Education is the Front Line of the Civil Rights Movement with Sean PriestRead Now
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Lindsay Lyons: Sean Priest has been the principal at Sequoia High School in Redwood City, California since 2014. He helped drive and strengthen a culture of equity and systemic reform in order to serve the large and diverse bay area population of students and families. Sequoia's priorities under Sean's leadership have been shifting grading practices towards greater equity, expanding inclusion in the schools I. P. Program, implementing mindfulness practices schoolwide, and developing future leaders in education. He completed a Stanford Principal Fellowship in 2017 and leads school accreditation teams for the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Prior to becoming a school leader, Sean taught Spanish and AVID for eight years.
For reference, this episode was recorded August 18th, 2021. Let's hear from Sean Priest.
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.
Sean Priest, welcome to the Time for Teachership podcast.
Sean Priest: Hello. Thanks for having me. This is awesome.
Lindsay Lyons: Thank you so much for being here. I'm excited for our conversation today. I know I just read your professional bio, is there anything else you would like to say to further introduce yourself to our listeners
Sean Priest: Only that I really feel, and this is every day that I have the best job in the world. There's no two days that are alike. Being a principal is always exciting, it's challenging, but those challenges are worthy and the problems that we solve are ones that help make people's lives better.
And over the years I've gotten to know so many amazing people on their good days and on their bad days, they've definitely enriched my life.
Lindsay Lyons: Oh, that's awesome, thank you so much for sharing that. I love that. And so one of the things we like to start with on this show is this idea of freedom dreaming and kind of the dreams that we have for education and I absolutely love Dr. Bettina Love's quote about freedom dreaming where she says, dreams grounded in the critique of injustice and really kind of what we're talking about. And so with that quote in mind, what is the big dream that you hold for the field of education?
Sean Priest: Well for me it's all about empowerment. I think about our students coming in and we use this phrase equity and access equity and outcomes a lot as part of our, you know, discussions around our values and how they inform what we do. And so for me it's all about empowerment. It's all about helping students understand what their story is. And how to, I think draw from that story.
Lindsay Lyons: I love that, that's so great and I love that equity and access equity and outcomes as well. When you think about kind of the equity journey that you and your school have kind of taken and the practices that you embody as an educational community, were there times where people had to like shift their minds from more traditional grading, traditional assessment, traditional practices to what you have now, or was, you know, the mindset kind of already present in so many of the educators and it just kind of has, has been refined and honed and flourished, that I'm curious about this minds at peace because I think for so many listeners who might be in traditional schools or have colleagues who are, you know, traditionally grading and they're trying to experiment with something different, you know, what is that mindset shift that maybe needs to occur in a traditional setting, to be able to have more equity in assessment and equity and outcome?
Sean Priest: Yeah. For us, what was successful was really grounding the conversation from the beginning and values. So I, you know, I never came to my staff and said, here's what we're gonna do because I think it's the right thing. I feel like sources of authority are at there are our strongest when they are grounded in sort of a moral imperative, You know. I mean, I can get the building to get out onto the football field by turning on the alarm and going on to the loudspeaker because everybody acknowledges that my authority as the principal is to be able to evacuate the building and keep people safe. But when it comes to actually changing classroom practices and having people who have maybe been doing something for some way for their entire career and are used to that even before they started into teaching, those are, that's a much different conversation. And so to ground those changes in, hey, I'm the principal, this is what I want to do. Or even, hey, your department members are doing this. I need you to come along. You're gonna have a very low rate of return.
So what we've done from the beginning is sort of exercised in conversations about values. And I've been really explicit, I frame my values around questions, you know, so I'm saying like I need people to know that to be on the same page as me,
you're affirmatively answering the question, do you believe that all students want to be successful in their learning? I mean that's just like the fundamental for me, right? It's not just students, all people, people want to be successful in the things they said about to learn and to master, otherwise they wouldn't set about to learn then to master. Now, that's not always the same thing as being successful in school, but it pretty much, I think it's true across the board, whether it's skateboarding, video games or calculus.
And then the other question that I always follow that one up with is do you believe that there are things outside of students control that are impeding that learning or impeding that success? And so now it gets really interesting because the third question is, do you believe that it's our duty as public educators to either dismantle those obstacles or boost kids over those obstacles or take a sledgehammer and try and crash down those obstacles so that our students can break through. And, and for me, that's what's exciting about, you know, working in this field, that's what's exciting about public
and guess what I've said for years that public education is really the frontline of the civil rights movement in this country, certainly. And so the answering affirmatively to all those things leads them to where I think the biggest kind of intersection, when you think about what are those obstacles and what are the roots of those obstacles, whether their cultural, whether they're systemic within education, whether their socioeconomic, whether their cognitive, whatever those obstacles are, that impede students from their learning. For me, it then becomes a question of, okay, let's let's look at our grading practices and how, how we grade, right? Unless it's purely a reflection. And then the way that we give feedback unless it's purely a reflection of how successful the student has been in mastering the standards. What is it, what is it then? Is it reinforcing some of those systemic obstacles? Is it reinforcing some of those cognitive obstacles and then we can start to have a real conversation that's grounded in this moral imperative, right? I believe I answered yes to those first three questions. Why am I still giving extra credit for tissues for Kleenex boxes?
Yeah. So that's kind of how I ground those equity conversations. What's been really cool though, is that over the past two years, and again, you work in a community that is brought at least for me at a large comprehensive high school and where we're at where we're situated, we serve community pockets of a large community that are going to come with their own ideas about social justice, about equity, about public education. And so sometimes, and this has been always been kind of a frustrating thing for me, because I take language very seriously. Sometimes I found myself kind of couching these conversations in the sort of euphemisms that I would maybe rather not use. I'd rather be more explicit. And so what's been cool about the last couple of years is that we've just been calling white supremacy culture, white supremacy culture, we've just been calling racism, racism. And so that's been nice because now I think for anyway, for our staff and, and you know, having been here for a while, we've been able to hire and orient enough teachers around our values so that now we're kind of on the same page in a big way. For a school with 130 teachers, to really have these explicit conversations and really ground these tough, hey, I'm going to change what I'm doing this year conversations in because I have to unless I want to be continuing to uphold some of these systemic issues.
So that's been powerful.
Lindsay Lyons: That's amazing. So I love the idea of framing it as question values of questions. I think that's such a great way to engage people in that conversation. If the initial language is like a barrier to engagement and then having that language paired, that's like really precise and honest paired with the questions, I think it's a lovely kind of combination to engage teachers in that journey. And I also just love the quote that you said, that education is the front line of the civil rights movement. I think that's so profound and so much of what we're doing, right?. If we're not educating for justice, what are we really doing here? So I think that's really great.
You talked a bit about assessment and I know we wanted to dive into that conversation a bit more. What does that, you know, look like to have equitable assessment and so thinking about kind of the brave actions that it takes to kind of continue an educational community in the vein of justice and equity. What steps can leaders take, particularly when thinking about grading and assessment, You know, what does it mean to be anti racist and how we grade or assess students?
What does it mean to be equitable in assessments?
Sean Priest: Well, I think, you know, the most important thing is that you're, the grades that you give, and how you determine what those grades are, and the feedback that you give students about how they can, you know, demonstrate their mastery, right? As it connects to those grades, has to be consistent. And it has to be just about the learning, right? And it's really hard because what I've found over the years is that very few practices that I would call inequitable, especially around grading and assessment, come from a place of wanting to uphold inequities. In most cases, what I've found is that, you know, the kinds of things teachers are doing, things like participation grades that are highly subjective, are a lot of times away for teachers say, well, this kid doesn't do that well on my tests. And I don't, but I don't want to give him a D. I want to give him a B. So let me just give him a huge participation score, which, you know, okay, you feel better because the student got a B, but in reality that's a, like almost designed for that one kid, right?
As opposed, and maybe you put that in place because your first or second year as a teacher, you did find yourself going through with the quarter at the semester and there was that one kid, like, I can't, I just don't feel right about this, I got to switch things up and have this, you know, a nebulous, subjective way that I can sort of alter grades when it comes time to at the end of the semester, so that I can, but it's just then over time that that becomes a practice. And how much does that erode from its initial intent to being away for you or for a teacher to uphold practices that ultimately, you know, don't help kids or don't help your school in your school culture be more equitable. So those are, and so those are really hard to let go of as well, because you see, I come from this place at, from a good place.
The other one, I think that's really tough for teachers to let go of is the motivation piece, right? And the idea of homework, which to me has always been a, you know, a social justice issue, right?
Homework is an equity issue and whether or not a student has a job, especially when you're talking about high school. You know I was in a US History class with 11th graders last year or last week sorry. And just I had a few minutes to, I was covering for a teacher and they were done with their assignments. So I just started talking with them and I said how many of you all had a summer job, you know like raise your hand if you work this summer. And I knew, I mean I had an idea that there was gonna be a lot of students who raised their hands. And sure enough it was a good 80% of the kids in the class. So then we started talking about where they had worked, boys and girls club, chick fillet all over the place. You had a whole range of, and so to understand, yeah everybody's working, everybody's proud of that work. You know, that was the other thing is that the kids lit up. They all got really quiet and listen to each other as they were talking about what their summer jobs were, right? And so this idea, especially when you're dealing with high schoolers that everybody's just going home, everybody is going to a desk and turning on their lamp in their room and opening their, cracking open their books and getting to work and if they're not doing that, they don't care about their education. Like that's a really archaic idea.
If I reframe it that way, everybody is going to roll their eyes and say, well, that's not what I believe. But if homework has a 40%, 60%, 30%, 10% value, you are in some way acknowledging that that's what you believe, right? And if you're saying, well, if I don't put a grade on to it, then the kids won't do their homework. You know, it sounds great. Everybody's like, yeah, if you don't put any value on and there are kids who purely do homework for the value of it on as it affects their grade because that's how they've been trained and they're good at learning.
And there's other students though, and a lot of students who getting a zero on the homework does not mean, oh, shoot, I better do my homework tonight. It doesn't change anything because maybe they don't have that kind of choice for those kinds of opportunities or resources or maybe it's just not a motivator. So I think kind of disabusing some of those notions, right, that kids will not continue to work. Because we've seen examples, within models that don't grade, you know, that don't provide value to homework where again, that appears that pier equitable model where the grade truly is a reflection of how well the student has been able to demonstrate mastery of the standards. Here are the things that everybody is going to learn in this class.
Here are the ways that you're going to be able to demonstrate. And there are lots of ways that you're gonna be able to demonstrate it. And as few of them as possible are time bound. In other words, if you can master this, you can show me that you've mastered this in october, great. But if you can't do it until March, also, great because we've got the whole year together and the most important thing is that you've mastered this standard at the end of it.
Now, you're starting to open up conversations about what are ways that were actually differentiating for some of those cognitive differences in students, linguistic differences in students and again, some of those things socioeconomic or cultural where kids don't have necessarily the same amount of time and resources at home to do things like homework., so those are again, those are the conversations that you open up when you start really, I think giving staff time to step back and reflect on what their practices are really are. Because I think that's the other thing is we're just in such a fast paced environment. We don't take a lot of time to step back and say, okay, we are going to really look at what we do.
We've been lucky through our Education Foundation will be able to fund a release day for every department.
So each department has pulled out of school once a year and we've done that for gosh, the past, I think 13 years or so here at Sequoia. It's been a while and for many of those years we will, we've looked at grading explicitly, right? And the conversation always starts with like a little self assessment. So just on your own, everybody take your laptop and go through this questionnaire and then let's look at the results and really think about how, what you do aligns with what you profess to be your values, and that's where you get the aha. And then it's not me saying, hey, I need you to stop doing this practice, it's the teacher thing, I need to stop doing this practice because it's, it's actually harming kids.
Lindsay Lyons: I love so much of what you just said, particularly, I love that you were able to have that release date for each department. I know as a teacher when I finally got to a school where we would, we would have a day, we would usually use as curriculum development like we're in a department, we're brainstorming the cool curriculum that were, you know, personalizing for our students and I love that also, I think it really connects and you're kind of speaking to this beyond just like the grading and how you actually give the reflection on a student's piece of work and what it is,
great. It's also creating the opportunities for students to demonstrate mastery in a variety of ways, which is also curriculum development in a way, right? It's where do we enable students to have multiple opportunities in multiple means? And I love that you said it's not time bound because I think that's the other thing that teachers who are kind of shifting to that idea are struggling with or I've heard that they struggle with is, but I need all of my class to be on, you know, this particular unit and this particular moment in time so that we can move on together. Whereas that's just not how student brains work. And so, you know, recognizing that it's going to take people more time. And also recognizing, you know, these are the skills as you said, and these are the standards that we're assessing being really thoughtful to and what we're choosing to focus on and center and have multiple opportunities throughout the year to practice and demonstrate mastery on, I think is a huge kind of planning piece to this, this equitable assessment work and also very necessary if we want to have equity and how we grade. Because if we say there's like, you know, 500 standards that we're going to, you know, assess students on,
it's just impossible to give 500 assessments multiple times for each standard. And so it's really, I think that priority conversation sounds like it might be I am wondering I guess is that part of the conversation when people have those released days of how do we plan for this? How do we plan the standards and the assessment pieces?
Sean Priest: Yes. And you know, we we've been lucky here at Sequoia to have very smart and strategic department chairs who have partnered in creating, you know, the sort of the the next, you know, step in a day like that, right? So we lay out, here's how the day is going to start, and then where do we envision this going for your department? And each department is kind of in its own place as you do this kind of work. You know, we were never, we never sat down and said we want to be a standards based grading school by, you know, 2015 or something like that. We said here's what we want to do. Here's what, here's where we want to go. We want it, we want to like expand equitable grading practices across our school.
And we would love that to mean that let's say 50% of our teachers, our curricular teams rather are doing this consistently within three years within five years. And then it became really a conversation with the department chairs. How do you think we get there? And what is this day look like?
The reason that the fourth, you know, I went through those three of those four questions. The reason that the fourth question question for me is about grading as opposed to, let's say, just you know, standards or curriculum or some other areas because I do feel and you you touched on it, I think, right? That all these conversations spiral out of grading for me, that's where they all sort of meet. And because you do you know when you are thinking to yourself, I need to come up with a grade book, and each grade book has to have an item in the grade book and each each item has to have a point value and those point values need to be weighted so that you know. That kind of dictates how your whole semester is going to lay out, that's how you're gonna build units, lessons the whole thing, right?
Whereas when you say like, the goal is to, you know, by the time we run out of days, right? that my students will have been able to demonstrate mastery of these, let's say 10 standards. Then it's a whole different conversation about how you sort of structure your time and I think it allows for a lot more creativity and freedom and certainly that we get back to this idea of empowerment, right? The most effective models that I've seen are when the teachers have designed an interface, and some of the grading platforms do this okay, but that where there is an interface that the student can interact with, where they can actually see where they're at with all of those standards. That's the conversation, right?
That is most interesting in this is when you just run into a kid in the hallway and you ask them about their English class and instead of telling you what novel they're reading, right? They tell you, oh, well, you know, what, what are you working on now? Well, I'm trying to get better at, you know, defending claims with evidence, like that's like, okay,
yes, like that's what I want to, that's exciting, right? And that's ultimately what, you know, because there's that's something that the kids sees, hey, this is something that makes me more effective and more like this, This gives me power, this allows me to flex and and so that's really exciting to me when you can, when you design a model, the whole course kind of comes kind of shakes out of this model where where it's all about students really understanding what they're doing. And if they haven't and it takes a lot of that anxiety to away, like, so we have a whole component of our school site plan that addresses socio emotional wellness and balance, right? I feel like when we talk about grading that's a huge source of stress and anxiety for kids, whether it's the kids who are trying to get into uber competitive colleges or whether it's kids who just don't feel like they belong because they've never, You know, had success academically and so that by the time they're in 9th, 10th, 11th grade, I just sort of given up on school as being something that's there for them or something that's theirs.
This model of saying, you know what, you have a lot of power here, right? And your ability to demonstrate master, we're gonna give you lots of opportunities and different ways you might demonstrate that mastery. Now, all of a sudden that changes the equation. It makes it so that this quiz on friday isn't do or die if I do great on it, awesome, if I don't, it doesn't sink my grade, I still might get in to Ramona even though I didn't do well on the quiz on Friday. And I think it just creates a better sense of balance of the school and then you can really say, hey, we care about wellness and students say, yeah, but I'm like doing eight hours of homework a night or yeah. but this teacher keeps failing because I don't, you know, bring my homework in or I'm late to class. So I keep losing points. So do you care about me?
Lindsay Lyons: Yeah. Such profound examples. And I love that you're talking about voice and centering, kind of a student voice and student power and ownership of this process. And I think, one of the things that I'm curious about is you as a leader are dedicated to leading schoolwide growth towards equity.
You see that in the conversations about grading we've just had, and I'm curious to know kind of two questions related to that. One : What are the sources of authority that informed, like how you lead and how you're an equitable leader? And then also like what are the actions that if a listener is thinking, like, I wanna, you know, lead equitable change in my school, that you found to be really successful in advancing equity in your school?
Sean Priest: So the conversation about sources of authority is for me rooted in a, and I keep it close by here. I'm not, this is not, this is a book called Moral Leadership by Thomas Sergiovanni. And I was introduced to this book probably seven years ago and he's explicit about naming the different sources. There's lots of sources of authority, right? So my ability just to have a conversation one on one maybe with one of my staff members and their orientation to me and to the school and to their profession, that might be enough. I might be able to just say, "hey, I really need you to do this. It's really important to me." but that's not gonna work for 130 teachers and it might not even be sustaining, right?
That might not be something that teachers like, great, I'll do whatever you say. And then when the next person comes along and says, now I need you to do this and say, okay, I'll do that. But for me that again, that this was the highest authority comes from that moral source, right?
So it's not like, I hope that nobody at my school is doing work around equity because they think that's what I want them to do. I hope they value my partnership and know that I'm there to support them and defend their work if it comes under scrutiny. But I hope they're not doing it just because they think I want them to, because that's not sustaining, right? The work should come from the idea that to, but do this would be sort of an abdication of this, I think very, very sacred duty that we have in public education, which is to dismantle some of these obstacles, whatever obstacles we can to keep our students from being successful in their learning, because it's a really sacred covenant, I think that we have, right? I mean, you're setting more than anything.
We talk about the skills of the 21st century and do we know what our students are, the jobs, they're even going to have? All that stuff is very interesting, is sort of a thought exercise. But at the end of the day, like if we don't graduate students who feel like they can be successful in their learning and that they can, that they will be successful in their learning because they have specific strategies and skills and examples of where it's worked and that's the ultimate failure, Right? So I find that to be I think the most potent source of authority. It's again, it's not about necessarily systems that we put in place or things that we do, but really the taking the time, setting aside the time to have the conversations where folks, you know, very, very smart professionals come to these conclusions on their own and or maybe pushed to do so, but it's not about because you know, the the principal says so or you know, I want to do what Sean says, that's not sustaining,
Lindsay Lyons: I love that you're emphasizing to throughout the conversation just that moment of reflection or those moments of reflection, because I think that for colleagues, you know adults, but also young people in classes and having that ability, like you're saying to recognize they can be successful in their learning both in and out of school, both now and in the future and that I think is the moments where I have seen personally myself learned most, and also the students in my classes learn the most when we actually take the time to have those reflective moments and think about what worked for me, what didn't work for me?
