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Lindsay Lyons: Today, I'm joined by Julie Kratz on the podcast. For context, this was recorded August 11th of 2021. Now, let me tell you about Julie. she is a highly acclaimed TEDx speaker and inclusive leadership trainer who lead teams and produce results in Corporate America. After experiencing many career pivot points of her own, she started her own speaking business with the goal of helping leaders be more inclusive, promoting diversity, inclusion and allyship in the workplace. Julie helps organizations foster more inclusive environments. She's a frequent keynote speaker, podcast host and executive coach.
She holds an M. B. A. from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. She is a certified master coach and is a certified unconscious bias trainer. Her books include Pivot Point: How to Build a Winning Career Game Plan, ONE : How Male Allies Support Women for Gender Equality, and Lead Like an Ally : A Journey Through Corporate America with Strategies to Facilitate Inclusion. Her new children's book is called Little Allies. You can find Julie at nextpivotpoint.com, @nextpivotpoint on social or on LinkedIn. Let's go ahead and hear from Julie Kratz.
Hi, I'm Lindsay Lyons and I love helping school communities envision bold possibilities, take brave action to make those dreams a reality, and sustain an inclusive, anti-racist culture where all students thrive. I'm a former teacher leader turned instructional coach, educational consultant and leadership scholar. If you are a leader in the education world, whether you're a principal, superintendent, instructional coach or a classroom teacher excited about schoolwide change like I was, you are a leader. And if you enjoy nerding out about the latest educational books and podcasts, If you're committed to a lifelong journey of learning and growth and being the best version of yourself, you're going to love the Time for Teachership podcast. Let's dive in.
Lindsay Lyons: Okay. Julie Kratz, welcome to the Time for Teachership podcast.
Julie Kratz: Thank you for having me.
Lindsay Lyons: I'm so excited for this conversation. Do you want to add anything, before we get started, to the professional bio section that I've just read.
Julie Kratz: Oh my gosh.
Yeah, that's all the fancy credentials and all that fun stuff and books. But I think more central to me and my life for this work is that we've just got to make this a better place for this next generation of little allies. I really feel really strongly that after speaking in Corporate America for many, many years and experiencing it myself. You know, trying to change behavior later in life is kind of difficult versus not impossible, but a little more difficult than if we started a little earlier and just set the tone right out of the get go. So that's been a big realization for me in this work and a real source of passion as well.
Lindsay Lyons: That is awesome and so true. I think I also came to the work that I do in education the same way where I was into like adult spaces and my undergraduate degree was in gender women studies and I was like, all right, how do we do gender equity and all this stuff? And I was like, we need to start super early. Like I need to stop working with adults and like start with kids. So that's awesome that we have that similar kind of realization.
One of the things I love to know just right off the top is what your idea of education or your dream for education is. And I pulled from Dr Bettina Love who describes freedom dreaming as dreams grounded in the critique of injustice, to kind of think about really relevant to the work you're doing, what that dream could hold in terms of justice work.
Julie Kratz: Yeah. Such a great question. And you know, I like to dream big. I think about, you know, this next generation. I mean, let's be honest about the problems that they're facing were centuries away from real equity, real equality, whether that's gender or race or any of these social constructs. And to me that means like that happening sooner. Like my dream is like my daughter shouldn't have to wait 200 plus years for gender equality. And really thinking about all humans, especially as children not being treated differently based on differences they can't control, you know. No one can control their biological sex or you know how they even identify with gender.
You know, a lot of this we've realized is very innate or obviously skin color should not change your lived experiences. So my dream for this next generation of little allies is that they find a way to accelerate social change. And let's be honest, adults need to be a part of dismantling these systems that don't work. They don't work if they don't work for some. They don't work for all whether that's education, politics, like all of these constructs that we have just want these little kiddos to have a more accelerated path to positive social change.
Lindsay Lyons: I love that and I think so many times kids have better answers than adults have, particularly when it's creative thinking and like how do we do something different than we've always done it and just giving them space to play with that. And like you said, accelerate that path I think is not only possible, but probably our best shot.
Julie Kratz: Oh for sure. You know, I joke like when I wrote the children's book, I thought, well, I don't have necessarily that obviously magic bullet. There is no magic bullet solution to this problem, but I really struggled to have this conversation with my kids about, you know, diversity, inclusion, social justice and I'm like, if I'm struggling with this and I do this for a living, like certainly there's a lot of caregivers out there that probably struggle with us and parents and educators. And the secret to it has been, as I have shared the book and read the book with kids, really do to your point have way better insights, like way better insights, way better questions.
So actually the secret to it is you have this tool to start the conversation and you're going to be schooled by your kid. It's not the other way around.
Lindsay Lyons: I love that and I think you are speaking to, in that response to, kind of the almost mindset shifts that we really need people to go through in terms of adults who are interacting with children and being able to have the critical conversations and being able to have conversations both with adults and children, you know, and people who work with children. And so I'm wondering, either what helped you to kind of have those conversations and be able to be in that space or what has been helpful to you as you work with adults or children to help people kind of get into that mindset of like we should be having this conversation and I can do this and here's how I guess...
Julie Kratz: Yeah, well, you know, this all started, so seven years ago I started my business focus on diversity and inclusion training in the corporate space. And then about two years ago I ran into another D. I. practitioner and you know, we connected on LinkedIn, we had a chat over the phone and her name is Simone. And I just like kind of connected in a way and it was through the story about her daughter and she shared a really painful story about her daughter.
It was the time like three in preschool and some kid went up to her and was like, you don't belong here. And they impacted. It was about race, you know, nine times out of ten these situations, not always about race, but usually. And our daughter is black and you know, they had to have this whole conversation with the school and she ended up changing schools and I'm like, oh my gosh, this is absolutely unacceptable. And so it really started this catalyst for the our Inclusion School Podcast that we now interview experts on this subject and that's how we've learned just out of curiosity about it. And I think that's what really I've discovered through all the interviews and all the people we've talked to, in books that we've read, is that curiosity is so important as a parent, as a caregiver, as an adult. Your brain stops being curious as we get older. We think we have all the answers. We've been there, done that and that's what's so beautiful about children is they're curious about differences. They do see differences. The thing that we always talk about is, it's okay to see the difference is. Absolutely you see them, but it's not okay to treat people differently based on those differences. And that's really I think also understanding that bias starts early. Our brains are wired for bias and so much of it is cemented by age 12.
So yeah, we're talking later in life. It's like, well good, good luck. You know, all that hard wiring sitting there and it's hard to undo. But kids start to see differences as early as like six months. They prefer caregivers that have the same skin color to them at that age and then like 2-4, these biases start forming. So if we're not careful, we don't have these conversations, we don't equip them with tools and information, you know, they're going to repeat the mistakes of the past. They're basically absorbing the same images and media. They're consuming the same programming from a gender construct and racial construct lens. They're getting this all through their environment and they need tools. They need information. They need books. They need stories. They need conversations to help them be more inclusive and unfortunately doesn't happen naturally.
Lindsay Lyons: Yeah. And I love that you're speaking to what those tools might be and the fact that stories can be a tool and you wrote the book, Little Allies, which is awesome. I watched a video of you reading it, which I think people can see on your website, just so great.
I'm curious to know, I don't know if you want to talk about that book or other tools or techniques that you use when working with youth or when talking to adults about how to work with youth. But I'm curious to know what the actions are that people can take to really have those conversations and facilitate those conversations in a way that is generative, that provokes curiosity that keeps people in that space.
Julie Kratz: Yeah, conversation tracks who, you know what we try to do is notice differences. So we were at the pool or the playground or the skating rink, you know, just saying, hey, I noticed that we were some of the only white people there, which by the way, doesn't happen very often. But the skating rink is an example of when that happened. Did you notice that? It's like, yeah, it's no big deal mom. And I was like, oh, okay. And like sometimes it's the shortest conversation, or you know, at the pool. We have a kid in our neighborhood with special needs and you know, we just talked about openly about, hey, did you notice I really like how you played with him?
Did you notice, that he communicated a little bit differently? And she's like, yeah, well his brain is just different. That's okay. He just recognized red of the get go. I was like, I really love that you we're really inclusive and we use that language inclusive with him. It's like, yeah, of course mom. I'm gonna be nice to everybody. I'm not going to do things differently. So it just is acknowledging that and I'm by no means a perfect parent. She's by no means a perfect kid. Like we have issues. But I think recognizing differences when you see them acknowledging, recognizing positive experiences with differences and just helping make sure that you know, you're a safe place where she can come and share things because microaggressions like the subtle little signals, people don't belong happened. They start happening early, sometimes sort of like quite frankly, just aggressions. But my daughter had a situation on the school bus not too long ago where a little girl came up to her and said that the boy that she liked, she has first grade crush that for what that's worth. The boy that she likes.
This girl said she couldn't be with him because it was illegal. Kid just happens to be a kid of color, which probably why she said that, right? And so in the moment, you know, because we've had these conversations, my daughter knew to say to her, I think that's racism. That's what she said. And then she came home and told me that I'm like, I think racism happened today and she told me the story and you know, sometimes I told her it's not always about race, but in that situation, I think it probably was. And she's like, yeah, it was because of his skin color. Like that's just not okay. And the last thing I'll say is kids pick up on the conversations you're having with other people. Right? So we went on this long family vacation this summer. And as I'm talking, you know, catching up with a bunch of friends and family as we kind of do this tour, you know. James sits with us and kind of listens in. He jumps to the conversation and there was several times we brought up the school bus story and she really saw it as like, oh like this is like important, so important that my mom's gonna bring it up, right? And talk about it and unpack it and Jane kind of got to be not the savior, not the star of the story, but like I think she got to be recognized in a way that affirmed her in front of others too.
So then she saw, oh, this is important. This is something we do. Last like tangible things I'd share is just really pay attention to the consumption of media with your kids. There's a lot of problematic movies and Youtube channels out there and again starts early. I was shocked to find some of the stuff that my daughter was watching and I don't watch everything. I'm pretty hands off parent. But I am a believer in being intentional with the movies that there is diverse representation that women have speaking roles. 72% of films, male speaking role. It's just unfortunate and there's some really good ones out there. They're doing such a better job. You know, the Little Mermaid vs Moana, a drastic difference in representation race, gender just way better. The later films, so pay attention that in your bookshelf. I was shocked to take a hard look at my kids bookshop and be like a lot of white characters, a lot of animals, not a lot of kids of color.
And the kids of color books are usually centered on hard issues. They're rarely just a story that a kid enjoys. So you know, it's great to buy the book like be an anti-racist or differences are appreciated when there's like these really nice titles that I think adults. Get titles that your kids would like that just happened to center kids of color, kids with disabilities, kids that are gender fluid, like whatever aspect of it weave those dimensions into it. And look at your bookshelf and I tossed a few books and consciously adding a few each month. There's no perfect book, but there's some really good ones out there.
Lindsay Lyons: I love those recommendations for parents and caretakers and also for teachers. Right? When you look at your school library or your classroom library and thinking about the books that you're offering to kids during free reading time or the books you're reading as a whole class. I think there's often kind of reluctant to let go of a book that you already have curriculum for and you already have all these lessons, but it is so critically important to be able to ask those questions about who was represented, who is centered, who was de-centered and marginalized.
And I love that everything you said is relevant for anyone working with young people in whatever role that is. And so I really appreciate just all of the identities that you specifically named. And then also talking about the variety of media that maybe as a caretaker or a teacher, we don't actively see them engaging with it, but it's there. And so I almost think I take the stance of trying to balance that scale and so tipping just completely to the other end of what's typically not represented in mainstream media. And I'm just going to do all of that because they're going to get these mainstream representation in other places.
Julie Kratz: Yeah, they're going to see all those images. Don't worry. They'll see whiteness, right? I will see saviorism, they will see all these problematic things. Don't worry, they're not going to miss that message. But what if they had a more balanced message, right? And I try to talk about that too. If you see the Save the Day, you know, White Knight type of situation that happens all too often in older films and fairy tales. You know, we talk about that and why that's problematic. Like it's not that we're going to like hide the stories, right?
But you raise a really good point. I think just to be conscious of all those dimensions of diversity and just weave them in. You know, you don't have to have this overt conversation about racism or sexism with kids. And I think that's the fear factor with parents and caregivers like, oh, shoot, I'm not opening that can of worms and probably the biggest pushback that I get for this messages. We want to protect our children, right? If I talk to them about racism, I might actually make them racist, which there is absolutely no evidence to support that. That's true. That's just your fear talking and we fear what we don't understand that if you don't understand racism, you're probably not gonna want to talk to your kids about racism. And isn't that a huge sign of your privilege that you don't have to have that conversation, compare notes for a second with a person of color. They don't have that choice. It's life or death for them not talking to them, especially black boys about policing. You know, putting your son's life at risk as a white parent, you don't have to do that. Like that's that makes life a lot easier, right?
And so I think if you just acknowledge like, I might not have to do some of these hard things. Like maybe this conversation is something that might be helpful, I promise you on the other side of it. Like you just, I know for me and by no means perfect. But I just found myself to be a better parent, a better human. Like you've just been all overall, It's just really helped me have more depth and more meaningful conversations with people and just like an overall appreciation for life to have this conversation, especially with kids because they do say the darndest things. It's just I find it to be totally fascinating personally.
Lindsay Lyons: Yeah, that's such a great point. And I'm thinking too about how the example you shared about your daughter really stepping into what I might call like an Ally role right? In that moment like being able to say like, this is wrong. And yes, in that story, like it impacted kind of her in a way, but like she wasn't really the center of the story necessarily and still being able to step in and be like, no, that is racism and I'm going to call that out, you know, at a very young age and I think that's really powerful and a lot of your work.
I think you published a book on this right? Lead Like an Ally and allyship being really important. Do you have any thoughts for folks who are trying to step into that active allyship role not being, you know, performative ally, but like an actual, you know, co- conspirator ally, whatever language you want to use. I'd love to hear your thoughts on that.
