Episode 66 to 73


Episode #66: Kyle Hamstra


Born and raised in DeMotte, Indiana, Kyle relocated to Cary, North Carolina in 2002, and started teaching fifth grade math and science at Davis Drive Elementary for fourteen years. For the last five years, he’s been working in another dream position, crafting learning experiences as a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) specialist. He’s also served as an After School Director; Science Chair; and WeatherBug Coordinator for nearly two decades. He’s passionate about facilitating and enhancing student learning experiences through inquiry, technology, and hands-on activities.

Kyle was named a 2016 ASCD Emerging Leader, a member of the Wake Science Core Leadership Team, and a member of the North Carolina Digital Leaders Coaching Network. He has presented at conferences like ISTE, NCTIES, NSTA, and ASCD. In May, 2020, he earned his Masters in School Administration (MSA) degree from East Carolina University. He is aspiring to be an administrator and author.

In addition to family time, Kyle enjoys serving on the Marbles Kids Museum Educator Advisory Group; attending #edcamps all over North Carolina; exploring the learning potential and professional certifications for all-things-#edtech; blogging; tweeting; connecting with my professional learning network; reading; running charity races; riding his bicycle; and traveling.

Tell me about a time you were in the trenches: Kyle thinks he was the worst 1st year teacher “who ever set foot on campus”. Hard process to make it through the first 3-5 years. Has lived his own journey and survived. He’d make the transition to teaching from the university to elementary school teaching and it was a treacherous journey. It was a R turn instead of a L turn. He found the school he applied to on a laminated flyer at a gas station. Circled 5 schools, got lost in Indiana. In 2002, he could tell how he got into the job, it was almost divine intervention. School he ended up at, had an admin who had graduated from Purdue in IN. He went home and took out the wall calendar. Took a pencil and divided every day into “yes/no” columns. The school he worked at was an academically high-performing school with veteran educators. Had a FOMO experience, felt inadequate. Was terrified. At the end of the year, the “yes” columns won by 8 days. People underestimate the bridge from college to one’s 1st job. He wishes he could have his first class back. Didn’t realize the importance of connecting with the mind by going through the heart. He had underestimated how hard being an educator is, all the work you have to invest in making learning better for kids. He rejoices that former students are doing well, making the most of their talents. He underestimated how hard it is to be a first year teacher, but was on an amazing team. Another male teacher on the team who every student wanted to be in his class, a math expert. Was grateful for his mentoring. He wanted to add value to the team. Came to the planning sessions but felt like he just walked away with info. Needed to identify the value he could add to the team. Wanted to be part of the process. No one in the building was really focusing on science. Needed to come with resources to make lesson plan better. Started to invest in ways to make science better (i.e. hands-on). He was well-supported. It takes a special perseverance. You have to WANT to do it. Be all in or not. 

Tell me about your Standards-Based Grading (SBG) journey: In 2005, his district decided they would transition to SBG. It changed his entire educational philosophy, career trajectory. Was sent in 2004 to go to a SBG workshop. Took copious notes. He was expected to present that to his staff. He had to know all the ins & outs about SBG. His school implemented it the following fall. It changed his philosophy because it was done with fidelity. All he knew as a student was %-based grading. At that time, the HS & MS in the district stayed with %-based grading. Going back to 1st year- had pop quizzes with ?’s. Half got all right, half got wrong. Parents complained because it was a C but kids just got 1 wrong, they had demonstrated proficiency.  Hardest part was equating quantity with quality. Apples vs. oranges. In Kyle’s mind, it was a deficit approach. SBG was how we can add value. Communication with parents looks different, feedback to students looks different, how you produce evidence of learning. Teachers has to go back to see “what was the standard”? It’s harder work, but truly more meaningful. It changes the game. Measuring learning against the objective and taking biases out of it, you get to know your standards better. The more informed an educator you’ll be. You can better differentiate your plans moving forward. It helps newer teachers know better what they’re teaching. We’re still required to teach & learn the standards. We have the whole rest of the box to try to differentiate the instruction. Kyle started blogging about it in the summer/fall. Has used a shade of green-same shade as on the cover of the book “How to grade for learning” by Ken O’Connor. He moderated a culture ed twitter chat on grading recently. We can look back on the pandemic in 5 years and see if we really structurally changed things. When it comes to the camera on or off question, we shouldn’t grade by anything but work habits and not even if kids turn in work late. We don’t know the level of support for learning new things at home during pandemic. It’s different transferring F2F lessons to online or blended format. Take that all into account when deciding how to grade. Asked about his remote, hybrid, F2F experience in fall & going into the spring. He has a 3 cohort rotation in person. More people now feel philosophically more comfortable with SBG, as shown in the Twitter chat he led. As educators we can’t choose our grading system. Can you still demonstrate practices of quality over quantity even if you’re doing %-based grading? Do work habits inform your bias as to what you put on report card for math? 1) work habit 2) conduct or 3) learning. Report cards should include these 3 items. Asked if he’s presented on SBG at conferences, no, but he has given presentations on other things. In the journey he wanted to add value by going deeper into the science. He started thinking about how to make 5th grade science better, how to supplement the gaps. If you’re truly using SBG you have to ask yourself did the child really demonstrate mastery? Then you can make decisions about differentiation.

Tell me about your journey getting on Twitter: Kyle was inspired by others who were on social media before him. Joined in 2013. Was opposed to social media before that. In 2013, got on Twitter, he began to tweet about it. He did it to provoke inquiry. He wanted to use Twitter as a teacher tool, a free digital space to store resources. He loves it now because he sees it as a way to use social media, promote digital citizenship in a good way. In the 5th grade science weather unit, there are lots of abstract concepts that adults can’t even conceptualize. Science curriculum kits didn’t teach to what the standards said, so he’d do searches, take pictures while travelling, build models, Jeopardy questions. Printed off pics, double-sided tape, put on poster boards. Wrote standard underneath, asked students how does this supplement our learning? Kids wrote speech bubbles how it applied to their real life. This was in 2007-10. Kyle asked students how it was meaningful to them, had them bring in their pics and artifacts. Began with the # of the standards. #SCI5E11- hashtag science standard on weather data. Kyle came up with # system for NC standards, had video or website for all NC standards. Now he has an archive of his own background knowledge. After 100 pics, 100 tweets, he had to bring up things, scroll through all his Twitter posts.