Let's have the conversation. And so that reflection, I feel like it's just such a strong theme, whether you're leading a staff or you know, you're facilitating a classroom learning experience, that reflection seems to be really critical to leading equity work and growing and being really an empowered kind of agent of change for oneself.
Sean Priest: Another reflection that we have this, Yeah, is how do we model what we want to see in the teacher's, right? So if I'm, you know, advocating for teachers to let go maybe of some of their authority, you know, things they've held as authority pieces in their classroom, or if I'm advocating for teachers to look for ways that they can empower students through their practices, you got to do the same thing, right? You can't be an autocrat and then expect the other to work the other way. So, in terms of school leadership, you know, it is there's lots of opportunity that's kind of always the first question that we ask when we're trying to design some of these experiences as our admin team are working with our department chairs or some of our other teacher leaders, how are we going to model what we want to see in the activities that we do?
Lindsay Lyons: It's such a profound kind of concept. I remember I, we were talking before we started recording that I used to work at a NPS school or international network for public schools and they have these principles that they operate under and one of them is a shared learning model and so that's exactly what it was. It's we as adults are modeling and doing the same exact things in our own growth and development that we aim for students to do. And it opens up so many cool conversations where you can just talk to students about what you're learning and what you're doing and we've invited students into professional development. And we've kind of co learned together and there's so much opportunity when you're able to work and operate in that way. So I'm so thankful that you brought that up, I think that's super cool.
Sean Priest: I'm fascinated by the idea of how to bring a stronger student voice into the, like actual nuts and bolts professional development, right? I mean I think there's like two there's two kinds of professional development. That there's a professional development where I tell you what you need to know, right, to do your job or what I think you need to know to do your job or somebody thinks you need to know.
And then there's a professional development that like helps you think about how you're going to solve the problems that you need to solve to do your job, right?
And that second one, you know, there's like, there's the first one is like kind of that, I think the mandatory HR training, like you need to watch this video for 60 minutes and answered 10 questions. The second version to me is like the much more interesting. So if I'm ever, wherever designing activities for our staff of the departments that doesn't fall into that second category, I know we're on the wrong track. But to me that the richness of being able to look at our professional practice through that lens, but with students, you know, as a part of that conversation, that's been, that's something that I have not figured out, and so I'm super interested in how to do
That one that we've tried a number of things, what I find to be really challenging is our ways in which that a real authentic student voice can get to the table right? Because when you have students who are at the table, the whole, everything changes right? There's this like, it's the, they're thinking about,, what am I doing here, what do they want, what do people want me to hear, what, you know, what do you want me to say?
So every once in a while, you kind of get lightning in a bottle, but I've never quite been able to crack what it is. That would be, my guess is that it can't be one off stuff. It's got to be ongoing, you've got to establish real trust and I think it would probably be the kind of thing where, you know, a model that could be developed that as part of a kind of a regular classroom activity, whether it was using, I mean, and I think you see some of it in restorative practices, I think this could be very valuable in developing the kind of trust that would really push educators to be responsive to student voice in their practice. But in terms of making it happen Schoolwide, it's been something that has been elusive thus far. So I'm always interested in hearing more.
Lindsay Lyons: Yeah, and I would love for anyone listening, if you have thoughts that you want to share, absolutely go for it. I'd love to hear that for me, one of the things that I've realized, and I'm trying to think about, there's the organization that I cannot think of the name of, that is based out of University of Vermont that has really cool student voice and youth adult partnerships stuff. That they've been doing, where they have students who again, yeah, you're right, it's this ongoing thing with their student groups who actually lead professional development.
So it's actually almost kind of like version one of what you're talking about with pd. So it's like a transfer of information but it's student led. And so it's like here are the things that we see, here are the things that you can do to partner with us in curriculum development and facilitation of learning. And so that's kind of one approach that I've seen
And then the other just factor that I think is really interesting in the research that I've seen is kind of the tokenization of students. So like you're saying like bringing in students. If you have a smaller number of students than adults, like your ratio is like one student to 20 adults in a pd, that's absolutely what happens is the students kind of like, I don't even know why I'm here and they're kind of conforming to whatever the adult dynamic is, versus having like 50/50 split where now the students are like, okay half of us are students. You know, maybe my voice is more meaningful and authentic and value to the point where I can disagree with my teacher who's sitting across the table and that's okay, that's why I'm here. So I think that's a really interesting dynamic and I'm totally learning this as well.
So again, any listeners who want to share some ideas, I'd love to hear that. But I think a really valuable goal that you're striving for as well to do that more with students. So thank you for sharing that.
I think we've talked about so many different things today on the podcast and so I'm curious to know for the listeners who are kind of finishing up the episode and ready to take action. What's one starting point? Like one thing that you could encourage someone to kind of start the journey toward leading equity, equitable grading practices, whatever it is, what's that first thing that they could do?
Sean Priest: So number one, I think is taking the time to really reflect on and articulate your values. And the articulating them I think is a key thing because I think it's easy to sort of think about, why this is what I value and it's important to me, it's important to me. But then write them down and say them out loud, right? And then come back to him the next day, right? It's not a one off and see them all out again and revise them and really think about what they mean to you and whether or not they really are part of, you know, your professional identity.
And if they're not to make sure they are, and be able to articulate and be comfortable articulating into all kinds of people, right, to students, to your colleagues, right? Don't don't be shy, like be proud of those values. That's an important first step, because then what you can do, I think is you can do some sort of a self assessment of your practices and reflected what is it that I do? Exactly, right? Whether it's around assessment, grading, feedback. And then how much do I, you know, how much do those practices can either conform to or, maybe, you know, go against what I profess to be my values.
And that's a that's a really cool journey to go on, because I think then then you just you've you've opened yourself up. For me, I've seen this be kind of a real career changer, right? So I've had a number of teachers who are at that sort of 14 to 18 year mark in their career. They're really, really good, really good teachers, amazing with kids. They know their stuff, they have that, you know, they never break a sweat.
Kids love their classes are challenged and they're, you know, they're all about equity. And then you have this conversation where you start saying, okay, well, let's really look at the things that you're doing and where are there ways that we're maybe upholding some of these things that are keeping kids out and it's been, you know, it's rejuvenating. It's like, all of a sudden, now I have a whole new sense of purpose
And it's not to punish anyone for what they've been doing. I mean, we all have, like, this is a journey, right? And that's again, modeling that idea of lifelong learning. There's tons of things as a team. I mean, this is for me, is that when I look back on my eight years in the classroom, there's all kinds of stuff I was doing that, I'm like, oh my gosh, I can't believe that I was in there. There are also little seeds of things that I didn't know why I did them, but they turned out to be like, that's pretty cool that I did that. Like, I had no equity framework to necessarily, you know, explain why I was doing that. It just sort of seemed like the right thing to do and now that I think now that I know more about this now that I've read more things that I learned more and I've seen more examples, it's like, that was pretty cool.
So I think it's, you know, it's important not to say like you've been doing it wrong for the last 14 years because people should be very proud of a career in the classroom. That's like an amazing accomplishment to reach a decade to reach 15 years, but it doesn't necessarily have to mean that you, you're on the backstretch and that you can just sort of coast in to retirement. It really hopefully, can be a point of rejuvenation for teachers
Lindsay Lyons: And I love that what you're naming their about lifelong learning is a perfect segue into this question that I just asked for fun for the most part, but being lifelong learners ourselves, I'm just curious what's something that you have been learning about lately? It could be related to education, but it could also be anything.
Sean Priest: Well, I'm so, I'm fascinated by, like ideas of information and knowledge. So I was reading a book. It's by Susan Orlean, it's called The Library. I don't know if, The Library Book and it's sort of about like it tells a story about the fire, there was a fire in 1986 in the L A Public library, the central library burned down, had a pretty bad fire. But that's just the through line, through which she sort of, I think looks at a whole bunch of different ideas of how the concept of the library has changed since, you know, the 19th century or before, as a as a public institution.
And you know, she's talking about the library is being this place where it's open to everybody. There's a sense of kindness that pervades it, right? You don't turn people away unless they're disruptive or whatever. And you have this, I think this sense of like we can take on problems without necessarily having any sort of, like agenda or political bent. And so I was thinking about that library model and how much it's changed. We sort of had a renaissance of our library media center over the past five years. We have an amazing media specialist and as we look at that as a model for, you know, what information looks like in, you know, as we move ahead and how we process information, we hold information. I'm very interested in these ideas of just like what it means to know something? I guess it's filled epistemology classes I took when I was a philosophy major, but I'm still very interested in this idea of like, what does it even mean to know something that the whole knowledge when I've got, you know, the greatest library in the world has ever seen in my pocket.
And I'm really fascinated always about these, I like anything I can read where it's like talking about, like what is the nature of knowing how is that evolving and how does information, you know, empower people. Because that gets back to this idea again for both professionally and personally as I'm sort of, all about empowering.
Lindsay Lyons: That is super fascinating. Thank you for sharing that. And now I really want to read that book. So that's going on my to read list. The last question I have for you is where can listeners learn more about you, connect with you, find your school online so that they can learn more
Sean Priest: Well, I'm, you know, I'm not, I don't have huge social media footprint. I am on Twitter and I get a lot of great ideas. I'm at capital P priest, capital S, capital M, and you know, I think I like to follow a lot of sort of voices and education, voices and equity. I learned a lot, and sort of go down a lot of rabbit holes that way. That's probably my best social media. And then, you know, our school Sequoia High School is in Redwood City California. You can see a lot of work that our department has done, just kind of browsing around the website.
What I'll also do is I'll share with you the self assessment tool that we created for our teachers as part of that department work that we did around equitable grading. I think it's just a Google form. It's a real, but again, it's something that you can copy and create or modify for your needs if you're in school leadership or in on the education forefront.
Lindsay Lyons: That sounds amazing. Thank you so much for sharing that and thank you for this conversation today Sean,
Sean Priest: Great, thanks a lot. Good to be here.
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.
You can find Sean on Twitter or on his school website.
Listen to the episode by clicking the link to your preferred podcast platform below:
Lindsay Lyons: This episode was recorded August 16th, 2021 and in it we are talking to Colin Hogan. Colin is head of school at Learning Community Charter School and has been since 2013 in Jersey City, New Jersey. From 2010 to 2013, he was the social studies coordinator for the Highland Park School District. Mr Hogan began his career in education in 1999, teaching in Chicago. He has won numerous awards for teaching and was recognized as New Jersey History Teacher of the Year in 2013. In 2017, the New Jersey Charter Schools Association named him Administrator of the Year. He currently is a faculty member at the New Jersey EXCEL program, teaching aspiring school administrators and teachers leaders. He is the proud parent of two wonderful young men and is married to an incredibly kind and understanding husband in New Jersey. Let's hear from Colin Hogan.
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
Hello and welcome to the Time for a Teachership podcast.
Colin Hogan: Hi there. Nice. It's nice to meet you.
Lindsay Lyons: So nice to meet you. I just read your amazing bio and I'm wondering if there's anything that you want to say to either add to that or frame the episode, anything you're thinking about lately just to start us off.
Colin Hogan: Yes. So we are very excited over at learning community because, we were just named a Lighthouse School by the state of New Jersey. And what the Lighthouse Award is, it's an award that focuses on issues of equity and education.
And there are three areas where you can win the award. You can win the award for, equity in regards to student discipline, course enrollment or diversity in staffing. Now it was funny when I heard about this award because I was very excited about the first two because those are things that are really in our wheelhouse, but we actually were for diversity and staffing. So we're really proud. I think this is actually something that we're not only proud, we're very excited about that. As we return to school, we know that we have one of the most diverse faculties and we are the most diverse school in the state of New Jersey. So I feel that coming back to full instruction with all the students, we will have a school where our students can find an adult that will serve as a window and a mirror to their own experience. And I think that will be essential as we sort of embark on the, as we enter into the unknown of returning after a year and a half of a, you know, pandemic-based education.
Lindsay Lyons: Yeah, that's such a powerful point. And it connects so much to students needing to feel a sense of belonging and all of that good stuff. So, I love that, and I think we'll return to that point later in the conversation, because that is that is a powerful statistic that you just shared and a powerful award that you won. So, as we kind of get into your thoughts for education, your dreams for the field of education, I love using Dr. Bettina Loves' words around freedom dreaming, and she says, you know, their dreams grounded in the critique of injustice. And so I'm curious to know what is the dream that you hold for the field of education?
Colin Hogan: Well, first of all, I want to say that I'm so excited about the Bettina Love quote, because she's been someone that has been really guiding a lot of our thought process. We read her book last summer as a faculty group of people that were really engaged with it, and we love how she doesn't give anybody any easy outs at all, which is great. So I would say that I was thinking about this, and, I think that what really matters in terms of that big dream would be true equity for everyone in education. And what that means is that we can envision an educational experience that really meets the needs of every single learner,
and that's a really huge undertaking, and it's a huge commitment.
I think that sometimes what exists instead is, and I can say this as a school leader and I can certainly say this as a parent. That what schools do is, a lot of the time they will provide an education obviously within the means of what they could do. But if we're talking about dreams, it would be incredible to be able to create an educational experience that could meet the needs of every single learner within a school system around the country and potentially around the world, I guess. What that's going to take? A lot of money and a real issue and a lot of wrestling with a lot of other things that people would need to think about because, you know, we know now that so much of what education is, it's about those people that have the most access and the loudest voices and the most resources and that often can lead to other people not getting as much as what they need. Or sometimes almost because that system exists,
I feel like when you work in a place that especially doesn't capitalize on that vision of an education that really would empower everyone and a lot of times what will happen is that, we'll do what we've always done and that will be fine. And if it's not working well, that must be you, not us. And so creating more of just in terms of that is part of it too.
So I think that it's really about envisioning, re envisioning everything about education. How do we not lose people? How do we empower people? And how do we, and how do you create the time to make that happen? And the support, build the supports to make that happen.
Lindsay Lyons: I love that, and I love that you were talking to about, you know, having to really shift from prior ways of doing things and making that the dream right, is that it doesn't need to be the way that we've always done things.
And I'm curious to know what are some of the shift away from traditional mindsets that you see as really required for people to teach in that way, to educate in that way, one that is pursuing equity and advancing equity. Are there particular mindsets that people should be giving up or or switching over to?
Colin Hogan: Well, I think that you have to kind of begin to really rethink a little bit about your relationship to student achievement and the student experience overall. What's explore, what is okay with you and what will keep you up at night. So I think that's the big question.
When I was teaching, I used to always think a lot about this, is that I would every time a student would get a D or an F, and I was a middle school teacher, so every time you have like a D or an F, these were alarming to me because I felt like these were my own grades and because it seems that I had failed. I personally believe that was the case.
How is it that a student should be in my class and fail? It was simply I had to decide that that was unacceptable for that to happen. And that's even saying that making that statement is for anybody that's been in schools. It's fairly radical because there are a lot of people that say, well, you know, some kids deserve to fail. Now that's a really complicated thing that we need to unpack because we need to understand a little bit about what are the reasons that are causing failure and why are people not being successful.
So I think that it goes into the re envisioning the concept of the classroom. I mean, I found when I was in, sort of getting my administration certification, I read a lot of Carolyn Tomlinson and what was very powerful for me, was it really changed me a lot because of her ideas about differentiation in the classroom and I started to really realize that through differentiating instructions, I could empower my students on levels that I never had before. I could give them choice, which is something that's a high leverage factor for anybody, but especially for early adolescence, but I could also ensure greater levels of success and mastery and learning.
And so I feel like looking at education from a very different lens in terms of what people's proficiencies are and where their comfort level is and helping people build, is really key to kind of employ those practices. So I feel like that's kind of where it begins and it's a great template for kind of expanding outward and looking at institutions.
Like at LCCS, my learning community where I'm at, I have the honor to lead, what we try to think about a lot is how we can have every student have moments where they truly shine and are celebrated. And so there are traditional places where that happens. Through academics, athletics and the arts, those are huge things that our schools'. So that happens. But I knew that wasn't enough. And so one thing that we started to do was just, we started to think about how we could recognize kids in other ways because there are, you know, you hear about students and everybody's met, that student with that incredible heart, but maybe that student is not somebody that we've recognized because they don't fall into one of those categories.
And so we actually kind of combined two things, we created a house system based on our school's core values. And what it did was it provides an opportunity for older students to mentor younger students. It also creates an internal faculty based family for our faculty because teachers can sometimes be in little silos. Maybe you're, if you're teaching kindergarten, you might never interact with the eighth grade math teacher. But now you can, because you're all in this house together, they're all mixed up.
And then what we saw was there was a student, and I remember this so vividly. She was in eighth grade and I've known her for a long time and I want the kid with the great heart and you know, she wasn't someone that, she was on our basketball team, but she wasn't the star basketball player. She was a good student, but not the top student. And what we saw though was when we were in these, when they had their first house meeting and she was an eighth grader. She was with a group of kindergarteners. All of a sudden she was organizing them, she was leading them, and she was so engaged with it.
Who know that this is probably a potential future educator and we arranged for her to assist in a kindergarten with one of our other teachers. So she would go up during her lunch and recess about once a week and she spent time with the kindergarten. And that was something that we were able to create for her. But we would have never seen that if we hadn't looked to create this kind of experience first.
Lindsay Lyons: That is such a powerful example and I love that you're already taking it from, you know, not just the mindset of rethinking, but how do we do the actions we can take, how do we actually do this as a school? And so much of, I think what people are hungry for, that are listening to the podcast or like what do I do, what do I do as a teacher? What do we do as a leader. And so I love this house idea. Could you explain a little bit more about if someone's listening and like, you know, a leader of a school or an educator out of school? I was like, oh, I kind of want to do this in my school. What did that look like to, to set that up or how does that operate in your school?
Colin Hogan: Well, so the house system, the way it came to be was, we were very intrigued by the idea of enhancing culture and climate.
We, the school is, our school is very teacher led and run and, but the school, it's since we were a charter school, we grew over time, but as a school. So what happens in charter school in, like if you look at, if you talk to anybody that's involved in a charter school from its inception, to maybe, now we're about 26 years old. There's a real change in an organization over time as it grows and reaches its full potential. So what wound up happening was, is that the people loved the small, intense experience of starting the school. But when the school grows to what it fully is, it's a very different thing than it's no longer that small, you know, kind of thing that it used industry that it used to be.
