Episode #74: Brad Gustafson
Dr. Brad Gustafson is an elementary principal, author, and speaker. He believes schools can be spaces where creativity and innovation thrive, but only when we prioritize relationships and a relevant, connected pedagogy. His latest book is “Reclaiming our Calling”. His previously published books include “Renegade Leadership”. His podcast, School Leadership Unearthed, can be found on BAM Radio Network’s TweetED Channel (@bamradionetwork) with co-host Ben Gilpin (@BenjaminGilpin). Brad was recognized as a “20 to Watch” by the National School Boards Association and he was named Minnesota’s Principal of the Year in 2016. He presents keynotes and breakout sessions on a variety of topics related to innovative leadership.
Trenches story: During his student teaching, Brad was trying to help a kid and thought of his own college experience. He bent down and realized he was out of shape. Pulled up a chair. It was broken. Laid on back and wondered what happened. 4th grade. Cooperating teacher came up to him and said his pants had split. He did survive the embarrassment. Reclaimed a little “street credit”. Another current story is “survival”- during the pandemic he has tried to provide steadfast leadership. There’s a constant list of things given to him to carry out. He felt overwhelmed. Lost it but owned it. How are we going to do this & that? The team was gracious. They said “don’t worry, we’ll do what’s meaningful”. It was like a boomerang. Wasn’t really him crawling out, the team pulled him out of the trench. It triggers that we’re not always on our best. Collaborative leadership. Hopefully it amplifies what needs to come out.
What does elementary school leadership look like right now for you in MN? It’s a juxtaposition we get to serve kids, kindergarteners touch your soul. His district K-5 are back full-time in person (as of recording early February). As full as have been since pandemic started. Competing backdrops with needy kids but incredible educators. Speaking on behalf of his teachers, they work really hard, then rules change. They have honest conversations with team to find out what works.
How do we make sure it looks like what we want it to look like? How would you like to see that change in 21/22? He wants leadership to be congruent between his vision, mission, purpose and the things we say. It’s not aspirational. It’s a daily commitment. Teacher wellness, we can say we believe in it. How does it translate to the people closest to the kids? The adults in building are left to “bear the brunt”. Observations- do what’s required with integrity. It feels ridiculous to be in a classroom doing an observation during pandemic. Little things like checking in. Pile those on top in a good way. The small acts of intentionality create a culture of trust. Teachers are still working double hard. When he pops into distance classrooms, he might pod in during a prep time. He’s tried to write down/honor the situation. His notes are prefaced with “Let’s keep in mind pandemic, you’re crushing it…, way to show up”. There’s a parallel having teachers feel seen & support them when they’re feeling stressed. Ask ourselves “do we need to change this”, maybe pausing initiatives for year.
Your podcast, School Leadership Unearthed, it’s still going, but they were slammed by the pandemic. has been produced for several years now with short-15m episodes. Are you setting up any new themes for upcoming episodes? Unearthed- series lined up. They record 1 episode per week. Science of reading, not just in theoretical concept, but what do principals not know about reading. What does balanced literacy mean? Really important literacy concepts principals should know. Solid understanding of debates. PLN- how are we going to connect with and learn. He’s writing about developing questions that are helping to create enriched experiences for students.
Have you been doing keynotes and breakout sessions during the pandemic? Has done virtual and plans for the future conference- he is still making sure it fits for family & for work. He has real stuff happening in school that lend to the conversation. Over the summer he did a state conference in person- was 1 in Idaho, have been a slew of virtual conferences. He feels like people want to connect and talk about things that really matter. Figuring out how to do personalized PD. He is happy to take care of home based now.
Based on you leading a school that uses experiential learning and has focused on instructional leadership for the digital age, did you feel like your teachers were well prepared for online teaching? On the book, it was just translated to Persian. The DNA of the book is the “Renegade Code”, he feels like his teachers lived out a lot of the code. Heartbeat of student ownership amplifies student voice. Feels like in that respect, teachers were prepared. Otherwise they weren’t prepared. Rapid rate of things happened intensified their difficulties. He sees his team as 2nd to none when it comes to learning. He noticed his team being innovative.
Your book talks about personalized PD in order to empower educators- how do you see that shift happening in other schools throughout the US? When he wrote the personalized PD chapter, he didn’t expect it to have the biggest impact, but he’s gotten most feedback on it. Educators want learning that matters. Isn’t it reasonable to expect that it’s reasonable, matters, has elements of choice. What does it look like, how is it going to change? Leaders need to model, say “go to what meets your needs”. Planned through a series of conversations about what is interesting. Teachers shouldn’t be personalized in spite of the PD that’s planned for them. We owe it to our teachers. Some people aren’t gung-ho about PD because it’s been so forced down their throats. There is value to have some common training- you can personalize learning even if you have to deliver to all staff. You can have the same targets. Use flipped model. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. He doesn’t think PD model will change automatically.
