'WOJ!' Film Transcription

by Film produced by Jeanne Meyers and Wendy Milette from USA

“I changed the pedagogy of education giving kids control of their learning.” - Esther Wojcicki

Frida Schaefer Bastian [Student]: I would go to Woj for any problem. Sometimes I'm just having a bad day, I like, come find her in the Mac and then she'll just tell me a story of her youth while we eat Nutella together and then I'll feel better.

Jeremy George Fu [Student]: Woj is um… absolutely wild! [laughs] She's a crazy woman. I don't get how she does all the things that she does but, I mean, when you see the passion and the energy that she brings, it's truly inspiring.

Esther Wojcicki: My name is Esther Wojcicki and I'm the author of this book, ‘Moonshots in
Education: Launching Blended Learning in the Classroom.’ And, I'm happy to say that it has done pretty well and I'm hoping that it will continue to do well, and impact lots of teachers and students and parents, nationwide and worldwide.

Frida: Woj is so unexpected, that's what it is. Like she knows anyone in every field. She
will help you with any problem. She'll come in and just the randomest things like; she had, because of her book ‘Moonshots in Education,’ one time we walk in and there's this huge astronaut in front of her classroom.

Esther: This statue was given to me by my daughter because it represents my moonshot, you know? And look at, he's off to the moon. In 1961 President Kennedy said, “We're going to
the moon.” And he said, “We're going to the moon, not because it's easy, but because
it's hard. And it's going to take a community and a lot of hard work to get there.” And we did it. We got to the moon by the end of the [19]60s. And so ‘Moon Shots in Education’ is the same concept: it is really tough to change the culture of society. And tough to change the way we've been teaching for 500 years. And we're doing it because it's hard—but it's going to make a difference. At the beginning part of the 20th Century we wanted people to follow directions because they were working in factories. Today we want people to think because they are working in an industry where it demands creativity and innovation. The philosophy encapsulated in this little acronym I created for the book I wrote is TRICK. TRICK stands for trust, respect, independence, collaboration and kindness. And actually number one, you can't do anything without trust. If you believe in them, they believe in themselves. It's like one day a week give kids 20% time in school where they get to work on a project of their choice. And you can apply TRICK. Give them some trust let them come up with something that they care about.

Student: I'm majoring in journalism at NYU next year because of her class and her teaching style. You really get a sense of what journalism is like in the real world.

Esther: Oh yes!

Esther: So I first came to teach Palo Alto High School in 1984, and when I first came there were 19 kids in the program. I had, as equipment, a typewriter, razor blades to cut out all the stories after the kids type their stories, and a waxer, a hot waxer, and then a light table. Three years after the program started with me the enrolment had basically tripled and the question was like, what--what happened? and the answer to that question is I had changed the pedagogy and I was giving kids control of their learning. I was walking through a shopping mall in Los Altos, a small one, and I saw in the store this strange-looking device and it had said ‘hello.’ As I went into the store and it was a Mac. And so I thought, “Oh my god, I need this for my class!” I said to my kids-, “I don't know what I'm doing. Sorry, I've got all these things in the back of my room and do you guys want to help? Help me set them up? And it's really for you but I don't know how to do it,” and that was the beginning of this teaching methodology I have. I realized I shouldn't be the sage on the stage, that I should be more a coach on the side.

Samuel Vasquez: She has a group of students that, she oversees them as they teach us. We're learning from our peers. She's really nice, she's really sweet, she's really caring and I
just really love her.

Esther: Oh, thank you!

Jeremy: Yeah, well I think she really provides the foundation. As an advisor, part of her role is to actually know when to step back and that's actually very important, because when you have a student-run publication that is really trying to express the views of the students, you don't want someone who is really attempting to impart their own views upon the publication.

Milton Chen (Author/Educator): So especially when students have some choice over their curriculum, what they're going to learn, in the media, or it's topics that they're going to create a newspaper about, or a video about--that is an important ingredient in powering their learning. What you want now are students not to just sit and receive curriculum but essentially create their own kind of curriculum. So these students who are staying late, they're working on projects that they're passionate about. They're excited to work with each other in a more collaborative way.

Esther: Everybody wants to stay after school. Just look at the magazines that I have. Look at the publications. And for the first time ever our school won four crown awards from Columbia University.

Frida: And just from sophomore year to this year, I can't even put into words how much of a difference C mag is, and how much has changed and how much better it is and how much we've worked on it and developed it. And I think to have been such a part of it is really like the feeling of being in a start-up and to, to start something and be so involved and like it's totally my baby, it's everything. I love C mag! And so I think she kind of showed me that that's
what I want to do with the rest of my life, like I want to start things and I want to be there and I want to watch things grow.

Milton: Esther is a pioneer, of course. She has pioneered this work for more than 30 years and I just think that speaks to her commitment to the practice. 600 students here involved in different aspects of journalism, print, visual. She just strikes me someone who's been very
persistent in her pursuit of this dream.

Esther: So I started writing ‘Moonshots in Education’ in 2013 and the goal is to spread the pedagogy--the mindset of the teachers and the mindset of the community that has to change. The parents also need to learn that you learn the best when you are engaged and when you own the learning. I use this method on my own daughters.

[EXCERPT FOLLOWS] Susan Wojcicki [CEO Youtube]: I think it'd be really useful for other people to know about your parenting style and in particular you have three daughters. And both Anne and I are CEOs of companies in the tech area --and there aren't a lot of women CEOs of tech companies--and then our third sister is an epidemiologist at UCSF. So I want to know like what did you, what did you feed us for breakfast mom? What happened?

Esther: I gave you a ton of freedom. I gave you a lot of opportunity to pick all kinds of things in your life.

Susan: You think the number one thing is giving empowerment to your children by giving them some independence?

Esther: Yes. So I think today, in today's world, parents don't give kids enough independence. [EXCERPT ENDS]

Esther: You're not going to solve the climate problems, you're not going to solve all the terrorism and war problems, you're not going to solve any of these problems as long as everybody is telling kids what to do. We need them to be creative, critical thinkers. We need them to come up with solutions. They can actually do it. You need somebody, everybody needs a champion. Parents, teachers, the whole society has to realize that, if you give kids some control in the classroom, they will have all the creativity, critical thinking, communication skills that you want. That is the key to making a difference.

Page created on 10/19/2022 7:05:10 PM

Last edited 10/19/2022 7:15:17 PM

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Related Links

'WOJ!' - Watch the film here.