Julie Kratz: Yes, the performance of ally? Just for listeners, just to get clarity on that term. If you haven't heard it before, it's like sitting on the sidelines. It's like I'm gonna read my book, listen to my podcast check. You know, and the white people love to do this. I mean look at the activity around Black Lives Matter a year ago versus now. I mean, come on, very frustrating how short term minded we are. But and I think that's the hesitance of people of color to really trust people in this conversation because they've seen a lot of that sitting on the sideline behavior and again, that's your privilege. You don't have to stay in this day in and day out. Your life is not going to fundamentally change either way. I would argue. It probably would, but you might not see it that way. And that performance of an ally isn't doing the hard work, isn't actively using their voice.
And what an active ally does, which is really different, is they don't center themselves. So being an ally is not about you. It's let go of your ego, It's not about you. There's no rescue cape needed. It's more about putting yourself in an uncomfortable position a lot of times, just use your voice. I'm just like, you know, calling out, I think that feels like racism or like even just my musical terms like that. But like what did you mean when you said that? Like that didn't sit well with me, right? I'm calling out those microaggressions for other people and not standing by and letting bad things happen on your watch because it's just not okay as an ally. And other things active allies do that are different from a child's perspective, I think it's really important that they diversify who they spend time with, right? You're taking inventory of your network, taking inventory of your kid's friend network. You know, how many diverse kids, with diverse backgrounds are they spending time with that? Would you know, who are you having inviting into your home? Who are you spending time with and exposing your kids to? It says a lot about your values and what's really valued and active allies amplify the voices of others.
This is works for adults, but certainly for kids. You know, the kids getting picked on, bullying of course was a huge issue. And in a way you can be an active ally, but also a quiet ally. Let's just go sit with that kid. You know, I, we talked about that as like, just go over and sit with them so they're not alone, right? You don't have to be like, do do do, I'm going to save the day and how you're treating him. It's not okay, not on my watch. Like nobody wants that. That's like, makes it all about you and not the person actually needs the support and that's not sustainable. But being with somebody, showing them that you see them and as children, I mean this is where it really strikes an emotional chord with me. Like every child deserves to feel, seen, heard and belong. Like no child should not feel those things, especially based on moments, they can't control their skin color or what country they were born into. Like that's no one gets to control those things. So why should someone be treated differently based on those things? And if you can help kids, all kids feel seeing her can belong as an ally, I just don't think there's anything more important to our humanity, honestly.
Lindsay Lyons: Yes, and it reminds me of, like this is one of the things that I think is critically important when we're measuring success of the school. Things like belonging or do children feel like they have a voice? Are they taken seriously by adults or they taken seriously by other kids? Like do they matter? And I know that you've talked a little bit about you know, measurement and how do we measure D. I. And you know, maybe that from a corporate perspective, I'm not sure, but what do you think about in terms of an education space or even the corporate space in terms of what we measure influencing, you know, our actions or what is important to measure in this space.
Julie Kratz: That's so good. Most of my work is still on the corporate side. That is what pays the bills. This is like my passion project. So I know I'll start with corporate and then like we can maybe brainstorm a little bit because I'd love your input on the education side. But you know, representation numbers, that's the obvious one, right? Like you want to measure what matters. And so for my corporate clients, like I was like so they're like diversity and inclusion is very important to us.
We did this corporate statement and we have this thing that sits on the shelf and you know, they have all the boxes checked and I'm like so how are you measuring it? Oh wow. It's really hard for us to measure just like all these excuses and like, no, pull your H.R. data. That is not hard to measure. You've got it, you just don't like it so you don't want to share it. And you know, anything that's important to measure in business... I always joke like it's not important if you're not measuring it. So representation numbers out of minimum, those are usually race and gender. Sometimes you can measure sexual orientation, but you know, 50% of people are closeted in the workplace. So that's a rough one, disabilities, you know, whatever your dimensions you want to really prioritize. And don't just measure it like blanket for the whole organization or you know, in this case of school. You want to see it like by level, right? And so in the corporate environment especially, it's like frontlines, diverse and then like suddenly it stops. She worked her way into the top. So like you want to do that. I think in a school system that would parlay into your employees, right? Your staff as well as your children and different grade levels would probably be helpful to know.
And that of the minimum and then I think you raise a much better point though about, that's diversity. Diversity is representation. Inclusion is a behavior. So you want to measure behaviors and perceptions of behaviors too. So like just like you just said, it would be really fun to do some pulse surveys. I don't know how you do this with kids or you know the faculty or you know, whoever got involved. But do I feel like I have a voice? Is my voice heard? Do I feel like I belong here? Am I judged differently based on my differences? You know, just asking some standard questions and getting real data on that, measuring it over time and making sure it's going in the right direction.
You know, the last thing I'll say with scorecards and measurement is it can create, if it's not done well, it can create a zero sum game. Well great, now we just care about diversity. So I'm the white guy and I don't matter. No, of course the world is built for you. Like don't worry, it's not changing overnight. You're still good. But I think you have to frame it as we want to get better. Not like an affirmative action type of situation where we have to get X by this date. I do like goals,
but I think sometimes when we set really bold goals, it can create an infighting amongst people. And you already get it. In my community, we have this, I'm just gonna say, problematic parents that are very against diversity training, diversity in our schools. And that's because I think that, you know, they're all white, and they're mostly mother, mostly women. But a lot of men too,, that see it as like I'm gonna lose something. My kids gonna have something to lose from this conversation. We can't have that happen. It has to be about all people feeling, seen, heard, and belong, and race in general. Part of that, but it's really about all human beings. Again, feeling those things. So I think the balance of representation data and then making sure you have perception data around behavior too is important.
Lindsay Lyons: And I think that mirrors a lot of what's happening in the education space is as well. Looking at particularly nationally, now our student body as the United States nation has, I think hit if not surpassed the point where white students are now less than 50% or approaching that.
And the teaching staff is predominantly white women still like overwhelmingly so like, you know, 80 something percent, 90%. And so just that representation too. And like you're saying not just looking at the staff, but looking at, you know, the staff and who they're teaching and can students see themselves reflected in the staff. And the teaching staff, like you said at each level, so not just, you know, who drives my bus or who is the attendant worker, but like who is my teacher, who was my principal, who is my superintendent, you know, at all levels, we need to see that representation.
And then just a quick note on, for any listeners who are interested in those measurements, things, I love that you brought that up. Like how do we do that in terms of belonging. So I have a student voice survey that I developed for my dissertation, which I've shared as a preview before. So I can drop that link in the show notes. But also Panorama is a wonderful educational company that has surveys on their website that you can take and use for free that measure things like belonging. I think they have a whole D and I series where there's like several sub scales there. And so their stuff is excellent as well.
But there's so much cool movement in that direction. I think about measuring voice and belonging for students, that's really exciting to me.
Julie Kratz: I'm visiting their website just after we speak. I'll be checking them out. That's super cool. I didn't even know about that. And I love that you have a survey too. I have to be sure to share that with their inclusion school listeners. That's awesome.
Lindsay Lyons: Yeah. I'll definitely share that with you. as we're kind of like wrapping up thinking about how people are going to take action and we're listing all these techniques and tools that they can use, what is maybe one thing that you would encourage the listener to do after they end this episode they go live their life and really try to bring out the value of justice and in working with youth and just being themselves in the world. What's one thing you would recommend that they do as a kind of a starting point.
Julie Kratz: Do something. And I know that sounds super simple. But again, this performative allyship behavior like sitting on the sidelines, this huge problem, especially if you're in the majority group. You know, especially if you're white, especially if you're able bodied, especially if you're straight this gender a man, you know, like your voice is so important.
And I think people get lost in this. Like I'm just one person. How can I influence this massive problem, right? And honestly keeps me up at night. Just do something. Take one step, a baby step, right? Read a book with your kids that have diverse characters. You know, there's actually more animals in children's books than kids of color. So like this is a real problem. In your bookshelf, probably doesn't look a lot different than mine did several years ago. There's no shame in that, but you can get better. Watch a film, a documentary, you know, depending on your kids' ages, for really young adults. you could have some really meaty conversations with your kids about this stuff and their perceptions, and you again, we'll probably learn way more from them than they will from you, keep your ears open.
But take one step, one step and stay on the journey. And I always talk about allyship is a journey. It is not a destination. There are no perfect allies. There's a lot of bumbling and stumbling along the way. I screw stuff up on a daily basis and that's because I'm learning and unlearning things. And unfortunately we live in a world where we're taught a version of history in society that's just not frankly true.
It's very painful to unpack that, but stay on the journey because your voice does matter and at that, there's no end or rainbow at the end. There is like just recognition of again, being better, getting better. And being more inclusive is just it improves you just doesn't overall human.
Lindsay Lyons: I love that recommendation. And actually I love that you also mentioned that we are constantly learning and growing ourselves right? There is no kind of endpoint. We're not just perfect. And so as you think about things that you have been learning lately, it could be related to what we've been talking about. It could be anything. What is something that you have been learning about lately?
Julie Kratz: Oh my gosh. I just watched a documentary. Speaking of documentaries, this is probably more for older kiddos. Like my daughter is not ready for this one, but this changes everything. It's about gender representation and film. Gina Davis has an institute for gender representation and what I loved about the documentary is a lot of times white women come in and make it all about white women, but it actually had a really good diverse representation of women of color and they talked about Shonda Rhimes and Frozen and you know, just some of the wins and some of the wins that we've had in the in the industry.
But also you know, it's funny that over time we're like okay, this movie came out, it changes everything, you know. And how many times that one silver bullet does not and how it's a continued effort over time. So the title in itself is just kind of a play on the fact that no, things are not changing that quickly and they have tons of data. So if you like data, tons of data, at a minimum, you know, watch it with your partner. If you have kiddos that are, I would say, 12+ and just ask like: What did you see? What did you learn? Because I live in this space that I learned a ton about that through that documentary. So that's something that I've learned about recently.
And then I would also say there's increasingly a lot of young adult books about diversity. So Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man was an adult book, but then was rewritten for young adults called Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Boy. I read both of them and I was like, huh? You know, I could just see how the messages were more simple and relevant for the young adult, but same content, a lot of the same stories.
So you could read that like with your young adult, you know, compare notes and like, what did you learn? What did you see? Like what was hard for you? It was something you're taking away and just those conversations again over time, I find to be just so helpful. So yeah, stay on the journey. It's definitely a tenuous journey, but one worthwhile.
Lindsay Lyons: Those are excellent recommendations, I need to watch. This changes everything now because that sounds like my kind of documentary. Finally, where can listeners learn more about you, connect with you online, grab, listen to your podcast, any of that stuff.
Julie Kratz: Yeah. Yeah. So we've got two websites. So if you're interested in the conversation with kiddos, the Little Allies. So thelittleallies.com. We've got a downloadable discussion guide and Ally Promise. That's something I'm really proud about, just going through the promise and your kid can sign the certificate. It's a really cute conversation started to. And then of course you can order the book. 100% of online proceeds are going towards nonprofit and organizations doing this work.
So this is a passion project. You don't make a lot of money off Amazon sales. With the money we do make, we are funneling right back into the community. And then from a corporate space if you're interested in corporate stuff : nextpivotpoint.com. There again, you'll find tons of free resources and guides on, you know, we talked about like the diversity dictionary, you know. So if you want to get more education yourself before talking with your kids about this, I would recommend going there as well.
Lindsay Lyons: Amazing. Julie Kratz, thank you so much for being on the show.
Julie Kratz: Thanks, Lindsay. This is awesome.
Lindsay Lyons: Thanks for listening amazing educators. If you loved this episode, you can share it on social media and tag me @lindsaybethlyons or leave a review of the show, so leaders like you will be more likely to find it. To continue the conversation, you can head over to our Time for Teachership Facebook group and join our community of educational visionaries. Until next time, leaders, continue to think big, act brave, and be your best self.
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Today, I get to talk with Nathaniel A. Turner. For context, this episode was recorded on September 21st of 2021. So let me tell you a little bit about Nathanial Turner. He's an entrepreneur, renowned speaker, author, philanthropist and leading parental empowerment activist. The human propulsion engineer is the author of multiple books including Journey Forward : How to Use Journaling to Envision and Manifest the Life You Always Wanted, The Amazing World of STEM, Raising Superman, Stop The Bus: Education Reform in 31 Days and It's a Jungle Out There : Powerful Parenting Lessons Inspired by the Lion King. Turner appears regularly in numerous national media outlets. The TED talk speaker strives daily to change the world. He wants to make the world a place where race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status no longer dictate the writing of anyone's destiny. Nate happily shares his template for living our best life, including being intellectually ambitious, globally and culturally competent and humanitarian driven. So let's get right to it.
Hi, I'm Lindsay Lyons and I love helping school communities envision bold possibilities, take brave action to make those dreams a reality, and sustain an inclusive, anti-racist culture where all students thrive. I'm a former teacher leader, turned instructional coach, educational consultant and leadership scholar. If you're a leader in the education world, whether you're a principal, superintendent, instructional coach or a classroom teacher excited about school-wide change like I was, you are a leader and if you enjoy nerding out about the latest educational books and podcasts, If you're committed to a lifelong journey of learning and growth and being the best version of yourself, you're going to love the Time for Teachership podcast. Let's dive in.
Nathanial Turner, welcome to the podcast.
Thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here.
I'm really excited that you're here and I would love to just invite you to share. I know we read your professional bio at the start of the episode.
Is there anything else that we should know about you that listeners should understand in terms of who you are and the conversation you're bringing today to the Time for Teachership podcast.
Cool. So the that you just used the word "who" and I would say that the thing that I like people to know about me, but not so much about me about themselves is that I believe that the most important word in all the human languages, the word "who". And I believe that, because "who" is what will show up on your obituary, "who" will show up on your eulogy and "who" will show up on your tombstone or wherever it does, there's some remembrance of your life. And so I encourage folks because I'm encouraged to do this every day to be led by my "who". And how I do that is I ask myself daily: who did you help, who did you serve and who knew their life matter because of an interaction with you. So that's my one word : "who".
