SRL Connected Educator of the Month: May 2017

Tish Saliani joined SRL in 2014, several years after switching from a career in television production to teaching. Her Cedar Ridge High School students consistently turn in strong and impactful stories, like this piece about Youth Rise Texas produced by 2016 SRL Academy Fellow Cesar Haros. We wanted to find out more about Tish’s experience as an SRL Connected Educator.

What is your teaching philosophy when it comes to storytelling?

I believe every student is at a different place emotionally, socially and academically. They come into class carrying more than just a backpack. They carry emotional baggage, problems from home and the pressures from social media. I make an effort to connect with each student and learn their strengths, challenges and learning style. I show them how their experiences enable them to tell the story in a way that is different from anyone else. I encourage my students to take their projects to a level that challenges them. My classroom is a creative environment with open discussions and clear guidance. It is a safe place where students are respected and encouraged to create, collaborate and try something new. My goal is to share my passion for storytelling and show students the amazing opportunities this medium gives us to create and share our ideas, experiences and feelings.

Would you rather live a year without radio or without television?

As much as I love music, I would have to choose to live a year without radio. I couldn’t imagine not watching a film for an entire year!

How can student reports help promote a greater understanding of the world?  

Many of our students only know what is going on in the area where they live, work and go to school. By creating Rapid Response projects, they are pushed to research what is happening in the world outside of their neighborhoods. Students will often say “I had no idea this was happening.” Cedar Ridge High School did a project with SRL’s Jordan Vesey on students affected by Austin being a sanctuary city. We spent an entire class period discussing what makes a sanctuary city. Austin is only 30 minutes from our high school and students were not aware of the national story happening right here.

How can we get youth more interested in the news?

Getting youth interested in news has become even more difficult. Youth gravitate towards fake news stories and clickbait due to the sensational headlines. This past election grabbed their attention and gave us the opportunity to grow their interest in news and politics. To broaden their topical news experience, I have all my classes write a half page journal entry on a news story from a national news website. This is the only time some students even visit a news website. By the end of the year, many students share with me how much they learned by completing those journal assignments.

How can we teach youth to be more inquisitive in the world around them?

I encourage my students to ask questions and dig deep. It’s important to do your own research and not believe everything you hear or read. Travel, even if it’s not far from your home, and listen to other people’s experiences. I also enjoy watching documentaries with my classes that will open their eyes to different parts of the world.

What do you hope to accomplish with SRL?  

Student Reporting Labs is a resource to help me open the world to my students. The opportunity to see student’s work published on a national website, visits from PBS producers, tools for students to become better storytellers and curriculum resources for teachers have all surpassed my expectations from when my class first became a Lab.