Key quotes: “The importance of listening has never been as significant as now”. He’s learned this relatively recently. I can be a better leader if I’m listening, adapting and not just having my own opinion. The more enriched we can be.
Episode #75: Dr. Teresa Sanders
Dr. Teresa Sanders is and Educator & bestselling author. She is dedicated to improving academic outcomes 5 students at a time @SafariSmall She lives in TX. Teresa earned a doctorate degree in 2012 Educational Leadership/Adult Education and a masters degree in Education Curriculum and instruction. She has 14 years of teaching experience as a Special Education Behavior Adjustment teacher and 20 years of intensive mental health and social services experience. She has developed a micro-school Safari Small Schools to meet the needs of students with significant behaviors or who were otherwise left behind in public schools.
Trenches story: Public ed is one big persistent trench. Teaching kids within those confines is one big trench, according to Teresa. The biggest trench she’s come out of is the public education environment. It was the coming out & taking a change on her own skills and ability. One school situation is student diagnosed with schizophrenia and she was able to close a 2 year reading gap. She closed the gap by focusing on the reading.
At Safari Small Schools, she has preK-3 grade students, max 5 in 1 room. There is 1 kidney table with 5 chairs. It’s for students with developmental issues who benefit from a smaller learning environment. She will still serve one 12 year old who can’t yet read. COVID has presented a situation were it’s easier to work within a micro school. As time goes on she’ll expand it. She launched the small school in spring 2020. Had a vision 20 years ago. Started writing it down in 2011. Now, she can control what she does. There is no govt. funding.
Talk a little about your beliefs about public education: According to Teresa, public schools aren’t interested in educating kids. She says the failure of public ed goes back at least 60 years. 4 million 4th graders, 3 million can’t read proficiently. A lot of kids are falling further & further behind. Why aren’t kids reading. We’re ignoring the data. Title 1 funding is supposed to involve parents. She’s seen there be no consequence for not having parental involvement activities.
Where do you think these parents should be looking as we go into the 21/22 school year: she says wherever you send your kid, the parent should know what is going on. Don’t judge the kids, know what is going on. Kids should advocate for themselves as they get older. She believes kids who are behind academically need to be working on some school skill every day, even if it’s just penmanship.
In your published works in “The Refractive Thinker”, you discuss Social Media, The Tools of Protesting by Millenia in the Digital Age; “Fundament of Success through Generations” (where you and other scholars explore compulsory education and the school-to-prison pipeline; “Student Engagement” in ‘Bricks to Clicks’ (72 hour project) and “Why can’t professional educators discuss the Elephants in the room- the ‘undiscussables’ of culture” and how the undiscussables arise when questions or comments from either perspective arise and the issues with faculty censoring their speech in their classrooms. This is a publication where stakeholders can take a work and see how the work can inform their works. Take f.ex. social media. Comparing to social justice in the 60’s to now, with the advent of social media. This brings justice to situations much quicker. That way people will separate themselves who don’t do the right thing. There’s a lot of possibility for damage. We need a road to redemption. You have to give people an opportunity to grow. We’ve all made mistakes.
Weaving culturally sensitive topics into the classroom, what did you find out doing your research “Why can’t professional educators discuss the Elephants in the room“? We have weaponized the word “racist” term so much today. People are often hands-off when this is brought up on social media. It’s a shame because we learn through dialogue. Capitol insurrection as an example- how people of color are dealt with in protest situations. It would be wonderful to talk about what we saw and how we think. Too many people fire arrows on social. She says if there’s a racial component it’s something people don’t want to bring up. We can’t fix it if we can’t discuss it.
Tell me a story about a student with ADHD who made a difference for you: There was a 5 year old she worked with recently. No siblings, just he & dad, dad was in recovery. Single dad. She believes kids need to experience things in order to grow. She has always taken them out to restaurants, etc. She could hang out with the kid (outside of school) because he had moved to another district. She took him to see “Lion King”. He loved it because of the animal costume, dancers, etc. He was done by the middle part of the show. There is a picture on her school website of them at the “Lion King”. The goal with Safari Small Schools is to take them places, the community component.
Talk about your beliefs on why we should push literacy more: public offices should have minute tracker for student reading minutes. Free books for school-aged kids + adults. This should be part of every evaluation wherever you do. Book trade. If we pushed literacy like that, it will always be in your head. Give them tattoos & stickers as an incentive.
Key quotes: “Don’t trust just anyone with your children’s education. You know yourself what the child can do. Have your child write”. Does the child stay within the margins when they write? Just because the teacher will accept it that way you don’t need to accept it that way. It’s ultimately the parents’ responsibility where they send their kids. They’re left with the results of what did or didn’t happen in school. Trust what you see your child producing.
