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Lindsay Lyons: I'm excited for you to hear from today's guest who's coming to us all the way from South Africa : Dr Francois Naude. His experience in evolutionary biology and science education led to him receiving the national teacher's award. He trained more than 1500 teachers and is now dedicated to assisting teachers and school leaders to discover their superpowers and ensure that every teacher can teach like the superheroes they are. He works with teachers and school leaders by enveloping them in a community of practice. He shares his learnings from science, psychology and school leadership so you can solve the challenges that you face in the classroom, staff room and in life. This conversation was recorded in September 15, 2021. Let's get to the episode.
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 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.
Lindsay Lyons: Dr. Francois Naude, welcome to the Time for Teachership podcast.
Dr. Francois Naude: Thank you Lindsay. It's great being here.
Lindsay Lyons: I'm so excited to have you today. I would love to start with a different way of beginning, which you just introduced me to. And I love this idea where can listeners learn more about you or connected with you online? And the reason we're asking that is your brilliant idea for like being able to follow along and look at some of your social media as people are listening to the episode.
Dr. Francois Naude: Yeah, well we know people are multitasking, we've got double screens and three screens while we're working.
So um I like telling people they can, they can go and stalk me on on my website at www.staysuper.co.za I'm from South Africa. So that's the z a part at the end of www.staysuper.co.za and they can go and stalk me in the work I do while we have the conversation.
Lindsay Lyons: Excellent. Thanks so much. And so I love this first question. Just diving right into really, what are dreams for education are Dr. Bettina Love talks about the idea of freedom dreaming and she describes these as dreams grounded in the critique of injustice. So with that in mind, what is that dream that you have for the fields?
Dr. Francois Naude: My big dream would be that we revolutionize the education system in such a way that we assist learners in self discovery in that they can take charge of their own learning that it is a self directed type of approach where the one size fits all kind of education, I don't think fits within the 21st century.
So the more we can give autonomy to our learners, the more we can drive towards their interest and self directed learning, the more injustices will be able to to eliminate. Because everybody's got a different um interest has got different learning trajectory for themselves, laid out. They can go and take agency and destroy or eliminate the injustices in their own lives.
Lindsay Lyons: I love that and different things resonate with different folks, right? And then I love that, that's such a personalized vision as well of like a dream for education. So that is great as you think about, you know, the you work with a lot of teachers, a lot of leaders and and thinking about, you know, working towards that dream of being able to personalize the learning in such a way where people, students and and adults even can really teach and learn and grow within that framework you just described, what are the kind of either barriers, challenges kind of ways that we need to shift away from traditional thinking perhaps to this new way of thinking, What are the things you've seen either be successful and people shift over their mindsets to that dream or what are the challenges that you've seen in people kind of trying to shift to that.
Dr. Francois Naude: There's a few things that get in the way of this. The first one of course is legacy thinking the whole fact that we've been doing it in a specific way for a long time. It's been working for us, or at least there's not a lot of resistance. So in the short term it's working. So let's just stick with what we know and in that essence, we really just keep on being busy in education. School leaders are busy. Teachers are busy. Whenever I work with teaching and the coaching I do, they always tell me I'm so busy, I'm so busy. I just can't get time for everything. And then my question to them is, well, are you busy moving forward or are you moving towards? And that's a big difference. That a lot of people are moving forward. We do what needs to be done in the classroom. We do what needs to be done in the community or in the school. But if we don't have a clear victory condition, if we don't have a clear goal, we're working towards, we'll just keep on remaining busy and we'll still be stuck in the mindset of the status quo and the innovation, the change doesn't happen for individuals who just keep on being busy.
So we need to be very intentional and the school leaders that I work with that are intentional about the change they want to bring about in the school. They are the ones that, you know, they're part of communities of practice their part of professional learning networks and they try and broaden their horizons and see what the options are available to them. Taking that and just experimenting.
And I think with that comes a lot of courage because it's easy for me to say, you know what we need to be innovative, we need to change the way in which we eat, but there's a lot of courage that needs to go with it. Somebody that is willing to take the first step, even if it's a small minor change they want to bring about that typically leads to the first, like I just want to say a chain reaction within changes in the school. So just changing that one little thing that you feel is going to affect change and then taking that scientific mindset to it. Like, well, let's let's measure, let's see what the outcome was. Are we moving towards our hypothesis?
Are we moving towards the goal or are we just moving forward?
The framework that I've chosen to build everything around? And the work that I do is that of being a super teacher. The program that I've started, the talks that I give to schools, whether it's being online or in person at the school is framed around teaching like a superhero. Because I believe teachers and the great teachers are superheroes to the learners in the classroom. So when within this frame we need to understand that education is in a crisis and definitely in my country, it is a big pain point and I've seen that around the world, that there is, there needs a lot of disruption to come in education.
And if we are in a crisis, who are we hoping towards, what are we hoping for is the savior is some form of hero that's going to step in and save us from the crisis. And I believe teachers are those role models. Teachers are those beacons of hope in communities and that's why I believe strongly that teachers need to be super teachers and not just your mediocre teachers or average teachers.
And unfortunately there are many mediocre teachers and it's that mindset of well, how can we improve how can we take the first step to solving the challenges or improving my community or at least just improving my own life? Because the I think one of the challenges is that our personal lives get in the way of what magic can happen in the classroom. If a teacher is struggling personally, that often spills over into into the classroom. So what's been working quite well is these individual sessions or group sessions that we have with teachers. So the teachers like a superhero mastermind, The teachers who are part of it can on a regular basis say, well, here's my challenge. I'm struggling with the following, can we within the team of Avengers, if we can take the metaphor a bit further, if we've got a group of super teachers together now we can start collaborating because where my weakness is, you might have that strength and in these communities of practice we discover that and then we learn new strategies, new methodologies that we can bring into the classroom and affect the change.
Lindsay Lyons: Oh I love that so much. Okay, so and I'm thinking about all the themes to in terms of, you know, some of the stuff that I do and talk about a lot of the podcast that's totally connected here. So I'm just thinking, my first question was you know as you were talking about being a super teacher super teaching like a superhero. You know, what is what do you define as, you know, being a super teacher super teaching like a superhero because for me I'm thinking that element of collaboration you just brought in at the end really resonates. So I'm thinking even collaboration with students and you you started with this dream of you know, a personalized environment. So just teaching like a superhero and I know the words hero and savior kind of conjure up a certain certain image. Does that also mean you know, knowing when to step back, Does that also mean knowing when to let students lead or two to collaborate with students in addition to their colleagues. Like what kind of definition do you have for teaching in that way.
Dr. Francois Naude: So it's a difficult one because I mean, teachers are so individualized and there's no stock standard answer to that. And I've made it my professional mission to go and discover the traits of a super teacher.
And that's what I share in the public talk. Um, that when I do talks at schools, it's what are the three? I would also say bare minimum attributes or characteristics of a super teacher. And um, I would love to share it with you. So we, we start off and I believe that even though we say we are the super teachers, a super teacher understands that they are not the hero of the story. That the champion is in the chair. If we lose sight of that, then we become egotistical teacher.
Because a lot of teachers feel that you know, I am the hero. If I step into the classroom and you say that I'm everything, you guys need to listen to me, I'm this oracle of knowledge bow down before me, then you're a mediocre teacher, you're a very, very average teacher. It's the ones that understand that my purpose here isn't to be in the limelight. My purpose is to be the sage on the stage, is to be the guide on the side.
It's somebody that's going to support the hero, which is the learner on their journey to victory. So that's the first thing that a super teacher does is realizing that they are not the heroes of the story.
The second thing that super teachers do is they disrupt distraction. There are so many distractions for our learners and especially with hybrid learning, online learning, the distractions are just being amplified. So what a super teacher does is they've got these hacks, these tips and tricks to ensure that they can maintain attention. And I always say like in the in the discourse of superheroes, they super teachers are the Ironman and the Batman kind of superhero. You know, you get superheroes that needs to be bitten by a radioactive spider in order to get their superpower or you get no these superheroes that are accidentally became heroes like there was a radioactive explosion and now they got their superpowers, but that's not the kind of superhero that teachers should be.
Teachers are the Ironman, the Batman, the people with the utility belts that can use tools to there that's at their disposal to hack attention. And unfortunately, I mean that's I think that's so difficult for teachers to like try and grasp in a half an hour and that's why it's a career long journey. Um and that's why the lifelong learning and the self directed learning for teachers are so important because we get to learn new. As the as the environment changes and we saw it in the last few years as the teaching environment changes, we need to find the tools in our utility belts.
It's going to help us to disrupt distraction and then the last thing that super teachers do is we get close and we get close with our learners. We build a relationship with them, you know, the social emotional learning component to our careers. It's it's not just sterile content that's being taught, it's understanding that within the bigger social context.
Um there are many other factors that influence learning and we need to get close enough to our learners that we understand their interests. We get to understand their preferences and that we then design learning environments and learning situations that's optimized for the learners we're teaching. So they get close to the learners and I have already mentioned, they get close to their colleagues, they collaborate, they find their Avengers. So we get close. But the most important thing in getting close as we get close to ourselves. Society wants us to or conditions us to focus on our weaknesses and we often get trapped within our weaknesses and how we structure our personal and professional development is around our weaknesses. When I believe that we should rather be focusing on our strengths. You know what your teacher superpower is. You know what your strengths are.
Well if you don't you can start discovering it but start focusing on the things you're doing well before you start focusing on the things you're struggling with. Get that one superpower dialed in. Some teachers are humorous teachers, they love bringing humor into the classroom and that helps to translate the content. Other teachers are amazing storytellers. Other teachers are great at the administrative side of their teaching, focus on what you're good at, perfect that and then start worrying about the rest. So in a nutshell, those three things I believe that the super teachers have as a theme or at a minimum and then we start building all of the other characteristics, start being built up on top of that.
Lindsay Lyons: I am so grateful that you just share those three. Those are so powerful and so interconnected too. Right? If we get close, if we get close with students, we get close with colleagues. If we get closer to ourselves, we can do the other things, we can disrupt distraction, right? We can make sure we're not the hero of the story and the students are.
Lindsay Lyons: I love that, that's such a, such a wonderful framework and I really appreciate that you shared it with our listeners. Um one of the things that I'm wondering is where or how do you find super teachers? So in this idea of recruiting and hiring and um, that kind of thing, what would you say to to leaders who are asking this question of themselves?
Dr. Francois Naude: Finding super teachers? If you look at all of the movies, it's like all of the super teachers are in costume, they're hiding away. They want to hide their true identity, but finding the competent teachers who work at your, at your institute and that I'd say is probably one of the bare essentials. The starting point of uplifting your school. Howard Mann in one of his podcasts explained the concept of recruiting that before you go and look for candidates that can fill positions, you have to first do an internal audit of competence. Look at the staff that you currently have and give yourself a rating out of 10.
So think about, most principles or most, most school leaders will be able to do that because they interact and they're busy or they know their staff competence. They can go like if I were to rate my staff component, I'll give them on competence, a six out of 10, whatever your measure is. But then when you hire new staff and your goal, your victory condition is you would like to have a eight out of 10 average or a nine out of 10 average. you can't be hiring more sixes. You can't be hiring fives and fours. With every hire, you should be hiring somebody whose competence is above the average competence that you deem in your school. And that process, even though it sounds simple is difficult. Because how, how can you in an interview determine the competence of a teacher. So what we do is I've started recruitment company for teachers called: goteach.co.za. And my philosophy around that is to assist even our student teachers as well as practicing teachers to start building up the proof of competence, in digital assets in digital portfolios of evidence that then um they have at their disposal that when they do apply for a job because that's the other part of the the portal, is that the schools advertise their vacancies.
But then we use our algorithms and to screen out candidates that we feel won't fit the ethos of the school or what the school's guideline is. So we have a very intense discussion with the school in determining their culture, in determining their ethos and then slotting all of those parameters into our algorithms and then getting from the applicants, like precipitating out the super teachers from that. But then we always ask the teachers, well, where's your proof? Do you have videos of you teaching? Do you know what principles are looking for? Do you have testimonials? Because everybody's putting references on their CVS, but very few people phone the people or if you do, what are they going to tell you? Nobody's gonna lie or at least they're not going to tell you. Oh no, this teacher was absolutely horrible. Don't hire them. Nobody does that. So rather building up case studies from parents, building up case studies from learners that you've been working with, of course you can change the names or anything.
But the point being, how are you using digital assets to prove your competence, to prove that you are a super teacher. And I can promise you if you are part of 50 or 100 teachers that apply for a job and you're the only one that can prove your competence, you're the priest word candidate. So finding those teachers is the one part that's the recruitment aspect. And then the other part that we do is assisting schools in the internship project because we believe strongly in schools having to grow their own number.
They're taking in student teachers in an internship project. And then for the time of their studies in our country, our teachers study a four year degree. So during the four years they are in service every day in school, getting to know the ethos and the culture of the school. And we assist in with the mentor teacher support, we assist with the intern support, but by the time they're qualified, you don't need to go and look for super teachers. You've grown a super teacher in your own headquarters.
Lindsay Lyons: I love that that, that both trying to make sure that you have great, you know, super teachers coming in and also that there is capacity for change and growth within the staff that you already have. I also loved your idea of you know, thinking about doing an internal audit like and and really figuring out where you are in the ratings for each of those, it reminds me of what I was about to say earlier and totally spaced on the values in action. I don't know if it's valuesinaction.com. I can link to it in the show notes, but they are a group of positive psychologists who have tried to focus more on the strength space what you were saying earlier, as opposed to deficits let's look at strength. And I actually had experimented with as a teacher, we did that as a staff, we had all of our students do that. And then we had everyone who taught those students in a in a cohort um to do it as well. And we all got to talk about our strengths in a way that was not very bragy. It was like, oh, I took this inventory and here are my strengths and you know, you have these strengths and we would be a great team for this project.
