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Angela Watson's Truth for Teachers
42 minutes | Jun 26, 2021
Better than normal: How to craft an inspiring vision for the new school year
This special bonus episode explores how we can find a more sustainable way to teach in coming school year. Because while it’s natural to hope for “getting back to normal” after so many constantly-shifting expectations ... we know that “normal” wasn't really working for all teachers or kids. What would it mean to truly reimagine education--not just talk about it--and create a way of teaching and learning that is BETTER than normal? Let's counter the "lost year of learning" narrative and find a more strengths-based, empowering perspective on the challenges ahead. In this episode, we're talking about how to focus on what's most impactful with students and streamline the rest. You'll walk away with new clarity about priorities, which will give you confidence in your teaching practice and empower you to set boundaries for better work/life balance. Want to attend the live event on July 11th where you can chat with other educators on YouTube Live about this topic? Sign up here! If you want to learn more about the programs I mentioned at the end, click the links below: 40 Hour Teacher Workweek (doors close July 15th) 40 Hour Leadership for Administrators 40 Hour Instructional Coaching
11 minutes | Jun 15, 2021
The 40 Hour Workweek is here...for teachers, admins, AND instructional coaches
Systemic problems need systemic solutions. Here's what's new to support your school in creating better work/life balance. Click here to skim the transcript instead of listening Click to learn more about: 40 Hour Teacher Workweek 40 Hour Leadership 40 Hour Instructional Coaches
20 minutes | May 16, 2021
EP228 Preparing to regroup after a stressful school year...what comes next?
LAST EPISODE OF SEASON 13! Education is in a time of transition. We’re not quite to the point of post-pandemic teaching, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Moving forward, there’s going to be a lot of talk about what expectations to keep and what to let go of, and it’s critical to reflect: What parts of pre-pandemic teaching do we want to return to? What parts of remote and hybrid learning are here to stay? What do we want the future of education to look like? The summer plan I’m suggesting in this episode to help you regroup includes 3 elements: A mental vacation (taking a break from thinking about work) Reflecting on what you learned about yourself and your teaching Daydreaming and reimagining the future We all need a time of recovery and preparation between school years. And this summer, it's going to be more essential and than ever before to process how the past year has shaped our identities…not only as educators, but as humans. Click here to read the transcript and participate in the discussion or, join our podcast Facebook group here to connect with other teachers and discuss the Truth for Teachers' podcast episodes. Learn more about the 40 Hour Workweek, 40 Hour Leadership for administrators, and 40 Hour Instructional Coaches.
41 minutes | May 9, 2021
EP227 Five things teachers wish their admins knew
There’s a big focus now on the teacher attrition and shortage crisis. So what does that mean for the teachers that stay? How can schools keep their best teachers and attract more folks to the profession? I believe there are leadership principles that any administrator can internalize and apply to immediately help their faculty feel better supported and create more manageable expectations. I’m going to share some of these solutions in today’s episode, through the lens of what teachers have told me they wish their administrators understood: Teachers are craving autonomy and respect for their professional judgment. Teachers need uninterrupted planning time in order to be at their best for students. Teachers need administrators to have their backs, and support them when their professionalism is undermined. Teachers need school leaders to provide the necessary support and resources for students to be successful, OR adjust expectations to align with reality. An organized, efficient school leadership team with clear priorities has a tremendous positive impact on the entire school. When you believe that it’s possible — and desirable — for educators to do a great job for kids AND center their own work/life balance, that belief will color how you perceive your school’s operations. You will naturally filter all information and decision-making through that perception, and make decisions based on sustainable practices rather than urgent stop-gap measures. If you’d like to see systemic changes in the way your school operates, I’ll be releasing the new 40 Hour Leadership program for principals, APs, and other school leaders this summer. Click here to learn more: https://join.40htw.com/leadership Click here to read the transcript and participate in the discussion or, join our podcast Facebook group here to connect with other teachers and discuss the Truth for Teachers' podcast episodes.
56 minutes | May 2, 2021
EP226 Seven takeaways from this school year that simplify teaching from now on (with Amy Stohs)
What made teaching easier and more sustainable this school year, and how can we carry those principles over into next year? Those are the questions I'm exploring in this podcast episode with my guest, Amy Stohs. She is currently a 2nd grade teacher in Northern Virginia, and was named Teacher of the Year in 2019 while she was teaching 6th grade. Amy’s experience is unique in that she has now taught both elementary AND middle school in a pandemic, so she’s experienced the challenges of working with both younger and older students in face-to-face and hybrid learning. Her experience is also unique in that she’s been an active participant in my 40 Hour Teacher Workweek program for the last few years, and I’ve been really impressed by the ideas and resources she shares in that community. So at the start of this school year, I reached out to Amy and asked her to join the 40 Hour team, and help create the adaptations for the program for remote and hybrid learning. If you’re part of 40 Hour or the 40 Hour Grad Program and you’ve loved the remote/hybrid bonuses, you’re about to hear directly from the teacher who brainstormed them with me. Amy’s going to share 7 principles that helped simplify her teaching and make her work more sustainable: Do what HAS to get done, not what you WANT to get done. Backward design your classroom management: figure out the goal, then decide what action steps will get you there. Go slow to go fast. Instead of always doing your best, ask “What do I have to give today?” When you’ve tried it all, try one thing. Shift focus from finding something new and different to doubling down on what we know kids need. Look for moments of joy and find the fun. Click here to read the transcript and participate in the discussion or, join our podcast Facebook group here to connect with other teachers and discuss the Truth for Teachers' podcast episodes.
