Episodes 109-114

Episode #109: Eric Sheninger



Eric is an Associate Partner with the International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE). Prior to this, he was the award-winning Principal at New Milford High School. Under his leadership, his school became a globally recognized model for innovative practices. Eric oversaw the successful implementation of several sustainable change initiatives that radically transformed the learning culture at his school while increasing achievement. His work focuses on leading and learning in the digital age as a model for moving schools and districts forward. This has led to the formation of the Pillars of Digital Leadership, a framework for all educators to initiate sustainable change to transform school cultures. As a result, Eric has emerged as an innovative leader, best selling author, and sought after speaker. His main focus is using research and evidence-based practices to empower learners, improve communications with stakeholders, enhance public relations, create a positive brand presence, discover opportunity, transform learning spaces, and help educators grow professionally in the digital age. Eric has received numerous awards and acknowledgments for his work. He is a CDE Top 30 award recipient, Bammy Award winner, NASSP Digital Principal Award winner, PDK Emerging Leader Award recipient, winner of Learning Forward’s Excellence in Professional Practice Award, Google Certified Innovator, Adobe Education Leader, and ASCD 2011 Conference Scholar. He has authored and co-authored the following: Learning Transformed: 8 Keys for Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today, BrandED: Tell Your Story, Build Relationships, and Empower Learning, Uncommon Learning: Creating Schools That Work for Kids, Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times, Communicating and Connecting With Social Media: Essentials for Principals, and What Principals Need to Know About Teaching and Learning Science 



Trenches story: His early teaching days. By the book, strict w/ cl management. St threw a shoe at him. Was demoralized. Reflected on how it got to this point. Reevaluated classroom management strategies. Built positive relationships with students.

What first got you interested in sharing your expertise in blog posts and articles? Came by chance. We’re often confined by mental walls, barriers, we self impose. He doesn’t consider self a speaker. Writing doesn’t come easy from him. Metamorphosis was 13 y. ago they set out to transform teaching & learning. Threw success of staff, they became a global model for achievement. Was asked to become a google certified administrator. Used google blogger to share what was happening at his school. Students/teachers guest posted. Passion/purpose are driving forces for change. Motivation, inspiration, practical approach that really feeds ideas. We need to help learners .




Talk to me about your latest “A Principals Reflections” blog post on Station Rotation: A Principal’s Reflections: Blending with the Station Rotation Model (esheninger.blogspot.com) A lot of strategies successful are at elementary model, successful at HS. Difference between blended learning and blended (flipped classroom) model. He was an early adopter, 12 yrs ago. BYOD initiative. Teachers uploaded to google site, did embedded formative assessments. Closed achievement gaps. After he left principal model, he was more exposed to ES. Work with pre-K- 12 to implement station rotation. Valuable data to differentiate. Power to t’s moving away from kids doing same thing. Tier 2 instruction RTI model. Teachers can control how they use the time. 

When did you make the shift from FT principal to speaker, author, trainer? It’s all intertwined. Blended learning approach, it’s not just one thing that enhances culture. What happened was that he shared thru blog, social media gave bullhorn to write his first book on twitter. People solicited him to speak at xyz conference. People wanted to see what it looked like with blended learning model with ELL, Sped population. People visited school. ICLE visited and couldn’t believe what they saw. They offered him a position. Since 2014 his role has been to use his own lessons and those in schools he’s working with to transform leadership.  He helps implement change in several schools throughout the U.S.


Tell me about some of the work you do with Advisory Boards such as CASTLE & Alma? He didn’t set out to be thought leader. He only agrees to give input if they will let him be honest. He gives practical strategies. 

Discuss your new book: Disruptive Thinking: Who is the book aimed for and what can they take away from reading it? Talk about the fixed mindset you had when you were a teacher/principal. Talk about how trust is an essential piece to improving school culture. Explain How disruptive change is the “new normal” as we enter the 21-22 SY? You have to reinvent yourself, like Madonna. His experience is at CR level. This book was pandemic project. Written first and foremost for teachers. He weaves in stories/strategies. Captured what they have done to successfully transform teaching & learning before /during pandemic. Emphasizes the “why”. How can we do it in a practical way? There is a disruptive challenge at end of chapter. Digital resources, artifacts that show reader. Study guide for book avail on connect ed publishing site for book club use.


Key quotes… Change isn’t an event, it’s a process. We need to look at where you reside. Pandemic pushed us into learning, growth zones. Prepare learners for anything. 


Find Eric online on: Twitter: @E_Sheniger Visit his Blog: https://esheninger.blogspot.com/2021/04/disruptive-thinking-in-our-classrooms.html