And so even students to student thinking about what the strengths are. You know, doing that audit in a sense of what are my colleagues or my staff, but also where are the strength of my students and where do we maybe need more in the staff to enable that in the students. I mean, there's so much possibility in what you were sharing that I just think it's so cool to be so cool to hear, you know, how teachers are our leaders are doing that. And then I also just love the idea of testimonials beyond your supervisors, like you were saying, family members, learners, I mean that that's who you want to hear from, right, when you're interviewing, you want to know what the experience of those family members were when they talked with the teacher. Was that communication a one way street, was it a partnership? Did you only get calls that were like your kid misbehaved in school today? You know? And what did the learners experience, you know, feel like to them when they were in the class? So brilliant suggestions. I absolutely love these, These are really exciting. Did you, do we cover enough about all the various things that you do, I know you do so much.
Was there a program that we missed there?
Dr. Francois Naude: No, I think, we we've covered quite a lot of what I'm busy with the moment, of course, with the aim of supporting teachers, because that's the that's the thing for me, I never wanted to be a teacher, it was never on my radar as a job. I went to study, I've got my BSC honors in zoology and it was only in my first year that I thought, yes, I want to do something else, and one of my own lecturers said, well why don't you consider teaching? And I went that's such a brilliant idea because for a lazy student like myself, teaching is the best job out there, and, you know, half day job, you get the four holidays a year, it's basically babysitting. I was like, yeah, I'm gonna do this. But it was only like after the first week of teaching 15 year olds about, you know, sexual reproduction, that I realized, I love what I do, just getting that fire in the classroom. So I ended up in teaching per accident, but I had the passion, I had enthusiasm for the job, but still being thrown into the deep end, not receiving the support. I could have easily just decided after the first three years, you know, I'm out, I don't want to do this because it's teaching is a difficult job.
I saw the research on this and teaching is as difficult, as dreadful as air traffic controllers, as firefighters. It's shocking that people generally don't understand how stressful a job it is to be a teacher and we're losing teachers at a very young age. So I made it my mission to support, not only novice teachers, because they are retired or close to retirement, teachers also need support so that everything I decided to get involved with, because you're as judged by what you say no to as to what you say yes to, that the things that I've decided to say yes to has to be supporting teachers. and so the recruitment company, the intern support, the masterminds, the public speaking, all of it has got this mission on supporting teachers to become the super teachers so that we can teach like superheroes.
Lindsay Lyons: That's so powerful and it's such an issue like retention. I mean I was a special education teacher and part of the reason that I got into teaching is the same, I was not intending to become a teacher and then there are all these alternative certification programs where it's like, we'll pay for your college degree in education if you just come teach in this subject area that we don't have anyone wanting to teach in.
And it's because people leave after 3-5 years, you know, 50% of special education teachers are just not teaching anymore and it's bananas because it is, you know, such a, there is such opportunity like you were speaking to the joy and like I actually really love this job. And that is what I think when you're talking about even close to retirement teachers, when you don't have that joy anymore, it starts to hurt your own well being, which then impacts, as you said earlier, the student's well being and the student experience and it's all interconnected and so I love that your mission is really just amplifying that joy that expertise and you know, the experience for all learners. So that is so beautiful. Um, I know we talked about a lot of different things that teachers could do, our leaders could do. And so I'm wondering as a final call to action, what would you say if there's just one thing where a listener is ending the episode and they're like, I'm gonna go do one thing to kind of build that momentum based on what you talked about today. What's that? One thing you would encourage people to go do after kind of hanging up to your beds?
Dr. Francois Naude: Well, the one thing would be to go and discover their superpower. That would be like if you need to write it down somewhere, figure out your superpower. And there's, there's three ways that I like triangulate and ask people to go and discover their superpower. The first thing is listen to podcasts like this one. Go and find out because we need to find out what are the typical traits of super teacher. If we don't know what is available traits or what has worked in the past, it's very difficult to frame something just out of context.
So by curating content, listening to podcasts, reading books or watching youtube videos and there are so many amazing content creators on Tiktok. The teacher Tiktok is amazing and I love it. So go and go and view these things, follow other competent teachers because you'll soon realize ah this is a trait I also have. Okay, I'm not that kind of teacher now you're comparing and seeing, okay, where do I fit? number one
and the second one is going to do a personality test, do yourself a favor, go and do a personality test. There are many free ones online but go and do one and go and see what kind of person you are. So you're getting close to yourself, you're discovering what psychologists deem your strengths are. And then go and ask your friends, your family just to mention five traits that that they admire about you. What are the things that they believe your superpower is? Because now you'll be able to compare and see out of the five people that sent me responses three times came out humoristic. Okay, I know that's so you get a perspective, an outside perspective, a professional perspective and in your own and triangulation between this is going to help you discover your superpower.
Lindsay Lyons: Wow, that is so cool. It reminds me of Dr. Laura Morgan Roberts, she does a lot of positive psychology research and she has the reflected best self. So it's basically what you're saying is you're asking all these people like if you could reflect back a time where I was at my best, what was that time?
And so they come up with all these anecdotes and yeah you can pull the values and the strength from them and it's such a fun activity and I know I asked for one action but I'm even thinking an extension for people who are listening could be you know, do that with your students to write like you could have the students tell each other this as well and say, you know, I, I did this for myself. Um now I want you to have this joy of just hearing the good things about yourself. Like there's something really beautiful about that.
Dr. Francois Naude: There is on Saturday, I did a teacher wellness workshop and it's strange now to do in person workshops because for the last two years it's been all online, but I had my, one of the first in person teacher wellness trainings and we did this, we did all three of these, but then I asked the teachers to share with each other the point place and just the change in the mood in the conference hall was tangible. As soon as people started sharing these positives with each other, you could just feel because hey, we like it when people speak about us and then when they speak positive things about us, we like it even more.
So it was ego stroking type of exercise, which I think is that necessarily at times. But just the, the, the change in the mood was so tangible and we need to do more of this, imagine how kids would feel if we start sharing with them their strengths instead of picking on them and just writing them and like getting the, you know, sitting down and shutting up type of conversations with them. It's like, let's rather share with them what you just did. I respect what you just did. Just that sentence alone. What it does for a child's self esteem is amazing.
Lindsay Lyons: That is so cool to think about what the possibilities in a school like that would be like. So thank you so much for sharing that activity. I love it. And finally this last question is just for fun. I'm just, I'm curious to know everyone who comes out on the podcast has been really a self described learner and you know, invests in their own learning. I know we're in a mastermind together, so we're investing in our learning, but I'm just curious to know something that you have been learning about lately.
Dr. Francois Naude: I am, I'm like a serial entrepreneur, I'm also like a serial curator of information.
so learning for me has become a habit and I don't, I think like my attention deficit is speaking here because I can't focus on one thing at a time. So I don't learn about one aspect every single or in like larger chunks. I prefer to spread out my learning through different interests and behind me Lindsay you'll be able to see it at my bookshelf. I've got 10 books that I'm currently reading at the same time, But I do what I, what I do is I read 10 pages from one book, but then also capturing and that's very important because we forget like 90% of the things we consume. I would then retain the nice things from the 10 pages I've read. And I actually send myself an email with that information so I can recall it later.
And then that book goes in the back of the queue because tomorrow I'll be reading another book. And the interest is, it's from like fantasy genres of of uh you know, fiction to nonfiction biographies of business leaders.
Because I feel that I don't know what I don't know. So let me like spread my wings and read as much as I can and then start incorporating that in my day.
Lindsay Lyons: I love that strategy of the 10 pages email yourself. I think I might start using that. This is the first year that I allowed myself to read multiple books at once. So in order to retain, I'm using your strategy now.
Dr. Francois Naude: We call it, you need to have an idea trap because whenever you get an idea you need to capture it because your ideas are fleeting. Like many times you're in the shower thinking of something and then you're like, oh this is a great idea. Probably like a multi billion dollar business idea. And then you just step out of the shower and you forgot or you got it in the car and somebody swerves in front of you. Like you forgot the idea. So um I use I use an app and I can share the, the app's name. I just want to quickly double check it on my phone. It's called Brain Toss Brain Toss is an app, you can use that to capture any ideas. You can capture the pages of a book on a photo or you can send yourself a voice note or you can type in a text with links and stuff like that.
It immediately emails it to you and you've got it in the bank.
Lindsay Lyons: So cool, awesome. Thank you so much. I'm gonna use that now Francois thank you so much for being a guest on this podcast.
Dr. Francois Naude: It's a pleasure chatting with you Lindsay. Thank you for having me.
Lindsay Lyons: Thanks for listening. Amazing educators. If you loved this episode, you can share it on social media and tag me at Lindsay Beth Lyons or labor 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 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.
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Lindsay Lyons: What has the greatest impact on student learning and achievement? Fresh out of graduate school, looking to change the world, Mitch felt like there was something he was missing. No matter how hard he tried, many of students were still struggling. One thing was clear. In order to help his struggling students, he needed tools to use in heterogeneous classrooms, resources that would move the needle for underperforming students but also empower those who were succeeding and everyone in between. He assumed he could amplify the impact of these resources if there was common adoption across subject areas and grade levels. It just needed content agnostic tools for use in diverse classrooms, but they were missing. It's from this place organized binder began. The initial challenge was finding time. Educators are hired to teach a subject or grade level and his job was to teach Biology. He found there was rarely enough time in the school day to do that job well. Where would he ever find the time to also teach his students the skills and habits they needed to achieve academically.
Then one day it hit him. He should embed practice using these skills directly into his classroom routine. If you can figure out how to do this, his students would gain daily practice employing these skills and he would have time to do his job. Moreover, he would create a predictable and dependable learning environment for students.
Win, win. win. What coalesced in the following two years of design and constant redesign was the initial iteration of Organized Binder. It was amazing. His students begin to succeed and they began to see themselves as capable learners. They developed agency and confidence.
10 years later, Organized Binder is an evidence based MTSS Tier one universal solution that creates a structured and dependable environment with clear expectations and routines. This content agnostic platform gives students exposure to goal setting, reflective learning and meta cognitive practice, time and task management, city strategies, organizational skills and more. Organized Binder aligns directly with universal design for learning framework and is an integral component for ensuring least restrictive environments. Mitch founded this company to widen the impact of Organized Binder beyond the walls of his classroom in school. He's honored to work with K-12 districts, networks in schools as well as colleges, home schools and individual families around the country and internationally. The positive impact has been overwhelming. Schools are increasing their scores. Exceptional learners are reporting huge gains, and initiatives such as PLCs are finding needed continuity and cohesion. In addition to empowering students Organized Binder helps educators implement best teaching practices.
I am so excited for you to hear from Mitch Weathers in this conversation. For reference, this conversation was recorded in September 20th, 2021. Now let's get 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.
Mitch Weathers, welcome to the Time for Teachership podcast.
Mitch Weathers: Thank you for having me, I'm happy to be here.
Lindsay Lyons: I'm so glad you're here. And I wanted to have ride in my first big question for you is in line with what Dr. Bettina Love talks about. She talks about freedom dreaming and she describes it as dreams grounded in the critique of injustice. As I love this quote from her, it's pretty deep, pretty powerful, but I'd love to know, thinking about that, you know, what is the big dream that you hold for the field of education?
Mitch Weathers: Well, thanks for having me, first of all. My big dream is rooted in my experience as a classroom teacher and it's a little intro. I'm a high school teacher. I still am a high school teacher. This is my 20th year in the classroom and if I had to say one big dream is that we would take the modeling of and teaching of skills column, executive function or non cognitive skills or what some schools that we work with called studentness, that we would take the modeling and teaching of those skills or that suite of skills as serious as we do, the contents or curriculum in our grade levels or classes. Recognizing that for any and all learners, that's the foundation or the bedrock for learning.
And yet, what has frustrated me for two decades now? If you follow, just to be blunt, if you follow the money in education, you find a lot of it in outside of salary and payroll benefits of course, but you find a lot of it wrapped up in testing and in textbooks and in technology, all of which are not bad things, but none of which really laid the foundation for learning. So that would be my big dream.
Lindsay Lyons: That's a great dream. I love that idea of like taking those skills seriously and thinking about the fact that if we did that, like, what, you know, dreaming of what all of those possibilities could be for school as opposed to, you know, test prep centers or whatever they are now, like you described. So I think that's a big shift for people. So people listening may think that is not how my school currently does things. We are very much a test prep institution. And so I'm wondering in terms of, you know, the mindset that is required to really prioritize those skills that you're describing,
what are the things that you would suggest for a teacher or a leader who's listening and thinking like, okay, yeah, that's interesting. And now how do I wrap my head around doing that? Like, what's, what is that mindset that they would need to have moving forward?
Mitch Weathers: That's a really good question. And if I could add to it. Mindset, yes, but the challenge, the real challenge to this work is that we're hired to teach that content and were assessed and so are our students by these tests. So it's also a time issue where, and it's also a budget issue. There's no, as far as I've learned, there's no executive function budget, right? Where we would the money makes it a priority in education. So it's like, wow, I really want to do this work, but how would we ever fund that? And for the classroom teacher or any teacher, it's a time thing. You name any teacher listening to this who has enough time in a school year to cover everything they want to cover.
So there's other factors, just besides mindset in terms of approaching this. And so the key is this, and this is, well, here's what I would say is one of the keys. If you are lacking for time, but you recognize that the agency that students develop when they figure out how they learn and so they can approach their learning with more dexterity and too often, and certainly for my students and I would bet anybody listening for certain populations are certain students, it's as if they are passive objects in their education instead of active subjects. The way I've described it often as like students are there, they are present, but it's like their education is happening all around them or to them and they don't quite understand how to jump in and participate.
