Episodes #212-218

Episode #212: Brian Faulkner


Brian Faulkner is the principal of Kaneland Harter Middle School in Kaneland C.U.S.D. 302.  He says “My focus has been simple from the very start of my career; give students what they need in order to be successful.  I fully embrace teacher leadership and a shared leadership philosophy and look for creative ways our staff can collaborate, share, observe one-another, and continuously improve their craft.  Saying I love what I do is an understatement.  I’m on a mission to make a difference in the lives of each member of our learning community.” 

Trenches story: What is he doing to not lose sight of what it’s like to be a t, para, student in his building. he subbed a lot during pandemic. Hybrid model, esp difficult. He has had to serve lunch. He feels like the staff is in the trenches. Daily Homeroom (takeover) period. They need planning time. Exploratory t’s need more. He took the entire team of kids to do an activity. He did this to relieve the staff. He can talk about going on lockdown model, everyone coming out safe & supported. They just had mandatory law enforcement last wk. Didn’t want it to be a surprise to staff. Practice in a good mindset. He gets on PA after to say “great job”. 

Tell me how you embrace teacher leadership and how you encourage t’s who don’t see it in themselves to take on teacher leader roles?  It’s always been a focus for him. IT’s not about you, it’s about them. Peer-to-peer is powerful for him. When students can teach other students it’s strong. He went through project Chris training when he was a teacher. Teacher leader summit in Louisville. Goal to promote teacher leadership within the district. Wants to be put in a position where he supports staff. Opportunity to have their voices heard. It’s different if you have someone in the building, make that connection. Learned the hard way- amazing teacher. Asked a teacher to talk at institute day about it. She wasn’t super comfortable leading. Teacher leadership for her is allowing others to observe her classroom. It pushed his level of what was teacher leadership. As a leader, he feels like he needs to step away to let them lead. Get to know your staff or it won’t work. He makes it a point to always get to know about their passions. TOTS-teachers observing teachers, they aren’t obliged to. It’s built into team mtg schedule. Used as a collaborative moment. They’re our best resources when it comes to PD.

Journey to principalship? Always at the middle school level.  20+ years ago when he interviewed for 1st job wanted to go to HS to work. He had a MS interview, was called back right away. Never looked back, realized MS was his jam 1 month into teaching. He was always interested in being a principal. During his own HS experience, he had 2 great principals, liked the way they conducted themselves. Make an impact on as many as possible. Teacher-dean-AP-principal. Wants to stay in this role. Got into admin because he wanted to give back more. Still thinks of principals he had when he was a student & teacher.

What kind of PD drives you (both to lead and to participate in)? He will go to TB conference. He is a certified project Chris trainer (focused on metacognition), but hasn’t done for a while), sometimes will do PD about personalized learning. IS connected w/ a few Univ. in N IL, speaks to students in their ed leadership cohorts. 2x’s a year.  He does his leadership 101. It’s a Q & A w/ a small presentation.  He told himself he had to do something. He talks about how it’s about promoting growth in your learning community. Occasionally presents @ conferences. Was at inaugural Teach to Lead Summit.

TB blogging insert link to blog series on mental health (most are from 2020, is he still doing it?): He is still writing a ton, just hasn’t shared w/ world. We can mention one. He focused more on mental health. Wouldn’t call self a writer, has been writing since HS on 100 different topics. Kaitlyn G. was teaching in his building when he wrote a few times.He wants to focus on t mental health, how to create down time. He needs to model Maslow before Bloom philosophy for staff.

Out of everything? There are 1000’s of quotes in his office. Be you! It’s OK. That’s what your school needs. It’s ok to be different. Show up, love your kids & colleagues, do everything you can for them. You don’t have to be like t down the hall.

Where can ppl find you online?  #kanelandpride  @brianfaulkner44 on Twitter, DM/tweet him 

View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/MK2p-G7CbCE

Episode #213: Vernon Wright


 Vernon Wright (@TheWrightLeader, TheWrightLeader.com, ZeroApologyZone.com Founder) is a speaker, author, consultant, and leader. He has over 18 years of experience in education working in large, urban school districts and has previously served in the roles of teacher, teacher leader, campus leadership team member, and district-level support.