Find Teresa online: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter, FB @drteresasanders both FB & IG @safarismall
View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/G1SHvWVEzlU
Episode #76: Jennifer Abrams
Jennifer Abrams is an international educational and communications consultant for public and independent schools, hospitals, universities and non-profits. Jennifer trains and coaches teachers, administrators, nurses, hospital personnel, and others on new employee support, supervision, being generationally savvy, having hard conversations and collaboration skills. Jennifer’s publications include Having Hard Conversations, The Multigenerational Workplace: Communicating, Collaborating & Creating Community and Hard Conversations Unpacked – the Whos, the Whens and the What Ifs, and Swimming in the Deep End: Four Foundational Skills for Leading Successful School Initiatives. Her most recent book, Stretching your Learning Edges, will be published spring 2021. Jennifer writes a monthly newsletter, Voice Lessons, available for reading at and subscribing to on her website, www.jenniferabrams.com and is a featured columnist, writing about personal development at www.eschoolnews.com. Jennifer holds a Master’s degree in Education from Stanford University and a Bachelor’s degree in English from Tufts University. She lives in Palo Alto, California.
Jennifer has been recognized as one of “21 Women All K-12 Educators Need to Know” by Education Week’s ‘Finding Common Ground’ blog, and the International Academy of Educational Entrepreneurship. She has been a featured interviewee on the topic of professionalism for ASCD’s video series, Master Class, hosted by National Public Radio’s Claudio Sanchez, and in the lead article, “Finding Your Voice in Facilitating Productive Conversations” for Learning Forward’s The Leading Teacher, Summer 2013 newsletter; as a generational expert for “Tune in to What the New Generation of Teachers Can Do,” published in Phi Delta Kappan, (May 2011), and by the Ontario Ministry of Education for their Leadership Matters: Supporting Open-to-Learning Conversations video series. Jennifer considers herself a “voice coach,” helping others learn how to best use their voices – be it collaborating on a team, presenting in front of an audience, coaching a colleague, supervising an employee and in her role as an advisor for Reach Capital, an early stage educational technology fund.
Tell me about a time you were in the trenches and managed to crawl out: She taught for a decade then stayed in the district another 16 years. Was a HS English teacher, things were getting tight. She was in a messed-up place physically, ultimately a few things happened that got her out. Broke up with a guy she was in a relationship with. Was diagnosed with MS that summer. Changed her job to becoming a coach. Her MS is fine now. Worked there another 16 years.
Let’s discuss your book “Having Hard Conversations”: This can be used as a manual for finding the right way to identify a problem in the workplace and how to make a plan to address a colleague, subordinate or supervisor. It helps readers navigate a plan through exploring what kind of outcomes they would like to have as a result of the conversation and drafts of scripts one could use. It helps educators choose the best “What-where-when” for a productive discussion.
Her latest book– coming this spring, “Stretching your Learning Edge: Growing up at Work”. Talks about how to be a good team player, professionalism. Where’s your edge in terms of your growth, development in your school system. Within the world, there’s a lot about needing to know our identities now. Suspend certainly. How to give feedback. Offer concerns, not complaints. She is intending to have us grow “up” to build up our strengths, requires a focus that schools need to have more adult & human development not just child development. Many states have “professionalism” expectation in our standards, let’s work as a PLC just to be civil and responsible for your work product. More capacity that we can ask of our adults to live out loud to know your limitations, strengths, culture to better suspend your certainly to admit when you’re wrong. Take responsibility for your role in how you express concern. Be responsible for your own development. Many people she has encountered haven’t taken responsibility for themselves. Engage in reciprocity. Build a skillset to do so. Believe you’re learning. Everyone’s a stakeholder. Help each other in a non-manipulative way. Be able to sustain yourself during difficult times. Be mindful of taking responsibility. Was viewed as a “radical” idea in the district she worked with in Virginia Beach yesterday. This book is going to be about that with self-study, you can do it as a group, or give to pre-service teachers. It asks the reader “how do we grow up”? Difference between the 2, Having Hard Conversations is about how to have your voice around what isn’t educationally sound. New book is far broader, self-assessment, internal work about knowing identity, getting flexible with our thinking. Linguistic things we need to own and be better at. Do we believe it’s our job to be a value-add in a group? Do we engage in groups? There’s a belief we give and get. How do you deal with emotional hygiene? How do we articulate better in staff meetings? There’s so many edges to ourselves and our development. We need to be much more supportive of each other. Zephyr Otchy- “Human development isn’t an indulgence”. We should have agendas for PLCs be efficient and consistent. There’s still the eye role. Teaching people to be more developed and to see outside ourselves. Many ways to explore the benefits of this thru test scores, turnover rates. She feels better as a participant if she’s her best self.
It’s about collective efficacy, relational trust. If we’re interested in the well-being of our kids, we need to model it. Adults playing well in the sandbox together. She started thinking about it Oct. ‘19. Pandemic happened so it was harder for her to test out. More interest at the moment at the rest of the world.