That is a fantastic way to introduce yourself. Wow and so much wisdom right off the bat. So thank you for that.
I'm curious to know, I love Dr. Bettina Love's work and she talks about freedom dreaming and she describes them as dreams grounded in the critique of injustice. And so with that in mind, thinking about freedom dreaming through that lens, thinking about, you know, what education could be, what is the dream that you hold for education or you know, the family role in education? However you kind of concede with that question.
Sure. So I'll see if I can answer each aspect. So what do I expect? What would that my dream for parents and that parents would actually be what educators proclaimed parents are, which is that their children's first teacher. And so I would, I dream of a day when parents are actually prepared from conception to be their child's teacher from conception through college graduation. That doesn't do very much. So what would that look like? It would look a little bit like Lamaze would look like Lamaze for parents where parents were being trained and coached along the way so that they did every step of a child's life.
They were more than adequately prepared. So, hey, I'm getting ready to have a baby? Well what should I be doing to make sure my child succeeds academically in the future. Oh, I should be reading to the baby in the womb. Oh, I should dance with the baby as soon as the baby is here. I should play language tapes or in the crib. But there what kind of I should eat a certain kind of food and I just serve a certain amount. I should read all the classics with my baby when they're small and we should continue to read those classics that will show up on an S. A. T. Or A. C. T. Test or whatever down the road. So that's right. That's one of the things. Or their parents understand that there is no work life balance and that these offsprings that they brought to the planet, they deserve their undivided attention as much as possible and that they have to be focused on that more so than their own career. So that's one aspect. What I hope for students? I'd like for students to actually have a process to be successful. Most children that I meet,
most students don't know how to succeed at school. I was one of those kids. So an interesting story with my son. When he returned from Brazil and decided to apply for college, he applied for 31 America's top engineering schools and was accepted to 27 of them, had more scholarship money than most schools most graduating classes get on their own. But when he started his freshman semester, freshman quarter, he was like three weeks in and he sent us a Google hangout message and said, "I can't do this, I don't think I could be an engineer." Because what had happened? He lived in Brazil, played soccer, been away from being a student for a while and suddenly was getting ready to be an engineer. And the process of being an engineer was so much different than the process of just being in high school. So what we realized is that he needed a system so that he could be successful. So I said, "hey man, if we can just get through this one, this one quarter. Hang in there. When you come home, I promise you we'll create a system".
And we did, we create a system of 20 things he would do every day, seven things he would do each week, three things or four things he would do each quarter or semester. He does that stuff even today. The subsequent semesters, or quarters afterwards, he never earned less than a 370 and he worked on 3 degrees and got into seven PhD offers directly from undergrad. But it wasn't because he was bright. It was because you had a system, we call it the Academic Success System or we tell people to lead with your ass. So, that's what I would hope. I would hope, we would give students tools, techniques and strategies so that they could be prepared. And then the last part is I would like schools to be places of mastery rather than places of a grade point averages and test scores. I liked it if a child was a supposedly eight years old and they were a third grader that like my guide daughter was, if she was ready for high school geometry, she could just take, take geometry.
I like it if a child was 14 and they were ready to go to college that they could go to college. Because in fact, I don't see why kids are still in school or young people still in school through 18. We don't live in an agrarian society anymore. So there's no summer, no reason to take a summer off of learning. What to say there was a learning loss. It seems like there's no learning. Learning didn't get lost. It was a misplaced. You want: just stopped! So I don't know. So I'd like to see, you know, that different. I'd like to see the structure of schools be different. I'd like first to go to what are micro schools or in some ways revert to the one room classrooms again where it's just learn and learn to master material as opposed to learning what supposedly is needed for a particular grade level. I apologize if that was a long answer,
That was perfect. Oh my gosh, there was so much richness in there and just ideas for action to like beyond the vision, like you're moving to, like, here's the system and here's what we are doing and here's what we can do.
So I just love the detail and that response. I think one of the things I'm curious about is like that, I think there's so much work in this. I think is like mindset and like just having different priorities, like you're explaining this idea of the one room schoolhouse and moving to college at 14 and like these things that really break with tradition but would ultimately be great. And we have to like wrap our heads around, like how do we shift our minds to envision that and prioritize the things that needs to be prioritized versus prioritizing "This is the way we've always done things. So this is the way it goes." And I'm curious to know like, you know, what are those mindset shifts that you think, either the educational system or families or you know, whoever it is, that that should have that mindset shift. Like what is it that they should be thinking about are prioritizing in this work?
Sure. So I'm gonna go back and do it the same way again. So, I'll start with the parents. The mind shift for parents, is that parents have to stop outsourcing. I mean that's one big mind shift. If there are other mind shift certain, but one big mind shift is that parents have to stop outsourcing.
So what do I mean? There was a point in time where I believe people took parenting and thought of parenting somewhere rose is almost a profession that there was this realization that: "hey, my legacy is the legacy of having a child do better than me.". But somewhere along the way that is lost. So then, and now the legacy is, well, if I can brag on my child having done something good, I'm cool with that. But the work necessary to so that my child can do something and live a life better than me, I'm not so sure I want to do that. So I'm gonna outsource everything: the moment my child is born, six weeks after my child is born, I'm going back to work. I'm going to work and I'm going to give my child to a daycare. Now the daycare is gonna be, my child gets gonna be predicated on how much money I make because everything in America is pretty predicated in many ways how much money I make. So some kids are gonna go to daycare where they just sit in a room and look at tv and some kids are gonna go to daycare where they're actually learning in a room and they're gonna, and that's gonna pay off in the end.
So one of the things I think parents have to stop outsourcing and realize that whether or not I have wealth or privilege or not, it's still my responsibility to find a way to make sure that my child, who I invited to this planet, they did not invite themselves here, but they didn't show up at the border, I invited them here, that they, that I should treat them like a welcoming and honored guest. So that is part of the shift, to just take full ownership for your child's future.
What I think children have to do? Well, part of children's issue is what happens at home. So some of you can't ask them because they're trained many times to do nothing because they've been in the household for nothing. So in Indiana as an example, I don't think you have to go to school till you're aged seven. So if I've never been asked to learn, if I've never been encouraged to read, if I've never been encouraged to do math, then it's gonna be very difficult. But we have to find a way to help children be able to see what's possible. And I think one way to do that is just ask kids the question.
guys I met, we talked earlier. If the world were perfect, you'd want to do what? Because I don't think most adults ever asked children what they wanna do. They might say, I want to be a basketball player. And then if they say that I say, well, cool, you want to be Lebron James. Well, he is six foot eight and 260 lbs. and runs a 4.5 40. So this is like, let's look at your genetics, Can you do that? No, Mr turner, I probably can't do that. Okay, well let's pick something else that we can do. There's a lot of other things and then once you can tell me what it is you want to do, Hey, there's this thing called Backward Design, we can start designing how to get you to where you want to go and we can give you the tools and techniques. So I think the idea is to get Children to dream audaciously, but then find the support systems to help them to do that.
What do I want to see what's the mind shift for educators? That education is not a destination, it's a part of a process and perhaps we should move from calling people educators to maybe enlightenment coaches,
where, because for me, when I think of when people say I'm educated, it's past tense. I attended Butler University. I was educated at Butler University. I went to law school. I was educated as a lawyer at Valparaiso University. I attended, you know, Valpo Graduate School, so I have a Master's degree. So those are all past tense. Very few of us are talking about what we're doing today to remain enlightened. And so I think that's an aspect that in education, even the educators have to change their mind about the knowledge content and realize as Socrates says : "I know that I know nothing."
That is so powerful, especially because I think about like the various teachers who have either worked with or had as teachers who have, you know, use the line, well I have my degree and it's like, oh I don't know, that's the message, we want to center it there right? Instead of like the modeling of here's what I learned today and here's how I learned it today and like here's what you know, we're all gonna learn today, what do you want to learn today? I think you just captured so much in there from asking students what they want to learn to, you know, all the way to, to thinking about like that redefinition of what it is to be a teacher and a lifelong learner and that model.
So really great mindset shift there, I love those. You mentioned the Backwards Design, which I am a huge fan of and so I'm thinking now we can move to kind of the actions. You know, like what does this look like? And I know you have a really powerful process that you alluded to earlier that you have developed your own child and thinking about Backwards Design. Could you speak a little bit to Backwards Design in that process you've created?
Sure. So I know Backwards Design is an educational theory and I believe it was established and I can't get a person's name, but I know it was a Vanderbilt. So in 94 I was a fledgling when, you know, 93 I married. In 94 in the farm, my wife announced that she was pregnant because I always tell people in 94 I wasn't pregnant. Today men say we're pregnant. No, no, no, 1994 she was pregnant. And so 94 she says, hey, I'm pregnant.
She says, no, it's plus it's plus and I see this early pregnancy test.
And long story short, I'm like, okay, I'm gonna, we're gonna fail miserably. This neither one of us are prepared for this. We both had these tumultuous childhood. And so I thought here I am, I'm about to graduate in December, I learned and I'm gonna be a father in October. And I'm like, and I don't know where I'm going to work, I don't have a job. I mean I'm about to have this law degree in this joint Master's degree, but I don't know what I'm gonna do. And I said to myself, man, if you had gone to a better law school, if you have been more prepared. So when you were taking the LSAT that you were applying for law school, the elite law schools would have invited you to attend, you would not be sitting here right now trying to figure out what your next step is because you have all kinds of options throwing your way? And I said, okay, well where, what school would I have gone to? And I'm like Harvard of course I would have gone to Harvard, then one ranked school and so I wrote Harvard for an application and then my wife and I, when we got the application, we took the application apart and decided that if we could, if the world were perfect, if we could do what we needed to do, could we get a child to meet the academic qualifications of Harvard?
So that was our sight. Harvard was the destination and everything we did, we did backward right to do that. So Harvard's first element on their application said we want obviously students to do well academically and like, well we don't have a baby yet, but what do we do while you're pregnant to make steps? So we started doing those kinds of things, reading in the room, right? And she would increase their vocabulary and make sure she ate properly and make sure she exercised so that her delivery was easy, so we didn't put any additional emotional stress on this unborn baby, right? And you know, make sure that I didn't cause her stress and I was a loving and kind of a, you know, a happier version of me that I possibly could be. And then when the child was here, like what would we do from an educational standpoint? So we want to make sure we can, the child can read early. So what does the science say about having a child read early? Well buy these big posters and show the infant pictures and make the sounds and all the pictures and spell out the letters and tell the colors and do all that kind of stuff. And you wanna introduce new languages, play language tapes in the crib and so instead of hearing ga ga goo goo come out of our mouth, you would hear "hola como estas bien y tu" right? "good morning", "guten morgen" takes your place.
So that was part of the "here's what Harvard says we have to do academically". And then the second thing we didn't recognize was that before the application that Harvard also asked for students who are world citizens, then that was the word they used in 94. Like wow, so that today that really speaks to cultural and global competency. So like, okay, well and we have to make sure he can learn at least speak another language. So that was the language text right? And then at every step we would get, we would want to introduce him to people who spoke another language. So we had, we bought like Reader Rabbit and Jump Start, with today is Duolingo and other things are available. But the night before there was CD-ROMs and you put the CD in and the child would listen to it and do stuff on the screen. And so it was a little bit interactive. And then the last element on the Harvard application was that you, they were looking for students who cared for something greater than themselves and like, okay, well then that's what we call today, humanitarian driven. He said, well everything he does in his life has to have a component where he is doing something for something, some calls greater than himself.
And so that became the template that we use now which is intellectual ambition, which we call a little bit more than just grades but wanted to make sure you could do think critically. Second part is global and cultural competency : Hey, we want you to be able to speak in other people's language, but we also want you to understand other people's culture. You cannot be the person who was always asking people to understand your situation and your history. What about having a context for other people's history and other people's experiences? Because when you do, it's going to make it easier for everybody to come together. And then the last part was that we wanted him to care for something greater than themselves and everything that you would do in your life have to be predicated about that, because as I was, as I mentioned earlier, people are always gonna judge you by who you are, by your words and your deeds.
Wow, that is so powerful and also just so brilliant to be able to just deconstruct that application and then figure out from the womb, like what are we doing?
So I love that approach as an educator and a Backwards Design thinker myself, I love it and I appreciate all of the really tangible things from someone who even is just figuring out they're pregnant to be able to listen to this episode and be like, all right, it starts now, here we go, that is fantastic. I'm curious to know as you kind of got to know your child and learning kind of what he was interested in, like what was the path of kind of facilitating that engineering and he's ending up at the engineering school and so what was that like to kind of facilitate that learning about, you know, being an engineer and those kind of skill sets?
Sure, so the interesting thing is I had no preconceived notions or any intentions that he would be an engineer. In fact engineering was the furthest thing that I would imagine he would ever do. He was so good with writing and language and so forth. You know, here we are with an African American child who is 16 and is fluent in four languages and conversational and two others.
So you're like, okay, he loves to write and he started this little foundation and he's caring for. It is written about a book. He's writing a book about what are we gonna do today, which is to encourage other parents to be more involved in their children's lives. And he started this foundation to work with homeless teens.
I have no idea what he is going to be interested in that. What I would tell you we did Lindsay. And again, is it brilliant or is it accidental? Right. Is it trial and error? Right. I always tell people he's kind of like the project and he's been the test case dummy, right? Sometimes that we just wanted to make sure, essentially I would say it's a little bit like the proverbial buffet table. We wanted to make sure that he was prepared to eat anything he wanted to have off the buffet table.
I grew up in Gary, Indiana. I was not prepared if you can imagine life as a buffet table and that the best things in life, the filet mignon, the Dom Pérignon, the caviar that are all at the left end of the table and I had the stuff at the right end of the table, the hot dogs, the bright, the sausage in the can, the crackers, the cheese. When I showed up at the buffet table, they would point to me and say no, you stay on this side of the table, with the inexpensive stuff. You're not ready for the other stuff.
