24 Aug TLC Spotlight: Nicole Hong
One of our favorite aspects of the TLC program is getting to work with high school teachers in local districts, to help them implement Social Emotional Learning (SEL) into their own classrooms! Our partner teachers help us spread the TLC message, and make it possible for us to reach even more teens.
Nicole Hong is one of TLC’s most valued partner teachers from the Huntington Beach Union High School District. She has worked with TLC in the district’s summer Bridge program, has attended our educator training, and is an all-around inspiring teacher who always advocates for her students’ success. We sat down with her to learn all about her experience with TLC, how she brings SEL into the classroom.
Can you describe what you do?
I am a High School Teacher in Huntington Beach, and I teach mostly 9th and 10th graders, focusing on all different subjects including English, reading comprehension, and an AVID class. The AVID course is for students who want to go to university right after high school, and it helps them to get extra help and advance their knowledge. It’s an academic elective, so students choose to take it. For the last few years, I also have helped facilitate the Bridge program for students during the summer, alongside TLC and other organizations.
Can you talk more about the Bridge program?
The Bridge program is intended for incoming freshmen who might need some extra help. This could mean academically, emotionally, or socially. We essentially just give them lots of love and support to make them feel welcome in our school before the year even starts. The main goal is just to set them up for success when they start high school. We show them how to check grades, how to access their school email, give them campus tours, and bring in administrators, staff members, and older student mentors so they can get to know them and make personal connections. We also have outside organizations and guest speakers, and that’s where TLC comes in. We want the program to give them that sense of home and community so that they feel as comfortable as possible entering the year!
What did you experience in the TLC educator training program?
I went through the educator training program with TLC last year. The training was split into multiple 3-hour sessions on Mondays. We got to interact with the TLC representatives, and learn how to use their curriculum in our classrooms. There was so much valuable information shared in those sessions, and everyone on the TLC staff was so kind! TLC made me stop and think about integrating all of these Social Emotional Learning techniques into my teaching, and into my relationships. Academics are very important, but the relationships that you build with every person you come in contact with, be it a student, teacher, staff or parent, are equally as important. Whatever we can do to make those relationships better is to everyone’s benefit.
What is an example of a TLC lesson you have used in your classroom?
After the educator training, I got inspired to integrate one of TLC’s lessons from last year into my freshman AVID class. There was so much going on last year with current events, especially the social justice issues being brought to light. I wanted to address this in the classroom. At first I was afraid to touch on this, but it turned out to be a wonderful activity. I created a class slideshow presentation, and allowed the students to add to it. Some just defined terms related to social justice, while others wanted to dive deeper and discuss their own personal experiences with stereotyping and discrimination. I was so surprised at how many of them wanted to share their own stories. When a student did share a story of a time they’ve struggled with discrimination, the class not only listened to them, but would also give them words of encouragement. Hearing that from them was so powerful. The activity gave students a place to voice their thoughts and feelings, and be supported in the process.
How have you seen TLC’s lessons impact your students?
I have seen a big impact on my students after integrating lessons from TLC into my class. At the end of the year, I have them reflect on assignments they had done throughout the past several months. Many of my students mentioned the TLC activity that we did about discrimination and stereotyping, and talked about how much they enjoyed opening up in a classroom setting, which isn’t something they typically get to do. Getting to share what was on their mind, other than academics, was a nice change that they really did notice. They also mentioned how much they appreciated the maturity of their classmates during our discussion, and that they felt they were able to open up much more comfortably because the environment felt so inclusive.
How can parents support their kids who are struggling with social or emotional issues?
Social Emotional Learning can take place anywhere, not just in the classroom! The number one thing is that parents need to boost their teen’s sense of self worth and confidence. Parents can try to focus on what their child’s strengths are, and build them up from there. Try to figure out what ignites their passion, creativity and inspiration — or what sparks their joy — and foster that. Helping them to find a community who shares that passion is also so helpful for their self esteem and allows them to branch out and make those meaningful connections.
This past year, educators had to turn to technology much more. What’s your opinion on technology in the classroom?
This past year, technology really helped everyone. Students, teachers and parents were able to hone our digital skills a lot, and I’m so proud of all the progress we have made on the digital platforms we were all using. Everyone has shown so much resilience this year, and it made me so thankful we were able to connect at all, and that we had those tools at our disposal. There are so many places where people don’t have access to any technology. Many people talk about the loss of learning that this past year created, but we saw everyone making that effort to show up, while also having more time to do things they love outside of school like baking, going outdoors for walks, making homemade meals, or spending quality time with loved ones. That time definitely compensates for some of the learning loss that people think occurred.
What is your favorite part about what you do?
My favorite part about teaching my students is giving them a voice. I want them to know they have the power within them to be an empathetic person, and be someone who is conscious about the world around them. I try to let them know that they are not alone, and that they have many people going through the same things as them. My classroom is like a community, and we are here to help each other. I always aim to make it a judgement-free zone, and uplift and encourage my students as much as I can. One of the most important skills I want to instill in them is the ability to speak up, and stand up for yourself and others when the time is right. Empathy is such a crucial skill. I want my students to leave my classroom wanting to create a better world.
Everyone at TLC is so down to earth, and they all have such inspiring stories. Many of them aren’t just success stories, they have struggled, which just shows how everyone has their own struggles in life. We’re all trying to make it through, and are doing what we can with what we know. TLC really makes you stop and think about those other aspects you might be missing, or issues that may need to be addressed, and teaches you how to do this in a positive and productive way.
TLC is so thankful for all of the wonderful teachers we get to work with each day to help spread positivity, encouragement, and social emotional learning practices to teens everywhere! To learn more about the TLC program, visit: https://tillyslifecenter.org/program/