We’ve been in a survival mode this past year +, we’re in a great reflection mode among equity & inclusion. We need to know our identity, learn how to work well with others, be resilient, i.e. white fragility. This is a different conversation but the same conversation in Hong Kong- they are dealing with colonialism. Castes & power. Context matters. It should be the responsibility within a school to have profession learning happen. Math instruction, etc. teachers don’t necessarily engage with others well but sometimes get fired. In working with schools in Africa, “I am because you see me”. Canada’s first nations (N Manitoba), she talked to her about suspending certainly. Lady said “it’s such a Western thing”. In her town, with her tribe, it’s common sense. It depends where she was working. She worked with an American in Munich in breakout rooms. Style isn’t the issue in that book. How you come across is what you need to be responsible for.
Adults will have a learning curve going back into the building next school year with high rates of turnovers. Concerning backstabbing, adults often don’t know how to behave although they teach their kids how to behave. Teachers who have to be collaborative, have the norms at the bottom of the meeting agenda. Structures help. Teachers ask “why do we all have to be responsible?”. In school systems there are structures of when to use the RR, eat, we have those structures set in place. Research is stretching her to modify the views. There is the foundational- school handbook, but she’s stretching how you ask for help and seek clarity especially if things are vague. Express things as a concern not a complaint. How do we show up to it and what is our language. Include more in your sphere of knowledge. Multi-generational knowledge- she had a handout for new teachers (contact her and she will send you one). They should know or ask if they don’t know. These are things you should answer to as an admin. It’s not just the copy room, but it’s grading, assessment. If someone needs to sub, they should have clarity on how to request one.
Staff relations in international schools she works with: It depends on the world view & culture. She works with the British foundation in Hong Kong so they’re working within that structure, she works also with European schools. British schools have line managers, deputies. German schools don’t have a union, but a BR which is prominent. The intl. schools don’t do the AP, they do International Baccalaureate. Curriculum looks a little different, so there’s a mindset about what the learner needs to know, risk-taking go. She’s rarely worked with national systems- she works with American schools in xyz country. Those schools are replicating a US experience abroad. She has to know who are the formal and informal power players. Do you get a job and stay there forever as a US citizen? In a HS, if principal talks to the English deptarment, it’s not the same way as working with science teachers. The culture of a school she worked with sent people to Mexico to learn Spanish on a retreat. Unions support people but don’t want terrible teachers. Her father was a union lawyer. In ON, Canada at a faith-based school, they went to cottages. People have tried to do this, family, young children, going away for the weekend has been a stopping block for it. In CA, many teachers don’t live so close to where they work. It’s dependent on so many factors. It’s different in small towns, intl. schools, because they’re in small areas and many people know eath other.
Key quotes: “Your development matters”. She is certain about “every body is 10% right”, suspend your certainty and be open to hearing others’ opinion.
Episode #77: Steven “Étienne” Langlois
Steven “Étienne” Langlois is an award-winning teacher-Rockstar and author of the best-selling book “Rock Your Class”. When he’s not performing for millions of fans in packed theaters or teaching back home in Ontario, Canada, he’s busy helping K-12 teachers rock their engagement strategies. He has taken on teacher leadership roles such as Instructional PD coach, Mentor Teacher and District Program Coordinator. Étienne has also received Canada’s “Artist of the Year” honors and has worked as an author and consultant for leading educational companies in Canada, the US and Europe, developing effective curriculum content. He is also the subject of a 2019 documentary “Accidental Rockstar”.
Tell me about a time you were in the trenches: Étienne talks about his first full year teaching. He was sent to a school in Stafford, On. His resume was found at the bottom of a box and that’s how he was recruited. They had a difficult time finding a French teacher. It was the wrong side of the tracks. Paper was torn off the wall, swear words written on the wall. Former teacher had quit after 1 year. Really rough area. Trial by fire for him. Kids responded well to music.
Your documentary mentions you were born in a Francophone area of ON but grew up in an Anglophone area (Windsor) but that the French teacher you had in school for 5 years really helped ignite your passion for French? Her name is Mme St. Pierre. His family spoke English, but his grandma spoke French. They moved a lot, went into English school system. Met Mme St. Pierre in grade 4, had her until grade 8. Nurtured her passion for the language his family had be speaking for many generations. He stayed in the English high school system.
How did you go from teaching in the classroom to making music about learning French? His first couple songs were written in teacher’s college. Put an assignment together, wrote a song. When he started teaching he discovered there wasn’t a lot of music for teens so he started writing his own music. Had to cover a maternity leave. He shared songs with the school in order to be a long-term sub, then the persona of Étienne was born. He still tours fulltime. In April, he released his first book. He has been giving some virtual concerts since COVID hit. Was in the middle of a US tour when covid hit. Went on virtual tour in March 2020. School districts asked him to do virtual concerts. Clips of these can be found at: https://rockyourclass.com/concerts It’s a concert interview. Kids vote on songs they want him to perform. Kids get to interview him. Huge success last year. He is currently doing the 21/22 world online tour. Schools booked in Australia, Europe. Still do Q & A. Does live Kahoots in French, math, English & Spanish. Every Thurs at 2:30 EST. It’s for prizes.