Website: http://www.ericsheninger.com/

View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/1_o_3Qd1grE

Episode #110: Coping With and Overcoming Educator Burnout


Amber Harper: I’m going to give you the short version because all 12 years of my teaching career, I started teaching in 2006-2007. All of the 12 years that I taught, I felt like I was on a roller coaster of burnout. I, I loved teaching, I love my kids, I went through periods where I also got along wonderfully with my colleagues, my fellow teaching team, and other times where I didn’t. And it seemed to me during this whole roller coaster episode that there was something wrong with me. And that, that I just felt the entire time that I taught, I just felt like this can’t what’s wrong with me like this can’t be normal. I’m just not, I’m not going to settle for this being just the way teaching is, you know, and when I was struggling, and I was challenged with teaching, and no one teaching mode, teacher burnout, I would try to talk about it. And it ended up becoming like a venting session. There was never any action taken. So I’m sure you can relate to that. So where I where I was challenged is thatI would be told, if I was struggling, you know, go for a walk, take a bubble bath, take some deep breaths, you know, those are all great self care practices, then I was also told, you know, to practice in some self indulgence, go have a drink, go out with your friends, you know, back and go buy yourself something nice. But what I was challenged by is that I did practice self care, I exercised every day, I ate healthily, I drink plenty of water. I did all these things to help myself in my daily habits to be a healthy, happy teacher. But when I was truly challenged, and I really wanted to do something about it, rather than to be looked at as a negative teacher, it just never turned out the way that I had hoped that it would, when I tried to open that conversation because I didn’t know how to truly voice what I was challenged with. I didn’t know how to put words to how I felt, because I loved teaching. But there was something inside of me that just wasn’t feeling quite right. I just felt off at certain points in my career. being a burned in teacher is not about becoming Instagram famous or creating YouTube videos where you’re doing all of these really flashy things with kids. It’s not about becoming jazz hands and extroverted if you’re an introvert and you’re a quiet teacher. It’s not about changing who you are. Yeah, it’s really about deciding what you want. Do you want to stay in second grade? Do you want to learn to love second grade again? Or do you want to move to fourth grade or another grade level? Or do you do do in fact, want to leave education? Like, I think there there’s this, there’s this Crossroads that we come to where, you know, and my husband even asked me at one time, and this wasn’t in reference to teaching, but I had clearly had come to a crossroads at another point in my life, and he just said, What do you want? And I was afraid to tell him what I truly wanted. But when I was honest with myself and with him, the whole my whole world changed. And I think that that’s what we need to allow ourselves and I have it right here. You are capable and worthy of self So many things of being honest with yourself and taking control of your life and of your burnout. physically, how long have I been at the school in this classroom? In this district, in this grade level? How long have I been here? And then emotionally? How long have I felt this way? And really thinking about what brought me to this place? It’s identifying your core values, it’s really thinking about who your people are? Who do you want to serve? Who do you want to? Who is your WHY? Like, why are you doing what you’re doing every day? And then you is understand your teacher brand. So it’s really that’s where I built in that self awareness practice that I needed so badly. You know, what, what is it that how do I behave? What do I say? What do people associate with my name? You know, we build a brand as teachers. And if you think about, you know, if you have kids, Dana, okay, so, you know, the teachers that they come and talk about in an excited positive way, and a teacher they come home and complain about, that’s a brand, your brand is based on repeated patterns of interaction.

Alexis Shepard: So I have had what I would consider two encounters with burnout. And so it started, I’ve been teaching for nine years, like he just so eloquently stated, and I experienced my first burnout during your four. And at the time, it kind of took me a while to recognize that that’s where I was, but I was extremely bitter. And I had this really sort of undying perception of what it took to do my job well. And so that meant that my lessons had to be done dynamic and creative constantly. And so I poured a lot of time, and energy and effort into finding these incredible lessons and these incredible resources. And at that time, that belief was also that in order for a lesson to be really incredible, it had to be purely original. And so I wasn’t using sort of foundational building blocks that were already there, I was creating everything from scratch, which took so much out of me. I had a large class that year in that class where some students I had had two years previously, when I had taught in second grade, I was teaching fourth grade at the time. And so I was just really stressed all the time. And that stress led to bitterness and resentment. Because I was living in this space where I thought that all of the things that I was doing, were things that I absolutely had to do in order to do the job well. And so it just made me really angry. I just kind of thought, Well, I’m burned out. And this is just a part of teaching. So I’ll struggle through. And that’ll be that. And I remember my husband saying to me, oh my gosh, do we need to find you something else to do? How can I help you, he just had no idea how to support me, because I was so angry all the time. And I was so devoid of energy, that any additional energy that I had, rather than pouring it into things that were going to fill me up, I tried to reserve it and I just wasn’t available for him for friends, or really for anyone I was kind of this island unto myself trying to gear myself up to go back into the classroom, you know, the next day. So that year, I just kind of was like, well, I burned out, this is a part of teaching and I moved on. So then getting your six, I didn’t have quite the same experience. But I was very restless. I had a great group of students that year, they were easy, you know, as we, as we call it. And I thought, you know, this will be a great time for me to get out at this point. My burnout was more from frustration with the system, and just how education is set up and all of the expectations that are placed on us as educators to move our students to affect the achievement in our students. And so I applied for six jobs. This was the 2017 18 school year. And I was like this is going to be my year. And I applied for jobs that were in the education setting, but that were not classroom teaching. And I was really confident that at least one of those jobs was going to come through and so I didn’t do anything crazy, like give away my classroom stuff or share with anyone like hey, this is gonna be my last year, but I was pretty certain that come summer Tom. I probably going to get some calls, I’m going to go through the interview processes. And you know, something will come up this. And so July of that year came and no emails, no calls, no nothing. And it was getting to that time where I needed to start going back to my classroom and prepping things for back to school. And I had a little bit of an emotional breakdown, just thinking about the fact that I, like, I’m still going to be teaching, you know, I really didn’t have any other options. Not working was not an option. And I hadn’t got any of these jobs that I applied for. So I remember calling one of my friends and just, you know, crying on the phone to her about how upset I was, and how anxious I was feeling and how tense I was feeling about reckoning with the fact that I was going to have to return to or continue to teach. I went to her house shortly thereafter, maybe a day or two later. And one of the things that I recognized when I was talking to her was that part of my frustration, was myself. I recognized that my attitude and the way that I thought were kind of working against me, and that I was going to have to facilitate my own paradigm shift in order to even start to move forward. I read a couple books. And that’s kind of where my self work started. And that’s what eventually led to this self care platform is that it really came out of this very deeply personal experience that I had with it, where I was able to pull myself out of this hole using self care practices and strategies, which I didn’t realize that’s what they were at the time. But in hindsight, I recognize now that that’s what that was.There’s a likelihood that I will not meet those grade, minimums for the quarter, or what have you. However, I feel really confident about what I’m doing based on the feedback that I’ve gotten from parents. And based on the feedback that I’ve gotten from students. And the feedback that I receive has nothing to do with, Oh, I love the way that you teach commas and punctuation or I love that you did this activity or that activity, it all has to do with how they feel, yeah, I’ve had, you know, parents tell me my I can tell that my child feels important. Or I like the way that your classroom feels, or the vibe, you know, some of my kids use that word, the vibe that I get when I walk into your classroom. And for me, especially during the time of this pandemic, when there’s been so much trauma, and so much just emotional turmoil. That is the most important thing, because there’s not going to be any academic achievement, if those other mental, emotional social needs or deficits are addressed. And so, honestly, I’m at that point in my career, where that stuff, the stuff that I consider most important, matters more to me. I will stand on a hill and defend that if I need to, because of what I know it does for students, and how I know that that will pay off academically later, no, I may not have those grade minimums and that sort of thing. However, I would almost be willing to bet that when my students do perform, it’s at a very different level, because I’ve built that foundation, all of those other things fall into place.