And what we wanted to do is just make sure that he had the opportunity to choose wherever he wanted to be on life's buffet table. So it wasn't until he went away and spent time playing soccer in Brazil that he then said : "I think I'm gonna be an engineer." And Netanya, which is my wife and I said : "What, an engineer? Okay, alright." And of course he's done well enough in math and science, to meet the academic requirements, but it was never our plan. That's what he was.
I appreciate you saying that too because I think sometimes we do have, or I've definitely had students come through my classes where they are like my parents that I'm doing this, and so that is what I'm doing and I, you know, in talking to the student, you get to know them and you're like, well, what is it about being a doctor for example, that you want to do? I actually hate medicine and I hate science and I, okay, so you actually don't want to be a doctor, interesting. And so it's, I think so much of what you're talking about is so great because not only do you have to structure this backwards plan, but it's also fluid and flexible enough to actually follow whatever it is that your kid is passionate about and I think that's so important both for families and caretakers as well as for teachers that we just need to be able to follow the passions of our students because otherwise you're just gonna promote disengagement and be like, I'm just doing this because my teacher told me, or my parents told me and that's not good.
Yeah, I mean we wanted to make sure you had a like a wide variety of things he was introduced to. And so when you get enough things you get to introduce because the child can say, well I don't like that and I said, well, have you ever done it? Well, no. Well how do you know you don't like it?
So when our son first started playing soccer, he doesn't, he hated it. "I'm gonna be the worst person out here." I said : "you are, you are the worst. You've never played. You're terrible, so you're at the bottom. Let's just start with that." And then he played and then we start talking about soccer. But soccer is a metaphor for life. I said, well you're not any good at it because you don't practice. You're not any good at it because you don't do the right things to be good at it. You're not any good at it because your mindset is terrible. So let's talk about how to change your mindset. Let's talk about visualization. So can you imagine you're in a car with a four year old and you're talking about visualization and then one day you're in the car and you look in the back seat and the four year old has their eyes closed, and you said, "What are you doing?" He said, "I'm envisioning how I'm going to play today." Right, okay, right, "and I'm going to school, I'm gonna steal the ball and I'm gonna go down the field and I'm gonna score a goal." And he goes out and does that. And then you're like, oh well right.
And so now that four year old understands something about life that some 14 year olds or 24 years don't. Hey, I am as I think I am. And so that becomes, you know, a part of his routine that he uses for everything. But the intention was not that he would play professional soccer. One day, he enjoyed it so much, he said, "hey, I'm ready to leave the country and see if I can't live out my dream of playing professional soccer, but mom and dad, you prepare me as I speak fluent Portuguese and I speak fluent Spanish and I speak Caroline and I speak English and I know some German and I know some French. So I got a few options, I can go some places and I can try it out." But yeah, the goal was never to make him do anything. It was to just give him a breath of information and opportunities that he could choose what he wanted to do his life.
That's so powerful and I appreciate that you've been talking about like, you know, the realities of the structural pieces of our society paired with this, like within our family, we can have a locus of control of this, we can visualize this.
And so I love for you if you're okay with it, to speak to the misunderstandings about, you know, for parents and for teachers right? Of underserved and underrepresented students. And so like what I'm just imagining like that family school dynamic and I know many teachers have had misunderstandings and misconceptions about families, who have marginalized identities and are underrepresented in systems of power in our school structure. And so I just love to hear your thoughts on that.
Sure. So one of them said was America is number two in gross national spending or per pupil spending in the world. We're number two. When you look at our math scores, I think we're in the 30s and the science scores were in the 30s and the reading, I think we're 17th or something like that. So we're spending a bunch of money and we're not having great outcomes. So what is the point to that? The point to that is that America if you believe that income is the reason that students succeed, then you need only look at how our outcomes are internationally and we're spending more money and virtually everybody, but we have results that rival Turkey and Rwanda.
So it is not about money, right? It is about the time that we invest. And so if you imagine the rule of the 10,000 hour rule and you say, well, what does it take if that's true? What does it take to become an expert in something? And you say, well, how many hours is in a child's life from 0 to age 6? Is there 10,000 hours or more? And you know how many, how much of a brain is developed from 0-6? More than 90%? So then I'd say, what are you doing in those first six years? Poor parents, wealthy parents, any parent in between. What are we doing from 0 to 6? I contend if you're doing little than nothing from 0 to 6, then your outcomes, I don't care how much money you have, are not going to be very good. You know, may have a slight difference because if you have wealth, you're probably gonna have a slightly hands-on vocabulary because mom and dad are gonna put you in a position to meet people, but are you going to be a better student? Probably not likely.
I believe there's only 35% of even white students that are exceedingly proficient on the last ACT reading, writing, math and science. It's about 6% for African American students. But there's not 100% of the students that almost 70% of white students are failing as well. So the thing is we have to get involved and stop outsourcing early on and their parents have to again be what schools say we are, which is a children's first teacher. We got to really roll up our sleeves and get involved no matter whatever your income, and your wealth income status are.
Yeah, excellent points. And I think from a teacher's perspective to be able to value what parents do bring to the table in those conversations about their child and about really honoring and just kind of almost making the assumption of yeah, you are your child's first teacher and I'm gonna treat you like you are, versus I'm just gonna tell you when your kid is bad and that's the only communication we're gonna have and it's just, you know, like this broken system of communication.
So I think it's totally a partnership there.
Yeah, I mean if I believe if you and I don't wanna likening children to material, but if we were to likening children to material and I said, "hey Lindsay, every day you're going to get to work with gold." Or, "Lindsay, every day you're gonna get to work with, I don't know cement?". You'd say, "well give me gold every day." like right. Or if you're an artist with the best canvas and all of the best paints and I said, "well you can have that, but I can give you a bunch of broken crayons." you would say, "well of course they give me.". And so I'm like, what happens if we finally start delivering children to school who are not needing to learn to read, who are not needing to learn to write, who are not needing to learn to do math? But if we delivered to school students who are her reading, we're now ready to read to, to learn. We're now already doing math at its most basic level or better.
When my son went to Stanford the very first time for a visit, we met families that were from Asia and from East Europe, or Eastern part of Europe.
But I want to say like Ukraine, Russia who had taken calculus as third graders, like they don't have any more money or any more resources. They just have a different culture, a different structure about what they believe the children need to do. At least those family, I'm sure not everybody is that way, but those that there's a different way to get their children prepared and I just, maybe you should adopt some of that.
Yeah, wow, third grade calculus. I can't even imagine. That was hard for me in college.
There's a gentleman by the name of Glenn Doman, you may be familiar with his work. He has an institute that is... his daughter still maintains it. I'm gonna get it wrong, but it's like the Institute for Advanced Intelligence or something like that. But he started it... I want to say in the 70's, coaching parents to work with children who have brain injuries. And he was teaching children with brain injuries how to read by 18 months and do complex math problems like 1267 times 7892 and those babies with brain injuries could do the math problem.
And when I saw that, and start and picked up his books like whoa, hold on a second, my child don't have a brain injury. His daddy brain is a little questionable, baby's brain is fine. If he could do that with those children, why aren't we all doing that with every child? So we picked up the dominoes, that was how to give your baby encyclopedic knowledge, how to teach your baby to read, how to teach your baby to do math, those kind of things and started trying our best to apply those things as best we could in Nathan's life.
Wow, that is really powerful. I think there's so much to think about in terms of what you've shared with us today. And so I'm just imagining a listener being like, okay, I'm ready to go do these things and I am ready to get started. But there's just so, so much I could be doing. Where do you recommend that someone starts as like maybe a first step or something to get the ball rolling with this way of being and parenting and teachers partnering with parents and that kind of thing?
For the parents, I think the very first thing to do is just to simply ask yourself, "what are your hopes and your dreams for your children?" And that's where I start and where I end. That's what informs my conversations with teachers. It's what informs my conversation with university faculty and president. Listen, here are the hopes and dreams I have for my child. Can you help us make those things a reality? If you can, good. This is the place for him. If you cannot, that's fine. But just tell me because you're not his parent and I'm not outsourcing my parental rights and responsibilities to you at all. Right? At the end of the day, if he's in an orange jumpsuit or he turns his tassel and throws a cap and gown up in the air, people gonna say whose child is he? So I want to make sure you can help and that you understand what my hopes and dreams. So that's where I would start with families. What are your most audacious, bodacious hopes and dreams are for your children?
You have to dream of you. Without those dreams, Then we're all just, we might as well be I guess inanimate objects, right? We should just be a plate or a glass of water or something. If we're not gonna dream then what's the point of being?
Thank you so much for sharing that. I love that as a starting point. I think there's so much potential in like you said the Backwards Design process, if you don't have those hopes and dreams laid out and you're not clear about them, like how are you ever going to backwards design from there?
So it's like taking a trip within and you say, I'm gonna say it and my phone was going to say, hey G hey S hey Siri and Siri says, yes. You're like, I want to go somewhere and then they will say, where? Like where do you want to go? I can give you the directions but I don't know where you want to go until you tell me. So yeah. At some point it starts with what are those hopes and dreams are. And then at some point the children will tell you about what their own hopes and dreams are. Nayen told me standing on the top of the Grand Canyon that he was done with high school and, "I want to go chase my dream, I want to go taste my dream dad and I want to play professional soccer and I need to leave the country.".
Okay, alright, okay, you got a destination. Now I got to help you figure out how to get there.
Oh, that's so beautiful. I'm just imagining that scene to just like, okay, all right, this is a movie worthy.
We had just finished reading the Alchemist and then I would say, hey put that in your show notes and have families definitely should read the Alchemist and he said, okay, I know where my pyramid is, and I'm ready to get there and you gotta be like the shopkeeper and you've got to help me figure out how to get there. So okay, okay, right. We got there. He got there, but he had to know what his hopes and dreams were first.
That's awesome and I will absolutely link the Alchemist in the show notes the great suggestion. I know one of the things you mentioned early on in our conversation is this idea of, you know, teachers and parents and caretakers being lifelong learners and being committed to that growth journey. And so I'm just curious, you know, this is kind of a question I asked for fun at the end, like what's something that you have been learning about lately?
Okay, lately, every day I learned about me. I learned something about myself lately. So, and I would say that this realization that I needed to learn more about me and more about me in terms of like pressing the envelope Nate. How much more can you learn to be able to be a help or a servant for other people? Came from a child. So Nine and I having this conversation. He returned from his visit to Brazil. It's in June of 2012 and and we're in the car and he looks at me and said, "what's wrong with you?" And I have tears in my eyes because I feel like my life is over. Like, I've had hopes and dreams for him and he's now articulated his hopes and dreams and now he's about to leave the freaking country and leave me here. I'm like, what am I supposed to do now? This I've been doing this for 16 years, what else was I supposed to do?
He looks at me and he says, "you can do more. Something like that." It's in the book. And he pointed out to me today yet the exact quote is on page 61. I'm like, Okay, yeah, but it's something like you can do more, you still have time. And I was like, well what more can I do? And he said dad do everything you've been doing with me for other fans. So what I've been doing since 2014, we published Raising Superman, was finding a way to be better equipped to share with other families. How to give their children the best life. So every day I'm like, okay, well what can you do different, and likely one of the things I've been doing is I've been journaling and I've been doing this process called Journaling Foward and I've been coaching other other adults now how to journal forward and I've been coaching parents how to do this course we designed called Mission 51 26, which is, this ideal of how do you get to a mission like Harriet Tubman who had these 30+ missions of freeing slaves? How do we show people how to liberate themselves to their best lives?
and then 51 26 is out of respect of Sir James Dyson who had 5,126 failed prototypes before he finally got to the 51 27 prototypes to get the Dyson vacuum cleaner and I believe he's worth like $40 billion dollars today. And so I said, hey, you gotta be willing to fail 5000 won 26 times. But you also got to be on a mission to do something that's for something greater than yourself. And so that's why I've been working on sharing with families some tools and strategies, but I have to keep getting better in order to continue sharing tools that don't seem like they're now old or outdated.
That is awesome. And we can link to any of those tools that you'd like to share with folks in the show notes in the blog post as well. Finally, where can people learn more about you and the work that you do or connect with you online if they're interested in learning more?
Well, you can connect with me Lindsay, I'm gonna give you my phone number, you can just call me any time you're not going to stay in touch.
But everybody asked me, I'd have a website, it's Nathaniel A Turner dot com.
N A T H A N I E L A T U R N E R dot com. That's probably the easiest way. I still have a blog, it's called Raising Superman. And I write all the blog, but generally if you were on Nathanial Turner, if you went to the site, this mark says "blog" will take you to that blog. We have an online course for parents called the Extraordinary College Planning Course. I think that's what it's called, but I'll share with you it's through Teachable. And we started a, let's just say we Latonya, Nayen and I started a not for profit called the League of Extraordinary Parents where we could begin to share with parents some of the same tools and strategies.
That is amazing. You've been doing so much...
Because a child demanded it of me and he still holds me accountable to it. And so I still believe that I'm responsible, hoping and dreaming and in a very audacious fashion and I do that because I don't want to let him down.
It sounds like you're doing an amazing job. You're sometimes incredible. So that is great work that you're doing and I appreciate not only all you're doing, but just that you took time out of your day to speak with me and speak to our listeners. So thank you so much for being on this podcast.
I'm grateful that you invited me. So thank you for having me.
Thanks for listening, amazing educators. If you loved this episode, you can share it on social media and tag me at Lindsey Beth Lyons or leave a review of the show, so leaders like you will be more likely to find it. To continue the conversation, you can head over to our Time for Teachership Facebook group and join our community of educational visionaries. Until next time leaders continue to think big, act brave and be your best self.
Listen to the episode by clicking the link to your preferred podcast platform below:
In today's conversation, Joyce Akridge is going to talk to us about how we annihilate inequities. For context, this episode was recorded on October 13th, 2021.
