August 12, 2015

Teachers Talk Back: Coral Edwardsen

Coral Edwardsen has been an educator for four years and currently teaches humanities at New Los Angles Charter School in West Los Angeles.  She also serves as the sixth grade level coordinator and the Critical Friend Group coach at her school.  In this conversation with E4E-Los Angeles Outreach Director Sarina Sande, Coral discusses the importance of teacher collaboration.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Sarina Sande (SS): What inspired you to become a teacher?

Coral Edwardsen (CE): After I graduated college, I became a legal assistant but didn’t feel connected to my work.  I had worked at a summer camp in the past, making an impact in children’s lives as well as my own.  At camp, the focus always remained positive, and I bring that to my classroom everyday.  I have a desire to help children discover their passion, and bring out their best by building their confidence.

SS: You’re also a leader of a Critical Friends Group at your school. What is a Critical Friends Group?

CE: A Critical Friends Group is a group of teachers dedicated to improving their craft through structured conversation and protocols.  As the coach of this group, I bring the teachers together and facilitate the discussion.  We will work together to fine tune a lesson plan or classroom management system in a structured way.

SS: What kind of advice does your group share with each other?

CE: If you make a mistake, tell the students.  Being real and honest will help build trusting relationships. If they don’t have a connection, they wont be engaged in the classroom.  It’s vital to a student’s learning to build a classroom community where students can be honest and themselves, and that starts with the teacher.

SS: What’s one success from your classroom that stands out?

CE: Tyler.  The first day of school he ripped up the syllabus and cursed about not caring.  Tyler had experienced a lot of loss in his life before entering my classroom; because of this, he had a hard time trusting adults.  I praised his good choices and redirected the bad.  Finding the positive was often a struggle for us both, but at end of school year, he was ranked 3rd in his class.

SS: Why did you become a member of E4E?

CE: Often teachers get so wrapped up with what is happening in their classroom they don’t make time to impact educational policy.  So, policymakers with outdated or nonexistent classroom experience are making decisions that affect our students.  I’m happy to be part of a network of teachers that works to create change and will make a difference for teachers and students.