Danna Thomas: I think it’s the most important thing, the most important message is that we are all, we are all able to have power and action over our own choices, even though so often it might not feel like it, whether it’s the curriculum that’s mandated, or the policies that are being mandated, or folks in positions of power and authority, who might not have even spent any time in the classroom, creating policies and enacting change that that very much directly impacts the lives of students and that of their teachers. And so I think what is really important for educators to know that they, for them to know they are enough that their self esteem is what is most important, and their sense of self worth and self value that their evaluation is not does not equate to their, to their personhood or their humanity or their what they’re able to offer to their students in the classrooms. I think one of the most important things that I want to impart on educators who are listening to this, and who are part of your podcast community, Dana, are that it is an act of revolution, to take care of oneself, right, like for the folks who are doing the advocacy work, who are speaking up, who are continuing to follow their their code of morals for what they believe is right and just for the kids in their classroom. It takes a toll on folks who are in the social advocacy space, and who are in the social justice space. So it really is an act, not of self indulgence to take care of oneself. It’s not selfish, rather, that act of self preservation, by means of self care, is the most revolutionary act that one can do. To be honest with you, you know, my journey with happy teach revolution started before I was even a teacher when I was still a student, when I realized directly and firsthand the impact that a teacher could have on the life of a child even to save a life. I don’t know what my teachers, his performance rubrics or scores were when I was in high school or when I was in college. But those teachers, I consider my emotional first responders, because those teachers were my heroes who recognize the warning signs of when I was struggling with mental illness with depression and anxiety with panic attacks, they notice those subtle changes and behaviors, warning signs, they had built relationships with me to be able to have those conversations to provide medical information for me to seek treatment to get help. They provided life saving differentiation and accommodation for me when I was in crisis. I don’t know, if they were excellent, or, you know, or, or whatever the the language around the rubric for their performance evaluation was that year, but like, what kind of a performance elevation evaluation would it be to acknowledge that teachers save lives? Teachers, quite literally, you know, and I think that inspiration was the reason I went into a class for myself and, and I think that was where I was coming from, as well from starting happy teacher revolution was I was thinking, Oh my gosh, no one is looking out for the teachers, yes, looking out for them, because they’re constantly looking out for everyone else. I think that is really the message behind happy teacher revolution is out. We know that educators are not renewable resources. They’re human beings, too. Yeah, so I think that is another huge part of the message of Happy Teacher Revolution is that it’s not just some fluffy woowoo thing, but rather If we’re not adequately supporting the mental health and wellness of teachers

Hans Appel:  In terms of counseling students during the COVID shutdown,  I feel like it took me a little while to sort of get my legs underneath me. So, but I think, you know, it was, you know, just the constant connections, right? The the emails and the zoom calls, and the phone calls and just trying to reach out to kids that you’re worried about or that are at risk, or that, you know, just need that consistent check in. I will say this, if anything, COVID really reinforced to me, that relationships, and school culture are so pivotal. Because I feel like, I can’t imagine being a classroom teacher or a counselor or in any admin role, and not having those things already lined up, and then going into COVID, I would imagine that was like, debilitating, you know, so I think we felt lucky that we kind of had like that baseline in place. So now that that that was in place, then it’s easier to, to kind of make the, you know, the connections live on, right. So like, I was just talking to somebody the other day. And, you know, it was, a lot of times we have these, like rituals And I think one of the things that we figured out really early is, even though they look a little bit different, like we can still do those things remotely. So I’ll give you I’ll give you an example. We have a teacher that likes to use this cowbell. And anytime there’s an aha moment in his class, he rings this giant it’s like big cowbell. It’s kind of this fun thing, where he realized he could go to school and get that and bring that home, right and do that same thing, even though it had a little different spin. It was the same gist of it. Right. And so I think that’s the kind of stuff that I was looking for was how do I how do I continue to do some of the rituals with students as a counselor, I continue, that I did before. First off buy my book, Award Winning Culture, my book basically lays out exactly what I would tell to somebody, it is like a step by step, like there’s tons of you know, stories, but also practical advice and, and ideas and strategies. It really is about building a strong foundational why. So that starts with a staff why I always recommend one whole year to implement an effective Sal character program. So, that really starts with pieces like training, and, and figuring out all the school wide like rollout of this, you know, having a clear vision and being able to articulate that vision to that staff. But really tying everything that you’re doing with an SEO lessons or character development back to every other part of your school.