Episode # 68, Part 2: https://outofthetrenches.podbean.com/e/episode-68-kyle-hamstra-part-2/

Tell me about #180: Based on a tweet by George Curos (Nov. 24, 2015) Stemmed from George Curos tweet, he said “what if every teacher tweeted 1 thing that happened in their classroom, how might that impact learning?” It came from his Standards-Based Grading experience, he chose math vs. science. It’s like the Dewey decimal system, a good system of categorizing. Reverse is true because he’d check the standard- he’d memorized the 5th grade learning opportunities. About 1-2 years into using Twitter he didn’t realize the potential to connect with other educators in NC. How could he add value to his 5th grade team? He thought how might that work when teachers tweet out standards at each grade. What can K,2nd and 5th grade teachers share with each other? Would have a few 1000 artifacts with teachers tweeting out their experiences. It’s not Teachers Pay Teachers, it’s totally free. You might see a way to teach the standards you haven’t thought of. You have to know your standards. In the moment, you can take note of the students working, at night, go out & tweet it with the standard #. When your principal meets you to demonstrate your evidence you can pull up that tweet. You can add it to your professional portfolio. Students own learning. They can add to it what they wish. Valuable to have this archive for own personal resources, way to share resources with others in building or with educators in 3 districts over.

How can one convince more educators to get on Twitter/use it to supplement their teaching? He joined Twitter so he’d have free space to store digital work with science. Educators he asks “What is your purpose for using social media?” He didn’t realize until a year later that other educators were on Twitter. People have different rules for different social media spaces. He puts out his personal blogs, his purpose is different that other. He believes George Cuoros would say “educators can demonstrate how to use social media for good” because we haven’t seen a lot of good examples. Consumption vs. creation. Standards might not be a high priority for you. Academic/content side were extremely emphasized for him personally. The value is the people with whom we connect. You have to want to. He can o value connections that aren’t based on the #180 space.

Personal connections with people at Conferences: there’s nothing better. He misses the warm handshake, hugs, getting together with people for food. Most meaningful parts of the conference are the unexpected, it’s running into someone unexpectedly. It’s having the reflection time w/ other educators at the end of the day. He likes the poster presentation. 5 minutes. Face-to-Face conversations, maybe in that moment, you shake hands, exchange Twitter handles. Had this opportunity as ISTE conference. The virtual medium changed the message. Relational aspect was entirely different. People stayed in his poster session 1 hour instead of 15m. 

We discuss the “Social Dilemma” movie (on Netflix). He has so much to say about the value of retweets, people getting views, likes….Manipulation by “like” button. Connection, technology, social media can be used for the good. In movie, they interviewed the co-inventor of the “like” button, who wanted positive interactions. The unintended consequences couldn’t have been more contrasting. Social media users’ self-worth & identity are wrapped up so much in that. The movie zoomed in on kids, but it applies to adults. Dopamine rises when you get likes. Scary part is that when you don’t get the boost. They should do a 2nd part of movie about “what can it become?”. Are we as humans capable of controlling the notifications? The aps are competing for how much they can get likes. He still believes it can be used for something good. Kids need to have safe spaces to try something new. Add on uses of phone to the list of necessary to-do list. In his STEM specials class 4th grade, students went into Flipgrid and gave feedback a few years ago. Students played their own videos & stopped it. Tried to refresh it. Wanted to get more views. He should have disabled view count in Flipgrid. Question is how much is beyond that as kids get older?

Key quote: “it’s not about you, we’re in the business of people, it’s about others.”

Find Kyle online: @Kylehamstra, website: Hamstrahighlights  he can connect on FB & IG. Loves to connect w/ others View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/M4F15XzSXxA (part 1) View this episode on YouTube (Part 2): https://youtu.be/m3BlFOz-leM


Episode # 67: Dr. Markeyna Williams


Dr. Markenya L. Williams is a Chicagoan, with great Southside pride.  She has been an educator since 2005 and is an active member of the NAACP, NAN, and a proud Board Member of the Illinois Princip Association (Kishwaukee Region,) Burst Into Books Inc. (Chicago,) & St. James Community Church (Chicago).  Dr. Williams has held multiple positions and titles throughout her career: teacher’s assistant, teacher, grade level team leader, private tutor, preschool site director, technology coordinator, Local School Council (LSC) member, PBIS coach, attendance team leader, MTSS co-coordinator, assistant principal, diversity & equity chairperson, CEO, and much more.  Dr. Williams’ personal mantra is “expect, implement, transform!”  Her passion and commitment to public education have been the fuel for her success as a transformational leader. Dr. Williams strongly believes that all children deserve effective, highly qualified educators and committed leaders who believe in diversity, inclusion, equity, and justice!   

Trench story: Her powerful story is leaving her last job in February 2020, pursuing entrepreneurship. District was 2 sides- Title 1 & affluent side. Made great connections with families, they were happy there was an African American AP. She pulled back layers of discipline practices. There were high suspension rates. Unpacked layers, they weren’t in alignment with the district’s policies & practices. She believes in restorative justice (RJ). Saw gross injustices taking place among African Americans & students of color. Staff was resistant to being accountable to practices in the classroom, everything funneled to the front office. She put in lunchroom management discipline practices. 85% of referrals were from lunchroom and were abolished completely in 1 month. She experienced microaggressions. No one told her what to expect in such a system. It was emotionally unhealthy. In Feb. 2020, she prayed, had hired legal counsel. God encouraged her to resign. Resigned the week they went on lockdown in IL. Didn’t have a plan B. Emotional toll wasn’t worth it. Felt the kids deserved a better leader. Was glad had put in resignation before they went to remote learning. She hadn’t been looking at research, so in March 2020 she picked it back up, finished her Doctorate in June.