So one of the things that we tried to do with the house system was to recapture that, to create more of that sense of family within, with, to make that small feeling again and to create that sense of connection. I wanted,
I hoped I envisioned that our older students would have tight connections with our younger students and, they could serve as mentors and role models. And they could also, this would also be a place for student voice and leadership. We really wanted that to be a main component of this process. And then for faculty members, this could be another place of support and connection. So you could potentially develop partnerships between people. So we know that we had two teachers that they described, that they had two kind of quirky classes and they decided they would get them together on a regular basis, and that came out of the house system.
So we really feel that we wanted to make that a place where there would be sort of a family. And then we've kind of continued to build on it as time has gone on. So now we have a teacher that actually focuses on coordinating our house system. It's a real passion of hers and she does an incredible job. And we also want to, we also have the, a faculty member that's interested in leadership development from each house work with student leaders in the house, so that the student leaders are essentially running all of the house meeting.
We want the faculty members to get the benefit of the collaboration and the joy of the support, but we don't want this to be one other thing that we're doing. We want this to really be something that students owned and led and really something that they're proud of. So we still have a ways to go. I think what was really interesting though is that we, this past year because of Covid, we had to actually do this virtually to some degree. So we had to have these, you know, house meetings in zoom rooms and things like that. But it totally worked.
And I had this very profound experience because the teacher that we were working with, who was the house advisor, she was moving that day. So she said, I can't lead, and I said, okay, well I'll lead your house meeting, no problem. She said, that's great, you really don't have to do anything aside from admitting people into the zoom room. That's all you're gonna be doing, because the two students that were running the house meeting, they had everything, they pretty much ran the whole thing. I was just basically their tech support, and this was really profound, and those were 2 six graders, no less.
So that's ultimately a sign of success and what we hope to see in the future. But I highly recommend it because doing something like this creates a greater sense of family and ownership and home at school, and we really want to capture that as much as possible.
We want our students to feel that they're seen and loved and cared about and challenged all the time. And that's something that we really feel.
I know that when people come into the building, they always comment on how much they love being at our school. It has that feeling when you're there, it feels kind of like, I like to say, it feels like a hug, I guess, or something along those lines. It's a very warm place, and I think that is a lot to do with the original vision of the school of being that kind of a place. So the house system just complements that and enables us to have more of that intimate platform. So that's why we looked at the Ron Clark Academy House System, which is kind of the most famous of all of them, which they kind of based a little bit of Harry Potter. and we definitely use that as our initial platform, but it was very easy for it to, once it got going and once we really kept moving with it, it's really become something quite different.
Lindsay Lyons: That's amazing. And I'm just out of curiosity, how big are each of the houses?
So there is like one faculty and then a set number of students?
Colin Hogan: That's a good question. So we have a little bit of a problem there because we did random sorting. So what wound up happening is that you wound up having these huge houses and then these small houses, houses that were heavy with younger students, houses that were heavy with older sisters. But you know what, I personally don't mind that because I think it creates diversity in terms of that and that I think that gives you a lot, it's very interesting, like are we definitely have two big houses that have quite a rivalry? But then we have some, but some of our smaller houses do such interesting work and are really because they're smaller. I feel like they have even a tighter connection, so that's awesome.
Lindsay Lyons: Wow, that's so fascinating. I'm so curious to know more about that. So we talked about actions. The house system is one type of action. I didn't want to preclude you from sharing any other type of action. I think your school is so unique in so many ways.
And so if there's anything else that, you know, maybe a person at a traditional school, public school, you know, is thinking, how could I bring some of this creativity over to my school or create something like this? Is there anything else you think that is unique and in what you all do, that allows, you know, for that equitable dream to come true, that maybe public schools or traditional methods of schooling, don't do as much?
Colin Hogan: You know, there's nothing that we do that no one else cannot do. I I, and the things that we're doing are not even things that cost any money. It's just simply a mindset shift, I think in terms of, you know, why not? Or let's try it and you know, why we want to, you know, we think of always why we want to do this for our students. So that really is a, you know, we're always looking to see how we can do something really important that obviously matches our core value because we don't do everything. But what we really do try to do our things that empower our students, to be people that will make a difference in their own communities and beyond, that's kind of the mission of the school.
And so whatever we do, we think about how these are new opportunities. So we start by always, you always start by thinking about like, how could you create more of an opportunity to enhance the student experience and to increase student voice, to increase student mastery of learning and to, you know, help capture what a student will, how a student will sort of be engaged and seen, and I think that's something that is really important.
And there's lots of different ways to do that. I mean we have things like from, you know, even our physical spaces, we try to transform them as much as possible. Like I have a lego wall on my wall in my office that I built with students that I knew we're the kind of kids that would like to build that. I only got to that one because you get to build it once, but it was really special and experience. We have a school dog, we have all sorts of things that we try to do that, we want to make sure that people want to come to school.
And I think that's something that we all learned about this past year is that some kids don't want to come to school. And I think that's something that you have to think about a lot in terms of, and we thought a lot about that about like sort of looking, we looked at a lot at the work of Fisher, Fry and Hattie, that they had done a lot, they've done a tremendous amount in terms of, they sort of guided us through this whole process and they're guiding us out, but sending sort of norms and developing strong relationships with the students. But we already, we did a lot of things that were recommended, but because these pieces were already in place, I think it was easier to move in and out of virtual learning to hybrid and beyond because we had established these really close relationships.
You know, the greatest story that I can think of in terms of this is that our music teacher who is quite a genius, but not someone tech savvy at all. But she decided that, she said, well we're going to have a concert and she got some, you know, we had these concerts with these kids would, you know, they would, they would submit, she got them to submit all their, their sound videos and stuff like that ahead and edited and they killed themselves at home.
And then she told me we were going to have a musical. And we did Aladdin, but not a single one of the kids ever met each other in practice in person. I mean you had the magic carpet ride, you have everything. So it's all about just kind of having that kind of relationship and vision, and just really wanting to see what you can do for kids and just being unencumbered by that. I think that's really the key to a really powerful experience and it's also really empowering for teachers as well because our teacher, what we do ever do are, whenever we do our faculty surveys, people always say that autonomy is the thing that they value the most. And I think that's because they feel people feel very trusted to really do great things for kids and we worked very hard and
Lindsay Lyons: I think that's so important to name too because when we're having, you know, a lot of student voice, a lot of teacher voice in terms of leadership, that's so critical that the autonomy is present, the trust is present. Because to say, I mean I have seen schools that say they are teacher led and don't trust the teachers, and that creates a different dynamic that really impairs a lot of that forward progress.
So I love that you named that specifically and also I'm so curious your school was founded initially by parents and so I think that origin story, I'm sure must impact and influence, you know, the way the school operates and has kind of come to be, like you were saying there's so much stuff that was already in place as you create some of these new practices and habits that were just part part of the core of the mission of the school initially. And so I'm just curious to know like how have you seen that kind of evolve or how was the origin kind of influenced where you are today?
Colin Hogan: Well, it's funny you should mention that because we, when we celebrated our 20th anniversary, but we want to do all sorts of special things. Like we've made a time capsule. We had a very special, we have a special gala evening for the parents. But one of the other things that I thought would be really amazing was, is I wanted to find the founding principal of the school and you know, have him come visit the school and talk to the students a little bit about what it was like, because obviously none of the students were there anymore. And it was really a special experience and we took him to the fourth grade, he wanted to visit the fourth grade and he told them all about how he became the principal of the school and what school was like and the kids were kind of amazed because a lot of what he said was still there. You know, that it was still a place where, you know, kids were very valued and loved and it was a very exciting place and it was a very fun place to learn. And there was a lot of laughter.
And so, that I think really captured a lot of the experience and it was, it was a very special, I was one of, it was a very, very special experience for all of us to have that happen and so we were really pleased to meet one of the school's founders and to hear those stories.
Lindsay Lyons: I love how it stayed true to its mission and also evolved and like added on to it. I think that's such a beautiful blend. Another thing that I'm fascinated by in terms of historical context here and there and where the school is now, is prior to becoming a teacher, you are a community organizer and I find that so powerful as a history of in terms of influencing your leadership in terms of influencing, you know, the skills that you bring and bring out in people in your school community. How do you think those, those two things are related? You know, community organizing and running the Justice Center School?
Colin Hogan: You know, it's funny that you picked up on that. I think a lot of it is about envisioning the power of what people can do and really putting that what you said before, about trusting people and really trying to see possibilities and taking risks, I think is part of it. And then also really trying to see what everyone can contribute has been really helpful. Those are things that I learned from those previous experiences. And we're really, you know, emphasize, I mean it was, I think that was always what I wanted to do personally as just. Even when I was in high school, I started to think about like that, I wanted to make a real difference in the world, this was something that was very important.
And I didn't really know what that was going to be, but I knew that was really essential. So that was something that I think really stuck with me even into this,
Lindsay Lyons: That's beautiful and your story kind of parallels mine as well. I never actually wanted to be a teacher and I was just like, I want to do justice work and I'm not sure what that looks like, and then here we are in teaching and you're like,
Colin Hogan: Right, right, right.
Lindsay Lyons: The other thing I think is such an interesting point and you brought this up at the very top of the episode is that your school is the most diverse school, ethnically in New Jersey in terms of student population and faculty. And I wanna like point out too that it truly is the most diverse school. Sometimes people use the word diverse incorrectly. And so they'll say it's, you know, the most diverse when it is, you know, predominantly students of color or faculty of color, and, but it's not actually diverse, right? It's just predominant students of color. Your school is actually the most diverse in terms of I think the way that they calculate it is if you randomly sample any two students or faculty members, there's a high likelihood that they will be from a different ethnic background.
And so I'm so curious about what that means for your school in terms of, you know, maintaining and sustaining that diversity, but also honoring and affirming that diversity is a value and it is of value to have a highly diverse school.
Colin Hogan: Yeah. You know, i, it's something that we're really, really, really, it's the thing that we love the most. I'm certain that is, my parents were the most popular K through eight, a pre K through eight option for parents in the city. And I know it's clearly because of this because people know that their children are getting a huge advantage. How else can you say it? I mean, there's no way that's not happening because our students really develop a deeper understanding and sense of empathy. And really the, you know, urban areas are very, you know, they are sort of different. They are segregated. So I think this is one of the few places where people can come and that's not the situation.
In fact the school even moved to our current location to avoid some of the sort of, not to, to maintain its diversity. That's how, what a strong commitment the school has to it. And it's, and we introduced a weighted lottery a few years ago to give greater preference to people that were in section eight housing or free and reduced lunch so that we could maintain our diversity because it's so essential, you know, Jersey City, because we're right across the river from New York is gentrifying like crazy. And so you have to work very, very hard to think about strategies to maintain your student diversity and your faculty diversity.
We're really excited because we're launching like a bypath leadership committee this year. And we feel that that will be really helpful for being a place where our faculty are bypath-ed faculty will have support and be a forum for them to, express concerns, ideas and really and create another internal family and network at school, which we think is really essential.
You know, because a lot of the times, if you don't work to develop strategies to maintain your and sustain your diversity, you will lose it. So that's something. And I would say that at the school, we spent a lot of time being a conscious effort to really do deep dives into things and not sort of a surface area look.
So, we are, we just read that our, our school read this year was the undefeated, like Kwame Alexander, and we really spent a lot of time unpacking what that would mean for us to read that book pre K through eight because it's not the easiest book. There's some really difficult stuff in there because it tells the story of the black experience, the United States and it's great, but it's also a lot. And we spend a lot of time thinking about how we can do this, you know, from all ages and having a really good, intense conversation about this allowed everybody, and for people to also say, I don't know how to do this and having a space where people could say that and feel safe saying that, is also really important because that way we can do a better job, we can help each other.
So that's why I think kind of where we are with that.
Lindsay Lyons: That's so incredibly well said, and I love that you're modeling all of the things that go into it. It's not just, we read this book and that's it, you know. There's so much, you know, culture work or agreement building that is involved in that to do it well. And so I really appreciate not only that, but also that you're like, it can be done K through eight, right? Like some people might argue that it couldn't and I agree that it absolutely can and should be. And I love that you're doing that and having those conversations about the how, not debating the why or should it be? So that's beautiful.
We've talked about so many things in this episode and so I'm curious to note for the listener who's feeling excited but also may be overwhelmed by all the things. Where's one place they could start or one action that they could take as their kind of closing the episode and ready to go put something into action.
Colin Hogan: Oh, well, one thing I would say is I would have two recommendations. Is one is don't forget that the most important thing our relationships. So you know, making sure that you start the year, we always have our faculty start with something we call the significant 72, which is a very common concept of spending the 1st 72 hours of school focused only on building student relationships.
We really, really want to. And you can obviously get and listen, I know because I'm a middle school person. That you can get your routines in, you can get all that stuff in through building relationships. So don't worry, you can get, you can make that all happen, but really making sure that you have those relationships in place are very important.
And then I think the secondary thing is I remember this so vividly from going back to what Carolyn Tomlinson said, that she said, you know, when you think about differentiated practice, you don't think about when you start to cook, you don't make a gourmet meal every night. You might make something ambitious once and then, you know, you start to build your repertoire. So doing something at least one less than a week that you can differentiate or focus on, is a great start. And it will be very empowering for your students. And there will be times when it won't work and that's ok, and you will try it again and you'll think about that and take some time to reflect. So I encourage both those practices because I think they're very, very powerful and will set up any students that you're serving with for success.
Lindsay Lyons: I love those and I loved to that there is a phrase I never knew, it's called the significant 72. We always did that when I was teaching, but I never knew there was a phrase to it, so that's awesome.
One of the things that I asked just for fun at the end of episodes are, you know, we've all kind of been saying all of the guests on the podcast. We've been saying in this episode, you know, the things that we've been learning and kind of growing our practice around. And so I'm curious to know what is something that you have been learning about lately and it could be education related or otherwise, but anything that you've been learning
Colin Hogan: Well, I've been spending a lot of time thinking a lot about PLCs because we are revisiting that concept for the fall. So I'm spending a lot of time really working on that. So that's something and I'm also trying to figure out, I would like to be able to braid bread a lot better than I currently do because it's not going so well. I try and I'm told by my family oh that looks nice, just being sarcastic.
Lindsay Lyons: I love it. I love that there's an education one and then a home one. So great and then finally, I'm sure listeners are going to want to connect with you, follow your school and find you guys online. So where can people go do that?
Colin Hogan: Sure. So you can follow me at @Mrcolinhogan on Twitter, and I've been a little bit taking a little break but I'm getting back on it. And then we can be found on Instagram and Twitter at, let me just LCCS. It's @lccs_jerseycity. And then our website obviously is another place to find us as well.
Lindsay Lyons: Perfect thank you so much. This is a great conversation and thank you for being on the podcast Colin
Colin Hogan: Thank you so much. It was wonderful.
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.
You can contact Colin via:
Toss Out the Assumption That Your First Years of Teaching Will Be Miserable with Jeanne WolzRead Now
Listen to the episode by clicking the link to your preferred podcast platform below:
Lindsay Lyons: In this episode, you'll be hearing from Jeanne Wolz. For reference, this episode was recorded on November 10th, 2021. So let me tell you a little bit about Jeanne. She's a former middle school teacher, department chair, school leader and college instructor and is the founder of the New Teacher Masterminds, a transformational virtual PLC network that connects and powers and provides wraparound support for new teachers across the country. As a new teacher herself, she won the Outstanding Beginning Teacher Award from the Illinois Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. Jeanne's Mission is to help new teachers thrive during their first years of teaching so they feel they can stay and grow in the profession for years to come. I'm so excited for you to hear from Jeanne, Let's dive into 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.
Jeanne Wolz, welcome to the Time for Teachership podcast.
Jeanne Wolz: Thank you so much for having me. I'm so happy to be here.
Lindsay Lyons: I'm so excited that you're here and I'd love to just get your thoughts on, you know, I just read your professional bio but I think sometimes there's like this element of professionalism to bios that you kind of missed the personal aspect or you know, you want to ground yourself in something other than like the list of things that we have accomplished. So, I love asking the question of, you know, how do you want to add to that formal intro and introduce yourself to our listeners?
Jeanne Wolz: Yeah, I love that you're asking this question because I also agree, I'm the biggest creature than you are more than a teacher and more than your accomplishments.
So I think just some more personal things about me. I love to travel. We're actually gonna go on this RV adventure this winter for a few months. And also that I am a mom of an almost two year old, which is crazy to think, but that takes up a lot of my brain most of the time as well,
Lindsay Lyons: Awesome. Thank you so much for sharing. And as a fellow traveler, I feel like that is an important distinction to make. Like there's something about travelers who are like, let's go do stuff, awesome. So as we think about, kind of your dream for education and we kind of laid the foundation for the episode around what education would look like, you know, if you could kind of create it. I love Dr. Bettina Loves' quote about freedom dreaming and she says there are dreams grounded in the critique of injustice. And so through that lens, thinking about the big dream you hold for the field of education, how would you describe that for our listeners?
Jeanne Wolz: Yeah. I think my dream for education is for every new teacher to experience their first few years as a cherished and important role in person and agent in education and equity and education.
And in order for that to happen for all schools to have induction programs for new teachers that are designed and sober to the challenges that all new teachers face, and are designed to keep their vision and their passion intact, which is so important and I just feel so often overlooked, but it doesn't need to be.
Lindsay Lyons: Yeah. That idea of keeping your vision and passion intact is, I think what is often the cause of people leaving the profession after 3-5 years, right? Like that almost happened to me just being in these different school systems that were not what I envisioned teaching to be, and did not give me the level of autonomy and support that I needed. And I almost quit teaching after three years and just completely tried to do professions.
Jeanne Wolz: Yeah, and that could have been solved very easily. Well, maybe not very easily, but it could have been solved and it's something I think we need to pay attention to if we want teachers to be staying in the profession.
Lindsay Lyons: Absolutely, and so I'm curious to know because oftentimes we don't solve that right? We don't do those things.
So what are the ways that educational leaders maybe need to be thinking a little bit differently or even teachers need to be thinking a little bit differently and really shift their mindset around, you know, what those first few years of teaching look like and what supports for those teachers and their initial years look like?
Jeanne Wolz: Yeah, so the first one and the biggest one, I think the most foundational one, and this is something that I say, to new teachers all the time, but now I'm really speaking to veteran teachers and building leaders, and that is tossing out this assumption that your first few years of teaching have to be miserable. Like if we're assuming that then what supports, like, what's the point of supporting new teachers? So instead of that, the mindset shift, I really want to challenge everyone listening to make, is how can we create the first few years or make the first few years of teaching the best years of a teacher's career, like how can we aim for that and just think about how much that shifts the conversation,
and the kinds of supports that we need to enact and the kinds of experiences we want to give our first, 2nd, 3rd year teachers in our buildings. So that's the biggest one and I have another one, but I don't know if you wanted to.
Lindsay Lyons: Absolutely, let's hear it.