So let me tell you about Joyce. She has a reputation of being "a highly motivated, transformational instructional leader with a proven record of student achievement." During her 44-year tenure in the Indianapolis public schools, she demonstrated personal and professional excellence in leadership for the success of all students. She served as a lead principal and principal mentor in the Indianapolis public schools in 2015 through 2019. She was awarded the Educational Excellence Award by the Indianapolis Urban League in 2016. She was recognized by the Department of Education for her work. The school where she was a principal was given a state rating of an A for five consecutive years. Additionally, her leadership was recognized by the state of Indiana as the school received the title: One Distinguished School Award in 2014. She was also a recipient: The Governor's Award for Achievement and Civic Leadership Education in July of 2015.
Joyce was also recognized as one of three schools in the district with the largest growth in mathematics in 2013 and was highlighted in the Indianapolis Star as one of the five schools in the district that succeeded despite high levels of economic poverty in 2012. She has been featured in several publications, including the Indianapolis Star, Chalkbeat, IPS newsletters, Who's who in America and the Indianapolis women's magazine. In 2017 she received the Hubbard Life Changing Leadership Award for her dedicated service to the youth of the Indianapolis public schools.
She retired from the Indianapolis Public Schools in 2019. However, her passion for student success continued and served as a catalyst for the origin of her own coaching and consulting company that she developed with her daughter who was also an educator. The goal of their company, Urban Education Solutions, is to solve problems in education that are " uniquely urban ". She currently serves as a mentor and coach for principals, assistant principals, and instructional coaches in the Indianapolis area.
Let's hear from Joyce Akridge.
Hi, I'm Lindsay Lyons and I love helping school communities envision bold possibilities, take brave action to make those dreams a reality, and sustain an inclusive, anti-racist culture where all students thrive. I'm a former teacher-leader turned instructional coach, educational consultant and leadership scholar. If you're a leader in the education world, whether you're a principal, superintendent, instructional coach or a classroom teacher excited about school-wide change like I was, you are a leader. And if you enjoy nerding out about the latest educational books and podcasts, if you're committed to a lifelong journey of learning and growth and being the best version of yourself, you're going to love the Time for Teachership podcast. Let's dive in.
Welcome to the Time for Teachership podcast.
Thank you, I'm glad to be here.
I'm very excited that you're here. I just read your professional bio at the very start of the episode and if there's anything you want to add by way of introduction to? A lot of times bios feel very professional and there's kind of like more to us as 3-D people beyond our profession. Feel free to go ahead and share anything else that you want the listeners to know.
Well I would like the listeners to know that I just have a passion for the field of education and wanting so much for the students to be successful. I am a results-oriented person. And so I want good results for the children and as John Maxwell person, I've been to his trainings and whatnot. My goal, as it has always been, is to add value to people, whether they're young people or whether they're my colleagues or other educators,
that's just continued with me. Even though I am officially retired, I want to do that because I know that's so very important and especially in times like these.
That is beautiful. I love that I add value to people. That's so great. And speaking about all the great things that you have been doing and adding value to in terms of the educational systems that you've been part of, I think it's really important that we have these kind of big dreams around what school can be. And I love Dr. Bettina Love's work on freedom dreaming and she talks about it as "dreams grounded in the critique of injustice", which I just think it's a fabulous quote. And so keeping that quote in mind, what is the dream that you hold for the field of education?
Well, the big dream I hold is that, first of all, we do the work that we need to make things right for children. And that equity is not just something that we talk about, but it's a reality for us. And that instead of allowing others to come in and so to speak, fix us, that we have enough that we know already with the collective brains and intelligence of all of the educators that we do that ourselves.
So my big dream is that we annihilate inequities and that we embrace equity for every child in every school, both the academic equity and that social potential of every child. That's my big dream.
That is a beautiful dream. And I love that you specifically are naming social as well as academic because I think a lot of times that gets left behind in our rush to cover content or you know, get the good test scores or whatever it is that we think we're supposed to be doing in education and you know, students as we are ourselves, our whole human beings. And so I think that's so important that you emphasize that, thank you.
I think again sometimes, you know, people have that tendency to really think just about the academic piece and the academic side of things and the way we've always done things. And so I think that the dream of annihilating inequity, right, is requiring us to do things differently than they have historically been done.
And so, what are the mindset shifts or different ways of doing things or thinking about things that that either you've seen people really hold that are successful with this work or that you would tell listeners who haven't really quite started the work that mindset shift that needs to happen to be able to be successful in annihilating inequities and supporting the social development of students along with that academic piece?
Well, I would first say that, Lindsey, it's more than just a mindset shift, although that's important. But to be true workers of equity, we need to have our belief system shift because beliefs impact your actions and your behaviors. And so in order for us to annihilate an equity, we need to examine our beliefs because they influence our actions and our practices in the classroom and we need to be sure that we believe that each child is worthy of all of ourselves, all of our talent, all of our practices. They are worthy of everything that we can offer to help them to be fully educated. So that's one of the things, that's the main thing. And to me it's the whole notion of not just shifting, but transforming. And even though I've never seen the movie Transformers, I know just from having had children, although there are grown ups now, that those transformer cars, they switch into something else, it's completely different.
So what we need in order to have an equity-based education for every child is transformation. So we need to start viewing children as assets. We need to be aware of who we are so that we can then help who they are. We need to focus on equity versus equality. Those are mindsets that need to shift. We need to look at them as I said as assets versus you know, their deficit in my room and oh no, I got this child and no, here comes another one that doesn't speak english and so that's a deficit to my class and what I want to do with my class. So I want us to be very mindful of viewing children as valuable and valued and so it's a complete transformation that needs to happen. I think you said it well that we've done things historically a certain way, but that's given us the same results
we've always had. It's predictable : who's going to be successful, who's not going to be successful, which group of students are gonna meet benchmark, which groups are not. And so we need to do some things that are transformative, so that all children can meet and exceed their potential.
I love that call to not just meet but exceed the potential. That is wonderful. And I really appreciate you naming beliefs as a key piece of this. It reminds me of one of my favorite, like scholarship theories around this adaptive leadership. Scholars will say, you know, it's usually a longstanding problem. Usually at the heart of it is this underlying belief or value or loyalty and we just haven't identified it and we just haven't switched it and we're gonna keep having the problem. We could throw all the p.d. at it we want, but if we haven't identified that, believe that needs to shift that believes like you are saying that students and children and people right are valuable and worthy, then we're never gonna get anywhere with just another p.d. workshops.
You're exactly right. And that's why so many programs fail because we focus more on, I suppose the outward action that we see, but the hearts of people haven't changed. And so for a small amount of time we can see some change, but it's not gonna be lasting and sustainable because the hearts haven't changed. So in this equity work you have to come with your mind, your hands and your heart and you've got to be willing to examine your beliefs. So for any educator who started out who say, yeah, it's wrong that it's predictable that black boys and black girls and brown boys and brown girls aren't doing well in school. We see it every year. So for anyone starting with that equity work, I would say the first major piece is to examine yourself and your beliefs and then to see how that impacts your actions as you work with these children who are from historically marginalized groups.
Yeah, excellent advice. And as we move to thinking more about like what are the things that educators can do to really advance equity and justice in in the educational space? What other things would you suggest that people do? So really starting with examining themselves, and making sure that we hold those positive beliefs, right? Whereas children are bringing value, what else would would you say? Either you've seen be successful or you would encourage listeners to do as they're continuing this work
Well, beyond self examination and becoming more equity conscious, I would say that I would suggest that educators, number two, because examining yourself would be number one. Number two would be to look at the curriculum and see where we can disrupt the cannon because a lot of our great works are all by historically based white male authors and those kinds of things, especially when you think about high school and just simply decide : I'm gonna disrupt the cannon by including some black authors.
I'm gonna look at literacy. I'm gonna leverage literacy to let children see themselves and know that we care about them, seeing good models of themselves and they are out there in literature. I would also say that educators could leverage the opportunity for student participation. I don't think we are aware of it, but one of the things we do is we call on fast hands or people we know who will have the answer. And so simple things like having equity sticks where you put the names of children on popsicle sticks and you call on everybody and everybody has a turn that holds thing of opportunities to respond. We have found that black children and brown children a lot of times just don't have those opportunities to respond and maybe have the right answer, or some divergent thinking that would add to the discussion and make it a richer discussion.
So that's something very practical that they can do. There are some wonderful websites like Sankofa Reads and Black Lives Matter Library that will read stories to children about brown and black children. They read them in Spanish and English and helping children to see themselves in literature. That is so very important. Again, this whole notion of having the children to all know that you're going to call on them to respond and you can't take time off because I'm just calling them one kid or whatever, but getting them involved. One of the things we know about educating black and brown children is that they need relationships with people. That's very important when you look at literature. So another thing is take the time to develop relationships with the children. There's a whole philosophy called ten and two and I don't know if you know that, but I tried that and it works.
You take ten days and just for two minutes a day, you get to know maybe that child who's got behavior challenges are, who sits and seems so disconnected to the learning environment and you get to know them and you ask them a pointed question or speak to them or give them a smile and you'd be surprised how the relationships can add to the learning environment. So there are simple things you can do to begin this equity work. Look at a video, read a book. I'm looking at one right now that, it has been very good for me. It's called Start Where You Are, But Don't Stay There. And I don't know if you've heard of Richard Milner, but he is out of Tennessee and he is a great resource as you begin this equity work. And he talks about that
it's not just equity practices, but for a lot of the children, it's an opportunity gap that they don't have the opportunity for, to be educated by the good teachers. The best teachers are given to the gifted and talented students. And so we get a lot of children who have teachers who are first year teachers who don't understand about the importance of relationship building rituals, routines and rhythm of black and brown children and all those things. They don't have the opportunity for on-grade level work. There are so many things that some of our brown and black children don't have the opportunity for, which exasperates the achievement gap. And so his goal is to help you understand that if we improve opportunities, we can improve what the children are learning and sustain what they are learning so that everyone rises to the top, not just some groups of children, but all groups of children rise to the top.
So many great ideas in there and I had never heard of ten and two. So that makes so much sense. And I think also is probably really comforting for a teacher who is, I'm sure constantly like barraged with all the things they need to do in a day. And so they're like, oh I don't have time, but two minutes a day, like you have two minutes a day, we can do that. So I love that suggestion.
I would also suggest that the educators out there or anyone out there, take a course, one of the courses that I took and there are a lot of free equity courses. Out there was a course from M. I. T. On their open learning library and it's a course called Becoming a More Equitable Educator Mindsets and Practices, and it's a self paced course that is excellent. They give you articles to read, resources to explore. There are self checks that you can do checklists, audits, you can apply to your classroom to your school, to your district. Those kinds of things which help you to examine your practices to see where you can improve what you're doing on behalf of all children because equity practices are good for all children.
So taking a course, reading a book, watching a video, all of those things, in the comfort of your own home can create more awareness and more opportunity to advocate for children who are not equipped necessarily to advocate for themselves.
I love that you're emphasizing all of these great tools and resources and approaches for learning because I think sometimes we go into this thinking : I'm just gonna start doing this action or start building a relationship or something, but we have no new input and so it's our old ways of doing things, our old beliefs and we have nothing new coming in. We're not learning anything new. And so we just try to move forward with the way we've done things and just adapt slightly versus doing this in community or doing this with like you were saying, kind of these self assessment checks. There are all of these things that are helpful for us to make sure as we move forward, we're moving forward in a positive way in a way that's actually going to be more equitable.
And so I will link to as much of these resources as you've shared in the blog post in the show notes because I think it will be helpful for people to be able to click in and access all the great stuff you've been talking about. One of the things I wanted to ask you about is and I think this is so cool. You have been, since you mentioned you were retired, you have been you know, working in this your own consulting and coaching company with your daughter, which I think is such a cool thing. Do you mind sharing a bit about what you do in case people are interested in and you know, talking to you about that or what coaching you provide?
Well, what we do is our company is called Urban Education Solutions and our tag is that we help solve problems in education that are uniquely urban and that's where a lot of our our historically marginalized students reside in the urban setting. So I've been working with educators mainly coaches and principals and helping them with examining their practices and how we can make education more equitable for children.
Just recently I took on a client : the Indiana Council on Educating Students of Color. And so I'm working with them on their after school program and I'm the program director so that we can get more social emotional learning in the program, that we're practicing equity with the children that are there. And that we are also using those things that we know work as far as a framework for guiding the learning. And so you might have heard me mention that there are five things that guide that learning when you work with black and brown children. You need to have relationships. You need to have rituals and routines. You need to also understand that their rhythmic and that they're pounding on the desk not to ignore you, but it's a part of their spirit that they're rhythmically inclined. And so we wanna understand that they like routines and the rituals and the routines and those five Rs that I mentioned and that those things impact how you see them, you work with them and what you need to do to keep them engaged in the learning.
So we're big on engagement. And so even the simple thing of teaching the alphabet or nouns or verbs, if we can clap it, if we can pat our hands or whatever. That's very important to our historically marginalized students because that's a part of their culture. There's no way anyone can know about all the cultures and subcultures, but there are some basic things that we can learn to do that can help us as we work with the children such as Gamify or Storify telling stories. That's a big part of our oral history as minority groups and so those are some things that can be done as well in the classroom. One of my best books ever that gives you the whole idea of being a culturally responsive educated, which is important to this equity work is Zaretta Hammond's work on the culturally being culturally responsive, culturally responsive teaching in the brain.
And so she talks about having tools in your toolkit that you can use so that you can keep the children engaged in learning and that you're teaching with them in mind. You've always got to keep the child in mind. And so when you're culturally responsive when your equity minded, the child is always in the forefront, not the lesson plan, not even necessarily the test scores, we want to be student centered. So that's the kind of work we've been doing. I've been coaching instructional coaches season, so that we can be equity minded. So I think that's the kind of work we've been involved in, also been involved in speaking at conferences. She and I have done conference work speaking via Zoom. Zoom has become our best friend. So we've put on local conferences, we've participated in local conferences and even national conferences that we've had an opportunity to participate in and just getting the word out there, that we all need to stay concerned and not just because Covid has shown us that there's all these disproportionality ease, they were always there.