Jen Molitor: So I want listeners to know this when I taught in a district for I think it was 16 years, it was one of Ohio’s top districts have tons of access to professional development, great pay a great school system, it was amazing. People don’t usually leave that school system. However, in my role, I felt like there was something missing. I couldn’t put my hand on it. But there was there was something missing. I mean, I loved my administrators, I loved the teachers I was working with. So I don’t know what that all was. But there was there was I was unsettled. I was not as negative as kind of pulling myself out of this. But I want readers that their listeners I want them to think about how are they feeling? What what are they unsettled about? If they can’t figure it out, start creating that picture of what what would be fulfilling, like, what would it take to have you skip out of bed like oh my gosh, I get to go to work today, I get to go do this roll. Because once I started crafting that and reaching for that and doing it I mean, my job lights me up, it fires me u p. So I want readers to know that I didn’t go from one. Okay job to this glorious position. It was something that I needed something that I heart, my soul, it was just something that fueled me, it wasn’t like I went to this prestigious district, I’ve left a prestigious district to pursue this evolution of my educator journey. So wherever teachers are in the trenches, and holy moly, I think so many of us can identify with that. One of the biggest things is I think just kind of crafting that vision that that thing that you want, if if you could wave that magic wand, where would you be like if you could just craft that position? What would you be doing? I know at one of the schools I created a before school book club for gifted kids. Usually those extra clubs or those extra before school times were for kids who were struggling, but our our, you know high achieving kids needed something to and it’s something like the teachers are like what are you doing that is before school, you’re not getting paid. It was something that set me on fire. I was so excited and I could be really creative and not worry about grading and that kind of stuff. So whatever that is create that go down that path, it might be extra work, but it’s going to be worked at fuels, you then makes the rest of your day, the rest of your career better. And it feels so good to do something awesome, you know, and creative and supporting kids. So the vision would be one part. The second part is making sure that you’re scheduling, time to take care of you. Whatever that is, going outside connecting with nature, whatever that hobby is, you need to keep doing that. And if it’s like, oh, gosh, I wish I could read a book, I never have time to do that, you need to actually put it in your calendar. I think Marie Forleo says if it ain’t scheduled, it ain’t happening. So I mean, even things like that you’re reading, put it in your schedule, and, and it will happen. I think exercise is important, whether it’s just walking, that’s going to kind of shift your perspective perspective and kind of get you moving in a different direction. Something else I’ve been doing right now is called the Miracle Morning. And that’s based on the work of how Elrod he wrote a book called Miracle Morning. And I’ve adapted it to make it fit me. But every morning, I begin the day with prayer, with lots of gratitude for all the blessings in my life. And I do yoga every single morning. And if I’ve had, you know, if I stayed up longer, one night, I might just do five minutes of yoga. Just because I’m in that routine, I do yoga every single morning. And then I also have some affirmations. And one of my favorites is love is at the center of all I do. And I think I got that from Danny bower. If even if you hold on to that one, I mean, that helps set the stage for what you’re doing whole day. And then just the service part, like I have one that says I’m here to serve. Because that’s, that’s what we are. As educators, we’re servant leaders, we, we want to make that difference. We want to change lives, change the world. And so those are a few tips. I think that’s enough to get people started. Yeah, that, you know, being in trenches, and I think we call it being burnout. It doesn’t have to define who you are, where you are right now, or what kind of educator you are. You can climb out of the trenches, and you have the power to change the trajectory of your career. The future for yourself, you can build that beautiful career that you think is maybe out of reach, you have the power to do that. And it might be going to another district, it might be reaching out to your administrators and saying, hey, I’d like to do this thing. You know, if you’re an administrator, I remember talking to a principle. And he said, You know, my dream would be going to a really small school, high poverty high need and changing it and turning it around. I’m like, then, then do that, go do that.

Sarah Johnson: So this has just been the greatest joy and the biggest gift of my entire life, Dana has been able to shift this way. So my first book balance like a pirate, going beyond work life balance is really the basis of a lot of the consulting. And speaking I’ve done and I do that inside and outside of organizations associated with education, the message is very transferring and transformative. And so in that way, what I do is I just share our balanced framework. And I encourage the participants, the people involved there, just start taking stock and being real about the spaces in their lives that they have not been able to give enough or a lot or satisfying intention to. And I really tried to help them focus on the fact that it’s not going to be 5050. And so like right now, I know people are in intense modes of planning, and they’re but they’re trying to have vacation time. So how can you create a system where you’re able to focus intentionally on those things that matter most to you so that you don’t feel guilty, where you are like you can be present where you are. Because I know for me, and I’m sure people listening to this, I know for years, I would struggle because if I was feeling off balance, I would be at a sporting event or a concert or whatever after hours were requiring of me and just feeling like a complete dissonance between my professional happiness and my home life because I hadn’t seen my kids in days, right? It sounds nuts to even say that, but it’s building back some levels of satisfaction in the four areas of their life. We say they’re your passions, your profession, your position, and your personal life. So all four of those needs some level of attention. I help leaders do that to be honest. Mostly to help them give themselves permission to either let go of things that they can do to get add more space, or to say yes to the things they’ve been wanting to. You know, I just want them to remember that this journey is so complex, and we are all beautiful souls on complicated journeys. There is so much coming that is unknown. It can create a sense of overwhelm and fear no matter what role you’re serving in. But I do believe that if you focus and you drill down the foundations on any one of these things that I was talking about this leading with faith idea is to really be able to rise up and slay that fear and leader as you were called to it, you get to be in a position this year. And that’s hard. It’s hard to remember when you’re dealing with, you know, the conflict over masks and the fear that you’re learning communities might be in danger while you’re also battling. The sense that some people don’t feel like this is real. But just keep in mind that you are the ones called to hear and that you can fight that fear and you can overcome it but it’s got to start with you so that you can rise up to it.

