodson Middle School, participated in LAUSD’s arts integration professional improvement on June 28 at Esteban Torres High School in East Los Angeles.

This interview is one in a collection spotlighting Los Angeles academics, their distinctive and progressive classroom approaches, and their ideas on how the schooling system can better help academics in guiding students to success.


Joshua Sensabaugh grew up in a family of educators but he never planned to develop into one. Then after school, whereas he was educating English in Japan, he realized a few of his college students didn’t even know how to read. When he saw he might help them, he realized he needed to be capable of do the similar back residence in Los Angeles — a moment, he stated, “that will forever stay with me.”

“One of the students who had given me and my co-teacher a problem all year long said, ‘I want to be able to read, what do I have to do?’ And I said, ‘You know what? I should probably learn how to do this so I can go back home and give something back. Maybe there’s a kid back home who needs this kind of support.’”

Now, as a seventh-grade English instructor at Dodson Middle School, where he first started educating in 2016, Sensabaugh continues to seek out new methods to help his college students improve their reading comprehension. Integrating the arts into his classroom has brought his most recent successes.

A current classroom challenge that mixed the arts with English instruction obtained 100 % participation, drawing in students who don’t often work on artwork tasks. And he’s seen his college students understand more about historic Greece and American values by means of the integration of visual arts in his English-History combination class. “That was something I wouldn’t have discovered if we had never gone through this art avenue route.”

“For many of the students who didn’t want to do the essay writing, this was an opportunity for them to still display their understanding of the content and their knowledge through graphics and visualization,” Sensabaugh stated. “I think really attacking content through a different discipline or different medium such as art is quite innovative.”

Funding arts packages in faculties is essential, he stated, as a result of they stimulate learning, notably among low-income college students, comparable to those at Dodson, where 76 % of scholars qualify free of charge and reduced-price lunch. The faculty is situated in the Harbor space of L.A. Unified, the place Sensabaugh grew up and attended district faculties. He believes the state ought to help faculty districts with funding to offer extra on-site skilled improvement so academics can integrate arts of their instruction.

“I think if there’s a push for using visual and performing arts, then definitely funding for that needs to come down the pipeline,” stated Sensabaugh, who graduated from Nathaniel Narbonne High School and Cal State Long Beach and obtained his grasp’s degree from the USC Rossier School of Education.

Arts packages at L.A. Unified have been decreased considerably on account of price range cuts over the years. Since 2008, they’ve misplaced about 50 % of their funding. The district has been restoring some of these packages in the final couple of years, although the district’s price range for the coming faculty yr exhibits no funding improve for arts packages.

Sensabaugh also thinks that the community has to know its position in educating youngsters.

“People forget this old saying that it takes a village to raise a child. A lot of times people who don’t have children view LAUSD as this kind of ineffective giant monolith. But a lot of the work that I do involves people from the community,” he stated. “It’s not just your kid or my kid. No, these are our kids.”

He attended a one-week professional improvement program at Esteban Torres High School each this summer time and last summer time, where about 200 Okay-12 LAUSD academics from all subject areas discovered how to combine dance, music, theater and visual arts into primary subjects like math, science and language arts.

LAUSD academics take a dance class as a part of the arts integration professional improvement program at Esteban Torres High School.

“If I’m going to teach art, then I have to not necessarily be well versed in art, but I have to be exposed to in order to teach it. This integration training is one of the best things that I’ve come across.”

LA School Report requested Sensabaugh about what might be achieved better or what needs to vary in the schooling system to permit reforms and innovation to take place in the classroom, in addition to his objectives for next faculty yr. His solutions have been flippantly edited for length and readability.

Would you say that integrating arts is the most progressive strategy you’ve been using in the classroom?

I feel this may in all probability be the most revolutionary in that sense. Going from a lecture type to mini-lessons — I feel that’s something that has been around for some time in several formats, but I feel really attacking content material by way of a special self-discipline or totally different medium akin to art is sort of progressive.

Some of my college students entered a video contest and had two culminating tasks that have been in the visible arts, and they blew me away once they entered this. Each scholar had a task, they needed to come on with scripts, storyboards, and they actually went all out. And that’s one thing that I couldn’t have gotten from them on paper. It was superb.

How can mother and father provide help to do your job, notably whenever you’re making an attempt revolutionary classroom approaches?

Parents have to know what their son or daughter is learning. What I’ve discovered when I have dad or mum conferences is that they have not checked out the task sent residence. Because for every task, I’ve, “This is what we’re going to do, this is what I’m going to ask them to do, sign off on it,” to let me know that you simply’re aware of it.

And then I’ll meet a mother or father who signed off and they are saying, “I don’t know what they’re doing. How can I help them?” Well first, learn the description. Second, every community has one thing in the method of artwork that they can expose their youngsters to. Something that oldsters have to be aware of is their community assets as a result of it’s in all places. L.A. has considered one of the most wealthy, culturally numerous communities ever. Definitely figuring out what’s out there and then talking with their youngsters about what they’re considering as they’re going by means of this process. I made positive that this task was executed on campus, in order that I might see that that was their true work. But there are oftentimes when the college students had to take it residence and that was a superb alternative to speak and say, “Hey, you know, what are you working on?”

Having those easy conversations provides the scholar an opportunity to elaborate, to type of specify, “Hey, this is what I’m trying to do and this is why I think about it.” And then the conversation can develop from that time. And so I feel, just that consciousness and to a point involvement. I know mother and father are busy, however that’s an necessary thing to be involved in.