10 minutes | Apr 28, 2021
Power through with...release of regrets
This was the most challenging school year of almost every educator’s career. We’re used to certain aspects of the work getting easier over time, but there were so many new challenges in 2020-2021 that even the most experienced teachers often felt like it was their first year all over again. You had lots of personal and professional growth, of course … but somehow you’re feeling less confident in your abilities now than ever before. It’s a very weird dichotomy, to feel like you worked so hard and learned so many new things, yet there’s no sense of a commensurate payoff. So what does it look like to wrap up a year feeling like this? How do you get a sense of real closure? I think it’s important to acknowledge that we’re all experiencing various levels of collective grief right now. There’s a sense of loss for what we’ve missed out on: “regular” school, being close to family and friends, traveling, vacations, and our normal way of life. Some are also grieving deeper losses for any number of reasons, and not being able to process those losses in our normal ways is also painful. The thing about grief is that we each experience it differently. And, there are many different phases and types of grief which people might cycle through. Some days, I’m content. I’ve made peace with the limitations I have in my life right now and the things I love that are unavailable to me currently. I feel content and able to embrace my new routines for as long as I need to. Other days, I’m simply resigned to these new routines. I’m restless and frustrated. Sometimes I’m deeply sad. I have moments when I feel hopelessness and helplessness that won’t ever seem to end. But that’s the other thing about grief, right? It doesn’t feel the same forever. The ups and downs are all a natural, expected part of the process. So if that’s how you’re feeling as the school year draws to a close, know that you are not alone in experiencing those mixed emotions. There’s a surreal quality to the end of this school year, because many of the activities and face-to-face goodbyes that create closure have changed or been eliminated. Traditions have been altered. Not shutting down classrooms with our colleagues and celebrating together in the usual way makes it harder to emotionally and mentally transition into summer. On top of that, the excitement for summer may also feel a bit muted, with fewer plans to look forward to. And throughout all of this, there’s this sense that maybe you didn’t do a good enough job, because you could have done MORE. The what-ifs start to swirl: Would that student have passed if I’d done A,B, and C? Would that parent have been on my side if I’d offered X, Y, and Z? Would that kid I yelled at have participated in our Zoom meetings if I’d done a better job connecting with them? All of our lowest moments of the year circle around in our heads: the mistakes made, the opportunities missed. And this year that feeling is intensified because of all the limitations in how we were able to reach our students. The number of kids who were disengaged and not making learning gains is probably much higher for you this year than any other in your teaching career. My encouragement to you is to avoid dwelling on the losses. Don’t focus on the things you could have done, or wish you had been done differently. Don’t torture yourself by imagining how much better everything would have been if only certain conditions had been different. Your kids’ learning gains this school year are NOT an accurate measure of your abilities or theirs. Their learning (or lack thereof) is NOT reflective of your worth, or theirs. You’ve been teaching through a crisis. And if you’re reading this, that means you’ve made it this far. That’s worth something. It’s worth a lot, in fact. I hope you will look back on this school year as a test of resilience and fortitude that you have passed. You did it. You got through the sudden and expected transition from the style of teaching you’re used to, and fully immersed yourself in something completely different and nowhere near ideal for you or your students. You’ve faced limitations and setbacks and confusion with the best you were able to give at the time. And now you will face the end of the school year with that same determined attitude. This is a time for patience and flexibility. It’s a chance to learn to be soft-hearted toward ourselves and others when our basic instincts want to flare into anger and indignation at having to deal with problems we never signed up for. This is a time for going inward — to stop looking for validation from outside sources, to stop seeking out others’ approval — and make peace within ourselves. It’s a time to let go of regrets and “could-have-should-have” anxiety. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you made. Open yourself up to repairing the harm done via honest conversations and apologies where needed. Make peace in every way with what’s already done, so you can have a fresh start moving forward. Give grace toward yourself and everyone around you. This is a time for more humility and patience and understanding than ever before. With time, we can let go of regrets and what we hoped would be, and practice radical acceptance of the experience we are currently having. That is the BEST possible way to position ourselves to move forward and face whatever comes next. I hope the previous 6 weeks of Wednesday emails in my “Power Through” series helped encourage and energize you through the spring months. You did it, my friends. You’re powered through, and you’re almost at the finish line for the school year. And I’m not going to leave you now! Here’s how we can stay connected: #1 I’ll continue sending my Sunday night emails with free encouragement and practical tips (sign up here.) #2 My Truth for Teachers podcast will continue to release new free episodes through the end of May. The regular episodes are longer than the “Power Through” ones (about 20-40 minutes usually) and there’s a blog post transcript for each one. We take a break each summer and then resume with new episodes in August. #3 You can connect with me regularly on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. (My most personal reflections are on IG.) #4 I’ll have a free webinar over the summer to help you counter the “lost year of learning” narrative and craft an inspiring, achievable vision for next school year (more on that soon!) #5 The 40 Hour Teacher Workweek program is open to new members from June 15th-July 15th. If you want a full year’s worth of ongoing support, encouragement, and practical resources for streamlining your workload, 40 Hour is the place to get it. Our community focuses on professional development AND personal development, so you don’t have to navigate any aspect of the new school year on your own. Thank you for supporting me, and supporting my work. Each time you listen to one of my podcasts, visit my website, open my emails, engage with me on social media, purchase one of my books/courses/printables, or tell a fellow educator about my resources … know that it is so appreciated! I’ve chosen this work because I want my ideas to make a difference for teachers and kids, and it’s an honor to have your time and attention. More great stuff for you is on the way! Want to start this series from the beginning? Sign up for the Power Through series emails on this page here.