They just had the spotlight shined on them since Covid, you know, that digital divide and all of that is real. But to keep the work going, that's what's important to me, keep the work going beyond Covid that we need to give every child, but he or she needs so they can be successful.
Amazing. Oh my gosh, thank you so much for sharing a bit about what you're doing and it is phenomenal. I love all the five Rs and the focus on engagement and the idea of continuing to go. I think we have, you know, these moments in time where we shine spotlights and then we focus for a finite period of time and then we go back to the way things always were. And so I love that you're focused on not doing that and just, you know, continuing the work so incredibly important. So as folks kind of hear all of these resources, you've shared so many really precise action steps as well as resources that they can go check out and as I said, I'll try to link to all those as they listen to the episode.
They might feel like, okay, there's a lot that I should go do and is there anything that you would recommend as the best place to start. So as they're trying to really live in alignment with these values of equity and justice that we've talked about, like what is a good kind of step one as they go forward, end the episode and start to do this work.
Well, I want our readers to understand that Equity is important work and it might be work that you're doing alone because everyone won't see it your way. And so you've got to be courageous enough to say, even if my colleagues don't join me, it's important enough work that I am going to keep at it and I'm going to pace myself through the journey even if I have to do it alone. And so I would suggest looking at one of the Equity websites, there are lots of websites out there and there are some as you know, with everything that are better than others.
I started with the Association of California School Administrators and they have an excellent website and definition of equity. I would just start there just looking at that definition, unpacking it, finding out what it means to me and what I can do in light of what that definition says. That's one of the things that I would do. The other thing is I would go to one of the Equity websites. There's one that is very good. I'm trying to look through my notes to see if I can find the name of it. It's the National Equity Alliance, that's another good website to go to. Just to see what our website saying about equity and just looking from there, taking an overview of what's happening and what people are saying and what happens is what you and I talked about.
You find your little niche, you find your little niche however you pronounce it of where you want to go. For me, the big thing was leveraging literacy and how I could get more stories about other children of color or childrens of color into everyday curriculum. Then it was opportunities to respond. How am I making my classroom richer or my school richer by having everyone ready to respond. Everyone participating and not just calling on the same children all the time and allowing the ratio of children to be called on to be more inclusive. So there are simple things like that. If I had to say, oh well I'm not one to look at websites and I'm not one to listen to definitions, I would say start with Zaretta Hammond's book on Culturally Responsive Teaching in the Brain. Out of those three things that I've mentioned, the website, the California Association of Administrators, and Zarretta's book, you ought to find some way that you can jump in.
The whole notion is jump in, don't stay where you are just being a curious bystander. Jump in and be as with November... October, I'm sorry, it's national bullying month, be an up stander, that's what we teach children: don't be a bystander, be an up stander. So that's where I would suggest you start just saying: I'm committed to being an up stander. If someone makes a rude racial joke in the teacher's lounge, I'm gonna walk out. If I don't have the courage to say : hey guys, that's not nice, or I'm going to have the courage to say: that's not nice, or take an equity, walk around your building, your classroom. Do you have pictures of different racist creeds, ethnicities? Then commit to. I'm going to get a committee in and let's just get some other pictures up of other kids around the school.
If you have permission, take pictures of your own classroom. You know, you can get those frame for a little of nothing and the kids who just love seeing themselves around the school. But whatever you do, start where you are and don't stay there.
I love that: start where you are and don't stay there. So one of the things that I like to ask at the close of the episode that's really just kind of for fun. I think all the guests that I have on are always talking about, you know, really growing like I like you have been today and and being lifelong learners and committed to this journey and so I'm just curious to know what is something that you have been recently learning about yourself?
Well that's a good question. One of the things I have learned about myself and partly it is my personality and partly is because of the work that I've always done, I've been an administrator and a lead teacher and all of those kinds of things. I always show up to be in charge and you know what, that's not collaborative and that's what needs to happen in the equity work and the work for justice, you can't show up to be in control and in charge, you have to show up firstly to be cooperative and then that leads to collaborative.
So that's the one thing I am learning about myself. I am learning to be more collaborative and I think that has happened because as I had been involved in my business and I have began the work of coaching, coaches should be collaborative beings. And so I have been doing a lot of work on myself to be a more collaborative educator, so that's where I am working on collaboration. And then I also have a little angel on my shoulder, my daughter. She'll tell me when I'm showing up in charge and she'll say, you know, we need to work together. And it's probably that old mindset that principles have to know everything and they have to be a resource and a broker of resources and you have the answers. But no, no one person has all the answers, not in the equity work, not in any work associated with schooling. You know, you've got to be a collaborative player and so that's the work that I'm working on now, to grow and learn as a senior citizen.
That is beautiful.
Thank you so much for sharing that with our listeners. That's really great. And I think people who are, you know, have been listening to this whole episode are really going to want to connect with you and I'm sure everyone's gonna be inspired by what you're doing. So where can people go online to find more out about what it is you do or connect with you in some way?
Thank you. I appreciate that. I'm still in the process of building my website. So I am open to anyone who would like to connect with me to just come to my personal website. My email address is... I've said website, I meant my email address is joyce, lower case letters, the number 4, jesus @ sbc global dot net and I will be prompt to respond. It's my pleasure to still be involved in this work and it's energizing work. You know Lindsey, when we are stressed stress takes air out of our balloon as a metaphor.
You know, it deflates us. And for me, teaching puts air in my balloon. So any work, any teaching that I can do to help people to encourage equity practices to help children who can't advocate for themselves have a fair chance in life, that puts air in my balloon. And if you begin the equity work in earnest, I'm sure it will put air in your balloon as well.
That is such a wonderful idea to end on Joyce. Thank you so much for being part of the podcast.
Thank you Lindsey for having me.
Thanks for listening, amazing educators. If you loved this episode, you can share it on social media and tag me at Lindsey Beth Lyons or leave a review of the show. So leaders like you will be more likely to find it. To continue the conversation, You can head over to our Time for Teachership Facebook group and join our community of educational visionaries. Until next time leaders continue to think big, act brave and be your best self.
School that is fun and interesting with choices and freedom with Guille, Eden, and Nico from the LearnLife Nature Hub for Primary YearsRead Now
Listen to the episode by clicking the link to your preferred podcast platform below:
I am so excited for you all to hear from our guests today. Today we are joined by several folks from the LearnLife Nature Hub for Primary Years all the way in Barcelona Spain.
We have Guille Villena who is the learning guide and Primary Years lead and he's brought along two Primary Years students, Eden and Nico. I can't wait for you to hear from these insightful voices around educational innovation and in their own words describing a school that is fun and interesting with choices and freedom.
This conversation for context was recorded on October 4th 2021. Let's get right to it.
Hi, I'm Lindsey Lyons and I love helping school communities envision bold possibilities. Take brave action to make those dreams a reality and sustain an inclusive, anti-racist culture where all students thrive. I'm a former teacher leader turned instructional coach, educational consultant and leadership scholar.
If you are a leader in the education world, whether you're a principal, superintendent, instructional coach or a classroom teacher excited about school wide change like I was, you are a leader.
And if you enjoy nerding out about the latest educational books and podcasts. If you're committed to a lifelong journey of learning and growth and being the best version of yourself, you're going to love the time for teacher ship podcast. Let's dive in.
Today I am welcomed by three folks from the LearnLife Nature Hub for Primary Years in Gabba Spain in the Barcelona area and I am so excited to turn it over to them to introduce themselves and talk a little bit about their school. Welcome everybody.
Thank you. Welcome.
I can start introducing myself. I'm Guille Villena, I'm currently the primary years lead of the nature Hub programs. I have been involved with LearnLife for almost three years. I started in the urban hub with the secondary years programs and we started the primary years project a year ago midst of the pandemic and the lockdown.
So it was a very interesting point to start the project but here we are with the second year growing in numbers. Iterating the programs and we're very, very excited for all of the new adventures to come.
And here with me, I have two learners who will introduce themselves with their name, their age and their favorite animal.
Yeah, My name is Eden, I'm 10 years old and my favorite animal are canines.
My name is Nico, I'm 10 years old and my favorite animal is the cheetah.
That is brilliant, thank you so much. That's really fun to learn about your favorite animals and also very interesting animal choices. I feel like those are really spot on. So one of the first things I'd love to dive into is there is an educator and a scholar, her name is Doctor Bettina Love and she talks about this idea called freedom dreaming and she says what we're doing right when we think about education as we want it to be.
Just like we're really thinking about dreams grounded in the critique or the criticism of injustice. And so I'm curious to know for you all, what is the big dream that you hold for the field of education? Like what do you wish school would be if it could be everything that you wanted it to be?
So our big, big, big dream as an organization is to help achieve 21st century learning model that empowers self directed learners, into their personal learning. And I would like to extend this question to Eden and Nico and what would be what, what would a perfect school look like for you?
To me it would be fun, interesting, lots of choices, not just like give you a paper and you have to do it. Like now you're allowed to work with people and you don't have to sit desks in a row.
The best school for me would be uh fun, the school will be fun and you know that you're learning something and using technology too. That's a brilliant answer. Thank you. Thank you both. That sounds like a really cool school that you're all painting collectively. I would like to attend that school. That sounds great. The next question I want to ask you is, you know, there are some teachers and some leaders who are just amazing, right there. They bring that to life. They make school fun and interesting and they use technology and they do all those things you're talking about and so I want to know what are like the ways that those teachers or leaders really help facilitate the learning. So what mindsets or ways of thinking about students do they have or what do they do as teachers that are really helpful for you?
I can start and then extend the question.
I would say the first thing that these leaders or teachers or as we call them, learning guides need to have is a very strong awareness of what positive relationships are. Because that's in our core of of what we do. Positive relationships for the learners between ourselves um as colleagues and with the the outside community I think that's a key, a key mindset. Also being agile and being able to navigate through uncertainty, having a growth mindset, divergent thinking and especially being able to collaborate. We have shifted from a solo mindset, and most teachers in traditional systems work by themselves and we have shifted that mindset into collaboration and working in collaboration with other learning guides and in the wider company, you know, so that for me, those would be the main mindset.
I don't know how Eden and Nico value? what is the thing that you most value about the learning guides here?
That they're kind and, I don't know how to say it, um creative and that they can join you and help you if you have problems.
I think it's nice that the teachers are nice and that they motivate you and accept your ideas.
I love those answers. Absolutely. I love the idea of accepting your ideas and and being creative, right? And partnering with people outside of both collegiately like both, you know, as colleagues and also outside of the school, the super cool ideas.
So I'd love to think about the people who are listening now there are a lot of people who are going to be, educators, they're learning guides in their own school. They are maybe leaders or heads of school, even family members as well, but people who are really helping to educate and help children learn. And I'm wondering what advice you would give them. So what advice would you give them in terms of what they can do to make that dream come to life and what action or thing can they, can they do to really be the type of educators and learning guides that you were just describing?
I would say so if you're a parent, I would challenge you to think how am I helping my kid to be ready for her or his future. If your school leader, I would challenge you to think how am I empowering my community to enable change. And if you're a teacher, I would challenge you to think how can I be the driver of change in my own community. And for everyone, I would suggest that we think or we remind ourselves to think more as a learner, so putting ourselves in the learners shoes and thinking about every single decision that we take or that we make, if we're doing it from the learner's perspective. Because sometimes we get caught into the routines and the status quo and we we keep forgetting the learner and at least for us what everything that we do is for the learner.
So I would invite everyone to, to think as if they were a learner.
Beautiful, Eden and Nico, did you have anything you wanted to say advice for teachers or learning guides?
That's totally okay, thank you. so this question is for for all of you, what is the school experience that you've had? It could be this year, it could be you know, previous years that helped you or influenced you the most.
What was a cool experience that you've had that makes you feel like "oh I love this" or that inspired you?
It was a lot different at my other school, you could choose what to do, like you could choose what to learn what you want to learn and you were more like a bit free because from the other school we needed to sit all the time and write on your paper and that was, and you learn a lot of English. Like when I came here I know not a lot of english and now I think I can speak english.
Yeah, I mean you've, you've you've grown so much in English and you got it in a year, so you should be very proud of yourself, I totally agree. And what about you, Eden, what is an experienced here and LearnLife that has inspired you or that was different from your previous school?
My other school, like they'd give you something to do and if you did not understand it, you'd have to stay through snack break and you'd have to work and then when there was like one minute left you could go out and have a breather but then you'd have to come straight back up. But here it's different, you get to stop, you get to have a snack and then another day you get to finish it.
And for me school experience that I had um I guess that I would pick um when I was a teenager I suffered from bullying and I think that has helped me in my professional growth as an educator. Because I keep reminding myself how learners feel socially in the classroom or at school and there are sometimes they are invisible and if there's not a safe space for them, they will never share how they feel and they will be trapped in this nightmare that they're experiencing.
So for me that was eye opening and one of my goals is to ensure that we have a safe space and that we empower them to emotional education and and that the culture for learning here is very positive and that's why I was stressing so much the idea of positive relationships.
Thank you so much for sharing that. I think that's so important. Sometimes we only think, and I think Eden's answer speaks to that as well too, right? That you have to do this work at the expense of everything else. You can't have snack time, you can't focus on the social well being of children and that clearly isn't what people want, right? Like Eden was saying it's way better to have snack time and then be able to to finish your work later or just pay attention to, you know, how kids are doing in the larger like, you know, whole self that they bring to school, not just in academics. And you know, Nico to your point, I think it's really powerful, you said that we are choosing right? Where I love your quote, you you're kind of you're a bit free, right?