Vernon has shared his experiences as a speaker numerous times over the years at the campus, district, regional, state levels, and beyond garnering acclaim and accolades from recognized industry leaders and colleagues. Vernon has brought his unique style and combination of insight, storytelling, experience, humor, authenticity, and epiphanies to audiences for years.

Vernon has an established presence on social media (@TheWrightLeader across all platforms), and he unabashedly stands as a voice for the people with zero apologies (ZeroApologyZone.com). You can connect with Vernon’s previous speaking and podcast appearances at TheWrightLeader.com. He is committed to a life of inspiring and elevating others.

(His website includes podcast episodes & articles). 

Trenches story: Reflection is a key piece. Is critical, essential piece. Don’t forget where you’ve come from. 1 is professional, other is more personal nature, 1 satisfies both. What’s the vision, mission, was coming out of grad school, had no plans to stay in education, was working for a leader who was broken. Sometimes others see more in us than we see in ourselves. He shares the perspective he gained. Even in situations when it’s “professional”, we may be dealing with someone who has unresolved trauma & hurt. Was living in a crime-infested apt complex in Dallas. He was able to increase the impact he was making. Each day he gets up & goes to bed- “Have I added value to 1 person’s life?” Started to see education as impact. Improving the lives of others. Enlightenment. Twitter followers went up-now about 10K had to overcome him understand what he is living isn’t just regular or normal. He likes simplicity. If something is complex, it lessens probability everyone will be able to do it. If actions don’t change, data doesn’t change. We transition from being content consumers to content creators, it’s selfless. Zig Ziegler quote he shares. 

articles he’s written- He did one for Teach Better (he was a one-time guest blogger). He was on the Daily Drop in. He wrote the blog post after the show. Also co-authored articles w/ EduMatch with Nicole Biscotti, having the right lens. Working on a solo book project w/ EduMatch, may be out by end of year. Is fan of Rick & Becky Du Four- how PLC questionss can be applied to your life. When you’re in the midst of a situation you don’t have the right perspective, next step. Situations in life where we don’t have the understanding of that. Step is to re-center. Get back on track.

Speak about the Global Ed Tech Academy w. Microsoft EDU and CUE Inc, did virtual sessions with them 2 years ago. Intl. reach. Was a “god move”. Cue decided to partner up with them. Watershed moment in his career. 

Out of the roles you’ve had, where have you’ve had the most impact? Started out as a HS t in Dallas. Considered leaving edu. Was approached year 3 about going into leadership. Ran from that. People were persistent. Became t leader/dept. chair. Got ed leader M.A. Handled operations, safety, security, HVAC. Learned about how a large physical space works. Has been in district-level leadership 7-8 yrs. Move to central office, learned what happens w/in a campus doesn’t necessarily happen in other campuses. Solid about messaging. Theme of how do we add value? Make it easy for others to do great work. Have to learn how to work better with adults. SEL approach for adults. Talks about what he does really truly matters and wants to point out what truly matters in adults. Drecker: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. When he helps schools, he reflects on what the current state of the culture is. What’s the level of awareness. There is no substitute for SEL for adults. Wants to be in a place where he is making a difference. What are promises you’ve made to yourself? Feels like he’s made an impact in each of those roles. Doors opened where he was at to 

100 No-nonsense Things that all Teachers should STOP doing book His chapter was “Stop studying to be an administrator to make more $”, ch. 93. Be mindful of what your motivation is to go to the next level. What happens when role is beyond what you’re compensated for. Approach in an altruistic way. He committed to taking the talents & gifts he has to think about how ppl can come together to do their best work. 

Professional speaking He talks about his work with schools. Worked with TCEA, CUE edu, this summer he spoke at Learn Forward Texas. Part of larger Learn Forward national affiliate. Doors opened up for him to expand his reach. Ppl come from all over the world to TCEA. He talks about 2 things: 10 steps to becoming a game-changer & branding for educators. He asks ppl what their user handle looks like-how important is it that your work is great work if no one can find it? Value piece & connection piece come together. He has a pattern on purpose. You should unify social media handles to website URL. Make it easy for ppl to connect w/ your work.

Out of everything?  If you’re adding value to someone’s life every day, there is a compounding effect. Take an inventory. Ask yourself what your talents & gifts are. Decide you’ll use them to help others. Use them to pour into others for their benefit. What is the altruistic motive? He mentors collegiate athletes. We’re farmers, we’re always planting.