Jeanne Wolz: So the second one, and it's kind of building off of this, is that teachers support needs to go beyond just best practice. We know with students if they are not in an emotionally stable state or if they're not getting their basic needs met that they can't learn. And it's the same thing with teachers and especially with new teachers. Your first few years teaching, you're going through challenges that are not just professionally challenging, but they are emotionally taxing and they are also, you're also going through a huge identity shift and I think if you've been a teacher, you know exactly what I'm talking about. It's a huge identity shift. It's almost, I actually think now being a new parent, it's very similar to becoming a new parent, like it's just a giant shift and you're coming up against a lot of challenges and so we need to be designing programs that take that into account, predict it and then provide some for teachers.
Lindsay Lyons: I love that. Oh my gosh, not only the assumption the first one around assuming that the years are going to be miserable. I think that's really a powerful thing to shift away from, but also that idea that that identity shift is so real, whether you're new to the career as your first career or like a career changer or whatever it is. Seeing yourself as a teacher is a really interesting shift and I love that you likened it to parenthood as well. I think people appreciate that shift a bit more than they do that of a teacher and what it means to be a teacher.
Jeanne Wolz: Yeah, yeah. I mean, so many people, usually teachers very often when they become a teacher, this is something they've been dreaming about or thinking about for a really long time. And so when they're starting teaching, they're trying to figure out, okay, when am I going to be a good teacher? Am I going to be good at this thing that I've dreamt of doing? Am I going to be this teacher that I've always wanted to be? And then two, is this for me? Like this is kind of their trial run. And so, yeah, I think it's just really important to think about it and I think to, when I'm thinking about identity shift, I'm also thinking about, like just speaking from my own experience, when I, when I became a teacher, I have been used to being a high achiever, good at things, organized, prepared. And now for the first time in my career, essentially had just been a student before that, but in my career I wasn't feeling organized. I was feeling chaos all the time, no matter how hard I worked. I was feeling like a failure.
I was feeling all these things, even if we're thinking about the equity piece, I had always thought of myself as a very accepting person. Of course not a racist. And all of a sudden I had students telling me I was a racist. I never ever experienced that before. And that happens many, many times for teachers. And so I mean across the board for new teachers. And so these are things that we all kind of know, I think are very common for new teachers to be going through. And since we all know them, I think we need to be, you know, thinking about them and how we're supporting new teachers.
Lindsay Lyons: So powerful that you just shared all of that. Thank you for speaking to your experience because I think so many people just resonated with all the things that you shared because it is real. And to avoid thinking about those things that we do know happened, right? It's just not a good way to support teachers. And so if people are listening thinking, okay, yeah, like I want to create the conditions for someone to feel really supported and like they're thriving at work and they know how to navigate that identity shift, what does that look like in terms of, you know, brave actions for educational leaders to take or even teachers themselves to take to really live into that dream you were describing.
Jeanne Wolz: Yeah, so I'm gonna really highly paraphrase some research in teacher retention by Ingersoll. I think it's Richard Ingersoll, so I'm pretty sure that's, his, ingersoll definitely his last name. And he's done extensive research, I think over the last 30 years in what keeps teachers and buildings, what keeps them in the profession. And the things that he notices in terms of teacher induction programs, is the more elements of kind of best practice for induction programs that are, that exists in a program, the more likely teachers are to stay. So those elements are things like a mentor program, things like having professional development workshops, maybe having and forgetting the other one, there's one other one, professional development workshops, so instruction strong and structural coaching and the mentorship program. But the one thing that I always think about that really stands out to me that he lists that I very seldom see in schools and would have been amazing for myself as a new teacher and I know for so many new teachers that I work with that is a lightened workload.
I mean, again, this makes sense. Like when we say it a lot, it's like, well duh? We have new teachers that are expected to do everything a veteran teacher is doing and yet they are also learning the ropes, they're learning how to do this. I mean anytime you're learning anything, it's going to take longer. So like it makes sense why lightened workloads can be so powerful for new teachers in terms of keeping them in buildings and keeping them in the profession. So that's the first one, and I really, and I say that also right away because I know that's probably one that feels lofty because it messes with the magical master schedule. But I think it's something a conversation that needs to be had. And even if you are not a principal in your building, you, if you are working with the new teachers, I'm challenging you to talk to your administration, talked to higher administration about how can you make this happen for the new positions that you're hiring for, so that new teachers have the space to grow, to process all these things, to learn their skills to get all this support.
And I think also I'm spending so much time on this first one too, because in order to add the other things, I'm going to suggest teachers need to carve out and have space for those support programs. I've worked with amazing, amazing, supportive districts for new teachers that give them more things to do, more things to do, more things to do, but they don't take anything off those plates. So they're meeting with a mentor every single week, awesome! They're meeting with masterminds every single week, awesome! Like it's all these things, but teachers are super overwhelmed because they don't have any time to do their jobs. So you want to have the both worlds, you want the lightened workload, so they could still be getting, you know, doing the rubber hits the road and learning how to do this job as they go, but you also want to carve out that space for them to get the support that they need.
And then thinking about the kinds of support that I have seen that new teachers really, really benefit from. One is access to a safe space to ask for help from veterans and peer teachers. That veteran piece because they have a lot of expertise and wisdom to bring to the table, but also appears other first year teachers, second year, third year teachers who can empathize with them and say, hey, it's totally normal that what you're going through, I'm going through that too.
And having that camaraderie and feeling like they're not the only one feeling like a failure. There are not the only one feeling like, this is just a lot more than I thought it was gonna be or something like that.
And then the other piece to that, access to a safe space. The mastermind groups I run, I really wanted to create a space for teachers where connecting across building and even across districts and the reason I wanted to create those spaces, these mastermind groups where teachers were talking to people outside their building is because even if you have the safest political culture in your building, a new teacher may not even know that. So like, best case scenario, nobody gossips, nobody's gonna go behind the new teachers back. But the new teacher, if they're smart, knows not to trust that that's the case in the building, so they may not feel comfortable to open up with their mentor teacher, with the teacher next to them, that could help them or even with their instructional coach. So the more that you can connect new teachers outside of your building, I think the better so that they have a safe space to feel like they can be vulnerable to get help on the things that they are actually struggling with.
And that's personally why I think mastermind groups are so awesome because you can create these safe family environments where you're working to create a safe space throughout the year that people feel more and more comfortable being vulnerable. And I think that's what's really, really needed to help new teachers so comfortable to open up. And then even if it's not a mastermind group, just a space, it's specifically designed to be safe for new teachers.
And then the next one, so lightened loads, access to a safe space, ask for help, and then the third one would be workshops and coaching that helps to help, that works to help new teachers process these high emotional challenges, these identity shifts. On top of course, like basic skills and things like that, but workshops that also address this more affective aspect of teaching,
I think it would be awesome if all teachers had a therapist. I am a big proponent of therapy, I think it would be great. But I think there are a lot of other ways to support teachers on that kind of emotional and identity journey than therapy that schools can provide their teachers. So workshops that help teachers become aware of their biases and to process those. I know that I would have so benefited from that as a new teacher rather than struggling with this on my own when I knew that so many other teachers were also struggling with this, but it was just kind of a taboo thing to talk about.
And then the second thing for workshops and coaching, I think is helping teachers process these all of the shoulds that they brought to teaching. My kids should be listening to me while I'm talking. I should be able to get through my grading stack, you know, when I get home at night and I feel tired. I should be designing these lessons that are super engaging every single day and then confronting what's actually happening on classroom, maybe they're tired and they didn't get an awesome lesson plan that day, or maybe they're they have a class that is a little bit chatty right now and they have to be working through that and like that's a very normal thing. But a lot of new teachers don't realize it's a very normal thing to be working through during the year. So, or maybe even something that they can harness and use to their as an asset in their classroom when they're, as they're teaching.
So workshops that work with those sheds, like confronting what it is that how they can work with, what reality really is in front of them. And then I think another, another piece on helping teachers confront their vision versus what they are perceiving as reality in their classroom,
and in the contrast between those. I think this is a really key place and a really pivotal moment for teachers in their journey to become anti bias, anti racist educators because so often this is the moment where teachers fork, they say, okay, students are not being X, y and Z, that I expect them to be. Either I need to learn how to do this in a different way or it's just these kids, like these kids can't do this or this school isn't like this. I need to go to a different school or something like that. So I think this is a key part of equity and education is coaching new teachers through that dissidents that they're going to experience their first year and their expectations and what's actually happening.
Okay, so the final thing I would say, the concrete thing, I think the new teachers need and lots and lots and lots of, is targeted instruction and culture for making the job sustainable. So my first institute day, when I was a student teacher, I'm so lucky that this was my first, it was the first seminar and my first institute day. It was led by this amazing teacher who I actually worked down the hall from when I was student teaching, and it was a workshop on how to save time grading.
And she started the workshop by saying, Okay, let's think about like how many students you have 120. Let's think about if you sent five minutes grading every single one of those papers, how many hours would you spend grading? And I think that's something I can't remember, 10 hours, I'm not gonna do that math like that. Something really crazy. And so she said every minute that you add onto your grading for every single paper is going to be another two hours of your life. So let's think about like what is the highest power move that we can make as teachers rather than spending 10 hours grading this paper, that students may not look at, What, how could we spend those 10 hours in a different way or how can I spend those 10 hours to rejuvenate myself?
And so that institute day, I mean there was gold advice, but it also framed the way that I thought about teaching from then on, because this was my first impression of like, okay teacher community, this is what we're talking about with each other. But I have yet to like go to another workshop like that, it was just a really awesome workshop this first time. And so I think we need so much more of that for new teachers.
And again it goes along with this fucking this assumption that your first few years have to be miserable. Because again, I think a lot of times we don't give new teachers these things because we're like, oh you know your first year, it's gonna suck, you're gonna be here until eight at night. I remember those days kind of thing. Again, a lot of similarities to new parenthood, what you hear. And so having a culture where no, this is not how it's gonna be for you, not even your new teacher and we're gonna help you learn how to do this job more efficiently, more powerfully and more meaningfully.
I was listening to a one of your podcast episodes, it was Dr. Sweet, I don't remember her first name, but I loved what she was talking about. An encouraging joy and passion outside of your teacher day and then also challenging the workaholic building culture. I think just, if you haven't listened to that episode, go listen to it. I'm just going to echo it. I think it's super important and I think it's especially important for our new teachers who are forming the impression of what teaching is and if it's for them.
Yeah, those are the things I would recommend. That was a lot,
Lindsay Lyons: Wow, that was a lot. But it was so good. I mean I just, I was nodding my head the entire time you were speaking. So I just think about, you know, lightened loads. I constantly am trying to talk to leaders about how do we take something off of people's plates right? We can't just keep adding and I love that you center that around new teachers, but particularly new teachers reflecting on what I taught. Like I taught seven completely different classes as a first year teacher. Like that's nuts. That's nuts. Even for a veteran teacher and often it's because I mean, for me, I was jumping at the first job that I was offered because I was just like, yeah, well otherwise I'm not teaching and then I'm kicked out of my program and then I don't have anywhere to live and you know, there's this spiral of, I don't even know how to interview.
So I think thinking about how do we make sure that that is sustainable because ultimately if we're investing all of this time and energy and resources into building up new teachers who are going to stay with us for a while because we have great culture and we have that space for coaching and we have all the workshops you've been talking about, you know, that's going to pay off for us as a school as well as for the students in those classes, right?
A lot of times I think teachers who are new, get the the students who need the most support and probably would benefit from a veteran teacher who has all this experience. And so we're constantly challenging new teachers in ways that, you know, don't don't need to be the case, right? And so I love your first institute day just thinking about that framing of, how else can we spend our time versus spending 10 minutes, you know, a paper or whatever on grading and giving feedback that might not even be looked at. And so thinking about ways to make the work sustainable. I just want to echo is so critical because if we burn teachers out, we are not going to get anywhere and we're just going to be spinning our wheels and that culture building process just kind of stagnates when we have people running out the door constantly. And I just I want to say that this list is brilliant and I hope people like replay that section of the episode because it is so, so good.
Jeanne Wolz: Yeah. I just want to like, I empathize with what you're saying as a first year teacher having seven classes, I was given four class, four preps, three different grade levels of writing. It was a core class, but somehow I was like the cog that fit in, you know, like all the empty gaps in the master schedule kind of thing and I got the job probably,
why are they? My position was open probably for the same reason yours was because nobody, no other veteran teacher wanted it with reason. I don't blame them. But I would argue that that needs to go back to reworking the master schedule. How can we make a humane schedule for everybody? But it's not okay if one of our team members is getting this totally unreasonable load. And it's especially not okay if it's going to be one of our new teachers and I think it's especially especially not okay if it's one of our new teachers that we think very highly of. I think a lot of times that's justification. It's like, well, she's awesome, so she'll be able to handle it, it's fine. And then that's the teacher that gets burned out and leaves the profession. So I think these are kinds of conversations that we need to be having and thinking about when we're creating master schedules, when we're opening positions and when we're talking to our veteran teachers about who is going to get what position and things like that.
Lindsay Lyons: Wow, yes. Oh my gosh, as you were describing that the kind of equity of distribution of classes, I was thinking the other teachers particularly
so I was a special education teacher. So the other special education teachers had similar workloads to me, but the general education teachers taught maybe two different preps and so it's just like the discrepancy there between seven and two is nuts. And I never thought that yeah, we should be having this conversation with those teachers, you know, as a school, so smart.
So as you've worked for so long with new teachers, I'm curious to know what has surprised you the most in working with that population of teachers.
Jeanne Wolz: Yeah, I have a few things. First of all I love, obviously I love working with new teachers as I work with them, but I think some of the things that has really surprised me, it has to do with preparation and how we structure it. And so one of them is how much step by step support new teachers need, especially that summer, you know. I was going to see that summer before their first year teaching. But I think it's actually 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th year teaching. I have this, I have an online course for new teachers that walks them step by step through preparing for their first day and for the year and I have teachers taking that class, sometimes with zero years of experience and sometimes with, like 15 years of experience. and I am,
so what I'm saying is what surprises me is how much step by step support. I mean like, okay, we know best practice is to backwards design grades. We know that we need, we need to start with the assessment in mind, great. But what does that look like? Like literally what do you write on the piece of paper? You know, like when we're thinking about scaffolding for students, I think many times teacher prep programs talk about big ideas, which is great, theory, which is great, equity, fantastic. But we need, when are we going to get into the nitty gritty of like, okay, we're gonna sit down, this is how you lesson plan, this is where you put this, these are the kinds of notes I do. Let's model that for a teacher in a sustainable way too.
So that's the first thing. And then the second thing is kind of in conversation with that first one, and that is, what was so striking to me, was this one time I was giving a workshop. I'm used to giving workshops to, like, 1st, 2nd, 3rd year teachers. I was giving a workshop that I thought it was at a conference and I thought it was, I was gonna get first or third year teachers and as I was going, I realized something was off and just in terms of the engagement and what I was seeing in the teacher's spaces, and somehow, at some point during that workshop, I discovered that almost everybody in the room was a pre service teacher. And it was just this kind of big realization about when teachers, when is the right time for new teachers to receive different kinds of information.
So, yes, new teacher prep programs a lot of times they may, and I'm not sure, but it seems to me that it, many times they lack enough step by step support in creating lesson plans, those kinds of things. But at the same time, I have found that first through third year teachers are total sponges because they're so desperate to solve the problems that they're dealing with day in and day out. And pre service teachers understandably are overloaded with information and they don't know what they're gonna need. It's just like, okay, here's all this advice and then they don't know what they're gonna need when they teach.
And so I think to me, what it suggests is that we need to be incorporating more hands on, more, more experiences where teachers have pre service teachers have autonomy in the classroom. So they can actually have something to pin their learning to, and know what to look for when they are learning to be teachers. And then it also means that we need to be extending that hands on workshops and side by side support for new teachers, those first or third year teachers, rather than just saying, here's all, there's, here's how you'd be a teacher,
okay, go do it. Thanks.
Lindsay Lyons: Yes. Oh my gosh. The research on job embedded support like that too is really positive, right? Like this is what teachers actually need is to be supported as they're doing this. Yes. Oh my gosh, So I love these things that you're talking about, and I want to know why, I think so much of what you've already talked about. You've mentioned this a bit already, is so tied to these ideas of justice and equity that we always talked about on the podcast. So I'm curious to know if you have anything to add from what you've said already around the importance of this work in that frame.
Jeanne Wolz: Yeah, I think we've kind of, we've danced around a little bit, kind of talking about certain aspects, but just to kind of bring it home. If we think about who are teachers are teaching and who are veteran teachers going to, where our veteran teachers fleeing to? What kinds of schools, what kinds of grade levels, What kinds of workloads, where are they going? And who, where, what positions are being opened up? We're talking about schools that maybe have lower income. We're talking about schools that have higher levels of diversity or maybe have higher needs in terms of instructional needs.
And if those are the positions opening up and those are the those are positions being filled by first or third year teachers, that's where all of our support needs to be. And that's what it's going to be creating these cycles of inequity every single year, if we don't address and kind of put a plug to these teacher retention problems that we're seeing, and things like that.
I was gonna say one other piece of that, and now I'm forgetting what I was gonna say. But I mean, in a nutshell to me, this work is not just about making new teachers' lives easier. Of course it is, but it's also about solving huge issues of inequity in our school systems across the country. And conversations that we need to be having about how workloads and how positions and how master schedules are created and who is filling those positions and what kind of support we're giving them and what assumptions we're making about, what should that experience look like for that teacher?
What are we asking teachers to just accept?, And do because they're a good teacher and they want to be a teacher, and this is what they should be doing, kind of like you're talking about, like, okay, I want to get a job. I don't feel like I should be looking for a different kind of job. I don't think I feel like I should be advocating for myself, because I think all teachers deserve a reasonable workload. And also, if we want good teachers to stay in the profession and continue to grow and for our students to reap the benefits of that, then we need to be paying attention to these kinds of things.
Lindsay Lyons: So well said. I'm so glad that we were able to kinda like, wrap all that together because you're right, we're kind of we're talking about it in so many ways, but what you just said is absolutely it and why this work is so necessary. So, thank you for naming that so clearly.
As we think about, you know, coming to a close of the episode and all of the great things that you've shared, I'm imagining a listener just kind of being like, okay, there's so much that I could be doing if I'm a leader to support educators and if I'm a new teacher to kind of wrap my mind around some of these things or ways of thinking, ways of doing things that maybe I didn't learn in teacher prep school, because I think we should actually start now.
I think we should start like, your own teacher prep school, because I think everything you're describing is like, yes, I wish is this is what the school was like before I got into teaching. but as people are kind of hearing all this stuff. What is one thing if they were just kind of getting started there? Like I like these ideas that you've been sharing. I want to take one next step to start building that momentum towards kind of living it out. What would that recommendation be?
Jeanne Wolz: Yeah. I think, well in all change, I really like to think of it in terms of think big, start small, be consistent. So I would, if you could, I always would recommend doing a mind dump, brain dump of all the different ways that you could be improving, maybe what you're doing yourself, what the school can be doing. And then kind of picking one to start with from there.