Talk about starting the Panacea Consulting firm: has been asked to do diversity, equity, inclusion work. She was looking at principalships in June. Thought of Shirley Chism, “if they don’t give you a seat at the table, grab a folding chair”. She thought about what she had to offer. 1 job, 1 district didn’t define her as a person.  She thought about “what else can I do?”. Wrote her skillsets down in order to launch her LLC. Told herself to put her own energy into creating  the Panacea consulting firm maximized the opportunity, brought her own folding chair. Asked what types of needs the parents, stakeholders, districts would need in her setting up systemic processes with them. She’s seen great initiatives started but when someone leaves, it goes away. She wants to leave her footprint. Is currently building networks to help deliver on demand for equity & inclusion. She wants to promote equitable and inclusive strategies to those schools. She can now make change at a macro level.

Talk to me about your own  journey through education: She was brought up in single parent household, S side of Chicago. Mom has a degree in math but was an athlete so she got “special treatment”. She knew the biases that can influence the outcomes of children. Herself & siblings went to private & parochial schools K-12.  Aunt was a nurse, she wanted to go into nursing. Many of the babies she worked with in the labor & delivery ward were from the moms who were addicted, going through withdraw. She held them & gave them baths. In HS, took biology & earth science, passed with a C, needed a D or F to get into nursing program. Lost dad at age 7, brother had a different dad, so it was hard navigating her early years. Parents were passionate about them getting a good education. Mom send her to private/parochial schools. It was hard for her to navigate these years. When she first came to public schools as an educator she became relentless in ensuring students were able to read & write. Taught preschool & K and make sure kids left her class with early literacy skills. Promotes literacy programs for kids in neighborhood schools. Englewood community & W. Chicago. Entered the profession as an EA, she has awareness of including all the people who work with kids at all levels. Not “shocked” by students per say, adults are supposed to guide, shelter, but  they were neglecting the needs of kids. Impact was decreased or diminished. There was a lack of consistency in how to serve kids with respect, love, there were high levels of aggression with them working with children of color. Dr. Jean Murphy was her junior year professor who changed the trajectory of her thought process. She was first black woman who had a doctorate (that Markeyna knew), this professor exuded excellence. Was late to class, 1 hour late. Prof had locked the door. Wouldn’t let her in. Lost % points for not presenting. She influenced Markenya well into her adult years. A writing assignment she got A+ on changed her trajectory of being able to write more. Saw this was lacking when she got to public schools. Became relentless as a teacher, at the preschool level that the kids left her class reading. Best tools to be self-propelled. Was open & honest with the 3-4 year olds. It’s about empowering them with self-love, affirmations, complementing them. Countless educators, black & white, she’s known who have spoken down to students.  

Setting up the Panacea firm, how you got started, and what your vision we when you started? She threw a life-line out to fellow educators and pre-service educators. She had started a non-profit, became a site director while she was in school full-time. She is supporting schools in WI, IL & Africa. It’s a great opportunity. She can go back into a school, or into higher ed. Has no regrets standing up to resist oppressive systems. She loves the peace she has now. She had never seen kids so young being thrown into suspensions with the zero tolerance policies. She agrees, these kids need support. Schools often fail to build relationships with students. Students who drop out, end up wrecking havoc on the community who failed to support them.

Your research for your doctorate was on absenteeism, talk about how that is connected to your passions: She went through multiple topics of “Markeyna saving the world” through her research. Narrowed down topic to chronic absenteeism. She took the capstone option. She created an attendance manual. Told her chair it was the backdoor to the school-to-prison pipeline. We need to make efforts to change the system. Children will learn more when they are in school. When we don’t ensure they’re there, these kids wreak havoc on the communities. Community pays for educating or miseducating the students. Admin often had access to data but didn’t bother looking at it. Looked at the difference between chronic absenteeism & truancy. Pulled multiple districts’ attendance policies. Wasn’t always easy to find the policy. A lot of initiatives weren’t in the policies. Her work has really driven the conversation for the work that needs to be done to influence policies. It’s amazing when you look up and you’re operating from your purpose. We’re here now for a significant reason. She is passionate about navigating the school-prison pipeline. Even if we don’t rectify the educational system at large, just by them being at school every day, they will learn. Schools who kick kids out of rooms aren’t places where kids want to be. She has 4 nephews. Has a particular passion for helping black boys. Black parents feel mistreated there. The culture & climate issue is something the school or district doesn’t want to take ownership of. We have to own the wrong before we can get to the right. When we have chronic absenteeism in primary grades they can fall into the trap of too many “excused” absences. Sometimes parents will just let them stay home due to alleged medical umbrella. Chronic absenteeism affects the community at large. 36 out of 50 states chronic absenteeism is an accountability metric tied to funding. Is there a desire to rectify it?

Key quotes: “Children matter, you have to care for children. When they don’t feel welcomed, learning can’t happen”. It drives what she does. It’s not just in word but in deed. Think about “who could I have been if I had that educator who made a difference just 5 or 10 years prior?” Pay it forward. If you’re not good for kids, please leave. Too many people stay in positions because of the paycheck. She realized she had too much integrity in previous job to stay there. We’ll really need people who can show up 100%. These are the conversations we need to have around diversity, inclusion and equity we need to think about the individuals. She’s talking about all the adults in the schools.  

Find Markeyna online on Twitter @markenyaw IG: @markenyawilliams, access her Youtube channel Visit her website: www.panceaconsultingfirm.com View the (audio) version of this podcast on YouTube:  https://youtu.be/oLCg0vbAGMw

Episode #69: Chad Dumas


Chad Dumas, Ed.D. is an educational consultant with Next Learning Solutions, international presenter and award-winning researcher whose primary focus is collaborating to develop capacity for continuous improvement. Having been a successful teacher, principal, central office administrator, professional developer and consultant in a variety of school districts, he brings his passion, expertise, and skills to his writing and speaking as he engages participants in meaningful and practical learning. He shares his research and knowledge in his new books, Let’s Put the C in PLC: A Practical Guide for School Leaders and An Action Guide to Put the C in PLC.

