The episode of the Truth for Teachers podcast featured here is a free coaching call I conducted with a graduate of the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club. Her name is Kristen, and she’s a year 4 teacher in Australia, which is equivalent to 4th grade in the U.S.
Kristen is in her sixth year of teaching and feeling like she’s spending way too much time communicating with parents and answering emails, and also feeling nervous about what cutting back on the amount of time she spends on these things and other tasks might do to her reputation in the school.
Listen in today to the second half of this conversation where we’re focused on email communication and giving yourself permission to stop correlating hours worked with effectiveness.
I am always looking for ways to save energy. I shared in my book Unshakeable that energy is one of our most precious resources because unlike time, energy does not naturally replenish itself. We have to be intentional about how we use our energy. If we don’t pay attention to the things that drain it and do less of those things and pay attention to things that are energy-giving and do more of those things, we’ll find ourselves feeling depleted all the time.
Today I’m going to share with you 4 habits and practices that drained my energy as a teacher for years, and I’ll share the solutions I uncovered that completely transformed the way I approached my work.
Growth mindset has been a buzzword in education for quite awhile and I think a lot of teachers and kids are already familiar with it. But I’ve noticed a pitfall that seems to occur fairly often: growth mindset is introduced to students near the beginning of the year and then the curriculum demands seem to take precedent.
When you have so many skills you have to teach and so many standards for kids to master, it’s hard to remember, much less make time to talk about growth mindset. Fortunately, there are some simple ways you can infuse growth mindset into what you do on a daily basis.
Join me today and listen in for these regular practices that help you ensure students will be willing to try new things, stick with hard tasks and not give up, push themselves to do their best work, and believe in themselves and their own ability to learn.
Here's quick access to the resources I recommend in today's podcast: Dr. JoAnn Deak's Fantastic Elastic Brain book, Carol E. Reiley's Making a Splash growth mindset book, free online brain songs, and a more structured, complete 10 lesson unit that I've created that is a best seller on TeachersPayTeachers.
The majority of the Truth for Teachers podcast episodes are on topics that will help improve your teaching practices with ALL of your students, but in some cases, I like to talk about specific student populations. It’s okay to focus for ONE episode on meeting the needs of English Language Learners, or students with special needs. And it’s okay to focus for an episode on students of color.
In this case, I chose to focus even more specifically on that: to talk about black males in particular. My guest today, Principal Kafele, is a black male himself and is a nationally-renowned authority on his work with black male students. There’s a tremendous amount of research showing that many black males in the United States are facing unique challenges and are underserved. We do a disservice to our students if we pretend that the outcomes that our students experience from our school system are all the same regardless of race. Our black male students can do better, and we can do better by them.
The question of HOW to do better is what we’re going to tackle today in my interview with Principal Kafele. Listen in to his message on helping students succeed by connecting with them, understanding them, and building relationships with them so that we can meet their needs better.
In this coaching call with a teacher named Rachel, I think you'll recognize a very common dilemma for teachers: spending exorbitant amounts of time doing lesson planning, and still feeling like you don’t know what you’re doing from day to day.
If you're caught in a trap of planning every night for the following day, forgetting to do certain things with students even though it’s in the plan, and constantly running out of time before getting to finish the lesson...this episode can be a game changer!
Listen in as Rachel and I tackling all of these problems. Her lesson planning process is essentially done in three steps, and you’ll hear me articulate each of those steps as we go through them, because I think it’s a good model to follow.
Certainly it's not the only way to plan lessons, but I think many teachers have never heard another teacher explain exactly how she plans, and everyone’s process is unique. It's fascinating to listen in on her process, which sounds great in theory, and try to figure out where the breakdown is happening.
I hope this helps you identify missteps in YOUR planning process so you can streamline a bit like Rachel!
I receive emails on almost a daily basis from veteran teachers who are completely overwhelmed at how the job they signed up for 20, 30, or 40 years ago is nothing like the job they are being required to do today. I want to amplify the voices of teachers who are experiencing this, let them know they're not alone, and talk about what can be done.