Episode #111: Lindsay Titus


Lindsay Titus is a passionate and energetic educator! She uses her expertise as a board certified behavior analyst and a former classroom teacher, to ignite the passion of any educator. She is eager to transform the mindset educators hold about behavior, and use this dynamic shift to increase connections with all students! Lindsay is the host of the DEFINE YOUniversity Podcast, Founder of DEFINE YOUniversity and the author of the 30 and 90 Day Journals. She is a coach, speaker, mentor, and leader passionate about igniting the transformation from within to live a life you love inside and outside of the classroom setting.

Trench story: worked for a non-profit 5 yrs ago. Worked for residential school as well. She has coordinated with departments in the community. Got sense something was happening. Non profit was going bankrupt. Thought they had some time. mid-day 2 days later they closed. Weren’t paid for previous month. Led the department, had to shift to “how do I help those around me”. She needed to focus on her team. Pulled together a job fair. She used the summer to figure out herself. Daughter was 3, took the time to figure out what she wanted to do. Poured into herself. 

We talk about her podcast “The Define YOUniversity” . Started in Jan.’20 and closed to 80 episodes. Was proof to herself she could do it. She had been on Brian Medler’s podcast in Sept. ‘19. He asked when he’d be on hers. Seed started to bloom. First 10 episodes are random. Every episode’s different. Got taste for it. Took her until episode #65 to see where it was going. Every other week she walks thru her own journey. Share your story series every other week. Blend of the 2. It gets people inspired to do the inner work.

You create a lot of social media content. She lovers creating and sharing content. She has different pillars. Values, standards. One of those pillars are motivation. Sometimes quotes, sharing her stories. Sometimes 3 tips. She has whiteboards surrounding her. Constantly surrounded by inspiration. She is provided info w/ images from orgs she tweaks. 5-6 times a week. Aims to connect with the audience. 

Define You will be 2 years old in August. It came about 4 years ago. She spent about 2 years developing herself. Figured out her limiting beliefs. She had gotten to the point where she didn’t know what to do, had had several jobs. Didn’t want to apply for random positions that didn’t serve her. She left like she lived for other people. She hired a coach and mentor. Took 2 yrs. People asked how she did it. It started as a FB group/became a movement. Interesting to scroll through Instagram to see the flow of her work. Wanted to meet the needs of so many people. Her current position has been the past 3 yrs. She started it while doing her her current job. Her social media posts she does\t necessarily plan put. She spends about 5 hrs/week on. When she planned Day of Discovery for June, it was 1 hour she spent a day.  The logistical things have gotten easier over time. the difference was spent figuring things out. She knows how to do all that, so how does she enhance her presentations. Before, took double the time.

We debrief Day of Discovery, she is planning another one possibly for early spring ’22. She saw other educators create day-long events. Asked self “can I do it”. Anything is possible. The desire was there. What pulled her forward. Event was in June. In January- she picked a day in June and put it out there. She wanted something to look forward to. With her 30 day and 90 day journals she committed to it. She had planned courses before. Backwards planned. Found out when to sell tickets, etc. Stuck to deadlines. Combo of personal & professional. You need to be all in- inside & outside the classroom. 2 keynotes, Hans Appel/Jami Fowler-White. 5 breakout groups. Create your own conference. 12 speakers. probably the same time next year, but may be in January. Makes decisions in what feels right. 

Lindsay is finishing up her principal licensure program, Define You doesn’t count, it’s more “home work”, not “side hustle”. A lot of what she does at work it counts. She is a BCBA her job is TOSA. Hired as Sped teacher. Uses a consultant model at school. Her priority. specials classes. More behavioral CR. K-12. Supports those teachers. Other kids need to consult. She sometimes uses it to see if a BIP is needed. She can say it’s like a consultant model. It’s a little different for each school. She is district- they will ask her to come to schools. When the pandemic hit, she had 5 hours more a day not to commute so she had the time to take coursework. She has been able to complete different projects, do everything for preschool program. She is supporting t\s who feel like they\re stuck. Otherwise, she creates her own caseload. People reach out to her if things aren’t going well. She has days the go to more  difficult buildings. Doesn’t know what ideal role in admin is. 

Key quotes: It’s important to remember you’re the only person who gets to define who you are. Process to doing that has some steps. As we head into next year it’s going to be different. 

Find Linsday online at www.defineyouniversity.com active on Twitter @ltitus 828. FB, IG @lindsaytitusedu .