You can kind of be there, but it's spinning all around them. And these executive functions are these non cognitive skills that research has overwhelmingly indicated what give students that dexterity and that agency to jump in and participate are key. But the key here is the modeling of and practice with those because I don't have enough time to finish what I'm doing. And to be perfectly honest, if I looked at some of these skills that research has indicated help students just having another lesson on the importance of them would probably be pretty boring, right? So it's like, here's what meta cognition is a retrieval practice or even goal setting. Students don't want to have a lesson on the importance of goal setting. Instead, let's set goals within the context of our subject and then measure them and work with them and evaluate them and reset them throughout the school year. So they're kind of like a working part of our course.
And so the key that this belabored point I'm making here is that if students can gain exposure to and practice with these executive functions by virtue of classroom routine, then I don't infringe upon the time I need to teach my content. And that's what Organized Binder does for the classroom teacher.
For the students, it's all about practice with these skills and habits which lead to mindsets. But for the teacher, and this is what's often kind of unknown or missed about Organized Binder, is that it creates for students and for teachers a very predictable routine. And by virtue of that routine, just by engaging in it, and I mean very simple, like how we start, how we transition, how are we organizing our materials, How do we end. Like predictable learning spaces are safer and students are more likely to take the risks inherent to learning in those spaces.
And if by virtue of that predictable routine, I happen to get practice with all these skills, it's a win win. So I'm actually freeing up time to focus on my content while giving students exposure to these skills.
Wow, that was a really long winded answer to your question about what kind of mindset a teacher would need. So I hope that I didn't miss the mark there.
Lindsay Lyons: No, not at all. I think you said it perfectly. So I'm just envisioning like, you know, a priorities list almost in my head, just to make it concrete. And so just like taking a step back, at times for me as a teacher was important to be like what is most important, what is my priority for today? And a lot of times it would be, if I were to really ask myself that question and think about it, it would be that we have practiced with goal setting or we have practiced with this thing. And so yeah, how can I then mindset shift, how can I then embed it, you know, in terms of a way that gives me more time back. And I think that that is exactly how we have to look at it because we can't continue to cram things in, which is I think historically how we try to do it. It's like, let's add this entire executive functioning curriculum to my existing subjects, like that's not possible and it's also not practical.
So it's, I love this blend and this reframe that you're sharing, It really makes sense.
Mitch Weathers: I've asked, first, in any talk I give or presentation at a conference or whatever. I always start with just a blanket question of what has the greatest impact on student learning and achievement? Just throw it out there and let people brain served. I can tell you, I've never heard in a long time, a lot of years and I've been all over the country asking this question, somebody say really good textbooks, which again, are not a bad thing. More technology, not a bad thing. Like it's, it all comes down to these, you know, it comes down to relationships with students of course because this is a human to human endeavor. But it's always these content, agnostic skills and habits that when I developed, again, it's that agency is a learner that's so often missing and I made the mistake as a new teacher. I'm a science teacher and lucky me, right? We get to blow things up and go outside and drop watermelons off buildings. And that stuff is all fun and engaging, but it does not equate to learning all the time if these skills and habits are missing.
And that's what we're the kind of history of my work as an educator. That's what really struck me when I first came into the classroom and I came out of a nonprofit background. And so I had quite a few years of experience working with young people and when I entered the classroom and how to interact with young people, which is gonna take a few years for some teachers to figure just that piece out. But the relationship piece I kind of, I could do and it just became like overwhelmingly clear like, oh, you don't know how to do this school thing. And most of them, I worked with a large, migrant population, undocumented population, second language learners, historic academic failure and yet gifted. And too often students, many students are viewed through a deficit lens as opposed to an asset lens, meaning our industry sees them for lack of better expression.
Our industry sees them for what they don't bring to the classroom rather than what they do. And it became clear to me like we have to uncover all of those because you'd have a lot of these executive functions already as well as others. But how do we uncover those? Practice them and leverage them in the classroom as assets?
Lindsay Lyons: That's such a powerful point. And I think it takes me to my next question to which is kind of what does that look like at the classroom level. So I know you have Organized Binder, you have all of these great approaches and practices. Do you mind walking us through like either a strategy or just kind of like what that might look like in a school day?
Mitch Weathers: Yeah, I'm glad I'm really glad you asked that. I didn't know you were gonna ask that. I became completely obsessed when, so Organized Binder just came out of my classroom and in my practice. And answer your question in just a moment, like what's one specific? But one thing I can't stand about our industry is, well, first of all, any professional development, that's a one time flash in the pan, we never see you again? Done.
We need to just banned those people and whoever is doing that, it's not worth it.
That's not to say a key note's wrong. But when we were talking about professional development and to your really important question of what's it look like tomorrow in my class, I would sit through these, you know, even really inspiring and helpful professional learning experiences. But to make it a part of my daily practice took so much work on the backside that eventually it just became another thing on the shelf. Then my officer in my classroom that I never really could get around to and I never wanted that for Organized Binder.
So I, once it kind of came about and again, I had no intention of sharing this whatsoever, but colleagues started showing up and saying, hey, I'm working with the same kiddos and I'm not having any success and they're all telling me about what's going on in your room and they're fired up about it. And I was like, what are you doing? And I'm like, well, I've started designing this, the system that the kids called Organized Binder because there actually is a physical binder to it and they actually were organized for the first time and that's where the name came from, for better or worse. But I wanted teachers in an audience to sit through a training or experience, and the next day, hit the ground running with almost no friction and that's possible.
That's something that I'm really proud of now.
What's it look like? I can tell you that when I first started teaching I had, this is just one example, I had a really, really out of control tardy situation our school did, but not so much truancy, but tardy and it drove me crazy. Come on, kids would be standing outside my classroom. They'd be like running down the hall. They would be up and like, it was just like, I think in their mind, like if they were kind of even in the general vicinity or geography, that that's like good enough.
And for me, it hit me one day. I was like, okay, well I just assumed, and that's the "A" word in education, right? As soon as we make one assumption as a classroom teacher, like we always have to check ourselves because as soon as you start making assumptions, you could be so off the mark, right? But I just assumed everybody knew that when the bell rang, because we were a school that had bells, that meant class started. And when class starts, that means you're in your seat. I've assigned you a seat and you're at least facing forward so we can talk, You know. And I just assumed that everybody had that understanding.
And then it hit me one day, like, oh, big classes back then was really challenging students.
Like it wouldn't be uncommon to have like 40 kids in my class and be like... So there's my idea of what it means to be on time, and then there's 40 other versions of that and we've never talked about it. I don't even know what you think because you might think being outside the class, which is driving me crazy. And now we're having like a relational conflict and I'm having to be the authoritarian, all because we haven't communicated. It has nothing to do with like, the expectation, It's just a lack of clarity. And so I didn't, I certainly didn't ask anyone's opinion on what it meant to be on time. I just had to make my expectations hyper explicit.
So one of my favorite books is called Other People's Children by Lisa Delpit. And if I had to summarize her thesis in that is that we need that which is implicit in the classroom, we need to make explicit. And I could no longer just assume that you knew what it meant to be on time because I hadn't made that hyper explicit.
And so where Organized Binder really became like a, I really like it spark of magic was, I became obsessed with creating hyper predictable classroom routines that I could communicate without using words. So with this again, I tend to get a little long winded here, so cut me off whenever, but you asked what does it look like? I would, once it came about and you, I wish everyone had an Organized Binder in their hands because they would see that it's this physical tactile, yes, everybody out there, it's actual paper and a binder, and it exists digitally, if you're curious, but I'm a proponent of this physical binder. But it's all color coded for visual queuing in the classroom, and if you work with second language learners or students with learning differences or whatever it might be, and I would say anybody having these visual cues so that I'm reducing barriers or friction so that you can engage, better engage with the class community, it's all good.
So I would say this, I'd walk into class, whatever when I'm going over what it means to be on time in my first week of school. And I would do it this way and say, okay everybody, Mr. Weathers welcome blah, blah, blah, here's what it means to be on time in my class. And I would walk out of the classroom not very long because that's against ed code. But I would just kind of like mess with them a little bit and then I'd walk back in. I grabbed some kids binder, they're Organized Binder. I would find an empty spot, I would sit down and I would open my binder to this white B tab and in there they're called weekly lifelines and they're white. And I would just sit there. And then I would stand up and I'd hand that kids behind her back and I'd walk up to the front of the class and I'd say, okay, now turn to your neighbor and tell them what it means to be on time. And the whole class would erupt in conversation. And then of course we would, you know, perish it, tell me what you heard and if by doing so everybody knew, I'm like, hey, look, that's all you have to do.
Just get here on time. It's, we, it's what I've often said is, there's a lot of gray areas in teachers and oftentimes in teacher's lesson plans. A lot of ambiguity and that's where we lose Kids. Like those undefined spaces even if they're 30 seconds or 15 seconds or and I'm not saying this is like an authoritarian thing, but we do our students a favor by painting the gray areas black and white. That's what I've always told my students to like, look now you have a decision to make. I call him character questions. You're going to show up or not. Like if you know what's expected and it's fair and you can do it, then I've kind of left that up to you and that's where some of this agency starts to come in. And by again by virtue of that routine. I get practiced with these different skills, it can be a win win.
Lindsay Lyons: That's an excellent example and I love that you're naming to, I'm thinking about for Multilingual learners who are relatively new to English, just being able to watch you do that, watch you come into the room, sit down to get the binder flip to that page,
like that is already like a hurdle that we're overcoming. That could be a hurdle if we were using words initially. I mean there's so much there that's just like universal design for learning.
Mitch Weathers: Yeah. And the other thing I didn't mention for a classroom context, everything that a student has in their physical Organized Binder, this is why it actually exists digitally. I'm projecting in the classroom, so they're seeing it in their binder. If there were 40 kids in the room, which I hope there's not, there's 39 other versions and it's up there. So I'm constantly and I always see it as reducing friction. Like what I'm trying to do, let's talk about second language or multi language learners for a moment. They tend to spend a significant amount of cognitive energy just navigating the school day or the class period, just trying to keep up. And if you've worked with those students and those populations, there's a certain fatigue on their face at the end of the school day that I don't think is the result of like, oh I've just learned so much, right? I don't think that's what's going on. It's just taxing, it's so taxing to everything I'm learning.
In other words, everything I'm seeing and I'm hearing for the most part I'm translating, and I'm constantly just trying to keep up. And so if I can reduce friction or in other words, if I can have such a hyper predictable learning routine that you just know what to do to engage with the learning community, then I'm liberating percentages of cognitive energy that once was spent on navigating and what win for the students, right? And they just feel better because it's safer and it, I want students to walk to my learning space knowing exactly what to do to be successful.
And here's the other thing. When they do, it gives me an opportunity to acknowledge the successes and I always call them victories because for many of the students that I've worked with historically, they don't have all that many successes or victories in an academic setting.
And these victories Lindsay, that we're talking about are not tied to content mastery. And most of the time in the modern classroom, success for victories are largely tied to content mastery. Such that if I'm struggling with the content, I may see myself as a learner is less a part of this learning community because I'm not as "smart" or as gifted as some of these, others. I could be wrong about that interpretation, but as soon as I start telling myself that, students tend to lean back rather than lean in and I've seen this work over and over when students experience celebrated victory. So I have to acknowledge it too. It's not just them figuring it out on their own. And so with the students I was first working with, when Organized Binder started to coalesce, like I could walk around and be like, way to go, you have your binder open to the B page, the weekly lifeline. Or with like all these little things that had nothing to do with the lesson. You and I this whole time had yet to talk about any subject matter any less in any context and that's the whole point, right?
This is a content agnostic tool. But when students experience those celebrated victories at a minimum, they just like being there because they're tired of failing. Who likes to fail all the time when they show up to something? But they can begin, there's a paradigm shift that can happen. I've seen it happen. Well, they'll start to lean in because we know when you're struggling, that's the time to lean in and try even harder. But sometimes we have to foster that, and this is one way to do it.
Lindsay Lyons: Absolutely, okay. I love that. And I also know, you said this is the start to, but it helps teachers as well, right? If I am thinking about planning units worth of lessons once they have a two month unit, okay, now I'm facing down, you know, however many units that would, or lessons that would be the 40 lessons, and I want to get creative and I want to engage students and now I'm on teachers, pay teachers paying money out of my own pocket to try to do all these creative activities.
When really, if we did five routines and repeated them throughout the entire two months, our students would have more cognitive ability to engage with the content that's changing every day. They would have more success. We would be able to better focus on what it is I need to teach every day. We'd have more energy for student relationships because we're not lesson planning into like, you know, three in the morning. I mean, there's so much that is here that benefits both the students I think and the teachers that is so important. Especially when we mentioned time at the start, like not only do teachers feel like they don't have enough time for the content and fitting it all in, but just to be able to do all the tasks that teachers need to do in their planning time without taking work home is like, time is such a factor. This feels like a win win for students and teachers.
Mitch Weathers: No doubt. It's been, I can't tell you how many times I've heard from in veteran teachers saying, oh my gosh, like on the backside of a training or something. This is all the stuff I've wanted or known I need to do for years and I just have not found the time to do it. And here it is for me, you're gifting this to me and it will actually save class time because you have a more predictable learning routine.