22 minutes | Apr 25, 2021
EP225 To solve for ALL kids, start with ONE...
When a problem seems insurmountable, try creating change one name at a time. Because if you can solve a problem for one person, that means it IS a solvable problem ... and you can solve it for the next, and the next. In this episode, I’ll share how often the solution to big problems is solving smaller ones. You’ll hear NYT bestselling author Dan Heath share a short case study from Chicago Public Schools that illustrates how this name-by-name approach worked for reducing dropout rates. And, I’ll share an intuitive 8 step approach you can use to tackle big problems like student engagement or work completion. You can practice solving for individuals first, and notice patterns in what your students need in order to scale those solutions. There’s something powerful about knowing that even if you can’t solve every problem for every student, you CAN help solve THIS thing for THAT kid. This is how we make progress. And, this is how we create better systems: by designing those systems for individuals rather than trying to force individuals to fit into the systems. Click here to read the transcript and participate in the discussion or, join our podcast Facebook group here to connect with other teachers and discuss the Truth for Teachers' podcast episodes.
5 minutes | Apr 21, 2021
Power through with...reflecting
There are few things more frustrating than working hard and not seeing a ton of results. It’s even worse when your hard work is unappreciated, and you’re criticized for not doing enough or for doing things wrong. When you’re trying your absolute best to teach well in a pandemic, the reality is that your best might not always be good enough. Sometimes what you’re able to give really isn’t sufficient. Of course you feel inadequate, when you know what you’re capable of under optimal circumstances, and also know you’re not working with anything even close to optimal circumstances. So the only options are to try to single handedly compensate for all the adverse circumstances and perform at a superhuman level every day, or adjust our expectations. You know which choice I’m going to advocate for. I want you to let go of the “shoulds” and regrets about this school year. I want you to celebrate the small wins, instead of focusing on all the things that aren’t happening. I’m going to talk more on that next week. For now, I want you to focus more on who you are becoming, instead of what you are able to do (or not do) for your students. Ask yourself, Who do I want to be on the other side of pandemic teaching? What kind of teacher — and what kind of human — do I want this experience to shape me into? Because in our rush to figure out logistics and lessons and activities … we can’t forget that who we ARE is more impactful than what we DO. Our beliefs, values, and worldview shape the way we interact with kids and impact every decision we make, from classroom management to curriculum. Unpacking our identities and the “who” we bring to the classroom can be a grounding force that holds us steady through change. Of course, you don’t have the time or mental bandwidth right now for a deep meditation on who you are as a person and a teacher. And as always, I’m encouraging you not to make this more complicated than it is. Self-reflection is a continual process, and it’s often more about letting go instead of trying harder. Focus on showing up as your true, whole, healed, essential self … letting go of any thoughts, beliefs, and actions that don’t serve the highest good. At your core, you are loving, patient, kind, and compassionate. You are full of life and energy and purpose. All the traits that are counter to that are simply baggage and coping mechanisms you’ve picked up along the way in your journey through life in a very challenging world. They’re reactions you’ve developed as a result of fear, emotional wounds, defensiveness, prejudice, biases, outside expectations, and so on. Growing as a person can be an act of returning to yourself and embracing who you really are, instead of trying to constantly change or improve yourself. Your very existence, your presence in the classroom, has value. And the more that you show up with an open heart and mind, free from limiting beliefs about yourself, your students, and your school, the more your essential self will shine through. So as you plan what you need to DO for kids … don’t forget to think about who you need to BE. Your essential self — who you are at your core — is exactly the person your students need this year. Sending you much love and support. Sign up for the Power Through series emails on this page here.
50 minutes | Apr 18, 2021
EP224 Deciding what matters: Authentic teaching through setting boundaries (with Gerardo Munoz)
How do you develop confidence in your teaching when you’re constantly hearing about everything you’re doing wrong? How do you know what you should and shouldn’t be focusing on, and discern what’s a good use of your time and what’s not? And most importantly, how can you be sure you’re showing up as the person your students need you to be? Answering these questions is a personal, lifelong journey, and I think the answers from my guest today will really get you thinking about how to answer those questions for yourself. I’m talking with Gerardo Muñoz, a teacher of middle and high school social studies who was named Colorado’s 2021 Teacher of the Year. Gerardo is here to share how his teaching identity has been shaped over the years, and how he’s learned to prioritize what matters most. He discusses how he’s developed the confidence to live and teach authentically, and ways he supports his students in also truly being themselves: “I'm like every kid's hype man. I think that most of what we bring into our classrooms as teachers is the work that we've done on ourselves. That happens before we can work on our students. And so, I have to create a mindset in myself that says, ‘Every single young person in this room is exactly who they are supposed to be’. My job is not to change their personalities; my job is not to make them different humans. My job is to help them identify their strengths, and help them gain skills and behaviors that are going to amplify who they are.” Gerardo then shares how he was on the verge of quitting the profession back in 2017, and what practices from the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek program enabled him to not only stay, but to thrive. We talk about setting boundaries, and not being flattered into saying yes to everything. When you know what you’re truly, uniquely good at — what matters deeply to you and what really lights you up — it becomes much easier to say no to obligations that pull you away from those priorities. Confidence and authentic teaching are inherently intertwined, and the work we do on ourselves is what helps us uncover what to focus on. As Gerardo says, “Our lens becomes our practice, so we need to interrogate that lens.” Click here to read the transcript and participate in the discussion or, join our podcast Facebook group here to connect with other teachers and discuss the Truth for Teachers' podcast episodes.