In terms of giving a little bit of direction, I think the first thing that's really really important, a good place to start is to figure out where we can start taking things off of new teachers place, so we can make space for all these things.
So teachers can even, I have teachers that love our mastermind groups that dropped out because they just have too much on their plate and so they're making this choice to fly solo so that they can survive rather than have a list of support that they can have. So that would be the first steps that teachers feel like they can accept help. And then I think to a really easy way to make a shift that doesn't require more time and energy from you, is to think about how you're talking to new teachers, how you're talking to them about the profession, about what's a reasonable workload for them to accept. And and teaching them boundary setting. And maybe even like scaring and when you're, I'm just talking about conversations you will be having anyway with new teachers. How can we start steering new teachers to more student centered strategies rather than strategies that are centering on them doing tons and tons of work? And then of course checking yourself if you are prone to that badge of honor for working late into the night, those kinds of things because those are culture shifts that we can all be responsible for making and they don't require any extra help and energy.
And then of course if you've got more energy and time, take a look at that list I was talking about before and see which one would be reasonable for you to tackle first.
Lindsay Lyons: Beautiful. I love it. And as a final kind of question that I love asking just for fun, I think everyone who comes on the podcast is just constantly growing and learning themselves. And so I'm curious to know what is something that you have been learning about lately?
Jeanne Wolz: Yeah, so I'm really excited about this class I'm taking right now. It's called Playing Big Facilitators. Of course, I think it's the name, but it's by Tara Mohr. If you've ever read the book, Playing Big, fantastic book, so powerful. Tora Mohr, she's a coach that helps women and leaders sidelined their inner critic, amp up their own inner wisdom and tune into that and then play bigger in their lives, however, that looks for them. So this course that I'm taking is about helping other women and other leaders do that and I just find it so fascinating, thinking about especially since teaching is such a woman dominated industry, thinking about how different pressures and socialization and cultural expectations have been placed by women, how that translates into perhaps that workaholic culture and not maybe not stepping up and speaking up when they could be when they have so much wisdom and expertise to share and helping and just thinking about how to help teachers do that in their buildings and play bigger,
Lindsay Lyons: Wow, that sounds like an amazing book I now need to read.
Jeanne Wolz: Yes, definitely recommend
Lindsay Lyons: That is great. And I'm sure people are going to be really sad that this episode is ending because they want to continue talking to you and learning from you. And so I'm curious to know where would you some listeners who are interested in connecting, learning more about you taking your course or joining your masterminds.
Jeanne Wolz: Yeah, I think the central hub would be the Teacher Off Duty website, it's just teacher off duty dot com. That's my first website. That's kind of where they're at least to everything. If you want to learn more about the New Teacher Mastermind Program, you can just go to new teacher masterminds dot com. And you can find me on social media with through teacher off duty handle on everything. And then if you wanted to learn more about how to shift mindset and challenge missed about supporting new teachers and concrete ideas about how to support new teachers, I have a freebie on the New Teacher Masterminds website that you can download for free, about 10 ways to support new teachers.
Lindsay Lyons: That sounds amazing and I'm gonna drop links to all those things into the show notes in the blog post for this episode.
So if you're driving or running or something, don't worry about like writing these things down in the moment, You can totally grab them later. But Jeanne, thank you so so much for this really wise and brilliant conversation.
Jeanne Wolz: Thank you Lindsey. It was wonderful talking to you. 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 @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.
Jeanne can be found on her websites:
Or on social media:
Genuinely Valuable Members of an Intergenerational Learning Community with Skyler, Rhys, Amelia, and Sam from SpringhouseRead Now
www.instagram.com/5kyl3/Lindsay Lyons : In this episode we get to hear from High School students. These students are members of the Springhouse Community, their names are Skyler, Rhys, Amelia, and Sam. So we have four different students from a range of grades in this school community, and I'm so excited to just introduce and give you a sense of a few of their backgrounds. Just for reference, this episode was recorded in November 16th of 2021.
So the oldest student, or the highest grade student we have on this podcast, is Skyler. He is a senior as well as a student visionary at Springhouse. He works alongside the founding visionary to keep the vision of the school clear, and helped turn the vision into action. In connection with the school, he's also leading events and shows that invite people to take a deeper look at themselves, the world around them, and the ambiguity of life.
Our youngest participant today is thirteen years old, this is Rhys Bowman and she loves to read, write and has also been known to crochet in her free time. She has two younger siblings, a sister and a brother, both of which go to the New River Valley Montessori, and she's been going to Springhouse since September 7th of 2021.
She's first year at Springhouse, who's experienced both private and public schooling, whether it be online or in person, which really helps her to have a well rounded perspective about schooling here in Virginia. So excited for you to hear from all of these folks today - again, Skyler, Rhys, Amelia, and Sam, let's dive into this great conversation with students.
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. Skyler, Rhys, Amelia, and Sam, welcome to the Time for Teachership podcast. I am so excited to have you all on today from Springhouse. We're going to start with just a little bit of intro on, you know, if one of you wants to speak about your school.... and then if you each want to kind of introduce yourself... kind of where you are in terms of your learning journey, whatever feels relevant to share about yourself as a learner or even more broadly, right, as a person. So, I don't know who wants to jump in first, but feel free.
Skyler : I guess I can start here. So, my name is Skyler, my pronouns are he, him. I am a senior here at Springhouse, I've been here since 7th grade, so I've basically had the full run. And I'm also the student visionary who works alongside the founding visionary, whose name is Jenny Finn. Yeah. So.
Rhys : I'm Rhys I use she, her pronouns. This is my first year in Springhouse. I'm in 8th grade and, yeah, this is my... it's a very new experience and I'm really excited to be here because already I've learned a lot.
Sam : My name is Sam. I use he, him pronoun. I'm in the middle of cohort here at Springhouse and this is my first year.
Amelia : My name is Amelia, I'm happy with all pronouns. I'm in 11th grade and I work with Piper Pollack to help, like, design the funding model.
Lindsay : This is so cool. And so you're already speaking to some roles that students don't typically have in schools that are more traditional settings or institutionalized settings. And so I am really excited to dig into that a bit further - but I'd love for someone to kind of give me a summary of, like, what is it like at Springhouse in comparison to... I'm not sure if you all started in more traditional places, you know, prior... like in elementary school, prior to coming to Springhouse - but what makes Springhouse different or unique? Or what is it about Springhouse that you think people should know as they're listening who may not be familiar with, you know, different models of education?
Sam : Well, I feel like at Springhouse... as I went to public school for ten years before I came here... and I feel like at this place I am much... I'm more than just a number for my grade and, like, I'm much more than what my grades are.
Speaker:: I know that I've switched between private and public and, like, independent schools a lot - and the difference definitely between Springhouse, like Sam said, is that you're not just your grade, you're an actual human being and not just like a number who's learning and might take a different pace. While as in public school it's a little harder.
Skyler : Beyond it just not being a number, I think it's... it actually goes a lot deeper than that. It goes to a level of... you're not just a person, you're a member of this community, you are a friend... you know... you are a genuinely valuable member of this group. And it's not like it's, like, some, like, exclusive, like, membership club, but it's, like, we deeper than just, you know... you're not a number, you're, like truly, truly, truly seen at a real level.
And you also are given the opportunity not just to be seen, but to see as well. So it's a two way back... it's like... it's like... it also is like, it's not even just two ways, it's all different ways of, like, of feeding and nourishing yourself and nourishing other people and it's a whole community, And that goes beyond age, and that goes beyond, you know, where you... where you live... it goes deeper than that. And that's why Springhouse, as an organization, isn't just a day school program for teenagers - it also has opportunities for adults, it also has opportunities for young children. And so it's, like, deeper than just being a school we're also a... the word that we've used in the past is the Intergenerational Learning Community.
Lindsay : That is so beautiful. I love that, an Intergenerational Learning Community. And so, as you're describing this, to me it feels like... and I know, Skyler, you are saying you hold the role of the student visionary, I think you said, right? And so that I think speaks to my first question around this idea of really thinking about what is possible for learning organizations and beyond the, you know, traditional way we tend to kind of think about education. And so I love Dr Bettina Love - her book We Want to Do More Than Survive is one of my favorite educational books,
and in it she talks about this idea of freedom dreaming and so really like dreaming about the possible in ways that advance freedom and she talks specifically about them as dreams grounded in the critique of injustice, which I just think is a fabulous quote. And so as I say that and you're kind of thinking about the dream that you hold for learning communities, either your own or learning communities more broadly, you know - what is that dream that you have for kind of what education could be? What do you wish school was like? And anyone can start?
Speaker : I know that for me, what I would dream of, what school would be like is... it's very similar. It probably... there's a lot of similarities in Springhouse, it's just kind of being able to know that there's a lot of different intelligences rather than just mathematical or scientific intelligences. Is that there's different ways that people learn and that they're not just their grades and how they're ranked in that specific academic intelligences. Because I know there's a lot of people that are more creativity... how their intelligence is more focused in creativity, like drawing or in theater or something that's not like the... I don't want to say, like, normal, I guess... or like the standard - I think that what I feel, like, school should be is that everyone is able to learn at their own pace.
And, like, be able to be seen as a human and not just as this standard.
Skyler : Yeah. And I would also add on top of that that when we look at the world around us, I would say there's a lot of stuff that's going on, there's a lot of really challenging things going on in the world today... and I hold the opinion that the leverage point in society where we can really make change, where we can really move the world forward, is in the education system. Education is the leverage point, and education is where... it's where our system starts. And so if we can find a way... well, actually no, we have found a way, and we do orient around life, orient around what the principles of life... we have... not to get super into it, but we have a thing that we share with other organizations that are, you know, wanting to learn from us. We have several principles that we follow, and those principles are taking care of vulnerability, cultivating personhood, building beloved community, respecting the wisdom of the earth, and loving and serving others.
So those are like some principles that we have, and what I would say, in my opinion, if we implement that into a wider school system that can lead to our society and our culture, in at least America as a whole, moving more towards principles like that - or principles that are more life giving than the ones that we currently have.
Speaker : Well, like, yeah, like Skyler was saying, like, children and, like, young people are the future of the world, and if we can teach them to, like, love and be compassionate and, like, care about the earth, then we could... we could see a much brighter future.
Speaker : Something that I see happen at Springhouse, but I think is a part of education that needs to be there, is, like, having it be accessible to lots of different people that could be, like, financially, or, like, the way things are structured, or, like, even... we're kind of far out from, like, town and stuff... we're not exactly in the middle of nowhere, but probably, like, half an hour from town.
So, like, we do a lot of carpooling when, like... I mean we are in a pandemic, but before the pandemic we had a lot of carpooling, but, like, transportation and stuff.
Lindsay : I love that, and I love that each of the things you're speaking to really speak to those larger principles that... that Skyler that you mentioned, as well, and this is - I agree that if we could just do that on a broader scale, right? For all schools to be able to tap into those - I think we would have a very different system than we have now. So, as we think about this, I think... especially thinking about a lot of the listeners who typically listen to this podcast are folks who are educators in some respect... in mostly traditional schools. And so I'd be curious to know, and I think you spoke to this a little bit, but if there's, like, something that really helped you shift your mind from that traditional education system that I think many of you spoke to being in prior to being at Springhouse and coming over to Springhouse - like, what was the thing that you had to, kind of, shift your thinking around? Or what would be the thing that you think listeners would be really, you know, they would benefit from shifting their thinking around in order to really live out that dream that you've been describing so far?
Speaker : I think that a really important part of Springhouse is that we, like, really value emotions and, like, take the time to listen and care about people. We have, like, mentorships so that, like, every learner has mentor, even that staff has mentors, so, like, you have someone to go to and, like, trust with things that are happening. And I think that if, like, emotions were, like, valued and respected then it would be good.
Speaker : I feel like there is such... it's such a community, like, when I came here... because it's not... it's definitely not what I was expecting, like, it's... we're all very close to each other I feel like, especially with, like, the staff and, like, student relationships with, like... with, like, mentors and stuff like that. So it's really healthy and, yeah, it's giving me, like, a much broader sense of community and, like, having, like, a place to belong than any other school has ever done.
Rhys : Yeah, I think the mentorships really did help with, like, the transitioning between public school and here. You also kind of have to get in the mindset that, like, you don't have to be the best in, like, a specific thing. Because it's all about learning - that's kind of what you come to school to do, and here you're able to just not be the best at something and be able to learn, and grow from it. And I think that's something that, like, I had to, like, think about for a little bit because it was kind of hard because I came from, like, a, like, a school situation where if I was not the best then I would feel like I was...So coming here and being able to just learn instead of just having to be the best is definitely something that was helpful as well.
Skyler : Yeah, I love that. I would love to add on top of everything, like, I love everything that y'all just said. And also I think, like, one thing that I really think about when I think about how you can bring this at a smaller scale into a, you know, in your class in like a public school setting,
I think about trust. I think about how the importance of learner agency and learner trust - and that's a trust that goes both ways. Right now we are all students here, there is no facilitator watching us, there is no... we are in these rooms alone because they trust us - and in turn we trust them. And so there's this trust that needs to be there. And something to invite the student to something bigger, something... And I see, like, a higher power, not, like, you know, like some... some, like, religious thing... I mean a higher power is in the group, the community that you're in - that's a higher power that if you contribute to, you can make that higher power stronger. And so if that becomes clear, not just through words, but through actions and through the way that you structure everything, that will invite students into something that they would have never tried otherwise.
Lindsay: Wow, these are wonderful ideas. And so I'm thinking about... and I like, Skyler, that you were kind of starting to take us there, too, so this is a great segue. You know, what does this look like to be able to bring these mindset shifts and these dreams that we just described into... perhaps in small waves at first... into a more traditional, perhaps public school setting? And I'm curious to know what are... what are the actions, like, what does it look like at the practical level for, you know, a learning guide? Like, what would a learning guide do? Or an educator do? What would a learner experience? Like, what are the things that... as educators are listening... they can take action on, you know, tomorrow in their class or in their school communities or learning environments more broadly?
Speaker : I think that maybe one thing might just be able to kind of get in the headset or, like, think about how everyone learns differently. So, say, if in public school there's a kid who likes to draw a lot... maybe their math class... maybe somehow try to incorporate and, like, understand - try to help the kid understand what's going on and maybe have them do the assignment through something that they're good at.
Whether it be (unintelligible) understand. Just get in the headset that everybody kind of learns differently, is what I'd say.
Skyler : Yeah. I mean, like, this has been a defined like, I'm... the reason why I'm in the role that I'm in is because I'm a... I'm a big vision guy, and I really struggle with the entire bringing it down thing. But, yeah, I would say... I would say... and this is maybe not something that you can do, like, tomorrow, this is a little bit of a bigger thing, but, like, the complete removal of assessment helps big time. We, as a school, have gone through a lot. I mean in my six years of being at the school, there has been a shift in the way that we do assessments every year, which... it went from, like, you have to do a presentation to you have, like, grades to... you know... we have, like, a special assessment thing. It's like a scale of, like, one to four, and now It's like none of that. Now it's just, like,, let's talk about it, let's just talk about where we're... let's talk about what you're good at, what you maybe are not good at
and let's just have a conversation. And that's what we're doing right now, actually. We're currently in our, quote, it's called a "Reflection of Learning Week". And so... and everybody just has conversations about the skills that we practice in the courses. In the sense of, like, in a teacher public school type of setting, I would say allow, like, allow for failure, like, create projects that are not something that... create projects and allow the kids to fail. And I don't mean, like, set it up for failure - but set up, like, create a project that is challenging and don't baby it. Don't say, like, you should do this next and you should do this next - maybe if they reach out to you and they're, like, I need some support here, maybe yeah,, totally do that. But, you know, creating... creating... again... the learner... giving a learner a task and a vision to put together and... and use, is really special.
Yeah. Excellent. Amelia, Sam, did you want to weigh in - I can't remember if you spoke on this question yet? I can't remember if we did, but something that I can add is I think just, like, getting lower involvement where you can, it could be like really small or like huge, but just, like, actively trying to get learner voices and, like, hear what they have to say about things. If you're going to make like a decision about your class or your school, ask the people in it. Absolutely. So well said, I think that's so critical. Yeah, I think that, like, you're at Springhouse, we definitely have like are like a lot of voices are definitely more heard and then, like, some other school settings that I've been to and I feel like, and I feel like that gives a more of a mutual respect for, like, students and teachers... or I guess I should say like students and teachers... but, like, yeah, like the learners and, like, yeah.
And I think that if other... if other schools would implement that more. if they yeah, they a bit, like, hear us, like, hear, like, the students more, I feel like that would be really beneficial.
Lindsay: Yeah,, and I'd love to hear... and any one of you can speak either Sam if you want to follow up on that or I know, Amelia, you spoke that as well, you know, that idea of student voice and learner voice - what does that actually look like for someone who is, you know, teaching in this typical traditional public school and they're thinking, you know, to what degree do I engage learners in conversation - or when do I engage learners? Is this like a daily conversation? Is this like, as I'm starting to build a unit and we're, like, co -creating the unit together? Is it something that you have an opportunity to do, you know, when... when, like, Skyler, you spoke about, for example, the assessment changes that have been made over time, you know, is that something that learners were involved in? And at what part of the process or, you know, throughout the process? So I don't know if anyone wants to speak to any of those pieces, but I'd love to just get clear on, you know, how does that... how does that work?
Amelia: We have some, like, smaller and larger ways that we bring it in. Because, I mean, a fun thing about Springhouse is we're, like, constantly changing and reimagining how we're doing things. So, like, we had committees and now we don't have committees anymore - now there's just, like, people who can get together, committees when they see a need... and so having, like, we call it "The Round Table" and it's like a group of (unintelligible) Skyler and I are both on it, so kind of get to convey... it's not exactly like learners to the staff members, but sometimes it's like learner stuff to, like, (unintelligible) 'cause they're not often as involved there today, but... and then some smaller things we do is, like, we do a lot of discussions just, like... even if it's just, like, an in-class discussion... then we can just discuss and see where it takes us.
And we do, like, very regularly, just, like, check-ins at the beginning of class - they could be, like, fun check-ins, like what type of animal are you today? Or they could be more serious check-ins, like "How's the course going for you?" And also because I think that we have this trust - if sometimes there is, like, something that's happening that's not being brought up then at least I... and I think probably most of the student body... feels comfortable going to staff members to, like, talk about things that are happening during the school just because we, like, understand that they'll hear us and so...
Skyler : Yeah.. I think that... I think about restorative justice here, how like, you know, kind of, you know, adding on to what you're saying, Amelia, and, yeah, I... it's, like... and that ties... like it really all ties down to trust. Is kind of like what I've realized over the time is, like, I trust that I can make a mistake and it's not the end of the world, you know. And that's... and it's okay to make mistakes and it's okay to be a jerk sometimes. And it's okay to... to, you know, deal with, like, all of these, like, facets and deep things that, like, we experience as people.
