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SchoolWork Podcast

SchoolWork Podcast

Welcome to Season 3 of SchoolWork.

In our first episode of Season 3, Superintendent Doug Loomis and Deputy Superintendent Kevin Phillips give a quick update on district-wide efforts to prioritize safety in our schools.

SchoolWork is an effort to give insight, to inform and to hopefully show you the heart behind why all of us in AISD make our work about school.

Episode Summary and Show Notes are located below the podcast player.

General Information

Season 3, Episode 1 Summary

A quick update on district-wide efforts to prioritize safety in our schools.


Speaker 1 (00:00):


Speaker 2 (00:03):

Time. Get on 

Speaker 3 (00:04):


Speaker 4 (00:07):

Hey, welcome back to the 2223 school year, Mr. Loomis. Uh, you're back from, uh, Houston. 

Speaker 5 (00:13):

Yeah, well, the Woodlands. Yeah. I finally got my, my 30 year, soon to be 30 year old daughter off the payroll. She's got a real job, and I'm excited. And, uh, you look a little baggy eyed having to pick Caden up at the airport last night. Yeah, he's 

Speaker 4 (00:25):

Home. Yeah. He'll be home for a few days and then right back to school at Kansas State. So, go cats. Um, <laugh>. But again, welcome to the, uh, 2223 school year, and we just really want to talk a little bit from, from the heart transparency about, about safety and security. So, um, we're just gonna talk in, in some detail about things that, um, we've really thought are important as we've moved toward the beginning of the school year. Uh, and start with safety in mind. 

Speaker 5 (00:52):

Yeah. Safe safety has to be our first priority. If, if we're not focused on safety, it, it has a tendency to slip up behind us. And so this year as we, we start out, let's, let's think about how are we hardening our campuses? How are we communicating, uh, when there are safety issues or concerns? And then how are we drilling and how are we preparing, uh, for the unthinkable? 

Speaker 4 (01:15):

So, um, yeah, we, we spent a good amount of time with our principals and, um, talked about really streamlining a training protocol for all staff in A I S D. So actually during this week sometime, um, our, our principals will spend right at a half of a day with all staff members, um, on a streamlined, um, sequence and scope of, of training, um, around safety. And so we really have had, you know, every principal has done some of that as we've begun a school year, but making that something that all of our staff members have the same scope and sequence of, so to speak, was important to us. Yeah, 

Speaker 5 (01:59):

I think, I think one of the things, you know, as, as we listen to staff, especially last spring, is, um, we always seem to be able to go back to fire drills because we've all lived those our entire life. And in today's world, sometimes we get complacent around those drills, and we have to remind one another. Um, the importance of it, matter of fact, that that importance comes as, as the, uh, fire department shows up once or twice a year to all of our schools and grades us on that, on that drill. And so when we think about security, active threat security drills, we've gotta get that kind of importance, um, the, the same kind of importance around active shooter or threat drills as we do around fire drills. Because in today's world, when that, when that alarm goes off, we all need to be thinking about how are we gonna keep ourselves and our kiddos safe? 

Speaker 5 (02:51):

And, and how do we go through that drill? And so, as we worked with principals this summer, we, we talked about it, it's important to go through that active shooter, um, drill. It's important to, you know, as you practice the drills, instead of just doing the drills maybe in the auditorium or the cafeteria, where you normally are, maybe you need to step into, into a classroom with your staff. And let's talk about when that, when that alarm goes off, that we need to secure. What does that, what does that feel like, you know, behind that closed doors? What are the things that we're, that we're doing? What are the things we can 

Speaker 4 (03:25):

Do? You know, the other thing that I think we've really, um, worked on as we begin a new school year is, is on spiraling that training. And so it's not just one time at the beginning, it's not just the two fire drills that we do. It's, it's really something that lasts throughout the school year for both staff and students. Yeah. And so parents, you know, really can expect that we're gonna, you know, we have a written drill schedule and we have it down and our schools are, are, are putting those on a calendar when we're gonna do those so that we practice them and, um, and make sure that folks are trained. And so it, it's, it's the formal drills that we do. And then the other things that we're doing with training really are simple as how do we walk through a door and make sure that it secures behind us? Um, and as we come in the door, how do we make sure that as we head into the school, that that door that we're leaving at the front or the side of the building comes shut and is locked and secured every time? 

Speaker 5 (04:24):

Yeah. I, you never thought that you'd have to stop and, and ring train people how to come in and outta doors because we've gone in and outta doors our entire lives, whether it's somebody opening the door for us or us opening it ourselves. We walk through the door and we just allow it to swing shut behind us. And I think we live in a world today that we all need to learn to stop as we go through that door, turn around and pull that door shut and make sure that door pressure, the air pressure from inside the buildings, not keeping that door or that from, from latching and making sure that, that our building's really safe. I think it's another place, Kevin, that we ought to give people permission if we've got somebody, uh, who has decided to prop a door open and somebody sees it, they need to do something about it. 

Speaker 5 (05:04):

And absolutely. And that permission is kick that, you know, kick that lever up, close that door, and then immediately go find your administrator who, or your, your, um, coordinator, whomever you report to and have a conversation about. Remember, safety comes first. I think you heard a parent say this summer in several of the meetings that you were in, you know, it sounds like to me convenience means we're an unsafe and inconvenient means we're safe. And, and we don't want our schools to be so inconvenient that we can't have school. Uh, but we also wanna make sure our schools are safe. And so when somebody sees something, say something, do something. Right. 

Speaker 4 (05:39):

Um, communications, let's talk about communications. I, I'm really excited. Um, and really, um, you, you've kind of had a vision for one part of this and I've worked on, on another that we had. But, um, we have a couple of new forms coming out, um, online where folks can give us feedback concerning safety. And so, um, you know, from a student parent stakeholder, community member standpoint, um, we have a, a form online, um, that's on our safety page, um, that is called the School Safety First Form. And so it, it really is a form that is for, um, serious concerns about, um, weapons or threats or other kinds of violence related to school. Um, you can share, um, uh, as much information as you'd like. Um, you can share your name so we can follow up with you or you can remain anonymous. And so it's just a really quick, easy way. And sometimes, um, that'll be routed to the correct people, our campus administrators, our safety team, our Amarillo, I s d police department, and we'll get on looking into that concern and investigating it and figuring out what's the right way to address. 

Speaker 5 (06:53):

Yeah. I, Kevin, this is, this goes back to see something, say something. Almost every one of these events that takes place across the nation or that have happened in some of our schools at times, somebody saw the flags flying before the event happened. And so it doesn't matter whether it's at, you know, eight o'clock in the morning that you overhear something in the hallway, or if it's, you know, at midnight and you're about to go to bed and you saw something on Facebook, you know, this form will allow, uh, students, parents, community members, staff members, stakeholders, um, to send a message. And, and it's not uncommon for our team, you know, for for, to get that dinging in the middle of the night. And when that ding goes off, you roll over and, and, and there's, there's an issue happening. And so we can start taking immediate action even if it's in the middle of the night. And that's not uncommon for us. 

Speaker 4 (07:38):

Right. Talk to us about the, the safety control page for staff. 

Speaker 5 (07:42):

Yeah. I, I think this comes back to, uh, just transparency for us. Um, you know, in, in the medical world, um, they, they have a, they have a practice called a, a medical page. And it, it's really when somebody makes an error, uh, they hope it's not a grave error, but when they make an error, whether it's about they gave a medication too early, gave it too late, gave it too often, or if there were some other procedure that was taking place, and either you self-report that, uh, or somebody else reports it. And let's get really clear this, this is not a gotcha page. This is not something to get someone in trouble. It is about us looking at our, our practices, our protocols, and our procedures. Are we following them? Uh, and, and if we're not following them, how do we need to change that process or that protocol? 

Speaker 5 (08:30):

And so the safety control page is really a place for staff to go in when they see something and they think, God, we gotta do better here. We can't have that door unlocked, or we need to change this process that it's not working. What this allows is for anyone on staff to be able to report what they see and what they're feeling and, and what may be a solution might be. And then it allows us to get it into chain of command and work through it to see if we can improve our processes. Because what this is about is about getting better and not getting complacent. 

Speaker 4 (09:05):

Right. So again, both of these forms, um, on our website, ama, and you're gonna look for the section about police and safety, and both of those links can be found there. And again, um, those will be routed to the correct people. So Doug, um, kind of one of those things that I don't know people have a lot of mixed emotions about, but the hardening of schools. So, um, talk about, uh, the thought process that we've had and vision around hardening. 

Speaker 5 (09:33):

Yeah. Uh, we've, we've spent a lot of time talking about how do you harden your campus? And so one of the first things that we've done is we've, we've improved our, um, security, uh, devices and equipment that our liaison officers and our A I S D PD officers have at their disposal. We are making sure that they have things that will allow them to breach doors to get into schools. We've spent a lot of time, um, making sure our local law enforcement all have access, um, to our buildings, um, and in an emergency. And, and so they, they now, or, and, and shortly will, uh, have access, uh, to our campuses. And then when they get there, the equipment that they might need will be available on our campuses so they could breach a door if they needed to breach a door. So that's one example. 

Speaker 5 (10:24):

Um, you know, the, the other thing that we've, we've taken a hard look because when you, when you think about securing a campus, you really, if you, if you start from the outside, you start at the perimeter at the property line, and then you move to the envelope of the building, and then really the last bastion of security is that classroom where you are. And so we've taken a lot hard look at our classrooms, and all of our classrooms over the next 12 months or so will be retrofitted with hardcore doors, um, that, that are windowless. And they will have classroom function door locks, meaning that every time a door closes, it'll be locked automatically. And to be able to get inside of that classroom, uh, you'll have to have a key to unlock that door. And that just adds to that level of security. 

Speaker 5 (11:10):

Nobody's having to think about, did I lock my door? Did I not lock my door? What do I do when that drill goes off and I don't have my key and have to step out into the hallway to try to lock a door? Um, and we've not lost sight of how that will disrupt class, the function of schools. And so we're looking at, can we an additional to the, to the hardcore doors, the classroom function door locks, can we get fob access, um, which will help the, the functioning of the school move, move at a, at a better pace. Um, and so all of that is, is being looked at and, and will, the doors and the locks have, have already been approved and they're moving. And so we're looking at that fall access as, as another example, 

Speaker 4 (11:54):

Um, environmental control. So one, one of the areas that our, um, bond committee actually over the last year or so, identified as an area that we needed to improve, um, in is, is our elementary and, and some of our secondary gyms. So those gyms where re don't have air conditioning, um, those doors many times are propped open for airflow, and we realize the vulnerability that, that that creates for our kids. So we, we've created a, a kind of a prototype over at, um, Belmar Elementary. And so our, our in-house maintenance crews, our currently, um, they've actually finished Belmar. They know what it takes to, to air condition one of those elementary sized gyms, the equipment that's needed, the supplies that are needed. And so, um, we've got, I think a, a model there that we can recreate and we've already approved beginning to air condition those elementary gyms that we have so that we don't have doors that need to be propped open. Uh, a little bit more extensive amount of work's gonna be required at the secondary level to address middle schools and even some of our high school gyms that are not air conditioned. But those are things we're working on, um, to make sure that we don't have, um, you know, some simple solutions to things that cause us to be vulnerable. 

Speaker 5 (13:12):

Uh, another, another piece of the, of the hardening aspect is that conversation about how do you control the perimeter? And we, we've been able to control our perimeter with, with fencing at our high schools. And so the next question is, how do you control that perimeter with our middle schools and elementaries, and we've contracted with an architect and they're studying what that looks like and what it will take. And so coming soon will be recommendations on how do we start securing the perimeter of, of our elementaries and middle schools, um, to, to ensure that safety. 

Speaker 4 (13:43):

Absolutely. And, you know, um, I think you mentioned it earlier, but you know, making sure our law enforcement partners have access when they need it to our schools. We've, we've worked on that with local law enforcement partners, um, to make sure that, you know, whether it's during school hours or after school hours, those folks can access school buildings when they need to. Um, updating some of our, our camera coverage and, and video camera access that we have, um, we, we really have a pretty extensive system of that, but we have some areas where we can make coverage better. And then finally, the communication just from individual classrooms. So updates to, uh, a hardwired telephone, so to speak, um, that is in every single classroom as well as PA communications that, that make those communications even more ro robust than they are. 

Speaker 5 (14:36):

Yeah. I, I think it, what's important, you know, is some of the lessons that we've learned out of the latest shootings, uh, and incidents that happened at campuses is, uh, from those PA systems, because not always does someone at the school have the ability to call for a lockdown because of the incident that's going on, and based on the upgrades that we have from the pa, uh, we'll be able to call a lockdown from virtually anywhere in the, in the district, in a campus that needs to be locked down immediately. And so that's definitely improving. Um, this is not really about hardening Kevin, but one of the things I'm, I'm most proud about, uh, the work that's been going on with us, the both the Potter and Randall County Sheriff's Department, a p d, our own A I S D D P S, and the Texas Rangers Juvenile Probation from both counties and, and then several, uh, mental health professionals from across the community. 

Speaker 5 (15:26):

We've been meeting, um, and we've had four i four or five meetings over the last, you know, 60 days or so that really has allowed us to talk about how do we work better together, whether it's about communicating together, whether it's about access into our buildings when there's an emergency, and then, and then how do we support one another, um, to be more proactive than just reactive. And those, those conversations are, um, ongoing. And really there's, we, we've, we've already crossed some of those bridges that other places seem to, to struggle with in, in terms of when there's, when there's an emergency, how does the communication, um, unfold? Who's in charge when somebody shows up at, at an, at a, at a scene and, and all of our law enforcement entities are, are really clear and have a clear understanding of how that works. Um, and, and what I, what I, what I feel from them is I don't have any, any qualms about who will be first through the door and what they will do to ensure our staff and our kids are safe, um, if, if and when the day comes that we find ourselves in one of those situations. 

Speaker 4 (16:41):

You know, one thing we didn't talk about that is a big part of what we're doing is, is the use of the Raptor app and the Raptor technology. Yeah. So, um, as a part of our campus trainings, um, during that half day, we're, we're given our, our, our staff members the chance to not only train and learn about how to use Raptor, but how to practice using Raptor. And again, it's a, it's a, um, phone or, or iPad based app in most cases. And we all know that the easiest way to learn how to use a new app on your phone is to, um, play with it and to, to practice with it. And so, um, really having a strong foundation for all staff members about how do you account for yourself, and in the case of an emergency, how do we account for every one of our kids? And, um, and how do we, you know, report different things that are going on as we see them. And again, that's anyone, that's anybody from the principal all the way to a custodian on a campus. How do, how do we do that together? And, um, and so learning and, and learning about Raptor and then having the chance to practice with Raptor is a big part of what we're doing with staff. 

Speaker 5 (17:49):

Yeah. Kevin, I, I what I, I'm impressed with what Raptor has brought to us from terms of notification all the way to reunification in, in a disaster. But what I think is important, and there's no single one way, uh, to report an emergency. Remember, all our classrooms are, have panic buttons in them. They all soon will have telephones in them. Um, and then we have Raptor. And so there are multiple ways to, to call for an emergency. Um, I think it's important for everybody to understand you have that permission. If the hair on the back of your neck standing up, something doesn't feel right, and you think, Hey, I think, I think we at least need to go to a, a, a, a secure, maybe not a complete lockdown, but a secure, you need to have, have the confidence to push that button, whatever that button is, or make that call and say, here's what's happening. 

Speaker 5 (18:38):

Because when you see something, please, please say something. Um, if, if I had three wishes, um, for, for this school year, one would be every person who walks through a door will stop, turn around and make sure that door secu secures behind them. Absolutely. Number two, um, let's make sure our communication is clear and concise. We, we've talked about a, a couple of new web-based, uh, uh, protocols that when staff or stakeholders see something, say something, let's, let's get it into the system and let's get working on that. And maybe number and number three, just as, just as important as we drill and as we work through, through what could be those tabletop activities, make sure we're taking those seriously and that we're working through those and we're seeing them as a way to be proactive and, and not fail in an actual situation. 

Speaker 4 (19:35):

Okay, folks, that wraps up this, uh, episode of Schoolwork. And again, just a reminder as needed, when we feel there's something important for our staff, for our community to know about in A I S D, we're gonna be using the Schoolwork podcast. And so we look forward to being with you, um, the next time.

Season 2, Episode 5 Summary

We're having an honest conversation with Superintendent Doug Loomis about talk of a budget shortfall and what that means for jobs. He's heard the rumors, too, and he wants to set the record straight.


Speaker 1 (00:08):

Happy Thursday, everyone. Welcome back to an abbreviated version of schoolwork. Uh, it's been a bit, um, but Mr. Loomis and I are here this morning. We, uh, hope everyone is looking forward to a much needed long weekend. Um, we wanted to just take a few minutes, um, share some information, um, and hopefully ease any concerns that are out there with staff members as they leave for the long weekend so they can relax and enjoy, uh, the Easter season. Doug, let's, let's talk about our challenges with the loss of student enrollment and, um, you know, we've been studying this for a bit and, uh, talking about this with principals over the last few weeks. So let's share some information and talk about our challenges, um, moving into the rest of this school year and as we head into next school 

Speaker 2 (00:56):

Year. Yeah, uh, no doubt, uh, we've all started to, to focus in on this loss of enrollment and how it's really going to affect staffing patterns, uh, for next year. Uh, I wish this morning I, I could just say, uh, just bad rumors out there. Uh, but, but the truth is, uh, we've lost some significant enrollment. Um, what I'm really proud of is that, uh, as we recognized where this, that the student enrollment is going to be significant, um, we've really tried to figure out a way to be open, transparent, honest, um, and, and maybe is equally important. And, and it may not fill this away from, from campuses or, or out in the trenches, but really, how do you have this conversation from where it counts the most? Not in the superintendent's office, but, uh, in, in the classrooms. And, and so I, I think the first message that needs to go out there, um, and we've been really clear, and I'm going to be really clear again today. 

Speaker 2 (02:01):

There are no layoffs pending. There are no layoffs coming and nobody's getting fired. Um, we, we are living in a, in a, in a world, uh, post pandemic, um, that just no one, um, could have predicted or, or saw coming. Um, I, I so much appreciate, uh, our educators, our staff members, um, that are out in the trenches and do such a great job every day. Um, and, and I just believe there's only one way to head off, um, you know, some, some tough times. And that's being honest, that's being open, um, that's being, uh, as transparent as we can and look for solutions together. So let's, let's talk about how we got here. You know, for, for about the last 10 years. Um, A I S D has had a slow decrease in enrollment. We won't get deep into the the whys of that, but it, it, it really is about boundaries. 

Speaker 2 (03:05):

It's really about refugees. Uh, there, there's a lot of things that have changed. And so we have gotten really good at building safeguards to monitor that and to deal with that loss of enrollment or on the other side, if we happen to have a spike, those safeguards would allow us to deal with that. And all of us have felt that over the years. Uh, and we always have felt it this time of year or a lot of times in, in, um, in the fall. In the fall, yeah. In September. Uh, because, you know, you, you, you start looking at where the needs are and, and, and classes didn't make here or there was extra needs here. And so you start seeing some movement of staff, you know, where the need is most. And I, I think where you feel that really heavy is, you know, in, in September when, when you're at elementary and, and, and enrollment has decreased a little bit, your projections were off a little bit and it decreases. 

Speaker 2 (04:02):

And so all of a sudden you thought you had three sections, you only need two, but you need that third section across town or in, you know, at a neighboring school. And so there's that kind of movement. So, so what we're talking about right here is not any different than what we do every year this time. The difference is we've just had a much larger decar in enrollment than any of us would ever of fathom coming out of, of Covid. Um, covid was, was a, was a strange phenomena. You know, we shut school down this time in, in 2020 and, and, and we held, you know, we, we, we were just trying to hold it together. And then last year as we came back, um, we were just, we were dealing in a very, very difficult situation where we had large number of kids out, large number of staff members out trying to carry two platforms, really changed the focus of education. 

Speaker 2 (04:56):

And in that last 24 months, you know, we've not done what we've traditionally, traditionally would've done with those safeguards. Um, and, and by and large, we just left everybody where, where they were because quite frankly, we didn't know what attendance was going to look like coming out of this. And, and just coming out of this, we're, you know, we're down 1500 kids approximately, but when you look at staff, we're still up about 200 positions over that same time. And so, so that helps you get a sense of, of how we try to stretch that dollar. Uh, but when you have literally overnight in that decade of 2000 loss, we lost 1500 of those. 

Speaker 1 (05:37):

Hey, the other thing that I, I, I've thought about and we talked about a couple of days ago is, is during 2021, we, we did not make some of the normal adjustments that we make because we had to stand up both virtual and in-person instruction. Yeah. 

Speaker 2 (05:52):

Without a pandemic. We would've just continued that slow decrease of an enrollment we would, those safeguards we have in play, we would've never felt this kind of punch in the gut that, that we're feeling coming out of this. And so, you know, we, you know, one of the, when you think about a loss of 1500 students, what that equates to is just a, a loss of revenue. And, you know, we believe in being good stewards and, and we believe in, in, in being good fiduciaries and, and living within our means. We don't, we don't live outside of our means. It's much like, you know, all of us have budgets in our home, and we live within those means. And, and once in a while, you know, something, something out of the ordinary attacks our home, our, our household budgets, you know, you're, you're moving along, everything's happening, and all of a sudden you've got a 16 year old that needs a new car. 

Speaker 2 (06:43):

Yeah. And or, you know, even where, you know, something tragic, you, you wake up and, and somebody's got a medical event, and all of a sudden, you know, you've got huge deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses and, and which really cramp, um, cramp your, your home budget. And, and that's, that's, that's sort of what this equates to. No one should interpret that I'm gonna lose my job. Right. I'm gonna, I'm, I'm, I'm gonna get laid off. You know, it, it, it is one of those opportunities that, you know, you and I have had it. You know, I, I don't never forget how many times Mr. Williams has walked into my domain when, when I was still on campuses and say, Hey, Mr. Lum, I got a new opportunity for you, then that might be what this is. And I think that's what everybody ought to look at. 

Speaker 2 (07:26):

This is, you know, how, how do we first take care of that classroom instruction and support those what goes on in classrooms? And, and that might mean some of us have an opportunity to do something a little differently. Uh, it might not. Um, and there's, it, it is just one of, one of the facts of of, of, I guess not facts. I guess it's our reality. We've, we've lost some enrollment. Uh, and so we're gonna deal with that and we're gonna deal with it in a positive way. Um, we're gonna continue to support our, our staff. Um, and we're not one of those districts who waking up saying, Hey, let's have a reduction in force. Let's lay people off and let's fire people. I believe the conversation starts at the campus and talks about, you know, how can we restructure and how can we do better? Because quite frankly, we typically do our very best when the pressure's been applied, um, and we got a little pressure being applied. And so, uh, we, we will do our very best as, as we come out of this. 

Speaker 1 (08:26):

So, Doug, I, I really think one of the things also, as we, as we spread the message that we're gonna make these adjustments, things are gonna be okay, this is really a normal part of what we do every year. It, it's just the, the impact of it probably will be a little bit bigger because of the number of kids. Um, but as we make these adjustments, uh, you know, the other thing I think it's important to remember is all the things that, that as a district we've worked hard to do, to take care, care of our, our staff. And 

Speaker 2 (08:57):

So, you know, as you go off to have a great Easter weekend, I want you to go with a smile on your face, and I want you to know everything's gonna be okay. Um, we're not laying staff off. Uh, yeah, we're gonna make some adjustments and, and it may be some new opportunities for some of us or different kinds of op opportunities, but, but bot the bottom line, A I S D is really a physically healthy organization. And what I truly believe in my heart, you know, we're gonna come out of this better, stronger, um, we just can't allow fear to be the driving force behind us. And instead, I, you know, I don't, I would encourage everybody to trust that process. Kevin. Um, we, you know, my, my fellow trustees, this board of eight, this team of eight that I'm on with, with the trustees, um, I, I have never seen a group of trustees as focused on how do you take care of staff? 

Speaker 2 (09:57):

Because our goal is to educate kids, but, but what they all know is, is how you impact those kids is great quality staff and supporting them. And so I just, you know, if, if you're one of those guys that says, yeah, well, I just can't trust, I, I I I I need a little bit of evidence, or I need a little bit of a reminder. I was thinking last night, you know, well, what is this? What has this team of eight done that says we believe in staff? And I just, I was reminded, um, you know, out of the last three years, professional staff has gotten a four, a three and a three and a half percent raise because we really believe in our hourly workers that those that, that, that cook for us, that clean for us, that support us, that build for us, you know, they've had a six four and a three point a half percent increase. 

Speaker 2 (10:49):

Um, because our board doesn't want teachers spending money out of their pocket. They've, they've implemented a, a teacher supply stipend. Um, and I think, you know, what got us here is this C O V I dilemma that we're in not a, not a not being insightful, not being able to predict and not being prepared for the future because we are prepared for it. But we walked into C O V I and I'm, and I was so proud of this district because everyone received a paycheck during Covid. Even our, some of our, our part-time employees, like our substitutes Yep. Were able to continue to, to get that, you know, our, our insurance, uh, you know, as so many people walked away from self-insured or, uh, plans, um, they walked into t r s and, and I'm telling you, our, our insurance plan, you know, when you don't have premiums, you can choose not to have premiums as an employee. 