7 minutes | Apr 14, 2021
Power through with…reframing
We’ve all had moments this school year when making it to summer felt impossible. You might even be feeling that way right now: like your job has just taken everything out of you, and you have nothing left to give. Being in that headspace is very normal, and it’s fine to allow yourself to feel exhausted and overwhelmed. You don’t have to talk yourself out of your feelings, ignore what your body is telling you, and push through no matter what. (There’s a difference, after all, between pushing through and powering through. Pushing through, at least to me, means doing it regardless of how you feel and just get it done with no regard to the outcome. I see powering through as tapping into the source of your energy and motivation to see things through with strength. We want to power through, not push through.) The determination to power through comes partially from reminding yourself that the way things are now is temporary. No circumstances stay the same forever. I guarantee that you will not be dealing with this exact same set of problems in the fall — your workload will change, your students will change, and YOU will change. Some of it will be for the better and a few things will change for the worse, but it will be DIFFERENT. You will not feel exactly like this every day for the rest of your teaching career. Recognizing the temporary nature of our problems is a technique I learned when studying Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The most influential CBT strategy for me has been learning to recognize my own distortions in thinking that create problems, and then reevaluate them in light of reality. (I’ve actually written an entire book about this, called Awakened: Change Your Mindset to Transform Your Teaching. If you want to do a deeper dive into what I’m about to share, check that out.) A pessimistic viewpoint is that problems are permanent, pervasive, and powerless. That means they will never go away, the problem is the same everywhere so you can’t escape it, and you are powerless to do anything about it. An optimistic viewpoint is that problems are temporary, specific, and changeable. The circumstance will not last forever, it’s specific to this particular situation and is not something you’ll have to face everywhere all the time no matter what, and you have some control over how you respond to the situation in order to make it better. Dr. Martin Seligman’s research has shown that we can train ourselves to be optimists. Or, if you prefer, you can train yourself to be a realist. A realist sees things as they really are, which means giving an appropriate weight to the good stuff that’s happening and not allowing our lizard brains to only focus on potential threats and problems. You don’t have to choose a negative framing for your situation: “Teaching is just completely untenable for me. It’s never going to get better, and in fact, it’s only going to get worse. There’s no point in trying to find another teaching position where I can have better working conditions, because it’s terrible everywhere and I probably couldn’t find another job anyway. The whole profession has gone to hell in a handbasket and there’s nothing I can do about it.” While you are entitled to think these thoughts whenever you wish, I think it’s obvious what kind of depressed feelings that choice will create. A realist would examine those thoughts, and consider what else might also be true: Is there any way to know for sure that teaching is always going to be too demanding and miserable for me forever? Of course not. Is it absolutely true that there are no schools that have better working conditions? Nope. Things will never get better? No, we don’t know that for sure, either. Once we recognize that this pessimistic viewpoint — that the current situation is actually permanent, pervasive, and powerless — is not really true, we can choose a more accurate perspective. For example: “Teaching is super tough for me right now. Next year will have different challenges, and they could be better or worse. The situation in each school was so unique this year, so I know what I’m going through isn’t exactly what everyone else experienced — there ARE some things that can be done to make things better for teachers and kids, because those things are actually happening in tons of classrooms all over the country. I don’t have control over as many factors as I’d like, but I do have some choice in __, __, and __. So I can focus my attention on the things I can do to make this situation more bearable, and set myself up to have better choices in the future.” So you don’t have to worry about how you’ll be able to keep this up until retirement, or even for just a couple more weeks. You can handle ANYTHING for just today. Focus on what you need to do just for now. And then tomorrow when you wake up, remind yourself, “It’s not going to be like this forever — things can change at any time. I can handle the current situation, just for today.” Repeat until you’ve powered through to the finish line. Because while you may not feel like you have the strength to get through ALL the school days right now...you also don’t NEED the strength for all the school days right now. All you need is strength for today. And if that feels like too much, focus on just the strength for right now. Just this moment right here. And then in the next moment, focus just on that second in time, too. Keep doing that, one moment after another. We’re powering through this, together. Sign up for the Power Through series emails on this page here.
19 minutes | Apr 11, 2021
EP223 A powerful way to help kids (and ourselves!) with time management
Constantly issuing reminders and following up with kids is exhausting. Helping kids understand how their brains work and explore ways to funnel their focus, time, and energy is fascinating. So, how do you approach time management through this lens? The teachers who are most successful at managing their time don’t see doing so as a burden. And, they don’t see mismanaging their time as a failure: it’s part of the experiment of learning what works for them and what doesn’t. They’re constantly trying out different approaches according to their moods and the changes in their workload, and adapting for new changes and preferences. It’s not something they try to figure out once and for all. Having this perspective on your own time management naturally flows over into the way you treat students. You no longer expect them to just “buckle down and get it down” since you’re aware of all the mental tricks and productivity hacks you yourself use to follow through on tasks. You no longer get as frustrated with kids who waste time because you understand some of the root causes and you have tools to help. What if we approach productivity as one giant experiment that we can have fun with doing alongside our students? Learning to manage your time is a highly personalized lifelong process, and it can actually be a fun adventure if you approach it through a self-development lens. Listen in to learn more about how there’s no “right” or “wrong” approach to man aging your time, and how to teach kids that it’ normal and okay for productivity levels to be inconsistent. Then, click here to enter your email to have a PDF of tips to help you teach time management to students. You’ll get more practical advice, teacher-tested tips, and photos sent straight to your inbox. Click here to read the transcript and participate in the discussion or, join our podcast Facebook group here to connect with other teachers and discuss the Truth for Teachers' podcast episodes.