And I just really... it's like... and I guess... I guess it's just something that, like, is really like if you want something to happen now in your... in your classroom, I would say, yeah, again, they're just, like, absolutely, truly trust your students. And at first they might be like, oh, they might, like, not know how to deal with that and eventually, and relatively pretty quickly, I think that trust will actually become a mutual thing. And then your relationship really becomes that - a relationship - and not just like a, you know, big talking head in front of a bunch of people who don't care. Um and so... yeah
LIndsay : Absolutely. Thank you so much for just speaking to that, that clearly????, you know, how how does that look? So, one of the things I'm just really curious about... and this is more of a fun question here... but this idea of, you know, what your experience has been like and all these positive things you've been talking about - is there, like, one learning experience that you've had that really influenced you or has been really memorable or helped you a lot?
Something that you would want to share with people to kind of illustrate what life at Springhouse like
Skyler : Something that comes up for me is a few years ago, like, yes, like, in, like, four years now - I was, like, I was this kid who, like... and not to get super... not only to get... trying to do it without getting political here... but as a young... as a young kid, I was very convinced by, like, conservative internet stuff, and I, like, got like very trapped in it, and it, like, lead to, like, homophobia for myself and, like, all this and, like, really messed up stuff that I was thinking at the time. And then Jenny... who's the founding visionary here... did a class called Restore... No, it wasn't, it was called... oh I forgot what it's called... but it was... it was about white privilege, and it was about... It was co-led by Jenny, who's a white woman, and Shauna Tucker, who's a black woman, and they... and we just had like, all different types of people come in and we discussed privilege - and it was a very, very moving experience for me and really pulled me into, like... "Oh wow!" It taught me a lot about empathy and a lot about the mistakes that I had made, and the privilege that I have. And so in that sense that class was extraordinarily moving for me.
And it was all... it was called Courageous Conversations, that was what it was called. And it was just conversations, we were all in a circle and just talking about race and privilege in all different aspects of that stuff. And, yeah.
Lindsay : Thank you so much for your vulnerability and sharing that story, Skyler, I really appreciate it. Rhys, Amelia or Sam - do you want to share one?
Amelia : A couple of times that stand out to me are the times that I've been invited to help do things that I wasn't, like, expecting to be asked to help with. Like,, I think my second year at Springhouse, I was asked to help MC a fundraising event - and it was, like, "Wow, I get to help lead this with, like, a community elder!" And I was not expecting, like, being invited to leadership like that - and it was... it made me feel really, like, valued in the community. And then I've got into, like, MC a couple other events, like I got to help Chris Wolfe, one of our staff members, with our presentation night last year - and that was also really special - just because getting invited into, like, leadership that I've always thought were, like " Oh, those are, like, adult roles and you can't do that because, whatever the reason is, you're young and you're unprepared or whatnot." But actually doing it, and it going well, it just builds so much confidence and it was just so special those times.
Lindsay : Amelia, thank you so much for sharing. Rhys, did you have something you wanted to say?
Rhys : Yeah., I think one thing that's really popping out is actually when I was invited to,like, be on the podcast. I actually was... I didn't really... if I... we kind of did like a raise your hand thing and I was going to, but I didn't really think I'd be able to, like, do it anyway, so I kept my hand down, and this one person was like " Hey, I think Rhys should do this." And I was like... and it was very (unintelligible), it made me really happy. It made me feel very seen. And I think that was really something that's definitely gonna stick with me for a long time.
Lindsay : That's so beautiful, thank you so much for sharing that. And I'm so grateful to that person who recommended you, because you have been wonderful so far. Thank you. Sam, did you want to share a story?
Sam : Well, just, like... we've been doing our reflections of learning for... on, like, the Monday, and a bit of today, and just, like, hearing what a lot of my... hearing what my teachers had to really, like, say about me - like, what they, like, noticed and picked up on and, like, my learning, really made me feel, like... it really made me feel heard and like "Oh, they noticed this about me," or, like, something similar. And, yeah, that's just, like, really moving to me that they... that they'd noticed, and, like, and even noticed... like, noticed that, like, enough to be, like "Hey you do this a lot and I think that's really something you should reflect on."
Lindsay " Yeah, thank you for speaking to that, because I have seen that in my survey design research in terms of the questions that we ask students and so, you know, not qualitative conversational responses where students are explaining, but just the survey answers they select around a question like that - How often do you feel like your teachers notice you, or notice that you're upset, or notice that you did this. And it's, it's really, you know, nationwide. Anecdotally, just looking at the data I've seen, is really low, like, it's such a basic thing, but it's really low, typically, for students. and I appreciate you speaking to that. (Unintelligible) it's such a basic thing that we can do, right? Is just pay attention to the folks around us and that goes a really long way. So I really appreciate that. And I love that you spoke too, in reference to, you know, you're in Reflection Week, and thinking about that. And so maybe we'll jump to that question of what is something that you have been learning about lately, whether that's, you know, the content in terms of the actual stuff you're learning this week, or this past unit that you've done or, you know, however you wanna segment time? Or it could be kind of like on a, you know, a skill-based or self - reflective level of as you're reflecting on the things you've done, you know, what is it that you're learning about yourself or your skill sets or something like that?
So feel free to interpret that question in any way that you'd like, I'd love to hear from each of you.
Sam : Well, I feel like I've learned that like, I'm a lot like... this sounds weird... but, like, I'm a lot better at school than I thought I was. And, like... I've worked, like, for, like, these, like, years and just thought to myself, like, maybe I'm just, like, not smart, I guess. But now were, like, coming to, like, Springhouse that kind of made me realize that they're reflecting on all of a sudden being able to, like, learn all the stuff. I was just like, "Oh, I can learn, I just wasn't doing it." Not really. Just wasn't like, really able to do it the way that was beneficial to me. And I feel like that's, like, a big part of, like, I was like... it's very individual - like, every student's different - and they see that
Lindsay : Thanks Sam. Anyone else wanna share?
Rhys : I think for me it was kind of like relearning how to learn - if that makes any sense? Because I remember when I was in public school everything that I was taught... I can't remember, like, any of it. And now that I'm here I'm kind of relearning how to learn and remember, kind of, like, what I'm learning - and it's a lot easier because... how do I put this?
I kind of... they put it... they teach it in a way that all learners can understand and if a learner can't you can go up and ask a question. Like, you can actually ask a question and you'll be able to, like, be, like, "I don't know this, I need a little help." And I think that that's... yeah it's really great.
Lindsay : Thank you Rhys. Skyler or Amelia- anything you guys have been learning about lately?
Skyler : Um, yeah. But so... in our main course so we usually learn... what's it called... I forget the terminology... phenomenon... Is that the word? Do you know Amelia?
Amelia : No.
Skyler : We learned... we usually learn by taking a big subject, and then pulling different things out of it and studying things out of it. We've been doing a course on culture - and we've been looking at how culture... we kind of looked at culture through the lens of the Icarus myth... I don't know if you know that one, but it's the classic fly too high, low, fire under the sun.
And we were talking about, like, how does society, like, how does our culture, at least in America, go too high or too low - and where is that... where is that land? And then we kind of, like, led to this place of thinking about this term called Monoculture. Now, it's, you know, it's usually used in, like, farming - but in this context it's like a sociopolitical concept around a culture that focuses on one thing. one thing smushes all the other, you know, little things that come up through the cracks... or at least tries to. And so, what that's led to is, you know, me and Jenny are currently working on projects with the mission in mind of disrupting the Monoculture. And, you know, the kind of... the conclusion that I, personally, came to in the course was that our Monoculture orients around money, and success, and being better than the person next to you.
And, you know, in the course, we really asked the question "Can we go deeper?" And so that's kind of a really, really, moving course for me.
Lindsay : Thanks Skyler, that's awesome. I want to take that course.
Skyler : It's really cool.
Lindsay : Amelia, did you want to share one?
Amelia : I would. I've been having a hard time choosing, because, like, all of the courses I've done have been, like, really great. But I think the course that usually stands out to me when I've asked questions like this is last year I was, like, mostly virtual for the whole year, and not everyone was, and that was pretty challenging. But in the middle of the year, there was a course... I believe it was called Body and Isolation... and it was kind of an anatomy course... because we were learning a lot about the brain and, like, the brain's reaction to things, and, like, all the different departments do. But then it also had various parts like movement and stuff. I'd never taken a course with Roxanne before, and it was really helpful for me on zoom, because the zoom week was just like, zoom... you're sitting down for the whole time.
But Roxanne would always be, like, "Okay, we're standing up, we're moving around, we're doing some breathing exercises." And it was really nice to help, like, recenter into the body, and we're actually here learning about this. And then the learning was more valuable and engaging because of that. And we also learned in that course a lot of different things like the brain's reaction to trauma and like breathing things you can do to help you when, like, you're going into a 'fight or flight' response and, like, it was a very engaging course for being on zoom. There were a lot of slide shows and, like, discussions and things. And so it was course that really lifted me up and let me get through the rest of the year
Lindsay : And it sounds really relevant to the time in the context of Covid, right? And just, like, everything feels really practical, like, those breathing strategies, I'm sure the standing and moving and, like, the learning about trauma and, like, Covid being a collective trauma, right? Societally, it sounds really, really on the mark that someone was, like, this is a course we need to teach now and in this way.
Excellent. All right, so, as we wrap up the episode, I'm just curious to know... as we talked about so many things... So, as folks are listening, and they're kind of, you know, closing out their commute, or going for a run, or however they're listening... and just thinking, "I want one tangible thing to kind of remember as they close the episode." So, something that either one of us have said so far, or a call to action, like an action stuff they can take - anything that you think that we've talked about, that you want to just highlight or emphasize as we close that could be the takeaway item for someone who's ending the episode now - any thoughts on what that might be?
Skyler : If you... I've said this earlier... if you teach adolescents, you gotta trust them, you gotta trust them. The thing is, we are more capable than you might think. We are very capable of doing really awesome stuff. But often, how I look at it in the (Unintelligible) things that I've experienced,
it felt like I haven't gotten the opportunity to really test myself, really push myself, really go to the edge of my capacity. And so, you know, that's one really tangible thing is just, like, actually do the practices in yourself to learn how to trust your students in a way that yeah, you know... learning to trust them, and give them opportunities to test both yourself and your trust of them, you know. Be like, you know, "I want you to set up something and I depend on you," and allow them to figure it out - because we can do some really cool stuff if we are given the opportunity... and I think that you're... that part of your job as a facilitator is to give us the opportunity. So, yeah.
Lindsay : Beautifully said. What other things do people want to highlight?
Amelia : I think that, in connection with you, Skyler, if you're a learner listening to this, try to trust your facilitator, because then you can make that connection.
Lindsay : Great suggestion, Amelia, thank you. Say more, Rhys?
Rhys : I think that, like, listening to your students, like, listening to your learners and the learners listening to the teachers, like, is such a crucial part of, like, of the healthy school environment. And I think that, like, yes, so much, like how Skyler was saying - how, like, capable adolescents are like, okay, well we are... we could be so much more capable if we had great resources to do it.
Skyler : Yes,, thank you.
Speaker : I think that, like, what everyone, especially Skyler, was talking about, is that definitely that mutual trust. and just being able to recognize and understand that everybody learns differently and that some... yeah just like Sam said, just being able to challenge, yeah... sorry, that didn't make much sense and (unintelligible) interpreted as well.
But not really, I don't know,
Lindsay : I think that makes perfect sense. Yeah, I think and that's a really, really great point that I think all of these responses seem connected to that idea of relationality, right? And in building that relationality with students and fostering that sense of not everyone learns the same, right? And we need to listen to be able to figure out how students learn, right? And there's all these interconnections between what you all just highlighted - we need to build that trust to be able to have that relationship in the first place. So, I think this is brilliant wisdom to be able to share at the close of the episode. And the very last question... I'm not sure if you all have a space online that folks could learn more about the school? I know Jenny had spoken on a previous episode with... that I had with Jenny... she spoke about the school webpage. So I don't know if there are other things like class blogs or project spaces that people can go to, to see any of your work... or if you, you know, if you're wanting to connect with folks individually... absolutely feel free to share that as well... but I'm just wondering what people can do to kind of follow up and learn more about you all and your work
Skyler : Immediately off the top of my head here...
the school, me and Jenny and a few other people, really worked a few years ago on designing education design principles... the ones that I told you... and they are part of this thing that we call Sourced Design - and we have all types of opportunities for educators and business owners and nonprofit people, but to really study and look into it. And so we do have a web page, the source to design dot org, where you can really dig into, like, the real nitty gritty of what we've been talking about here.
Lindsay : Perfect. And I'll link to that in the show notes, too. So, for anyone who's driving while listening, you can grab that, they're in the blog post when you're done driving. Thank you all so, so much, I just want to reiterate my gratitude for you all taking time out of your day to come together and talk about this and provide some really insightful commentary and suggestions for educators who are trying to do the great things that you're speaking about today.
So, thank you all - Skyler, Rhys, Amelia, Sam, thank you so much for for being on the podcast.
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 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.
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Lindsay Lyons: I'm excited for you to hear from Dr. Kelly Cerialo today. She's an associate professor and program coordinator in the Business and Hospitality Department at Paul Smith's College, she is the co-chair of the Unesco Champlain-Adirondack Biosphere Reserve, New York and Vermont, a steering committee member for the US Unesco Biosphere Network, and focal point liaison for the US Biosphere Reserve Youth Network. She coordinates international student exchanges with a focus on eco-tourism in Unesco Biosphere reserves in Europe and Africa. She is the co-founder of the Adirondack to Appennino Sustainable Parks and Communities Project, an international sustainable initiative between the Appennino Tusco-Emiliano Biosphere Reserve in Italy and the Champlain-Adirondack Biosphere Reserve. Dr. Cerialo is the former director of the Global Center for Rural Communities at Paul Smith's College and has over a decade of experience building international sustainable development collaborations. She received the Chamberlain Excellence in Teaching Award in 2019 and Faculty Member of the Year at Paul Smith's College in 2018. Dr. Cerialo has presented her research on sustainable tourism and youth leadership development at conferences in the US, Europe, Asia, and Africa.
She has a PhD in Leadership and Change from Antioch University, a master's degree in Communication Management from the University of Southern California, master's degree in Leadership and Change from Antioch University, and a bachelor's degree in Public Relations, Mass Media Communication from the College of New Jersey. Her research interests include sustainable tourism development, the social impacts of tourism in internationally designated areas, sustainable tourism in Unesco Biosphere reserves, Unesco Biosphere reserve governance and management, recreation overuse, and youth leadership development in internationally designated areas. Let's get right to the episode. For a reference I'll tell you when this episode was recorded, which was August 9, 2021. Here we go.
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Lindsay Lyons: 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.
Lindsay Lyons: Welcome Dr. Kelly Cerialo to the podcast. I'm so excited to have you here. I just read your professional bio. Is there anything you want to add to that intro?
Dr. Kelly Cerialo: So Lindsay, thank you so much for having me on the show. I'm honored and it's-- I'm excited to share with you my perspectives about study abroad. So I would say that the main thing I wanted to add about this before we get started is that a lot of what I'm discussing today is a mix of my own academic research and experience. So I'm not the traditional academic. I would say I'm a more scholar practitioner and so a lot of the context of what I'm discussing is based on conducting service-learning study abroad trips for the last seven years in Italy and South Africa.
And so a lot of it again isn't just based on my scholarly research, but more my practice in the field. So I wanted to say that and I think another aspect that might be helpful to frame our conversation is to tell you a little bit about the college where I teach and the student demographics. I think that will help understand how I've learned from this study abroad approach and how I've tried to strengthen the service-learning aspect of the study abroad piece. So I teach at a very small rural private college in upstate New York, in the northern Adirondacks actually, so it's about six hours north of New York City. It's called Paul Smith's College and the whole model of learning there is focused on innovative experiential learning and so I know that a lot of programs focus on that, but it's really changed my perspective of what that can look like and more importantly, how place-based education fits into that. So in terms of the college itself and the location, it's a really interesting learning ground. We have in our school, we have programs that range from Forestry Management, where it's literally the students are barely in the classroom, they're always outside, you know, it's-- our campus is 14,000 acres so the students are outside, you know, in the field all the time learning.
And in my program I teach in the Business and Hospitality Department. So we're always quote unquote in the field too. I'm not in the forest as much, but we're always, you know, in the field meeting with, tourism operators to learn about, you know, things related to our field. So it's truly out of the classroom experiential learning. And that's-- it was interesting because that actually helped me improve my approach to study abroad because it really focused on place-based learning. And then I tried to apply that in a global setting so to improve my approach to study abroad and how I can make that more generative for the students, not only in our local community but more importantly abroad. So in terms of the student demographics that I teach, so, again it's a very small school and we have about 1000 undergraduate students, we just launched one master's program, but the bachelor's program is about 1000. And most of the students are first generation college students, low income families, most of them receive federal funding in order to supplement their tuition.
And so this isn't a traditional kind of western, extremely wealthy, you know, New York City-based college, it's-- these are certainly low income and first generation college students that in traditional academic settings may not have an opportunity to study abroad. But I'm proud that at our school we've built in funding opportunities in scholarships that allow these students to be able to go to all different locations. You know, whether it's Russia, I don't run the Russia study abroad. We have another program in Biology that does a study abroad trip to Russia, but then also in Italy, South Africa. So it's a really, I think unique, innovative and I like to think an inclusive model that our whole school is introduced. I don't think it's just me. I think the other faculty members have really wrapped their, you know, hands around and minds around creating truly innovative place-based education in our area and then abroad. So it's pretty unique in that and I'm proud to, proud to be a part of it.
Lindsay Lyons: That's amazing and it kind of speaks-- that, that answer was kind of speaks to the next question that I'm going to ask, which is around this idea that Dr. Bettina Love talks about: freedom dreaming. She describes that, I love her description, as "Dreams grounded in the critique of injustice". And so I'd love to hear from you, you know, what is your big dream that you hold for the field of education?
Dr. Kelly Cerialo: So many, right, I have a laundry list, but I think the one that's so relevant to this episode, and I say the-- I think, it's so relevant just in terms of what's going on in the world today is the idea of trying to figure out a way for educators and administrators to introduce their-- to reimagine the idea of place as pedagogy, right? So the idea of thinking about how place as pedagogy can create opportunities for students to think critically about injustice in their own towns, but also abroad. Along with that, I think what is critical is to think about how students and even faculty, I, you know, needed to reflect on this myself several times,
is thinking about how our own intersectional lenses influence the way that we see, we feel, and we think about, right? Those three aspects: seeing, feeling, and thinking about our culture and other cultures, I think, are a critical piece to place as pedagogy, right? So it's not only seeing it, but you feel a certain way when you're experiencing a place, right? When you're sensing a place. And then when you're thinking about it, sometimes your thoughts don't always align with what you're seeing. And so I think considering those three aspects is really important. So I think when I'm dreaming again about this big idea, you know, what dream do I hold for education is really how can we introduce that way of thinking about place as pedagogy to think critically, for students to think critically about injustice and in that, in that same aspect of thinking about injustice is also thinking about what opportunities in that can we create for social change, because I think that's the piece, it's not just saying there's injustice there, but we can use place as pedagogy to find opportunities for social change.