Speaker 2 (11:41):

You, your maximum out of pocket is 3000. And when you look at some of those other plans out there, they're just, they're huge. And, and there's, you know, there's thou tens of thousands of potential dollars out of pocket with that. You know, I, I think about teacher reading academies, there's been a pretty good discussion in the state, at the state board about how difficult these are. And, and I'm so proud of what our board did, you know, and it was one of those things that instead of just saying, go do it on your own, let us pay you. And, and all of those things are, are, are wrapped up in what I, me being able to say, Hey, just trust the process. I promise it's going to be okay, and we're going to find our way through it. There may be some bumps, um, and there may be a few, few bruises along the way, but that doesn't mean somebody's gonna lose their job. Somebody's gonna be laid off. And somehow A I S D isn't in physically in really good health, we are in really, really good health. The problem is we've just lost 1500 students due to a pandemic. 

Speaker 1 (12:44):

So, Mr. Loomis, um, we, right now, we, we've had this conversation, we've studied the data, we've sent this back to our principals to talk with their teams about how to make these adjustments. And so let, let's talk about if we were to ever get to the point where we had a, a catastrophic situation where people were gonna be laid off versus how we've approached this so far. How, how would people know about that? How would that be different than what we're doing right now? 

Speaker 2 (13:12):

Yeah. Thanks, Kevin. That's, that's a great question. If we ever find ourselves in a catastrophic, catastrophic event, whether it's financial or something else, you'll hear that immediately from the top down. Uh, we will communicate that, communicate that clearly and loudly so everybody understands from day one exactly where we 

Speaker 1 (13:32):

Are. So really the bottom line as we kinda wrap up, um, this is gonna be okay. We will figure out how to make these adjustments. Um, we want staff to rest easy. Um, when it comes to this challenge, trust the process. We, we definitely are, are gonna need to tighten our belts, so to speak. But if you're a staff member who's with us here in A I S D, what we really want you to know as you, as you make your way into the Easter weekend, um, is that if, if you plan on being with us next year, if you're not relocating, retiring, leaving a I S D, um, what we want you to know is that we need you now and we're gonna need you next school year. That's the bottom line. Um, here's the best news of today. We won't need you tomorrow. So, um, again, uh, long weekend, we hope everybody gets some rest. We appreciate what each of you do each day at school. Um, we appreciate you taking the time to listen. Um, and we'll see you back Monday morning, rested and rejuvenated and ready to go. So thank you for all you do and, uh, we appreciate you.

Season 2, Episode 4 Summary

In this episode, we chat with Anne Grady. She’s a resilience expert, best-selling author, and two-time TEDx speaker. Anne has spent the last two decades teaching resilience as a life skill. In part two of our conversation, we learn more about emotional intelligence and how it can transform the dynamics in your classroom.


Speaker 1 (00:00):


Speaker 2 (00:06):

I'll start this one. Yeah. 

Speaker 2 (00:09):

Here's the telling. How many times We'll have to do it over, but I'll start it. Hey, everybody. Um, back with another episode of Schoolwork and, um, Heather, we got another really packed, really cool, um, little segment here. We do continuing the conversation with Anne and really gonna talk about how it all starts in our classroom. We talked, um, in the previous episode about, you know, the reality that we're in the stress, um, kind of those things that you need to watch out for in terms of burnout. Some, some things you can do to, to take care of yourself. And really, I, I think this is a cool episode because one of the common themes that we talked about before we did this podcast Yep. And what I heard from some other teachers, other environments, is that a lot of what we're experiencing manifests is self with classroom disruption. Yeah. Which then frustrates you all as teachers because you're there and your passion is, is about teaching. And, um, and so we just kind of get in this vicious cycle where our kids are sometimes manifesting what they feel in disruption in the classroom, and then that makes it harder for us to teach. And, and she has 

Speaker 3 (01:22):

Such a personal story with this. Absolutely. 

Speaker 2 (01:24):

She's got a lot of personal stories about this in her own family. And, um, so we're, we're just trying, trying to glean how we can help everybody take care of, of ourselves emotionally and, um, and really our role in teaching some of those emotional intelligence type things and how that starts in regulating what's going on in our classrooms. 

Speaker 3 (01:45):

And she, and she talks about some things to do in the classroom that are really cool. Yes. Really cool things. And then she also talks about, still about self-care. She's still, there's still that theme running through there of self-care. That's that I think if we will step out of the box Yes. And try for ourselves and be vulnerable with our kids. 

Speaker 2 (02:05):

And here's the cool thing. If there's anything all of us have learned in the last year and a half Yep, that's true. It's about not being fearful of stepping outta the box, trying so, to try something different. Trying 

Speaker 3 (02:14):

So new we've got. Well, and I think we've got to, if we're gonna see some changes that need to happen for our kids, for us, for our classrooms, 

Speaker 2 (02:23):

So here we go, episode two with Anne Grady. 

Speaker 4 (02:29):

This, this means You, but Planet Earth, she can get enough. She's been writing love songs and poems. 

Speaker 3 (02:46):

You talk a lot about emotional intelligence and understanding our own selves. Can you bring that in to that as well? Sure. 

Speaker 5 (02:55):

Um, emotional intelligence is several fold. One, it's like, first of all, it's being understand, able to understand how you show up, how does your mood affect the, what you're doing and the people around you. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. 'cause oftentimes we have, well, everybody has wine spots. It's parts of your behavior and personality that are really pretty clear to other people, but that you can't see. And that's not a lack of emotional intelligence. That's human, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So it's seeking feedback and clarification on what those things are so you can be more self-aware of how you show up. Some of it is reading the room, and you can stop when you get to that point of, um, desperation and take back control. Emotional regulation is social awareness. It's being able to understand social cues. This is something my son cannot do. Right. Read facial expressions, body expressions. 

Speaker 5 (03:54):

Um, it, it's understanding how to build successful relationships, which again, our kids are on the phone. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, Snapchatting each other, not talking with each other. And we've, um, I think allowed technology that is supposed to be a really helpful driving force to overstep its bound sometimes. And that's really hard to stop because e every kid is glued to a device, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So emotional intelligence is stopping to ask yourself, is the way I'm thinking and behaving helping me and the people around me be better? And if it's not, it's stopping to reevaluate. What do I need to shift and how do I do it? The problem is, most of us try to make these rapid sweeping changes, and it's like New Year's resolutions. None of them stick. So it's learning subtle habits and practicing them repeatedly over time until they become a habituated response and then building a new habit. 

Speaker 2 (04:57):

So what are, what are some of those habits that we could begin to build in classrooms that would help us, um, combat what we're talking about and how that affects our teachers? 

Speaker 5 (05:11):

So one easy one is an emotional check-in. How are you feeling this morning? And really learning to pay attention to your emotions. Most of us cannot. 36%. They did a study, 500,000 people and only 36% of those people could accurately identify an emotion they were feeling. I mean, think about that. Like at the basic level, we have to teach our kids and our teachers and our administrators and our staff how to do an emotional check-in. What am I feeling right now? It's actually called tracking. It's reading your nervous system. And it's not assigning judgment or or negative, um, intention to any of those things. But it's like saying, okay, my stomach is really tight right now. What is my body trying to tell me? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, my shoulders are like rocks. What is my brain trying to tell me? It's your nervous system trying to give you information. It's an alarm clock that we just keep pressing the snooze button on. So one, it's how are you showing up? Let's do an emotional check-in. What emotion do you feel right now? And where in your body do you feel that? And you start training kids to read their nervous system because that gets your brain back online. 

Speaker 2 (06:23):

So in another, in Heather's class, is that a, you know, does Heather have her kids do that and check in? And then is there a share out part to that? Or is it really just about each person, each kiddo, Heather as the teacher taking account of that for themselves and just being aware of where they are individually? 

Speaker 5 (06:48):

Uh, I think at first at least its sharing. And it starts with Heather sharing it. Hey everybody, I'm feeling heavy in my stomach. I had something happen at home and it's, I can feel it in my body. Right? It's that vulnerability. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and then saying, you know, not calling on a kid. Right. Because we don't wanna put 'em on the spot. But you can say, who else is willing to share what emotion you feel and where in your body you feel it. And at first it's so weird and it's not something that even makes sense. So you have to teach them how to do that. Like, how does your stomach feel? Like when you're hungry, your stomach growls. That's how you know you're hungry. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, my stomach's growling right now. That's how you know you're hungry. When your shoulders are like bricks, that's when you know that there is something causing mm-hmm. 

Speaker 5 (07:34):

<affirmative> resistance and stress. So first you have to become aware of it before you can do anything about it. And another simple practice, I was talking about gratitude with Heather earlier. So there's, you know, this basic, your brain is structured to where anytime you have a negative experience, your brain internalizes it immediately to protect you from it happening again. When you have a good experience, your brain doesn't need to hold onto it because it's not helping you survive. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So we have to learn to do something called savoring. It means magnifying good experiences and really sitting in them for 15 to 20 seconds to allow it to change the function and structure of your brain. So I call these beautiful moments that we often miss because we're in such a hurry to get to happy. Uh, I call them delicious moments. And the research shows that if you have a delicious moment, like for example, a teacher gets an apple from a student that says, thank you. 

Speaker 5 (08:37):

Right? Well, normally we're like, oh, that's sweet, thank you. And we move on. But if you hold that apple and you're like, wow, that really feels nice. I forgot what it feels like to be so appreciated. That feels really good in my heart right now. Right. Then what that does is it stores long-term in your, so there's an activity that you can do, and a lot of educators I've seen do this. And I get to see them on Instagram and on social that they've created these delicious moments boards. And it's a way to teach gratitude to the kids. And it's every day you have to put one thing you're grateful for on the board, or if you have a delicious moment, like if you had a really good meal or, or you laughed a lot or something, you know, fun happened, you write it down and you put it on the board. 

Speaker 5 (09:25):

Because what that does is it creates a surge of dopamine and serotonin while you're writing it down and thinking about it. And then you go back to the board and you revisit it. 'cause inevitably, you know, if you take a sticky note every day for six weeks and every kid is trying to write down now, you don't wanna force it. And there are some kids that unfortunately don't have a ton of positive experiences at home. Like school is the only opportunity for them to have these really rich, positive experiences. So you start training the kids and you as the teacher to pay attention to these delicious moments. You give everybody a sticky pad, you have 'em write it down, you put it on the board. It's not like a have to, it's a choose to. And what you'll start to see is you train your brain to start searching for those experiences throughout the day, which offsets your stress response. So it's a simple practice. It doesn't take much time at all. You can just leave a sticky notepad on every kid's desk. Right. Or you can ask the kids if they're younger and write it up on the board and marker. Right. But you, you keep track of these beautiful moments and it's a great way to show the parents, like, here are some of the things your child is really grateful for. I mean, who doesn't wanna hear that as a parent? Right? So 

Speaker 3 (10:41):

That's such a practical visual thing to be able to see in a classroom as well. 

Speaker 5 (10:46):

Absolutely. Absolutely. Like, don't write kids' names on the board when they misbehave, that invites more misbehavior. Right? Right. And it singles the kid out and it creates shame. I was that kid who got their name on the board and who had to write, like, I will not talk in class. I will not talk in class. And I'm not sure where along the line we learned that that was an effective form of discipline, but instead, capitalize on the kid's strength. You like talking in class. What is it you like about that? And then you figure out how do you tap into that kid's strengths instead of condemning them for the thing that they like and they're good at. Right. I mean, these are just different ways of thinking about education that we often don't have time to do. 

Speaker 3 (11:27):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And how does that build that resilience that we desperately need to see in ourselves and our kids? 

Speaker 5 (11:35):

Well kids, by the time they're in middle school, they're beat down. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, they've been told all the things they're not good at. They've been exposed to social media, they already start having insecurities and body image issues, and other kids are cruel. Right? So you teach kindness, you teach gratitude, you mindfulness, and all of those are scientifically proven ways to help build up your immunity to adversity. It doesn't mean that when you encounter a rough patch that you flawlessly skate through it, but it does mean that you build that, um, it's almost like a resilience gauge, right? You fill it up so that when those things happen, you're not left completely empty, you have a buffer zone, and you're able to build that buffer zone so that you recover more quickly. You're still gonna get knocked down. 'cause that's life. Like the average person experiences five to six traumas if they're lucky. If you teach people how to buffer around that and develop the skills that offset that those traumas don't become so crippling that you can't recover. Does that make sense? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yes ma'am. 

Speaker 2 (12:46):

So help us, help us understand. 'cause I think, I think a lot of people, maybe even myself, you know, we just, we, we, we see different people or different kids and we say, man, that kid handles adversity really well. You know, that kid is tough. They, they, there's nothing that can get that kid down. So are people, are there some people that are just born with that trait and they are, you know, they, they innately handle adversity very well, better than the rest of us? Or, or is it really that adversity and handling and having that immunity to adversity that you're talking about, is it really built to some degree in every person, in every child? Uh, what are your thoughts about that? 

Speaker 5 (13:34):

Well, there's a lot of research supporting both sides of that issue. There's a lot of research studying children and their life experiences and what happens. And we know that there connections, there's social connections. Their relationships at a young age are the biggest determinant of that skill. So you could have someone that has a thicker skin, so to say, like, um, who's a little mentally tougher as a natural ingrained personality trait. But if you have someone who doesn't have that and you teach them to cultivate it, and the other child who naturally has it doesn't practice it, the child who practices it is going to be more resilient. So we can, these are, these are skills and habits that can be taught and trained. And I gotta tell you, based on my life experiences and dealing with my son and everything that I've been through, I use those skills way more than I use algebra. 

Speaker 5 (14:31):

My, like, I use resilient skills every single day. The last time I had to figure out a coefficient or, you know, like common denominator, I don't, I use a calculator and I hate to say that, right? But like, I needed to learn how to manage the stress that I was experiencing in my home as a child. It was a, a, a very traumatic childhood, and I didn't have a way to cope with that. And I wasn't taught how to cope with that. So the algebra didn't matter because I was riddled with anxiety and depression. Right. And you can't learn when you're in a state of survival. What makes people successful is their ability to build relationships and connect with other people and be healthy mentally and, and be well. So I'm not suggesting that you teach gratitude in place of history or algebra. I'm suggesting you integrate it into the lesson y 

Speaker 2 (15:24):

Y'all may have already talked about this before I joined, but how does this, how does all of what we've talked about tie to classroom discipline problems? Um, because I think a lot of our teachers in, in talking to teachers over the last month, month and a half, you know, I think we're, we have some areas where we're, we have challenges with classroom disruption and it's, it's hard for our teachers to maintain the environment that they want in their classroom because there is a disruption of some kind. And then, and then on our administrator side, you know, we, we have some tools that we've had in the past that have been taken away that we can no longer use in a discipline type situation to change behavior. And so we have this, we have this vicious cycle of teachers who are working hard to teach and do, and for kids to learn. And then they have these disruptions that occur. And, and all of us, whether you're the teacher or the administrator, we all run to a consequence as opposed to how do we really figure out what's going on here and change behavior so that we can get the environment back to where it needs to be so that Heather can teach and her kids can learn. How, how do those things tie together? 

Speaker 5 (16:49):

Well, what I talked to Heather about before you were here is that, you know, my son was that disruption. He was causing classroom clears in preschool and kindergarten and was violent, not toward other students, but toward himself and toward the teacher. Um, and so the first part of it is training teachers on, you know, most, I I don't wanna say most all children would behave if they could Sure. If they had the physical and or mental ability to do it. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, nobody wants to be a failure. Right. And so every behavior has a reason. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and for my son in particular, he looks normal. He sounds normal, but he is the most defiant, argumentative, oppositional difficult human that I've ever been around. And I love him more than anything in the world. But he is the student that all of those classes, and I wanted him in mainstream gen ed classes because I wanted him to have the experiences. 

Speaker 5 (17:57):

But then you have all these other parents who are like, I'm not sending my kid to school so your kid can clear the classroom every two hours. I'm not suggesting it's an easy answer. Right. The teachers, what, you know, the ones who were the best advocates for Evan were the ones who were like, he's a good child. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, he needs help. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Right? So when we, there's a halo horn effect. And what it means is that we, if there's a child that is well-behaved most of the time and they misbehave, we look past it, right? They're a good kid. We look for the things they do. Right. And when they misbehave, there must be something going on. If there's a kid that commonly misbehaves like my son, it's the horn effect. And even when they do behave, we don't recognize it. 'cause that's what they're supposed to do. 

Speaker 5 (18:47):

So we're only focusing on the misbehavior. Well, behavior that gets attention is repeated. So if we're only paying attention to the negative behavior, the best calls I ever received while Evan was in school were from his teachers saying, Evan regulated really well this afternoon. He had a meltdown in the morning, but he got it back together. We're so proud of him. Right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative> as a parent, those are the things you wanna hear as a student. When kids who struggle are holding it together, everybody assumes, well, that's just what they're supposed to do. But for a lot of these kids, they're working so hard to hold it together. Right. And if they have a blow up, then oh, well now you're a disruption, but you don't pay attention to the 60% of the day that they were able to keep it all together. And part of it is using it as a lesson and empathy. 

Speaker 5 (19:38):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Right. And they're using it as a way to discuss emotional intelligence. Right. The, the reason Evan's behavior is what it is, is his brain doesn't work the way other brains work. And more and more kids. Were starting to see these tendencies as a spectrum, not just autistic spectrum or autism spectrum, but a spectrum of these behaviors. If you've got a child who's raised in an emotionally abusive home and they're told they're stupid, they're lazy, and they're worthless, which a lot of kids unfortunately are, by the time they get to school, they think the only way to get attention is to misbehave. 

Speaker 3 (20:17):

But in the classroom, a teacher can, can do these things and, and do it with themselves and their own children, and then bring it into the classroom in a way that we're making a difference, even if it's just one classroom at a time. 

Speaker 5 (20:33):

Exactly. Because the ki like, you don't have as many kids like Evan as you do, kids who are having behavioral issues because of some treatable thing, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, like, if you can teach kids at a very young age to learn to regulate their emotion, then you mitigate a lot of those behavioral issues later on because they have an emotional vocabulary to say, I'm feeling angry because I had a fight with my mom this morning, and it makes me feel angry and my stomach is tight and I can't concentrate. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, that's what you wanna teach them when they're three. So when they're 13, they're not coming to school with a gun or having a complete meltdown. They're going to their teacher and saying, I'm feeling anxious right now, and I don't know what to do with that. And the teachers need to have the training to be able to say, let's take a few deep breaths. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, let's take a walk. Why don't you take a walk around the classroom? Why don't you, here's a fidget. Why don't you play with this for a little bit? And if the kid needs more support, then you have it. But, you know, the teachers can start this in the classroom, but they can't perfect it. Right. Like, this is a, a practice. And so my hat's off to teachers who are really making a concerted effort to build kids emotional as well as intellectual intelligence. 

Speaker 3 (21:52):

I like that. I like that a lot. I mean, I've done some of that kind of stuff in my classroom, but not to such a, um, maybe consistent degree. And I mean, when we're, when we're given some freedom and latitude to be able to take that time to do that, I think we see more teachers wanting to come, more teachers wanting to stay too. 

Speaker 5 (22:18):

And it's providing appreciation to teachers in ways that's meaningful for them. Right. And it doesn't have to be monetary mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Right. It, it's, I really appreciate the way you handled that kid. Would you be willing to teach our other staff how to do that? Mm-hmm. 

Speaker 3 (22:33):


Speaker 5 (22:34):

Like, that's a, if a if there's a teacher who loves to educate and help people feel better, that doesn't cost a thing. Right? It saves you money. Right. But would you be willing to teach that skill mm-hmm. 

Speaker 3 (22:46):


Speaker 5 (22:46):

I don't know why we're not doing more of that. 

Speaker 3 (22:49):

Right. Right. 

Speaker 5 (22:51):

So find what's working, teach other people how to do it, figure out what's not working, have support and resources to navigate that. And it's not a perfect science. This is gonna take decades and decades and decades to evaluate and restructure and think about. But the te it starts in the, in the classroom. The teachers do have a hu I still remember the teachers that helped me, and the ones that made me feel worthless. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I can still tell you every name of every teacher I had growing up who I thought supported my mental health and the ones that sabotaged it. And it makes a big difference on the kids. 

Speaker 3 (23:32):

Right. Right. So I have a, I'm gonna change, I'm gonna change directions on you. Favorite book that you're currently reading? Like do mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Tell me a, your current book. Tell me your most favorite book that you've been, that you've read. 

Speaker 5 (23:48):

Okay. So I'm currently reading, um, well, I'm rereading Growth Mindset or The Mindset, the New Psychology of Success by Carol Weck. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, I, I, I think that one's so helpful, um, personally to help you learn to take risks and, and learn that failure is okay. Uh, and I think that's a huge lesson the children need. Um, one of my favorite books is Developing the Leader Within You by John Maxwell. It was just really, um, instrumental to getting me to think like a leader and getting me to think in these ways. It's a short, easy read, but it, it was pretty powerful for me. 

Speaker 3 (24:27):

That's cool. So you mentioned earlier a new book that, that you've got. Tell us about that. Just for, 

Speaker 5 (24:33):

Uh, let me grab it for you. I'll show you, I don't have a copy of the journal right in front of me, but it's called Mind Over Moment Harness, the Power of Resilience, and it's everything we talked about today, plus a lot more. It's emotional intelligence, growth mindset, mindfulness, gratitude, um, and it's broken down, like I told you earlier, the mindset, the skillset and the ability to reset. And a special education teacher from Tara, I s d illustrated, the journal that goes with it, and a large portion of the proceeds of all of my books, this is my third book. They go to the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Central Texas. So, um, that is a, a wonderful thing to get to do. I got to write 'em a check yesterday and it, it felt wonderful. 

Speaker 3 (25:17):

Very good. Well, I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed talking to you as it just, I mean, on a personal level, just reminders about what we need to be, what I need to be doing to help my classroom be better too. Just even, even that I carry it into my classroom and change the atmosphere just by who I am. And so what a great charge. 

Speaker 5 (25:40):

And your mood is contagious. So how you show up, um, affects the, the moods of everyone you interact with. And emotional intelligence is going, all right, I feel crappy. How do I show up differently than that? 

Speaker 3 (25:55):


Speaker 5 (25:56):

<affirmative>. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Right. And it's not about how do I fake it till I make it? It's how do I literally take control of that and reset it? And nobody does it flawlessly. I don't do it flawlessly. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> like, it's, it's a practice. A daily 

Speaker 3 (26:10):

Practice. Daily practice. That's it. Yeah. I don't know about you Kevin, but that was encouraging. 

Speaker 2 (26:21):

Yes. Um, you know, episode two with Anne Ends and really just, just to reiterate about taking care of ourselves and, and trying, you know, some new things to try to do that, and, and not forgetting the emotional intelligence part that is very real in our classrooms. So 

Speaker 3 (26:38):

Real. Yep. 

Speaker 2 (26:40):

And really as we wrap up, just kind of a reminder, shoot us an email if you have, uh, an idea about a guest we could have on. 'cause that's kind of something that we've tried to work on in schoolwork, is we've moved from, you know, just kind of really, really heavy dose of administrators here from the E S C. We brought Heather into this fold and she's been a great voice as one of our teachers. And well, 

Speaker 3 (27:02):

And we want it to be about lot, not just what you might can do in your classroom, but what, just like Anne talked about, what can we do to take care of ourselves or, or anything that you wanna listen to hear about. If you know somebody, then let us know. 

Speaker 2 (27:18):

Absolutely. Blake's trying to push us to get some of the most interesting people we can and listen to them. We've had several examples of that this year with, with George and Jeremy and now Ann. So if you have an idea about someone that would be good to have on the podcast and help us in this journey to educate our kids, um, give us a shout. Shoot us an email. We'll be glad to kind of investigate. That 

Speaker 3 (27:42):

Sounds like a plan to me. Well, until next time, lean in and stay curious.

Season 2, Episode 3 Summary

In this episode, we chat with Anne Grady. She’s a resilience expert, best-selling author, and two-time TEDx speaker. Anne has spent the last two decades teaching resilience as a life skill. We covered a lot in our conversation, so we broke it up into two parts. In this episode, we talk about gratitude and mindfulness, their importance, and how they can be integrated into the classroom.


Speaker 1 (00:00):


Speaker 2 (00:06):

Are we good? Okay. Welcome back to the spring semester of schoolwork and a brand new year, Kevin. It's crazy how fast that first semester Yes, it is. Went and then it didn't go fast in the same, same day. I 

Speaker 3 (00:20):

Would just say that I think maybe those last couple of weeks were the longest two weeks that I've experienced in, in, in a good while. So, um, it is good to be back. Hope everybody's refreshed. Um, we, we've got a awesome, um, podcast in front of us here and actually we've, we've, we've got two of them coming, um, kind of on the same topics, how to, how to talk about and, and, and grapple with the concept of resilience. 

Speaker 2 (00:47):

It was good. 

Speaker 3 (00:47):

Yep. Absolutely. Ann, Ann Grady, um, is gonna be our guest and Ann and, and one other lady out there, Brene Brown, have kind of become the gurus of resilience. And so we're going to hear what Ann has to say and, um, and see if we can really work to develop each other in, in, in the area of managing our stress and the potential for burnout. 

Speaker 2 (01:12):

Yeah, she really talked about that. We, we talked about, well, you and I talked about how even in our different, uh, jobs in this district, how we are both feeling that and teachers are feeling that. And so we talk about self-care and staying aware and she, I think one thing I loved as, as a teacher is how she said, Hey, let's look at how we can bring this into our classroom. Yep. And she talked about, and it was kind of an odd thing, I think Kevin agrees. Yeah. We were sitting here in the studio with our hands out. 

Speaker 3 (01:45):

Yeah. So there's gonna be like this weird awkward silence in the middle. Um, and, and she's taking us through an activity. We'll let her really share it. Um, but, 

Speaker 2 (01:54):

But you should do it with us. 

