Episode 25 to 28

Episode #25: Evan Robb: https://outofthetrenches.podbean.com/e/episode-25-evan-robb/

Evan Robb is the Principal of Johnson-Williams Middle School in Berryville, Virginia. He has over 20 years of experience serving as a building level principal

Prior to being a school principal, Evan was an English teacher, department chair, and Assistant Principal. Evan is a recipient of the Horace Mann Educator of the Year Award. In addition, the NCTE Commission on Reading selected him to serve on its national board. As a  TEDx Speaker, Evan offers inspirational keynotes, workshops, webinars, and on-going professional learning opportunities on leadership, mindset, culture, impactful change, and how to improve literacy in schools. Evan has shared his ideas with thousands of educators at dozens of workshops across the United States and in other countries. Evan is also an accomplished author. His first book titled, The Principal’s Leadership Sourcebook: Practices, Tools, and Strategies for Building a Thriving School Community was published in  2007. His second book, The Ten- Minute Principal, was published in 2019. Evan and  his mother Laura Robb collaborated to write, Team Makers, which was published later in 2019. Evan partnered with Laura Robb to write, A School Full of Readers, which was published in early 2020.

Tell me about a time when you were in the trenches and managed to “crawl” out: When he was a new teacher, he took the round-about way to get into teaching. Did MBA, then decided he wanted to be a teacher. First job was in Culpepper, VA, and he had to communicate 88 miles one way. He stuck with it even though it was hard. One thing he’s learned is certain type of superintendents you can work with.Some didn’t have great leadership style or personality deficiencies. Part of the test of leadership is how does someone lead times when it’s really challenging.

In your book “The Ten- Minute Principal”, you outline strategies for principals to use in an easy-to-read format. One can just pick up the book at few minutes at a time and gain worthy insight. This is a great tool for principals to refer back to on a day-to-day basis. Did you have certain leaders in mind as you wrote the book (new principals, those in a high stress environment, or principals who lack support?)

Yes to all the above. Many principals were struggling, less than feeling like the world was against you. Not an academic read. His goal is him speaking w/ reader sharing his tips. Good to share mishaps, truths.  Your 10-minute tips are essential to principals in looking at various aspects of their leadership (working with office staff, video communications with stakeholders, etc), he dives into customer service, it doesn’t always happen organically. Clarifying working w/ a team, put a smile on people’s face. You don’t want people griping about the secretary. Video is a great way to connect for all schools’ employees. On making videos as a communication tool- practice will make better.Communications before were very dry. Videos are alot less dry.  

Tell me about some feedback you have regarding The Ten- Minute Principal and how it has improved those principal’s practice? Feedback has been consistent about what he wanted to do when wrote the book. Not like he is the expert on everything. Gets msg that the book helps people focus on the intentionality of their leadership. Framework to make decisions.

Let me know how work with your mom, Laura Robb, has evolved in the past 10-12 years and how you have taken an interest in writing more about literacy. Laura has written over 30 books. Retired at 55, never written a book. Reinvented herself with 2nd career. Sometimes a person’s age dictates what one can and cannot do. He writes in a way that’s more comfortable for people. She has served as his writing teacher. She was actually his 5th grade teacher. They both share passion for reading & literacy. Instructional leadership is very important if you’re a principal. He loves presenting w/ her. We think people hit their creative peak at younger ages. Picasso maintained a high degree of creativity throughout his life. 

How has your work as a principal for 20+ years evolved and helped improve literacy goals of your schools’ School Improvement-Strategic Plan? When he was new principal, he had a high degre of motivation w/ low skillset. Was more direct in his methods than now. Less comfortable to tell someone he didn’t know the answer. 1. Surround yourself with the best people possible. Create an environment where people you can trust. Collective efficacy. Importance of culture. Empowering people is a great thing. Consistent is a strong belief in kids, capacity for them to be better. What’s your personal “why” that has always been there. It brings things back into clarity. It’s about connections, empowering people.