My hope is that this is episode will be useful to you even if you're NOT facing this situation yourself, because every teacher works with at least one colleague who is in a similar place. You might actually be feeling frustrated with these teachers, believing that they are not pulling their weight and aren't changing with the times. So I hope this episode will strengthen the relationships between you and your colleagues as well.
If you ARE that teacher--someone who changed children’s lives year after year and are suddenly finding the expectations on you to be exhausting and impossible to meet, I want you to know these 9 things shared in today's episode.
To share this with other teachers (or get a printable PDF), go to:
In this episode I'm talking with Persida Himmele about how teachers can provide access to higher-order thinking opportunities for all students. We'll go through 5 specific examples which you can use in your classroom today. Learn why calling on students should be the last thing you do to find out what kids know, and how total participation techniques are a simple way to engage all students equitably.
Click here to access the free resources and printables we discuss:
Listen in on a coaching call I conducted with a graduate of the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club. His name is Jim, and he’s entering his 4th year of teaching. Jim works on a grades 7-12 campus and is a high school geometry and 7th grade honors math teacher.
The questions that Jim submitted to me were mostly about getting student buy-in with room arrangement and routines/procedures. But the part that I wanted to share with you here on the podcast is where we do a deep dive into getting student buy-in with a cell phone policy.
Like most teachers, Jim already has most of the solution inside of him, and it’s just a matter of helping him uncover the different parts of that solutions and put them together. Notice how each of his responses to me is like a clue which leads us to the next piece of the puzzle, until we have the whole thing assembled. It’s a really fun process to participate in and I think it will be fun for you to listen to, also.
What we’re doing in this conversation is partially about ironing out the details of the cell phone policy, about partially about figuring out which areas of the classroom to give kids ownership of, and where we need to provide more leadership and modeling.
The value of this episode is in helping you ask YOURSELF the right questions, because honest self-reflection is what's going to get you to the right result.
This is the time of year when classroom set-up photos are everywhere. Each photo we see has more clever ideas and adorable decorations than the last. These images are inspiring and creative and so much fun to look through…but they can also be incredibly anxiety-producing.
How do we each stay focused on our OWN vision for our OWN classroom and not get sucked into comparing ourselves to others? Listen in as I share how I've grappled with this issue over the years.
Click here to read or share the transcript and audio, or participate in the discussion:
The first day jitters are real, and most teachers have butterflies the night before. I think it’s okay to embrace that a little bit: give yourself a set amount of time to do some productive worrying. But the best advice I can give is for you to shift your thinking to a different line of questions. When you get stuck on your own insecurities, focus less on believing in yourself and more on believing in your kids. That’s what will empower you to transform lives. Listen in on this episode as I share how to change your thinking.
The episode you’re about to hear is a free coaching call I conducted with a graduate of the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club. It’s a combination of instructional coaching and life coaching all sort of rolled into one, where I’m answering teachers’ specific questions about productivity and balance and managing it all.
This particular call is a teacher named Claire who teaches special education. She works with kids in grades K-6 and actually splits her time between 2 schools, so she’s at one school with one group of kids in the morning and another in the afternoon.
Claire’s initial question is about how to use her summer to get ahead for fall when she doesn’t know the needs of the students in her classroom. Her caseload can change a lot from year to year and that makes it difficult to plan ahead. So we talk through some systems she and any teacher can create during the summer that will make the following school year easier to manage. We talk about getting digital files organized, getting procedures in place, and so on.
I then challenge Claire to figure out 2-3 of her biggest time-wasters and use her summer to figure out a better way. It’s very hard to find the time and mental bandwidth to take a step back during the school year and analyze systems, so summer is really perfect for that. And when she told me what her biggest time suck is, when she talked about collecting data on student progress and grading their writing, she had a really big aha moment that I think is going to resonate with you in a powerful way, too.