7 minutes | Apr 7, 2021
Power through with...resilient thinking and planning
The uncertainty and constant changes have been one of the most stressful parts of this school year. Nearly every teacher I know has invested countless hours into setting up a system for one approach to learning, only to find out that everything’s going to be completely different the following day … and then it’s all going to change again two weeks after that. Resilient pedagogy (as defined by Joshua Eyler) is “a combination of course design principles and teaching strategies that are as resistant to disruption and to change in the learning environment as possible.” The idea is that the essential qualities of your lesson plans will be in place, no matter what changes in the way you deliver instruction. A resilient approach to teaching requires us to SIMPLIFY and SCALE DOWN. You’re not going to be able to offer kids all the resources and options you wish you could … and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Everything in our world right now is limited and restricted to an extent. If you go to a restaurant, for example, there are limitations as to where you can sit and probably fewer choices on the menu. It’s the same for your instruction: the menu of options is different, and simplified. Since we were trying to cram in way too much to our pre-pandemic instruction, resilient pedagogy returns us to what is essential and most important. As you think about supporting your students during these final weeks of the school year, ask yourself, What would this look like if it were easy? Then pick simple, flexible options that are going to reduce stress for you, your students, and their families. I know that many of you are under immense pressure to hold to pre-pandemic expectations and learning standards. Many of your students are going to be taking standardized tests this year. Do what’s necessary to power through this … but don’t devote a ton of time, energy, or attention to it. Check the boxes, dot the i’s, cross the t’s. But keep your gaze steadily focused on what matters most for your students. No one gives 100% to everything they do, so stop pressuring yourself to uphold that standard. Figure out what’s worth the investment and pour your heart and soul into that, and give 75% or 50% or 25% to the other things. Think about what you’re doing that is really moving the needle for kids, and how you can get a return on your investment of time with future classes. What things have you done this school year that were really effective and that can probably be used next year? That’s where you want to devote the majority of your time and energy. Obviously next school year’s still a question mark for many of us, too … but that’s where a resilient pedagogical approach really shines. Invest in lessons and activities that are context-independent (things that can work no matter what the teaching format is like in the future). The stuff that’s just useful for now, or isn’t really doing much for kids? Simplify it. Scale it down. Cut it out altogether if possible. Flexible resilience seems like a necessary survival tool for the foreseeable future. Let’s lean into that instead of resisting it. Because this is not a “lost year of learning” as so many folks outside the profession like to call it. Sure, many kids will have adverse effects on their mastery of content due to the pandemic. That’s true. But just because it’s true doesn’t mean it’s healthy or useful to dwell on it. You don’t have to choose that framing, or think and talk constantly about “how far behind” kids will be. Because it’s also probably true that some of your students are actually doing better now than they would be in a traditional classroom during a typical school year. Some of your kids may be struggling academically or socio-emotionally, but not necessarily both, and some are experiencing some truly wonderful benefits right now, too. Many of your students are learning to develop critical thinking, tech proficiency, self-advocacy, time management, socio-emotional regulation, and other important life skills in ways that far surpass their abilities earlier this school year. Those skills will help them get back on track with any content-area loss … this is probably also true, right? And it’s certainly true that you will not be the only teacher grappling with this problem next year. The entire country (and many other countries around the world) will be dealing with how to keep moving kids forward after the disruptions we’ve experienced. So, this is not your problem alone to solve. It’s a bridge that all of us are going to have to cross when we get there. Can you see how this is a better-feeling thought than, “Half my class is failing and they’re never going to catch up?” You can choose these better-feeling thoughts and then actively look for evidence of them throughout the day. You can train yourself to focus on assets instead of deficits, or (as Dr. Byron McClure puts it), focus on what’s strong instead of what’s wrong. Be flexible. Be resilient. Support your students in doing the same. We’re going to power through this, together. Sign up for the Power Through series emails on this page here.
21 minutes | Apr 4, 2021
EP222 Bring back joy by teaching outdoors: A how-to guide for any classroom
What if this is the perfect time to normalize outdoor learning and make it a permanent part of how we do school? What exactly does outdoor learning look like, and how can we provide equitable access to it? These are questions I’ve been mulling over for quite some time, and I’ve collected some fantastic photos, links, resources, and case studies to help you find a way to bring your classes outside. I’ll share a bit of the history of the “open air schooling movement” from the 1900s and 1910s, when the fear of tuberculosis and later the Spanish Flu created a shift in how some children were educated. We’ll touch briefly on the historical (and current) inequities in how outdoor learning is offered, and examine how to bring classes outside even in areas where nature access is limited. You’ll then hear 2 case stories directly from the teachers who made outdoor learning happen in their schools (a high school teacher in Texas and a first grade teacher in Massachusetts). Outdoor learning doesn’t have to be complicated, and as you’ll hear in this episode, even short periods of being outside have proven benefits for both teachers and children. Access images, links, and resources in the blog post here. Join our podcast Facebook group here to connect with other teachers and discuss the Truth for Teachers' podcast episodes.