Growing up, he never wanted to be a teacher. Made a song for an assignment. Was in a band “Mountain Dews” in high school. Looked for music to motivate teens. Took 2 songs he’d written but didn’t let kids know it was him. School districts asked him for copies of his songs, this was back in ‘93. He has been giving Étienne concerts since 94/95. Teachers felt like kids getting excited at his concerts is a real validation of the work they’re putting in using Étienne songs to teach French. When he first started making his music, it went crazy in ON, then with his 2nd album it blew up international. From 1994-98 he did school concerts. By the time the 3rd album came out the demand for arena concerts was high. All word of mouth. Still does a lot of keynotes- “Rock your Class” keynotes. Works with organizations to make it not a “one-and-done PD”. His book has online courses he can offer the schools that have him present. PD is all about fresh, engaging ideas. He takes cool stories from the road and parlays that into great, engaging lessons. Since the beginning of his career, he’s been labelled as a teacher/Rockstar and he talks about parallels that we are all teacher/Rockstar. He says we should engage students who can be the best student-Rockstar they can be.
Tell me about how you branched out into writing & performing songs in Spanish & for math? Teachers wanted the Spanish version of the French songs. He stumbled into it because the Spanish-speaking artist bailed when they were supposed to record. When his book came out, he heard from math teachers, they wanted him to make math raps. Now entire math program, free at rockyourclass.com/math Does 218 math raps. His music spans all age groups. It’s about having students explore the why of math. All Étienne resources are on Teachable.com They are easy to use for virtual teaching. All 12 albums worth of songs as well.
How has your family been involved in your concerts? Tell me about “Nate Vedette”: His 21 year old son is a phenomenal musician. He composes pieces for video games & films. Nate is the primary writer for his band, New. He would often travel with Etienne growing up. Daughter is an artist. Science & math expert. She helps out with artistic needs.
Tell me about your other alter ego: DJ Delf and how his music is different: In 2014, the French curriculum in ON was changing to a “lived French- learn French” model. It was how he always had taught. Colleagues were nervous. He spent a year recreates resources and making new songs. These songs are more like stories. Weird phenomenon. Would do Etienne songs and DJ Delf by changing between sets. Etienne runs around the stage and DJ just stands at a table- very different personas.
What is the most rewarding things about seeing kids get “fired up” about French, Spanish or math through your songs? Humbling experience to stand in front of 5000 students, comments on YouTube, everyday students add things. It’s mind-blowing. It all started with him wanting to be a long-term sub.
What are some words of wisdom for young profession who would like to teach through music? He thinks the reason Etienne has been successful is because he has followed his passion. He encourages t to share their passion even if it’s knitting, magic tricks, poetry. It will be effective because it’s not forced. Be real.
Key quotes: “Be yourself. We are all teacher-Rockstars”. He is humble, says he’s just following his passion. Nurture student rock stars in your class, we only have them for a certain time. Keep going.
Find Étienne’s courses, PD, videos to use in class and buy/download your albums on www.rockyourclass.com Resources are available for drop/drag. Follow Étienne on TicToc: @rockyourclass Twitter: @rockyourclass IG: @rockyourclass FB: www.facebook.com/etienneonline
View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/PMt31szI8tQ
Episode #78- April Clark
April Clark is a former accountant and high school marketing teacher, now executive director of Reach & Teach, a nonprofit educational program that provides students the opportunity to plan, promote & execute a real concert on their school campus, along with other life-changing programs. Clark is a TEDx speaker, SXSW EDU Mentor, and Shoals Woman of the Year finalist.
Tell me about a time you were in the trenches: every teacher has those moments. Her was going from corporate world to education her first year teaching. It helped her provide real-world experience to students. She struggled with giving kids full control. Allowing them to make real decisions. She encourages teachers to allow kids to take the lead on projects.
In her first year, she was tasked with raising $ for a concert. Her students were responsible for selling tickets, responsible for everything around the fundraiser. It completely changed the way they worked in the classroom. They discovered talents and skills they didn’t know existed. Lead singer of band that had concert with/her started the non-profit. Spent all summer developing it. She works a lot with schools across the country. Her company offers real-world experiences, teaching thru doing. When she was in the classroom, many teachers had a difficult time connecting teaching with real life applications. Teachers have so many other responsibilities. She worked so much at home. Her company has resources that are ready to use for teachers to implement. It’s difficult to build connections w/in the community as a teacher. Her program saves teachers time. When COVID hit, produced virtual content for teachers to use in their classroom. They have virtual interview series. Industry professionals. They highlight their career paths. Cruise director, make-up artists. Videos are available with corresponding worksheets.