Claire and I dug really deeply into how to analyze if something really has to be done, if the things we perceive as mandated are in fact requirements, and analyze teaching practices through the lens of whether they’re actually effective for kids rather than if they’re the way they’ve always been done, and they way everyone else does them. I love that moment in our conversation and I can’t wait to share it with you.
At the end of the call, I mention a free on-demand video series I've created to help you plan out how to use your summer. You can sign up for that here:
Today we're going to talk about the little things students do that are rude, disrespectful, or just annoying. The things that don’t necessarily warrant some kind of consequence, but that you don’t want to let slide every time. How should a teacher respond to eye rolling, teeth sucking, muttering under the breath, and so on? What do we do about bad attitudes?
I don’t want to settle for trite rehashed info, so I reached out to Robyn Jackson because I knew she could take this conversation to a deeper level. Robyn was a National Board Certified English teachers in Maryland, just outside of Washington DC, and has since been and administrator, adjunct professor, consultant, and speaker. She’s been championing equity, access, and rigor for over 15 years.
Robyn is seriously one of my favorite experts in the education space, because she has a deeper understanding of human behavior and motivation than anyone else I know, and she always keeps it real. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing her speak in person a few times just hang on her every word--there’s so much good info there. She has this lovely way of uncovering the root problem and also sort of calling you out on your own mess instead of allowing blame-shifting.
Grab a notepad when you listen to this one, because you’re going to want to take notes!
I want to use this episode to dive more deeply into a topic that I’ve touched on quite a few times, which is problem of overwhelm. Overwhelm is a huge issue for just about everyone, but particularly for teachers.
I want to help you understand an important contributing factor that a lot of people underestimate or just don’t give much thought to. Once you understand what’s creating or worsening your feeling of being overwhelmed, the solution because clear, simple, and pretty straight forward.
Listen in as I share how you can avoid overscheduling yourself, and create more margin in your life through building in buffer time.
The episode you’re about to hear is a free coaching call I conducted with a graduate of the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club. It’s a combination of instructional coaching and life coaching all sort of rolled into one, where I’m answering teacher’s specific questions about productivity and balance and managing it all.
This particular call is with a 5th grade teacher named April. April’s challenge right now is with trying to find balance and intentionality during times of year that are super demanding, such as parent conference week.
As we get into the conversation, we dig deeper into her social media habits, and exploring how her desire to learn from and connect with our educators is sometimes swallowing up more time than she intends, and interfering with her ability to get a good nights sleep and stay in balance.
For many teachers, PBL is a very different way of facilitating learning, where kids are identifying a real-world problem and developing its solution. It’s an incredibly powerful, effective, and cross-curricular way for kids to learn. But it’s not always simple to plan, and manage, and assess, so we’re going to talk about some practical teaching strategies.
We’re also going to look at how to address some of the pitfalls that students face. PBL is incredibly rigorous, or should be, and we all know that kids aren’t always excited about rigor and working hard--they can’t just pass a test at the end of the unit and be done. With PBL, kids show what they learn as they journey through the unit, interact with its lessons, collaborate with each other, and assess themselves and each other. It’s pretty complex stuff. It’s a tough juxtaposition with the “fill in the bubble” standardized testing mentality that most are expected to juggle simultaneously.
I have two guests on the show today to help us explore these issues--they are the co-authors of the new book Hacking Project Based Learning: 10 Easy Steps to PBL and Inquiry in the Classroom. You’ll hear from Erin Murphy, who is an assistant principal and certified literacy specialist in the East Penn School District in Pennsylvania, and Ross Cooper, who is the Supervisor of Instructional Practice K-12 in the Salisbury Township School District in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Erin and Ross are passionate about inquiry-based learning and have supported countless teachers in implementing it, through not only their school-based work but also through the PD and workshops they conduct. I’m really excited to have them here to help us move past the jargon and buzzwords, and talk about the realities on doing PBL with kids.