Speaker 3 (01:55):

Yes. So like, wherever you are, if you're not driving a car, obviously, but if you're wherever you are, you're tracing your hand. That's how that activity goes. Yeah. So that's how you kinda can help manage the weird silence that comes. But there's a lot of good stuff here. Um, we'll just, uh, jump right in here with Heather and, and Anne to start the conversation. 

Speaker 4 (02:14):

I dunno if this means much to you, but Planet Earth. Well, she can't get enough. She's been writing you love songs and poems, and if you were, I, she might be broken. 

Speaker 2 (02:29):

Tell me, just gimme a little snippet of your background for those of us who might not know much about your history and your job, what you do. I was reading through all of your seminars you give, and I was like, Ooh, can I sign up for that one? Can I sign up for that one? And I sign up for that one. <laugh>. 

Speaker 5 (02:49):

Well, um, I, you know, so I can start as far back as you'd like, but I basically, I have a master's in organizational communication. Um, and my bachelor's is in communication. And so I started my career in 1999 as a corporate trainer. Um, and then spent some time as the director of training at a large resort and golf club here in Austin. And then went out on my own. So I, I actually joined with a, another consultant who was my mentor. His name was John Stig Leono. He was, he really, um, taught me a lot about facilitation and sales and business development. And, um, and I had the background in training and content development. So we worked together for about a decade. And then after my son was in his first pediatric psych hospital when he was seven, and I lived at the Ronald McDonald House for two years. I, I figured if I can do that, I, I can pretty much figure anything out. So I went on my own in 2011 and, um, and that brings me to today. So, 

Speaker 2 (04:00):

Yeah. Well, that's exciting. And it looks like that you had, you had a good handle on what it looked like to do things virtually before we needed to do things virtual virtually as well. 

Speaker 5 (04:10):

Yeah. We were very fortunate. I, um, one of my clients for the last decade has hired me to teach virtually. And so we already had a studio. My office, you know, my bedroom is like two feet that way. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So it's not like we're in some corporate studio. But, um, we had set this up prior to C O V I D and I was doing a lot of virtual work. And it was also interesting because I was on a plane so much and I was so tired, and my immune system was just shot. And, you know, I had recovered from my tumor and, and a bunch of stuff in 2014, and I was just tired. And, um, I didn't realize that until I stopped traveling mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so it was really a, you know, while Covid has had its share of horrible, horrible outcomes, the, the, the blessing in it was that I got to slow down a little bit and, um, and, and teach here and get to spend some time, um, at home. At home, which was really 

Speaker 2 (05:07):

Nice. How much of your work do you do in the world of education? 

Speaker 5 (05:12):

So, I started speaking to educators. You know, I don't know how much you know about my son or my personal story, but, um, after my son was born and really finding out very quickly that there was something wrong, I became really, um, passionate about talking with educators, special ed departments, but really administrators, teachers, staff, um, just because what they do is so important. And there's, you know, I I think that of most professions, right? You've got folks, many of whom are parents themselves mm-hmm. <affirmative> trying to balance their own children and their own lives, and yet put themself in a, a selfless position where they're giving to others many times with little pay and little appreciation, right. So it felt like something that I could do to make a difference and a positive impact. And educators tend to be really, really appreciative of the message. So I, I do, most of my work is in the corporate environment, but I would say 20% of it is in the education space, um, and the nonprofit space, but predominantly education. And it's, it's one of my favorite audiences to get to work with. In fact, a special education teacher from Terrell, I s d illustrated, the journal that goes with my new book. Oh. So that, that was a lot of fun. 

Speaker 2 (06:36):

Yeah, I bet. So that is cool. So what do you see through education? What are you seeing with that and, and business and moving forward out of, out of Covid, just that change in, in space that we're all working in? 

Speaker 5 (06:54):

I think burnout is a really big problem, and I think a lot of teachers are leaving, you know, a lot of tenured teachers are leaving 

Speaker 2 (07:01):

Because Yes, ma'am. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, 

Speaker 5 (07:02):

It's so hard mm-hmm. <affirmative> to meet the expectations and demands from every angle. You've got parents, you've got the community, you've got the kids, you've got the administrators. You're dealing with a lot of rules and regulations, uh, increasing special education demands, and a lot of that in the gen ed classroom. And so you've got parents who are frustrated, and my kid was the one who created the classroom clear. Right? And so my kid was the one who disrupted the entire class and made it really hard for teachers to do their job. And watching his teachers and what they had to deal with day in and day out. We call him Team Evan, and they're still, we're very close to many of them, still to this day in Evan's 18, and has been in Idaho for three years. Um, and so for us, it's just this, I, I don't know what, I don't have my pulse on the trend of education, but I would say just based on experience and what I've seen, there's gonna have to be a change in the way mm-hmm. <affirmative> education is funded and managed and evaluated, um, to keep talented staff and to attract talented educators 

Speaker 2 (08:16):


Speaker 5 (08:16):

The field. 

Speaker 2 (08:17):

Right. And I think that burnout, like we're in a new year and we're looking at what, you know, what, what things can we do different? I mean, as a teacher myself, I work and work and work, and right now you go to work when it's dark and you come home when it's dark, and then you still have your family at home. And those priorities, and how do you manage that? 

Speaker 5 (08:38):

Well, I wish I had a magic answer that, uh, you know, is a sweeping right solution for everybody, but unfortunately it's not quite that simple. I, I do think overall the, I think we've lost touch with the purpose of education. Um, I think we've gotten so busy to teach to the test to make sure our scores are okay, and that we're getting the funding, and that we're meeting those expectations, that the, the landscape of the skillset that is needed to be successful in life has changed. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, yes, you need algebra and history and English and science. Like I'm not diminishing the need for that. But you need socio-emotional skills. You need emotional intelligence. You need mindfulness practices, stress reduction based practices. And teachers cannot provide these skills if they don't have them themselves. You cannot regulate someone else when you're dysregulated, and it's very hard to regulate when you're exhausted. 

Speaker 5 (09:40):

Right. So part of it, I think, is shifting the model of the way that we educate, providing more training and development to teachers on how they can better manage their stress and what they can do to be really clear on their priorities, to make sure that they're not getting lost in the shuffle. Because if they're not in a place where their cup is full, they can't possibly give to the students, the parents in the community the way that they want to. Right. And so then you have a lot of people who are exhausted and feeling guilty wherever they are, that they're not giving more mm-hmm. <affirmative> to that particular thing. So when I'm at home, it's like, I should be grading papers and working on lesson plans and, you know, coming up with exciting new curriculum and, and when you're at school, it's like, I should be with my own family and spending time with my own kids, rather than just spending all of my time developing other people's children. 

Speaker 2 (10:33):

Right. How can we say no when we need to say no and develop those boundaries that just some ideas moving into this new year, how we can have goals around that so that we can be good in both places. 

Speaker 5 (10:51):

So it really boils down to three specific areas. First, your mindset, second your skillset, and third, your ability to reset. So your mindset is understanding your relationship with stress, uh, ways to deal with it more effectively, understanding your brain and what happens to your brain when you are under stress, and how simply shifting your view of it and your relationship with it can change the neurological, biochemical, physiological outcomes of it. So it's paying attention to your habits, which, you know, we, we tend to spend a lot of time on autopilot. We get comfortable in our routines. Yeah. And your brain doesn't care if those routines are serving you or not, and your brain doesn't care if you're happy or not. So it's really making your mind change your brain. It's called experience dependent neuroplasticity, and it's behaving your way into a different neurological state so that you can cope with the demands on your time and energy. 

Speaker 5 (11:53):

The skillset are these really practical, tactical, actionable, uh, I don't know how many are BOLs I can add to the end <laugh>. Right. But it's very specific skills that put your brain in a place of safety, that cultivate skills like gratitude and mindfulness and social connection and self-care and volunteerism. All of these research-based ways that we know shift your, your body and brain's stress response and allow you to cultivate resilience. And then the reset is really taking control of your nervous system. We spend a lot of time, you know, as we've evolved as a species, our brain was designed to really put us on alert for short bursts of energy that we needed to run from something that was chasing us. But as we have evolved, our brain hasn't, and it still views everything real or not mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, that threatens us as, as a threat. 

Speaker 5 (12:54):

As a threat. Right. Right. So your brain can't tell the difference between a snarky email from a parent and a global pandemic. It takes every threat the same way. And most people are just in a constant state of relinquishing control and reaction. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But the beauty is that you can train your brain, you can train yourself to reset your nervous system, to reset your brain so that you can operate out of a place of strategy more often than you currently, not you personally, but more than we currently are. Right. We tend to react to everything. And the problem with that is when you are reacting, you're relinquishing control. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And anytime we feel out of control, our brain braces us because they view that as a threat. 

Speaker 2 (13:42):

So how do they, how do we do that? I mean, what is, is it as simple as 1, 2, 3 that we can just, you know, try practice in the morning? I know for me personally, like my thankfulness gratitude journal is a huge part of my morning, you know, getting up and like refocusing that. Um, but what does that look like? 

Speaker 5 (14:03):

So there are a lot of things I'll, I'll focus on just a few. Um, first, the first 30 minutes of your day are mission critical to your resilience and your success? Most of us wake up and within the first 30 minutes, we check our email, we look at social media, we watch the news. And the challenge with that is that your brain, um, you know, Sean Ker talks about this in his book, big Potential. Your, your Brain is the weakest, cognitively speaking the first 30 minutes after you wake up in the morning and the last 30 minutes before you go to bed at night. And so we already have this built in negativity bias that's like Velcro to negative experiences and Teflon to positive experiences. So the first 30 minutes of your day is really, really critical that you are not exposed to, you wanna minimize any negative stimuli. 

Speaker 5 (14:51):

Again, your brain cannot tell the difference between a real or a perceived threat. So when you see a news story about death and destruction and illness, what you're priming your brain for is to look for everything that's wrong the rest of the day. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And wherever we attune our attention becomes our reality. So when you're looking for what's wrong, you find plenty of it. So one is really being deliberate about how you start your day, whether that's with gratitude or prayer or meditation or petting your animals or making breakfast for your kids, or whatever that looks like for you. There's no one answer, but it's, it's really taking control of that first 30 minutes, that first 30 minutes. And another, the, you know, you mentioned gratitude practice, gratitude's the number one predictor of wellbeing, and there are over 11,000 studies that document the physical and mental health benefits of simply looking for things to be grateful for. 

Speaker 5 (15:43):

Right. Um, and when you are looking for things to be grateful for, and you're priming your brain to search out what's right, you're actually changing the neural structure and function of your brain. You're reducing cortisol to stress hormone by 23%. You're producing serotonin and dopamine, which are the feel good neurotransmitters mm-hmm. <affirmative> and anti antidepressants. So gratitude is a really powerful practice. And simply, you know, what we know about human behavior is it's really tough to change. So you're more likely to stick with a new habit, like a gratitude practice if you attach it to a habit that you already have. So I brush my teeth twice a day. I attach my gratitude habit to that, so it's not like an extra thing on my to-do list. I incorporate it into something that I already do. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, but that simple habit shifts the way your brain processes the world. 

Speaker 5 (16:33):

Um, and one of the most important and the most effective stress reduction technique that's been shown to help educators, uh, is a mindfulness practice. And most people, me included, uh, I thought this for a very long time, that mindfulness is just sitting in a full lotus, finding your zen and quieting your brain, right. And meditating mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And that's not what it is at all. And so there's this huge misconception around what it is, how it works, and why it works. Um, and you know, I could spend an hour just talking to you about that, but I'll say the, the shortest and simplest path to resetting your nervous system, to allowing your logical brain to get back online, to taking back control of your emotions, is bringing yourself back to the present moment. Because anytime you're doing that, your brain knows it's safe. So our breath is the fastest path to get there. 

Speaker 5 (17:29):

Three really deep diaphragmatic breaths, like on the inhale mm-hmm. <affirmative>, expanding your belly, like there's a balloon in your belly filling up with air on the inhale, really doing that and then holding it for a second. And then the key is that the exhale needs to be longer than the inhale. The exhale is the part of the breath that resets your nervous system into the parasympathetic response. And the more you practice that, the easier it gets for your brain to do that. Whatever we practice grows mm-hmm. <affirmative>, good or bad, and your brain doesn't care which one it is. It just takes whatever you practice and, and grows that muscle. And so meditation and mindfulness is really just growing your attention muscle, allowing you to start being deliberate about how you show up, how your emotions and your thoughts are affecting your behavior, how much time you spend distracted and scattered. The average person spends at least half of their time being somewhere else. So chances are, since I've been giving you this answer, you have thought about something else 

Speaker 2 (18:29):

I've thought about. What does it look like in our classrooms? 

Speaker 5 (18:32):

Like, right. Well, and that's what that looks like in your classrooms, is starting the class with an activity I call, well, I don't call it it, it's called take five mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And basically it's for yourself and for your students. And if any parents are there, it helps them too. But people think that you just figure this out. Right. And it's not, it's a lifelong practice. So everybody is scattered. Everybody is trying to juggle too many balls in the air. Everybody is, has so many competing priorities on our, on our brain and our attention that if this is not a daily practice, then it doesn't work. And it's not like you get it right and you're done. It's, you get it wrong and you do it again, and you get it wrong, and you do it again, and you never really get it right. That's the whole purpose of it. Right. There's, there's, and nobody ever really gets it. Right. 

Speaker 3 (19:26):

You know, I think that's probably good for our staff folks to hear because mm-hmm. <affirmative> teachers more than anyone, they want to have it all together. The, the teachers by all of us as teachers, by nature, you know, we're expected to have it together. We've got 20 to 30 kids sitting in front of us every day, and, and our parents, our community, our bosses, everybody expects us to just have it together every day and be on it. Um, at least that's what we perceive on the inside. Now, um, I, I hope we're building a culture that says there's grace. There's, you know, we understand as supervisors, the stress and where we are, but I, I think it's good for our staff to hear and, and hear us acknowledge that it, it is tough for everyone to practice what, what we're talking about. 

Speaker 5 (20:18):

And, and, you know, and absolutely from a teacher perspective, yes, but it's your bus drivers and your custodians, right. And your cafeteria staff. Great point. And your administrators and your principals and your assistant principals, like everybody has their own struggle, and it can feel impossible to try to balance it all. Um, you know, I can't tell you how many times our bus driver saved our life. You know, like sometimes literally, um, you know, Evan would throw violent rages and fits, and she would get off the bus and just talk to him and, and calm him down and deescalate him. And the, the cafeteria staff were the ones that made sure he ate because he, he refused to eat because he didn't like the textures of any of the foods that we gave him or that they had at the cafeteria. So I, I think it's an, it's an, it's a global human challenge. 

Speaker 5 (21:09):

I think teachers experience it in a very magnified way because everything they do is being evaluated and watched and measured absolutely all the time. And so it can feel like you're in the middle of a fishbowl just trying to survive and not get sued sometimes. Um, but this practice is super simple. It is a really fast way to reset your nervous system. It is fantastic for kids because what it does is it helps you learn to co-regulate. So, you know, when you have a child who's like crying and they can't get enough air, and they're doing that, if, if you're going, you need to calm down, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, like, you can't regulate someone when you're dysregulated. But what we know is that we feed off of the nonverbal communication of others. And so if you are anxious in the classroom, within an hour or two, the children will take on that emotion. 

Speaker 5 (22:04):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, right? If you are in a negative state, that transfers, whether you try to fake it or not, it's called surface acting. When you try to pretend like everything's okay, and it's not, it's okay for a teacher to say to the students, I'm having some big feelings today, right? I'm having some big feelings, and here's what I'm doing to cope with those. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, like, that's what we need, be teaching our children. Not that you have to keep it all together and, and, and do it flawlessly, because then kids grow up with this expectation. My 19 year old daughter, you know, out of the two kids, my son is the one with autism and severe mental illness. My daughter graduated in the middle of Covid and has gone into a really deep depression. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And the worst thing you can do for kids who are struggling feeling sad, is come on. 

Speaker 5 (22:48):

You have so much to be grateful for. Turn that frown upside down. Focus on the positive 'cause then not only did they feel crappy, but now they feel shame. Like, what is wrong with me for feeling bad? I am healthy. I do have a place to sleep. Like, why, why am I not happy? Well, it's 'cause your brain's not designed to keep you happy. Your brain's designed to keep you alive. It doesn't care if you're happy. And we've grown up in this culture where happiness is like a bi billions and billions of dollars, like $12 billion a year industry just to try to make people feel happy. And the the goal is not to be happy. The goal is to be present and experience life. Right? And sometimes that means it's happy, and sometimes it means it's sad and fearful and scary. But this practice is super simple. 

Speaker 5 (23:35):

So what we're gonna do is first we're gonna practice something called diaphragmatic breathing. And then we're gonna pair it with, uh, tracing our hand, because that keeps you present and mindful. But your breath is the fastest path to relaxing your nervous system. So on the inhale, we're gonna imagine that there's a balloon in our belly filling with air. We're gonna take a deep inhale in and pooch out your belly. Don't worry, no one can see your belly. And you're gonna hold it for a second. And then the exhale needs to be longer and slower than the inhale. So the inhale increases your heart rate, the exhale decreases your heart rate, and you don't wanna do it to the point where you're dizzy, but a deeply relaxed person. When you're asleep, you breathe diaphragmatically. And you also only take about seven breaths a second. So by intentionally slowing your breathing, your brain knows that it's safe and it can reregulate itself. So what we're going to do is hold up your hands. All right? So we're going to trace up our finger with the inhale. We're gonna hold it at the top for a moment, and we're gonna go down with the exhale. But if you can breathe through your nose, because it activates nerve endings in the back of your neck and the base of your skull, that actually increase oxygen uptake to the heart and to the brain. So we're gonna take a deep belly breath in, 

Speaker 5 (24:55):

Hold it X finger. 

Speaker 5 (25:46):

Now that seems super simple, but starting your class like that will regulate everybody's nervous system. And when people are getting amped up, you do it again, right? Like, it takes less than a minute. And it's a great way, like we think, I don't have time to do that. But you don't have time not to. 'cause if you're dysregulated, you're not learning, right? Like it, when we're in a state of fight or flight or protection or stress, our brain isn't accessing higher level thinking, cognitive processing, reasoning, decision making, all of the stuff you need to learn and to teach. So when you take a moment to reset your nervous system, you're basically, it's like getting your computer back online, right? And it's so simple. And you can take those deep breaths. Like when my daughter starts to really get stressed and anxious, I take deep breaths because we mirror other people. So simply by a parent or a teacher taking really deep breaths, the students end up mimicking that. 

Speaker 3 (26:46):

I, I was in a meeting with a group of teachers, two meetings actually. And the resounding thing that I came away with last week was, teachers feel pressured for time all the time. They don't, they do not feel like they have the ability to take a minute to do mm-hmm. <affirmative> what you just took Heather and I through. So true and so true. And so I think I, I would just reiterate, we, we can't afford not to take those minutes or two minutes, or you know, what if people are getting amped up and we have to do it two or three times, I think what you're helping us realize is we, we can't afford not to take that two to three minutes. And our teachers need to feel like that they're empowered to do that at the appropriate times. 

Speaker 5 (27:30):

Yeah. And we've created this system where there's no possible way that you can, unless you are taking time to teach your kids and yourself how to reset. If we're not teaching the socioemotional skills for kids to learn to manage stress, they will be burned out by the time they get to college. So the teachers are the only ones who can really take back control of that. And the irony is when you do the results, follow. 

Speaker 2 (28:00):

That's right. There's, there's studies out there that show that. 'cause there's, there are people that are actually doing this, practicing it in their classroom. So, and 

Speaker 5 (28:09):

The learning occurs as a result, not in spite of, right? So it's one of those things where it's so counterintuitive, but the reason you don't have time is because your brain's not working. Right. And if you can get your brain to work right, then you save the time. 

Speaker 3 (28:30):

So Heather, as we wrap up our first episode with Anne, um, just wanna reiterate that we really encourage strongly, all of our teachers taking the time to be self-aware and present in their classroom with their kids. 

Speaker 2 (28:45):

It's so important. 

Speaker 3 (28:46):

Absolutely. And important. I know, I know you all don't feel like you have the time to take because of all the things you're balancing, the content you have to teach and, and all the different things you have to manage. But I think Anne has some really good, uh, 

Speaker 2 (28:59):

Tips. Well, I'm looking forward to doing it in my own classroom in this new semester as well, and seeing what happens. The second part of this episode, we continue our conversation with Anne and we're talking about emotional intelligence, and it is super powerful as well as in, in how that can help transform our classrooms and our teaching as well. And so, can't wait for that next episode. And it's a good one. It is, it is. It's really powerful. But until then, lean in and stay curious.

Season 1, Episode 6 Summary

In this episode, we chat with George Couros. He’s an author and speaker with over 20 years of experience in education, and he's got lots of great stories. In his new book Because of a Teacher and in this podcast, George will make you laugh, cry, and think about your own journey in education.


Speaker 1 (00:03):

Hey friends. Welcome back to Schoolwork. This is episode two of Season two. Schoolwork is presented by Amarillo Independent School District. Today we got to talk to George Kiros. He is a, um, author and speaker, but before that he was a high school teacher who tried to be a kindergarten teacher and ended up an administrator. And then I first, um, became familiar with him when I read The Innovator's Mindset. And, um, really got a lot from that book. Then got to hear him speak. And using some of that same stuff in my classroom has really helped me reach kids in a brand new way. And so we hope you take something away from this conversation too. So here we go. So where are you coming from today? 

Speaker 2 (00:51):

Uh, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. So I'm, I'm just at home. I, yeah. You're just at home? Yeah. And I have my own podcast, so I got all the equipment and stuff, so, 

Speaker 1 (00:59):

Right. I listen to your podcast. I read your books. Oh, good. I wish 

Speaker 2 (01:02):

You that. You're the, you and my mom, 

Speaker 1 (01:05):

Whatever. I don't believe that at all. Basically. 

Speaker 2 (01:06):

That's it. Yeah. 

Speaker 1 (01:08):

<laugh>. I, I, for some reason, I don't think that then, 

Speaker 2 (01:10):

You know, the buttons. Right. You know, like the special. I can do shadows if you want. You know, you've heard, have you heard like the 

Speaker 1 (01:16):

Yes. Your friend? Yes. All your friend 

Speaker 2 (01:21):

Buttons. If you say the word, shout out. You know, that's 

Speaker 1 (01:23):

Happened. So that's, that's coming. It is, it is coming. So, Alberta, Canada, I 

Speaker 2 (01:27):

Have like 80 buttons on here, but that's the only one I press. <laugh>. 

Speaker 1 (01:30):

Well, how would you know all those other buttons? I, you just sit and play with them? Actually, 

Speaker 2 (01:34):

It's, it's actually on a screen. Like I can see all of them. 

Speaker 1 (01:36):


Speaker 2 (01:37):

But I do, I just love that one. <laugh>. 

Speaker 1 (01:39):

So tell me, how'd you end up here? Tell me a little bit, like 62nd version of your educational journey to get here. Is 

Speaker 2 (01:46):

This, is this like actually on the podcast right now? Or are we just 

Speaker 1 (01:49):

This, everything. Yep. All of it. 

Speaker 2 (01:51):

Yeah. I just, I was just making sure. 

Speaker 1 (01:52):

Yeah. So, 

Speaker 2 (01:53):

Uh, so the 62nd version, I actually, uh, didn't wanna be a teacher. I didn't know what I wanted to do. Went to university because parents forced me to go, had a degree that, um, I thought was useless to me. So I saw a movie, changed my life. It was Billy Madison. That's a legitimately true story. I saw Billy Madison. I'm like, I wanna be a teacher now. So that looks fun. And, uh, yeah. Uh, wanted to be a kindergarten teacher. Applied for a kindergarten job. Nailed the interview, and got a high school computer, uh, position out of it. <laugh> for whatever reason. And, and then, uh, because I knew like probably, uh, like 1% about technology, but that was like 1% more than, uh, the school that I went to at the time, 

Speaker 1 (02:33):

The next mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Mm-hmm. 

Speaker 2 (02:34):

<affirmative>. And so, uh, that led me to like, oh, like you, you're good with technology 'cause you taught high school technology. We want you to lead this technic initiative in my first year. So I was like the tech coordinator in my first year of teaching outta school. Wow. And then just, yeah, just progressed and, yeah. And then, you know, eventually, basically I've taught, uh, the only grade I actually have not taught is kindergarten, which was the goal, 

Speaker 1 (02:56):

Which was where you wanted to be. 

Speaker 2 (02:58):

Yeah. So I taught grade one to 12, vice principal, principal, uh, worked in central office. And then, uh, I had the opportunity to basically, I started tweeting about stuff we were doing in my school. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And people were like, that's really cool, right? Uh, you should come speak at our school. I'm like, what are you talking about? And they're like, no, you should speak. I'm like, okay. And they said, what's your fee? I'm like, you're gonna pay me to speak <laugh>? That's kind of cool. I didn't know that. That's cool. Yeah. Yeah. And then, you know, I've been blo, I started blogging years ago. Uh, just the only reason I started Blogger was not like, yeah, I want everyone to know my thoughts. It was like, Hey, like, is this actually helpful to kids? And it, like, the only way I'll know is if I try, try and figure this out. 

Speaker 2 (03:33):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and I understand in from viewpoint of learner, and the blog turned into, you know, the tweets turn into a blog. The blog turned into multiple books. The books turn into a publishing company. So, yeah, I just, you know, I continuously learn, uh, and, and try to grow in whatever I do. So I, I really think, uh, we talk about learning a lot in the, the essence of education, but I think, uh, if we're doing our job, we see how it facilitates so many facets of our life and just how we grow, you know, with our families, uh, you know, with our mental and physical wellbeing, you know, with their school. So I don't, I don't tell anyone how to teach. It's not ever my focus. But I do, uh, I do have a lot of thoughts on learning. And I think 

Speaker 1 (04:14):

You do, and you share those in your book a lot. Like, there's so many ideas, um, especially even using the technology in your classroom. So you are, or we are preparing these kiddos for what it really looks like out in the real world. Um, my friend and I across the hall, we're letting our kids, you know, try to try their hand at blogging based off of stuff that we read in your book as well. Oh, that's awesome. Yeah. And it's been like, it's pretty exciting. 'cause they get excited about it. It's a different, you know, medium for them to get to share what they know. And you, you say in your book, um, you talk about how as teachers, we need to always be growing and learning. What's a book you're reading right now? 