During COVID, the students are planning, producing and promoting a TV broadcast. This teaches essential life skills. They have worked with some middle schools, but it’s geared toward high school. They expose students to careers in entertainment industry, other career paths. They launched a newsletter in Dec. that has links to Ted Talks, Case-studies, sub plans. They can also request a guest speaker. The resources are free. She spent so much time filtering thru resources as a teacher. Wasted a lot of time. Their links are 100% vetted. Most resources are geared towards business & marketing but any teachers who want to use career exploration in class can use these resources.
Name some examples of especially innovative projects. The first is the live concert. Right now, they can plan, produce, create product placement deals for a tv show. Plan out the operations. Real-world, can be done both virtually & in-person. Teaches kids about marketing & finance. They have a packet with newsletter and info where students can reach out to industry leaders. Kids go thru a self discovery to see what they’re good at to use in their future career.
What do you wish you had known when you were in high school? She didn’t know what she wanted to do. She went to college, majored in accounting because her favorite aunt was an accountant. It wasn’t her passion. So she went back to college & got teaching certificate in order to help students know what she didn’t know in high school. We often look at our families, friends, and follow them. That’s their biggest mission point thru Reach & Teach, to try something new. As teachers, we need to invest upon students that every experience will mold you into the person you’re meant to be. It’s a way to build your prof network. Every experience can give you something, even working at the fast-food place. You’re building your reputation. Step outside of your comfort zone. Teachers get caught up in that their only job is to teach content. We’re there to prepare them for life after HS. Bring in opportunities to help them explore new career paths. She had different types of equipment in her classroom that kids didn’t have at home. Video equipment, drone, go pro camera. Be innovative in bringing ideas into your classroom. Make learning fun.
What advice do you have for teachers struggling to connect with students especially for those still teaching remote (when kids aren’t turning on cameras)? Whatever projects you’re implementing, make sure it connects with the students. Ask them what they want to get out of it. It will create buy-in. They will be invested because it’s their idea. Have a conversation about what they what to learn, how they want to learn it. They do a lot of connecting with guest speakers & students don’t have cameras on. They need to find something that’s relatable to them. Found out something that HS students can do while in HS. Actionable advice. There is a problem getting students motivated. That’s essentially why they had a concert. TV show now- all students love watching YouTube. They have marketing, graphic design. Each student can use their interests to plug into different design committees.
Students can use skills on resume for future jobs, college apps. They have accomplished something. Hypothetical projects are popular, but real-world projects are more recommended. It’s great to have a tangible project
Reach & Teach is providing resources for teachers as we end the school year. Many teachers may be looking for different opportunities for next year. April wants to mention she had a passion for teaching. Now she has a passion for working with teachers. Maybe the classroom isn’t the best fit for you. Have a bigger impact than when you were in the classroom. It’s extremely fulfilling for her, even though it was risky. Follow them on social, they will be launching a 10-15 minute podcast of actionable advice in fall ’21. They have launched a new program called the “virtual lunch and learn” that will launch nationally in the fall. They’re proud of everything being offered for free.
Key quotes: She wants teachers to truly allow their students to take leadership of their education. It’s made all the difference in every project, classroom. Students are creative, innovative, better ideas than us a lot of the time. She loves to pass on that advice.
Find April on LinkedIn and on FB, IG @rntrocks Virtual Interview Series available on our YouTube Channel, also has PD for teachers: https://www.youtube.com/reachandteachrocks https://www.facebook.com/reachandteachrocks View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/MzQuimBydrU
For concerts, the class they work with will sell tickets, design tickets, and sell to peers. Usually 250-600 students are in attendance. To bring the band in, they provide the band & production. School needs to provide the band’s lodging. Kids have to create sponsorship opportunities. Their curriculum takes 9-13 weeks to get through. They require their schools work thru the curriculum in order to put on the concert.
Episode #79: Connie Hamilton
Connie Hamilton has served the field of education as a teacher, instructional coach, elementary and secondary principal, and district curriculum director. Connie is known for hands-on, practical approaches to solving instructional snafus. Educators love how she offers specific strategies that actually work and can be used immediately. Often referred to as “The Questioning Guru”, Connie has a unique ability to coach administrators and teachers to guide them through reflection and professional discovery for an amazing PD experience.