What might the community, faculty district or state do better or in another way to help educators in their jobs?

I feel if there’s a push for using visible and performing arts, then undoubtedly funding for that needs to come down the pipeline because that is provided two, 3 times a yr if I’m not mistaken. For example, for academics who’ve youngsters, it’s not the most opportune time to have four days, five days of professional improvement during the summer time because they’ve to observe their youngsters.

It costs cash for daycare. Definitely, on a state degree to help district-wide arts schooling.

And then undoubtedly if there’s a option to supply extra possibilities for skilled improvement at the district degree the place we can now begin taking a look at STEAM as an alternative of simply STEM, or we can take a look at cross-curricular integration with the arts. That’s once you start seeing results — when everybody has a chance to obtain any such coaching.

There are a number of community facilities or larger privately owned facilities that provide coaching, but those are at central places that not everyone can get entry to. But in case you have what the arts integration group is doing now, the place you’re having individuals come out and practice individuals on-site, then you definitely now have the alternative to take what you’ve discovered with out having to drive miles and begin utilizing that in your classroom. And then you have got multiple individual educated on it and now you can begin actually making collaboration in that effort occur. I feel that’s a serious thing that needs to happen.

What do you assume is something that needs consideration in the schooling system?

I feel, and that is simply coming from conversations that I’ve had, that folks overlook this previous saying that it takes a village to boost a toddler. Numerous occasions individuals who don’t have youngsters view LAUSD as this type of ineffective big monolith. But a whole lot of the work that I do includes individuals from the community as a result of I’m learning from them what is out there to me to use in my classroom. The students are learning from them what’s obtainable in their community, and with out the supports, without these partnerships, schooling isn’t really going to be nearly as good because it can be because we’re anticipating individuals or teams of people to do work that can truly be collectively finished and completed extra successfully as a gaggle.

I feel that’s something actually necessary. You’ve received to have the community. It’s not simply your kid or my child. No, these are our youngsters. Because at the end of the day, once we’re older, once we’re grey, they’re the ones who’re going to be stepping in to run the nation, to help the industries. And if we don’t help every child to get on the market and do what they’re capable of do, the world’s not going to get higher.

What’s the largest false impression you assume individuals have about the educating career?

I’m choosing one. I might say, and this is simply from this yr — that it really stood out to me greater than anything — is that our work stops at three o’clock day by day and that our weekends are free and clear, when the youngsters go house, we’re executed. And I consider for most working professionals, that’s by no means the case. Even once I was doing sales, it never completed when that clock stopped.

How did you begin on your path to turning into a instructor? Was it a simple or troublesome course of?

I did lots of research on the place I might go to high school because the factor was, I knew that going back for a four-year degree, that was not going to happen. So my only approach was to go through a grasp’s program. But relying on the program, I received to do two years of this, two years of that, and down the pipeline, that’s going to take too long. I found out the quickest solution to grow to be an educator. I’m going by means of an intensive, really brief program. And then after that, I started taking a look at what expertise I needed. Coming from a literature perspective, I can speak about literary concept all day, but talking about literary concept and understanding literary concept just isn’t the similar as educating.

I needed to find a program that might give me sort of a good way into that. And luckily, I had a very wonderful grasp instructor who confirmed me the ropes for how to information students into that reading course of. And I feel it was due to her that I decided to offer this a shot. I went to the USC Rossier School of Education, and I had some really encouraging professors who I picked their brain like nothing. But it was really helpful because I discovered that the expertise I had picked up in Japan for educating vocabulary and using scaffolding aids like footage and units (have been expertise that have been helpful here as nicely). And so I discovered that plenty of what I had discovered in my apply was one thing that I was learning about in concept that I might truly apply to the class.

Did you’ve a instructor who inspired you to turn into a instructor?

My largest influence was my Japanese instructor in highschool at Narbonne. I used to be not a model scholar by any stretch, and she actually took time to point out me, “This is how you behave in a classroom setting. These are the things that you do to present yourself, or this is how you speak when you’re giving presentations.” And so she actually took time to take a look at me for who I was and to mould me into a greater individual in that classroom.

What has been your greatest second or your proudest accomplishment thus far?

I had a younger woman who was at my faculty two years in the past and she was going by means of some things at house, and sooner or later her mother and father took her out of our college, but I worked together with her on building a extra manageable character of building social relationships or really just understanding that the work you set in is the outcomes that you simply get in the end. And I informed her, “If you continue to go this way, school’s going to be hard. You’re going to get to high school, and you’re going to face challenges you weren’t prepared for because you didn’t put the work in.”

About a yr ago, she sent me an e mail and stated, “Mr. Sensabaugh, you were right. It has been a challenge. But I started working harder and I raised my grade up from a D to a B. And right now I’m trying to earn an A, and I’m really enjoying school.” And the undeniable fact that she took the time on her personal to ship me an e-mail and to let me know, that was really a proud second for me.

What’s your principal objective for the subsequent faculty yr?

Right now I’m working on my studying certification by way of UCSD’s studying specialist program. And my aim really is now to work on reading intervention while also incorporating the arts. I’ve already had it planned in my mind to closely incorporate theater arts and dance this coming faculty yr. There are some visual artwork issues that I’ve labored on, however personally, I need to get higher at that. Now I need to work on theater arts and dance as a result of I feel that’s somewhere I can take my students this time. I’m working on these two issues because I see these two needs. Building reading enchancment and then getting them uncovered to various things that may help their comprehension.