Like in this new school that you're in now, right? Compared to your previous school and I'd love to hear, you know what are some of the things, just to give people an idea, I think the way that you all learn in your current school is really different from maybe some of the people who are listening, the schools they've been to as children or the schools they teach at now. And so could you tell me a little bit about, you know, what's a project or what's a thing that you have chosen to learn about recently in one of your classes?
So for impassioned projects for example, can you tell them what what that's about?
So passion projects, you choose a project which you wanted to do what you want to do and then you get the credit and you have to like um write, how many materials you need, how long do you think it'll take you? And then once you're done on Fridays, there is community meeting where you get to show your project to the whole school.
That sounds amazing. So what were some of the passion projects that you both have been working on?
I'm gonna make a lamp and I'm also doing a bakery with two other friends of mine.
That's incredible. Nico what about you?
I really like super heroes, like Marvel characters. So I decided to build, trying to build like a cardboard Iron Man suit.
That is really cool. Oh, that's so awesome, wow, you are impressive learners. I am very excited to to hear more about these projects later on when you're done. That's so great. So as we are kind of coming to the close of the episode, I would love for you to share either something that you wish that listeners would do. I know you were talking about advice earlier or if it's easier, what's the most important thing that we talked about today that you want people to remember as they stop listening to the episode and go about the rest of their day.
Any ideas? What is something they would like the viewers to remember, well what you said or the most important thing?
To hear other people's opinions and not just do whatever you want, it's Friday tomorrow.
For me it's again not to to recall our ourselves as learners and our past experiences in school and reflect on that and see what is the impact that we can make with with that mindset.
Excellent suggestions. as one of the questions I really like to ask as just kind of a fun question at the end and I think I kind of asked this already of Eden and Nico but feel free to add something else. You know what is something that you have been learning about lately and so for Guille, I think one of the things I think about is you know, as adults sometimes and learning guides um that commitment as you were saying earlier to constantly grow is so important and so just to kind of model that we are always learning as well as adults. You know something that you've been learning about lately.
I totally agree with you. Here we see ourselves also as learners. So I'm currently being a learner in surfing and I started learning how to surf actually.
I remember Eden last year. Yeah, exactly. You were giving me some tips which I have been using lately. so I always remember you when, when I surf. Yeah, for me it's it's having a growth mindset, surfing. It's challenging but very exciting. What about you guys, what is something that you have been learning lately?
I've been learning how to play the piano since last christmas and I think I've improved quite a lot but I still have to learn how to read better. What about you Nico? Learned like in natural systems or Explora or...
I don't know.
It is hard to be interviewed. So I understand you'll think of something amazing that you want to say later. I'm sure. Awesome. Well thank you all for sharing. And is there anywhere that if someone who's listening really wants to check out more about the work that your school is doing or if your your school has a website or wants to connect, is there somewhere that people can go to?
Just follow the great stuff that that's happening?
Yeah, I mean they can log in to LearnLife.com and then follow us in our social media channels. We're on Instagram, Facebook Twitter LinkedIn.
Perfect. I will link to those in the show notes too so people can be able to click those easily and I just want to say one more time to, Eden and Nico thank you so much for taking time out of your day to, to speak with us and to speak to the listeners. I really appreciate you all being on the podcast.
Thank you. Thank you for for the time and congratulations for your podcast.
Thanks for listening amazing educators. If you loved this episode, you can share it on social media and tag me @lindsayblyons or leave a review of the show. So leaders like you will be more likely to find it. To continue the conversation you can head over to our time for teacher ship facebook group and join our community of educational visionaries. Until next time leaders continue to think big, act brave, and be your best self.
Listen to the episode by clicking the link to your preferred podcast platform below:
I'm excited to welcome you to today's conversation with Dr. Jenny Finn. For reference, this was recorded on August 17th of 2021. Jenny holds a PhD in sustainability education from Prescott College and a master's degree in social work from Colorado State University. She is an RSA fellow and a country lead for the USA for 100 An international collective highlighting educational innovations globally.
For the past 25 years, Jenny has been committed to creating healthy culture by starting with an unwavering commitment to her own personal growth and transformation. As a result of her own journey with addiction and cancer, Jenny understands that a healthy relationship with the world begins with a strong connection to ourselves and community in a culture that often fosters separation and disconnection, Jenny's research mentoring and teaching invites people to deepen the relationship they have with themselves in order to serve the world with greater clarity, compassion, creativity and courage. Jenny's work has taken many forms including nonprofit direction, trauma and hospice care, spiritual care and chaplaincy, private practice, community building through the expressive arts and educational design.
She is the founding visionary at Springhouse and sees place based education oriented around the source of life as a primary agent transformed culture. She's honored to work with the outstanding Spring House team and is deeply committed to the Spring House mission of designing vitality centered education and sharing source to design through Source design labs at Spring House, Jenny lives on a farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband Andy and their two teenage children Andrew and Lizzy.
To learn more about her work visit sourceddesign.org and springhouse.org. Here we go. Let's dive into our conversation with Dr. Jenny Finn.
Hi, I'm Lindsay Lyons and I love helping school communities envision bold possibilities, take brave action to make those dreams a reality and sustain an inclusive, anti racist culture where all students thrive. I'm a former teacher leader turned instructional coach, educational consultant and leadership scholar. If you're a leader in the education world, whether you're a principal, superintendent, instructional coach or a classroom teacher excited about school wide change like I was, you are a leader. And if you enjoy nerding out about the latest educational books and podcasts, if you're committed to a lifelong journey of learning and growth and being the best version of yourself, you're going to love the time for Teachership podcast, let's dive in.
Okay, Jenny Finn, welcome to the Time For Teachership Podcast.
Thank you so much. I'm really happy to be here Lindsay.
I'm so glad you're here. Do you want to add anything to the amazing, very well rounded bio that I just read to further introduce yourself to listeners.
You know what, I think the bio says it all and I would just say, as I said to you earlier that this work is deeply, deeply personal to me. So I think when you, when you read the bio, you'll see that. But it really does, my own personal experience informs all of the work that I've been engaged in for almost 30 years now.
Amazing, thank you so much and thank you for the great work that you're doing. One of the things I like to start with is just kind of this big dream question around, you know, what is the big dream you hold for the field of education? And I really love Dr Bettina Loves quote about freedom dreaming in this, and I draw a lot of inspiration from her where she says really it's dreams grounded in the critique of injustice.
And so with that in mind, what is the dream that you hold for education?
That's a really, really great question. The first thing that comes to me is let me think and hope that I can get this right and I don't know who said this, but it's something that we often say at Spring House, which is the community that we'll talk about today that I co founded eight years ago. But it's it's basically a quote that says "A vision without a task is just a dream. A task without a vision is drudgery. A vision with a task is the hope for the world." So, my hope for education, how I see education is not as a noun. It is a verb, to me refers to intergenerational relationships that could foster anything any kind of agenda. So it's intergenerational relations at least at springhouse.
It's intergenerational relationships that foster vitality. So that life is at the center of everything. Taking care of life, no matter how old you are, who you are in the system. That those intergenerational relationships are there to take care of protect and foster life. So to me and Springhouse our vision is regenerative culture.
Somebody just asked me yesterday "What the heck does that mean?" That means a culture, I know that we really don't know what that means because many of us have never experienced it in our family system or in our educational system or the culture at large. Regenerative culture to me and to us at Springhouse is the big vision and the big dream. And that means a culture that orients around life and takes care of it. And then our mission is to create and activate vitality centered education. Where life and freedom are at the center of everything.
Not only happiness not only what we want, no that's not it, it's like how do we honor the full experience of life, the cycles of life, that life runs through human beings and beyond human beings, and to the other than human world. How does it lead us into wholeness? How does it lead us into joy? Those are the questions that we hold. So that's really it. And what I love is to experience and see our examples, living examples of people doing the messy work.
Like Dr. Bettina Love talks about of at one point, she said, you know, we just kind of we need to fully reimagine and redesign our school system. Agreed and eight years in the making here at Springhouse, that's what we're doing. And I can tell you it is not easy, it is not a path for the faint of heart, but we do need people who are really being midwives, cultural midwives, bringing forth new designs that orient around life. Long answer.
But it's a big question.
Absolutely. It's a big question and I love that answer. It makes me think too of all of the work... And so my research is in the student voice field and student leadership field and there's so much in there that I love with the youth adult partnership framing of, you know, it is that intergenerational relationship that you're talking about and we can create anything when we have that foundational relationship.
And that's such a key piece that I think often is missing when we think about, you know, traditional mindsets of education and the teacher has all the information and then we dictate that to the students. And so I'm curious to know whether there was a particular mindset that folks who started the school with you have adopted or if you're speaking to listeners who are in traditional schools and maybe have these traditional views of education or have colleagues who have adopted those traditional views, you know, what's that shift away from the traditional view? What's the mindset that will enable people to do the work in that way that that you're dreaming it about.
Mm That's a great question.
It's one I literally just came off another call around. I think it's humility. I think the mindset is humility and surrender. That the human will has limits. And I think because of that exactly the model you just discussed around the teacher has it and the young person doesn't, first of all is false. It's just, it's an illusion. It's not true and it causes an adult in that system to rest in a false sense of security, where I have expertise and wisdom in certain areas of my life and then there's a lot, I don't know. And that's great. that makes me human. that makes me hopefully curious and flexible and vital. Because I don't know it all and I shouldn't know it all.
It makes me actually really boring and kind of stiff to other people, especially young people. It also totally dis empowers our youth. It just does, it doesn't allow them to know that they have gifts to offer in their stage of development.
So I think it leads to really disempowered and dependent youth that lack an inner compass. And I mostly think that's because as adults we think we have one because we're orienting around our expertise, but that's not an inner compass, that's not, an inner compass is deeper than my expertise.
So those are some of the thoughts I have, but I also love talking about some solutions and example. And so one thing I'll say is that at Springhouse, you know, we see, I see as the founding visionary there, I see all of the adults well, I don't see them, they are regenerative culture builders, they're building regenerative culture now starting with themselves.
So they start with themselves. I'll say that again as adults and that's essential with the design that we are practicing at Springhouse. That it starts with the adults. It cannot be, we can't project all our problems onto the youth and try to fix it through them that we have to do our own work. And we do and it doesn't make us perfect and it just makes us more pliable and flexible and hopefully hospitable. And what we then do is we have a student, we have a learner leadership model where young people within Springhouse can apprentice with an adult who's a regenerative culture builder.
So they'll they may like one student may I have an apprentice with me who's a 17 year old who's the learner visionary. And so he's really learning about what it means to be a visionary. Where we have another team who's working directly with the, the regenerative culture builder adult who is working with adolescent development. So we have a 17 year old who is working closely with him, we have another person who, another young person who's working closely with our vitality centered education lead.
So it's like they partner and then they have something called the round table where the students meet together and then they bring their learning from their different apprenticeships together in service, not just like as a learning, like a relevant learning situation. It's more like they're actually, they're helping to guide Springhouse and like to make Springhouse stronger.
So it's a real life thing that they're doing that actually impacts them as well as our community. So that's just one example of how we know that we need their wisdom from where they are in their stage of development and they know that they need ours and there's mutual respect. And an orientation around the common vision. So those are just some of the thoughts I have around that.
Yeah, and I love that you're talking about, you know, I often called the brave actions, like the actions that are really required. The examples, the strategies, the things like this. I love that you're also talking structurally right structurally.
There are structures in place for students to opt into an apprenticeship to have that space at the round table to come together. To be able to have the mindset and the humility that you're talking about, where leaders are open to the ideas that students are bringing from that round table. I think this is all so practical and helpful for people who are like, "Oh, you know, maybe I could do something like this at my school if it's not already." I know you have a lot of really interesting innovative ideas around curriculum and what learning looks like, and I know your website is a wealth of information with a bunch of resources that people can grab. Do you mind speaking to kind of the actions that your teachers take or your students take around how, how they learn and what they learn about in the class.
you know, I think it's so important to say that I can't stress this enough. And really, the only way to know this is to immerse yourself at Springhouse it is so different, it's so different that like, we don't refer to ourselves as teachers, not because teacher is a bad word, not at all, it's just not naturally the role, I can't in like classes in terms of like, there are courses and explorations.
So I know that maybe folks who are listening to me who are in a more conventional system may have trouble bringing what I'm saying into their paradigm and that makes sense because they're different. Because they have different orientations. They have different centers, they're after something different at the center of the design. And that's important to say to anyone who's listening, certainly though, and we'll get to the five principles of the design, which are not just Springhouse there as ancient as ancient can be, they're just not well practiced. So when we talk about that, people could certainly let's say take care of the vulnerability in their classroom. So in terms of, and maybe we go there, maybe we go there to those principles.
Okay, Because I think that's a way where if you are out there and I know some of you are, because I've worked with people around the world who are either really just trying to bring a different, just something different to their classrooms. But I'm also working with people who are saying I'm ready to really build something new, "How do I start?", "What do I do?"
So at Springhouse, we work with five design principles that were articulated mostly from the experiment of Springhouse. and we're articulated after a yearlong focus group, basically kept asking the question, "What is remarkable and unique about Springhouse?", "What is our identity?", "Who are we?" So we really took that seriously. We had teens community members, adults within the system asking that question and really exploring it for a year. From that we can we have, we named five design principles that are practiced daily and alive at Springhouse, which is great to have a living example of what's possible.
We're not out to replicate and scale like other places, use these principles in ways that respect your people in your place. And that's already happening and it's amazing to see how unified we are, but also how diverse we are at the same time. So those principles are the first one is take care of vulnerability. So at all costs, no matter what, we take care of vulnerability, if we're missing that foundational principle, forget about it, just forget about it.
So there's nothing more important than that. That's it. Take care of vulnerability inside yourself, in your community, with the earth, just take care of it. And we'll be living in a different world if we did that. And I know like I'm saying that simply, but I know I know personally the process of what that feels like to shift from living in shame and highlighting to living and taking care of vulnerability.