Speaker 2 (04:56):

What's a book in world? 

Speaker 1 (04:57):

Yeah. Or do you have a stat that's 

Speaker 2 (04:59):

A spot? Yeah. Uh, I actually, the, the book I, I'm like notoriously bad, bad for this. I, well, I don't know if it's bad. I reread books all the time. So, um, the, the book that I am reading is right in front of me. It's actually called The Paradox of Success. And it's actually, uh, focused, it's not an education book. It talks about, um, how we can really get comfortable with, you know, being in good places that we think. And that comfort sometimes leads to failure. And you, like, you think about that in the context of education. Uh, a lot of times we will be really happy 'cause we'll be at a school and our test scores are really good, but it doesn't mean our kids are really good learners. And I think a lot of kids walk outta school being amazing test takers, but not necessarily learning how to adapt and thinking about that. 

Speaker 2 (05:48):

And so you see, if a school is struggling, has low test scores, uh, a lot of times people are more willing to try different things. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But sometimes when you think about this and like, you know, some of our high achieving, and when I say the term high achieving, I mean the ones that have good academic scores. But that's, that's, that's not necessarily high achieving. That's just the perception of it. Because I, I really believe that some of the smartest kids in our school struggle academically. And, and then we say like, Hey, um, we wanna try some new stuff. And they're like, why are we trying new stuff? Look at our test scores. 

Speaker 1 (06:23):


Speaker 2 (06:24):

Right. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And then we become comfortable with this mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And there's so many different factors, um, to why kids do well in exams. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And yeah, of course teaching will have some aspect of it, but if it was like a hundred percent solely of what we do in teaching, then you should be able to go to any school in the world and get the same results. 

Speaker 1 (06:44):

Right. Right, 

Speaker 2 (06:45):

Right. And so I think, you know, I try to, I, I like to kinda reread and see, um, how I've grown, how I look at something different. Uh, one of the books I read probably once every six months is called The How to Win Friends and Influence People. 

Speaker 1 (06:57):

Yep. Read that. It's a great one. And 

Speaker 2 (06:59):

It's a, it's a fantastic book, but it was all, it's also a book that's timeless. It was, I think written in the 1930s. I had only read it like five years ago. And I was like, this is like, so relevant. And then I looked at it, I was like, oh, this is like, written, like when my dad was born <laugh>. And, uh, and just kind of thinking about that, not only for, um, the terms of publishing as I, as I mentioned, uh, we have a publishing company. It's one of the things that we always talk about for advice with our, with our authors, is that you should try to write a book that if I picked it up in 15 years, it'd still be relevant to education. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And you know, like, obviously there's things that, you know, change, but like, what are some of the universal truths that, that don't change? 

Speaker 2 (07:41):

And I think that's actually an important concept with education. You know, I obviously, I talk a lot about innovation. You mentioned the book, um, innovator's Mindset, which is probably the one I'm I'm most known for. Uh, but I actually think a lot of people think they're innovative because they're always trying the newest thing. Right. And, but then we're never really good at it. 'cause we move on to the next newest thing mm-hmm. <affirmative> and people are like, can we just, you know, have like five minutes with the last thing that you said? Yes. Like, can we just, you know, dig into this? Yes. So I, uh, I really try to look at not the newest technologies, but how do we actually really go deep with some of the stuff that we've, you know, been advocating for several years? Because there's always gonna be something new. And if you, if you always, it's kind of like we have attention deficit in education. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it's like next. Right. 

Speaker 1 (08:29):

What's the next thing? We gotta move on before we really get good at. So what do you think the next, the, in 15 years, what's gonna be most relevant in education? 

Speaker 2 (08:38):

Well, I actually get asked this question all the time, and my answer's all the same. And there will be the same in 15 years, which is, which is the point, I don't know. And neither do you, and neither does anyone listen to this podcast. And I think that's what we have to really identify. Uh, what, what I do know is that we have to teach kids, and this is kind of going back to why I really focus on learning, is that no matter what comes our way, we'll be able to figure it out. And that that is ultimately what we need to teach kids. Like, nobody predicted Covid. Right, right, 

Speaker 2 (09:10):

Right. Virtual teaching, nobody predicted iPads and Chromebooks everywhere, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Right. And you might have seen it coming, but probably, um, when some people saw it coming, it was already in some schools and kind of having that idea. But you saw, um, and you still see people that were able to deal with a lot of the transitions that in education were people that were really good at learning. Were really good at kind of figuring things out on the fly. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And there is, there is somewhat of a co-relation with use of technology. And I think that's, you know, um, I, like I mentioned earlier, I did a little bit of technology stuff earlier on in my career. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, which is a lot at that stuff. And because I, uh, I actually had to teach a technology class to high school students. Like, and I'm a trained kindergarten teacher, and I didn't know anything. 

Speaker 2 (10:05):

I was in there. So I would like go to the students. I'm like, uh, hey, does anyone know how to do this thing? Does anyone know this? And, or, you know, and some kids were like, I, you know, I know. And then that always like changed my perspective, like on like, Hey, like, let's actually utilize the brilliance in this class. Not like I'm the only expert here. There's stuff obviously I knew, but the other thing with it is that we'd be using a program one day and we'd be following like a paper module, and then there was an update, and then what do you do? Right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I've been teaching, you know, I teach like, Hey, let's, let's, uh, we're gonna, you know, go through a Google form, utilize some stuff, go into the session, you know, 30 minutes after I prep for it. 

Speaker 2 (10:44):

And then Google Forms gets an update and you're in front of a bunch of people. Right. And, and what, and I have no issue with that because I'm like, all right, well, you know how I learned in the first place. I started pressing buttons, so I figured it out. And I think that's that kind of notion of the ability to press buttons, to see what happens is something we have to instill in the adults have to instill in the kids. So the, the whole, like, what's the next thing? The thing that always should matter is that we're developing kids who can figure stuff out, and we model that as adults. And that, that is something that I try to strive to do. Like I, I'll try new things. Uh, and I constantly try to reinvent some of the learning that I'm doing. And because I want to, it's not because I want to stay relevant. It's, it's because things change. The, like, it's because you just have, that's the only way relevance is just keeping 

Speaker 1 (11:34):

Up, keeping up. Right. And, and not being scared to fail. Also, such a big, you know, even in front of your kids. So what was, what was you, the kindergarten teacher, like that very first year when you wanted to be a kindergarten teacher, how has that, you know, changed not what you wanted, but getting put somewhere else? 

Speaker 2 (11:57):

Um, I, I, I, I swore that I would never teach high school. And then, and then I talked to my cooperating teacher who like, you know, I, I think it's like my student teaching partner 

Speaker 1 (12:09):

Right here, I don't know 

Speaker 2 (12:10):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. And I said, Hey, I got offered this high school job. Like, what do you think? She's like, it's super hard to get a job. So I would, I would take anything, take your foot in the door. Right? Yeah. So I'm like, all right. So I accepted the job and I was like, oh, this is gonna, this is gonna be terrible. And then I was like, oh, I kinda like working with these students. Right. And then, you know, then I got elementary for a couple years, and then, uh, then I went back to high school. And then, uh, someone's like, Hey, do you wanna do like, uh, be assistant principal at a middle school? I'm like, I don't wanna teach middle school kids. I'm like, oh, these kids are kind of interesting too. So I think for me, um, I, I, I always try to look for the opportunity. 

Speaker 2 (12:53):

I, I, I guess that's something that, you know, I talk a lot about my parents. My parents were immigrants to Canada. Uh, didn't have much, didn't have much opportunity. And they just found opportunities where other people saw obstacles. So I just always kinda looked like, Hey, this is, this is a good opportunity for me. And, uh, yeah. Like, I actually really like working with these kids and, you know, like a lot of the high school jokes didn't land with the kindergarten kids and vice versa. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So you kinda adjust to those things. But I think at all levels, if you, there's, there's some elements of like, where I really believe good teaching is good teaching. It doesn't matter the grade level. But I, I do know that, um, it is relationships matter at all levels. And it's harder to do at the high school level because we deal with so many kids within a day. Whereas at elementary level, you work with the same class. Um, but it's no less important. You have to build that. And I just saw every time that an opportunity was brought to me that I would say, okay, how is this help? How will this help me grow? Right. How will this help me get better? 

Speaker 1 (13:55):

Right. So, 

Speaker 2 (13:56):

So yeah. Like I've never, I've never, um, I've never hated an opportunity that I've got to, to do something. Right. So, you know, and that's, but, but I will try to evolve and move on and do something new. Well, 

Speaker 1 (14:09):

That's, well, that's a place that you get to grow. You say in your book, meaningful change happens when you connect with people's hearts. And you mentioned a few people, few teachers in your, in your book that even tweeted you back. I loved that. That was so cool. In your, in your new book, because of a teacher mm-hmm. <affirmative>, pick one of those. What, which one of those would probably be your most influential? Tell us a story about 'em. Like what, what made that teacher 

Speaker 2 (14:36):

As a, as a student or as a educator? 

Speaker 1 (14:39):

As a student, and then also as an educator. 

Speaker 2 (14:42):

Oh. Like, I can't say one as a student. And I feel really blessed to be able to say that. I could not say one. 'cause I know that some could only say one. And I know some can't say any, which is a massive issue. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And, uh, I think that for me is one of the things that really drives me is that it shouldn't be just like, I, I don't, I know this is gonna challenge a lot of people. Uh, there's a quote and it basically says like, every person should have at least one adult that's like, crazy about them in education. And I'm like, that's a, that's a long <laugh>. That's 12 years and only one of them like you. Like, that's a lot. That's a lot of time. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So really, it should be all of us advocates for all of our kids. 

Speaker 2 (15:21):

And, you know, going over way, like I've always said, um, you know, when I taught middle school and we had an elementary, you know, elementary classes, I would go, you know, talk to elementary kids and connect with them and vice versa, you know, and seeing supervision opportunity to connect with kids, you might not teach that year. Uh, so like I could say, uh, my kindergarten teacher, uh, Mrs. Stock really kind of started me off and loving school right away. She was amazing. Uh, my grade three teacher, who also is my kindergarten grade eight music teacher, Cindy Penrose, uh, she gave me an ability to have a presence on stage and really kind of develop that. And she actually wrote in my grade eight report card, like, you'll be on a stage one day. I, I said that, I think she thought I'd be singing, but I hit puberty. So my voice changed. And, uh, so I don't think she expected, you know, being, doing Zoom sessions, but still, 

Speaker 1 (16:09):

But you're still on stage. 

Speaker 2 (16:10):

Yeah. And, uh, Calvin Hobbes, that is his name. And Calvin Hobbes was my phys ed coach, who was also my, or my phys ed teacher, who was also my football coach. And, uh, I was a pretty cocky grade 12 kid, and he was new to the school. And I saw him on the very first day. Uh, he came to school. He actually told me this yesterday. I didn't know that. 'cause I still talk to him. And he said I was the first student he met at that school. And, and like, the first day, and I'm like, pretty big. I'm six foot four. Uh, I played football and I went to him. I said, oh, you're, you're the new coach. Um, I've been playing football for four years on this team, so kind of expecting to be captain. He is like, is that right, <laugh>? I'm like, well, I have been here four years. 

Speaker 2 (16:48):

You've been here for four minutes. So I kind of expect that. And he is like, all right, we'll see what happens. And then, uh, and then he, he would announce captains. He would announce captains. And then, uh, there's, there's typically more than one captain on a football team. So there's gonna be announced, I think five. And, uh, he announced four of them. And then he saved me for fifth. Uh, 'cause he wanted to struggle with me. And he said, you did not get captain because you told me you're gonna be captain. You got captain, uh, because you earned it. And don't ever, uh, don't ever think that you are worthy of leading. You have to be someone worth following. And that's what you proved here. And I will tell you this straight up. Um, when I was in grade 12, I was like, I don't care what you said, I'm captain. 

Speaker 2 (17:34):

Like, that's all that matters to me at this moment. Right. And then I think years later, it, it really, that lesson resonated with me. Uh, so he's, he's someone I've connected with quite a bit. But I could also tell you, and I, I share this story often. Uh, Mr. Rki was our, uh, elementary custodian. And, uh, I talked to that gentleman every single day. And I could tell you straight up, I don't think I've ever seen, I ever saw him clean the school <laugh>. So I know he was a custodian. I just never saw him clean the school. But the school was like meticulously clean. And part of the reason is because we all love Mr. Rki so much. He didn't mess with the school. Right, right. Because you love the custodian. So there's like so many people in our, uh, you know, our K 12 experience that don't necessarily teach who have a tremendous impact. And I think, yeah, I was, and I could, you know, I could go on and on and talk about, you know, I could also talk about some teachers that, you know, wasn't too excited about and for different reasons. And, uh, but I'm pretty lucky. I was blessed with so many great teachers that I, like, I can name every teacher I ever had, uh, kindergarten grade 12, every grade. 

Speaker 1 (18:38):

Wow. That's impressive. That's impressive. What about teachers? 

Speaker 2 (18:41):

I don't think, I don't think it is. 'cause I think it, I, but when other people say they can't, then I'm like, oh, that's weird. Like, I actually think it's weird the other way. 

Speaker 1 (18:47):

The other way around. Yeah. Well, and I, but I, it shouldn't that be, shouldn't that be a goal as an educator? That you want to be remembered and that we want our kids to look back and go, I had relationship, I had these, these teachers really cared about me and, and wanted me to grow and learn and pushed me and, and, and fought for me in, in all the ways. I mean, 'cause it's not just what are we teaching, but it's, you know, it's so much bigger than just that content that you're teaching in your classroom, but building those relationships. Um, I loved that about your book, both, both of them, the Innovator's Mindset and because of a teacher. 'cause you talk about how important that connection with that heart is to really getting the kids to, to learn. I want you to tell a story that you told in your book that I loved. Uh, I just, I went back and read it several times about when you were kind of disillusioned with, with teaching and you were looking for something different. Yeah. So I just want, I, I've read that several times and I, because I think there's, I know for me there's moments where that is exactly where I'm at. It's, this is hard work we're doing. And so tell us about that. 

Speaker 2 (19:58):

Yeah. So I was, um, probably I think in my seventh year of teaching. And, and, uh, I wasn't, it wasn't necess like it wasn't a bad school. It wasn't bad leadership wasn't any of those things. Uh, I would say it was partly where I lived. I lived in a very small town and, uh, be totally honest, I was a single guy and I'm like, uh, I'm gonna die alone. So that's not something I'm excited about if I stay here. So that was a, a, a bit of a struggle. So, you know, like outright staying, there's like some loneliness there. Being in this, this very small town, not, you know, everyone I knew was married and I was on my own. Uh, but also I just didn't really love, um, what I was teaching. I, I felt that, uh, there's a disconnect between what I wanted to do and what I was doing. 

Speaker 2 (20:51):

So, uh, I tried and tried to get out of that school into another, uh, school district and had a really hard time and just a, a, a string of events led me to, to, um, another school. I basically went there on. Uh, so took someone's maternity leave for a year, and I just said, I'm gonna give myself one year and see how it goes. And basically, uh, within, uh, maybe a month, I totally changed. I had totally changed my, my attitude towards education. And it was, there's, there's two reasons, and I'm gonna give myself some credit to be honest with you. And I think that this is a really important thing for people to say, uh, to hear is when I went to this new school, I did reinvent myself. And I think when I first went to the, the school I was at prior, I was like, eh, whatever. 

Speaker 2 (21:45):

Like, you know, teaching's a job. I'm not really interested in it. And then as, uh, I, you know, got got older and, you know, got more involved, I tried to reinvent myself. But everyone saw me as first year George, not fifth year George, if that makes sense, at that school. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. Absolutely. And so I kind of felt like they're never gonna see me mm-hmm. <affirmative> as, you know, leadership material or, you know, the, you know, different opportunities. So I did say like, Hey, I, you know, what's beautiful about this? I have a blank slate. I can, I can be whoever I want, and that's what I'm gonna do. So, you know, really, and like for me, it was like little things. Like I wore a tie every day. I know that's not, like, that doesn't make you a good teacher, but it was like, it was like a, it was like a uniform for me. 

Speaker 2 (22:27):

Like, this is your, this is you getting in, you know, into that mentality right away. And, uh, just, just really trying to think about how I present to myself, my attitude towards, uh, the profession. And, uh, coin, uh, coinciding with that was, we had a, I had a new principal. Her name was Kelly Wilkin. She was new to me, not new, uh, in the school district by any means. And she just saw things in me that I didn't even know were there. And she just brought out, uh, stuff that I didn't know. And she just was so, uh, artistic with it. She just, I would literally be in the middle of doing something and that I would hate doing. And I'd be smiling, like, have the biggest smile on my face. I'm like, how did she get me to do this? Like, like, I would do anything for this woman. 

Speaker 2 (23:16):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Like, she's incredible. But she just, um, like I, I'll give you a, like a a little example of this. So they wanted me to lead, um, basically work with staff on like, um, really kind of thinking about how we use technology in the classroom. So I got there and she gave me a schedule and she's like, Hey, you're gonna be with grade five for like, this period, then grade six with this period, and then grade seven with this period. So you're gonna get like 40 minutes. You're gonna do that, you know, you 40 minutes of time, you might see these kids like once a week kind of thing. Right. And so I, I looked at the schedule and I kind of was like, ah, you know, I got one year I got, you know, I'm, I'm probably gonna quit. So I don't, I think this, I don't like the schedule, so I'm gonna go say something to her. 

Speaker 2 (24:00):

And I said, you know, if we're really gonna do this, right? Me seeing these kids once in a while, like by the time, you know, I see them the next week, they're gonna forget what we did that 40 minutes prior. I'm not a big fan of the schedule. And she's like, well, what do you think would be a better schedule? I'm like, well, I do actually think it'd be great if I could just work with one class for like a couple weeks. We could really go deep into something. I could work with the teacher directly. I could go right into the curriculum. And she's like, yeah, I think that's awesome. I'm like, are you serious? And, and like she, I'm like, I'm there for like three days and I'm already making my own schedule. And I said, Hey, this is like a little weird for me that you're, you're doing this. 

Speaker 2 (24:39):

She said, well, we hired you because you were the one that's good with technology. I don't know how to do any of this stuff. So why would I tell you how to do it? Like, why don't you figure it out and you tell me what you think is the best way and we can see it, make it happen. And so that, that to me really started changing my perspective. 'cause it was always like, I just showed up and did what I was told, but now all of a sudden there's like an ownership. And like, the thing with, when you, when someone gives you ownership, you want things to work. Because if it's like, partly your decision being that's made there, you want that decision to do well. But when it's like, you know, I could have easily just stuck with a schedule so it didn't work and say, well, that was Kelly's fault, because that's the stupid schedule she gave me. 

Speaker 2 (25:20):

So you, now you're, I'm not like, okay, I gotta, I gotta make sure this is like, like I'm validating what I said we should do. And, and so kind of part of that, like, even like, you know, I was a teacher and she asked me like, what, what do you think we should spend on the budget? I'm like, why are you asking me? She's like, 'cause you're the tech guy. So like, I don't know this stuff. Why would I just tell you what, why would I just give you a bunch of stuff that I don't understand and say, go make stuff happen. Tell me what you need. So then all of a sudden I'm like, Hey, so I'm making the decision, so I'm gonna make a bad decision. I know how teachers get mad, so I gotta make sure that I'm like talking to teachers and getting their input and getting their feedback and stuff like that too. 

Speaker 2 (25:56):

So I went from, uh, basically I'm gonna quit, um, at, you know, at the end of one year. And then a year later, uh, I had an assistant principal job and in the same school district. And I, you would've, if you would've asked me at the beginning of the year, do you see yourself going to admit, I'm like, I don't see myself in education for another six months. And it was truly because of, uh, Kelly's influence. And I still talk to her, talked to her this morning. Uh, she's retired. She's just incredible. And my goal, I think, is to be that person. Kelly was for me to as many people as possible. And if I can have like 100th of the impact she has had, uh, on the lives of others, then I'm, I I would say I've been pretty successful as an educator. And yeah. And that's like, that would be that too. But like I said, I took advantage of that leader. 

Speaker 1 (26:47):

Yeah. You can't, you can't be passive in it Right. At all you to own. Sometimes we get 

Speaker 2 (26:51):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, we get incredible opportunities like that. And then we stay doing what we did before. And we're like, why? Like, it's really easy to, you know, say like, well, this didn't happen because of A, B, and C. It's like, well, you do have some responsibility here. You do have some accountability to this. Right? So, so, you know, I, like, I, I also, I could tell you this straight up, uh, that if I didn't do a good job, she would've got rid of me. That that would've been it. And like, because her focus, which is mine, is like, I'm gonna do whatever. I'm not, if I don't think this is gonna work for kids, then 

Speaker 1 (27:28):

You're not gonna do it 

Speaker 2 (27:30):

Then, then I'll find someone else who will be better for kids. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. And that is something I, I respect. Right. In her. Right. 

Speaker 1 (27:36):

Well she saw that in you. She saw the gold that you didn't even see at the time. Yeah. Yeah. And pulled it out and then gave you a voice in the process of it. That's totally, that's, that's, so that's really cool. And I think it's interesting 'cause your story about the administ getting the administrator job and going into that interview you did use your voice. Right. Right, right. And I think that's a great story too, because you used your voice, but you learned a really cool lesson out of it as well. And so I think that's a good, like a good thing to point out is that lesson you learned in using your voice, and we don't all have to agree in order to make some amazing changes in education. 

Speaker 2 (28:16):

You, you actually like legitimately read my book. 

Speaker 1 (28:18):

Yes, sir. Impressed. I certainly did. <laugh>. 

Speaker 2 (28:20):

I love it. Alright, well what did you think of it so far? 

Speaker 1 (28:22):

I loved it. I think it's, I think it's timely. I think that, um, educators need to remember, especially after, you know, the last 18 months, they need to remember. 'cause it's hard right now. I mean, COVID was hard, but it's hard right now too. 

Speaker 2 (28:37):

It was to, it was totally. It was. And I, um, I know that you read this, it was totally exactly what you're saying. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, like, it was like, Hey, this people are getting crapped on. Right. I, I I wanna do something that, you know, just honors people. 

Speaker 1 (28:50):

Right. And, and I mean, I think you, the compilation of the stories and I mean, I've sat and cried through several of the good chapters. I know that's probably what you wanted, right. <laugh>, that you wanted to evoke that in my, my 

Speaker 2 (29:03):

Laugh or I think that was best. 

Speaker 1 (29:04):

That's right. But, uh, but I mean, even just hearing some of those stories and going, Ew, I, I do do that and my classroom, and even though we don't so often hear it, we are still making those, you know, those changes in our, in our kids. And I don't know, it's good to hear the good stuff. And it's good to hear things that aren't, Hey, this is your list of things you should do to catch up or to be a better educator. But like, hey, you're, you're good where you are. You engage where you are and love these kids in a time that's really hard. And so, yeah, I laughed and I cried and cried some more 

Speaker 2 (29:40):

<laugh>. Good. That, that's what I hope. And, and going back to the story, um, when I became an assistant principal, yes. I actually applied to a, I applied for a, well, actually, what I wanted to do, and what I thought I was gonna do was I was going to lead like technology initiatives at the district level. Uh, that was kind of the goal. And, uh, I, there was an assistant principal job that opened up in the middle of summer. So basically anyone who wants to be an administrator is either, probably got their job mm-hmm. <affirmative> for that year. Yep. Or on vacation <laugh>. And I'm not doing anything right. So I'm like, oh, I, you know, I'll throw my name in this so that people know I'm interested in leadership. 'cause I'm like, God, I don't want to be assistant principal. I have no interest in that. 

Speaker 2 (30:27):

Right. And, uh, but I want people to know, like, hey, I'm interested in, in going into like, formal leadership. So the reason I mentioned like, you know, it's middle of the summer is 'cause I don't think anyone, I don't think many people applied. Like it probably wasn't, like, I probably kind of got through to the interview Uhhuh <affirmative>, uh, because there was just so few people at the time. Right. So I got a, I got an interview there probably like, well, you know, let's see what this guy does because, you know, not many people are applying. So, uh, I actually, uh, got an interview, got in there, you know, had a really nice formal welcome. And, uh, probably about five minutes in I started fighting with the principal and we were like yelling at each other, going at back and forth. And he was like, really in my face. 

Speaker 2 (31:08):

And I, I'm 10, like, if you get in my face, I'll, you know, I, I can push back. And, uh, like I could, like, I even just talking about it, like, I kind of visualized like I was sweating. Like it was just really weird. And, uh, yeah, like if I didn't agree with something, I, I challenged him. And so the, the interview, I remember actually the head of HR who, you know, I got to know very well later on when I was an admin, uh, she just kind of sat there and I was like, can you, like, can somebody help me here? Like, what is going on? Right. She just didn't say anything. She just kind of let us go. And, uh, and then we, uh, interview ended and, you know, kind of like, kind of calmed down and it was like, okay, well hey, thanks for the opportunity. 