So absolutely a win win. And for new teachers out there, get a hold of us. It's like a Godsend for just having that lesson structure. We're not really going into a whole intro right now, but there's Organized Binder will frame a daily lesson plan, but it also captures teachers unit sequencing, which is just as important. And ultimately what a teacher a couple of weeks ago called the crown jewel at the end of the school year or the semester because they work at colleges as well, students walk with a curated portfolio of their learning from the first day of school till the last day. And I've started calling them trophies because talk about agency and pride, like just beaming and we're not and they keep saying this, we're not talking about content and we're not talking about grades. You could have a C minus and you have your crown jewel at the end of the school year that you've created,
not me. This is your daily reflections, your daily plan. We're doing it together as a class community, but it's a profound experience, but it's all built from this predictable routine that you're noticing for teachers, what it can do to set them up for success as well.
Lindsay Lyons: And I don't want you to give too much away. But I'm curious to know. I think as a listener I had heard about Organized Binder before I actually met you and I was like, oh, I want to like kind of picture what this looks like. And so I'm just wondering, could you know, at the beginning when you were saying, okay, I come in, I flipped the white page. And you specifically said, you know, it's a white pages under the, B tab that, you know, like all of these things like what does the, can you describe a little bit. What the binder looks like? What are the various pieces of a binder that frame like just that lesson level that you're talking about.
Mitch Weathers: Yeah, so, yeah, we'll do this verbally and then everybody just go over to the website and you can see one and it'll all make sense. So there's, as we call it a student bundle and a teacher would get what's called a class set of 40, which is usually more than enough.
But also it's another thing that bothers me about our Educational system when you, there's an initiative at the school and I get my class set and it's like I got 32 of whatever it is and there's 36 kids in my class. So we try to go super heavy because we're all rooted in the teacher's reality and experience. And they would open up their bundle and add this in because we've talked about teachers, we've talked about students and we also have to talk about families because family engagement is paramount for student success. And what every Organized Binder bundle comes with is a bilingual family guide or parent guide that goes home to basically explain the system and how it's used. But to offer kind of sets parents and families up to support learners as well, but with specific prompts to try to move it away from, How was school today? What did you learn?
Nothing. Do you have any homework? Like those conversations can very quickly develop. But if I have specific prompts around the goals I've set in my daily tasks or my reflection or even just knowing like, What you guys do today? Why I can look in your binder and it's all there, that kind of thing. So they would see that, but then the, our binders which are, I'm super proud of this, so I just gotta put it in there. It's one of the only, SFC certified green binders, you'll find. Honestly, it's a pretty hard process to get your stuff certified. So everything that we having, you know, our whole product line is all US made and 100% recycled materials for the lowest carbon possible carbon footprint. And no crappy vinyls and plastics that would end up in a landfill because why should we, you know, nurture the next generation and ruin the planet at the same time, and our industry is a bad actor when it comes to that
so I'm proud of our product line. They open it up, there's eight tabs. If we're talking about K- 12, this is a little bit different for college. A and it's very simple, all color coded A through H. And A, if you flipped the A tab, you would see a gold goal setting page. And so students get to together as a class community, but very individually set goals. And we review and come back to them. Like I was saying each term or each quarter or every few weeks. Then there's a B tab C tab and they're all they're all color coded. I could go through the whole thing. But again, it's all for visual cueing, that I could just see where I need to be and flip to that tab. Does that answer your question?
Lindsay Lyons: That is perfect. Yeah. And I think that's a great point. Like people can actually open this and look at it online, right? You have like these, these templates and there, I think the images are color coded as well, right? They show like this paper is going to be in this color.
Mitch Weathers: Yup., yup. You can see it all and if you want the best way to get that intro. So for all you listeners out there, we can share with you or gift you a digital copy of our bilingual parent guide. And give you access to some tutorials, not as so much of training because I know you don't maybe even know what this whole thing is. But if you did want to check it out and like see it opened up and the working components Lindsay, I think we should do those tutorials. That would be helpful.
Lindsay Lyons: That sounds perfect. So those will be the freebies for this episode and I'll link those in the show notes and on the blog post. So that would be great. Thank you so much for kind of going through all of that. I know we just talked about a lot of different things and there are a lot of different pieces to this. And so if I am maybe like a teacher, my administrator hasn't decided to go ahead and actually purchase Organized Binder. But like I'm starting to get ready to have that conversation with them or I'm starting to like start small in my class and think about like, how do I kind of really wrap my head around prioritizing these learning routines that are, what was the phrase that you used: hyper predictable.
I love that. And you know, what would that one thing be that would get me started on that. If I could just take one step after this episode, what would you say that should be?
Mitch Weathers: Yeah, good question, good questions. In terms of the Organized Binder thing. I would and always do encourage that. So in other words, the pilot: something small, that one teacher or a handful of teachers or maybe one class, or something along those lines so that it's kind of running an experiment to see like, hey, is this, is this worthwhile? Is it going to do everything that this guy is saying, kind of thing. But really to make it your own and the school zone and kind of kick the tires. So that, that's the way I would go about it rather than like a school wide roll out in the first year. I don't, I don't advocate for that.
If you're a classroom teacher and the funding is not there, or you think it's not there then I would say contact me.
Well Mike, I'm sure you can get a hold of me here. We can have that conversation because you'd be pretty surprised about the funding and how we can make it work. But the lens or the review of your own practice, your own pedagogy is, can you, if you're interested in creating predictable learning spaces and that's true of a brick and mortar classroom or our last year and a half in distance learning or whatever that environment, a predictable routine isn't it? It's not just a classroom thing, is what I'm saying, but let's just pretend we're talking to the classroom teacher. Start to review and reflect upon your expectations or your policies or procedures or whatever you call them, and ask yourself if you can communicate them non verbally. Do students know when it's possible, know your expectations without, of course you have to communicate them once or twice, but where you know where we typically see them, I could ask you a question. Let me ask you Lindsay reverse roles: where if you were to walk into a classroom, where most often do you see a list of expectations?
Lindsay Lyons: I would say like a poster on the wall?
Mitch Weathers: Poster on the wall. And I can, there is research around this that if we're not constantly kind of curating that which is on our walls in the classroom and I forget the time frame but it's surprisingly short, that it literally becomes invisible. Like students are not seeing it anymore. And we all do this, that's a good idea. But there's this poster up there and sometimes it's like five years old because you have really good expectations. I'm telling you there, if you're struggling with them engaging with those, it could be your communication modality. So trying to make them part of a routine and trying to make them when possible, communicated nonverbally or at least working towards that, can be really, really helpful.
That's some of the underpinnings of Organized Binder. If you wanted to bring some of this into your classroom, go listen and watch all those tutorials.
I'm basically going to pull the veil back on our online training program for free. For all of you. You don't, it's not embedded and of course, so you can just go watch the videos, just go check them out. And then see what you get from that. But I can tell you all of it is built around the skills and habits that research has overwhelmingly indicated help students be successful. And again, it's content agnostic. So it doesn't matter what you teach, it doesn't matter what grade level you teach. These are universal.
Lindsay Lyons: I love a good content agnostic tool. This is the best. And so as we move to a close, I really appreciate all of just the value that you've provided for teachers and content in this episode and for leaders as well. I'm just curious to know, I think everyone on the podcast is like a self described lifelong learner. I know we're in a mastermind together, so we, you know, we continue to learn and grow, but what is something that you've been learning about lately?
Mitch Weathers: I've been learning that in our next newsletter,
this is the title for it. I've really been struck by this. Don't try this alone is going to be, what are our next newsletter And what I mean by that is in other words teaching and school leadership. Like don't try this alone, that the coaching and the support that's out there. I've been just learning a lot about really cool organizations and entities that are all around coaching or supporting, whether it be school leaders or teachers. And it's just really struck me lately. I've had some really interesting conversations, and also diving into some interesting literature around. Like. getting dialed in on what what does it mean to support and coach classroom teachers so that, but that there is some data and metrics around that. It's not like Kumbaya, not that that's a bad thing. But, so that's that's one thing that has really struck me lately, like this is, we can't you can't do this alone.
And maybe that's why our our attrition rates are so high. You know, in the first 3 to 5 years in our industry and so often like new teachers in certain environments can just be going at it alone and it's hard. It's hard. So yeah, in terms of education space, that's something I've been learning.
Lindsay Lyons: That's awesome and so powerful. Yes, because I was ready to quit after the first three years of my teaching career. And like I love teaching. I think it was actually like a decent teacher, you know, once I got a handle on things, but it took those three years of figuring it out with minimal support and so if that support exists, which it totally does, like it is well worth whatever time or monetary investment that you need to make to get it and just feel better the rest of your career. So yeah,
Mitch Weathers: And you'd be hard pressed and other careers too. That's part of it, right? Like the ongoing support and training and yet with teachers like, right now I'm supporting a brand new teacher, I think I've shared this with you.
She's the second career coming out of second career teacher coming out of a very successful careers and the executive media executive. And her last job that was with MGM and like she's transitioned into the classroom and she has a heart for migrant and immigrant students and she got a job teaching digital media as a CTE teacher middle school. And it's, I mean she's working with it a very marginalized population, and with that comes specific challenges and now we meet every week and we just talk. She's using Organized Binder and we're doing that. And I asked her this last week, I'm like, so it's kind of cliche and everybody says how hard teaching is. I'm like just comparing for me like, is teaching harder than what you've done before? And she was just like, she about fell out of her chair. And she's only teaching three classes, and what she's recognizing is not only just the workload in figuring out how do you, how do you teach?
Like, kind of like, that's just how do I teach all this stuff, right? The emotional, the relational, what's the right word or expression for it? What we've spent a lot, I'll just tell you, we've spent a lot of time not talking about her content or in that like the positive meditation. But like, where do I put my gaze? Because If I have 30 kids in a room and these four are giving me some static every day, our tendency is to just focus on that. And I keep trying to tell her like, but there's 26 other students in the room and you're not, not that you're not seeing them. It's that when you go home at night and you go home on the weekends, I can promise you, you're just focused on those four and it's like the emotional, you know, weight of that. Like, there's certain things about teaching that are taxing that no one can see or they don't talk about in graduate school and all that.
So that's the: don't go at it alone. You gotta have somebody to support you and talk to you.
Lindsay Lyons: That is perfect. And finally, last question, where can listeners learn more about you or Organized Binder or connect online?
Mitch Weathers: Yeah. Well, you know how active I am on social media. I'm kidding, everybody. Best way would be just go to our website, organized binder dot com, and if you, easiest way so you don't have to forget just go to the contact link. And if you want to chat with me, that that won't go to my inbox. But if you say, "hey, I wanna, I heard Mitch on Lindsay's show, I want to chat." I would love to speak with you via phone, meet up on a Zoom, I love doing that. So that's probably the easiest way, but yes, you can find our Organized Binder handle on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, all of those places. But warning, we don't post too often.
Lindsay Lyons: Thank you so much for sharing much and thank you so much for being on the podcast.
This was wonderful for me.
Mitch Weathers: This is super fun.
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. Until next time leaders, continue to think big, act brave and be your best self.
Links from the episode:
And for one final bonus...
Mitch has generously offered to give away a physical Organized Binder setup to the FIRST 3 educators who post a screenshot of the episode from their device or a picture of themselves listening to the episode and tag me AND Mitch @OrganizedBinder!
Listen to the episode by clicking the link to your preferred podcast platform below:
Lindsay Lyons: Dr. Dana Goodier has 22 years of experience in education. She has taught world languages in English and worked as a middle school administrator. She completed her doctorate degree in educational leadership in early 2020. For her dissertation, she researched reasons parents were opting their students out of high stakes testing at middle schools and how that affected the district accreditation rating. She often speaks at conferences providing educators with techniques to minimize off task behavior into increased time on task. She is the host of the Out of the Trenches podcast which features educators who share their stories of resiliency. Follow her on Twitter @danagoodier and visit her website at www.danagoodier.com. This conversation was recorded in September 28, 2021, so it's being released in April but recorded several months beforehand. *Latest update: Dana's book "Get Yourself Out of the Trenches of Teaching And Into the Light Through Discovering Your True Potential" is set to be published late summer 2022 so keep an eye out for that!
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
Dr. Dana Goodier, welcome to the Time for Teachership podcast.
Dr. Dana Goodier: Thank you.
Lindsay Lyons: I'm so excited to have you here. I just read your professional bio but is there anything else you want to add to further introduce yourself to our listeners today?
Dr. Dana Goodier: Well, we connected because we've both been working with Daniel Bauer of Better Leaders Better Schools and, you know, we have different perspectives. Kind of looking at some of the reading that he does with his mastermind. So we'll talk a little bit about some of the reading. and we'll also talk a little bit about my upcoming book that I will highlight one of your questions.
So, I think we'll just go ahead and get started and then if there's anything I'll add it.
Lindsay Lyons: Perfect. That sounds great. And I was so excited to talk about your book. This is really exciting news. As we kind of jump in to think about like, you know, this big thinking that we do around education. I really like centering Dr. Bettina's Love's quote about freedom dreaming where she says, dreams grounded in the critique of injustice, you know, or really what we're talking about. And so I'm curious to know what that big dream is for you in terms of the field of education and where you see, you know, what's possible for it
Dr. Dana Goodier: So I'm thinking of the macro picture right? You want to dream big? You want all, like if I was to say, all districts across the US right? My big dream is to moving to more equitable practices across all districts, right? We're looking more and more at this since the summer of 2020. But I know it's a slow going process and it really depends on what area of the country you're in. And we're seeing, I know not only where I live in Colorado, but there's different places throughout the US
where there is a lot of strife amongst stakeholders, right? Depending on what is being taught in the classroom, and I know some of those stakeholders might not be comfortable with the teachers teaching about history that has been hidden for many generations. However, as a parent of a current middle school or in two children in elementary school, I know that they're like sponges, right? My son was just talking to me the other day. My 8th grade son was talking to me the other day about, he doesn't want to celebrate thanksgiving this year because he knows the true meaning behind what happened. And you know, so it's just interesting how he's, you know, learned a lot of this stuff recently and just reactions. These kids that pick up things and they're like sponges and how as educated, we just need to know that you know, a lot of us are just learning about some of this history right now. But if we want to make the difference, we need to learn how we can make that difference today, right?