This is the time of year when many teachers are facing huge decisions about their careers. You may not be sure if you’re even going to have a job next year because your teaching position has been cut. Your decision might be whether to look for another teaching job, or find a different career altogether.
Others of you are wondering: should you stay home with your kids, or save up for another year first? Should you try to get a job in another school? Should you ask your principal if you can take that open spot in another grade level? Should you apply for that position as an instructional coach or an administrator?
In many ways, these are deeply personal questions that no one can advise you on. There are so many factors to consider and only you know them all, and understand the relative importance of them all.
So rather than give you advice about what to do, I’m going to teach you my system for making these kinds of big decisions. I’ve changed schools 5 times and grade levels 3 times, and relocated to other parts of the country for work twice.
And I always felt confident about the choices I made because I created a system that helped me think through every aspect of the decision and weigh the options not just on an intellectual, rational, logical level, but also on an emotional and heart level. Listen in as I share my process.
Today I’m going to let you listen in on a coaching call I did with a 9th and 10th grade ELA teacher named Taylor. Like all the teachers I’m conducting these free coaching calls with, Taylor completed a year in the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club and has made really strong progress in work/life balance. Before joining the club, she worked around 80 hours a week, and she’s not working around 55-60, for a net savings of 20-25 hours a week. So she’s obviously doing a lot of things right when it comes focusing on what’s most important and letting go of the rest.
However, Taylor is now committed to being a class advisor, and that’s causing her to work a lot of additional hours. As we talk, it becomes clear that she’s going to have to eliminate some things from her schedule.
But she’s getting stuck on figuring out what she can realistically say no to when it comes to grading, which is what takes up the majority of her time. And, she’s having a hard time saying no to students when they ask her to do extra things for them.
Listen in as I talk with Taylor about how to figure out what can realistically be eliminated from a teacher's workload in order to free up more time.
If you’re a regular listener of Truth for Teachers, you know I like to focus on very practical, actionable strategies that every person listening can implement. Today’s episode is going to be a slight departure from that. This episode is a chance to dream, to imagine new possibilities, to rethink everything about the way your school day is structured.
I’m going to be talking with Jodi Fletcher, a principal whose team had a vision for a really innovative way to support kids in personalized learning and project based learning. Listen in as she tells the story of what that dream looks like now that they’ve made it a reality for 500 kids.
86% of teachers in the U.S. are white. Most of you listening to this episode are therefore white. Conversations about race are super prevalent right now and for many white people, and it feels like stepping onto a minefield.
They have literally no idea what to say, or feel like they don’t understand the history enough to contribute much to the conversation. Or, they say something they think is totally valid but inadvertently offend people of color in the discussion or get their own feelings hurt because they feel “attacked”, vowing to never, ever enter another conversation about race again.
This can’t happen, teacher friends. It really hurts my heart to see so many misunderstandings in our country around race right now, particular when it’s among white teachers who are shaping the next generation of minds. Teachers are smart, kind, educated people tasked with raising up young people to be leaders. We cannot be ignorant about race or avoid talking about it.
I’m going to start here, today, by sharing what I know now as best as I can, because if I wait until understand everything fully, there will never be an episode about race on Truth for Teachers. And this can’t wait. I want every white teacher, particularly those who teach black and brown students, to understand some fundamental truths. These can completely transform your relationship with your students, their families, and the community you teach in, and I hope you’ll be open to my words in light of that.
This episode is for those who are frustrated with conversations about race right now, and also for those who want to have hard conversations, want to support their students, want to step up as advocates and allies, but just don’t know how to talk about racial issues and are afraid of saying the wrong thing. I hope the information I share today will help you feel more confident in having those tough conversations that are so, so important, and empower you to be a more culturally responsive teacher.
Today I’m going to let you listen in on a coaching call I did with a 3rd grade teacher named Daniele. Like all the teachers I’m conducting these free coaching calls with, Daniele completed a year in the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club and has a really good understanding of how to be intentional in her teaching and maintain a positive, productive mindset.