View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/KsO88X8hlb0

Episode #112: Joy Kelly


Joy Kelly has more than 25 years of educational experience in public and parochial schools as a teacher, coach, mentor, associate principal, and principal. In 2015, Joy was named Iowa associate principal of the year. She also provides coaching and training for new administrators in Iowa. Joy serves as a leadership coach for administrators across the country on behalf of J Casas and associates. Joy earned a bachelor’s degree in history from The University of Iowa, a masters degree in education leadership from University of Northern Iowa and she’s  a licensed PK through 12 superintendent with a specialist degree from The University of Iowa. In March, Joy and Jimmy Casas released their book titled, “Handle with Care: Managing Difficult Situations in Schools with Dignity and Respect”.

Trench story: COVID, wild year last yr. Pivoting, she’s moved from that term to whiplash. Admin find themselves in a different situation than teachers. COVID brought us together, leaned into each other in a positive way. Her staff was phenomenal. The logics with pivoting were conflicting. One of the ones was daunting but rewarding. Provided education to best of availability. Community feel. Emergency operation procedures did a good job. Needed a pandemic section. Digging out of the trenches- loss of students & staff members. They lost 3 staff & students at beginning of last year. Had to take care of community with the deaths. Solid school culture is important. Things have happened throughout the country w/ schools made missteps. Culture will be tested or illuminated. Healthy culture among adults is needed for people to pitch in. 

Book “Handle with Care: Managing Difficult Situations in Schools with Dignity and Respect”– came out in April You and Jimmy Casas write about behavior in the book, tell about some of your thoughts on challenging behaviors and what schools can consider relative to that? She never thought she’d be an author. Enjoys humanity of being an author. She was in system after Jimmy left for 18 years. He was on her to write Handle with Care. Her journey to writing it, most of it finished in ‘18/19 was good, interesting process. Important to focus on whatever she has to offer, developing relationship with students, staff, families. It focuses on challenging behaviors. Trauma Informed Practices. COVID was a universal trauma. Need to mindful what staff is going through. We need a model in terms of self-regulation. They need the skills.

Culturize is a book Jimmy wrote that they started on it together. She was unable to lean into it. Beauty about what he is doing is he’s impacting cultures on a much larger scale Challenges people to bring up the “average”. All of us can do things for the educational profession. 

Behavior is a form of communication for both students and staff. Recognize what behavior is. Kids’ school experience will be different in terms of if they ate breakfast. Rereferrals- she asked kids to give their side of the story. It’s also how teacher is interacting with the student. Whose behavior needs to be checked here. Discipline- it can look 2 ways- as punishment or consequence. Don’t weaponize authority. Hone in on self-management skills. Focus on punishment will not change behavior only add to stress. Just set the pencil on the desk, don’t even make the comment- you don’t have a pencil. Tardies- if she had a nickel for every staff member who was late… Handle with care, relationships are fragile. Challenge is why do we need that label “handle with care”? Why do we have to know the details of the students’ challenging situation such as homelessness in order to have that empathy. How can we treat our colleagues with a spirit of life giving energy? 

Toxic School culture: It’s about the relationship piece between adults, new staff, not just “in passing” things. We need to have real collegial relationships. If a leader is brought in, they should ask what they should do to help/ support staff. Development of trust is critically important. Be a gatekeeper. Know whose husband was laid off, whose sister is going through breast cancer. It’s important as principal to make sure the staff member knows they have resources they need. She tells her staff “I want you to look forward to coming to work on Mon. as leaving on Fri”. It can be timing as to when you send emails- schedule emails. We talk about Empathy film. and being a gatekeeper.

She has been doing some keynotes and virtual presentations recently. People are taking some ideas from it and taking vocab to deal with situations. She did #BookcampPD 7/11/21 where educators were talking about how we can take care of the staff. Summertime was time for her to engage in those opportunities. Many admin/teachers took part in PD this summer. Loves speaking at other events. Presented successful delegation with J Casas & Associates. She does one-on-one coaching for other principals. The best tool is “let me noodle over it”. Also helps when staff have had missteps to talk through it with her to inform thinking. 

Key quotes…“Everyone has a story. Challenge is we have biggest heart & greatest depth of compassion when we know the story. Assume the best about everyone & everything. Don’t hone in strictly on what was said/done. We have opportunity to learn their story. You have to be up-front and give a generous assessment. Word things a different way when you partner with them online. Keep it open to continue conversation. Feedback- we often hesitate. It shouldn’t be top-down principal-teacher, teacher-student. IT should be more vice-versa”.  

Find Joy online: on Twitter @joykelly05  or email: joymkelly5@gmail.com

View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/U29iEIuoQCM


Episode #113: Marita Diffenbaugh


Marita Diffenbaugh has twenty-two years of service in Idaho’s education system, from the classroom, school district, and university to the State Department of Education. 

Marita believes that hope is a prerequisite for learning and looks for ways to help others see their value. In her newly published book, L.E.A.R.N.E.R. Finding the True, Good, and Beautiful in Education, she shares about how to connect learning to community resources and needs, along with strategies that restore hope and can support learners of all ages to develop their full potential. 

As a partner with the Elevate Academy Network, Marita is currently connecting education, industry, and community by launching Elevate Academy North, a new Career Technical School, opening August 2022. She is looking forward to serving as principal at this community driven school of choice for students in 6th-12th grades who are not finding success in their current education.


Out of the Trenches story: How she got into education. Her mom was a teacher, dad a preacher. Early 20’s she  worked at a grocery store. Had a conversation with a stranger there and that pushed open some doors. If we feel we’re in a rut. Someone came through line and asked “is this what you wanted to do?”. Her dad asked her “what fills your cup”. She stated she loves learning. How can we make sure everyone’s inspired? Studied mastery-based education. Ultimately it’s the relationship with the kids that matters. 