As educators make the difference today, so the youth can make that difference tomorrow, right?
We can have a better place for all of us tomorrow. So, you know, this equitable practices and cultural relevant pedagogy, you know, it may not happen all at once, right? And it may take 5 to 10 years, but I'm hoping and you know, by that time in 2030 or so that we, you know, see a lot more of the history being taught in schools that, you know, has been hit.
Lindsay Lyons: Yes, such great points. And I love that you mentioned to just, you know, like that when we make that change today, now our students can, our young people can, you know, grow and live in that way, that is full of change as they grow older and become teachers and all of that. And so I think about a lot of people being frustrated with having to learn or unlearn, right? Like thanksgiving is a great example : unlearn what they've been taught in elementary school or whatever and then have to relearn. But if we just decide now, like we're actually going to teach factual history, those kids won't have to deal with that as adults. That frustration will be gone because they'll actually just learn it right the first time.
And so I think that's such a good point that you're raising.
I know that for a lot of people that's a really difficult transition to make. You know, like having that frustration and having that recognition that maybe what they learned in their own schooling experience or even how they learned in their own schooling experience, you know, is not working for the kids that they're teaching and should be changed. But I think a lot of that requires a real mindset shift around, like, okay, well I thought education was this way and I was always doing it this way and I'm used to doing it. Right now, I'm trying to do better, I'm trying to make this shift. What do you think that requires, you know, what is that shift that's required for people to really achieve that dream of, like you're saying culturally responsive pedagogy and equitable education?
Dr. Dana Goodier: A great question. You know, and as you pointed out, yeah, it does take intentionality, right? I think it takes being open as a teacher, as a leader, as a practitioner. Whether or not your district, in your school building is adopting more culturally relevant practices, you need to be open to learning more about it. You need to take a stance for what you're teaching in your classroom or how you're leading your school.
So you know, if your district has taken an initiative to adopt certain curriculum and to implement certain things, make sure you're informing yourself in attending trainings, right? Also be open to what you can explore more as an educator, how you can be anti racist. Just be open to a reading, listening to podcasts, attending webinars. There's so much out there today, right? And it's an explosion since summer of 2020 but I know there was a lot out there before.
I remember when I went to job interviews like in 2018 and stuff and I would often be asked, you know, we have a very diverse population and you know, how do you teach students with multiple ethnicities and races? And I would always talk about culturally relevant, relevant pedagogy and how you know, I've learned a lot from the principal Catoly for example, and a lot of his books even before he published his most recent book. But so there's always been a lot of information out there, in books, but more so now than ever that you can just consume via the podcasts. And a lot of what I know we've talked about, you were on my podcast and I just think it's just being that open to learning, of being about lifelong learner and having those difficult conversations with stakeholders if needed,
and with our colleagues?
Lindsay Lyons: Yeah, that's a great point, right? That is, that it's being a lifelong learner is so inherent in all that we do if we're going to do it well, like we have to keep growing and evolving. And so I really like that you name that and I will ask a question at the very end that comes back to that because I think it's so fun to think about, you know, how are we living that out?
So you mentioned so many great suggestions for action that people could take. Just even things like listening to podcasts, right? Like these little things that are just going to help us continue that learning journey. And I'm wondering are there other steps or specific practices that you would encourage people to do? In terms of like, you know what you have seen be really successful in your practice or what you encourage the people that you work with to do to really bring that out in themselves, and also the like you said, their colleagues and having those conversations.
Dr. Dana Goodier: So if you're a district leader, a school leader or even somebody who's like a teacher coach, you know, leading professional development at your building or even a department chair,
you can help lead and develop professional development at your school. Even just the teacher, even if you're newer to the building, you can reach out to your administration and talk about like you know, do we have an agenda for teaching any of these practices of this year and how would you feel about having that maybe you know, as it could be a recorded P. D? It could be you know, accessible when teachers have time to access that. And it could be just a discussion that you have in teams as well.
I also think something that's a brave action could be putting out posts on social media. This is for any educator right? And in order to get feedback these could be you know polls. These could be you know, just provocative questions right? This could be you know, images and just kind of starting that conversation with that post. Right? I also think definitely blog and blog posts are important.
So I blog for the Teach Better Team. I know there are a few bloggers out there who are doing blogs and that's becoming more popular you know as yourself. You do blogs and some people who have subscribed to their blogs. They have been starting to do vlogs as well. So whether or not you have a newsletter that goes out or you just blog such as I do for an organization. You know, finding a subject that you can blog or blog about that is not provoking and that you can share out on social media and get feedback just as you would with that thought provoking post. And I think as leaders, leaders can be vulnerable to learn more. You know, you are sending the example for your building, more for your district. So the ed leaders need to keep themselves informed through reading. They need to be attending webinars. There's always I mean, I get a ton of emails so there's always webinars going on pretty much every day right?
Some from some educational organization. So if you are working a full time job but you can set aside two hours maybe in the week to attend a webinar, you can always catch the reporting right? And then you can all also advocate for district pd to support culturally relevant pedagogy. And this could be as I said, it could be a P. D. that's accessible. A synchronously right? It could be something that maybe you're having your whole building attend for maybe half a day right? During a teacher work day. But you know, you also want to gauge how much does your staff know and how much is your staff already using, right? It's not going to be a one size fits all necessarily pd right? And you also want to list the help of some of your staff members who are using this in the classroom and have been using this for years. So have them give examples and have them also be the QnA if they're comfortable because those teachers who want to know more, they're gonna want to know how do you implement this in your classroom.
Lindsay Lyons: Wow, that's so many great examples right there. From you know, from even just asking the question or advocating like what P. D. do we have available, what when can we use it? And also to like, you know, like you said leading the Pd or even leading what I think we would both probably call Pd in the blog space, right? That's professional development in a sense that just extends beyond and so yeah.
I think organizations like Teach Better, great. I mean even things like Learning for Justice formerly Teaching Tolerance, they let you, I think they even pay you for articles that you write if you're accepted. There's so many organizations that will take blog posts from educators and leaders who are just really excited about this work. And so if you're doing it and you have something to share, you know? Absolutely. I would echo that. And I think one of the things that I've learned that makes it a little bit more manageable to kind of wrap my head around blogging, I used to think I have to talk about something different every single. And then I was like, I have a particular niche or set of niches and that's really helpful.
One of the things that you actually do is help teachers to find kind of their PD niche, and I think that sounds really exciting and was a huge like kind of pivot point for me to really harness my energy and focus it around like these key areas. Can you say a little bit more about what you do in this life?
Dr. Dana Goodier: So yes this is a breakout session I've led at a few conferences and I also have offerings on my website for PD to give you, know, in person or virtual PD to districts and schools. And it's basically meeting with teams and departments and narrowing down how you would want to plan out your PD plan for the year. Now you know, if I were to give a training in February you know, you still want to look at kind of what you've already done, right? And there's so many places that you can go. As I've already mentioned webinars, you know podcast, those types of things. But as a team, you want to find out, like what where is an area of focus we want to work on and that you know could be the trauma informed practices, culturally relevant pedagogy. It could be more focused on literacy and you know curricular materials.
So you know, when you're thinking of adult learning, when I developed the P. D., this pd, but also when I was working on the capstone for my doctorate, it was a professional develop module for a school district. I had never written a big pd for adults before, right? And when I got some feedback from the Director of Professional Development in the district, she was just saying, we'll think about how kids work. Right? So when I do this session I talked about, you know, when you start a school year with kids, you think about, you want to help them identify what kind of order they are, right? So as adults, you know we could be visual, auditory or kinesthetic learners right?
And an example I'll tell you of like a conference definitely that has a lot of kinesthetic learning that I've spoken at is the SHAPE Conference. It's the pe teacher conference, right?
So you're gonna have obviously a lot of things with jump ropes and those type of things. But are you the type of learner whether or not you teach P. E. that likes a type of session and this will mostly for those in person sessions but it could be for virtual, likes type of session where you're getting up and about in your, you know, you have hands on things, right? You're moving around, it's not just to sit and get. Or are you the type of learner who just likes to listen. So I would say probably myself because I consume a lot of podcasts and you know, I'll go on a run and I'll listen to these podcasts a lot of time. I'll probably say I'm an auditory learner, right? But I do like to listen and then take notes a lot of the time as well. You know, some people are those visual learners and they'll read read, read. You know, those are the people who consume a lot of the, the post, the visual posts and read a lot of these blocks. So, you know, I will, I always start out that at the session by talking about what type of learner are you, right? And then just narrowing down those choices and I highlight things like getting started with a book club.
And I think that's something that a lot of schools did start during the shutdown in the spring of 2020. But some schools probably haven't even thought about that still yet, right?
And I was part that spring also in the district of a book club with, it was the, it was a book by Diana Graber about teaching. Well, I don't remember exactly the name of the book, but it's about technology and tech tools and teaching students, right. With the tech tools and, you know, cyber safety. Right? So, you know, when you have those type of book clubs and it could be a synchronous or it can be live, right? And leading the book clubs for your school and, you know, having people learn through just reading of, you know, chapters and I know both of us have been in the mastermind. We read books and we discussed those and we might not always get to the chapters during the session that we're meeting with the group
, but just how you're being held accountable, right? You're being told to read those chapters. You're learning a lot from the book that you're reading. So I think that's a big part of it in finding your pd niche and, you know, there's a lot more I could say, but I encourage people to check out the trading I guess. And if you'd like to have, speak to your school or district or you know, all be speaking hopefully at conferences coming up as well, sending out several proposals for, there are some in person conferences in the spring.
Lindsay Lyons: That's amazing. And I love that you're talking about content and also process, right? Like how do you learn as well as what is your kind of area of focus? And I love that it's focused and it's also, I think for leaders hearing this, recognizing that their teachers learn in a variety of ways. And so even if as a school we have the same similar content focus or as a team, that's going to need different mechanisms of delivery, just like you said. With students, how they learn, and I think that's a great, just even reminder, if that's already something people are like, oh yeah, that makes total sense.
I mean as a leader to be like, do I have the option for someone to consume during their commute a podcast or something, you know, where we can multitask when our plates are already so overloaded. I think as educators many times like how do I, you know, tap into what my teachers really need in that way. So super valuable. I encourage everyone to go check out Dana's website and I'll link to that in the show notes to in the blog post for the episode.
The other thing I'm really interested in your work on is working with stakeholders to identify attendance challenges in students history. Also, you know, pre Covid even, right? And that cycle of truancy, like how do we really how do we stop that? How do we really address what's going on there at the root?
Dr. Dana Goodier: And like you said, it's getting to the bottom of the problem, like looking at the root cause. Right? So I'll give an example. So when I've worked as an Attendance Dean for example. I looked at seventh grader and you want to look at data. You know, going back several years. You're not just looking at the seventh grade year. You want to look at, you know, how are they attending, even back to fifth grade, even in elementary school, right?
And depending on what type of data system your district uses, a lot of districts use Infinite Campus, but you might be using something that has a visual, you know, you could use graphs, things like that. But drilling it down to looking at the days of the week that the student didn't attend, which is often those bookends of the weekends, right? The Monday in the Friday, right? It could be, if you're looking at a secondary school student looking at certain teachers to the student isn't attending the class of right? Or looking at certain times of day. The student might be rolling in at 10:30 in the morning.
So you definitely want to look at some of those pieces in order to be able to turn around the cycle of truancy, right? Because whether or not you're in an administrative position, working with attendance or you're a teacher and you're just trying to get your students come to class. Because that was something when I taught French for example. And, you know, you're teaching new things all the time and you're teaching them foreign language,
you know, become frustrating if I didn't see a student for a couple of weeks. So I was very much on top of making sure I contacted the parents and finding out, you know, if there's something that was going on at home and you know, making sure that the student was able to pick up missing worker coming for help. But you know, you really just got to form those relationships. I think it's also like knowing like if the high schoolers coming in the third period they, you know, missed 1st and 2nd. And it could be because of dropping off a younger sibling. It could be you know, a middle school or who is just not waking up because there's nobody at home when school starts. It could be you know, there's peers in a certain teachers class and they just don't want to be around those peers. So it's not just, you know, it's not using the punitive approach.
I know so long districts, you know, they look at the parties and they'll, you know, say you have all these absences and it's just gonna stack against you and you know, some some districts have gone to the extremes that say, you know, if you have X
number of absences, you're going to get a letter grade, a lower letter grade or something like that. So I think it's stopping the truancy in its tracks before it's too late, right? So if you're working with student attendance at the beginning of the year, you want to look at you know, the historical data, right? Look at how they were last year. Look at it and it averages have taken place, right? There's the RTI Process and TSS Process. However, you know, educators have stretched them, like you're saying. So have there been people that have reached out? So and then like looking throughout the year, right? If you're in November December, right? How has the student's attendance been? If you're getting towards winter break and the student is approaching the 10-15 days of absences, unexcused absences, you know, they are approaching that chronically truant label, right? And they might be up for a student review board at their district, which could lead to truancy court, right?
So then it gets more serious. So it's keeping track of those students. It's making sure that them and their parents are well informed of the need to attend. And I know it's, you know, I'm talking mostly about pre Covid, but you know, we have a lot of students right now who are coming back into the building in the fall of 2021. And you know, they might not have attended if their school was virtual most of the year last year. They might not have attended much, right? So it's kind of getting used to being back in the building.