Speaker 2 (31:49):

It was like, it's, the way I expressed it in the book is like, it's like when you have a, a really bad date and you know you're never gonna see each other again. It was like that kind of goodbye. Like it was Yeah. Like, I'm done, right? Yeah. That, that was, that was, that was nice. Well, you know, maybe I'll call you kind of thing <laugh> and, uh, and so yeah, about two days. So I, uh, I, I, uh, talked to Kelly, who was my principal at the time, who encouraged me to go for it, even though it would've been her losing a teacher in the middle of summer. And she'd had to, you know, hire or replace someone to me. She was like, yeah, this is a go for this, right? So I told her, and she's like, no, no, no, that, and his name is Archie. 

Speaker 2 (32:27):

He's a very good friend of mine to this day. Uh, I said, this was like a weird experience. He's like, she's like, just, that's Archie, just don't even worry about it. You, you probably did way better than you think. I'm like, it was horrible. And then he called me and I thought it was like, you know, just the nice, Hey, you didn't get the job, but thanks for applying. And she, she's like, yeah, like, I wanna hire you for the job. I'm like, what are you talking about? He is like, he said, out all the people that I interviewed, you're the only one who challenged me. And basically, uh, what I would appreciate is someone who doesn't just tell me I'm doing the right thing, who doesn't just agree with everything I say, I need someone who pushes me because my job is to do what's best for kids. 

Speaker 2 (33:09):

And I think sometimes what people will do, because I'm the principal, they'll just tell me I'm right. 'cause they don't want, you know, they don't want to get into that. And so I need someone to challenge me. And so I need you to be that for me. But I am ultimately responsible for the decisions of the school. So like, if something goes wrong, the superintendent doesn't call you, they call me. Right. So if we go at it and have that conversation, and I say, I, I, I don't agree. We have to go this, you have to back me up because we can't have like a, a split team here. You, you gotta back me up. At the end of the day, we can hash it out. And maybe there's, you know, and, uh, I I, I can say this, and Archie you would probably say, I, I'm being honest with you, anytime I challenged him, he always went my way any single time. 

Speaker 2 (33:59):

But I didn't always challenge him, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I think that it was, it, it was because like when I challenged him, he knew there was something a little bit off. Right? Right, right. And I maybe saw something he didn't see mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And it wasn't like he said, A and I said Z. I'm like, uh, I think you need to do B. Right? Like, it, like it's kind of okay, but you need to think about these couple things too. Right. So it was just kind of just being thoughtful of that. And, uh, yeah, we were a great team and it, that's how it was. And then, so weirdly enough, and I, I don't think I told this story in the book. So we're this new team together. He's the new principal. I'm the new assistant principal. So it's a brand new admin team to the school. 

Speaker 2 (34:42):

So we don't know anybody about each other. Right. And we've had like a couple lunches together to get to know each other. So we go on, we go in the first day and, uh, we are making the schedule for the staff, right? And we were having meetings with the staff trying to understand. So we're just trying to like, you know, the schedule wasn't done. There's, you know, a whole bunch of other things that were, were going on. And, uh, one of the teachers came in and, uh, all of a sudden her and I are fighting. Right. And I don't know if you've ever seen that TikTok is like, is it me? Like, am I the drama? Like that was what was going on, right? Because I'm like, I am the, I'm like getting in fights with everybody, right? So her and I are going at it, and I was like, fuming mad about this. 

Speaker 2 (35:22):

And Archie said, you know, I don't, I don't think she was really that off. I think there's just a little miscommunication. But I, I, I know I know of her and I know she's a really good teacher. I'm like, all right. And like, we had a cordial relat relationship. And as I got to know her name's Cheryl, uh, Cheryl Johnson. And, uh, obviously I'm saying her name because this story turns out positive, right? If it was like, no, she's terrible. <laugh> her name. You know, I wouldn't say her name. So, uh, so her and I would have some, you know, would go at it every now and then. And, uh, we would, sometimes we would say like, Hey, we wanna, we want to try this new thing in our school. We wanna like do this. So we'd, we'd call Cheryln and we're like, Hey Cheryl, what do you think of this? 

Speaker 2 (36:08):

And she's like, nah, I don't like it. Well, why? Okay, so this is a problem. This is a problem. This is an issue. I'm like, give a week. So then, uh, we'd go through all of Sheryl's feedback and then we'd say, okay, Cheryll, we listened to what you said. We modified it. What do you think? We presented this to staff. She's like, I love it. And then we'd say like, Hey, we wanna do this thing. Here's what we think. And then Sheryl go up. I love it. Well, of course she loved it 'cause she like made up 90% of it, right? So, so now the teachers are listening to their colleague, who I know has influence. So, uh, about two years after getting an assistant principal job, I got assigned for a principal. And who do you think I actually went to become? My assistant principal was Cheryl the person who did the same thing for me that I did for Archie. 

Speaker 2 (36:48):

Right. And she knew how like, and I was like, we don't agree on everything and, but I know you know that we're both here to do what's best for kids. I need you to see things that I don't see. And I think she was actually, uh, she was probably, you know, year 20 ish, 25 maybe, of her teaching career. And I was, you know, I was pretty young, uh, in my teaching career. And so she had way more teaching experience than me. And I felt that she, she, I know this sounds weird, she appealed to other people who maybe wouldn't feel comfortable talking to me. Right. So I felt that, you know, people would see her and say like, I feel way more comfortable talking to Cheryl than I do George. And some would be the opposite. And so that was to me, and I think a lot of people thought I would hire like a George clone, like somebody, you know, who is like young, young guy kind of thing. 

Speaker 2 (37:37):

It's like, no, I don't, I don't need that. I already got me like mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Like, I don't need another, I I don't need another George. I already got one. Okay. I need someone who's different, who has a different perspective. And so that, that really shaped, um, the way that I look at things. And I'm really big on the notion of challenge. I think challenge is really important. What I don't like is when it's done in a rude, uh, manner. And, uh, when, when, like I, the both the conversations, uh, I could tell you with Archie and Cheryl never got personal. They were never, it was always about ideas. I think it is very crucial to challenge ideas, but when you start actually doing personal things, that's a whole different way of, and I see that, unfortunately, I see that a lot in education. I see a lot on social media. 

Speaker 2 (38:21):

I see a lot with, you know, our communities together. And I think that, um, having, uh, you know, having challenges have, you know, focusing on doing what's best for kids, really important. But we have to be respectful in that manner. That was something that, you know, and maybe if you watch the conversations I used to have with Archie, uh, you wouldn't necessarily think they were respectful. But Archie and I were like brothers after a while, do you know what I mean? Right. So the way him and I could talk, because we just knew, you know, we would just, you know, we'd have fun and we'd joke around and people were like, are you two okay? And we're like, oh yeah, 

Speaker 1 (38:55):

Like, we're good. This is normal. 

Speaker 2 (38:56):

That was just, that was just how we, that was just how we talked to each other and, you know, but that wasn't like over, you know, it was like every person we have a different relationship with, you feel more comfortable with one conversations like that too. So I think that, um, that focus on challenge, uh, is something that's really important to me is that we have people with different experiences, different, uh, you know, viewpoints on things. But as long as we're both all focused on moving forward for kids, because I think a lot of times when you look at challenge in education, uh, and you kind of break it down, it's like, uh, it's, it's not about kids sometimes about ego. And uh, for me it was always like, okay, my focus on doing what's best for kids. And if I challenge in that, that's what's my center, then I, then I can go to sleep at night. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, that, that is my focus. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Right. And so, and I, that, that's who I surrounded myself with, even though we didn't have the same viewpoints on a lot of different things. 

Speaker 1 (39:49):

But those different perspectives are so important. 'cause we only see out of what our experiences are. And so it, I I, I think that's why I love that story so much because so many times we get stuck in our status quo and, and we're, we don't ever move out of it because we aren't willing to take the feedback and, and grow and continue being learners in that, in that vein of continuing to teach as well. So yeah. I mean that, yeah. And 

Speaker 2 (40:20):

Actually when I, when I do a lot of sessions, I say to them, like, when I, y'all talks or some content, and then I'll say, okay, let's, let's, let's, I wanna know what you wanna know, right? So like, let me know if you have any questions, uh, you know, anything you want me to show you, but also let me know if you want have any challenges mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Right. And the one thing I would say is, do not challenge me in the parking lot with your colleague when I'm gone. That doesn't help anything. Right. Like, do it in the room. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, like, if you don't, don't agree with something, I said, tell me, tell me what's going on because maybe I, maybe I miscommunicated it. Maybe I'm totally off because I see this as an opportunity for me to learn from you as well. 

Speaker 2 (40:58):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I'll tell you, like when I, I can go through, like, when I, when I do a talk, there's like little moments I'm like, oh yeah, I remember when that person pushed me on this, and this is why I say this different now. Oh, I remember that conversation I had, this is why I say this thing's different. Right. Right. And I like, I, I kind of model that too. And, but what I find with a lot of, and there I'm modeling that not only for like my own learning and growth, but I think it's a really important thing for, you know, schools administrators. Right. Saying like, Hey, well, like what's off here? Like, challenge me on what I just said. Like, you know, what, what's happening in this space? Because a lot of times, like I said, the challenges are like going into classrooms, talking to your colleagues and complaining mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But it doesn't change anything. It doesn't really help anyone. Right. But, but it's, but, but it's, it's, I'm not complaining about the teachers doing that. Sometimes it's the administrators that actually don't create an environment where they, people feel comfortable actually going through that. Like if I, you know, say something, I, I might lose my job. I might get in trouble. Mm-hmm. 

Speaker 1 (41:59):

<affirmative>. Right. And you talk about culture in, in both of your books, how important the culture is Yeah. Of, of growth and of, you know, trying things. Your books are full of, Hey, we tried this and it didn't work, or we tried this and it worked too great. Um, because that growth like that, I, I, all of your stuff is always about how are we gonna grow forward? How are we gonna move forward? Yeah. Um, I had an interesting experience in my own classroom where there were some things not working. So I went to the kids and said, Hey, just gimme some feedback here. You know, they're the ones sitting there. And I've heard you say several times, you know, I don't have to always be the expert in the classroom. And our kids have a lot of knowledge, a lot of, you know, excitement and expertise that we don't always have. And to give them the option as well to, um, learn to challenge an idea for something that might work better is a great way to teach our kids what it is to move out into the world outside of formal education as it is today. 

Speaker 2 (43:08):

Yeah. And I think, I think, I think for me, the one thing I do acknowledge, I always say like, the teacher is the expert in the classroom. And I think that's something that's really, but they're not the sole source of information. Yes. 

Speaker 1 (43:18):


Speaker 2 (43:18):

And the reason, the reason I say that and what I point to, and I think when we, if you really think about, a lot of times when we see speakers, we see people, uh, you know, talking at workshops, things like this. And we say like, oh, like teachers are not the sole source of information anymore. What should they point to Google, YouTube, Twitter, things like that. Right? They, but they don't necessarily say like, I'm like saying, well, yeah, those things of course. What about your kids? What about the experiences? Right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And you go back to that experience when I talked about, uh, this was instilled in me literally from my first day of teaching when I walked into a high school technology class. And I would go there maybe 30 minutes before the class, try to get ahead of what we were gonna be doing that day. 

Speaker 2 (43:58):

But then saying to students like, I don't know. Hey, does anyone know how to do this? And then realizing, and these, and, and if anyone who's ever taught anything, maybe technology related, but probably anything, as soon as a kid figures out you don't know something and they can show you something, they don't say like, Ugh, this teacher is just doesn't know their stuff. They, they get an excitement of being able to like, share information Right. To, to feel valued. Right. And so that was something that was instilled in me. I would love to say it was intentional, but it was more like, Hey, this is the only way I'm making it through. 'cause I do not know enough about this stuff to teach this at the high school level. So if I don't count on these kids, I'm gonna be in trouble. And by the end of the year, uh, you know, I'd gained a lot of knowledge through connecting the kids. 

Speaker 2 (44:40):

And that was something that I always set up. Like even, uh, I remember when I was assistant principal, I had to teach health, which was like a throwaway class, right? Like, Hey, nobody's teaching how, so it's yours now. And I'm like, do I have to seriously teach middle school health? Like, I don't wanna do, this is not my area. So I actually just said to my students, I'm like, Hey, uh, here's a curriculum and uh, what we would like you to do is I want you to kind of go through the curriculum. I put it in student friendly language. I want you to tell me what you would like to teach. And, uh, you will prepare, uh, a lesson on teaching that component of health. And not only do you have to teach the lesson, you also, um, have to assess how your fellow students have done. 

Speaker 2 (45:20):

So this is my way of saying like, I don't wanna teach this class. I'm gonna get the kids to do it. That the more I can get out of this process, the better. And then, and then I was like, oh, the, the kids are actually really into this. Like, this is actually like, they're doing stuff I would've never done. It's like way better. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And, and like, I would love to say, like, again, I was such a visionary, so forward thinking, I was like, really about student ownership. It was like, I just don't want to teach this. I'm like super busy already with admin. Uh, and this is like a throwaway class. So like, they're not like no one really caress about the kids' health mark. 'cause it's like two to three classes a week kind of thing. Right. And I was just like, wow, this actually like, turned out amazing. This is probably one of the best classes I've ever, you know, I ever taught, you know Right. Quotation marks. Uh, because the kids had ownership. They, they want to go through the process and they see what their, you know, uh, their peers are doing and they want to top that class. You know, they kind of go through this and they were just more invested in the class because like Kelly did for me, I gave them ownership. Right, 

Speaker 1 (46:18):

Right. And that goes, so seeing 

Speaker 2 (46:19):

That, seeing that process Yeah. Is something that's really powerful. 

Speaker 1 (46:22):

Well, and that goes, I mean, we give our kids ownership administration gives us ownership. Like it moves in that way in its own, its own culture. In doing that, we give, you know, we give our kids a voice. So I have a question for you. Sure. Um, we want to kind of wrap this up a little bit by doing a speed round with you. Are you cool with that? Yes. Okay. So, um, if you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be? 

Speaker 2 (46:47):

<laugh>. Well, after that story, I, I was gonna say lazy <laugh>, so that's what the thing I'm thinking of. But, um, uh, I would say, uh, innovative. 

Speaker 1 (46:57):

Okay. What would your girls say you were 

Speaker 2 (47:00):

My daughters Uhhuh 

Speaker 1 (47:01):


Speaker 2 (47:03):

Um, I hope loving. 

Speaker 1 (47:05):

Okay. So on your voicemail recording, what does it say right now? 

Speaker 2 (47:10):

I, well, okay, this is not a one word answer. I do not have voicemail 'cause I hate voicemail. 

Speaker 1 (47:15):

Oh, well there you go. That's, 

Speaker 2 (47:16):

Yeah, I actually don't, I disabled it. I hate it. So yeah, if you need to get ahold of me, you got text, 

Speaker 1 (47:22):

Text, text. Okay. 

Speaker 2 (47:24):

You can't even call me. 

Speaker 1 (47:25):

Can't even call me. I'm 

Speaker 2 (47:26):

Like, you know, those companies that are really annoying that say like, we don't have anyone that has phones here. We can only, we only phone out Uhhuh. <affirmative>. That's, that's, that's me in real life. That's you. Yeah. I only phone out no one. No good phobia. Yeah. I hate the phone. 

Speaker 1 (47:38):

So you told us the book that you were reading right now. What's your all time hands down favorite book that you would read for the rest of your life? 

Speaker 2 (47:50):

Oh, that I read for, uh, probably, um, probably How To Win Friends and Influence People would be up there. Uh, seven Habits of Highly Effective People would be there. 

Speaker 1 (48:01):

Favorite ice cream flavor? 

Speaker 2 (48:03):

Um, I would say, uh, chocolate chip and no, anything like a chocolate chip cookie dough. But there's gotta be something with peanut butter going on. 

Speaker 1 (48:14):

<laugh>. Okay. Peanut butter. Yeah. That's awesome. That 

Speaker 2 (48:16):

Be peanut butter and something. So it's gotta be chunky and peanut butter. It's gotta be involved 

Speaker 1 (48:19):

Chunky and peanut butter. Okay. All right. All right. So last one. What would you want the log line of your life to be? 

Speaker 2 (48:29):

Is this like my tombstone? Is that what you're talking 

Speaker 1 (48:31):

About? Uhhuh? Yeah. Yep. 

Speaker 2 (48:33):

Um, wow. This one, this one. Is this a speed round? This is like 

Speaker 1 (48:37):

A pretty question. No, this like, 

Speaker 2 (48:38):

Question for like to zip through 

Speaker 1 (48:39):

This one. Yeah. No, you can, you don't have to zip through this one. 

Speaker 2 (48:41):

Yeah, I, uh, I, I just, uh, I would love it to say he inspired people to inspire people. That's, that's what I love is that I want to be, I want to be like Kelly. That's, that's my goal is to be that person that, and, and like, that's why I say don't, I don't tell anyone how to teach. Um, I just try to model stuff and I hope other people, uh, learn from my example, which is flawed in many ways. And, uh, but I always, I always want, I don't want to, I want, my hope is that I help people figure out their own way not to tell 'em where to go. 

Speaker 1 (49:20):

Well, thank you so much for spending your afternoon with us. I just appreciate your stories. Yeah, yeah. And, and again, um, just your new book because of a teacher. I mean, that's when, when we're stuck, that's that place we need to go back to. 'cause teachers are changing the world. Until next time, lean in and stay curious.

Season 2, Episode 1 Summary

In this episode, we talk with Jeremy Spielman. He’s the Assistant Director at the National Paideia Center. Jeremy is an experienced teacher, principal, system administrator, and school-transformation agent. And, yes we do ask him to explain what in the world a ‘school-transformation agent’ is. We're also joined by Aryn Erwin, a 4th grade teacher at Wolflin Elementary, who is entering her fourth year of implementing Paideia in her classroom.

Episode 1 Notes

0:01 – Welcome and Overview of Episode.

01:30 – Update on Amtech Career Academy.

02:29 – Jeremy Spielman, Assistant Director at the National Paideia Center: Introduction and bio info.

07:20 – Jeremy discusses his Paideia Seminar involvement with Wolflin Elementary School

12:52 – The idea of failure, when things don’t work the way we want them to work but how that leads to an opportunity to shape and form growth: “Calculated risk is essential for growth.”

16:30 – Jeremy describes what Paedeia is and what it can lead to according to the research: “Teaching how to think, not what to think.”

20:23 – Aryn Erwin, 4th Grade teacher at Wolflin Elementary, shares her classroom Paideia experiences and observations: “They’re learning critical thinking skills.”

29:14 – “...microwave solutions to crock pot problems.”

35:26 – Round-table discussions of the ripple effects that occur.

40:17 – Closing thoughts.


Speaker 1 (00:00):

I don't, I'm not, I'm struggling with how to start this. I'm just, maybe I'm just gonna say, um, Hey everybody. Welcome back to season two of Schoolwork New school year, new season, new Vision, and actually a new voice. I'm excited to introduce Heather Yas, who's gonna be joining me this year. And, uh, Heather, welcome. We're really excited about you being a part of schoolwork and, um, and what you're gonna bring and your voice and your passion for, for helping our staff and, and our a s d community learn and grow. So, glad to have you. 

Speaker 2 (00:31):

Thanks for having me, Kevin. I am so excited to be here and the excitement of what's coming, what we have planned for you guys, not even just in professional and personal development. And we just got done having a conversation with Jeremy Spielman from pide, and he's been working with some of our elementary schools, specifically wolfly, and we also have Aaron Irwin with us too, which she has taken, taken some amazing risk, um, with the pide a seminar. And so we are super excited to kick this year off with a well-rounded conversation with Jeremy, not just about pide, but also about, um, education and where we're going and just connecting with kids in a deep way. 

Speaker 1 (01:13):

Absolutely. We're, we're, this is good stuff, and, uh, I won't, you know, we, we specifically talk a little bit about padea, but we also really just talk about public education and, and helping kids be, you know, better thinkers and people and brothers and sisters and sons and daughters. And so it's, it's really cool stuff. Um, before we jump into that, just a little news around A I S D, um, really cool thing. We added another campus to our family, uh, in Amtech, and so we're really excited about phase one of Amtech and they still have a little bit of construction going on there with phase one, but all in all, it's been a really, really good time. As we've opened Amtech about 2,100 kids in and out of that building each day. Uh, talked with, uh, Tiffany Hooker over there yesterday, just briefly and really cool stuff going on. You know, the dentistry program and the pharmacy tech stuff. Um, even a program that we've had for a while in culinary with just some amazing, awesome new facilities with the bistro and the pastry lab. So cool stuff going on, and, um, exciting news with the phase one opening of Amtec as we start the 20 21, 20 22 school year. 

Speaker 2 (02:28):

Yeah, that is awesome. Let's get into this conversation with Jeremy. Well, Jeremy, it's exciting to have you on today. And one thing that I so find fascinating, Jeremy, is your educational philosophy on just asking questions and letting kids just start talking about those things. But one of parts of your bio that I find fascinating is that you are the professional development coach, the digital learning, the a i g programming, and then also the transformational coach. I mean, how cool. I've never even heard of that in a school district. And so just talk to us about your background. 

Speaker 3 (03:08):

Sure, absolutely. Well, first, thank you so much for having me. Uh, and I have to say, every time we interact with, uh, school districts, we tend to share stories and, and opportunities where individuals are, are showcasing just amazing work. And, and I think that's sort of a, been a pathway to what's, uh, been my life's work is really tapping into, uh, human potential. And, and in the field of education in particular, that transformation, I think is, is met with open arms when, when folks are looking for sort of honor in the field, but also refining their craft. And so, um, you know, from, from my earliest inception as a, uh, an elementary teacher, I focused on, on really trying to tap into student potential. And then ultimately when I got to, to lead schools and work with educators, it was the same thing. It was really how do we focus on, on sort of that individual transformation? And, and so that, that work has just been a part of who I am, whether it's title or whether it's, you know, just something that, you know, you talk to me on an airplane and I'm most likely gonna mention something about development. So 

Speaker 2 (04:16):

What, what you're, what you carry that atmosphere that you carry. That's super cool. So tell us a story or something that from your early career that you felt like led you down this path of transformation and changing what the face of education looks like in so many classrooms. 

Speaker 3 (04:36):

Sure. Well, and, and I, I love storytelling in the sense that I do think it's a way that we can, can share components of who we are. And, and so I would say, uh, I never thought I was going to be an educator, truth be told. I was, uh, I was a marketing guy, you know, it was, I was in Deca, I went to Nationals. I thought, you know, what success was, was convincing people to invest in you. And I realized I had it backwards that success was convincing individuals to invest in themselves. And so, you know, the best way to do that is I think through education and, and through teaching. And so, uh, I sh shifted gears. I moved from South Florida to Boone, North Carolina to, to get a teaching degree. Uh, and that was quite a shock to go from a very urban environment to a very rural environment. Um, but I, I realized that I wanted to, to be somewhere where I could, could get the best teaching possible, um, to learn myself. And, and so it, it brought me into the world of education. And I, I think I still use those marketing skills, uh, but in a very different way. It's a power of persuasion, uh, for, for growing people. 

Speaker 2 (05:44):

Wow. I love that success you're investing in the success of, of other people and these teachers that are changing the world, one kiddo at a time. How has your, your journey taking you through all parts of education, both locally in North Carolina, but then also globally, because you, you're taking this idea to the global market, what does that look like for you? 

Speaker 3 (06:12):

Yeah, you know, um, I think at, at one point in my career, I was an international baccalaureate coordinator, program coordinator and, and helped sort of do some IB stuff. And I think that served an itch to sort of see the world. I recognize the education. Uh, there are similarities and differences all across the planet. And I, I sort of, uh, learned from, from travel and from opportunities to engage with, with people from all, all across the country and the world. And so when they started offering training internationally, I, I thought, you know, educators should have an opportunity to see what, what teaching good teaching looks like in all sorts of part, uh, the world. And so, so that sort of was that first initial, um, opportunity. And then when p sort of opened up the, the opportunity to do some travel as the one of their trainers, I picked up on that work and got to travel some. But, uh, when the job to be the assistant national director opened, I couldn't say no. 'cause it gave me that opportunity to, to just engage and, and also get that, that up that chance to see people in their best light, um, everywhere in the land. 

Speaker 1 (07:21):

So, Jeremy, talk to us, um, about your work here in Amarillo with Wand. And I, I'll just say one of the cool things about you, um, is that I've, I've watched you in one of our, our classrooms, actually, I think it was in the library at Wolfing. Um, I think it's really cool when, when trainers and people like yourself who work with teachers are still working with kids. And I, I've, I've been there, I've seen you work with some of our kids here in Amarillo at Wolfing. Um, and so talk to us about, you know, this, this, this recognition that wolfing has received as the, the first nationally certified Pide school in Texas. And just tell us a little bit about, you know, the journey that you've been on with Wolfing, and I know some of our other schools, but particularly with Wolfing and Erin and her colleagues and, and her and their kids at Wolfing. 

Speaker 3 (08:16):

Absolutely, yeah, Kevin, that this, the power I think in this work is in, in recognizing when a school is sort of matched, uh, ideally with this pedagogy and, and sort of opening up student voice and, and choice and just their ability to connect around ideas and values. And so, um, when a team came to us a few years back at a national training, uh, Maria talked about sort of implementation with some schools, some elementary schools. And so we, we started the work and, you know, as you know, there are early adapters and sort of, uh, those that wanna just, just sort of ease into it a little bit more. And, you know, then of course we, we had the pandemic piece too, which, which was a pause button for a lot of campuses, which we absolutely honor and recognize that sometimes you just, you have to take that pause. 