You are the author of the LEARNER-Finding the True, Good and Beautiful in Education. It came out in Dec. Was invited to write it by Connectedd founders J. Casas and J. Zoul. She hosted book studies. They reached out to ask if she’d write her story. It started with her being a teen mom & not finishing HS. She had a non-traditional experience. It’s about how can we provide education as a service, not as a program. She looked a teacher movies that inspired her. It always came back to relationships. It’s written to the teacher. Listening, empowering, analyzing. Then you know resources to attach to students. What are resources you can use in the system you’re in. Thread throughout- comes from Plato’s true, good and beautiful philosophy. What is good, it’s your character, disposition. How can you give to society, community around you? 


What got you interested in opening a location for Elevate Academy North in Idaho? When kids are struggling in school, if they’ haven’t found success before 5th grade, they could be at risk. If you don’t have hope, you won’t find the will. The network, the ingredients that are used lift up the entire community. Trades are suffering, they’ve been removed from K-12 education for a couple decades. She has studied biggest gaps through Bloom Foundation. She hired an entire team for 6-12 grade Elevate Academy. What kind of person do you hire that you have to ask to change a lot of things. Poured heart into the book. Helping kids to see their value and how they can contribute. True, good and beautiful weaves throughout the book. We might have gained some good & true but we’ve lost the human element as a system, therefore cry for SEL. Caring for people in general. Be kind. How can we give kids credit for working in that holistic space? 

She was talking with George Couros, he had the year to recalibrate, many people have been doing that. George is authentic, Shares professional & personal in weekly newsletter. Know your own strengths when you’re in a position of providing info to others. Feeling if “I’m not doing this alone”. Most people have decided what is most valuable to them. We need to recalibrate what we’re teaching. Personally- we need to recalibrate what kind of life we want to have. Set goals. Ties to Son & wife finishing the Ironman. Determination of their faces. Think of all those things that took place prior to doing the race. Whatever you’re putting in what are you expecting to be put out? What’s most important- what is success. We’ve paused enough to be critical thinkers of the world. What needs to adjust to how we can be a service. Think about Horace Mann who crafted school around farmers. It’s been a while since we did that as a system.


Elevate-groundbreaking Aug 23 this year, next year Aug 23 will welcome kids. If she can form the question, she can ask for help. Community is excited, made land possible- 5 acres. Will serve 5 communities. 48 kids per grade level- 6-10 to start. She has hired a VP, launching June 18. He is a coach, is all about helping kids get better. Sees individual and as part of a team. She part of Elevate Academy Network, theirs will look different than other school in Caldwell with a mastery-based education. She will do an intake meeting with parents to see if it’s a good fit. They are career-tech. 30,60,90 day strategic plan. Ultimate goals. Can bounce ideas off the Elevate network. Shared goal- difference between them. She and her AP will be working out of a construction trailer. She wants to be in the community. She will take pictures on Instagram, FB, weekly pictures to add to the school. Will grow to a school of 488 after a few years. 

 She has visited juvenile detention, boy’s & girl’s club to find out where are the people. The other school in network is the only other w/ the ingredients she’s been looking for. Oath for learners- it’s up to the job of the learner to implement it. It matters that you’re here, we’re here for you, your success, interests. If you’re not finding success in school there might be extreme or less extreme reasons. Coming out of Covid, there are a lot of social-emotional needs, whole world has to address. Needs to make sure we have wrap-around supports. Need triage at school to help. She’s worked with leaners and adults- start w/ listening. Her school is open for any kids who wants to enroll.

Previous roles- Coaching teachers. She came out of the CR to coach teachers, share process with kids. Fell in love with making their job easier, what could we automate what they really want to do, she was instructional tech manager in a district. Took apart the system and realized how broken it is. It’s difficult to create a one-size-fits all system- look at system to change. She did 14 years of teaching. EdTech space then. Human side, research she did when she got her superintendent license. Needs to work on how to access kids where they are, not just measure by calendar and age. Will encourage other school districts in other states to help.


There will be another Elevate Academy in S Idaho opening in ‘22, and yet another in ‘23. It’s all falling into place what she’s been looking for. She didn’t have a successful HS experience herself- was a teen mom. Knows what it’s like not to fit. She has connected with those who feel like they don’t belong. There is never hopeless. 1. Needed to go to charter alt school for maximum amount of flexibility. Jimmy & Jeff asked her to share her story as a labor of love. She needs to promote her message, not just self-promote. 

Key quotes…HOPE. When you experience something, a strangers can ask a ? that changes the trajectory of your life. How can we say to someone “I see you”. 

Find Marita online on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MDiffenbaugh

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/marita-diffenbaugh-35110073/

Email: maritadiffenbaugh@gmail.com

View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/uh1Zh9hZxVI

Episode #114: Orly Wahba



Orly Fortune Wahba is the founder of the global non-profit, Life Vest Inside, a kindness expert, educator, best selling author, entrepreneur and keynote speaker who inspires audiences to take action. Her talks and workshops provide the groundwork for lasting change and motivate people to become the best version of themselves so that they can influence the world for good. Drawing from her personal journey, groundbreaking science, and her signature wit, Orly inspires people to tap into the power of kindness—the most underutilized skill in today’s world. Through her talk, Orly demonstrates how kindness and a simple shift in perspective can alter the way a person connects with themselves and the world around them.