7 minutes | Mar 31, 2021
Power through with...relationship reconnection
Has your workload created a huge strain on your family, friendships, and/or marriage/partnership? Being a teacher often means making an impossible choice: when you’re focused on your loved ones, you feel like you’re neglecting your students. When you’re focused on your students, you feel like you’re neglecting your loved ones. Trying to add on your own wellbeing and self-care just compounds the guilt. My encouragement to you today is to think about the relationships you have that enhance your confidence, wellbeing, and energy levels. Who are the people whose presence is caring and life-giving to you? How can you choose to prioritize interactions with those folks? You might strengthen those relationships through a quick daily text message, or a deeper conversation on the phone while you’re cleaning or exercising. You might be having a cup of coffee together every other week, or carve out some time each Friday night to be together. This isn’t just about how good it feels to be connected with folks you love. That’s super important for lots of mental health reasons, especially right now when so many of our relationships are strained by the pandemic. This is about investing your time and energy into something meaningful and lasting that is NOT tied to your profession. It’s so easy to get caught up in the urgency of our work in schools: the kids need so much, and we’re running out of time this year to do All The Things. We can often spend the whole weekend worrying about this student’s reading level and that one’s standard mastery and what’s happening at home for another one. All of these things matter. Your students matter. Your work matters. But sometimes it helps to remember that teaching is a career, and your career is just one part of your life. Being a teacher is not your entire identity, and it’s crucial that you never let it become that. In a few more week’s time, these children who fill your every waking thought will no longer be your responsibility. In most cases, you will no longer have any influence over their lives. You will be releasing them to the work of other educators down the line. There’s a tremendous sense of peace that can come with this perspective. It can help you remember that your job is to support students, not save them. You are one adult figure out of many they have had and will have in their lives. In other words, you will be replaced by another teacher for your students next year, and your students will be replaced by other kids. But you have deep connections with other people in your life (family, partner, friends) that you hope to grow even closer to next year. Those relationships deserve nurturing, and they require it if you’re going to sustain your work as a teacher. Students will pass in your doors and back out again, over and over for years to come. Who are the people you want by your side during that process? I was talking about this with a 40 Hour Teacher Workweek member named Christie, whose marriage was really suffering due to the amount of herself she gave to students. She wrote, “What changed for me was the day after Spring Break. I went back to school and realized that as much as I love them, those students would be out of my class in 10 weeks, and in reality, most won’t give me more than a passing thought for their entire lives. My husband will be with me every night for the foreseeable future. Do I want a happy marriage for the rest of my days, or do I want to continue putting all my time, effort and energy into teaching? As much as I love teaching, I realized that having a happy spouse allowed me to teach. I couldn’t afford to teach financially or emotionally without his support. So I realized that I needed to put more time, energy, effort, and thought into our relationship. Like you say in your materials, Angela, you don’t always get your priorities right, but you can keep starting over and recommit to doing fewer things, better.” Prioritizing relationships apart from school will look different for each person, of course — this is simply Christie’s story. The question is, who matters to YOU? Whose love and support sustains you in your work? Who do you want to prioritize in your life? Reach out to that person. Tell them you miss talking with them, and suggest a time when you can spend time together (even if it’s a really short block of time or done virtually). Don’t make relationships “one more thing” you have to squeeze into your schedule. Don’t tell yourself you’ll have more time in the summer. Just figure out the easiest step you can take that to nurture your connection, and do that. A small step in the right direction will get you on the path. Simply notice when you’re tempted to put school work before your relationships, and experiment with a different choice. Pay attention to those moments when you’re tempted to check school email for the 300th time in the evening, or spending way more time than necessary on a lesson plan. Ask yourself, “Who could I be spending time with if I weren’t doing THIS?” Weigh the trade-off carefully rather than always defaulting to school work first. See how this goes over the next few weeks, and watch out for self-inflicted guilt trips. There’s no bad or wrong choices here. Choosing now to reprioritize a relationship that’s been on the backburner is not somehow an admission that your priorities were wrong before. This is much more nuanced than a good/bad binary will permit. You’re simply experimenting with your time, and looking for easy ways to enjoy being with the PEOPLE you love, so those relationships can sustain the WORK you love. Sign up for the Power Through series emails on this page here.
45 minutes | Mar 28, 2021
EP221 Three ways to make social-emotional learning REAL for students (with Dr. Byron McClure)
How can we make SEL more than a buzzword? School psychologist Dr. Byron McClure is here to go beyond what’s trendy, and give an honest overview of the mental health and socio-emotional support students really need from us right now. Byron shares 3 specific practices you can do with kids to address their social-emotional needs on a daily basis in your classroom. You’re probably familiar with restorative conversations, daily check-ins, and morning meetings ... but Byron frames them in a larger context that taps into the real power behind the practices. Listen as Byron shares some of the history of SEL and what elements have been intentionally obscured and overlooked. We’ll examine how to keep SEL from being “touchy-feely fluff that doesn’t prepare kids for the real world.” The key is to be action-oriented, and ground the work in culturally affirming practices, justice, and equity. We can help students understand ways that privilege is showing up, and ways they might be able to dismantle systems for themselves or others. You’ll learn how to use a strength-based approach to building relationships within a sense of community. As Byron says, we can “shift from what's wrong to what's strong with students." We’ll also talk at the end about how schools can address teachers’ socio-emotional needs, as well. Byron’s energy is contagious, so if you’re ready to get fired up, listen in! Click here to read the transcript and participate in the discussion or, join our podcast Facebook group here to connect with other teachers and discuss the Truth for Teachers' podcast episodes.