Speaker 3 (09:07):

But Wolfly was really unique in the sense that they opted to, instead of pause, almost focus energy in a way that, that, um, Heather, much like you mentioned, that transformation became a way to sort of insulate some of those emotions and those, that social aspect that's so necessary for school, which became even harder during the pandemic. And so for them to sort of take that piece and, and really honor it and support it and make it a part of their, their educational journey, uh, is so powerful. And, and, you know, we, we saw that happening. And so when Stephanie, the principals and, and their staff said, we think we we're ready for this certification, uh, I absolutely said, you know, I, I think so as well. And, and, you know, honestly, you're, you're sort of a beacon for so many other campuses to see, uh, that this can be done and that it actually is, is almost that much more powerful when students really needed a safe space to just even share what they were thinking, connect on ideas and, and just sort of build on each other's, uh, feelings about school. 

Speaker 1 (10:10):

Yeah. So it's, it's really, it's really been a fascinating thing for me to watch. Um, it, it's really cool to see, you know, kind of the full circle of, of trying something new, um, and watching you model that for our teachers at wolfing in the library, and then all the way through time being, um, being at, at Wolfly toward the end of the year last year in May, and watching a couple of teachers with their own kids, um, having a, having a seminar in, in the round house. And, and so it's just been, been really cool. What, what, in your mind, um, what, what was the key for wolfing? I mean, what, what really, uh, you said just a minute ago that whenever they mentioned pursuing the certification, you really didn't have any hesitations. And so what were the components of you not hesitating and realizing they're there, they're ready for this, um, because there's a, you know, it's easy to say that they were ready and, and that you didn't have any hesitations, but there was a lot that went into you not having that hesitation. So talk to us about what were, why, why didn't you hesitate about wolfing? 

Speaker 3 (11:20):

Well, you know, uh, with certain campuses, you, you can walk into a building and almost immediately sense the sort of the culture, uh, within the, the building and, and how the staff interact and, and how they communicate and support each other. And, and I think, uh, their implementation team, and that's sort of a key aspect to this work is, is not having one single person sort of do the heavy lifting. And so, uh, Stephanie and the implementation team, and Erin and all the folks that were really committed to sort of meeting their fellow teachers, sort of where they were at, you know, that idea of, of seeing someone's possibility and coaching and supporting them, not letting them feel alone, I think was, was really what stood out as, as, you know, this is a growth mindset, so let's find the assets that, that are in the building currently and leverage them. 

Speaker 3 (12:07):

And so it was easy to see that the connectivity and the support and their ability to, to lift each other up. And, and so I think, you know, sometimes, uh, we meet people where they're at and we sort of, uh, assume that's where they are. I think at Wolfly, when you see their, their interactions, they see where someone can be, they sort of see that transformation happening. And so it was, it was so easy to support, and, and, and truth be told, I think I learn as much from them when I go visit as I could ever possibly share, because I get those stories of, of, you know, what worked and what didn't. And that's also the power in this work. You learn just as much by having a, a seminar that did not go the way you expected it versus, you know, following sort of a recipe and hoping the cookies come out the way you wanted. 

Speaker 2 (12:52):

So ke so let's talk just a little bit about that idea of, of failure when it doesn't quite work the way we want it to work. Um, and I think back to your story and you said, well, I had this plan and we're gonna go this direction and your life, and then life does crazy things like that, and it gives us different opportunities. And you jumped on a different opportunity. Um, how has that idea of almost failing forward, kinda like Brian Tracy talks about helped like shape who you've become as a husband, as a father, as an educator, not just in your home life, but also in, in the life of Pedea and the way that, um, it's been growing? 

Speaker 3 (13:36):

Yeah. No, that it's, you know, that absolutely is a, a huge piece of, of sort of my story, I think is an, and recognizing that that calculated risk is essential for growth. And, you know, I think it's sort of one of those, uh, those ideas that, you know, until you actually jump, you don't know necessarily if, if you can fly or not, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so I think education sometimes is static in nature, uh, in the teaching position in particular because there's not as many opportunities to sort of, to, to move within that, um, that title. And so I think, um, finding those chances to, to develop and grow, um, is, is crucial. And so it's, it's that sense of building that environment where you can try things, you can see, and, and you have that sort of trust within the building and in the district to say, we don't know if this is gonna work or not, but we, until we try, uh, we're, you know, and that, that's sort of, I think kids pick up on that. If they see that a a teacher is willing to be vulnerable and to fail forward, then they're willing to try that as well. And, and so I, I would say, you know, with my two daughters from, from day one, it's, it's more about let's talk through how this looks and, and sort of see different, um, solutions versus let's avoid this at all costs because it might trigger a failure, 

Speaker 2 (14:55):

Right? And that's so powerful. 'cause we're asking our kids on a daily basis, Hey, let's think outside the box, let's move this. But then as professionals, as teachers, um, we don't often do that in that modeling is super important. And so how, when, when you think about that, how does it look in, in a classroom, just like a general setting classroom, because for me, I teach secondary and science, and you know, when, when I was reading through some things, I thought, wow, is this just for English? Or how does this exactly look? And how do we teach kid to have kids to have that conversation where it is safe and we are authentic? What does that look like? 

Speaker 3 (15:36):

Well, uh, you know, that's such a great question. I, I think, you know, the, the opportunity in areas that, disciplines that we sort of consider to have right or wrong answers, right? Science in particular, there's sort of that sense of, you know, is this, you know, we don't want necessarily to arrive at the wrong answer, but that's also if you look at, at the way lab works at, you know, at the highest level of science, it's continuous failures until it's not. Right? So, so that's the, yeah. So the piece of, of helping students see that we, and, and science, uh, breakthroughs are not typically done in silos or with just one individual. So it's also relying on the minds of your team and your, your, you know, your lab group. So I think it's, it's that sort of building of, of collaboration around we're, we're brighter together than we are if we try to sort of work in silos. 

Speaker 1 (16:30):

So tell us, Jeremy, just for, for our staff and, and people listening who may not be familiar with Padea, tell us, tell us kind of in a, in a nutshell, what is it, and then, and then, and then tell us what does the research say about its effectiveness? So what, what, what is it if you do it, what are, what is it gonna lead to for your kids and why does it work according to the research? And then I think we need to just have Erin chime in about, you know, what does she see in her own classroom, but what is Padea, um, and, and what does the research say about its effectiveness? 

Speaker 3 (17:08):

Sure. Yeah. You know, Padea is sort of one of those things. I mean, it's, it's a Greek word, uh, that, that means the rearing or upbringing of children, uh, but it's sort of is, is active learning and, and active in the sense that the, the student has to sort of be the primary centerpiece in doing that heavy cognitive lift. And so it sort of places the teacher in that supportive coaching role in the sense that they're, they're there to sort of help in that, that process of, of bringing, um, curiosity or wonderment into a, a sort of light where it can be then, um, critiqued and, and sort of, um, looked at in a, a way that's sort of what we're asking students to do when they're wanting to do close reading, or we want them to really understand, uh, a math problem. So it's, it's sort of, it's pairing a, a level of wonderment with this sense of, of sort of critical thinking to allow there to be that sort of balance of, of why do we think what we think versus, let me share what I hope the right answer is. So Pide is all about teaching how to think, not what to think. 

Speaker 1 (18:18):

And what does the research say about its effectiveness with, uh, kids? 

Speaker 3 (18:24):

Sure. Yeah. Um, well, one of the probably, uh, heaviest hitting researchers in, in the field of education right now is John Hattie. Um, and, and his sort of, um, his thoughts on, on which aspects, um, which things, uh, get the most sort of growth or leverage with students. And, and he did some work with us early in sort of measuring the effectiveness of, uh, conversation through seminar, in particular PDay seminar, uh, and sort of looking at that cycle, which is not just the discussion, but it's also that sort of connection to, uh, students setting goals, uh, having that authentic feedback from peers and from their teachers. And so it's, it checks a lot of the boxes that Hattie sort of says are the biggest sort of levers in growing students. Um, I'd say the other piece too is, is that sort of sense of building self-efficacy, uh, to where, again, back to that idea of failing, but it's, it's, uh, scary to put out an idea if you're not quite sure if it's right or not. 

Speaker 3 (19:27):

But in the safe space of a seminar, when you're sort of constructing meaning or making sense of things and weighing and considering, uh, you can, you, you do two things. You, you, you build that self-efficacy, but you also, as an active listener, you build a level of empathy. Uh, and I'd say that to me, really my passion right now is, is in studying, listening in particular, that being the linchpin in this whole process. And I think if we help students better activate as listeners, it really gives them a chance to sort of make sense of, of the world and sort of collect all those things that we're saying, trying so desperately to help them sort of, um, understand. So I would say the listening pieces is huge. 

Speaker 1 (20:09):

If there ever were a time in the world where listening is pretty important, maybe we might be at that most important time in, in, in our world. Uh, just kind of a side comment there, Kevin's opinion. Aaron, tell us, um, at Wolfly, what do you, what do you see as the, the, you know, two or three biggest, most powerful things in relation to what you've done with your kids with PED at Wolfly? 

Speaker 4 (20:39):

Um, I think a lot of the power that I've seen and the change that I've seen in students is just, um, a stronger grasp on their own thoughts and their own feelings. I have seen students, um, go from not being able to converse with each other in an effective way to being able to really break down a piece of text or even just any sort of conversation, um, and get to a greater understanding with each other through that. Um, we've seen a lot of social emotional growth growth at Wolf Wind during a time when a lot of people were seeing regression in those areas. Um, we've had less office referrals in the last few years that we've been doing this. Um, and as well as that, we've also seen, um, our fifth grade students last year who have been doing Pide for three years now, had incredible star reading scores. Uh, I think they were at That's awesome. 98%. 

Speaker 2 (21:41):

That's amazing. 

Speaker 1 (21:42):

Cool. Almost every time talk, I, I know we have to be careful, but talk a little bit, almost every time I talk to one of you guys who really have gotten into implementing, um, seminar, you talk about how this engages kids, some kids that you are not able to engage in the normal things that we do. So kids that are struggling emotionally, kids that have special learning needs, kids that just really have a hard time, you know, doing the normal school thing, sitting at a desk and doing their work. Um, you, you all, almost always, you guys talk about how it engages the most un-engaged kids that we have. So just talk about why you think that works. 

Speaker 4 (22:24):

Uh, I think the beauty in Pidea is that it's not a normal class setting, so it really, um, helps those kids that maybe don't do well in a normal class setting to achieve goals and to really thrive. Um, I've seen students who have a hard time getting something down on paper say the most profound thing in the room, because instead of worrying about spelling or writing the correct letters the correct way, they're just talking and answering a question with what's in their brain. Um, 

Speaker 2 (22:59):

So Erin, for you, when you were approached to do this, I mean, it took a lot of risk on your part to say, okay, I might, I might jump in on this. And so talk to us about your story, because as educators, we're often nervous to try something new because what if it doesn't work? Um, but you didn't, and you jumped in and some of your stories are just, uh, like moving heart moving because they're changing the lives of kids. So talk about that risk that you took. 

Speaker 4 (23:30):

I think as educators, we, um, are some people that have the hardest time with change, and I was lucky that this was brought to me really early in my career, but it was still really scary because you're giving a lot of power away to your students when you do a seminar. Um, but I immediately saw buy-in when I listened to the conversations that kids who had never even done this before were able to have over a text that was probably way higher than their grade level. Um, you might ask me another question to keep going. Sorry, <laugh>. 

Speaker 2 (24:05):

So that, that risk and, and then now you're leading it like your kid, you're, you are a leader in this, even at, like you said, early in your career, you're getting to change something and influence other teachers who are influencing kids who are going out and changing the world. And when we talked the other day, you talked, we talked about how it's changing conversations. How do you see that changing conversations in the kids' worlds, even outside of education where it's growing these kids, like you said, I want my kids to be better humans, people when they leave my classroom. 

Speaker 4 (24:40):

Yes. I think, um, Jeremy said this earlier, he said, you're teaching students how to think, not what to think. And I think, um, I'm really seeing my children sit down and process something that they've read or that they've heard or a conversation that they've had, and think through the things that they're hearing from their parents or the news or social media and forming their own opinions. And I think that's something really powerful that payday has given them. 

Speaker 2 (25:09):

That's amazing because 

Speaker 1 (25:10):

All right, Erin, so I'm just, I'm gonna kind of push you a little bit. So, um, for all of our teacher friends that are listening, um, um, and I, I know you teach science and social studies, I, I won't claim to know much about science. We'll leave that to Heather and, and her, her colleagues. Um, but as an old geography teacher who understands social studies and keeping up with Devi, a social studies is one of those areas where the teaks are so wide. I mean, there are so many teaks you have to teach in the course of a year. And so how do you, how do you really get yourself to a place given everything that you're expected to teach, and the limited time that you have to teach it, to really say to yourself, I'm gonna take, um, I'm gonna take a week of instruction every six weeks or every month, or, because I think that's generally kind of the commitment you guys have made. So how do you deal with that internal struggle of, I've got all this to teach, but I really am gonna make time to do P day and what it entails. How do you, how do you, how do you get yourself to make that commitment and act on doing something new as opposed to just keeping on doing the same things you've always done? 

Speaker 4 (26:25):

Um, several things. One is, while it is a week every month or every six weeks, it's a very short amount of most days. The only day that really takes up a lot of class time is the day that we do our seminar. Um, and as far as that's concerned, I, there, there are seminars that are social studies related, there are seminars that are science based, there are seminars that are math based. Um, but going further than that, the idea that PIDEA seminars are teaching critical thinking, I think feeds into everything that we do as educators. Um, our students are analyzing texts. They are, um, writing with a purpose. When they're done analyzing the text, they're learning critical thinking skills. And I think all of that ties back into all of the teaks that we're teaching, no matter what subject we teach. I also think as educators, one of the biggest things that I personally believe about my classroom is if my kids are not leaving my classroom a better person than I have not done my job. And ea fosters that in the easiest way possible. 

Speaker 1 (27:31):

So you really believe through seminar that your kids are getting to those higher levels of learning and understanding, and they are better prepared for the tests that they will take. And I'm not just talking about star, I'm talking about, you know, one day in middle school, one day in high school when they take the s a t or the A c T or whatever. And then, and then in your mind, in addition to those higher level, level thinking skills, you just really believe this makes people better, little brothers and better sisters and better, um, sons and daughters. Right? 

Speaker 4 (28:05):

Absolutely. You sounded up perfectly. 

Speaker 1 (28:08):


Speaker 3 (28:09):

Jeremy, Kevin, I, I, go ahead. I was just gonna add real quick to that, uh, where we see sometimes the biggest distinction and sometimes you don't always measure that growth, especially if you're teaching, uh, elementary students when they're in college or they're applying for fellowships or for, uh, scholarships or grants. It's when they have that interview or it's when they have that essay, they need to write that you really see the distinction of them as thinkers. Yeah. Because they're able to really sort of go, not against the grain, but they're able to formulate sort of really unique and authentic pieces versus sort of following that recipe that I mentioned earlier. And so oftentimes we'll have employers say, hands down, I'll, I'll hire a Pide kid because I know that they're, they understand these things and they can advocate. And so they're, they become those sort of leaders in the workplace. They become those students that's, uh, that are more successful, uh, in college because they sort of understand that the how to think piece and, and the application beyond when, when we have them. And yeah. So I just wanna echo to what Aaron was saying. 

Speaker 1 (29:14):

Yeah. That, and that's, I really, I appreciate you making that point, and I'm really, I'm really digging deep there with Aaron because I know we have a lot of teachers, um, and many of these are in some of our most complex schools and, and they're, you know, they're in this internal struggle of, you know, how do we get kids where they need to be in terms of the standardized test because their accountability for their school is, is driven, um, almost solely in some cases off of that. And so it's just this struggle of, you know, do I have time to really try things like pide, um, or should I do some of these more, more traditional things that we all, you know, are convinced sometimes falsely are gonna work for our kids? And so I know that, that that's a struggle that people have and, um, I think it's good that we acknowledge and recognize that struggle that people have. But I, I think it's interesting just to get Erin's perspective of really, you know, it is preparing her kids for those things. And then the cool thing is it's really preparing them in ways that you may never touch with some of the more traditional things. And you just mentioned them how to be, you know, a person that can interact in a business situation and advocate for themself either in college or in the workforce. So, cool. 

Speaker 2 (30:35):

So what do you see, um, trends in education across the country in relation to this, in relation to more traditional aspects of teaching? Um, that as you travel across the nation and even the world, what are you seeing there? 

Speaker 3 (30:50):

Sure. Yeah, that's a, a a great question because I think, you know, education is not unique in the sense that it looks for, for sort of microwave solutions to crockpot problems. But it, it is, um, one of those places where new is, is either repackaged in a way that that allows for someone to invest and, you know, programs the way they're designed or to sort of have a shelf life anyway, so, so when you sort of strip away whatever the title might be and the the, you get to sort of the core of what it is, I think what makes P unique is that it, it really isn't a scripted sort of, um, it's more philosophical or, or pedagogical in nature. So it honors the teacher's craft and it can be done in a, you know, in a extremely conservative environment with success. It could be done in a liberal environment with success, it could be done in a private school, public school, homeschool, charter school. 

Speaker 3 (31:45):

So because it's not about sort of, um, a, a prescriptive curriculum, it really is that sense of how do we communicate effectively? And, and I want to echo sort of Aaron's piece around that, that sense of confidence and communication. So if we think about learning at its apex, it's that ability to, to absorb in input that sort of, you know, that the reading and the listening and then to sort of think around it and then ultimately produce or have output through, uh, speaking and writing. And so it's that, you know, you could insert any content, but it's that sort of sense of can I communicate this effectively to someone else to sort of show understanding? And so, you know, we see we've got schools in Vancouver that have a really unique, uh, they do sort of a, a, a whole course within, uh, two weeks time, sort of this almost like bootcamp type thing where the students just go through this rapid cycle of learning and then they sort of can take that, that exam and, and do well and retain it. And they wanted to use seminar as, as, as really a, a formative assessment vehicle to test where their understanding before they got to that testable point, because if they can talk about it, uh, more like with, with understanding and also take support from others that they probably are going to maintain that, 

Speaker 2 (33:09):

Right? 'cause we teach that in the class. Like if you can teach it to your friend next door that doesn't know it, then you have reached a higher level of understanding. I really appreciated what you said yesterday or yesterday, what you said earlier that, um, that it puts the teacher not in the center role, but it puts the student at as the focus and the teacher as the coach and guide. And can you just kind of explain what, just kind of what that would look like in a classroom, um, for our listeners? 

Speaker 3 (33:42):

Sure. Well, and, and again, I'm gonna echo the wise words of Erin when she said the, the giving away of power or the transference of power. Yeah, that's both scary. And that's also transformational because sometimes we have that anxiety of, if, if I, if I let go, then it may be that they don't maintain or they don't gain what I'd hoped they will out of this lesson or out of this experience. Uh, but it sort of goes back to what Kevin was saying earlier about that, that sort of stress of I'm being measured by will they retain this information, so I'm gonna try that much harder to sort of fill the vessel. And so, and, and, and with Pidea it's really more about the vessel is already full. We just have to sort of understand how, how to let the students see that, that they in fact have those answers. 

Speaker 3 (34:31):

So it really is a supportive, you know, almost sort of like, uh, you know, an expert professional, um, trainer might, might meet somebody and say, you just need to tweak this and you, you'll improve in this, whatever it may be. It really does sort of put teacher as coach in the sense that in developing those skills, it, you're meeting the students sort of where they're at, and then you're sort of helping them grow that vygotsky zone of proximal development. It's that sort of, let me support you with, with just a little bit more than you can sort of handle versus I hope you get this even though this may be well above or below where, where you're at. So it's, it is tricky to, to sort of have the student, uh, be an active partner in that. But as we sort of started this conversation when, when I was asked what payday is, I said, it's active learning. It really does sort of put student front and center in in their, their wonderment being the fuel for, for sort of this process. 

Speaker 2 (35:26):

And they're taking ownership of their learning. 

Speaker 3 (35:29):

Absolutely. Yeah. 

Speaker 2 (35:31):

That's, that's amazing because I think that's what we all want for our kids is to say, yeah, I got this. I'm gonna go do it because I am excited and wondering about all these questions, but so many times that's not what, not what happens 'cause we don't let go of the control of it. 

Speaker 3 (35:49):

Well, and, and sometimes that, that perception of control, you almost need the, the principle or the building leader, the, the district leader to sort of almost say, it's okay if you release a little bit of this. I promise if I walk in, this is not going to impact your evaluation. And I think that's why Stephanie is so amazing in this, and Erin, maybe you could speak to this, she wants to see seminars happening. It's not a, Hey, wait a second, I noticed you forgot this part. Or I'm, I'm evaluating sort of your ability to do this effectively. It's almost more that she's an ally and a support, uh, network to come in and say, I want to see this so then I can go and support others as well. Aaron, would you say that's maybe 

Speaker 4 (36:32):

Absolutely. Um, it is very encouraged for all of us to be doing this, and she's always willing to help and find coverage. She covered my class today so that I could be here. Um, she's definitely fostered that environment at our school, 

Speaker 2 (36:46):

And I think that's important as educators that we don't feel so many times there's an atmosphere of it's us against the administrators, against the kids. Like it's this triangle that we're all fighting through instead of fighting towards a goal together. And so when we feel that support, um, I've got that going on at my campus too. Like, I have this support for some things that are going on. And when you do feel like that as a teacher, that you have that kind of backing and yeah, we're, we're good. If you go in there and try that, I mean, it makes you feel like you can reach for the stars. I mean, like, I can do anything as a teacher if I know that my administration's behind me to try the new thing. 

Speaker 1 (37:24):

Yeah. And I, I think I would just reiterate in conversations that I've had with Stephanie, you know, it, it, I think the whole process of doing this and then supporting Erin and the teachers to take this risk, it, it really has impacted Stephanie in, in other ways. You know, not just about padea, but other things in the, in the culture and the environment that they're trying to build at Wolfly. And, um, and it's helped her, you know, allow herself as the principal to, to let go and to encourage risk taking. And it's one thing to tell people, you know, take that risk, you know, do something a little different, but it's just as scary for her as the principal because our principals understand that they're accountable for, you know, what happens at their school day to day, but they're also accountable in the end for, you know, how kids do. And, um, and so I think it's, it's just as scary for her as the principal. And I think, you know, in conversations that I've heard had with her, it, it, it's helped her this process, you know, overall build things and not only, um, facilitate pide, but also just the environment and the culture generally that they want, um, at, at, at Wolfly. So, 

Speaker 2 (38:35):

And I think most all, all educators want that culture, that atmosphere where we're growing and we do have that growth mindset because life's always changing and we need to, you know, model that change and that growth and always asking those questions of how can I be better and what can I do, you know, to make my classroom take it to the next place. And, you know, like, like Kevin said, our administrators do a great job of supporting our teachers to make that change. 

Speaker 3 (39:07):

It also has a, a ripple effect with the staff too, because this is something that's not just done to kids. It truly is all inclusive in the sense that the staff are having these seminar discussions, they're being vulnerable, they're, they're sharing ideas, they're transforming. And so it, it really, I think has this this ripple effect of, of keeping especially your irreplaceable teachers, those teachers, you know, that are just the lifeblood of your campus because they feel supported and nurtured and, and have an opportunity to share their voice to, to sort of bring about, if there's like, things that are brewing, a seminar almost becomes that safe space to say, Hey, we notice some of these things are are happening, but you're doing it through text, so it's not directly calling someone out. You have that, you pick the right text, you can talk about some of those emotions in a way that you wouldn't otherwise do. So. So it, I would say it also from a staff standpoint, you really kind of, when you get to that spot that wolf's at, you just see the camaraderie and, and the, the support amongst each other and, and it's, you wanna be there. Like, it, it's sort of a, has a pulse to it that, that you don't see at, at a lot of campuses. 

Speaker 1 (40:17):

Cool. Aaron, what have we missed? What, what, what's anything else you're dying to tell us about what pidea has done to with your kids and for your classroom and for your instruction and, and for your own, you know, you as a teacher and a person. What, what have we forgotten? 

Speaker 4 (40:36):

I think I just really wanna reiterate like, it is a risk to start this and to do this and to try implementing this in your classroom, but it's a risk with a lot of reward. Um, and I, I wanna emphasize that, uh, it's not hard to do <laugh> and it really turns the classroom into the teacher. It takes a lot off of the teacher when you start doing this and when your students start, um, being accustomed to what a seminar is. I did my first seminar with my new kids this week, and some of them have been at Wolfly and have done this before. And the cheers that erupted in my classroom when they found out they were getting to do a seminar, um, really spoke for itself and allowed That's awesome. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> the students who were new, who had never done this before, to be excited about something that they had no idea what it was going to be. Um, I think Jeremy talked a lot about how, um, it has created comradery at Wolfly with our staff and, you know, as teachers we say things like, this is our classroom is a family and things like that. And then you walk outta your classroom and you might not talk to all of your coworkers and it's really created a family of sorts with the staff at Wolfly and I think our kids pick up on that too. That's 

Speaker 1 (41:49):

Awesome. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> that's cool. Jeremy, we appreciate what you do for us here in Amarillo, what you've done with PDay. I know that Maria and, and our team continue to have conversations with you. Uh, I know we had a pretty, pretty decent group that went over the summer to a, to a conference, and so I, I think, um, you know, the groundwork has been laid with, with our folks at Wolfly and other schools who have been just, um, engrossed in this work for, for a bit now. And I think there's many, many, many, many more, um, you know, just great things gonna happen with PDay and Amarillo. And so we appreciate you coming and being with us when you come and, and the time that you've taken. And, um, really just really for, for taking the time to talk with Blake and have this idea about doing the podcast and, and as we kinda cast a new vision around the podcast and making it kind of a learning environment for staff and help them learn about new things, we, we appreciate you being with us and, and for, for continuing to come to Amarillo. 