So I think it's a pretty pie in the sky, you know, dream that, I think it's possible. And I think that, yeah, it's something I'm at least striving for.
Lindsay Lyons: I love that so much, and I think that's such a great point. We don't want to just point out injustice and identify where it exists, but we want to actually advance justice and, you know, make social change. And so I love that, that piece of the dream, and I'm thinking, you know, this is, as you said, kind of pie in the sky, or maybe a deviation from, particularly when we're talking about, you know, undergraduate students and what college looks like, that has been a very specific way for a very long time in terms of the pedagogy of college and, all of that, and I mean down through K-12 as well, right, there's this traditional way of doing things. And so I'm curious to know what mindset shifts are required either for the students, for faculty, like whoever you see as really needing that mindset shift to get people to buy into that idea of place as pedagogy and moving for social change.
Dr. Kelly Cerialo: Yeah, so I'd say the first and I think most important shift that needs to happen is when you're thinking about place as pedagogy is that there's, [sigh] there's a danger in hierarchies
when you think about place as pedagogy, and I think when you're trying to use a place as grounds to educate, it's important to establish networks instead of reinforce hierarchies. So the idea of how do I network with the local business and the community to make sure that we are introducing ideas, you know, the student ideas for a project. One example I can think about is that my students have worked with a local organization to help them develop a self-assessment to be more sustainable in hotels. So it's for hotels and they come up with a self-assessment. And so what was interesting in that process was that, it-- instead of the hotel is looking at the students and saying, "What do they know about sustainability?" and, you know, the strict hierarchy of, "I'm older", "I've been in the field for a really long time", "You have no idea about our budget", "You have no idea about...", you know, what it takes to be sustainable. It broke that hierarchy down and it gave, it empowered the students through our network with them, in our relationship with them, to find a voice and to research what they needed to do to create the self-assessment for hotels.
So what was interesting in that process was my students were working locally with these-- it was a series of hotels in the Lake Placid area, which is a very, you know, it's Lake Placid where our- my College is about 30 minutes from Lake Placid, a 30 minute drive. And it's a popular tourist destination. It was known, they hosted the Olympics there twice in 1932 and 1980. And so it's a big tourist destination, totally for the Olympics, but it's also, outdoor recreation is really popular and hiking and so hotels are a strong economic driver in this region. So my students having the opportunity to create something that could be more sustainable for these hotels was an incredible opportunity and it couldn't have happened without that breakdown of the hierarchies and without the networking experience. And what was interesting too was that in terms of empowering the students instead of trying to control them in that process, I stepped back and I kind of, you know, it was, we were doing this, it actually happened, you know, in a semester that I was partially-- it was a hybrid of the course, we were part in person and part, you know, online and I was able to step back and let them really drive the idea.
So think about innovative ways to approach this, instead of me saying this is what we're going to do, this is, you know why this is important in this hotel and this is why the self-assessment... So they really created that project. So going back to that question, the mindset shift, I think that are required to really strengthen that place as pedagogy is to break down the hierarchies and encourage networks and then I would say empower instead of control and that again, all those, both of those concepts can mean a lot of layers, right? So it can be hierarchies within the educational framework, hierarchies within, you know, the community framework or abroad because we'll be talking about the study abroad a little bit later internationally, and then the empowering instead of controlling, you know, in my example was really about empowering the students instead of strictly saying this is what you're gonna do, and I think the other layer to that was the hotels also trusted the students enough and empowered them enough to let their voice come forward.
And so I think that was a really critical piece in place as pedagogy is allowing that empowerment to come through. So it worked, I think that, you know, it was really great and the way I, you know, know it worked was that hotels were excited to use the end product and this, again, this is a community, a local community example, but this I'll be talking about later some examples of how this can be applied internationally and you know, in the study abroad programs, but, the student and when the hotels were using this tool or thinking about this tool, you know, they were proud to say that it was a student initiative, right? It wasn't something they were saying, like "We came up this idea ourselves, we're sustainable", it was more of the students developed this locally and it just, it really strengthened a lot of ties in the community. So, and I do have to admit this was, you know, I've done several of these programs locally and not all of them are as successful or, you know, easy as this one was, I don't want to say it was easy, it was difficult for the students, but you know, I think it takes some trial and error to come to that.
And I think this one was an example of one that could work, an example of how to break down that hierarchy and empower the students, so.
Lindsay Lyons: It sounds too like you're kind of talking about finding the right partners as well. Like, so not necessarily shifting mindsets, although I think there probably is a requirement to kind of shift people along that continuum, but people who are already at the point where they're like, "Yeah, we're willing to work with students, we're excited to say this was student created", like that's a particular type of partner. It sounds like that you'd want to establish in that network versus to try to convert someone who is very hierarchical, very "I don't want to work with students". It sounds like it's better to partner with the right people right off the bat.
Dr. Kelly Cerialo: Absolutely. And it takes-- it's a lot of vetting that goes through that and it took me quite some time to figure out how to do that, you know, and it's a lot of times it doesn't come to the surface, you know, in terms of what their expectations are with the students. And one thing for me is that you also, in finding that right partner, a lot of times people would be like, "Oh, free help", you know, "A student project, that sounds great", and I have to be really mindful of protecting the students from that, you know, making sure that from a learning perspective that our course objectives are met, that they are empowered in a way that's, you know, from start to finish throughout the class, not just for one week of the class that they have say, but that model stays, you know, throughout the whole semester, So I think you're exactly right.
I think the partner in this is critical, again, not just on the community level, but more thinking of finding partners, for a study abroad experience for place as pedagogy. It's equally, if not more important, so absolutely.
Lindsay Lyons: Awesome. And yeah, let's talk about study abroad a little bit. So I think one of the things that I think is really critical is taking brave action and developing, you know, programs and structures and practices just like you've been talking about and I know you've done that for a study abroad program. So I don't know if you want to give us an overview of that program or talk about kind of an overview of those brave actions that required to kind of set it all up and then we can go into, you know, what are the challenges and all of that. But I'd love to just get you to introduce that for our listeners to see the great stuff you're doing.
Dr. Kelly Cerialo: Sure. So the program that I should say this and I think this was a critical part for myself in this process is that I co-- I'm the co-founder, I don't do this alone, you know, I think that would be extra for myself. I need, you know, a partner in this because I think so much of place as pedagogy and especially study abroad is important to self reflect on what's going on, not only for the students, but also for the faculty.
And so, I have a partner, Dr. Eric Holmlund who also works at Paul Smith's College, that I've built the Adirondack to Appenninos Sustainable Parks and Communities Project. That's the name of the project, the study abroad. And it was interesting how this program came to be. So it's a, without speaking for three hours, I'll cut to the chase about it, but it was in 2013 my Chair at the time had said, "Would you be interested in taking students on a study abroad trip to Italy? We have a partner that's looking for a faculty member to go". And I was like, "Who wouldn't want to go on a study abroad trip to Italy? Yes." And so what was interesting, long story short, I was going with another faculty member who fortunately had led several study abroads, so I absolutely, he was a mentor and I learned from Dr. Holmlund through this process. So I went on the trip, I'll start this. So the program itself was designed with the idea of looking at the impacts of sustainable tourism on protected areas. So looking at the social impacts, economic, and environmental. We've used a lot of the United Nations sustainable development goals as a framework. Later on in the program, when we started this, it was in 2013,
so those goals came out later. but the initial program was really focusing on how looking at the impacts of tourism in these protected areas. And so Dr. Holmlund and I were trying to figure out when we're creating this program, how can we make sure this is a generative experience for the students that it's something that we are actually making a difference in the country that we're working with, but not determining what we should be doing that's good for us based on our learning objectives, but more importantly, and you know, kind of equally balancing our learning objectives with the needs of the local community. So, we were very fortunate in identifying administrators from a Unesco site, it's a Unesco biosphere reserve, so it's a protected landscape that has, it's extremely biodiverse. It's incredible hiking areas, really great for outdoor recreation. So the idea was how can we work with these local partners to identify, you know, learning experience for the students that gave back to the local community but was also meeting our learning objectives.
So, that was the bit the framework for this project, the whole project. So what happened over the years as Dr. Holmlund and I had worked on this project, we were trying to figure out as the-- when we started, we knew that this was going to be multi-year engagement, multi-year partnership. And the idea behind that was that finding an in-country partner that communicated clearly about what the community's needs for, that understood our purpose, right? So like, I think a lot of the mistakes in study abroads, I know that when I was first thinking about study abroad, a lot of the mistakes were, you know, you're going, it's-- the idea was you're going as a vacation, right? This isn't tourism, you know, in terms of the study abroad experience, it's not a vacation for students, it's education and so how can we make sure that this multi-year relationship is focused on education, is meeting the community needs, and also understanding that in terms of giving back to our school that we-- Eric and I, the-- professor Holmlund and I designed the program that if either one of us left that the program could continue with our school.
So like if for some reason, you know, that one of the faculty members changed, that another faculty member could pick this up and continue. So I think that it was, that was really important to us. So in any event that was the project, the Adirondack Appennino Sustainable Parks and Community Project. So when we first developed this and you start-- first started running the trip we, you know, Eric fortunately was again, he had a lot more experience than I did in study abroads. I had never run a study abroad and so I was not prepared for students being afraid on the plane. Students, you know had, you know, having withdrawal from their cell phones, you know, students, you know..., you name it, I was completely unprepared. And so what was great was that we had the opportunity in our school to do pre-trip. The way we run it is we run a full semester before of pre-trip coursework preparation, cultural preparation, some basic language preparation, some, you know, some context about the political, social, economic context in the area,
environmental, you know, and we used the Adirondacks, like where our school is based as a point of differentiation, so again that place as pedagogy, the Adirondacks was used as a comparison to, in this case we were looking at Unesco site in Italy. And so what was beneficial is that the students knew the Adirondacks and then when we would eventually get on the ground in Italy they'd be like, "Oh, this is what's similar, this is what's different" culturally, socially, economically from our areas. So we used that full semester to kind of build that up. When we first started it I don't know if it was as productive but as we went through the seven years we saw what was really important right? So beginning that self reflective piece, thinking about again how your intersectional lens of how you experience your own culture, you know, your own perceptions of race, your own perceptions of religion before you go, not just waiting 'til you're on the ground there. So we started to build in that self reflection piece even, you know, when we were still in the US. And so I think over the years we've-- that was one piece that we strengthened considerably.
The other thing that we did very intentionally was we always had an interdisciplinary team. It was never just one major and I did that because I was also, I introduced this and was pretty strict about this because I saw the benefit in all of, I teach a lot of communication courses too at the school. And so I see the benefit of having interdisciplinary teams together, especially in communication courses, but the study abroad course, I really wanted to see the different perspectives and avoid groupthink and I also think it challenges students to learn and appreciate and see things outside of their own field, right? So we have some biology students that go, we have culinary students, we have sustainability students, we have hospitality students, we have recreation. And so I think, this is just my opinion, I'd be interested to hear my partner's opinion on this, but the most successful trips are really with the students that have a wide range of perspectives and experiences within their field.
You know, I had taken-- Eric wasn't able to come one year, so I had taken a professor, her background is in Biology and she also is in, I know, has studied a variety of different aspects of biology and seeing and experiencing Italy, the same territory that I've been traveling to, through her eyes changed my perspective, right? And so in turn, you know, in years following that it absolutely shifted the way that I approached the course because it was, it made me more sensitive to other disciplines and so with that I think the students also bring the different disciplines is really rich in terms of diversity and perspectives. So that's a little bit about the program that we've developed. And I think it also gives the actions that our, our school trusted us to develop this. So when we first started, I think that was when we were talking about, like, brave actions are required. I think what was brave and what our university did or our college did was that they trusted Eric and I to build this program to set up scholarship opportunities.
We didn't set that up. The school had that built in: international study abroad scholarship opportunities. But they would carve out, you know, it was a significant amount of money that students can get up to $1,000 per trip. And so I think that's a significant opportunity. And then, so in terms of the brave actions, having that funding opportunity and then also I think the other brave action our administration took was that in times that our school financially, you know, couldn't afford to pay us, meaning the instructors, as an overload, to go, they figured out ways to fold the study abroad experience like into our normal course work. So it was, they were taking risks. They were thinking outside of the box in terms of, they knew the value of this. We showed them the value of what the effect this had on the students, the place as pedagogy specifically in this case, in terms of study abroad. So they continued to support that and I think that it, without our administration's support and them seeing, figuring out ways to make sure that we can continue the trip, to continue our relationship with our Unesco partners, you know, in Italy,
and then eventually we did the trip in South Africa too and I'll speak to that later. I think that the trust of the administration, the flexibility, the innovativeness, they were, they were always open to us trying this. And I think what was also interesting on our partners on the ground, we made sure that, you know, it wasn't, you know, I think that my-- I cringe when I think about this idea of, you know, the white savior-ism specifically and I-- and our trip to, you know, South Africa prepping the students of why that is, you know, it's-- we need to be thinking about this on a deep level. And so what I think was important in our context and our, you know, preparation for these programs (I'm rambling a bit...) [inaudible] for these programs was that they--, our administration really believed in what we were doing and tried innovative ways to continue supporting it after we showed them the benefits. And so we wanted to make sure that what we were doing for the local communities in Italy and South Africa lasted, it wasn't something that would just go away when we left after the two or three weeks when we were there, it was something that they can continue to integrate and so we set it up that the projects would last long term and it didn't require extra resources that were unreasonable, it didn't require you know additional things that they didn't have.
So I think that was, that was a key part to it.
Lindsay Lyons: That's so helpful that you highlighted, I think you threw out some challenges there, you threw out some brave actions there. That was so helpful to kind of hear how this is all coming together and the focus for you as a co-creator of this program in terms of what you wanted to have happen and I think as we continue the conversation I think that will come out more and more in terms of the choices that you made or the experiences and specific anecdotes that kind of highlight how that focus has become even more precise. I know you threw out some challenges but were there other challenges that you wanted to share around, you know, developing curriculum or setting all this up in terms of the city abroad program really being what you wanted it to be?
Dr. Kelly Cerialo: Yeah, so I'll share kind of two aspects of this. So I think in terms of the biggest challenges with curriculum development for study abroad programs, there's a lot in the literature about this, right? So if there's a lot of information about study abroad, like how to, how to develop the curriculum correctly and then, you know, what challenges are in terms of actually executing it on the ground.
So I think what with some of the challenges, especially with the service learning focused ones are that I mentioned this earlier that a lot of, for cost reasons and for time reasons, I shouldn't say a lot, but certain study abroad programs are contracted out to third party vendors, so when you're coming up and developing a curriculum for study abroad and a third party vendor is actually the one that's executing it or private businesses actually executing it and you, as the faculty member have less control over it. That certainly changes the outcomes. In my opinion, my experience, it changed the outcome. The other aspect, I did touch on this briefly, but the idea of when you're developing a curriculum, it in some circumstances, fortunately we tried to avoid this, but in some circumstances, the idea, especially when you're contracting sometimes and I shouldn't say all third party vendors are not terrible and all private businesses for study abroads are not terrible. I think they're actually excellent. There are really strong ones.
I think there are-- the ones that are focused on the service learning and really creating those generative experience, not, you know, focused on tourism, but more education I think is what's key. So I think the idea of, when you're fine-- if you are choosing to develop a curriculum and you choose a third party or private business to execute that, it's important to select something or an organization that is prioritizing the educational piece and not just taking them around to the pretty sights and you know, kind of skimming the surface of what's actually happening. The other aspect of curriculum development for study abroad programs and I think the biggest challenge and something to be aware of, especially when you're going in non-Western cultures or you know, it's critically important is that being aware of the use of colonialist language that you're talking about, in the way that you're framing this with the students because I think a lot of it is from a Western perspective and when you're going to a country, you know that say you're going to Uganda or in my case we've taken students South Africa, it's recognizing the language that you're using in the curriculum and how you're introducing different sources, you know, not just using Western sources. I think, you know, it's-- with me, I was very, you know, I had taken a different professor than Eric on this.
I was working with a cultural anthropologist that went with me to South Africa and it was incredible because he was an excellent resource. It was Professor Joe Henderson, also at Paul Smith's College, he was an incredible resource at helping find and source, you know, Native South African, you know, speakers and Native South african written books and videos and podcasts, right? And so we would use that as a pre-trip resource to compare and contrast, so use-- developing that curriculum that integrated cultural relevant pedagogy and then also being mindful and then really intentional about finding thing-- resources from the country that you're visiting and not just from a Western perspective and what we did was we challenged the students to compare and contrast it and man, that was a pretty intense, you know, class conversation that we enjoyed and I think it was great even before we were on the ground and yeah, we used that throughout the trip. So I think in terms of curriculum development it's, you know, there's several challenges I think, you know, just to highlight it's really... when you're developing the curriculum, be cognizant if you are using a third party to make sure that the third party or private business is, you know, prioritizing educational piece over the tourism piece, being cognizant of the language that you're using, you know, that it's not the colonialist language that, you know, you're introducing into the curriculum.
And then also, you know, thinking about... thinking about ways to introduce resources that are not just from the Western perspective, you know, when you're developing the curriculum. So yeah.
Lindsay Lyons: Those are great suggestions and I was just thinking of the colonialist language, I mean that comes out in a lot of different ways. One specific example, I was-- we were talking before we started recording that I was able to do some study abroad trips and one of the ones that resonates with me is in the north of Ireland and I say the north of Ireland very precisely because I learned in that pre-trip phase in the course that we had leading up to it, that choosing to say, you know, Northern Ireland is like a particular frame, like you're supporting the imperialism of Northern Ireland by England and so the north of Ireland is cognizant of Ireland as a republic. And so just that little tiny shift, I mean, things like that are so nuanced and if we didn't study it ahead of time, I never would have realized in speaking to different people that that nuance is present in language that people who are living there speaking and that I am coming off in certain ways to certain people.
And so I think that's just one tiny example, but I think that's so powerful, but you're naming all of those things. And actually, if I can continue just with that vein of study abroad trips in my personal experience, I have had so many, Nicaragua, Ireland, South Africa, Mauritius, I mean just so many different places that I've been able to go and study and I felt great about myself in the moment, like "Yes, I'm doing this really cool work" and looking back really what the experiences are with the lens that I have now, they really felt in many cases more like what has been called poverty tourism or white savior-ism and they weren't super generative. I wasn't really working with an organization on the ground to have that sustainable impact like you're talking about. I wasn't always challenging my ways of thinking and so I think that's such a challenge, you know, within country partners and having a study abroad experience. So how do you really set the stage? And I think you kind of talked about this a little bit already, but how do you set the stage with that specifically in mind, that we don't want to just be taken to sites that are looking at economic poverty or other situations and feeling like we're not contributing and just kind of looking at people's hardship and almost like, you know, trauma and seeing that as the purpose of the trip, is to bear witness to trauma.