5 minutes | Mar 24, 2021
Power through with...rest
I know what many (most?) of you are being asked to do right now is NOT reasonable or sustainable. And because you could never have enough time and energy to do everything that kids need right now, the solution could never be for you to just work harder. We are still in a pandemic. This is not a “normal” school year. Regardless of how much districts want to pretend we can hold to the exact same expectations as last year, we cannot. Of course you’re distracted and panicky and overwhelmed and unfocused at times. Of course your students are the same way. We can’t be expected to accomplish what we normally accomplish because our world is not functioning as it normally does. Rather than trying to keep our frantic pace and be productive like nothing has changed… What if we allow ourselves space to explore different approaches, and give ourselves permission to have adjustment periods for continually changing routines? What if we choose time for disconnecting from the outside world, and prioritize reconnecting with ourselves? What if we stop pushing ourselves and our kids 24/7 to keep trying to accomplish more, and instead have some time to just be together for a while? What if we stop worrying about getting ahead for a moment, and read and play games and cook and take naps and go for walks and have conversations and just … be? We need physical rest. We need mental rest. We need emotional rest. None of this is easy in a culture that determines our worth by how hard we work, how much we produce, and how much money we earn. We’ve been conditioned to feel guilty for taking a break or “doing nothing” or “wasting time.” But that approach is part of the old paradigm which has to fall away and be replaced with a way of working, teaching, and learning that is humanized and centered on wellbeing rather than accomplishment. Your worth is inherent to your being; it is not tied to how much you get done. You have the right to simply exist and not perform, create, produce, or serve others every single moment in order to feel of value. Pushing yourself to work more when your body's calling for rest will not help you get ahead. So, resist the pressure to perform at optimal levels when we are not working in optimal conditions. You deserve grace and compassion. Give those things to yourself when no one is giving it to you. Remember that rest is necessary for your survival. It’s not something you “earn” after you’ve checked off everything on your (never ending) to-do list. You do not need to apologize for needing to rest. Will you close the laptop after 7 pm every night? Refuse to think or worry about school on Saturdays? Schedule a block of time into your calendar this week in which you do something that is rejuvenating and reenergizing? Don’t overthink it: just pick an approach that sounds easy and manageable right now, and DO IT. Any time for rest is better than none. A huge block of free time is not going to magically appear, and the weight of unfinished work is not going to lift on it’s own. No one is going to create boundaries for you. So, don’t wait for someone else to offer you the opportunity to take a break. Claim your right to rest. Sign up for the Power Through series emails on this page here.
40 minutes | Mar 21, 2021
EP220 How to use podcasts in the classroom (with Listenwise)
“Better listeners are better learners,” says my guest Monica Brady-Myerov. She’s the Founder and CEO of Listenwise, an award-winning listening skills platform and the sponsor for this episode. Monica explains that audio is a powerful tool for equity and differentiation, because most kids have a much higher listening comprehension level than reading comprehension. You can bring authentic stories and primary sources to your students via audio, helping to build empathy and personalize information that might be difficult to connect with through just words on a page. Not only are podcasts a great way to build students’ content-area knowledge, but audio instruction also helps strengthen their listening comprehension skills. Monica shares examples of how teachers are incorporating podcasts into their instruction. She also explains the features of Listenwise which make it faster and easier for teachers to find high-quality audio content to use with students. There’s a free version of Listenwise available, and you can sign up for a free 30 day trial of the premium version here. We also delve a bit into some of the brain research that tells us how we process audio information and the benefits of it. By the end of the convo, my mind was racing with possibilities and ideas of how the things Monica taught me could be used with students, and I hope you’ll feel the same. If you love podcasts yourself and are curious about how to use them more with students, you’ll find some great practical strategies and tools here! Click here to read the transcript and participate in the discussion or, join our podcast Facebook group here to connect with other teachers and discuss the Truth for Teachers' podcast episodes.