Tell about a time you were in the trenches and managed to crawl out? As a HS principal, there are many laws around the graduation requirements. Set up like an industrial system- you have to take classes in this order. Structures & processes in place to make it happen. Consequences if it doesn’t happen. For some kids, it doesn’t work. It was really difficult to have to “fight against the system” in terms of struggling kids.  Every aspect of the system was working against them. His mind goes to kids who weren’t successful in their daily environment, they crafted a daily schedule for them. 1 was a single mom, the school helped her be successful, had to work 40 hours a week. Worked with her collaboratively. She could come in late, leave early. Got her CNA certification. Another kiddo, young man who didn’t fit the school constraints, environment of the classroom. Had family support, struggled during the school day, they created alternative plan to help him graduate. Chad is still in touch with him, he has an AA and has started his own business. Great example of the school working with kids, they didn’t know .

Tell me about his roles in education, leading to where you are today? Chad started as a MS vocal music teacher in Lincoln, NE. Only 3 7th grade girls liked to sing when he started. 5 years later kids were signed up for the class. Built a wonderful program. Was a professional developer with multiple districts afterwards. At that time, he started working on his Ed.D. He wanted to work with a sole district, but needed to experience being a principal. Was a grade 7-12 principal. As a staff they worked to say “a building doth not a school make”, had opportunity to rethink what to do with a brand new building. Then he was central office admin in a high-poverty district in Central NE. Implemented PLC book’s ideas. ¾ of the schools were marked as improving. Moved to Iowa, found out that his research works, and founded Next Learning Solutions.

Your book is based on your dissertation (2010-11) and you received Learning Forward’s “Best Research”– he put the research into book format. During his dissertation, him & wife were travelling, he shared that the “silver bullet” is the collaboration in teams in schools. He’s yet to see it not work. His wife asked “How do you know that the principal knows what they need to do?”.  There’s a knowing-doing gap. It occurred to him “maybe we don’t know”. Michael Fullan talks about change. The DuFours talk about PLCs. No one had pulled it together & said “here’s what you need to know”, so he wrote that in his dissertation. This last year he realized that PLC concepts need to be shared with others. “Knowing/doing gap”. If you know, it’s great. What does a school leader need to know to build a collaborative environment? Through the lens of equity and racial/social justice. Ideas started 8+ years ago, but put into hyper gear during spring 2020, wife told him to put the research in book format. It has 10 elements, each chapter lays out the elements “What does a principal need to know?”, practical tools & strategies. Then Chad wrote a Practical Guide for School Leaders, not just principal-everyone’s a leader in their own way. 

We talked about my experience with PLCs at different schools. He was a MS teacher, so his team rotated throughout the year. He was with the “core” teams throughout the year. Kids who “couldn’t read” were the first to read. Cross-curricular connections. Powerful learning. There is a study by Peter DeWitt about the most hated term right now in education is PLC. His opinion is that we’re not thinking of PLCs as PLCs. We need to think as a culture, ethos, who we are as a system. We’re focused on learning, we’re working together on results for kids. We get too hung up on details. If our school or district is a PLC, we come as community of profession together to learn what we need to learn to get better. How do you team staff? It needs to be meaningful for them. All staff needs to be teamed. Some teachers are thrown into teams without prior planning. What do you as a professional need to know to meet the needs of the kids? Talk with each other to figure out what professional themes work best. Don’t have it in stone for the whole year. They could work together during the 1st quarter. I.e. rotate specials per quarter. What happens isn’t as important as HOW. Cross-curricular teams are great at impacting student learning. Number of factors fall into play. Where Chad led, P.E. worked with 1st grade, etc. Examples were that music & P.E. teacher worked together on units. Worked on sight words kids needed to know. P.E. teacher had sight words on wall of gym, related it back to P.E. exercises. Tied to literacy. Music teachers working with 5th grade teacher who are teaching Underground Railroad. Powerful ways to plan. Teacher did research on muscles requiring abdominal core strength and kids who weren’t reading at grade level.

How is the need for C the in PLC so much more needed? What are your views on PLC evolving in the post-pandemic world? His cognitive, intellectual side was stuck on what he wanted the title of the book to be. “C”- community. We need to clarify what the “C” in PLC really means. He is huge fan of Solution Tree + the DuFours, but right now many have taken PLCs and made it their own. He invites them to open their mind & heart to building a collaborative environment. We’ve known there were inequities in education for a long time. It behooves us in education to close those gaps. Every educator went into education to improve the lives of kids. We want to make a difference in their lives. That’s were communities comes in. Closing those gaps.   

Talk about the role of people who are special service providers who aren’t necessarily in a PLC depending on the subject they teach: He says principal says “where would it be most valuable to you to engage in professional learning. Don’t just assign teachers to work with teams they don’t want to. It doesn’t value their time. Have an open-ended conversation with professional about how to meet students’ needs? Who do I need to be in community with to meet those needs? 

What are you working on now or in the near future? He is working on collaborative leadership challenges with schools, coaching conversations. His work is customized based on the needs of the system. He helps craft a plan to get them there. No “one size fits all”. His publishing guide asked him to write an “action guide”, it includes questions, challenge exercises, transfer from knowing to doing. Published in January.

 He has data analysis tools, curriculum development tools available to school leaders- central office staff, instructional coaches. Has coaching sessions 1-on-1 to have them reflect on their own learning. Everything he does is customized to needs to districts. He worked with them to design what they need to make it happen. Chad is looking into writing a few more books around day-to-day tips for school leaders. Examples: the importance of knowing people’s names. Important skills. He shares a story of a principal who really struggled and called a t by name of another teacher. 

Key quotes: “Alone we can do so little together we can do so much. Let’s access each other’s expertise”.

Find Chad find you online? Visit the Next Learning Solutions website  and follow him on Twitter: @chaddumas FB: https://www.facebook.com/ChadDumasNextLearningSolutions View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/JfJ6wDAwVCM

Episode #70: Trent Clark


Most folks know Trent for his 12+ years in Major League Baseball and coaching in three World Series.