Speaker 2 (42:52):

And I just have one more question. Awesome. Course not really at all around Pide, but, um, I'm an avid reader myself and I see all your books in the background. Um, and so, hey, shoot us some good, some good books that we should be reading, professional development, personal development, like what do you read, right? 

Speaker 3 (43:10):

Uh, you know, that that's a, that's a, a lofty question that we could spend all sorts of time on, and I'd be happy to, to extend, you know, for me, what I find is that digestible bits, either short stories, uh, those things that sort of provoke your, your thinking around a topic. I'm always, when I'm not, uh, leading professional development or pidea work, I'm reading to try and find that perfect seminar plan or find that that piece of text or that piece of artwork that, that I can share with teachers. And so, um, as of late, what I, I've sort of been read, the one that I I'm reading now is, uh, begin here by Jack Barson. And, and this is sort of all about, uh, well, the for forgotten conditions of teaching and learning, but it's, it's sort of that sense of, of, you know, why did we get into this work? 

Speaker 3 (43:59):

Uh, what, what sometimes teaching, um, transforms in a way that we don't always necessarily, uh, expect or, or had planned for, but it also gives us, uh, an opportunity to, to see how we come out on the other side. Um, just yesterday with a, a faculty, we did, uh, a short story called The Fun They had by Isaac Asimov. That's all about sort of futuristic learning. It's a perfect, I think upper elementary or or middle school seminar text. Uh, we do have a, a plan on in our collection, but to talk about like students desperately wanting a more traditional with kids environment because the, the, the young lady basically stays at home all day and goes into a room next door bedroom to learn. She, she missed so much of that communal piece. So in talking about what it's like to return back to school and what kids desperately want to sort of interact, uh, was, was just powerful. So that, that was yesterday's read and it was one of the best seminar discussions I've had with the faculty in quite a while. 

Speaker 2 (45:04):

That's awesome. Thanks for sharing that with us. 

Speaker 1 (45:05):

You know, I'll, I'll also mention, you talked about John Hattie, um, and I can't, I'm gonna mess this up, but the, the white book, it has a white cover. Um, it, it's one of the most interesting, is it, is it where he has just all the different things that you can do and the effect size? Um, yep. Jeremy, you may, yeah. Visible learning. Yeah, I think it is Visible learning. That's an awesome book. And so anybody out there that's listening, um, you heard Jeremy talk about John Hattie, who is an absolute big dog in, in really measuring what is most effective in classrooms. I know there are a lot of people in Amarillo and, and our principals who, who really keep a keen eye on that book, and that's a really, really good one that fits in with, with, uh, Jeremy mentioned and John Hattie. So that's really cool. 

Speaker 2 (45:51):

Some great read when we're talking about getting our kids back up to speed where we need 'em to be after Covid too. Yep, 

Speaker 1 (45:58):


Speaker 3 (46:00):

Well, and I just want to thank you all. I think the, the work being done in Amarillo is so very unique and, and inspirational and, and, you know, it's, it seems like, well, why wouldn't you just want this to sort of extend to multiple campuses? But in reality, there's so many macro and micro things that happen politically that make it trickier that, you know, just dynamics within a system that you may sort of one campus sort of takes claim to it, and then it, it makes it harder for others. And I, we've never felt that that's ever been the case. It's almost sort of been how do we support the growth in a way that's sustainable? And, and that's, you know, uh, much credit to Maria and, and to, you know, uh, administration, the, the upper administration, even your superintendent coming to, to training. And that's rare to have, have executive staff that, that wanna understand this at a level to have Kevin say, let's have a podcast about it. Like, this typically doesn't happen. So we often say like, you need to be watching what Amarillo I s d is doing because it, it's pretty unique and, and I think it's, it's special. So those that are listening, like, you should be proud of the work being done and, and, and it's an honor to be around you, to be with you. And I'm humbled by, by all the great things happening. 

Speaker 2 (47:11):

Well, Jeremy and Erin, it has been a rich and engaging conversation. Been thinking about a way that we might could end this, this podcast. And I came up with a tagline. We'll see if it sticks. If not, we'll go back to the drawing board. You get one life, lean in and stay curious.

Season 1, Episode 6 Summary

You have questions about our “July Jump Start” and our school-year alternative plan for the Texas Reading Academies. We have your answers in this episode of SchoolWork.


Speaker 1 (00:00):

Hey, everyone. Just wanted to pop in and tell you from the start that this is not an episode of schoolwork. This is the audio from a video that was recorded this morning in regards to reading academies. So if you are not one of our elementary teachers, then I would recommend skipping over this episode. If you are one of our elementary teachers, then this is 50 minutes of audio from the video that was recorded this morning. Um, we just wanted to make sure we provided it in a way and on a platform that might be a little bit more convenient for you and more accessible as you're on the go in the car, um, or in the classroom. So we hope you enjoy and we'll, we'll catch you on the next episode. 

Speaker 2 (00:38):

Hey, there, everybody on this cold January morning. Um, really we we're gonna come together today. I have Mr. Loomis with me, uh, also Sam Holder. We're gonna talk really a whole lot about our reading academies. So I, I'll just start us off. Um, and we'll take it back about a year ago in, in consultation with d a c, we, we knew reading academies were coming. Uh, house Bill three mandated that all of our K through three, three teachers, um, went through this, this, this regimen of training. And really, a, a year ago what was important was t e a basically had given us very limited information. We, we knew that it was about 10 days of training. We, we really had no firm grasp of the concept and the rigor of reading academies, you know, and so, so Dac 

Speaker 3 (01:31):

C I just, I don't even think we knew what the content really was. They were still in the process this time last year, writing many of the modules, right? So we didn't even know what this looked like as we finished, 

Speaker 2 (01:41):

Right? So, uh, really d a c um, was trying to consider reading academies, but really didn't have enough information to make a really great decision, um, or, or, or really enough information to, to really come up with a whole lot of ideas. And so, d a c really, um, tried to ensure that we had as much time as possible built into the calendar a year ago, and, and really working with assistant superintendents and principals and teacher groups. We, we had eight, eight campuses that stepped out and volunteered to be the first group of schools to, to go through the reading academies training. 

Speaker 3 (02:21):

Yeah. That, that, that's exactly, uh, what happened, Kevin. And, and, um, you know, as, as we stepped into the middle of this, you know, the pandemic was, was raging. Um, even as we came back to school in August, remember, we were still hoping that this thing was gonna be behind us or literally any day. And here we are, you know, at the end of January of 2021. And, and the pandemic is still raging. And, and so, you know, it, at, at, at several points, uh, we did temperature checks with, with the, the Reading academy, a team, uh, the administration about should we pull out of this? And, and really, because we had already stepped into, nobody really wanted to stop what we were doing and, and start over, because if we would've pulled out of these, it, it literally would've been been restarting. And, and so, um, I'm thankful. 

Speaker 3 (03:11):

I, I think those teachers at Wolfly, Glenwood Pucks, Sandburn, east Ridge, paramount, tar Terrace, Whittier, south Georgia, um, they really are my heroes in so many places. Um, I, I think it goes a long way to say who teachers are and what they believe. You know, I, coming in this morning, you hear about schools that still aren't back and, and teachers who, who, who, who don't wanna be back and, and are, and, and I completely understand that, but really from day one, teachers in, in Amarillo have stepped up and not, not without trepidation, not without fear, not without all the issues that run, run around covid, but, but literally we've been open since day one, and this group of teachers stepped up and said, on top of all of this, we're going to try to figure out how to manage, um, these reading academies. And I, and I think even Sam, when we were talking about managing these reading academies, even in August, I don't, I don't think we really understood, stood the rigor and the complexity of these 

Speaker 4 (04:12):

Courses. Not at all. Um, and in fact, the, these team of eight, these, these eight campuses completed a full, um, six modules before we even started school. Six out of 12. So 50% of them were completed before we even got into schools. And then after that, the plan has been to use our built-in staff development days in October and in, um, February to complete, uh, some of the modules. And then, uh, aside from that, they've been pulled out along the way with a substitute. And so that really has been the foundation of birthing our plan moving forward. We took the input from those campuses, from those principals, and what we found out is first that the rigor is pretty intense, um, of, of the academies. And, and secondly, that it really is probably not in the best interest of our campus leaders, our students and teachers themselves, to be out of class to complete these modules. It's, it's hard then to go back and implement. Um, and it's rigorous, 

Speaker 2 (05:20):

You know, I, I think another, to Doug's point to kind of back up a little bit on, um, you heard Sam say that we were, we were six modules in. And, um, and, and as we talked about, do we need to stop this? Do we need to pull back? We had people way into this. I think the other thing that's important, I, I'm, I've kind of been the guy all along the way that every Thursday has been in tune with a t e A webinar. And, and honestly, for a good while, I, I really expected every Thursday as I logged into that webinar that, um, that this, that the academies would be something that, that would be paused or waived or, um, at least stopped or, or, or there would be something. And that just never came. And so, in addition to teachers already being a good way into this work, uh, t e a really, this was not an area that they gave any relief on. And, and, and so their message was continue to try to figure out how to do this. And, and as we've done that, I think, um, I think we've received a whole lot of praise a, around the state as being a leader in this area and figuring out how can we not stop and, and virtually trash a a great deal of work that teachers have done. 

Speaker 3 (06:40):

Yeah. I, you know, so that sort of sets the stage of, of, of how we got here, um, or at least how we, how we stepped into this new school year. Um, and so as the semester started to come to close, um, really in, in my mind, there were two or three things that that really started, um, to solidify in my mind about reading academies. I think one of them is the rigor and the complexity that this, that, that this science of, of, of teaching reading, uh, academies has brought, um, I think we said this earlier, but you know, this is not one of those things that, that we just went out and dreamed up and created this complexity and said by, oh, by the way, all of our kindergarten or kindergarten through third grade teachers have to take this course. This came directly out of House Bill three. 

Speaker 3 (07:33):

And the truth of this is, anyone who teaches kindergarten through third grade by the end of 2023, I think is, is the ending date has to have completed this course. And, and I'm gonna use the word pass this course. 'cause it's not like typical CEUs that we all go get in a sit and get kind of opportunity. This really is a, a, a college level course. I mean, there, there are pre-test, there are post-test, there are artifacts that have to be submitted and graded, uh, by third parties. Um, this is a really rigorous course. And, and so when, when you start thinking about what we, we, what, what we stepped into unknowingly and continued because of the professionalism of our teachers, it, it started to ring in my ring in my mind. You know, can we, can we sustain this for three more years? Um, I think the, the, the other thing is, um, we have subscribed to balanced literacy in this district for the last 20 to 25 years. 

Speaker 3 (08:35):

And, and what I will tell you is, you know, we, we have gotten really, really good at, at the, at the right side of that scale, teaching comprehension literacy, uh, the literacy closet, the literature that we teach, the, it's a testament to our teachers of how good they have, have gotten. But one of the things not, not as, not as an indictment against teachers, an indictment against the system mm-hmm. <affirmative> along the way, we lost vision of, of the other side of that scale. You know, you've, you've got the literacy, the comprehension piece over here, but, but you also have skills, and especially with, with our youngsters, right? You know, do, do they, do they have the phonemic awareness? Do they have the decoding skills? Do they have the phonetics that they need? And we really lost sight of that, of, of building a true balanced literacy approach. 

Speaker 3 (09:26):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And what we started hearing from, from our experts, from our classroom teachers, is it, wow, the, these modules that we're teaching, you know, maybe modules 9, 10, 11, like, I know what the modules are, you know, those are the things we're good at. But those first six or seven modules, those are things that, that, that structurally systemically, not, not, not teacher driven, but systemically we came up short end, right? And so we, we started thinking about, so, so you've got this rigor, and then you start thinking, wow, we really do have a lopsided scale here on this balanced literacy. It really isn't balanced. I guess it was like this. And so I started thinking, so if, if we roll this out over the next three years, if I'm a kindergartner and I'm in the third of the campuses that don't get it till 2003, that means I didn't get that skill development as a kindergartner. 

Speaker 3 (10:19):

I didn't get it as a first grader, and I didn't get it as a second grader. I'm already a third grader. And you start thinking about how do you change, how do you change this paradigm? How do you find a way to speed this up? And, and so we, we've got the rigor, we've got the skills, and then we started debriefing our eight campuses. And, and we heard, we didn't hear anything new. It was the things that we heard from the very beginning. While this is hard, this takes a lot of time, this takes a lot of focus. This isn't easy. You, you have to go back and you have to practice, and you have to practice to get there. And, and so Kevin and I spent a day just trying to get outside the box and try to think about, you know, how how could we create an opportunity that one would get all 35 of our elementary campuses on board as soon as possible? 

Speaker 3 (11:10):

That's right. Um, how do you, how do you create, you know, we, we preach a lot about I do. We do. And you do, you know, and I, and I truly believe that, I mean, you, somebody's gonna teach it to me, and then we're gonna work it together, and then ultimately I'm gonna do it by myself. And then how do you embed student engagement in that model? And so we started creating this model that is outside, out, outside of the school year and, and thought, so if you, if you could figure out a system that would pay, that would, um, train teachers part of the day and work with kids the next day, and then you get in revolving this, you get an opportunity to, to learn to do a little bit of practicing and then come back and fine tune it and go back the next day. 

Speaker 3 (12:00):

And you just continue to fine tune this as you move through a ti a time period outside the school day or outside the contract period. And, and we really started to warm up on that idea, not that we will be finished with reading academies at the end of July. Uh, this is, this is a, this is a process and it's probably at least a five month process. But, but what, what July gives us are 10 days that we work deeply in those modules. We implement it with our kids deeply, and we get an opportunity to hit the ground running when we get to August. 'cause let's not anyone forget, we've been in the middle of a pandemic, and there's not one of us that can point to any evidence that we haven't had tremendous regression with our kids. And we've got a tremendous amount of work to do. 

Speaker 3 (12:47):

And what excites me is, is this model gives everybody an even playing field. It gives every teacher that wants the ability to, to learn the skill and start implementing next August. It also doesn't play the educational lottery with our kids. Kids at all campuses across the district will have the benefit of teachers who have learned or re-infused, refocus their skills in on this side to strengthen our balance literacy approach. And, and so that, that's sort of how we, you know, that that's the big thinking around how did we get here? And so it was really clear. Um, this doesn't work on Saturdays. Uh, it, it, uh, there's not any of us that want to give up Christmas and, and, and, and spring break. Those are long periods of time. Really, the only lengthy period of time that, that we can, can find is either in June or July. 

Speaker 3 (13:46):

And based on a lot of reasons, July kind of came to the forefront as a, as an opportunity. After the 4th of July, we could find 19 days that we could offer this to teachers who, who, who, who wanted to give up their summer. Um, and I know teachers, we would've had, you know, out of the 350 or 60 that we need to go through this training, I don't have any doubt we'd have had a large number that were just shown up. 'cause that's who teachers are, right? Teachers work hard, and teachers are committed to their kids. But in my mind, we, we really are asking teachers to do something we've never asked them to do before. We we're asking them to give up an entire month of June. And so Kevin and I really started looking for ways, how do you say thank you for that? 

Speaker 3 (14:32):

How do you say it's important to us? How do you say we value teachers? And I think you do that by compensating teachers at a level that they're used to being compensated for. And, and, and teacher daily rates are somewhere between three and $500 a day, depending on years of experience and, and, and, and so forth. And so we, we went to our board last week and said, we think this is worth $400 a day, which translates into about $7,600 a, um, for the month. Um, and, and I think it's important for me to stop right here and remind everybody this is, there's no guarantee that we'll ever be able to do this again. Um, the funds that, that are available to do this are coming directly from us shutting down last la last spring, and not being able to spend supplemental dollars that you have to spend in a certain area. 

Speaker 3 (15:26):

It's not like you can take those dollars and go spend them somewhere else. You have to spend them on, in this case, early childhood literacy. And, and if we don't spend it there, we just write the check back to, to the state. And, and that's not where we want to be. And this gives us an opportunity to try a new model. Uh, I get excited about what this model will look like. I, I worry that will we ever be able to replicate it when we're highly successful with it? I don't know, Sam, I don't know Kevin, but I think it's worth, excuse me, guys trying and, and, and trying to change the paradigm of how we've done things. And so one of you step in here and caught me off, so let somebody else talk a minute. 

Speaker 2 (16:05):

I, I think as much as this is about providing information to our K through three teachers about this idea, I, I, I, I don't wanna miss an opportunity to really communicate clearly that we, we've pledged for some time now that we're gonna listen. Uh, we're gonna listen to our teachers, we're gonna listen to our principals. And so before Sam really dives into the details about this summer idea in July, I think it's really important to give you some really concrete things that we heard from our teachers and our principals in our eight schools. And so, um, you know, first, principals want to be involved in this training with their teachers. Uh, we were in a conversation yesterday with an expert in really a totally different, uh, field and, and, and area of expertise. And, and she really stressed to us the importance of a, of a principal being right in the middle with their teachers and understanding. 

Speaker 3 (16:58):

I don't think she stressed, I think she was just blunt. Yeah. If, if you're gonna learn something new, new, you're probably right. How dare you learn something new and your leader doesn't know what it is? Absolutely. I think that was powerful. 

Speaker 2 (17:06):

Yep. So our, our principals need to be involved with this. Our teachers need the content upfront, um, but they also need the opportunity to implement and, and, and to, to begin to implement so that it affects their, their instructional process and their kids' learning. Um, teachers need that time to practice and, and they need it to be in an environment where they can fail whenever failure is a part of it. And so being able to, to try this out and, and learn what, or how doing certain things works and doesn't work is a very important part of this. Um, again, we're reiterated, I'll go back all the way to even a year ago where Mr. Loomis and I sat in meetings at, at the state level in Austin, and really, you know, people would just give us a vague descriptor that this is hard. And, and really what we learned and what we heard from our teachers and our principals, this is not easy. 

Speaker 2 (18:02):

It, it is difficult. It is complex. And most importantly, it requires a lot of support, um, which we want to give to our teachers. But, but this is not an easy training. And it generally, for most people, requires a level of support that is, that is unique. It's not like other segments of training that we've gone through. Um, the other thing we learned, we, we have to add a biliteracy cohort leader for our schools that are working in the bilingual world. Uh, we have to have a trainer that brings that to our team. And I, I will just, you know, I'll just stop and say, along with our teachers at the eight schools, our current cohort leaders are rock stars. They are awesome, but they have to have a bi literate member of their team moving forward. Um, the other thing that was really clear is we, we cannot rely on substitutes and missing instruction for teachers and for kids moving forward. 

Speaker 2 (19:01):

It's not a good model. And it was clearly communicated to us that, you know, we, we did the best we could do given the information that we had. But, but that's not a sustainable mo model long term. And so pulling teachers out of the classroom for 10 days, even when it's spread out, is not a model that's conducive. And so, you know, those are specific things that we heard from teachers and from principals who have, uh, as Doug said, you know, just kept their chin high and have figured this deal out. But this is about us listening, like we pledge that we would do, and making an adjustment for the good of the district, for the good of teachers and for the benefit of our kids. And so, you know, those are just some really concrete things that I think are easy to, you know, just breeze by. 

Speaker 2 (19:54):

But that is truly what we heard from our eight schools and our eight, and that really led us to thinking about this summer idea and then, you know, even a plan B after that for how to do this differently. And, um, you know, I, I appreciate the challenge that Doug gives all of us to not continue to do things like we've always done them. And this is a perfect example of how it would've been easy to just continue to build, you know, a certain number of professional development days in the calendar for next school year, and just continue with the model that we are being told from the trenches isn't really a good model. And so, yeah. 

Speaker 3 (20:34):

And I think it's important, you know, as you, as I talk to colleagues across the state, you know, they're, the way they intend on rolling this out is that blended approach where teachers really are on their own, more or less. I it is probably more, it's probably less than, right? And, and, and, and Kevin, I, the, the power of this is not how hard it is. It, it, it's, it's about what, what we've learned is we, we attest to having a balanced literacy approach. And, and what we know is, you know, those scales have been tipped mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And what we've heard from everyone that has implemented this is what this does, is it allows us to balance these skills. Well, I'm not about to look at our teachers and say, go learn this on your own. Right? Figure this out in your yourself. Right? And, and so how do you, how do you, how do you build a system that tries to support everyone? And Well, 

Speaker 4 (21:26):

It was, it's funny that you say that because when you called me into your office, I thought you were both crazy. We are completely crazy. And in fact, I went back to our cohort leader team and I was like, this is what they're proposing. And they were like, they're crazy. Um, not because they didn't think the plan wouldn't work, but first of all, mainly because they're like, how, how do you, how do you, how do you pay teachers a daily rate in the summer? That's not done. That's never done. But the more that we digested, um, this suggestion, the more it started to really fall into place, and it made sense. It made sense with the modules, it made sense with the rigor. And so some of the perks to this plan to teachers out there, um, first of all, it's 19 days in the summer. 

Speaker 4 (22:17):

That's, that's the, that's what you give up. Um, it, it starts on July 6th, and it ends on the 30th. It is five days a week. That first day of July 6th, we would front load content. It would be a full content day, moving through modules, making sure everyone's registered with the state, um, in the t e a learn accounts. And, and then from there on, it would be in the am We work with at-risk kids, we work with our own at-risk kids implementing the content from the academies. Um, Doug talked about this, and it's so true. We can look at this as a way to address the Covid cliff. And, and it is, I'm calling it the ju July Jumpstart. I, um, it just kind of, it, it kind of clicked. Um, but the truth of the matter is, when we look at our data, not just from this year, but across, really since about 2010, up to 2013, our data has been flat. 

Speaker 4 (23:17):

One of the things that we've learned in the academies is that 60% of kids can learn to read without systematic and explicit instruction and foundational skills, but 40% cannot. They must have those foundational skills to learn to read. We're all tired, we're all frustrated. And a lot of that has to do with the fact that our tier one instruction has been out of balance. Our data shows exactly that. We have about 60% of kids that learn to read with proficiency, and we have 40% that don't. So we really can't wait on this. Um, moving into the perks of the plan, there will be no sub plans. You would not have to do sub plans because you're doing it in the summer. You are getting paid a $400 stipend daily rate to, as Doug talked about, do that. Um, see it, name it, do it or I do, we do, you do approach with teachers where, um, they're learning the, the material and then they're practicing the next day. 

Speaker 4 (24:23):

We're able to break the material into shorter bits. Um, it would be very, uh, supportive. The cohort leaders would be there on hand to support. Now, you may be going, wait, what about the eight? I'm, I'm on one of these eight campuses. We made sure that when we talked to our board members about this, that we had a plan for our eight members. Um, we absolutely want them to have the opportunity to partake in this, because one of the things that we heard is that they really didn't get the, um, opportunity to implement this the way that they would've liked to have, have had. Um, and, and because of the fact that, you know, we've been in this covid situation, they may not have even had the opportunities to work in PLCs to digest the content. And so we listened to that. This would allow those eight to help facilitate content for, uh, those of the, the rest of us that are going through the academies, and then practice that content with their own students in a way that maybe they didn't get a chance to fully implement during the school year. 

Speaker 4 (25:36):

So those are kind of some of the perks. Doug and Kevin have already alluded to the pedagogical shifts that could take place district-wide to improve tier one instruction overall. So really that's one option. Teachers can partake in the July Jumpstart for a daily stipended rate for those 19 days. They avoid having to deal with subs and they get the opportunity to practice with kids. This also addresses the needs of our at-risk students. So that's, that's one you may be saying, this is not an option for me. My life does not, um, a allow me in the summer to, to give up my July. I can't do that. So what about me? Well, DAC was so thoughtful when they put together the, um, the calendar, and they kept that in mind. And so you would, if you, if you could not participate in the July jumpstart, which would be option A, there is an option B that would allow you to go through the academies during the school year on staff development days. 

Speaker 4 (26:42):

It would take all 10 of your staff development days, but you would be able to complete that content during the school year. Now, it would not be of as supportive. Um, it would not be, um, there wouldn't be the o opportunity to, you know, do the, the train and teach model. I'm calling it the see it, name it, do it. Uh, but certainly you would be implementing those, uh, your new learning in your classrooms. So really, those are the two, the two options for Texas Reading Academies. I wanna stress that our target audience for this plan is our K through three teachers that also came at from the eight that have participated in this. We had some pre-K teachers. We've had fourth and fifth grade teachers. And really what we learned, because we hadn't seen the modules in advance, is that the content of the academies is very much geared toward kindergarten through third grade teachers. And so this allows us to hit that target group, really focus on tier one, get our principals trained as well, and then move on in, in subsequent years to maybe any other groups that we, that we might could pick up along the way. 

Speaker 2 (27:57):

Thanks, Sam. 

Speaker 4 (27:58):

You bet. 

Speaker 2 (27:59):

You know, I, I, Sam talked about D A C and, and, and their involvement in this process. I, I think, you know, we, DAC was one of the first groups that we shared this July training concept with. And generally, you know, I think, um, and in fact there are, I believe some of our K through three teachers on dac who are very excited about learning more, um, about the idea. But, but DAC was very clear, you know, there needs to be a plan B. And, and so, uh, to that end, you know, all, all of us will see some slightly different things in our calendar. And really, a, a big, a big reason for that is to make sure that we do have a plan B for reading academies. Again, I, I think Sam's done a good job. I I think the July opportunity has, um, has a, has a lot of benefits, you know, the, the, the learn and implement, the support level. 