What are the unique challenges you face as a MS leader as we restart the year in terms of the hybrid plan your district is using this fall?   Plan is to divide student body in half red/blue cohorts. They’re working on planning what kids can do at home. Virtual opportunities. It’s become very politicized. Use science and CDC recommendations. It’s been interesting. Very different when you’re remote.

Key quotes: Your job is to tackle the challenges and maintain optimism. It’s not necessarily a positive time but something better will come. Do everything we can for students and staff. Never underestimate how important hope is. To admin, be comfortable not knowing answers w/ everything that comes your way. You can do things to build capacity, empower people, get good people on  your team. Trust and communication are key factors in school culture. d

Connect with Evan on Twitter:@ERobbPrincipal or  LinkedIN & FB:https://www.facebook.com/evanrobbprincipal/ 

His website is:https://robbcommunications.com/ His blog is https://therobbreviewblog.com/ Youtube link to this episode: https://youtu.be/WxLmx7x789E

Episode #26: Sarah Thomas, Ph.D.


 Sarah is a Regional Technology Coordinator in a large district in Maryland, and the founder of #EduMatch, a project that empowers educators to make global connections across common areas of interest.

  Sarah has spoken and presented internationally, participated in the Technical Working Group to refresh the 2017 ISTE Standards for Educators, and is a recipient of the 2017 ISTE Making IT Happen award.  She is also an Affiliate Professor at Loyola University in Maryland. Sarah is a co-author of the ISTE Digital equity series, Closing the Gap.

Tell me about a time when you were in the trenches? She came to the education field from a different background, possibly influenced by her mom who started teaching when she was in undergrad. Sarah started immediately after undergrad in radio/tv. She worked with students during that time in summer school. She ventured out on her own and applied to work at a school that wasn’t a great fit for her. First few years in the classroom, she ended up in several schools that weren’t a good fit for her. Had a couple teacher peers who were supportive, mist of energy was put into survival, not a whole lot. Felt burned out, almost didn’t make it. Had a back up plan. Something kept her there, it was working with the kids. The 4th school she worked at was the charm. That’s were she learned her impact. Not necessarily about students. Principal put her in a leadership role. Didn’t have high self-esteem. Principal trusted her to do what she could to use her strengths to help educators. Worked with the tech team to get PD for herself. Found her PLN because she felt comfortable to improve. Mainly what changed her trajectory was the leadership of the school. Students became co-owners with her. When she was allowed to take more risks as educator, she tried to take more risks. At end of her time in the classroom, she implemented “Figure it out Friday”. She and her students learned together.

In your current job, your team does a lot of PD on the circuit. District tech team played an influential role in her development as educator, now in year 5. There has been such a change in education. Voice and choice for all learners. Really came into play when pandemic hit. Redeveloping more modules when it comes to professional learning. Innovative modules. Flipgrid, bitmoji sessions, thinking outside of the box. Mix of live webinars, put on website at their own leisure. Sarah says it’s exciting to be a part of. Even looking beyond our role as educators.

Tell me about #EduMatch- it’s the network she wished she had, she feels like she’s learning so much with fellow educators. Grassroots organization came about in 2014. Teachers wanted to use gamification with fantasy sports. Tweeted out sentences about 1st teacher that she sent out request for gamification about. People joined and brought their ideas. 100 people had signed up within a month, Voxer group,  Twitter chats and panel. On #edumatch, mostly individuals reach out to her.  Book publishing started in 2016. Non-profit in launch phase. 1 flagship and 2 mini-courses. What’s driving it? It’s what she wishes she had earlier in her career. It’s been beneficial to her as learner. 

Key quotes: She wishes she knew to build her network earlier in her career, “build it before you need it”, “cultivate the relationships, get to know people”. People have opinions, but when we get to know one another we can understand a little more why. 