Trent Clark is the CEO of Leadershipity. Having spent his adult livelihood among top 1% producers in sports and business, Trent is dedicated to empowering people to reach their go, peak performance, and attain their dreams. Having started twelve businesses, his dedication and energy given to his team’s and the entrepreneurs he works with is infectious. Trent is married to his wife of 25 years, they have five children and live in the Midwest.

Trenches story: He wants to talk about the message he got form the educators “you’re not enough”. How it comes off to each individual kids. Growing up w/ a bigger family, he never through about how hard it was to overcome hard times. I love FAILUREhe lives by the FAILURE acronym, get up after failure.

Fall down 7, get up 8

Trent came out of school with a teaching degree. His father was an instructor at a junior college. Did student teaching. His ultimate goal was to play in the major leagues. Was on the president’s list as a student. Was undrafted, went to play in some semi-pro things. Always adapting. Felt like “Groundhog Day”. Had some doubts going into it. Couldn’t see himself working in a school. Went to sub at his old HS. Was totally dismayed by attitudes from teachers in the lounge. He got the impression by the fact the teachers didn’t want to be there anymore. Went he did student teaching, he found out he loved seeing students progress & learn. Halfway through the semester, he put out feelers. Moved to coaching from there with the Detroit Tigers. 

Talk about your shift from teaching to working in baseball coaching? One thing that struck him was the “methodical cadence” of schools, he’s the kind of person who adjusts on the fly. The higher education system wasn’t interested in his thoughts on adapting & pivoting. He used the skills he learned like how to set up planning, adapting to unknowns. Found his “sweet spot”. Coaching & teaching is really synonymous. His own kids have been in public, private & home school. Has watched 100 ways people learn. Long road to get around how to be successful, teaching in a way that wasn’t “traditional”. Programs that offer different things in schools. He’s learned that 1 way isn’t the only way. Both him & wife were from public schools. When his first son was ready to enter schools, he did a lot of research. Recognized the value of time. How much time and efficiency he can use to maximize the learning. His son started reading early in a private school environment. Son #2 had dyslexia. Had processing challenges, tactile. When we (gen X) were young, there wasn’t much choice in regards to programs to choose. He is a strong proponent of both public & private system. He sees coaching & teaching being on same plane. From piano instructor to debate coach. Different titles- master, teacher, coach, guru. He went back into pro baseball as a coach. The moon & stars aligned.

How long after you completed your degree did you start coaching? Went into it before he finished. NCAA granted him a degree completion award, he only had to student teach. Was mired in pro game a lot of people knew him. He was house sitting for a professor and asked himself “what am I gonna do”. Was in a tough district for student teaching. Could be a better contributor other places. Looking back at shining mentors, they were his teachers & coaches. People had contacted him about opportunities in pro sports. Strength & conditioning coach Ken Manning was a great educator. Was rehabbing a shoulder. Opportunity came through the minor leagues. Right place, right time. Was a language game, especially at the pro game level. Had been a division 1 player, had a college degree. Nick Sabin was a reference of his, influential, got into his staff at MSU. Has learned so much since then. One thing he learned was how to work with tough students. They think back to what people were doing “in his day” how people have adapted their programs. He got an opportunity to coach at the pro level. At thee time, he didn’t know how they were influencing him. People stopped talking to them. Great things about education is kids need to keep talking, have humility. If they know you’re a hard worker, they want you to come along. Spoke with the NY Yankees about an opportunity  but they didn’t know him. Got a leg up because they saw what he was possible. He played the game and experienced the challenges. When you’re passionate about something, you don’t want to loose the livelihood.

Discuss turnover in education and in business: In his area in Grand Rapids, big districts had a lot of teacher openings last September. What does that mean for people at the lower end? What is nice is that new teachers have adapted learning styles a lot this past year. We learn a lot on YouTube now like car repair. Lots of adaptive learning. We’ve learned about how people learn. How do we get that- so much more with practice & lab work. When we look at 25-30 y.o. new teachers, they are adaptive. There’s an advantage.

Talk about teachers at the water cooler, staff lounge- comparison to large business: It goes back to the leadership, support, whether people feel supported or not. This is an alignment issue. Everyone has ideas. Are we doing these things as an originations to continue learning what’s happening in keeping people aligned. Have the values changed? Do we give our folks the chance to have their voices heard? Let’s do the background, discuss with team members. Alignment doesn’t equal agreement. We should hear team member’s opinions. When it is decided which direction to go, we need to unilaterally decide. When it’s time to leave, you find out it’s an alignment issue, values issue, if you can run it better, start your own. Free market system. It should still be available in the educational system.

Talk about tips for teachers & coaches working with students who want to make it to the minor/major leagues– He has a story to share about teaching kids with a dream. He had a great 7th grader English teacher Mr. Metcalf. Career week the week before spring break. He did something unique as a dedicated teacher. Challenge was “what would life look like for you when you’re 30?”. Trent was the youngest of 4, so he had challenges. Said to self, I’m better than all my siblings. Set sight on the Major Leagues.  Something influential happened 2 years later. Camp in area, played for a good travel team. They got the invite to play. Talked to teachers about wanting to become pro baseball player. They told him about the odds. He heard “you’re not enough” so fought to overcome it. Read positive literature. An MVP player visiting the camp asked him what he wanted to do, he said “I want to play in major leagues”, player said “you can do it”. Everyone else was telling him no. He cautioned him on where he got advice from. It served him well to know where to get advice from. He disdains when people say how to do something. It’s important to recognize being real. Kids often have a drive to get into the major leagues. They can grow and get better.  People did discourage him growing up. Mentor came alongside him. None of his teachers were ill-intentioned. He did get a college degree to fall back on. It served him to take a lot of the good advice “tough love”. In 1999, he was coming home to see parents for holidays. His mom said he got a letter from his grade school. His teacher from 7th grade had sent him the assignment in the mail. He didn’t play in AZ, but in Toledo. How that teacher’s assignment shaped things for him, created focus in his life. It shaped his decisions already in 7th grade. Choices he made like not getting into trouble.  

Key quotes: for him, “Out of the Trenches” is your belief system- you have what it takes. Mirror check. You have to convince yourself regardless of what people say to you.