It's if there's a high school where for example, who took a full time job and it's still in that job. It's finding other options. Means those districts do have some type of an online option or alternative school. So it's finding other ways to achieve those credits for those high schoolers. So, but I think it's, you know, it's that team, it's a team approach is that process. It's the communication with the stakeholders and it's everybody who works with the student. Also just being on board to help the students succeed and to pass along the information needed to the parents.
And, you know, if the parents are really busy, they're working two or three jobs, it's also just making sure the student is aware and you know, that there's some type of a family member who also maybe grandparent or somebody who really knows the importance of that student getting to school on time.
Lindsay Lyons: Wow! So many wonderful ideas there. And I, they, you know, resonate intellectually. But also I found myself at times resonating personally because I always was a person who struggled to get there first thing in the morning. So I had my brother and my sister and I was the oldest. I was the one who always drove and I would always have to like corral everyone in. We would always be late. And the policy was, if you're late three times you get detention and what that actually manifested as I was late to softball practice or basketball practice or I couldn't go to math tutoring, which I did after school. Like I needed that tutoring to pass the class. And so it's interesting how these punitive things that we actually put into place might actually hurt people's experience in the school of belonging or in extracurriculars or with academic, you know, progress.
And so I think so much of that resonated with me and just looking at all of the data, thinking to look the year before or, you know, a few grades before, brilliant. And I don't know why I like, I've never thought about that or I've never heard of anyone doing that, so I really appreciate you naming that.
I also want to make sure we save time to talk about your book and I'm really excited about this, so it's going to be published by the Road To Awesome Publishing. Can you tell us more about the book? What's it about? You know, how did you come to this idea or what's it been like to write the book? Whatever you think would be interesting for people.
Dr. Dana Goodier: So, you know, I came to the idea, I would say, you know, having hosted my podcast Out of the Trenches that I launched in May of 2020. And, you know, I got this idea basically a year later. Kind of May, June of 2021. You know, I've had a lot of people on who were launching their books and you know, I had a couple of those people were publishing through Road To Awesome. So, you know, and I read their books and, you know, it kind of got the idea. You know, I've written a doctorate, I did a capstone instead of a dissertation, but it was still quite lengthy and went through that process of getting it approved and everything. But you know, this is not academic work, right?
The fact that we have to have, you know, certain academic language and, you know, all our bibliography a certain way that the university requires. Right? So it's not that hard. I would say of writing is when you're doing a doctorate. So, you know, I've written a lot of blogs the past year. I've been writing with Teach Better team. But also when you're writing a book, you know, you have to kind of think about the big picture, right? So, I would say a challenge is kind of writing over a longer period of time right now. I'm aiming to get a manuscript done probably in the next month or so. So, you know, and I'm hoping depending on the kind of turnaround process with the edits and all that, that it would be out in the spring of 2022.
So it is about, you know, the out of the trenches, where what are they basically is your trench? Right? A lot of people have interviewed for the podcast would say they are currently in the trenches and they like being in the trenches. So, you know, that a lot of people would say they defined the trenches as the work with the students and getting there, you know, feet dirty. So, you know, what does that mean for you?
You know, how is that, how does that manifest in your work and the difference you make in kids lives? You know, another part of that is also finding your why, and why it's important to define your why. I think since the pandemic started, a lot of people are kind of re-evaluating their why, right? A lot of people are shifting to different types of positions or leaving education altogether. So it's redefining your why, finding out what's important. It's also about really what is the trench? And is it something that you want to get out of?
So, on my podcast, I always ask people, tell me about the time when you're in the trenches and managed to crawl out. And you know, as I said, some people say, I'm currently still in the trenches, but a lot of people might go back to when they first started teaching, right, in a difficult situation or something that caught them off guard, right? It's something they learned from and became a better person.
So, you know, these, I would say kind of roller coaster situations, as educators kind of what have they taught us. So that's also a part of it is you know, we all go through challenges. You know, failure does not define us. So those are some of the big ideas for the book and there is a video about the book and you could put the link in the show notes. It's on the road to Austin dot net website. So there's a bunch of authors listed there, but under my information, there is a short video where I talk about it and yeah, people can find out more. So I'm excited.
Lindsay Lyons: I'm excited too. That sounds amazing and I encourage people to check that out. I will draft that link. You have gone through so many amazing, really concrete both examples and suggestions for people to take as they are listening to this episode. I'm sure people's minds are kind of like all over the place of like, oh, I could do this or this and so I'm wondering what's a good starting point for people?
So if they're really trying to live in alignment with those values of justice and equity and that dream that you shared at the start, you know. Where might be a good place to start as kind of the one next thing that they could do.
Dr. Dana Goodier: Yeah, I think it's just finding the resources that you need to inform yourself on equitable practices. And you know, there's so much out there, but you know, you could, if you want to start from scratch, it's just Google it, right? Articles, you know, what's been recently published? What are some good people to follow? Right? It's also attending pd which it could be those webinars.] It could be listening to a podcast and I'll suggest one in the next question. But it's also having those conversations with colleagues. So if you are working with colleagues who are currently, you know, and have been using culturally relevant pedagogy for a long time, it's asking questions. What can I do to be more open and learn more about this? You know, there's a lot of people who have a lot of resources they can share.
It's asking questions, you know, if you are teaching, if you are a white educator and you're teaching mostly students of color, it's asking, you know, how do I present this topic or am I going about it the right way or you know, being aware of our biases are unconscious biases, right? And not being afraid to ask because I think as educators we know that, you know, as I said, people are always learning and we all want to support each other. So I don't think people will look at others negatively if they have those questions and they want to learn more and they're being vulnerable in the fact that, you know, I might not be so important about this particular topic and I want to learn more and I think that opens the door to just that, just having a more constructive conversation with a colleague and developing a better relationship with somebody we might not have really known before, we might have worked with for several years.
Lindsay Lyons: That is great advice.
Thank you. And I'm curious to know, I know I previewed this earlier, but I love asking this question at the end. What is something, as a lifelong learner, that you have been learning about lately?
Dr. Dana Goodier: Well, so in the Mastermind with Daniel Bauer, we've been reading about the history of the caste system in America. The book is Caste by Isabel Wilkerson and it is a history book pretty much, but it kind of ties things into more modern history as well. And in some parts of the book, it parallels, the treatment of African Americans in America and parallels that with treatment of the Jews during Nazi Germany. And so I think that's interesting and also talks about kind of how this is effective modern society, right? So very eye opening. Some people would say it's a difficult read. I really don't think it's a difficult read. It just, it kind of goes into many, I'm not done with it yet, but it just goes into so many areas. And so I would definitely suggest that book and anything that's, you know, more just about like, so as I mentioned earlier, like principal Catoly, I forgot the name of his most recent book. But you know, culturally relevant pedagogy books that he's written right? The 100 things that you want to know.
So those are either easier reads right, that you can read in a few days. Also I want to suggest the Leading Equity podcast with Dr. Sheldon Eakins. I had him on the podcast about a year ago, but he has his own podcast that he's been putting episodes out for several years. And so he's a lot of the episodes. He, it seems to me he's interviewing people who are maybe at the university level or people who have read books on equity and kind of their experiences with, you know, kind of teaching and students that they've interacted with, but, you know, very thought provoking conversations as well.
Lindsay Lyons: I would strongly echo both of those. Caste was one of the best books that I think I've read in the last couple of years and Leading Equity is one of my favorite podcasts. So I definitely agree with those recommendations.
Speaking of podcasts, you have your own podcast. So people should go check that out right? Out of the Trenches, you named before. And then where else can people find you online or connect with you or learn about what you're doing.
Dr. Dana Goodier: So, I'm on Twitter and Instagram. my Twitter handle is just my name@DanaGoodier.
I also have a podcast Out of Trenches PC and on Instagram it's Out of Trenches PC. You can find me on LinkedIn and also my website is just my name, danagoodier.com.
Lindsay Lyons: That's amazing. Thank you Dana so much for being on the podcast today. I really appreciate this conversation.
Dr. Dana Goodier: It was my pleasure.
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. Until next time leaders, continue to think big, act brave, and be your best self.
*Latest update: Dana's book "Get Yourself Out of the Trenches of Teaching And Into the Light Through Discovering Your True Potential" is set to be published late summer 2022 so keep an eye out for that!
Listen to the episode by clicking the link to your preferred podcast platform below:
Lindsay: I'm so excited for you to hear from today's guest, Mark Taylor. Mark has been a professional percussionist for 25 years and has had the opportunity of performing with some of the UK's finest orchestras and theater companies. Finding his passion and voice through music gave Mark the desire to share this understanding through his drum and percussion teaching, which he provides in schools and in his private practice.
Each person has their own interest to follow and story to tell. However, there are some common threads of knowledge and wisdom that sparked a flame in Mark to find out more, a desire to share these ideas with the world. This was the beginning of his podcast : Education on Fire. Mark interviews educators from around the world so that he can enable you to support your children to live, learn and grow to their full potential. Having spoken to over 200 guests, Mark uses these insights to support teachers and parents in his role as vice chair of the National Association for Primary Education, a non-political charity in the UK. I want to name that this episode was recorded August 9th of 2021. Let's get to the episode.
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 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.
Mark Taylor, welcome to the Time for Teachership podcast.
Mark: Lindsay, thank you so much. I really appreciate you asking me to be a guest.
Lindsay: I'm so excited to have you and I love that, I got to be on your show and now you're on mine, so this is such a cool continuation of a previous conversation. I just read your professional bio at the top of the episode and I'm just wondering, is there anything you want to add to that in terms of context, things that we should know about you?
Mark: I guess the main thing is because I don't believe in the silo way of life. You know, I've got 3 children at home, you know, one of them is just about to turn 20 unbelievably. And then two other teenagers. So I've sort of seen them through the primary stage and into the secondary stage and then beyond and we're just in this kind of little hiatus of them going to college and all of that kind of thing. So I think that kind of context in terms of having a parental experience of the breath of education and how that cates well, it takes a different kind of context when you're on that side of the fence and just being an educator I think is really important. And you know, the silo thing is important because obviously many teachers and leaders listening are going to be parents as well and it's having that slightly different hats and I don't think that's really interesting. And it certainly came across the course when there was all the homeschooling because teachers and leaders and everything doing everything in sort of juggling all those things together, those different hats and ways of coming across makes a big difference to the perspective of how you take these things on.
Lindsay: Absolutely. And such a valuable perspective to have to, because it's such a, I imagine, I'm not a parent but it's, you know, it's such a different experience. I imagine from that parent view, so thank you so much for contextualizing that.
And I hope more guests, you know, want to talk about that as well, so thank you for setting that stage. One of the first questions I always ask is in line with the idea of freedom dreaming, which Dr Bettina Love describes as dreams grounded in the critique of injustice. I'm curious to know what is the big dream that you hold for the field of education.
Mark: For me it was really the idea of opportunity and the idea that it's all about questioning and the lens that we put this in the environment that we put the contextual idea of it in, rather than every child should be this level at this age, in this subject in their way. And I think to understand that when every child is born, they have this natural ability to grow. You know, we don't teach them to walk, we don't teach them to do these things, it's in built, we give them the environment, they need to keep them safe, all of that kind of stuff, and just allow them to go. And we kind of lose that as we start to go through the education world, and the system doesn't necessarily give that breadth that you actually need.
And so I kind of think to bring that into the education world, I think then just enables so many things to happen organically, whether it's well being, whether it's the ability to feel like any aspiration is possible. And then our job is just to be able to then, okay, how do we go about making sure they understand how to go about it.
Lindsay: I love that idea, and I love the comparison to walking because it's absolutely right, we're not like, okay, you take this foot and then you go here. We just kind of let it happen and we trust that it will happen. And I just wonder like, you know, I think there's so much trust that is missing from the process in terms of educators trusting children and students in our educational context. I think, you know, we lose that more and more as we kind of push kids through this traditional model of schooling, so I'm fascinated by that comparison. Thank you for that.
Mark: That's right. Just as a little aside to that. Today, I was, we were on the summer holidays here in the UK. And my youngest daughter is into gymnastics and tumbling and you know, it goes a couple of times a week and does athletics and all that kind of thing, and there's clubs after school. And then this last few weeks it's been very sort of, we're just at home, you know, she's not being able to go to a couple because it's the holidays and she's been in her room a lot. She's now sort of 14, so we're thinking we need to structure the activities that we do this, and I'm sort of talking to myself in terms of, it's their holidays, they worked really hard, they've just been through a year of homeschooling, you know, all of that kind of thing.
And then just as I was kind of thinking, I don't know, maybe I should do something or say something or be the parent or teacher or whatever it happens to be. She's sort of walked past me, went out into the garden with her gym mat that she got herself from the garage, went onto the lawn and spent an hour or two out stretching, balancing, doing all of that stuff completely on her own. And I thought, yes, I'm glad I didn't say anything. That natural ability of just giving her the space she needed to relax to get the old term out of her system to enjoy time with her friends, which she did with a couple of sleepovers, hence the tiredness as well as the teenager. And then away she goes back to her natural self and wanting to be active and stretching and all of that. And I thought, yeah, just sometimes you just need that breadth and the ability for these things to happen organically.
Lindsay: That's a perfect example. That is amazing. Thank you for sharing that. And when we think about, kind of the, I almost think about the hesitancy of teachers and you know, educational leaders to enable students to just do that, right? To be able to just be go forth and learn in the way that they do and give them that space and just kind of focus on the environment that we create for them to learn.
I'm curious to know what mindset shifts you think that educators, educational leaders are going to need to have if they've been doing education in a traditional way, not letting kind of loose the reins, so to speak, you know, and letting students just experiment and kind of find their way. What would you say to those educators or people who work with those educators or people who work under those leaders, to try to make it possible for that kind of vision that you have for education to be possible in their realities.
