Angela Watson's Truth for Teachers

The podcast designed to speak life, encouragement, and truth into the minds and hearts of educators and get you energized for the week ahead.
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Apr 14, 2021

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 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.

Apr 11, 2021

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.

Apr 7, 2021

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.

Apr 4, 2021

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.

Mar 31, 2021

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.

Mar 28, 2021

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.

Mar 24, 2021

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.

Mar 21, 2021

“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.

Mar 17, 2021

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

Mar 14, 2021

“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.

Mar 7, 2021

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:

  1. Teach thematically and help kids make connections between topics/subjects
  2. Use mobile devices — not just computers — when having kids analyze information
  3. Create learning environments that value questioning, not just finding the right answer
  4. Guide students to understand their brains and examine bias/assumptions
  5. Move from a checklist approach to an investigative approach for fact-checking
  6. Teach kids to be specific about the falsehood rather than claiming "fake news"
  7. Illuminate the people behind the information that's shared
  8. 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
  9. Teach kids HOW to think, not WHAT to think
  10. 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.

Feb 28, 2021

In a time where there’s so much to be sad or upset about, we have the power to choose thoughts that feel better. 

And, we can actively look for evidence that those thoughts are true and that good things are happening.

In this article and podcast episode of Truth for Teachers, I'll share a couple of examples of how this has worked in my own life and work, and how it might be useful for you, too.

I’ll also outline 4 specific steps you can take to choose a better-feeling thought about something that’s bothering you right now, whether it’s personally or professionally. 

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.

Feb 21, 2021

investing in our own news literacy is one of the best things we can do for kids. But with so much disinformation, how can we as educators ensure what we're finding and sharing is accurate? 

Join me as I talk with Peter Adams. He's the head of the education team of the News Literacy Project, a national education nonprofit offering nonpartisan programs that teach students how to know what to believe in the digital age.

We'll begin by talking about why information (and misinformation) is more prevalent. Peter gives a brief overview of how extremists of all kinds have become better networked and influential, and how hate groups and conspiracy theorists have leveraged our polarization to promote their own agendas.

Then we discuss:

  • How we can identify point-of-view or propaganda in our news sources
  • Why objectivity does not mean staying neutral
  • What's actually news-worthy ("How come the media isn't talking about this?")
  • The difference between a conspiracy and conspiracy theory
  • Intellectual humility and not demonizing everyone on "the other side"
  • Looking for disconfirming evidence of our beliefs
  • Having open, offline conversations with people who think differently
  • What it means to "do your own research"
  • Overcoming cynicism and relentlessly pursuing truth
  • How social media and search engine algorithms shape our thinking about what's true
  • How educators can ensure they're relying on and sharing accurate info
  • Why investing in our own news literacy as educators is one of the best things we can do for kids

For ongoing support in these areas, you can sign up for The Sift, a free weekly newsletter for educators distributed by It's a rundown of what happened the week before that you can use in the classroom to teach news literacy. It includes a distillation of the most news-literacy-relevant pieces of news and information that were published the previous week to help educators stay informed. It also includes a Viral Rumor Rundown of about four or five viral rumors that circulated the week before, with ideas for discussion, classroom activities, and links to resources.

NewsLit also offers a free e-learning platform called The Checkology Virtual Classroom, with 14 lessons to help teach students about many of the topics you'll learn about in my interview with Peter, including how to understand conspiracy theories. Checkology is primarily aimed at middle school and high school grades, but some teachers in upper elementary adapt the lessons and folks in higher ed have utilized them, as well.

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.

Feb 14, 2021

Extending grace shouldn’t be a one way street. And yet, many educators feel like they are constantly told to accommodate students and families while they themselves are held to rigid, unrealistic standards.

When you start to feel the resentment and frustration building, here are 3 shifts that can help:

  1. Instead of giving grace, think of giving people space to be themselves. Rather than trying to fit people into narrow boxes, expand the space you offer so folks are free to be inconsistent in how they think, feel, and behave. It's natural to have good days and bad ones, low moods and high moods. Allowing students and families space to move back and forth between these states of being can ease your stress and resentment.
  2. Stop making your work look effortless, and invite folks into the process. Teachers in general — and women especially — are conditioned to make everything we do look easy and natural. But this often backfires because it causes people to expect even more of us. Let families and students peek behind the scenes so they can see not only your hard work, but also your humanity.
  3. Say “thank you” instead of apologizing. Set a class culture of thanking one other for bearing with each other’s faults, and giving each other space to be your full selves. Apologies are necessary when someone's been hurtful or offensive, but making minor mistakes is part of being human, and not necessarily something to feel sorry for. Gratitude is a more positive, uplifting emotion that people feel good about participating in, so substitute thankfulness for apologies whenever possible.

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.

Feb 7, 2021

Need practical tips for doing “fewer things better” in a remote/hybrid setting? Check out this episode with Dr. Catlin Tucker.

We’ll talk about simplifying assessment, virtual station rotations, student engagement, and more. We’ll also discuss specific steps teachers can take to advocate for more realistic expectations for themselves and their students.

Check out the blog post/transcript with links to my favorite resources from Catlin here.

You can also join our podcast Facebook group here to connect with other teachers and discuss the Truth for Teachers' podcast episodes.

Learn more about Catlin here:
Follow her on Twitter here:

Check out Catlin's blended learning courses here:


Jan 31, 2021

The spring and summer of 2020 were some of the darkest times of my life, both personally and professionally. In this episode, I want to offer a bit more of myself and my journey with you:

  • My struggle with depression and anxiety
  • Professional burnout and lack of motivation
  • COVID and the disillusionment of offering solutions for schools when there aren’t any good ones
  • Where my train metaphorically derailed and I lost sight of the destination
  • The choice to cut out non-essential obligations and go offline in December
  • The response (and pushback) to my sabbatical announcement
  • Why I’ve never seen stepping away from work as a weakness (this wasn't the first or last time)
  • How I used my time offline in December
  • Why the sabbatical was not a cure-all, and coming back was harder than anticipated
  • The path back: finding the spark of inspiration and nurturing it into a roaring flame

Thank you for allowing me these weeks to heal, breathe, regroup, and clarify my vision for the year ahead.

Thank you for your messages, and for encouraging me even though I did not have the strength to encourage you.

Thank you for believing in me and my work. I may have taken a pause, but this work does not end. The next phase of our journey together is now underway.

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.

Jan 24, 2021

For 2021, I want to have a single-minded focus on the destination ahead. A train can’t go in multiple directions at once.

So, what is my mission? My contribution? What is the thing I can be doing right now in the world to make it a better place? I want to decide that and get on board the train.

I’ve wasted far too much time hanging around the station, arguing with naysayers and trying to persuade people (who don’t want to be persuaded) that they should come on board.

I believe this moment in time is meant for us to map out the next stop, holler out “all aboard,” and start moving down the tracks…regardless of how many people are with us. Other folks can always hop on at a later stop if they want, or catch the next train.

They can also spend the rest of their lives grumbling at the station. They can even board a train heading in the opposite direction. Don’t let any of their choices stop YOU from where you need to go.  

Get really clear on the destination you want to head toward. Where are you trying to take your students? Your family? Your personal relationships? Your community? Yourself? And pull that train out of the station. 

Start the journey and move forward boldly. Now is the time. Listen in as we kick off Season 13 of the podcast, and get inspired!

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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