Find Trent online on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TrentMClark 

 IG:  https://instagram.com/leadershipity  He does a lot of speaking engagements

  LinkedIN: https://www.linkedin.com/in/trentmclark

Visit his website: www.leadershipity.com  View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/4LpodyqBlbE

Episode #71: Joe Pizzo


The AMLE National Middle Level Educator of the Year for 2020, Joe Pizzo teaches Integrated Language Arts.

Joe also serves as the drama co-director at the Black River Middle School in Chester, NJ. A veteran middle school teacher of 47 years and an adjunct professor formerly with Union County College and the College of Saint Elizabeth, Joe has been with Centenary University since 1992. He has o been previously named the NJCTE and NJAMLE Educator of the Year as well. He is a published poet and author who has presented PD workshops across the country. His podcast “Joe Pizzo – A Spot of Poetry” can be found on YouTube. A former president of NJCTE, a Board Member of NJCTE, NJAMLE, and NJ Schools to Watch, the NCTE Historian, a member of the NJ Autism Think Tank, and an instructor and tutor at the Edison You Win learning center, Joe is a Boy Scout merit badge counselor and a lector and usher at St. Mary’s of Czestochowa parish.  

Trenches story: Joe has had a wide range of experiences throughout his career. One highlight was receiving the AMLE educator of the year award. Being in the trenches is where he wants to be. He doesn’t do textbook oriented activities. When one sends a child to school, they hope the teacher will see the good in the child. In his emails, he tells parents what kids are missing and how he can be of help. Most notes say “check your progress” and “how can I help you?”. When he praised a student recently, now kid has a lot of answers. Back 8-10 years ago, he was trying out tech. Learned to use google docs, it became a turning point, he gave a presentation, learned he could accelerate the learning curve. He wants to have students start their own poetry podcast, he also uses Fliggrid. Has done over 16 mini podcasts “A Spot of Poetry”. Will be put on backbone radio now.

Student collaborative project story: Joe spoke with student the day of the recording and asked her to draw artwork to go with a poem. He wanted the student to read the poem aloud. He’s using the voice recording as an incentive to get the to read audio. He’s done projects with students since day 1. When he went to Trenton College in NJ, he had amazing professors. Profs were presidents of NCTE. Isaac Azinoff spoke to them as well. Was inspired by that. His school helped build a memorial garden after 9-11 that was student run. Students also made valentine cards for seniors. He did children’s books with students designing their own plots. A mom came in to bind the books, read to 2nd grade, the kids had them as part of a library. Wrote books showing 7th graders how to succeed. In terms of the 9/11 memorial garden, kids met Thursdays from January-June. Had a celebration the Saturday before Father’s Day. Landscaper donated all the material. Hand-laid sidewalk, helped to dig shrubs. Asked students for a poem for the program, a student from previous year nicknames “poetry man”- he had feet up, leaning on a chair, but wrote very well. Kid said he’d give it a shot, Joe caught him in the afternoon, opened up his locker, which was very messy. Found a binder and found the poem. Was the right poem for the right day. He gave the student cues to be able to read it in front of a crowd. “Poetry man” was introduced, gave an amazing read, 200 people wept. When the ceremony ended, kids went their own way, Mrs. Frommer said “I can’t thank you enough”, Joe said it was the kids who went out of their way. She said “you’ve given us a place to mourn”. Other student poems have been part of blogs. Poems got featured with blogs on NJCTE, NJAMLE and Drew University’s writing project.

In the AMLE article (linked below show notes), you were said to “promotes student engagement through meaningful experiences, particularly those that honor each student’s culture and understanding of the world”. How have you found success in engaging your students in the remote environment? He says the only thing different (teaching remotely) is the environment. He can’t walk over and give kids a fist pump. It doesn’t feel the same as when was with kids every day. His school was remote from November-mid January (hybrid otherwise). As long as you address the kids’ needs, you see that everyone has a purpose.  

Another student success story in connection with poems: Anna Clara did her book- Joe was the editor. He would tell her when something wasn’t right. She put together great book in 2018 and has some sequels (is currently in 9th grade). “Project Moirai” dystopia- he can tell about the story. Now she has sequels. The writing of another student, Omar, was unbelievable. English is his 4th language. Omar’s book was written at a high level, and he wanted to translate it to Spanish to use in Spanish classes. 2 teachers helped translate for Omar, book published in 2019. Gianna and 2 of his students have won Scholastic Writing Awards. Steven Cozan is a digital publisher who has published the students’ books. Another story about Therese + Gigi, he used as a lead-in to start assignment. This year, there was a dramatic difference. They decided to do a different poem, whether they were in the building or at home the first day of school. What do they miss, and what are their plans going forwards, post pandemic. Gianna wrote unbelievable poem. Joe wrote a blog post how pandemic has changed his teaching style. Was able to get the poem featured in a different blog in NJ. The blog link is listed below the show notes.

What are you currently working on, writing-wise or speaking engagements? He’s part of the NJ Autism Thinktank. Rick Allen invited him to be a part of that in late January. Mary Beth Edmonds will be one of the panelists. Will have their ESL teacher on panel. He wrote a 5 page poem, started in the summer. He edited many times. Didn’t get the reaction he was looking for. Restructured. Theme is how the pandemic has changed his teaching. How we’ve had to adapt. Some of the advantages are kids being able to sleep more. He is very concerned for his kids’ safety during remote learning. Autism thinktank- guest spot link is below show notes. His observation is that people with autism have a different way of processing, but the heart is the same as anyone like with Down’s, they rise to the challenge. The heart connects even more. They’re the ones giving comfort.  

Key quotes…One of the biggest advocates you have as community member is a teacher. It’s a very negative expression “those that can’t, teach”. It wasn’t the original saying. Aristotle didn’t state that. He said “those that can, do, those that understand, teach”. Everyone of us is a teacher in some way or another. Every one of us inspires us. “The greatest factor in determining a child’s success is encouragement by folks at home. Give your best effort. You’ll be OK. Take advantage of productive offers people make to you. You create synergy”.