It's a lifelong journey and the second principle is to cultivate personhood. And so we do that in a lot of ways um, at Springhouse, but that basically means tend to your own personal development, no matter how old you are, you tend to that. One of the ways we do that is by radically reclaiming our relationship with our bodies. So in our vitality center educational design there and it's way too much to go into here, but there's three solid pillars in that model body, society and earth.
We tend to all of those things as a regenerative culture builder, our relationship to those aspects both of human culture, of earth culture and to ourselves, primarily our bodies. Because we're so disembodied. That's the result of a lot of that. That a lot of our issues are a result of that problem. So we're saying at Springhouse, we're taking the body back, we're taking it back and we're exploring it in all different kinds of ways, sexuality, race, gender identity, I mean all kinds of, all kinds of ways.
So there's that and one of the primary ways we do that is dance, we spend an enormous time with the earth and mentoring every single team has a mentor at Springhouse and every adult has a mentor. So that's that's mentoring is a cultural way for us. and that doesn't mean professional therapy, that's not what it means, it means, I'm walking with someone on the path, I'm maybe a little further down on that spiral.
I'm holding a lantern and I'm saying you can do it, that's what mentoring is to us. The third principle is build beloved community, one really specific way we do that is we sing a lot and we share power. We orient around life and we share power. And we take care of our power. We have a responsibility to ourselves and to each other to do that.
The 4th principle is respect the wisdom of the earth. So we do that in a lot of ways just by paying attention and learning and better relating with the earth, and our land, but we're also this fall really exploring, I can't remember what it's called, but like learning from the land and looking at, the indigenous people who were on our land first and and exploring the history of that by walking the land, not just sitting and listening, but by actually walking and and walking with people from our community. Another way we respect the wisdom of the earth is how we structure our financial model, our investment model.
We do not situate education as a commodity, it is not a transaction. It is a relationship. So our financial, our investment models based on trust, transparency and relationship. So that's a huge experiment and I can report after four months of experimenting, it's going pretty well. Lots of tears, lots of relationship building and lots of freedom happening.
Finally love and serve others. We foster vitality to better love and live in the world. What else are we? What else are we doing here? What else should education be for? What else should it be for? I mean, what to perpetuate an individualistic, unsustainable culture. I don't think so, not for me. So I know how hard it is. I know that we're not doing it perfectly, but I know that the good news is I'm not doing it alone and that our community continues to grow globally and that's because what we're doing is needed and it's ancient, it's ancient.
We're really just taking care of some wisdom that is ancient and we're just bringing it forward. So whether you're starting something new or you're thinking about your own family system or your own life, like maybe start by asking do you take care of your own vulnerability?
I asked that in every... and now we share our design globally through source design labs., so we have a global network work. If people are interested wherever you're listening, you can learn from the living example of Springhouse through this network. Um, and I can give that website later, but there's all kinds of people who do it. People who just want to foster vitality in their own life to start with or their own family or it could be someone who likes someone in Belgium who's wanting to start a school.
You know, it really is to start with the principles with yourself and then any of these could be worked out and applied in your, in your communities and I would say just the one who has done this for many years personally and in my calling.
We need support, we need each other, we need to remember that we're not in this alone, that's what Springhouse is really. It's like you're not alone, go for it, go for it. We're here to support you and we know we'll learn from you. So if you are out there doing design that's oriented around vitality, like has that at the center, I would love to hear from you because we can support each other and learn from each other.
That's amazing. Thank you so much for going through each of those. And I, there's so many things that I'm connecting with personally. I'm really interested in the sharing of power and how that happens and you know, what are the practices by which that happens. I also just love that you're going beyond like a land acknowledgment of like who you know, who are the indigenous people who have, who have lived on this land and started this land and to actually walk the land and to walk in community on the land.
I just, I feel like these are things that even if you are in a traditional schooling system, you can still do those things, you can go out and walk the land right? And so I think these are so valuable as practices that are concrete and transferrable to a lot of different systems as well.
I know you're saying you're doing something completely different, which is so true. And I hope that people will also take the inspiration from that to try to create these new systems that aren't so traditional in the way that we've been doing that aren't so siloed and more community based, more vitality based.
Yes and you know, it's so beautiful how you just said that because well I'll tell you in full transparency with the land acknowledgement thing. We had a land acknowledgement written and one of the staff members came to me at the end of the year and said, okay, we're going to move forward. Like we're gonna, will you read this, will you read this when we go into our graduation? And I looked at it and I said, it's not that I am not like heart committed to everything written here. I don't, but I don't even barely know how to pronounce the names of these people. I don't, this doesn't, this feels like it's not coming from the inside out. I want this, but I want our community to know who these people are, where we are.
Like we we have to do the work first. We can't just say this even though we really want to. I mean we could maybe, but I can't, I can't, I have to do, I have to do the work to know what I'm talking about that, this is rooted in my body and in this place in our communities body. And so what's happening now in the staff member. I mean we were both in tears and we were both like "exactly let's hold on this, let's make it top priority" that we walked the land with this community and we get to know it in that way that leads to a community written land acknowledgment that that is very rooted not only in Springhouse but in our place and in our hearts.
And that's an example of really truly like a design that's oriented around vitality. It's like around that it's real and we didn't I didn't want to like just slap something on to relieve my guilt or to relieve my I just I just wanted a deeper transformative experience to inform my actions and that is a norm that really is enormous Springhouse.
And then the other thing I'll say is for those who are listening to more conventional system. Whatever that means, is it really means basically if your design is oriented around anything other than that like that freedom in that life, it's really hard. Like I want to just empathize, people might want to go out and and walk the land and like do a community mural or but because the system is oriented around standardization, individualism, consumerism.
Because it's oriented around things that are disembodied not oriented around justice for all like those things, it's so hard because you're having to commit to this agenda, right? That doesn't have space to like take care of your body or get to know the land or even get to know the body who's in the next classroom. You might not even be able to chat or cry or play with your neighbor in your school system, let alone step outside of your school building.
So I think not only our young people suffering in the way we've structured education, I just want to speak on behalf of the adults who are in that system that are really fighting for creativity and and their own autonomy and all kinds of things in the system that just isn't oriented around that. So not that it's not possible, It is, but it may even start with like maybe go out of your classroom and do something radical like have a cup of tea with your partner next door. You know, or just talk to a student for five minutes longer, ask them some questions about who they are or what they love or what they're scared of.
Yeah, that's such a good idea, such concrete good ideas and also I just love that, you know, it reminds me of this idea of like it was from the nineties I think 'add women and stir' was like the thing that people were like criticizing that we're just adding women to these corporate environments and we're just stirring and it's still at the root, very oppressive, not just a space.
And I feel like a lot of the movement lately in education to incorporate things like justice, like well being of adults and young people is very much like we're going to try to add it into the system that is not enabling us to do it well. And then we're frustrated because we're trying to add when we don't have time to add and we're trying to, you know, do all these ways and all these shortcuts that aren't going to work. And so I really appreciate that you named that in that way.
Yes, yes. Because we ended up symptoms., I just told this story to someone on my 8:00 meeting in Finland actually. And, it's really this, you know, there's a, there's an Appalachian tradition called, well that's basket weaving and it's pretty intense. I mean, it's a rite of passage to, to weave a basket and I've gone through it and there's a certain design where you put the loops together. And then you start with what's called the God's Eye and it's where the two loops are linked.
And then the whole basket weaves from the eye. If you don't get the God's eye, not perfect, but pretty close to center. The basket really unfolds in a way that doesn't make it a usable basket. I at first did not get the God's eye, not even close to the center, It's kind of like when you're a potter too and you're making a pot, it's like the centering is key. So like the centering and I had to unravel. My instructor said if you want this to be a usable basket, you need to unravel and start over. And I was like, oh god, part of me just wanted to move the basket and just be done with it, right? I mean, what, what am I doing?
But I unraveled and now I have a really usable basket that I get are chicken eggs and then I can use it. and it's beautiful actually, my point with that nice basket story is that when we don't have the eye of the design is centered as it can be around and if it is centered on something that's not life giving or it's trying to be, but it doesn't know what it is.
The basket, the design has some problems and to say it lightly. And then what we end up doing is symptom management, we end up over here trying to manage the symptom when the thing actually is the problem with the center. And I just think it takes a lot to go to the center and that's not just with a system that's enormous, right? But even as a person, like think about ourselves where it's like "Gosh, I really wish my life was taking a different design, what's going on?" And then we end up symptom management over here rather than just like sitting down and really being with ourselves and being with like, what's at the center of me? What's at the center of me? Am I living a life that's unfolding out of fear or out of reaction to something or what's true for me?
And unfortunately education, at least to me and my experience, it never really asked those questions that helped me get to the center to the God's eye. And my hope at Springhouse is that we are doing that, but that means we're shifting the whole agenda.
That's the thing. And so many would call it like the last questions like, is this legitimate? Uh is this education? Is this an after school program? Is this social emotional learning? Is this what, what is this? What is this if it's not after? Does everyone go to college? And do they go to the best college so they can get the best job and make the best money.
It's like or get the most fame or it's like, we're just not even orienting around that. And so it makes sense that as a culture, it would be like, well, is this legitimate or is this like just a play school or after daycare or whatever the thing is, and it's like, no, it's just just reorienting the God's eye on the basket. And we're just doing it one day at a time together, but it's definitely not easy. It's not easy. I love that analogy.
Thank you so much. Now, I want to take a basket weaving class, very curious about a lot of work.
But it is, it is I threw my basket on the floor many times.
So as we kind of start to wrap up the episode, I think we've talked about so many different practices, strategies, values, things that people could be thinking about.
And so I'm curious for the listener who is taking it all in and thinking about, you know, I just want one step to start with, what would you recommend that someone do as they end the episode and and start to implement some of the stuff. What may be a first step for people to kind of live in alignment with what we've been talking about today?
Yeah, that's a good question. one that's really important to me. I would well, I would first ask myself, am I taking care of vulnerability in my life? And if the answer is, I don't know, then I would explore that. If the answer is no. Then I would say I would explore that and then if the answer is yes, then I would say, how do I get to know more of that?
Because with each one of us, our personhood is the greatest gift we can offer. And if people don't know what I'm talking about, a great person to read is Parker Palmer. on that where it's like you're... and and he's just one person, I mean there's many, many ancient teachings and many people out there now who are speaking to this, but it's like you're very present is a gift, so take care of it.
And it matters a lot. It matters a lot and it matters a lot and how you relate with youth because if you know your presence is a gift and you're taking care of it, then you're truly doing what education is at its root, which means to draw out, it means to draw out.
And if you don't know what's in you, how could you possibly, I mean, how could you possibly be, your very presence could draw out what's true and authentic in someone else, but it has to be true and authentic in new.
So I would start by doing that and if you are like, I don't know exactly what that means, then I would offer, if you are resonating with anything I'm saying, then I would go to SourcedDesign.org. That and that's spelled Source S O U R C E D design dot org. and there's a lot there about what I'm saying. All the way from taking, there's a whole section and it's all open sourced. So if you go to the curriculum part of it, you'll find so many resources that are there to support you and then if you're "Like oh God I'm really interested in this." Then we have sourced design labs and those are, we keep them very small and intimate.
We have 12 people from around the globe who really are just committed to working these principles together through their own individual projects in their place and that's another option, the fall is full but the winter is open so people could, you know, I think it's that on the ground, community mentorship and a personal practice.
Those are the three pillars for me that build a new way of life, whether that's a person or a community practice and mentoring learning from someone who inspires you. So I would say those are, those are three things that I would focus on.
That's amazing and I know this next question I like to ask just for fun. I know you've talked about so many things that you have learned or are learning, so I'm just curious we're all lifelong learners, every guest seems to be really excited about that development and that growth. Um So I'm curious to know what something you have been learning about lately. It could be related to education or it could be anything.
Yeah, I well I'm getting ready to facilitate co facilitate of course with an artist friend of mine that is called reimagining work in zombie culture.
So we're doing that.
Isn't that amazing with teens could be offensive, I understand, but welcome. so what I'm reading right now is the myth of Icarus and I'm also reading the Icarus deception by Seth Godin.
So if you're looking for a little bit of strength and like chutzpah to really step into your life, I would suggest the Icarus deception by Seth Godin and then maybe read the myth after or before. But but it really speaks to how it's our birthright to live the life that we came here to live and and it's just really yeah, really inspiring and I don't know when this will air, but if anyone's interested in that reimagining work in zombie culture, I've put out a call on linkedin to adults who are not offended by that, but who are really interested in who are either leading the life they want to live because I'm looking to bring in examples of people who are really engaged in like really meaningful, risky work in the world. And also an opportunity for adults to learn like if they don't know what I'm talking about, there's also room for adults to learn more about that through this course, So that's another option.
Yeah, but I'm loving it.
That is super cool. How fun and what a creative name, I love creative names and I think you shared some websites already where people can go to learn more information. Is there any other places that people should be able to go to connect with you or to connect with your school or anything we've talked about today.
Sure. So people can go um, to springhouse.org. That's well you, you'll learn all about Springhouse there and then to learn about the design. Like I said sourceddesign.org. Springhouse is on facebook. Springhouse is on LinkedIn. I think we're Twitter and Instagram too. We are definitely on those things. And you can find me on LinkedIn too, I'm there.
Awesome. Thank you so much Jenny for being on the podcast.
Thank you so much Lindsay. This has been such a pleasure. Thank you for doing the work in the world that you're doing. Thank you so much.
Thanks for listening amazing educators. If you loved this episode, you can share it on social media and tag me @lindsayblyons or leave a review of the show.
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Lindsay Lyons (she/her) is an educational justice coach who works with teachers and school leaders to inspire educational innovation for racial and gender justice, design curricula grounded in student voice, and build capacity for shared leadership. Lindsay taught in NYC public schools, holds a PhD in Leadership and Change, and is the founder of the educational blog and podcast, Time for Teachership.