However, as we progressed through the conversation, it became clear she’s dealing with a whole lot of things that are completely out of her control, things that are increasing her workload and stress level exponentially.
About halfway through the call, I think we got to the real heart of the issue, which is that morale at the school is really faltering right now and it’s incredibly hard to hold onto hope every day and keep doing the work when the school climate is filled with a constant low-grade anxiety.
Daniele’s given me permission to record our conversation and share it here with you so that if these are issues you’re facing in your school, hopefully our thoughts will give you some encouragement.
Today I’m talking with Dr Marcie, a child behavioral specialist and author of the book Love Your Classroom Again: Realistic Behavior Strategies for Educators. She’s also the founder and director of Behavior + Beyond.
I was introduced to Dr Marcie’s work when I heard her speaking about bullying prevention on a local news channel here in New York City where we’re both based, and am really excited to have her here on the podcast to share tips on this with you all, as well.
Listen in as we talk about the difference between meanness and bullying, and how we can support students who are being bullied AND those who are doing the bullying.
Today I want to talk about one of the most common problems teachers face when integrating technology into their lessons, which is keeping kids focused and accountable. It can be really challenging to get kids to listen to directions once they’re on their devices, and hard to make sure they’re focused on the assignment when there’s so many other things they can be doing online.
So, let’s look at some ways to be pro-active and set kids up for success. We want to make it as simple as possible for them to be more productive and focused with their time online.
Every couple of episodes on this season on the Truth for Teachers podcast, I’m going to be featuring coaching calls. I’m answering teachers’ specific questions about productivity, balance, and managing it all. Think of it as instructional coaching and life coaching rolled into one–and you get to listen in!
In this episode, I’m talking with Kendall, a grade 4 teacher in Alberta, Canada. Kendall has made a tremendous amount of changes to her workflow and is doing really well with time management overall, but there are a few areas where she’s having trouble sticking to her habits and best practices. Listen in as we work through these common issues that you might be grappling with, too.
I got an email a few months ago from a woman named Pam Gresser. She wrote, “I’m starting my 20th year teaching and 2 years ago, I didn’t know how much longer I could go on. I read your book ‘Unshakeable: 20 Ways to Enjoy Teaching Every Day…No Matter What’ and it truly changed my whole attitude!”
Obviously Pam’s email made a big impact on me as the author of the book, but I also wanted to learn more about what, specifically, she did to create change in her life.
How exactly does a teacher go from being burned out and feeling like she wanted to quit teaching to being recognized as teacher of the year?
Listen in as I talk with Pam Gresser about how she became unshakeable in her enthusiasm for teaching, and how you can, too.
Join the Unshakeable book community here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/UnshakeableSummerBC/
I can’t begin a new season of a podcast called TRUTH for teachers without acknowledging the changes that have occurred since Season 4 ended two months ago.
I think we had all hoped that after the US election, some of the division we were feeling in our country would die down a bit, and the constant political drama and onslaught of outrageous, embarrassing news would trickle down to a more manageable pace.
This...did not happen.
And it’s tiring. I know this. I know that it is wearisome to hear about serious issues all the time. It is tempting to want to return to the days when our social media feeds were mostly pictures of babies and puppies, when we collectively questioned the popularity of the Kardashians, and the most controversial nationwide debate was whether that dress was blue or gold.
But we’ve been TOO comfortable. No matter who you voted for, no matter where you stand on the various issues, we need you now to be a warrior for truth. We need you to be a thinking, actively involved citizen. We need you to teach students to THINK.
Be okay with discomfort. Have the hard conversations instead of discussing “safe” topics that are less controversial.
Let your choices be guided not by fear or fear of discomfort, but a love of truth.
Don’t make decisions by asking yourself, “Am I allowed to do this?”
Instead ask yourself, “Is this the right thing to do?”