Find Joe on Twitter @profJPizzo

Learn more about Joe’s work and read some featured articles about him in the news:




New Article, published 12-18: The benefits of joy and gratitude – New Jersey Council of Teachers of English (wordpress.com)

SHINE Award Interview 3/13/21

Report Joe submitted to NJCTEmeetings at the virtual NCTE conference

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

Episode #72: Dan Edwards


Dan maintains a blog and is a regular writer for Teach Primary and Primary Leaders magazine in the UK.

Dan Edwards is the Principal of a large primary school in Leicester, England. Prior to working in primary education, Dan has had leadership and teaching experience in both the middle school and high school system. He is keen on developing positive school culture within his school and wants to ensure that no pupil is left behind in their learning. He believes positive relationships across all sectors of school life are integral to its success.

Trench story: It was when he first took over his current school, Woodstock Primary Academy. There was hard work that went in early. He learned to navigate the school with pupils and parents. He tried to make changes the first 100 days, first 6 months, those were the hard bits. Earlier in his career, he worked with kids in residential care, kids at risk of criminal activity. He always wanted to work with kids. Did his degree in drama & English taught MS/HS. He could see the end of the journey, where kids have got to go. Children who have been disengaged in education in the residential setting helped him know where they might end up. He wanted to apply this in educational way. Went from performing arts, taught for 1 year, then was middle leadership after 5 years, then an AP. Now in his 3rd year as principal. His AP job was in a small school. He is principal at a school 2x’s the size. The previous school had only 6 classes. Staffing was more challenging. Things that work in a small school don’t necessarily work at a larger school. He thinks his AP experience gave him the experience to take on principal tasks and he was with a good mentor. You can’t replicate it; the role of the principal is very much about you as an individual. He learned how to be leader with authenticity. When he started out in the principalship, he was a bit lonely, no Mastermind group or Twitter. Made a lot of mistakes trying to keep up a persona. Dropped his guard down. It became easier when he let his guard. His school setting has a preschool from age 3 on. Then they go into “reception years” at age 5. They leave at 11 years old. Key stage 1. Grade 1-2. Junior- 7-11 yrs. old. Some UK schools have infant but his school is age 3 and up (a through school). 

How is being a principal in the remote setting? His primary school was remote (as of podcast recording in January). Remained fully remote until mid-Feb. His school has 480 pop. 40 kids currently in building because they had no tech at home. Didn’t know outcome, but remained optimistic. Assessments were cancelled. He wanted to make sure they held the community together. They have a responsibility to pull the community together. Engaged with parents on social media. He read stories on a nightly basis. Quizzes, activities, challenges. Lots of community cohesion at return in the fall. Community cohesiveness got them through the fall term, were able to answer parent’s questions. Jan. 4 they had to close doors to all but vulnerable children and nursery settings. Set point in Feb. They’re going thru a slow and steady transition. Making sure when you moved to remote learning model everyone has the info they needed. He has learned quite a lot. 

Is there any prep program for principals in Britain? When you’re a faculty leader, you have to take MPQUL or SL- portfolio of senior leadership or headship prerequisite. You do this 18 months-2 years after being named head teacher. This used to be the certification needed. He started the program before he became principal, then started in the role. No requirement for a licensure to get hired. If you’re a strong, ambitious senior leader, you can apply. Some of his staff are doing this project. They look at models of leadership change. As leaders, they feel an obligation to give opportunities for deputies and AP’s to observe. In the job, you learn very quickly, you need to reflect and you will make mistakes. Communicating effectively is key. Be honest with your staff about not knowing the history, especially with staff who’ve been there 15-20 years. You’ll spend a lot of time trying to keep up a persona. It can be easily made as an example. Someone his 1st day asked him where the toner for the photocopier was, he admitted he didn’t know. When imposing routines, you need to consult with those who look after kids in the cafeteria. Go to those who know. We talk a lot about people’s perception of the school vs. reality. You have to talk about what’s your persecution of the school- for example the high-flyer behavior kiddos. Step back.  Be transparent and authentic, then you’ll pick things up easier. 

Name some PD that you’re attending? When you collaborate with other people, you’re still evolving. Pacing and building a foundation in the UK because it’s country-wide. This is the 1st time everyone is going thru the position of change, for him, it’s the first time he’s interacted with Twitter, not just looking at what they’re doing in the UK. He sees what’s happening outside the country. Finding out more and looking at standards. We are responsible for our own PD. There is similarity in language we’re using. 3 dimensional education is gone when kids are in remote learning. We need to globalize it more, i.e. project-based learning and build links internationally. We should do more projects with schools across the world. We should get something positive out of it. If we don’t change anything post-pandemic, there are things we’ll miss out on. What is your stance on learning loss? He thinks do a gap analysis of what was missed. Prioritize which gaps are more important than others. You want to find what the biggest gaps to be filled are. In the fall they did a lot of quizzes, formative assessments. Their remote offer is much stronger than before.     

Talk to me about your thoughts about education changing in the Post-COVID world. He is passionate about talking to people across the globe. Facing biggest educational crisis during a generation. We need to value what has been put in place, i.e. with smaller groups in cafeteria. Took at independence levels of kids. Transition years of learning. We can’t go back- do we really need to go back? The English classroom is still set up like in Victorian era. Has negative effect on pedagogy. Equity gap, administration after administration hasn’t. They’re moving towards paperless system. Element of selection- lessons are recorded. The child is becoming independent. Teachers should be more a guide on the side. Many will think about “what did we get out of this situation?” He doesn’t think the UK is there yet. Remote did us justice maybe they want to go back. Because assessments are cancelled they can use the length of the academic year to prepare for learning.

Tell me about writing your blogDuring the 1st lockdown, instead of growing a garden, he blogged. He is keen on visioning the future of education, what we can learn from this. We need to have a conversation about what we can achieve from all this. He likes to put things down on paper, develop his own PD. He sees his blog as an integral part of leadership development. Let’s have a discussion, share viewpoints. 

Key quotes… “There’s nothing wrong in asking for help, even as executive leader. If you see someone stumbling, ask them for help as well. We don’t want to feel like we’re making a mistakes”.