5 minutes | Mar 17, 2021
Power Through: A special 6 week Wednesday series on Truth for Teachers
Need something to look forward to in the final weeks of school? This new Wednesday morning podcast series will provide 5 minutes of audio encouragement and sound therapy instruments. It's designed for you to listen mid-week to get re-energized. If you'd also like a written version/transcript, sign up for the 6-week email series of free bonus teaching support + encouragement here. In my experience as a teacher, this time of the school year always felt uniquely challenging. It’s like the finish line is in sight, but not close enough to feel motivating yet. Student engagement drops off drastically, and it’s right at the point where you’re panicking that there’s still a ton of content you didn’t teach yet and you need your students to ramp UP, not DOWN. I can only imagine how that feeling is magnified for the 2020-2021 school year. My intuition is telling me that for educators, the next few weeks are going to be about powering through and making the very best of a difficult situation until the school year is complete. And to do that, I thought it might help to have a realistic + regular pep talk from someone who’s rooting for you. That’s where this series comes into play. For each of the next 6 Wednesday mornings, I'm going to release a mini episode of encouragement to help you power through the end of the school year. They’re going to be super short: around 5 minutes each, and will be perfect to listen to just before class starts for a bit of encouragement and practical mindset shifts. I’ll also be incorporating some sound therapy instruments periodically in the episodes: you’ll hear short segments of the words accompanied by me playing the koshi chimes, a few different kalimbas, and a hang drum. As I started producing this series, I realized that each week’s focus was centering on a word that starts with “r”, so I decided to go with that: Rest. Reconnecting in relationships. Resilience. Reframing. Reflecting. Release of regrets. I’m calling this series “Power Through”, because I think that’s probably the most realistic approach for most folks. Powering through means “to continue in a strong and determined way until the end of something, even when it’s difficult.” That’s the task ahead of us in the next few weeks, and I hope this mid-week encouragement will give you a boost of energy and help equip you for whatever challenges come your way. Now I know that your time alone for listening to podcasts can be limited right now, and I know you probably have teacher friends who would benefit from this, but they’re just not into podcasts, or maybe they are hearing impaired. I’m also offering this Power Through series in written form, and it can show in your inbox each Wednesday morning if you’d like. Just click the link in the show notes to enter your email address, and you’ll automatically receive a message of support each Wednesday morning for the next 6 weeks. Your first “Power Through” message will come right to your inbox immediately so you’ll know you’re signed up and can get some helpful advice and resources right away. That email includes links to ways you can cultivate engagement in remote/hybrid learning, reduce grading and simplify assessment for digital assignments, teach students time management skills for online learning, and more. Sometimes just a small shift in the way you approach your workload can help you feel less stressed and overwhelmed. See if you can choose just one idea to try out — whatever seems easiest at the moment. And of course, you can unsubscribe from anything, anytime, using the link provided at the bottom of every email. So that’s what you get if you also sign up for the email version of the Power Through series. But know that the weekly 5 minute audio encouragement is not about giving you more things to do or learn. I’m just offering a few short, kind words each week to help clear away overwhelm and shift your perspective so you feel more energized. This series will carry you through the spring here in the northern hemisphere, ending at the beginning of May. At that point, you can work back through the series a second time if you’d like, or revisit messages that particularly spoke to you that can help with the final weeks of school. I just didn’t want to wait to release these messages too close to the end of the year, when I know folks need them now. So, the first Power Through episode will release next Wednesday--click the link in the show notes to get it + the bonus tips/resources sent to you via email. I hope these resources help you feel like we can continue together in a strong and determined way until the end. Remember that everything happening right now is temporary. Teaching will not be exactly like this forever. And, you’re not alone … we’re going to power through this together. Sign up for the 6-week email series of free bonus teaching support + encouragement here
45 minutes | Mar 14, 2021
EP219 Processing pandemic teaching: An honest, healing conversation (with Pernille Ripp)
“I've never worked so hard in my life to try to reach students, and yet never felt like such a big failure. That carries a lot of emotional weight. But when we are dismissed to ‘just figure it out’, we're not actually given credit for all of the incredible work that has happened.” Those are the words of my guest Pernille Ripp, a 7th grade ELA teacher, author, blogger, keynote speaker, and passionate advocate for education. We are here to hold space for you to process the heaviness of the past year. Pernille illuminates some of the common emotions that come from teaching in a pandemic under the weight of so many expectations, and talks about the impact on her own mental health. We’re offering this conversation to you not as advice and how-to tips, but as a release valve for the pressure that so many educators are feeling. We’re dismantling the narrative that kids have “lost a year of schooling” and are “falling behind,” and examining how teachers have been the easy scapegoats for the systemic problems COVID has exacerbated. Pernille talks about the challenges of teaching while also supporting her own 4 children in their learning. And, she shares how she creates moments of joy and things to look forward to for herself, her family, and her students. “I don't know what the future is going to hold, so I'm not going to prepare for it,” Pernille says. “But I'm going to focus on the things that will continue to sustain me as an educator and as a human being. I'm going to try to be in the best mental state that I can to welcome all of the kids in and to say, ‘Whatever happens, we're going to meet it together, and I'm going to be by your side, no matter what that looks like’.” Click here to read the transcript and participate in the discussion or, join our podcast Facebook group here to connect with other teachers and discuss the Truth for Teachers' podcast episodes.
41 minutes | Mar 7, 2021
EP218 Ten tips for teaching critical thinking + information literacy (w/ LaGarde & Hudgins)
Want to develop your students into digital detectives? Join me as I talk with Jennifer LaGarde and Darren Hudgins, who are co-authors of the book Fact vs. Fiction: Teaching Critical Thinking In the Age of Fake News, and also a new book coming out in July 2021 called Developing Digital Detectives. This is the second episode in our 2 part series about media literacy. Episode 216 with Peter Adams of the News Literacy Project shares how educators can be informed media consumers and advocates for truth. This is an important first step, because we can’t teach skills to students if we don’t have those skills ourselves. In this episode, we’re doing a deeper exploration into how to support students in information literacy. Jennifer, Darren, and I will talk a bit about big picture issues, like making time for instruction on digital literacy, and how to teach kids to think critically about conspiracy theories when those conspiracy theories are widely believed among the community you teach in. But we’ll spend the vast majority of our time talking about specific, practical things you can do with your students right now to help them be smart media consumers: Teach thematically and help kids make connections between topics/subjects Use mobile devices — not just computers — when having kids analyze information Create learning environments that value questioning, not just finding the right answer Guide students to understand their brains and examine bias/assumptions Move from a checklist approach to an investigative approach for fact-checking Teach kids to be specific about the falsehood rather than claiming "fake news" Illuminate the people behind the information that's shared Help kids analyze information not only in long-form articles, but also in the mediums they frequently consume, such as video, memes, and social media images Teach kids HOW to think, not WHAT to think Remember that information literacy is a human problem, and even small steps to tackle it are worthwhile Click here to read the transcript and participate in the discussion or, join our podcast Facebook group here to connect with other teachers and discuss the Truth for Teachers' podcast episodes.
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