Tell me how you came out the trenches: Has been there plenty. Looking more recently, an experience people can relate to is when COVID hit. It came when she had made the hard decision to build her consulting practice full time. She left the school she was working at on Feb. 1, 2020. She was faced with “I can’t be in schools” (to provide PD). “How am I gonna share how to ask better questions?” at the beginning of pandemic with people’s multiple concerns. She wallowed for a few weeks. Went back to roots of “why did I get into this in the first place”? How do make sure teachers maintain inclusion, engagement, scaffolding, concern, thru a camera. Dug self out of the pit of pity. Stayed true to her prior beliefs. Every teacher had to do this. How do you include engagement virtually, have access to quality questions online. Created valuable opportunity to help teachers look for ways to give them.
What are some instructional strategies you provide teachers during your webinars? she’s done breakout sessions for ASCD national conferences, does a lot more wirth Corwin and AMLE. Two things that are surfacing- scaffolding, how are we supporting students without doing all the work for them and metacognition- student growth mindset. In “Hacking Questions”, she talks about lesson closure. In February, she was in school and worked in collaborative groups with teachers. Pattern she was able to see is when lessons run long there is no closure. In the reflection process, she asked “what does that mean for tomorrow’s lesson?”. Can be as little as 5 m. or hours of reflection. Reflection & analyzing is complex thinking skill. Bloom’s thinking skill is retrieval. Failure to reflect leaves us with not being able to recall what happened. We know we need to provide some reflection for ourselves, but students need the opportunity to reflect on what they learned and how they’re going to contribute- closing activity or low stakes assessment. If we know kids aren’t gonna do well on formative assessment it’s a reason to not give an exit ticket. Connie pushes back and says they might have learned more than we think they did. Ask “what was a challenge”, “what was a success” “when you do learn x, how is that going to be useful?” “how might it help me if I could x?” Closure is a non-negotiable component of every single lesson. The intro always goes too long. Do a few time checks within your lesson. Closure is good for SEL, looking at communication, collaboration. What was “a-ha” today. Continuum of mastery. Thinking about progress they made.
Time management- people do tend to scramble, “I didn’t get thru my scope and sequence“. Chill, she says. It’s even more prevalent this year. There were time constraints that impacted people this year. You need to be vertically aligned. There is power in collaboration among professionals. Get a solid handle on where the gaps are. Don’t try the “stray & pray” approach. It intentionally creates gaps. If we can have control over how we can tackle student gaps is about how we can manage them, is this is the unit where we need to provide formative assessments and share the data. Don’t rush thru it. She doesn’t mean throw caution to the wind. Take note, have information, be intentional about content that is assessed.
She has solutions to problems people tend to have in the classroom. “This is why that should work, and some options if that doesn’t work”. When teachers don’t afford self luxury of self-reflection they don’t have time to compartmentalize. Students need to reflect on what they learned, gaps they have. We have to be mindful of how lessons are being received. There are things to keep in mind as we’re reflecting on lessons. You can use 1 activity to close the time and learning. Think about what are students going to be doing while I’m xyz (teaching, conducting an activity). Actively listening doesn’t count. We want to have evidence of engagement. Kids space out during listening. We are kind of setting them up for struggle having them multi-task. Don’t create activities where everyone is hand raising. They need to do a “brain dump” after the activity. Summarize. Jot down a few notes. Don’t expect them to take notes while you speak. Give them processing time. Closure & intro not the same thing. It will help people to buy into how to shave off the 5 m they need for their closure.
You need time to bucket/compartmentalize, when someone’s going too fast, we have the communication skills to say “let me get this straight”. Oftentimes, students don’t have the luxury to interrupt the teacher. Instead of waiting for them to take initiative, build it into the lessons. How we pace the lesson, include time for students to process. If we do that same structure instead of lumping a lesson. Chunk it that way.
What are some PD opportunities people might be able to find you at this summer? Connie will present at ASCD’s virtual conference June 23- “Beyond Effective”- it’s about tweaking things a little bit. Partners with the core collaborative, MindFueled, Build Back Wiser.
Key quotes: “Give yourself some grace, be intentional with how you’re causing students to be reflective in your own learning”.
Find Connie online on Twitter and on her website (.net) Next year she will be keynoting a lot more at in-person conferences.
Connie’s Upcoming Presentations:
Watch this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/Y7NAnPYfzRU
Episode #80: Steve Yacovelli, “The Gay Leadership Dude”
Dr. Steve Yacovelli has been in the leadership, learning and development, change management, and diversity and inclusion consulting space pretty much his whole career (about twenty-five years). In his consulting experience he’s seen some leaders completely excel in their effectiveness, and some completely crash and burn due to their lack of competence in leadership skills. Steve’s desire was to help both types of leaders be more effective, through coaching, formal and informal training, and just generally being there to support their leadershippiness. It’s Steve’s brand to “come out” and acknowledge the role he wants to take to give back to the LGBTQ+ Community and awesome Allies: to serve as a “lightning rod” of sorts to start a movement to grow LGBTQ+ Leaders and Allies to be even more effective, in a consistent, thoughtful, and mindful manner, especially those up-and-coming Leaders within the broader movement for equality and fairness for all LGBTQ+ people and well beyond.