You can find Sarah online at? Twitter: @sarahdateechur  IG: @sarahdateechur FB: Sarah Thomas, PhD page  Website: www.edumatch.org, www.edumatchpublishing.com, www.edumatchcourses.com. People can go on #edumatch and find someone to connect with, info about publishing, a course, and more about the foundation. Watch this episode on YouTube @ https://youtu.be/N3OYc2vZbtQ

Episode #27: Danny Brassell


Danny is a best-selling author of 16 books, including Leadership Begins with Motivation and The Reading Makeover, based on his popular TEDx talk

Affectionately known as “Jim Carrey with a Ph.D.,” Dr. Danny Brassell (www.DannyBrassell.com) has held a variety of titles and worked with leaders from a variety of fields and disciplines, but he has always considered himself first and foremost a teacher. For the past 25 years he has also been a lecturer and professor at a number of universities, including his current position as a faculty advisor for the CalStateTEACH program and distinguished visiting professor at the American University of Cairo. A gregarious, sought-after author, speaker, accountability coach and business consultant, Danny is a recognized authority on leadership development, reading, motivation and communication skills and the co-creator of www.theREADINGhabit.com, the world’s top reading engagement program. His mission is to bring joy back into education and the workplace. Thousands, from school districts to businesses to association conferences, have enjoyed his energetic, interactive and informative presentations. He has spoken to over 3,000 different audiences worldwide.

For the past two decades, Dr. Danny Brassell has served as an educational advisor to students ranging from preschoolers to rocket scientists. While he has held a variety of titles and worked with leaders from a variety of fields and disciplines, Danny has always considered himself first and foremost a teacher.

Tell me about how you can out of the trenches? Teaching trenches, he spent many years in the inner city of LA. Today, he wants to bring joy back into educator first 6 years on the job. He shared that as a student, he was in SPED because he stuttered. His teacher sang things to him, he sang them back. He was blessed with great role models as parents. His best teachers were his parents. Parents have the greatest homefield advantage. Show the kids that learning can be fun. At a young age, he liked to perform. College in D.C. He worked for a US congressman, cleaned toilets at a health club, would rather do that than work at Capital Hill. He wanted to be a journalist. Editor was covering the president during re-election campaign at the time. Worked for Chicago Tribune for 16K/year, but got more money teaching.

What is your take on what districts are currently expecting of teachers to do during the pandemic? Schools expect teachers to be experts in online teaching without providing the training.  Other districts have extensive online educational offerings with low SES populations. He says get rid of standardized testing and invest more money into electives. There is no relationship between how you perform on those tests & how you perform in life. 

Tell me about your reading program and how you developed it, working one on one & getting individualized attention, what good is it getting kids how to read if they don’t want to read. He developed the program based on research on habit formation study. It depends on the habit you’re trying to form. 20 m./day, based on research studies of success around the world. Low kids averaged less than 1m. 70%- 9.5 m of reading/day. 90%. Spent reading 20m/day. Turn on closed captioning. Brain is directed towards text. Finland has highest reading scores in the world cause kids are reading subtitles. Build your students into a routine, students improve their reading by 2-3 grade levels. How can we get kids self-motivated.  When he taught middle school, he started the day with Paul Harvey story and the kids were never tardy. 101 rest of stories, perfect for read-alouds. His latest book is a homage to Harvey. Get your kids’ best friends parents to work with your children. Reading aloud is the best way to improve your student’s reading. There is a podcast by Mike Rowe, The Way I heard it– has great stories for the short attention span. It shows different tales from people around the world.

What would you advise parents to use to read with their children at home or to get them more interested in reading during remote learning? On www.freereadingtraining.com there is free resources for parents, keep your kids excited about learning, reading is basis for everything. NWEA did study about kids being behind. It’s even more critical now. Parents can tell story, even if not good reader. He’s here to teach not WHAT to think but HOW to think. Talk WITH your children about current events. Parents should encourage their kids to use their brain, question things, WHY is best ? Pandemic could be greatest thing that ever happened to American education. Our calendar is based on ancient farming calendar. Too much time is wasted on catch-up. 

Key quotes: “Read with your kid!” On “Little House”, they were in small school room with different sizes. Sent big kids down to read with Kindies. If 7th grader is bored, have them read online with senior citizen. Opportunities around, but people ignore them. “It’s what you do with your time, not time “management”.” “Facilitate the experiences.”