 Life Vest Inside gained international acclaim when Orly’s award-winning film “Kindness Boomerang” went viral, receiving over 100 million people, landing her a spot at TED2013 and launched what has come to be known as the “Kindness Revolution”.

Orly travels globally giving talks and workshops in schools, companies and community centers as a means of inspiring others to infuse a culture of kindness into the everyday. Most recently, in 2019, Orly created and launched a mobile app in memory of her grandfather. The app, Abraham’s Legacy: A Social Network for Prayer connects people across the globe through the power of collective prayer.

Trench story: She tells about her adolescent years. growing up, she was beyond shy. Loved people. Came into HS with a sense of insecurity. Kid’s rejection followed her. Shift in her sophomore year. There was a fire at her house. Her family lost everything. Place was no longer there. A year where everything that could go wrong went wrong. Dad lost his job. Barely any $. Moved around for 6 years. Parents looked like someone had punched them in the stomach. Had to be strong. Had to put up a wall. Kept her emotions hidden. One night she went to sleep, fell into a deep depression. Didn’t go to school for several months. Was angry & lonely, Didn’t know who to turn to. No one called, came to visit. Was so angry, bitter. Didn’t know how to take it away. She had always felt like there was something major she was meant to do. Forced to go back to school.


What started you on your kindness journey? Take me through your time teaching and when you decided to quit teaching in 2011 to start Live Vest Inside. A lot of her work has to do with empowerment, stand against hate.  Kids  believe they can do everything. She wanted them to see their value. Taught 7-8th grade. Directed musical theater. She connected with students. Was a sounding board. Helped them see the beauty in themselves. Kindness, empathy was incorporated into her classroom. Many acts of kindness cards. When you can make another person happy it builds you up. Don’t compare yourself with others. Students helped give her ideas to use in the film. Loved job, didn’t think she’d leave teaching. It was supposed to be a year. Wanted to take 1 year to put into the film. Had a background in film production. There were many naysayers. Pushed fwd. Took a leap of faith. Put film up online. It went viral. Spent 20 out of 24 hour responding to people. Organization sprung up from there. Empowering people is essence of the org. Imagine how much more productivity, innovation in the world. Piece of the puzzle. Spreads the world through events. Global flash mob. Run thru tech platforms. Ir happens because people want it to happen. Know your why then your what will come. Our differences are reason to celebrate. Opposing views don’t matter. It hasn’t been easy. Has been in the trenches many times in the past 10 years. Failures teach us a lot more. There have been negative experiences. There are days she gets down. We need to be allowed to feel those emotions. Don’t let it crush you. 

She doesn’t use the term “anti-bullying” but does highlight how to prevent it. Ask “what is your view of anti-bullying”? Reason she doesn’t like term is you don’t understand where problem is coming from. Approach is often from “anti”- utilizing something negative to fight negative. Understand why it comes into existence in first place.  We could approach form many ways. Gun violence- look at person behind the gun. Where is the violence coming from? Ask the “why”, keep asking. Stems from place of lack of self-value and self-worth. They have “catching kindness” card. When you see someone engaging in act of kindness, not with you, give them card. Pass the card along seeing someone engaging in an act of kindness. There’s too much attn on things that divide rather than things that unite. Train your eyes to catch the acts of kindness, to see the good. Awareness is increased when people get cards. 

Culturally relevant practices, in terms of her work she emphasizes every person matters. Naturally we’re seeing people with the content in their heart. Her org has a curriculum they implement in school. Core word is empowerment. Life Vest “Inside”. We need to recognize our value. Build this up in schools. We need to be careful to always use kindness in a kind way. Don’t just be kind to people who just believe what you believe. Concept is empowering students to understand they have a story like everyone has one. We can then embrace others for who they are. What’s happening in school is dangerous. Don’t create division, then there will be more division. Focus on commonalities. We all have the desire to be successful. Being inclusive isn’t to the point you’re exclusive. Kids don’t see race, gender, religion as dividing factor. Don’t place division on them. Promote empathy, kindness 

Do you have a kindness ritual that you follow every day? One is gratitude. Can focus on the lack of what you don’t have. Prayer is big part of her life. Thank you for simple things. It helps us recognize the people we’re thankful for. Acknowledge the positive light we bring into our lives. She has Kindness Boomerang book, has daily journal. Then you’re able to call the practice more into your life. Sends out daily email. Accounting-evaluate who you are and where you want to be. What values do I hold important- work of the heart. Take time to hear answer about how others’ 

Tell us what you’re doing these days to leave your Mark on the World! Will highlight program she’s implementing w/ schools this next year. Intl Event- Global Dance day- takes place in November. Exercises they can implement on a certain day. Do around the world in unison. Can do it in P.E. dept. Music classes, learn song. Art classes, banner. Provide montage. Loads of great resources that people can utilize. Curriculum. brings an atmosphere of kindness into cr. Danceforkindness.com

Key quotes: ”You matter”. Tomorrow morning when you wake up ,it’s on purpose you are able to take breath. Your reason is diff than others’ reasons. Be psyched to be you. 

Find Orly online: on the web: lifevestinside.com | www.danceforkindness.com can get to diff initiatives from there. Check out the YouTube channel @LifeVestInside.EMail her orly@lifevestinside.com 

YouTube: @lifevestinside

Facebook: @lifevestinside

Twitter: @lifevestinside

Instagram: @lifevestinside

View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/HHlY6vl-A0U

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