Mark: I think in a lot of way it needs to be fearless. And it also needs to be empowered by leaders and teachers who know all of this stuff already. I think that the hardest thing at the moment is that the system, I mean, certainly in the UK and I'm sure it's the same in the US as well, it's that kind of, you know, the grades, the standards, it must look like this, it has to be like this, everyone needs to conform. That's just stifling, it's just really difficult to do. Whereas those leaders who say, "let's forget all of that, let's start with : what does every child need? They need to be loved. They need to be nurtured, they need to be inspired.
They need to have the opportunity to experience. They need to be part of a community." You know, what is it that we want our children when they leave this area of their education to move onto the next thing? What do we want them to leave with? And then with that, you'll bring in what you need. You know, there's going to be Arts, there's going to be Sports, there's going to be Humanities. There's, you know, as well as the STEM subjects and all of that. It's not about one particular thing. It's about starting with all of those things.
And one of the things I quite like is my podcast is Education on Fire, and the fire, I've been thinking about this a lot. I'm talking with my daughter as well and I said I need to come up with some kind of sort of acronym or something which helps sort of work with that. And we came up together. We were just in the car on a journey and we said: "Failure". Really really important to understand what failure is and in a safe environment, you know, what is that? Because we've all fail over and over and over again. But let's make sure that we know what that means and how it works and how we grow and what we learn from it.
"Inspiration". When we just had the Olympics. You know, one of the things on the TV
this morning for us was Max Whitlock and Adam Peaty, two of our gold winning medalists, talking about the effort they put in and what they can do and how they want to give back to students, and that's inspirational! I mean, that's amazing. But then you need the "Resilience" because, of course that's great, I'd love to be an olympic medalist. However, that's going to take some work. It's going to take some understanding you know, how do I find a coach where do all of that kind of stuff, really, really important. And then the most important thing then for the E was the "Empowerment".
So okay, great. You've got this. Inspiration is where you want to go. How do we then go about it? How do we give them the idea of well being? Where do they find a mental? Where's that teacher that really sees the student who can then take them under their wing and show them the way to go. You know, you need to learn this, you need to understand that. Where can we put all these things together to put you on the right path? And with all of those things, every child has the chance to do what they were born to do in a natural way. There doesn't have to be, as I said, siloed into certain things. And I think that's really important because then it's fearless and like I said, those those leaders that can create that environment and be fearless like that,
Of course we live in a system that has testing and it has all those things that we've talked about already.
But generally speaking because the breadth of the understanding and the knowledge that the children have experienced, they usually thrive in that and they excel because they're doing it from a sense of that perspective : "I might fail, but I'm going to give it a good go. I've found the teacher that can really support me to do it, you know? I'm inspired by the fact that I know my older brother managed to achieve it last year or the year before. I've seen someone else do it, you know. And I actually know about how to go about it. If I don't, okay, I'll try again next year or the year after. Or maybe this particular thing doesn't matter. I'll do it in a different way, in a different subject with a different person." But all of it is a positive step by step learning experience to for them to live their life, which is what it's all about, rather than everyone living the same life. And I think that fearless, I guess kind of picture and model in an environment that leaders can create, that's the way to do it. And then allow the rest of it to kind of seeped through into the world of what education and school looks like from the outside as it were looking in rather than starting with that child. What do we want them to leave their school with?
Let's start there and let the rest of it take care of itself.
Lindsay: I love that. And that acronym is amazing. I am so excited about that,
Mark: I'd love to take all the credit, but it was my daughter that came up with most of them, which I love even more because it comes from the people that I'm trying to help. So it's fantastic.
Lindsay: It's totally like modeling in action what you're talking about in this.
Lindsay: And I love that it starts with a failure as well, because it's such a, you know, a moment where you're like, well, the first letter stands for a failure, like that, you know, that's so uncommon in education. And so to just kind of throw that out there and kind of give people that moment of like, oh, I need to shift my mind around this because this is not what I'm used to hearing and it's just so powerful. And I'm thinking about, you know, when we moved to, okay, this is how we need to think. This is kind of the mindset stuff we've been talking about and then we moved to, well, how do we put that into action? What is the brave action that I need to take to make this kind of "FIRE" model come to life in my class? I'm just thinking about a bunch of different possibilities. How do you envision people putting this model into being in their classroom or their school?
Mark: I think a part of it, or actually the majority of it, is just having these conversations about what it is that we want to do. What is it about us, as people. What is it about us as a community of schools, about how we want to show up and do it. And then you have the opportunity to say, and it looks like this in this situation based on maybe something that's happened personally, you know. So you might have deemed this a failure because you've got 10 out of 20 in a test. But what did we learn from it? What did you learn that you didn't know about it? How can we change it? Right now, I want to do a little bit more, you know? Okay, so we'll go about that. Here's the skills that we need. Read this, do this. Can I help you with this? And so you've got that personal element that you can do child on child, or class on class? Or even show it from above, like say, just talking about sort of Olympic athletes, you know, seeing it from a story you're given by someone who's kind of been there and done it as it were, you know.
If that's an important part of what you're looking at or studying or want to sort of put into their awareness. You can see it from all those different perspectives, but I think it all just then comes down to the hearing now, you know?
So what am I feeling now, did I fail? Actually, I didn't fail, you know. How do I want to go about learning it? Well, I can do this : what's my next step? Who supported me? Or you are as my teacher or you are as my mentor, my guide or whoever it happens to be. And I think understanding that and understanding that it's also further around and just your immediacy of your school, it might be someone just outside of your school. It might be a parent, it might be a friend. It might be, they will do in the same sort of thing. And once you identify the traits and the understanding and what will get you to, what you think you're going to achieve in, and that of course that changes and you don't know what it is, but it all comes down to a feeling. This feels good. This I want to find out more about this. I want to experiment with. There's not quite so much. Okay, well let's go with the good stuff. Let's feel how that goes and then you can thrive. And I think a combination of all of those things are going to certainly give you the impetus, you need to put you on the right path
Lindsay: And I'm hearing a lot in there to moments for reflection, like creating that environment where we enable students to reflect on that test score. Or you know, reflect on whatever failure it was and think about, is this the path I want to go down?
I mean those are questions that I think, sometimes we, as teachers, have informally with students. We think of this as something we do, you know, in between classes or before the school day officially starts. But building in time for that, you know, actual class day as part of a lesson, enabling that personalization that you're talking about, I think is a wonderful opportunity and kind of necessary in the world that you're creating here for us to think about and so pivotal when we think about. I think a lot about the curriculum design and I'm fascinated by curriculum design, but one of the things I hear a lot is we don't have time in the curriculum to do social emotional learning or this thing or this, you know, and thinking about, can we have a curriculum, can we create something that is so flexible and enables for that breath of, you know, talking about failure, talking about what kids are interested in and their passions and helping them co- create requires that kind of flexibility and reflective moments.
And so I love that, that's just kind of part of what I'm hearing, as you're explaining what this would actually look like in practice.
Mark: Yeah, and I think it has to be that because then you've always got the skills and the emotional context and the understanding of yourself about the next thing. Because like we said, whether that's about your math test or maybe it's about something related to sporting activity you did, or maybe there's something really happening in your home life that you don't know how to go about it.
The same things apply, because you're getting used to what life is all about and how you show up in it and how you perceive it and how you can go about changing it if you want to or accepting it, if it just needs accepting. So then you've got the skills that you need and then you can adapt it. Because I think the one thing we all know about the world moving forward is It's not going to be anything like it is today. It wasn't like it was 20 years ago. So therefore that is the most important thing and to give our children the skills they need for that, to let them fly, to let them solve the problems that need to be solved. To feel empowered that they can do it whether they fail 100 times, but get it 101 times or whether they, you know, it's just an understanding that they're on the right path and they're going to keep doing it and they can surround themselves with the people they need to surround themselves with, you know, again and again and again, it's a positive situation rather than I'm now learning this or this subject or this thing all in those silos, which just kind of, I don't know that's just the thing about I'm going to school, I do as I'm told, I don't ask any questions, I did pretty well on the test.
Okay, great. Now I'm 18 and now, what do I do? You know I mean? The whole thing is just a completely different situation.
Lindsay: Yeah, totally doesn't prepare people for life. And so I love that what you're talking about prepares people for life, right? This is so profound and so well said. Thank you so much for summarizing that. And the way that you did, I just think there's so much to think about there.
One of the things that people ask me a lot of times is, okay, Lindsay you're talking about this ideal situation or you're talking about justice or whatever and your experiences in the high school setting. But what does this look like for younger grades or younger levels of schooling. And so you are the vice chair of the National Association for Primary Education in the UK. Amazing. And I'm just curious to know, can you speak to what that type of education might look like in those younger grades.
Mark: Yeah. I had a fantastic conversation recently with Jonathan Lear, and he's one of the associates for an organization called Independent Thinking, and he's also a class teacher, and he was talking to me about the curriculum. And he's, I think it's now deputy head of an inner city school, multiple languages at all spoken in the school and you know, they have the same pressures of kind of, it must look like this and this is the curriculum and this is the national curriculum and how did you put it together?
And they took a step back and they were like, okay, what is it that we want the children to understand and learn because of course that's going to be very different for everyone, especially with the type of community that they have. And the one thing they learned was that they did the first step, which I think lots of people start to do, which is, we need to be more creative. Okay, so let's have a fantastic curriculum which has all this great inquiry and topic based and you know, wind all that in with some of the subjects which are traditionally taught in a traditional way in terms of two plus two is four and you do need to learn that at some stage in some way or another.
But what he said, we found was is it was still us as the adults, kind of leading the children. It was still our creativity. Yes, it was fantastic and it might be, you know, a really inspiring day about whatever the topic had to be. But it still came from them and then the children did some fantastic work related to it. However, it still was the adults setting the scene and then the children doing a very good job within it.
And so what they did was they took it another step forward and they made it really, really inquiry based. And so the example that he gave was, he said they were doing sort of earthquakes, natural disasters, volcanoes, that kind of topic, which we do here in the UK. And he said, for example, normally, the art part of that is a paper mache brilliant model of a volcano and you can do the science with it and make it explode and all of that kind of stuff, brilliant. Excellent. You learn loads of stuff and everyone's very happy. Brilliant. You know, that was really great. But then you said beyond that you then sort of take it and the concepts and take it even further. So they then started talking about, okay, so you're in an earthquake, there's been a natural disaster. You know, let's talk about how that would look in terms of resilience. What sort of adversity would you find yourself in? You know, what strength would you need? What would the world look like afterwards? What if your village was the one that was just by the volcano?
What do you do then? And he said then all of a sudden we had a conversation, you know, one child will be talking about, well, I'd be really scared and you know, could we run away. You know, would we have to have no possessions at all? What would that feel like?
And he said at that point, we've created the environment. We've set the topic. We're still in control. You know, we are the teachers, we are providing the curriculum, but where that then led, the art doesn't necessarily need to be a paper mache volcano. It could be anything, you know. And it gets very personal. It gets very conversational and it can take you in any particular direction. And that is then a way of all of the skills from all the subjects and all the things that you want to cover then come into the sort of focus because children decide they want to take it in this direction or that direction. So we can do this or we can do that or we can do the other. And there is no final outcome. It doesn't need to look like the perfect volcano paper mache thing, which is what you kind of want because you can go take: Yes, that's what we wanted.
Some children did a good one, Some did not so good one. This one was amazing. There's no volcano paper mache end, It could be anything, you know.
And he said that's brilliant because then it's all about the questioning, it's about the environment. Where do we want to take this? Do we even need to do a piece of art like that? Can it be a piece of writing? You know? Actually I'm feeling I want to talk about how I was feeling as I saw the ash start to come down. Okay, well let's maybe talk about, let me draw a picture of it actually just being completely desolate after it happened. So no longer we're doing big science things and lots of explosions. We're just doing a completely dark gray, desolate kind of piece of work. It's kind of giving the emotion in the understanding of what that was. That's not something the teacher said you had to do. That's not something that came from "I need to do a piece of art." It came from an expression of what was related to the topic beyond it. And I think all of a sudden that kind of gives everyone the ability, I think, to be empowered to take it in their own direction
because of course you could have the same conversation in a different school, in a different country, in a different county in the UK and they'd all have a different idea about what they want that to be. And then you can really start to support them. If you think why there's somewhere here, we can take this even further. Or you can sort of decide, are there somewhere we can take this. Have you heard about this? Have you heard about that? There's a situation that happened in a different country. Let's just look at that for now. And so you can guide it, but you're not in complete control and you don't have a picture of what you'd like it to end up with. Again back to that. You need to be a fearless leader to do that because you don't know what that end result is going to be. But I would bet nine times out of 10 it's a hell of a lot further or higher in what your expectation would be that you would probably set had you set out to begin with.
Lindsay: That's such a great point and a great example. I think so many times my students have surprised me. You know, even in the higher grades, just when we enable them to kind of follow their own path of inquiry and that's such a powerful example.
It makes me think of, you know, the driving question of a unit. Like you might set the driving question of the unit to be something like, you know, what would happen or how would you experience this event or something? And then from there, I mean that's an engaging question that everyone's going to want to answer from there. They develop their own project specific questions and I think that kind of balance between what you're saying, there's still an ability to guide, there's still ability to spark the interest right away, and go to all those places that you initially wanted them to. You know, we're gonna learn about volcanoes, we're gonna learn about all these things. But to have them guide that and to have them kind of niche down into, well this is the subtopic, within volcanoes that I'm super interested in. And so I'm just gonna have the freedom to go there, is so wonderful. And I hope that balance between, you know, guiding and student voice, enabling student voice helps people kind of paint a picture of, oh this is possible for my class and I can do this and it doesn't seem as scary as just completely letting go of all control. And so this is a lovely picture you're painting for us.