Where can people find you online? As a thank you to my listeners, Danny will provide everyone a complimentary e-copy of his book “Read, Lead & Succeed,” as well as two digital trainings for parents to promote reading at home with their kids (freeREADINGtraining.com). Connect with him on Twitter and on LinkedIn @ dannybassell

Watch this episode on Youtube: https://youtu.be/44fqZaay71Q 

Episode #28: Jeff Kubiak


Jeff’s past experiences include competitive swimming and coaching.
You can purchase Jeff’s recent release at: http://bit.ly/itsmebook

Jeff Kubiak  is the author of children’s books “One Drop of Kindness” and It’s Me”. He taught for ten years as an elementary school teacher in grades 4, 5, and 6 and has eight years of elementary-level administrative experience. Jeff strives to connect with students by bringing real world experiences to them, getting to know their names, engaging in lessons and play, and becoming a part of the learning process with them. He’s always looked at education from a different lens: from someone who hated and struggled with school. Jeff vows to always do his best to help increase opportunities for all students to feel heard, noticed, celebrated, challenged and safe. Being a former world class swimmer and coach, Jeff looks at education from perspectives that others don’t. Knowing what it takes to fail, struggle, win and go through the daily challenges that we all face (Jeff participated in the ’88 Olympic Trials in swimming-200 Breaststroke). Jeff is based in N California, near Sacramento, in Davis. Having published 2 books in the past 2 years, Jeff hopes to continue writing books that bring about inspiring others to help make our world a better place.

Tell me a time when you came out of the trenches: It was missing the Olympic team by 1200ths of a second at age 23. He started swimming at age 4, played water polo, swam in college. Breaststroke. Started coaching right after the trials, it tied in well with teaching. Jeff now does private coaching. Uses a lot of practices mindset. We often look at “the trenches” as a self-struggle. With athletics, you have to be on at that time, in that place, it’s humbling when you don’t make the time. He continued swimming a few more years but brought in traits from competitive swimming into education. You need to stay positive, have reflection & growth. Did both teaching & coaching hand in hand.

Your first book “One Drop of Kindness” came out in May ‘19. “It’s me” is your next book.  Tell me a little about it. It’s about removing prejudices and not labelling them. All real stories, vignettes. Mia Walsh, was connected with her through someone he knew. She writes a powerful vignette, she talks about not being just LGBTQ but the fact that people are often labelled by what they are. It’s geared toward upper elementary-HS-aged students.

How long did it take you to write this book? It’s been a work in progress, gathering the stories. Idea of book has been a 20 year period. Many stories are from former students. There are too many groups that are marginalized and oppressed. He took experiences from students he knew. They don’t want to be defined by spending the day in a wheelchair, being Muslim, etc. The book will help readers better understand people with differences. Geared towards upper elementary-HS. His next steps are he wants kids to be able to identify with the book. He wants it to become a talking point so people can ask others more about their experiences. 

What are conferences you have recently spoke at or keynotes that you’ve given? Last one was Teach Better Conference in Nov. of last year. As a principal, Jeff has facilitated staff development, one on one with classrooms, embracing empathy, compassion, kindness.

What’s driving education for the moment? Que.org (computer-using educators) organization. He will speak at the fall que boom session- 3m talk about sharing his passion. One Drop of Kindness came from going to many different schools himself as a child. Jeff was a bully until 6th grade. You can feel the culture of a school once you step onto campus. It helps people remember we have kindness embedded within us. It’s a message he wants to share with the masses. Perhaps it’s things that challenge our mantra, have kids start a kindness club.

Key quotes: “See people, you’re really seeing inside and more than their story, give them a chance.” “It’s too often we misjudge, put people into a silo”. Jeff is hopeful we will embrace their differences.

Where can people find you online? Visit his website www.jeffkubiak.com and follow him on Twitter @jeffreykubiak, IG @jeffkubiakauthor, You can buy his book at http://bit.ly/itsmebook. 11-15-20 was the live release show for the book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yii790m2mNk. Watch this podcast episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/RvhT6S3RWsU

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