I think that's such a challenging line to walk in terms of recognizing what is happening and also being generative in partnering with people. So I'm so curious to know any other tips that you have for people or experiences that you've had that we're learning moments, or kind of recognizing what you wanted the program to really be in evolution there.
Dr. Kelly Cerialo: Yeah, so I would say in terms of how to-- how I tried to set the stage with in-country partners and with the students before they leave so they have more generative experience. And first I just, I admire how many places you went to and I would love to, in another conversation, hear about all that because I think so much of what I've, you know, done and learned through this study abroad experience is also hearing about other study abroad trips of how I can improve and tweak mine and getting feedback on it. So that's incredible that you had that opportunity and I think it's so valuable. So I think in terms of how I try to set the stage and again this came from trial and error and learning myself, I want to be super, you know, transparent about this. I was very naive when I first started doing the study abroad experiences and reflecting back on it, you know, it's just-- it took me experiencing and admittedly messing up, right, you know, not understanding the impacts of that white savior-ism and poverty tourism and all of those things.
So I think I want to just put that out there and admit, you know, I absolutely, you know, learned from that myself. So it's something that, it didn't just happen, you know, this isn't perfect, it was, you know, learned over time. So the things that I try to do now after learning from that, in terms of setting the stage with in-country partners and the students before they leave, I think, there's a tool I'm sure you're familiar with. So Geert Hofstede came up with this idea of the cultural dimensions. So these cultural dimensions, what-- it's cool about them and I think there is some, I tell students to take it with a grain of salt, what they do is they introduce different lenses of looking at cultural. So for instance, they look at is the culture, you know, based on his dimensions. And again, this is a very specific framework so you have to take with a grain of salt, but does it tend to be a more collectivist or individualistic society? Is it more feminine or masculine? Is it more, you know, where they, I can't think of the word for it, but are they more in terms of showing wealth, you know, how-- what is their likely propensity to showing wealth?
And so I use that as a basis for discussion because the tool is actually incredible. They allow you to compare it to other countries. So I'll have the students as an activity before we leave, look at that. So look at first as a comparison to America because that's what their context is and what they know the best. I'll have them compare it to another country that they're also interested in. So say for instance, if we were taking the students to Italy, I'd have them compare it first, you know, using Hofstede cultural dimensions, looking at how does Italy approach? Are they more of an individualistic society or collectivist in comparison to America? And then I'll have them look at, say, students very interested in japanese culture. So I'll have them compare Italy to Japan in terms of the range of collectivist versus individual. And then we have a discussion about it, right? We reflect on it, what surprised them, what, you know, did they expect that and how I have them try to think about how they will see this playing out on the ground when we're there, like thinking about now that we've talked about this, like how could this look like. And then when we're in country I pull that back in and I'll say, "Remember when we were looking at that? Was that accurate?" and sometimes it's not.
And I think that's equally as valuable as a learning tool when it's not. We can say, "That's cool, Hofstede. We got that.", that is, you know, very-- that-- insightful that we saw that. But we also noticed this. And I think what's interesting is that when you use any of these tools it's not specific to Hofstede is that the students and from your experience, you know, this was developed during a certain time period, right? So we're in, you know, 2021 2022 and so this can change, you know, these like, the countries evolve and experiences evolve, economic, political situations change. So when this tool was developed, the dimensions can also change with that. And so I think that that's also a valuable learning opportunity. So in terms of pre-trip preparation, I do an extensive amount. We try to do it for a semester long, so it'll run for, you know, three-- around three months, you know, to prepare them to think critically about this and not just--, I don't do, you know, it's-- yes, I'll have some power point slides but so much of it is discussion based, I avoid, like I-- it's not-- you're--, they're not, they're not learning anything by me just talking about, "Here's what you're gonna see in Italy." It's more of like, let's look at these dimensions, let's think critically about what this is gonna look like and then have them, you know, reflect about how they think about this on the ground, how they're feeling about this and what they're actually seeing on the ground through those dimensions.
And so that's one of many tools that we kind of integrate. Another piece that I've used in this experience too is a lot of-- our school offers a pretty interesting recreation-- outdoor recreation program and there's a lot of leadership development and that goes into these outdoor recreations. So in terms of like, you know, the-- just group dynamics and understanding like how groups function, you know, and the idea of when you're experiencing a foreign culture, the idea that, you know the norming storming, you know, the, you know in terms of group dynamics, understanding how your experience of a place and learning about this place changes based on your group dynamics. So if one person, one student or one faculty member in the group is having a very, you know, strong opinion about x, you know, maybe it's about the food, "I hate the taste of this food," or "I love the sound of this language," or you know, "This is beautiful," it shifts and it can, you know, depending on the group dynamic change the way that you experience that.
So in the pre-trip planning, we also discussed that: looking at the group dynamics, getting to know each other in the context. So I have them do activities about you know, it's a five finger... I can't remember off the top my head, but it's like, "What am I going to bring to this? What do I fear most about it? What's something somebody wouldn't know about me? What's...", you know, those type of like team building activities that help them understand that because we're going in a group, it's-- you're not just experiencing this thing on your own, this is an educational aspect and you're experiencing an-- another culture with other people through your own lens but also understanding that their lenses could affect your experience too. And my lens as an instructor can affect your experience. And I own that, that was something I never did in the beginning, but I've learned especially from the study abroad trip I ran in South Africa, the way that I framed South Africa before for them was very different of how they experienced it on the ground. And the students were very vocal about that and I appreciated it so much. Because I had introduced, I had lived in South Africa for three months working on a Unesco project.
And so I had, I mean, I had very, you know, deep feelings and beliefs and you know, thoughts on South Africa that I wanted to communicate to them and I tried to do it as broad a way as possible. But I realized in the pre-trip planning, the way that I framed it my lenses, you know, influenced the way that, you know, they-- that they were perceiving different aspects of apartheid or they were perceiving different aspects of the socioeconomic situation. And so what was great, and I think that because I just did the trip with them in 2020 and right before the pandemic in January 2020. So I just did the trip with them was that we used that as a learning opportunity, they were great and they were, I felt encouraged that they were empowered enough to say that, you know what we were-- when we were doing the self reflections in the country, they were saying, you know, "Remember in class, when you were telling us about...", we'll say Winnie Mandela, right? So I was giving, you know, I'd given them, you know, a discussion about Winnie Mandela, and they said, you know, "We were expecting her to be this great freedom fighter, but we learned on the ground here that there's a lot of other layers that people view her here.
They, you know, she's not, you know, and so it was through our interviews and in-country experiences, it introduced different complexities to perceptions that were not introduced them before. So I think what was, it's valuable to leave space for that and try to, you know, I think the one thing I learned was that, and I always say this and that I prepare them by saying, "It's never gonna go as you planned. Our study abroad trip is never going to go as you plan. Poop is gonna hit the fan. We're gonna have to like rethink things, it's not going to be what you think". And I think allowing myself to pivot and learn from those moments where I could have been better in terms of the pre-trip prep or thought about introducing different resources to use that and allow them to have a voice, or empower them enough to have a voice in their self reflection too, about it. And so, so yeah, I think that's one of the critical pieces. The other, in terms of the other ways I set the stage for in-country, you know, the in-country partners and with the students is that I do try as much as I can to think about de-centering the american perspective and the western perspective.
I mentioned that before, but I think that is a really important piece coming from New York, coming from America. How can we make sure that these students, especially students that haven't traveled before, start to think about, you know, we're not the only perspective and where we're going, you know, when we go to Italy, you know, there's a lot of, you know similarities that we can find in our own cultures with Italian cultures in terms of economics, in terms of environmental approaches. When you go to South Africa, it's a different ballgame and so understanding and starting to introduce those resources to the students before we get there is important. Again, as I mentioned, different books, different videos from Native South Africans, is a really important piece. So the last thing I want to say is that it's-- in terms of the prep and how to stage it is that in terms of-- with partners, I-- we mentioned this or you and I mentioned this earlier is that the partners are the critical piece, right? So with the strong partner, they help you set this all up.
Right? So it's something that I feel very fortunate in the partners that we've had in South Africa and also in Italy and that we've kept for a long time. They understand that what our goals are and that we're looking to create experiences that aren't just riding in a bus, finger pointing, and trying to understand a culture from a bus window, but instead on the ground to see like what, you know, again, a lot of our projects focus on tourism, looking at sustainable models of tourism. And so in South Africa, not just going looking from a bus window and driving through Soweto, which, you know, it's in terms of looking at the townships of-- that were created from the apartheid, like understanding Soweto, not just as an economically depressed area and an area that is, you know, again, as you mentioned earlier, looking at poverty tourism and driving through and saying, "Oh my gosh, I can't believe people live in these conditions," but instead looking at other models of tourism that for instance, we work with a company called Dreamcatcher South Africa
that's created a program called Wasteland Graceland. And so what it was was that it was a township that was built outside, it was built during apartheid era. And so the blacks were moved from the main cities to this community and it was right near a waste dump. And so over the years, the waste dump had polluted their water. It's created several health issues over the years for the local community. So over time this Dreamcatcher has helped develop a project, not only to clean up the waste site in order to clean the water and reduce the health issues, but they also started a program that to use the waste from that site to train the local community members and teach them how to make jewelry, how to make products for the home out of the waist. They got funding from the local government to create, like the-- to buy machines that actually make jewelry and can create home goods and so now they sell them to tourists. And so now that area is not just driving through a bus, like pointing there, but instead telling the story of Wasteland Graceland, how that became to be, like what that waste site looked like, how long term as a tourism model
this works, like how this is, you know, empowered the local community and you know, again over time, this is giving back in so many ways instead of again just riding through on a bus and saying, you know, this is, you know where Nelson Mandela once lived and then, you know, passing through Soweto. So I think that, you know, showing different models and understanding that white savior-ism in study abroad trips is real. And so the idea of how can you create and find a partner that will help with de-centering the american perspective and not having it as a white savior, but instead as an educational experience that also can give back to the local community in some way and it's not easy and it's-- I think it changes based on the country that you're working with, based on the community that you are working with within that country and just truly listening and giving. The other thing I recognize is that oftentimes when you first meet a partner, it takes several conversations to identify the true community needs because I think at first it's-- "Well what are your objectives for the class?"
And so I tell them that, but then it takes continual converse-- "Well what can we really do to help?" and like, to give back and you know, with that program, the Wasteland Graceland, what was really-- what they needed was a perspective of how to improve it from tourists. So we gave them that, we had said, you know, "This is what we really liked about the students did a survey," and like said, "This is what we really liked about it. This is what, from a tourism perspective could make it really interesting, and here's what we think that could do to help however, this is from our perspective," and I-- we had them recognize this is from an american perspective. We talked about how different cultures, different South African cultures could experience that differently. And so how that could be, you know, more inclusive to not just white tourists from America, but how this can, you know, entice you know different communities and other members of the South African community to enjoy what they have and to see all of the cool things that they're doing. So again, I think that's-- the pre-trip prep is critical across the board and understanding that if you can figure out a way to de-center the american perspective, that's I think a huge step in the battle with this and I don't want to say battle, but the huge step in terms of creating a really interesting and generative study abroad experience.
Lindsay Lyons: So I love all the things that you have shared so far. There's so much to consider. If there is a person listening who either is teaching at the undergrad level or even, I'm even thinking like some high school teachers who might be interested in a short term study abroad or something. What advice do you have for any educator who might be interested in developing a study abroad program like yours, one that's focused on service learning, that's focused on advancing justice, de-centering whiteness and de-centering, you know, American-ness. And you know that could be a range of things and then I usually ask a final, like call-to-action question of "What is one thing?", right? There might be, like five things they could do, but what is one thing that they could do if they're just getting started with developing? What's that, that kind of first thing they could do?
Dr. Kelly Cerialo: So I think in terms of the "What advice for the educators", is that, you know, in terms of-- as you're developing this, considering what a more inclusive and reflective, I think those two words, you know, it's I think again that inclusive, you know, it can be so many things, but figuring out a way to introduce a more inclusive, reflective approach to place-based pedagogy.
So I mentioned the beginning of our discussion about how I did that on the local level with the class within our own community, but also abroad. Right? So how can you figure out a way to make the experience not only beneficial for the students in terms of achieving your learning objectives, but more importantly, how is this helping the community needs with avoiding that white savior-ism right? Especially, you know, in, you know, abroad context. So I think reflective-- reflecting critically first before you design anything. Right? So I think a lot of it what I've learned and my growth in this has been through self reflection and how-- what should that look like and start to do some research in the literature that's out there and talking to others, you know, I think that's-- it's a very, you know, based start, you know, in terms of finding that. In terms of the second piece of advice I would give is finding, and we talked about how important this is, finding a strong in-country partner that can help you see that vision and understand how you want to use this experiential learning opportunity that-- it isn't, you know, just poverty tourism that you're looking for, that you're looking for the service learning focus project that's generative to students but also can benefit the local community, you know abroad in some way.
So, and then I would say the third and this is something again, it's-- I just have seen the benefits, consider introducing an interdisciplinary team. I think that not only in terms of the faculty that you are considering bringing on the trip, you know, if it's one or two. But you know, having somebody for instance, my background, you know, I majored in communications and you know, my research focuses in terms of the social impacts of tourism, but my partners that I've taken on the study abroad trips, my-- Eric Holmlund that I referenced in the beginning, his background's in environmental science, the professor that I went to South Africa with, he's a cultural anthropologist. So I think that the diversity and disciplines really enriches the experience for the faculty and also for the students and it brings a diversity of perspectives to the host community that you're working with. So, and it certainly avoids groupthink. It's challenging, I do have to say, you know, when you're developing curriculum for an interdisciplinary team and a study abroad. It's hard, right?
So, you know, when I'm working with just communication students or you know, and just, we'll say tourism and hospitality students, you know, it's a bit easier to think about what's going to resonate with them, but when you have an interdisciplinary team, it's challenging to say, you know, "I don't know a lot of things about biology", right? So, you know, and how do you speak to them? And I think that, but in the end, I think that what I found is that when you have that interdisciplinary team, it gives... it gives so much back not only to the students and it introduces a degree of tolerance, I think also between disciplines, right? So there's tolerance and in terms of, you know, their silos in schools, right? So I know in our school it's like the hospitality kids hang out with hospitality kids, the forestry kids hang out with the forestry, you know, biology hangs out with biology, sustainability. And so this helps them develop teams and understand and appreciate not only the benefit of diversity in terms of race, religion, you know, cultural, but also in terms of the benefits of diversity and disciplines and how to work with that.
You know, it's-- in the beginning, you know, when I would have, you know, the students together, I didn't-- I wasn't completely sure of how to best integrate that, but then over time we figured out models of how to do that. And that's really about you, in terms of the discussions, encouraging their voices, "What does this look like from your field?", "How does this look like in your field?" and "What could this mean for say, your field?" You know, for instance, what does this look like from a, you know, environmental science perspective? Okay, so how would that influence, like from a tourism perspective? So connecting those, taking it as an opportunity for connection. And so yeah, that's-- I think that's the main three pieces of advice. So I'd say first, again thinking about that more inclusive and reflective approach that place-based pedagogy. The second being researching and finding a strong in-country partner. Usually they come not through a basic internet search. I want to say ours came from, like our in-country partnerships came from our professional and personal networks. It wasn't just like this general, like broad google search. It was like, "Hey do you happen to know somebody that lives here?"
And then it was like connect, connect, connect, you know, and you end up with a really strong partner. And then lastly, that considering forming that interdisciplinary team of students and faculties, I think it's really, you know, that diversity of fields introduces a diversity of perspective and also a degree of understanding and tolerance and reflectiveness that doesn't happen if it's just, you know, the same field and the same, you know, students and faculty.
Lindsay Lyons: I love that idea of expanding, you know, the notion of diversity beyond like our typical, you know, identities that we hold to something like discipline or even if people are-- haven't defined, you know, their major yet or something just like the way someone is thinking or their passions, it's so helpful to be able to add that dimension into thinking about intersectionally who we are. So that's super cool, thank you for that. And one of the final questions I'd like to ask just for fun is what is something that you have been learning about lately.
Dr. Kelly Cerialo: So the, as you know, and I think the-- our PhD program that we were both in encourages this, so absolutely lifelong leaders.
So right now I'm focusing on, I'm looking at responsible, inclusive leadership in affecting or mitigating the social impacts of tourism. So, you know, typically those two topics: responsible inclusive leadership and like the social impacts of tourism have been two totally separate fields and there's a really, you know, extensive body of literature about both. And I'm trying to figure out how they come together. And so I've been looking specifically at Dr. Lize Booysen who, you know of, a professor in our PhD program, her work on responsible inclusive leadership. And then recently, Anna Spenceley had published a-- it's basically a handbook for sustainable tourism for practitioners and a discussion about leadership in different context within sustainable tourism. So, I've been trying to look at both of those together and figuring out how responsible inclusive leadership can potentially help to mitigate the social impacts of tourism.
So that's something I've been nerding out on recently.
Lindsay Lyons: It's awesome. And I love how this episode has basically just been a testament to those days, kind of emerging. Like, this study abroad program is a perfect example of how those things come together, so super cool.
Dr. Kelly Cerialo: Thanks. Thank you.
Lindsay Lyons: Yeah. And finally, where can listeners learn more about you or connect with you online?
Dr. Kelly Cerialo: Yeah. So, on instagram, my instagram is @kcerialo. So it's K C E R I A L O. And then I'm also on LinkedIn. It's just my first and last name. Again it's Kelly, and then it's-- K E L L Y and my last name is C E R I A L O. And yes, I'm happy to hear from any listeners if you are interested in developing a study abroad program. I am more than happy to speak with you., I'm certainly open and transparent about my experiences. Like I said from the beginning, I've learned through trial and error and I think I've grown from this process and continue to learn each time. And I think again, it's-- I'm happy to help anyone that's interested and I'm very interested also to hear about others' experiences.
So if you've had other experiences and study abroad and whether it's good or bad, I would love to hear because I also learn from that. So I would welcome and you sharing any experiences and certainly, you know, happy to share some tips and some lessons that I've learned through not so great experiences too, you know, that I'm happy to share with others. But I'd love to hear, you know, some of your experiences too.
Lindsay Lyons: Awesome. And I encourage people to reach out and chat about that because I think that's where the really cool stuff happens, where we innovate together and think about new possibilities. So that's awesome. Dr. Kelly Cerialo, thank you so much for being on the podcast today.
Dr. Kelly Cerialo: Thank you so much Lindsay. This was incredible. I'm honored to be your guest and I look forward to continuing to talk about study abroad with you and other interesting Teachership opportunities. So keep up the great work and thank you again.
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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.