Find Dan online on Twitter @woodstockacad is his school’s handle, his personal handle @danedwards_77 

Visit his blog at: leadinginthenow.org 

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


Episode # 73: Casey Jakubowski

Episode #73: Casey Jakubowski (podbean.com)

Casey Jakubowski is Education researcher in rural schools and former social studies teacher. He is interested in Leadership and improvement. Casey is the author of Thinking About Teaching: A Rural Social Studies Teacher’s Path to Strive for Excellence and is currently finishing a new book, A Cog In the Machine.  He is also the founder of CTJ Solutions, an education consultancy. He lives in Colonie, NY.

Out of trenches story: Casey would say “it’s referred to in the book”- “Thinking about Teaching”. As a young educator, he wanted to be a social studies teacher. Left to become an adjunct professor. Grinded away without seeing progress. It hurt him at the core. Came back to trenches, then left again. Is now in higher ed working with future educators. System needs to look at how hard it is to break through creating new pathways for educators going out into the field. 

Your next book by EduMatch will be “Cog in the Machine”, tell me about your ideas in this book: He acknowledges that many teachers can’t openly talk about politics in class. This book is about how you can make a difference even if it’s small. As an Eagle Scout, he learned to be a servant leader. He hopes the book can provide relief for educators, even if you are cogging the machine. Song from “Wicked” about defying gravity- when we think “I just need to make it through the month, year”. The system “beat it out of us”. We feel we’re constantly grinding against the machine. We forget we can save a few. Since 2001 (the invent of NCLB), children became numbers.  We cannot let the system defeat us. We need to become Masters of our own destiny. In “Thinking about Teaching”, he tries to emphasize that we have an understanding how to model critical thinking, but we gave up the responsibility when we asked the curriculum to “be handed to us”. He wanted kids to find stuff themselves, not be handed the curriculum. 

Share your experience at State Dept. of Ed.  and how that relates to your view on the post pandemic use of standards, civic literacy. Having authentic understanding of what is true media vs. not. There are districts in NY that have kids who are smart at test taking, but not critically think. We see those take place when kids make it to the college level. We’ve lost the humanities, ss, science when we’re teaching, math, English. Race to the top, NCLB said “every teacher has to be a literacy teacher”, but Casey thinks we need to be teachers of civics. It’s so important to realize that respect & critical thinking is beaten out of stuedents to take standardized tests. If you believe the narratives, you aren’t thinking critically. For example, post-truth books, Animal Farm, 1984, etc. If a child is objecting the teacher’s view, and their needs are being met, what the teacher is saying is having them think critically. Students need to politely challenge authority but not by filling in the bubbles. Stanford History Education group is great place to go to for more resources on critical thinking. 

Talk about how many teachers are quitting now in the spring. Even if they’re not satisfied in their current job, they can make a difference somewhere else. Casey worked at the time where kids in rural communities would have pocket knives, guns in truck due to going hunting. We forget there are so many kids who go through this kind of stuff daily. He was able to live at his parent’s house when he left his teaching job. Remember “stop giving away your intellect”. You as educators need to ensure that you strive to protect your intellectual property. He left job at the State Edu department because they brought in fellows who had no training in teaching. He says we need to #changethenarrative  and recapture the “people-based skills”. They wanted to take Gettysburg Address out of context. He realized he had to look at the WHY/ why did Lincoln give the speech. There were 2 things happening, they believed schools that were making good changes didn’t matter. The Dept. of Ed was moving the Gettysburg Address out of historical context, not talking about the history of the moment. We don’t have the group conversation like we used to. There is no “cutting out” of live TV stream. We don’t talk about the events that are happening in class.

In terms of the events of Jan 6, how do we as educators refute bad knowledge, such as people that don’t believe in climate change. Refutational texts have to be balanced with the fact you can’t incite violence. There is a suburban vs. rural split, some people say “they’re being abusive to me because of who I am”. If you drive people who have more in common apart, some areas will assume superior positioning to community. He’s indebted to Professor Aguilar at American Research Institute who researches refutational texts. It’s like reprogramming people who have been brainwashed. Concept of identity emerges from it. He names Kathy Cramer, Amy Howley’s work. Idea of folks who are individualists vs. community people. The US has lost the fact that we need to work together. We can’t do it on our own. He can’t say there’s a 1-to-1 correlation, but he thinks No Child Left Behind set us up for this. By standardizing curriculum, we’ve taken the joie de vivre out of the profession. He thinks intellectual curiosity is so important in our profession. The best example is always the authors of those who talk about kindergartners, who want to know the “why”. Are 4/5th graders still curious? It scares him that we’ve created an economy that demands innovation and critical thinking but tests the hell out of them. We really need to think about the history of reasons teachers were getting fired in previous decades (for not being married, pregnant). We’re in a situation that public & private persona are no longer separated. People in controlling roles don’t want to put off people for fear of backlash. Jennifer Bennis on Twitter takes paired texts. In Tx, some parents didn’t want pics of civil rights protesters being in textbooks. What we perceive as adults and what children perceive is vastly different. Outliers voices come from stupidity and not knowing. It’s the “eye-opening” experience you get travelling outside of the US. Good examples of movies like Wallee, Trolls, we have to look at relevancy of what we’re doing in the cr. We’ve created a dry curriculum.

 Key quotes: “It’s important to understand civics. Be kind to each other. We’re not perfect as a nation. We’re not set in our ways”. We need to look at JFK’s creation of Peace Corps & Americorps. Also George Bush’s Lights Foundation. “Servant leadership needs to be at the forefront. Teachers need to fall back at you are helping. Assign less homework, check in with students more often. Kids remember the human things you did for them. Not the curriculum”.  Hop on Twitter- there are plenty of PLN networks in PD.

Find Casey online on Twitter: @caseyj_edu 

FB: Caseyjthinkingaboutteaching.com and check out his blog:  http://bit.ly/Caseyteaching blog: https://ctjakubowski.weebly.com/blog and his videos on Facebook: https://facebook.com/pg/CaseyJthinkingaboutteaching/videos/…Go to Edumatch Publishing to find out when “Cog in the Machine” will be released. View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/Esn1pnPu2Fc

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