Where can ppl find you online? @thewrightleader www.thewrightleader.com  ZeroApologyZone.com with apparel, playlist of his podcast guest spots. View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/Qddtz3zenso

Episode #214: Baruti Kafele


As a highly regarded urban educator in New Jersey for over twenty years, Principal Baruti Kafele distinguished himself as a master teacher and a transformational school leader. As an elementary school teacher, he was a New Jersey State Teacher of the Year finalist, and a recipient of the New Jersey Education Association Award of Excellence. As a middle and high school principal, Principal Kafele led the turnaround of four different New Jersey urban schools.  

One of the most sought-after school leadership and classroom equity presenters in America, Principal Kafele is impacting America’s schools! He has delivered over two thousand conference and program keynotes and professional development workshops.  Principal Kafele is the leading authority for providing effective classroom and school leadership strategies toward closing what he coined, the “Attitude Gap.” He has authored twelve books, including his seven ASCD best sellers – Motivating Black Males to Achieve in School & in Life, Closing the Attitude Gap, Is My School a Better School BECAUSE I Lead It?, The Teacher 50, The Principal 50, The Assistant Principal 50 and his newest release, The Equity & Social Justice Education 50. Principal Kafele is also the creator and host of the popular Virtual Assistant Principal Leadership Academy, streamed live every Saturday morning on his Virtual AP Leadership Academy YouTube channel and his other social media platforms at 10:55 EST.

Trenches story: hasn’t talked about it a ton. Being at odds with a superintendent. Didn’t see work the same way. Career was on an upward trajectory. Was suspended. Termination hearing coming the following week. Was on a popular radio talk show. Parents expressed outrage, became bigger story, board voted he’d done nothing wrong. 5 years later received the prestigious Milken Award, example of standing firm on what you believe. Continued to do the work. Hence great award years later. Overwhelming. 

Tell me what got you started with the AP Leadership Academy (since it was originally only supposed to run for 10 weeks- now it’s gone for 144 weeks. Consumes a lot of his life- weeks’ worth of planning. It’s the biggest joy of his life/work. Is it’s a conference & he’s the keynoter, ppl will gravitate to session. Everyone who attends his Academy make that conscious decision. He won’t speak at the conference if it interferes w/ his academy. Ppl wouldn’t tune in b/c his agenda. B/c of AP position not being just a disciplinarian. 

Plans for guests/how you decide who to interview? Is trying to read audience. Looks @ #’s and see how many are interested. Had 90 items, only covered 17 last Saturday. Wants to keep it diverse. He’s booked out till next summer. Rapid fire questions- why he does it. He wants to see how authentic they are. If they have to give it a lot of thought- they’re not really thinking about it. Like “can true equity occur in American schools?” “What are you reading?” Could be a blog even. 

After your last 2 books, published in2021 and 2020 Asst Principal 50, Equity & Social Justice 50- you’ve been given contracts to write more for ASCD. Talk about these. He does a motivational commentary. Many of those are about protecting. Protecting your happiness, joy, what else can a leader protect? 105 diff. things. Thought he’d divide up 100 things into 2 books. Had exceeded his goal of 35K words. Will do 35K x 3. Use protecting. Guarding, shielding. Not allowing someone to break it down. 

What is your favorite thing about being in front of a roomful of school leaders? 11 years since he left principalship to consult full-time but has spoken 36 yrs. Fired up is continuation of work. If it’s about equity & not everyone can embrace it, loose enjoyment. He feels the tension. He loves going in & teaching, inspiring. 

One of your most notable sayings on your Saturday show is “I’m on Fire!!!”. What ignites your passion? How did you take that passion from the stage to the camera? being able to see comments while live ignites him. He can’t elevate the passion, enthusiasm w/o comments. “Amen, preach”, other affirmations help him be his authentic self. Speakers look for the “Amen”. You have broader audience. You find yourself speaking to the commenters. They’re yours, doing audience analysis. 

Out of everything? Whatever you’re pursuing in life, give it maximum effort. Put forth effort in your craft. The competition is out there doing it. 

Where can ppl find you online? www.principalkafele.com social platforms just getting into IG & LinkedIn. FB, Twitter. IG: @millionmileman 

Find this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/BeqBeIBGH2c

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