Mark: And I think the one thing that came across from my conversation with him was the fact that he said it might look different next year because, you know, we created this and we've learned, as educators and leaders and teachers, of how we thought it might go and were surprised. But we can also then tweak that slightly differently to make it even better with different boundaries or support network or whatever, it happens to be, not being rigid ourselves as leaders to think all right, okay, now we found the, you know, the golden bullet or the silver bullet rather to kind of make it look a certain way so that it then looks fantastic and we know that within this we're going to get some great results to be able to morph and change and see how it is.
The next year group is a different year group with different personalities and different situations. And so I think, yeah, just to have it from both sides that we're all learning, we're all morphing, we all have that fluidity to kind of beyond that journey together, we're learning together and I think that's a really powerful place to be
Lindsay: Super powerful. I love that. And I know we kind of mentioned arts within that framework of the volcano example and what could art look like. And so as an advocate for the arts and education yourself, what ways have you seen art be used, you know, in education to help students have that voice, to help students pursue whatever their interests are and really help them flourish as people in the classroom?
Mark: Well, I think that the main thing is my personal experience and I'm a professional musician, you know. I'm a drummer and percussionist and I've got to play all over the world and all sorts of different situations. But I remember being at school and you know, you go to Math, you go to English to French, you do all of those subjects and then we did Music. And there was something about that that was different.
And I had a drum teacher who kind of took me under his wing and I thought this is really great and he said, "maybe you should perform in some local ensembles.", which I did and the whole world opened up. But what it did is it showed me there was a voice that I could use to show up in the world as me in a way that I didn't in any other way.
And I think that's what the arts does. You know, whether it's in drama, whether it's actually art in its traditional sense in terms of creating something or painting or drawing or whatever it is. If you can find a way to show up in the world authentically, I think the arts gives you that outlet. And I think that's where the broad curriculum comes from. You know, it may be sport, it may be something else, but the arts, I think just for so many people, it gives them an environment where they can actually say yes, there's something I can just pinpoint. It was this bit of drama, it was this play, it was this, you know, reading this some particular piece of text that just that really spoke to me, what does that mean?
Why did I feel like this then when I've never felt it before, or I felt that once more, but that was in my real life not to do with this. Why did identify with that? And again with them, back to the questioning and then hopefully because you've created the environment within the school, that question then goes back into school, whether it's the teacher or mentor whoever it is. What was this? Where does this come from? And then again, off you can go and make that kind of work and, you know, that sort of emphasis of like, great, this is something in your life which you want to just explore whether that's something that lasts a day, a week, a month, a year or in my case, my career. You know, it just opened up that entire world and I think it's really, really important from that point of view
And the other thing, which I know, it's certainly when children struggle and they have mental health issues and that kind of thing. The one thing that's always at the front of everything is: we're going to do some art related stuff. We're going to take everything back to its simplest way. We're going to color in. We're going to draw. We're going to just do something that just focuses the mind on the here and now. And I think there's very little in the arts that you can do, which doesn't make you be in the hearing now.
And that's really, really important because then that gives you a connection with yourself.
So there's the voice in terms of, yes, this is me, I can tell you what I'm all about. But there's also the understanding of there's, there's more to this than just another subject. And I think just having, just knowing that as educators giving that as an option not but just because it's a wider opportunity within the curriculum, but because it's an integral part of what we want our students to experience, no matter how far they take that in their life, but it's very different than just a broad curriculum then it's actually about that real kind of learning and empowerment.
Lindsay: Wow! I don't think I've ever heard anyone say it in that way, in both that it helps you be in the here and now, and it also helps you find a way to show up authentically in the world. That is so powerful and so connected to, you know, a lot of the work that I do around student voice and student leadership and so powerful for the, I mean, the world is always changing and current events are always happening and things are always going on. But covid particularly I think for a lot of kids, you know, to be just here and now in a particular classroom in a particular moment and to kind of land there as opposed to kind of being all over the place in your head, thinking about, you know, how's how's grandma recovering from Covid or you know, like all of these different things that are happening in our world, I think that's so profound in so many ways, both being in the here and now and being an agent of change for your community in so many ways and I just absolutely love that. Thank you for sharing that
Mark: Pleasure, and I think it carries on a little bit for what we spoke about when you're on my show. We were talking about that kind of student voice and being able to be on a board or to chat to the leadership about what you want to do.
You know, this also kind of gives you, you know, if there's arts in there and you know, you decided to come up with your own play, you come up with your own speech, your ability to present something. You know, it may give you a framework to do that, which you don't have because there are x number of students on the board somewhere they can get those things across. And I think that there's sort of a broader context about how you can then seize your opportunities and just express yourself and get your point across in a way that's already embedded in the school, hopefully, but maybe not in the traditional sense of now we've got a leadership meeting and I'm going to tell you that the children think that
Lindsay: Oh my gosh, that's so brilliant. It makes me think of, there's a one student voice study that I included in the literature review of my dissertation that I was just fascinated by, which it was high school students. But I think it could work for anyone where they were actually an after school club. I don't think it was part of the daily curriculum, but they were in drama and they created their own play around experiences of being part of the L. G. B. T. Q. Community and then they facilitated a discussion with community members, family staff as students afterwards.
Like, okay, well how did this part of the play make you feel and like let's talk about this connected to policy in our school and that was I had totally forgotten about that study for years until you just said that. And so that just makes me think, yes, there's so much potential and there are people doing it and using art in that way already. And so I think that is so cool. I hope someone listen to this episode and takes that idea and run with it and lets us know how it goes.
And so you also you mentioned I was on your podcast, Education on Fire. You host a wonderful podcast. People should check it out. I'm curious to know having all of the guests on that you've had, what have you learned from from hosting that podcast. Are there any stories or ideas that have stuck with you in being a host?
Mark: Yeah. I mean there are a few things. I think the one thing that comes across most is the fact that everyone talks about the personal connection. So it was this teacher that made me feel like this. It was this teacher that gave me this opportunity. It was this teacher that opened my eyes to something. No one's ever said, I remember how to do the five times table now because of X.
And there might have been a fantastic thing and the nine times table. We all know you can use your knuckles and all that kind of thing. But it's all about the emotion. It's about the feeling, the being seen, the understanding of the relationship. And I think that comes across a lot in terms of that's the most important thing, because that's what we're all about. We're all humans, it's about the community and the environment.
But one particular guest that always I go back to Vondale Singleton was on, and you know, we're talking about equity and the idea of everyone having an opportunity. I'll do it backwards. So he is, I think he's got a Masters. He is the person who created something called Champs, which is a male mentoring organization in Chicago. He's helping so many people. It's just inspirational, absolutely inspirational But more so, when he talked about how it all started, he had a mother who died from drugs from cocaine and crack cocaine.
I think his father was in prison through his high school years. He was part of the Ida B. Wells Housing Project. I think it's a very tough situation to be and I think he was surrounded by very difficult people in a difficult situation. When he tells the story, it's very much almost like a very desolate movie script. You know, you can kind of sort of see, how do you survive that. But more importantly, how do you get to be the person that's just inspiring so many people in the world. And it's that kind of thing. No matter where you start from, that isn't where you're going to end up. You have that choice.
So with no support and parents that obviously really were struggling in their life and unable to help him through his school, he had a mentor and this mentor showed him the opportunities, got him to chat, gave him the opportunities within the school, open desires to what was possible.
And you know, he obviously, he studied hard and he worked and he kind of created those opportunities for himself. But he pins it all on this one person. And the thing that struck me was he went to his mentor and said, I can't thank you enough, you know, what is it that I can do to pay you? How can I help? What can I, how can I respond and just do that and pay you back? And the answer was, do for someone else like I've done for you. Basically just pay it forward. And then all of a sudden, it all kind of makes sense. You know, it's that kind of, I can use everything I've learned, whether it's good, bad or indifferent. I can help someone else. I can use what I've learned and my skills and that will look different for me than it will look for you or somebody else. But it's all equitable in as much as we can all decide to do that based on what it is that we want to do, and he was the person who went out and created this most amazing opportunity. And it's helping, you know, so many young people in Chicago, just to understand all the sorts of things that we've been talking about today.
You know, he's not teaching them necessarily how to read and write. He is teaching them how to be, you know, good citizens, to understand how they can help other people, how they can support themselves, how they can create a life that they want to do and live in the best kind of way. And I just find that that's so inspiring, you know, that's not kind of not equitable inasmuch as, you know, we can all start here and we can finish there and it needs to look like this. It's equitable, because if you understand, I think the majority of what we've talked about today, you can then take the personalization of that and take it in whichever journey you happen to be, because, you know, it's not a situation where you have to have this experience or that experience or or anything like that. It's about taking it on board and showing how you can move it forward, and that's what I love about doing the podcast, is that hopefully, and like you, you expressed before, people hear these stories and understand these things and think I never thought that was possible, but somebody has done it. So I've heard someone do it and it might be that you can change that tomorrow in your classroom, or it might be that it's a conversation you can have with someone in the staff room and say, just have a listen to this, or just, you know, think about this, can we put this into place and it might be five years, 10 years down the line before it comes to fruition, but it's making that change, it's making a difference and that's the best thing you can possibly do.
Lindsay: I love that. I think that's a huge piece of, I always say, like, think big or dream big and we start with that dream question at the start of each podcast because we have to know what is possible. We have to dream up something that is possible that may not be in existence right now. And I think podcasts are a beautiful way, particularly how you do your podcast centered on stories centered on the personal experiences of folks who are in education, because that's what grabs people by the heart and that's what gives people that possibility and that imagination. And so I absolutely love that, that you're doing that podcast and everyone should go check that podcast out. Subscribe to it. It's amazing. As we kind of start to wrap up the episode, I'm curious to know what's one thing you would encourage listeners to do once they turn off the podcast, they're going about their day, something that enables them to really live in alignment with these values of justice and equity, the things that we've been talking about today.
Mark: I think it's a really great question and I was thinking about it before, Lindsay. And I just think the one thing I would suggest and it makes a big difference, but it's a small thing : ask someone a question to get an answer about their life that you didn't know.
And then that opens up a conversation. It gives you an insight into their world that you didn't know existed before. It gives you a frame of reference and an understanding and without knowing where that will go in that kind of fearless way. I I don't know where that is, but it will completely: 1) Give you that emotional connection, and it will just open up a door somewhere that will help somebody in a way that you never thought was possible.
Lindsay: That is so powerful. I'm also thinking about just the notion of curiosity which I think is really tied to justice conversations and having conversations about justice that aren't polarizing, that don't shut people down. It is just being curious and what a wonderful way to just manifest that and actually just practice curiosity by just asking people questions. This is brilliant. I love it and such an easy thing to do.
Mark: Absolutely. And I think that's a really great point you made there is the fact that, you know, we talk about system change. We talk about these massive things and I think it all usually comes back to the moment as we spoke about before, but more importantly about you know, the here and now, what can we do now?
That one question, that one one piece of advice, or often just to look, just that kind of: Yeah, I know where you are today, I've got you. But that comes from having those conversations and those questions before. So yeah, it's a small thing, but I think like you say, can be really important.
Lindsay: Awesome, and this is just a question that I usually ask for fun. What is something that you have been learning about lately? And I asked that just because I think everyone on the podcast is really a lifelong learner and going about, you know, not only teaching and educating in that sense, but really educating ourselves and learning. So what's one thing you've been learning about?
Mark: So certainly one of the things I've been reading actually is a book by Margaret Rooke and it's called You Can Change the World. And in that she interviews, I think it's 50 teenagers. And it's basically people who are showing up doing amazing things, sharing their stories from amazingly different circumstances, some of them quite difficult circumstances, but really changing their world and in turn inspiring others.
And the thing I love about it the most is it changes the narrative about what society and maybe the media perceive is what teenagers are about and what they do. You know, these are young people who are literally inspirational as teenagers. This is what I'm going to do when I'm 20, 30, having been to college, university. This is what they're doing now as teenagers. You know, some of it very personal, some of it very practical, but really just that kind of, it just fills you with, it's a lens again. It's that kind of, this is what teenagers can do and are doing. So let's see what those teenagers are doing in your life or my life and see if we can encourage that.
Lindsay: So cool, and I think about how you were talking about the "I" in "FIRE", you know, inspiring and being really excited about sharing stories like athletes and things like that, that is such a great content. If someone was like, oh I want to go do that, I want to inspire people. Like grab that book, open it up, you know, give it to kids, give excerpts to kids and really let them dream up. You know, whether it's for class, like this is a project that I want to do, and I know it's possible because I read about this in this book, or for life right now, like outside of the classroom and being an agent of change.
So I love, like concrete recommendations like that, that you can go ahead and use right away. So amazing.
And finally where can listeners learn more about you or connect with you online.
Mark: Yes. So as you mentioned, educationonfire.com is my world online and what I've done because I think what you're doing is so important and so helpful for so many people. Part of my job is the National Association for Primary Education Vice Chair as you mentioned, Is they provide a professional journal three times a year. And a recent issue was about equity and diversity and a whole range of things like that. So what I've done is I've created a page which gives you a link to be able to read that journal online free. And also I did a couple of follow up podcasts for NAPE as well, which are, I'll copy them into that page. So you've got it all there in one go. So if you go to educationonfire.com/timeforteachership, then we'll make sure that all of that is there for you just to have a look at and hopefully will give you a little bit of extra inspiration and support.
Lindsay: That is amazing. Mark Taylor thank you so much for doing that and for being on the podcast today. This is a wonderful conversation
Mark: Lindsay, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
Lindsay: 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. Until next time, leaders, continue to think big, act brave, and be your best self.
Mark can be found on his website.
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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.