Trenches story: He is a corporate educator, MS in Edu Policy and Leadership. PhD in Edu Technology & Distance Edu. He got Ph.D. in 2005. One if his lowest places. He was working at Disney cruises and was thinking he would write his dissertation in his stateroom. Spent 3 months finishing it. Which leads into the “winding career road” to where he is today….
How did you get to this point in your career? He started out in college in math education. Decided he didn’t want to be a math teacher. He’s from a family of educators. Decided he wanted to work for Mickey (Disney Cruise Lines). Didn’t like it. Then he started in the corporate training world. Understanding how adults learn. Pursued his MS. Wanted to be a higher ed admin. He’ worked with cool organizations, like IBM. Tried to be a full time professor, wasn’t his jam. Started his own gig in 2008. Top Dog Leadership Consulting does a lot of lesson design.
What’s the “secret” of great leadership, your lessons learned throughout your career around educational equity? “Trust”- all the competencies are about trust. Instill trust from those around you. The best leaders know this inherently.
How do you make a classroom more inclusive, suggestions you may have in choosing LGBTQ+ materi? He would boil it down to 3 things.
1) What’s the language being used? (use “they”). What kinds of family are you describing?
2) It starts with images/assets, what are images you’re putting or not putting out. What’s behind you in a virtual space? It could be BLM sign or rainbow.
3) Attitude: watching yourself as a person. Be consciously inclusive. What can you do to include others in that space? He can throw it through the queer lens and about being inclusive. Most organizations say “we’re diverse”. It has to do with how we treat the community. Important to included handed-ness, think beyond the regular differences. Color-bind people, especially in adult learning. A smart leader will include all people’s uniqueness.
He shares the Bennet Scale on the YouTube recording (Dr. Milton Bennett created it). Culture can mean a lot of different things. All our different walks of life. You’re not doing is as great as you should is in the middle. Looking at acceptance- ethno-relative stage. Expand your personal world view. He is a “cultural magpie”. Has lived in a few different cultures- like in France. He’s pulled different threads together. He is from the Philly area but has lived in Central FL for 25+ years.
How does an educator help a student who is transitioning and not accepted by family? He pulled up 6 competencies on the YouTube recording. Have empathy as a leader/teacher. Read “Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goldman. It’s as simple as listening. Acknowledge. Connect them with the right resources within your school. Show compassion. Display the Pride flag.
How can one be a more inclusive leader? Simple strategy is think about pronoun usage (use your specific pronouns in zoom, so you don’t have to guess what someone prefers). Putting pronouns out are a half-second acknowledgment to trans brothers & sisters. Own yourself- be authentic. Have a sign in your face-to-face or virtual classroom like #BLM and pronouns. Provide a safe space.
What’s your experience and perspective for LGBTQ+ Leadership in terms of student leaders who in their schools? He had a lot of learning in his k-12 experience and beyond. Give the students the opportunity to fail in a safe way. Whatever the leadership opportunity is, see how that fits for you. Find a mentor who can help you leverage, sponge onto their experience. Don’t necessarily stumble all the way.
Tell me about your book, “Pride Leadership”? How might that help educators who would like to read it? When he was starting to write book, was at the Natl Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commence Event. He got in contact with a publisher. Was going to write a generic leadership book. He says you see patterns of behavior. The qualitative researcher part of him kicked in… Is it something about the “gay” experience that allows one to flex their leadership differently? His 6 competencies (shown on YouTube recording) lead to how to be a great leader. Chapter 3- being a conscious and inclusive leader. It’s about allied leadership. How do I open up to being more inclusive to those around me? He takes the position in “Pride Leadership” that those are the competencies to know. When he got his first piece of feedback, his editor said “this is the book I wanted during my MBA program”, it’s routed in solid research. The book can benefit any leader, not only LGBTQ+ leaders.
What are some keynotes you give? Virtual keynoting is a good experience. Book him for a keynote at: http://topdog.click/SRY_speaks He has worked with non-profits and done deeper dives. He has turned content into online zoom presentations. He gives workshop activities, elongates the learning. Longer progression of communication, makes the learning stick.
Key quotes: We all have the ability to create an inclusive space around us. Think in, speak up, act out. What am I doing or not doing? Unconscious bias-project implicit. Be sure you create a space that is consciously inclusive. Don’t do silent collusion. Don’t undermine your creditably. Find “learning tapas”: Topdog.click-mopsam Act out- taking larger step back and looking at the bigger picture. Where are we recruiting people from? Who is in the district office, etc? How about marketing materials for the school?
Find Steve online by going to topdoglearning.biz for free courses, find info about his books. http://topdog.click/mopsam and follow him on Twitter: @syacovelli @gayleadership and on LinkedIn @Steve Yacovelli
View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/i2oAhUR5iZU