Speaker 2 (28:54):

Um, but, but DAC was, was sure to, to reinforce that, that it would be probably optimal if we had options. And so that's exactly what DAC did. Again, we, we sacrificed some holidays in places where we've normally had 'em, but that's to ensure that our K through three teachers who aren't able to participate in July have the opportunity to do that within the school year on those staff development days. So, uh, DAC was, was very much involved and supportive of the idea in general, but really also supported, you know, a plan B, and, and they, they did their work in inside the calendar for 2122 to ensure that, 

Speaker 4 (29:32):

Uh, one thing I wanna make sure that we kind of talk about here is, uh, next steps. Um, we have set up courses in Strive. Those courses will, you'll be able to see them on March 1st. Registration opens for those courses on March 11th. That gives principals time to make sure that the, it's not for teachers that are teaching in K through three this year. Um, this is for what your placement is in the 2122 school year. Um, so that, that's first of all, this kind of gives everybody kind of time to digest and, and know what, what we're gonna be teaching next year. Because we know, especially with our enrollment this year with c o and everything being so up and down, there may be some shifts. So that's the first thing. The second thing is, we know you have questions, <laugh>, I know that right now you're like, Hey, I can't wait until March 1st. 

Speaker 4 (30:28):

And so just to, to make sure that you have an opportunity to an, to have those questions answered, we, my, my team and I will have, uh, some q and a sessions. We'll have a kindergarten and first grade question and answer session at 3 45 on February 1st. And then we will have a second and third grade q and a session on, um, February 2nd. So that would be next Monday and Tuesday. So it's a Google meet. Feel free to sign on. I will push that q and a out to you via email with the, uh, Google Meet code. Um, and so, you know, I know this will give you kind of time to process and, and think of the questions that you have. And then, um, feel free to join us that day and we'll, we'll be there to answer for you. 

Speaker 3 (31:17):

Thanks, Sam. Um, you know, I, I just think, um, I'm sitting here just thinking there, there are several elephants in the room, um, and, and we've touched and, and we've danced around this just a little bit, and that's not our intent. Uh, we've worked hard in the last two years to be as transparent as we can be, uh, to try to be as collaborative as we can be, and look to always put students first and teachers, you know, right behind them. And because this is about building teams, and this is about supporting one another. Um, and just yesterday, um, you know, I received a communicate that that strikes right at your heart. Um, when you receive a communique that says you've betrayed the eight campuses, you should have had better foresight. I hope none of that is the truth. Um, because I, I honor the eight campuses who are our heroes, who stepped up and did this. 

Speaker 3 (32:21):

And even when it was difficult, and they could have said, we're done, we're gonna wash it, and we're gonna come back at another date, uh, like so many other places has done, they, they didn't do that. So as we started to build the system, um, it was really clear, um, that these eight campuses had already gone through the struggles. But we really had an opportunity to, to either do what we've always done and just create this equal system. You know, we're, we're, we often throw around, you know, the definition of insanity from Einstein is to continue to do what you've always done. Um, and we could have easily done that. However, easily done that. I'm not sure, because if I think about what those eight campuses had to go through this year, um, there's nothing easy. I don't, I don't know that I hope next year in, in 21, 22, I can't replicate the nuances of a hundred year pandemic. 

Speaker 3 (33:22):

You know, I, I hope it's behind us. Um, and so that alone would not have made it equal, uh, because it just would've been different. But we really started thinking about how do you do something different? And, and can you, and when you can, can you build equity? And that's what this system does. And so, as you know, for not one minute, did, did we not think about how this affects both sides of this coin? And so when I think about the eight campuses, your trials and tribulations really happened over this school year. And not that it was ever easy, but that's where the trials and tribulations, by the time we get to July, the post-test will be behind you. The initial new learning will be behind you. The, the post-test will be behind you. The artifacts will have been submitted and, and approved. And, and, and, and hopefully everyone has got that highly qualified indicator that's been there. 

Speaker 3 (34:20):

It's done. And so as you step into July, this is about how do you collaborate, how do you practice the skills? And more importantly, how do you practice 'em with your kids? And how do you implement this? And then in places where it's, it's appropriate, how do you help lead these new teachers that have come to the table? My God, they, they, they were the pi, you were the pioneers, right? And, and we honor that. And, and so, you know, you're right. Should have, we had the foresight. If we'd had the foresight to do this, we would've never gotten to a daily rate because we, we don't, we, at the time that we started this, we didn't have a mechanism to do that. This is not something that you can go back and retro. Um, one, because we didn't have a a, an improved stopping to get there. 

Speaker 3 (35:02):

And, and the stopping that's approved is, is moving forward. And, and, and, and so much of what we did was within the contract day, right. You know, it was, and, and I, I don't take anything away from teachers having to, to, to miss class time and what it takes to do that. But so, so when you think about these eight campuses, you know, those trials and tribulations have happened over the last, you know, 12 months. By the time we get to July, when they get to July, it, it's sort of that we can breathe and we can really implement and, and we can really affect our kids, and we can lessons learned to the teachers that are going through it. Whereas if you're on the other side of this paradigm, you know, you're, you're a teacher that didn't get to do it, July's gonna be a pretty stressful time because those things of pre-test, new learning, post-test, those all kind of run. 

Speaker 3 (35:54):

And then as you move into the first and second semester next year, you still have artifacts and you still have the completion of that, the coaching, the professional support that goes along with that. And, and so maybe next school year, there's not quite as much stress. So it's just shifting, it's shifting that stress a little bit. Um, and, and I, and I think, you know, and for those teachers who can't do it in July, they're gonna be right back in the same boat, right? That, that our eight campuses were this year. Because again, this is one of those things that by 2023 to teach kindergarten through third grade, you have to have completed this course 

Speaker 4 (36:32):

With proficiency. 

Speaker 3 (36:33):

With proficiency, yeah. You have to pass this course, don't you? 

Speaker 4 (36:36):

And, and, you know, the, you guys have both been so supportive from the very beginning. Um, when, when we first started hearing about the Texas Reading Academies, what I kept saying is, if we're, we have to do this. I don't wanna just check a box, I really do wanna do it. Right? And Doug, and Kevin and our assistant superintendents have been so, so, so supportive of that going back and, um, and doing it the way that we did it, just because that's the way we did it the first time, would not be doing it. Right. Um, we tried our best. Um, we <laugh>, my, my team of cohort leaders has adjusted and adjusted and adjusted to only groups of eight. And, um, not doing it on Zoom, trying to, to do it in person, all of these things, we've, we've been making those adjustments right along with you. 

Speaker 4 (37:33):

We see the struggle. And so to do that the same way, just as Doug said, would not have made sense at all. Um, the other thing is that the, what we, what we have learned is that the, now that we've gotten into the content is that we need it. Our data shows that we need it. We need it for our kids. We need it for our kids to be successful. And I've, I've been a teacher of, um, you know, early literacy, nothing is more frustrating when you are working your tail off and your kids aren't moving. And if we can give that, if this, if we can make this missing piece of the puzzle, a part of our daily instruction, all of us are gonna be stronger for it. But most of all, our 40% of kids that do not read with proficiency are going to thank us. You 

Speaker 3 (38:23):

Know, as you, as you rattled those statistics off a minute ago, I thought, wow, 60 40. And when you look at our data mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it's about 60 40. Right? You know, and, and so we know this, this hasn't been a teacher problem. This isn't a student problem. This is one of those times we know it's a system problem. Let's fix it. Let's fix it together as a team, and let's find a way to move forward. So everybody has a even playing field, right? Kids are getting taught the skills that they, that they need desperately to become readers. And teachers have the ability to do that. And they don't just have to keep doing what they've always done. They have new skills. I, I, you know, the one elephant in the room, but there, there are several elephants in the room, you know, and I, and I think it's important that everybody hears it, you know, the, the campuses that have already gone through it. 

Speaker 3 (39:11):

Well, how about for teachers who don't get in that, that, that we hire after, or they have second thoughts after July and think, I wished I'd had done this, and you think, well, should I wait till next July? And, and here's the truth. Um, we may not ever be able to replicate this. There's no guarantee that we'll ever be able to go back and, and be able to offer the opportunity that we're offering in July based on the success of what happens in July or the lack of success. We'll determine where we move forward. And, and it, it may cause us to have to rethink where resources go. If, if this is highly successful and, and we, and, and we see productivity out of it at the level that we hope that we see, yes. Um, we may have to have some hard conversations about this is where we've always spent money, and that's really not where we ought to be spending it. 

Speaker 3 (40:01):

We ought to be spending it in this kind of, of, of staff development opportunity. Um, one of the things that I've lost sleep, sleep over for years is the amount of time we ask teachers to miss, uh, for staff development, and they're not with their kids. I think we have to think about how do we develop a system that trains our teachers, gives 'em the support, the professional support they need, but doesn't pull them away from their kids. Um, you know, there, there are, there are teachers because of staff development that will miss 10 and 15 days a year mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And when you're only going 170 to 180 days a year, that that 15 days, 10 to 15 days, is, is significant in, in terms of, of making progress and ensuring kids are literate in this case by the time they're in third grade. 

Speaker 2 (40:50):

You know, I, I think the only other thing that I would share is, is that, um, you know, d Doug as a, as a supervisor over time and, and others that have supervised me and challenged me as a leader, I think, um, really several of those folks have, have honed in over time on two things that, that, that make your job as a leader tough. And again, I'm not asking anybody to feel sorry for us because this is what we do, and, and, and it's what we do every day. And, and it's frustrating at times, but it, it's very satisfying, uh, equally at other times. But really, I think two things that over time have been really, um, you know, ingrained in me as a leader is, is sometimes the, the, the feeling, equity, the feeling of fairness will prevent you from doing something that ultimately is the right thing. 

Speaker 2 (41:39):

I think that very much applies here. I, I think, I think, um, if I, as, as a leader in this and working with Sam and her group get really caught up on the idea of fairness or equity, uh, it, it could cause us to, to, to, to just step back and do something or not do something ultimately that would benefit all of our teachers and many of our kids. Second thing is, is that I, it's been ingrained in me for a long time, and sometimes in our job, it's just easier to say, no. And that's not what we did here. It would've been easier for Sam's group as we worked through this idea and thought about our eight schools that had already completed this training. It would've been much easier for her group to say no. You know, I, it's, they just, they've, we've, we've changed the model. 

Speaker 2 (42:24):

They don't have that opportunity. Uh, we don't have the space and the capacity with our trainers to do it. You know, the district doesn't really have the money, or that's another additional chunk of money that we don't have. It would've been much easier to say no. And, and that's not what her group did. They said, yes, how can we, how can we, how can we work through our capacity issues? How can we work through the funding issues and, and how can we really tap into the knowledge that that group will bring to this table? Yes. And so, you know, what I would say, um, is if you're in that group on one of those campuses that have already worked through this, we appreciate you, we appreciate what you've helped us learn. And, and the answer is yes, we want you to be involved and to be a resource in this or not. And I think we certainly understand if some of you say, I'm finished with the training, I've, I've done it, I now have, you know, some idea of how I'm gonna implement that moving forward. And, and if you're, yeah. If you're, if you're feeling is, I don't want to participate in July, we understand that. But we sure. Welcome each of you to help our other teachers and your colleagues learn from what you've experienced. 

Speaker 3 (43:35):

Yeah. Uh, that really well said, Kevin. You know, when you, if, if we wanna boil this down to equity, and equity usually equals dollars. One of the things that we've done, any extra dollar that's, that, that, that can be earned in, in this model can be earned with from anyone. The model of implementation's a little bit different depending on whether you've already done it mm-hmm. <affirmative> or whether you're just new to the process. But, but everyone that's in this, that, that that's in this K through three group has the ability to earn the, if, if it's about earnings. And, and, and I absolutely understand that because that's important. Um, they have the ability to do that. It just looks a little bit different depending on what set of shoes that you're wearing. And, and we're committed to that. I, I think it would've been easy. 

Speaker 3 (44:19):

I don't, it wouldn't have been easy for this team, but I, but I think historically it would've, it would've been easy to say, um, eight campuses are done. You know, uh, let's move on to the next group of, of 27 or so that we have, and, and let's not expend another million or two, you know, whatever it happens to be to get there. It was never about, you know, how much money this was gonna cost. It was about how do you change the system? And, and don't anyone forget as much as this is about adult learning, there's a whole group of kids who for 19 days are gonna get the opportunity to build skills that they have to have before they're able to get to that literature comprehension, right? We've got kids who are going to learn in this process and, and, and wow, if that's not our mission, I'm not sure what our mission is. Um, 

Speaker 2 (45:17):

We've given you, we've given you a lot of information. Um, Sam talked about some q and a sessions that are coming up. We encourage any of you in that K through three grade span, jump on there, ask those questions, let those ladies give you some more information. I, I will tell you, there still are some parts of this that we're figuring out. Um, again, I'll go back to every time you say yes to one aspect of this or another, there's usually three or four details that have to be worked out. So for every, yes, there's three or four things that have to be worked out. Some of those we've figured out, some of 'em, we're still working on 'em. And so, you know, I'm not sure that Sam's Group will have the answer to every single question, but we would encourage you, uh, if you're one of our K through three teachers to jump on there, ask those questions, really look at the two options. 

Speaker 2 (46:06):

Really look hard at July because we think that there are many things built into that, that are supportive and helpful as you work through what we've learned to be a very rigorous process. If you're a, a middle school or a high school teacher, I would challenge you to embrace the changes you see in calendar. Um, reading academies doesn't yet directly affect you, but reading academies over time will significantly benefit, we hope your students and how they come to you. So embrace those changes as a secondary teacher that you see in the calendar, because that's to allow options for our elementary teachers to receive this training. Um, and let us answer your questions. Um, and let us, let us all move toward summertime and next school year knowing that we have a good plan and options for our reading academies. 

Speaker 3 (46:56):

Um, and as I, I think it's important, Kevin, as, as we close up, um, there, I, I don't want someone to feel pressured one way or the other. Okay? Uh, obviously we believe in this July model, uh, we wouldn't have put the kind of money towards it if we didn't believe in it, and we didn't think it was the right thing to do for you and for our kids. But the reason we have option B is because we recognize because of, of personal commitments, family commitments, um, just personal needs. Sometimes option A is not going to work for you. And so we have the option B that's there. And so, um, I think it's also important for you to recognize this. This is not one of these we're all in or we're all out on a campus. Um, this is, this is not necessarily something that site-based decision making teams, um, have to approve or, or disapprove, because this is one of those things that we all have to do to keep our certification. 

Speaker 3 (47:51):

So everyone on a campus can make that decision of, am I doing option A or am I doing option B? This is not one of those things that we all have to come to consensus, that we're all going to be an A or we're all going to B and b. 'cause I have no doubt all 35 of our campuses across the district, there will be teachers who, who eagerly await option A. There will be teachers who are repulsed by option A because of the time it takes away from family and commitments in the summer. Um, and so that's the reason for option B. And so I, I would encourage campuses to have conversations in, in site-based decision making teams and, and have these discussions about pros and cons and, and try to make the right decision for you, for your campus, and most importantly, the kids that you'll teach tomorrow. Thanks for all you do.

Season 1, Episode 5 Summary

In this episode, we talk with four of our District teachers on everything: the good, the bad, and the ugly. 2020 was a hard year. What did we learn and where do we go from here?

Episode 5 Notes

0:01 – Welcome and Overview of Episode

01:50 – Round-table discussion with AISD Elementary Teachers Erin Miller and Roxanne Jenkins.

25:00 – Round-table discussion with AISD Secondary Teachers David Price and Heather Blythe-Yaws.


Speaker 1 (00:00):

Hey, everybody. Thanks for joining us. Susan. Happy New Year. 

Speaker 2 (00:04):

Thanks, Kevin. Happy New Year to 

Speaker 1 (00:05):

You. Did you do anything fun? 

Speaker 2 (00:08):

Well, I got a lot of rest and re . No, no, 

Speaker 1 (00:18):

Just, no, sorry. Okay, here we go. Here we go. 

Speaker 2 (00:21):

No, it was, I had a great break, and I hope you did too, Kevin. 

Speaker 1 (00:24):

Yes, ma'am. Awesome. Awesome. Um, hey, everybody, we're, we're excited about starting off the spring semester, um, and really just want to challenge you today. Um, had a chance to sit down with four of our teachers, um, two of our elementary, um, teachers, two of our secondary teachers. Um, you're gonna hear who they are and where they work and what they do, and we just encourage you to take a little bit of time. This, this one podcast may be a little bit longer mm-hmm. . Um, but really honestly, um, it's important to us, more important than hearing myself or Susan or Mr. Loomis, uh, talk about things in the district. The, the most important folks that we have are, are teachers. And so, um, really, we've, we've had a really awesome visit and, um, had a chance to, to get some perspectives and reflection on last semester, and then really have a lot of conversations about, um, challenges, um, and, and, and how to, how to really make adjustments and make, uh, 20, 21 a really great year for us as we finish the, the school year in a I S D mm-hmm. . So, um, here's, here's some awesome folks in the trenches and, uh, their perspectives on where we've been and where we're going. 

Speaker 2 (01:40):

We are glad you're listening in, and here we go. 

Speaker 1 (01:50):

Um, maybe, I think probably the cool thing about this episode is that instead of listening to Mr. Loomis the whole time, right, , we're, uh, we're actually gonna hear from the real, the real people who do the real work. So, um, joining us today is Aaron Miller, one of our teachers at San Jacinto and Roxanne Jenkins from South Lawn Elementary. And, um, we're just gonna kinda get their perspectives as we start a new school year, um, and, and just get them to talk us through, um, what they learned from last semester, um, kind of how long they've been in the district, um, what are the things that they saw that worked well, and, and, and, you know, things that they're gonna work on as they move into the new year. So, um, Susan, I, let's just let you kind of kick us off, and we will get to know these ladies a little bit and then ask 'em some hard questions. Okay. 

Speaker 2 (02:40):

If you ladies had one word to describe the fall semester of 2020, what would that be? Oh my gosh. Oi . That's a good one. 

Speaker 1 (02:52):

Oi, that's a good one. 

Speaker 2 (02:53):

That's a good one. Um, oh, gosh. I don't know. This is hard. I just might say, 

Speaker 3 (02:59):

I'm gonna say it. Ay a 

Speaker 1 (03:01):

Yy. Yay yi. Yeah. Awesome. Cool. 

Speaker 4 (03:04):


Speaker 3 (03:04):

Glad it's over, huh? . Yes. 

Speaker 1 (03:06):

Talk to us a little bit. How, how was last semester for each of you? Um, what, what was the biggest lesson that you feel like you learned just in general, just kind of a reflection on last semester. 

Speaker 3 (03:21):

Uh, I'm gonna, I'm gonna start with, let's go back to where we shut down. Um, right? Mm-hmm. at the, that moment really shifted, um, a whole lot of my mindset, like my thinking, uh, I literally had to sit and stop and say, I have to rethink education, like how I deliver instruction. Right. This was not my comfort zone. Right. Um, I luckily work with a phenomenal science teacher, and she is technology savvy, like no one else I've ever met. She jumped right in. I was like, I've gotta, I've gotta do this. I, I have got to change. So, um, I worked really hard during that shutdown to learn and shift my way of thinking when I did instruction, because I knew my job was to service children mm-hmm. , and to get them their best education that I could, I could give , because that's what I love to do. Mm-hmm. , and that's what I was called to do. So this fall semester, of course, it was very, um, it could be a little scary. How am I gonna do this? How do I shift everything I have done the last six years, seven years in education and make this work? And, uh, when the district pushed out Canvas, I was like, okay, we can do this. And then they started tossing in all the trainings, and I'm not gonna lie, I sh I was like, huh. 

Speaker 1 (04:41):


Speaker 3 (04:42):

I mean, I was just gonna go with this simple task. That teacher, she came up to me, she goes, sit down, take a deep breath, start a training, start the class, kick training, start the EDpuzzle training, start a Pear Deck training. And I was like, okay, I will. And when I did that, that was a game changer. 

Speaker 1 (04:59):

Hmm. Just jumping in. 

Speaker 3 (05:00):

I, I, you, I had to, I had to just jump in and I had to learn. I had to learn because I knew those kids needed me. I needed it, but they needed it. Mm-hmm. , and I think that was the biggest, most important thing I did was stop for a minute, calm down and realize, I can, I can do this, I can do it. I did have a supportive staff and teammates that were like, this is what we're gonna do, and we're gonna do it. So that's kind of what really helped me this fall semester with those trainings and really doing them 

Speaker 4 (05:33):

Mm-hmm. . And I think for me, the last semester, it started off very rocky and just figuring out what does this look like? Why, or like our, just shifting to how our life is now so different. Right. And, um, finding those new expectations and like, even our, our class rules that we've had for eight years, don't, don't even apply anymore. mm-hmm. . And, um, just going back to basics and just like Roxanne said, like, why are we here? Mm-hmm. . And I think for me, the biggest thing I learned was just the importance of relationship and how just the value of that really matters. And especially like in the virtual setting, just knowing that when those kids know that they're loved and that we're expecting them to show up, and that we're showing up, they still, they're there. And then those relationships transfer also to like our staff and, um, helping, like, the district has bought so many amazing resources for us, but I don't know about Roxanne, but I had never used any of them. Mm-hmm. . And so it was learning, learning five or six different amazing programs and how they fit into our life and make kids be successful. Mm-hmm. 

Speaker 2 (06:41):

. Yeah. But, you know, I know I'm kind of, I kind of tend to be a perfectionist, and I've never been a teacher, but I know teachers, a lot of teachers are that way too. So how, I mean, how do you, um, reconcile that? Because, you know, this is all so new and it was also new for you all, and you had to learn right. Along with the kids. And how do you, how are you okay with yourself, you know, not being a perfectionist, how did 

Speaker 4 (07:06):

You I think we had to let go of that in March. mm-hmm. mm-hmm. . And just know that, take it like literally day by day or class period by class period, and know that this worked, this didn't, I wanna try this. And also, um, like in my situation, um, planning with other grade levels and knowing like, Hey, I jumped in to near pod and I am doing this with reading groups mm-hmm. , and like, I, I think we just have to adjust and, um, sometimes cry, sometimes move on. Right. Sometimes let it go. But just know that the next day we still have to show up mm-hmm.

Speaker 3 (07:45):

It's that it, we had to take it as not so much of a reflection of how well we are as educators, because we do a, a really good job. And like you said, we're perfectionists. Mm-hmm. , we wanna make sure when we deliver instruction mm-hmm. , it's the best thing we've ever delivered. Right. So that was hard because I remember starting out, learning all those things, I couldn't just throw them all in at one time. And I remember speaking to another colleague, she was like, what are you doing? I said, I'm keeping it simple right now. Mm-hmm. , I'm learning as I go. Mm-hmm. , and I expressed that to my parents. Like, you extend some grace to me in the beginning, I will to you as well. Um, I learned kindness goes a very long way. Right. Um, I mean, it was just starting simple. We had to, here's some basic things and it wasn't easy because I was like, I could do so much more, but I had to do what I did, simple and do it well. Mm-hmm. , and then I've grown build on that grown. Yes. Mm-hmm. , I've grown and changed, and there's still so much more to add to that. So that's been difficult not being able to feel perfect mm-hmm. , but it's, I have felt accomplished in learning the new things that we've done. So would 

Speaker 1 (08:50):

Y'all agree that that probably has been one of the biggest challenges for, for teachers just being okay with not being o being okay with not being okay? Yeah. Oh, yeah. 

Speaker 4 (09:03):

Oh, yes. 

Speaker 1 (09:04):

I, I would just say that that's something that, of, of all the things that have been challenging, that that is a regular one that I hear from teachers is that it is just, it's hard as a teacher to not have your a game every day naturally like you've been accustomed to. And, and so, you know, I would, I, I appreciate the honesty from these two ladies, because I think that's a very real issue out there. Mm-hmm. that I, I really, I mean, we've heard it and, and we're, you know, we're trying to send the message that we are extending grace to you all. And so for all of you out there, I I just take to heart what Aaron and Roxanne are saying, and, um, for those days when it's very difficult for you and you're struggling with the fact that it's not on target and it's not where you want it to be, um, keep working at it. I think Aaron said it well a minute ago, just, you know, come back the next day and, and go back to work on it. And I appreciate your vulnerability in those answers. That's really cool. So, um, 

Speaker 2 (10:06):

What are some things, uh, as you, you're entering this second semester, what are some things that you'll continue to, to use in your classroom that you learned maybe last semester? What are some things that worked well? 

Speaker 4 (10:21):

I think for myself, just the open communication with parents and, um, like for myself, um, they all have my cell phone number. And I, that has worked really well for me that, um, we, if their child doesn't understand something, they just text or call me mm-hmm. . And I think that has been the biggest change for me personally, because they're not, um, waiting till they get off work or waiting till their parents get home, or they're just reaching out. And then also, I've really liked having prerecorded lessons on Screencastify, um, because I didn't realize how many of my kids needed to hear their lessons more than once. Hmm. And so from this, I never would've thought about recording my mini lessons so they could hear it two or three times mm-hmm. . And that's something that I think I will, I, that's gonna change my, like from here on out. Mm-hmm. is knowing that that's a really cool way for me to differentiate something that I never would've done before. 

Speaker 2 (11:25):


Speaker 4 (11:26):

Yeah. Um, Roxanne? Yeah, 

Speaker 3 (11:28):

I agree with Erin. Uh, the accessibility the kids have to instruction right now is phenomenal. Um, things that have worked right now for me and my classroom, I do both virtual and in person. Um, my kids in my classroom are doing pretty much the same thing my kids are doing online. The difference is me being there for the constant feedback, um, in person , but my lessons, they stay together. Um, so just continuing that, trying to keep all my kids, um, together on their lessons, um, aligned together. Also, the, the same things that I'm using, the Google slides, the ED puzzles, everything that I'm using now, I'm still going to be using, I'm hoping to amp it up some more. Mm-hmm. learning. 

Speaker 1 (12:18):

Mm-hmm. . So tell us, um, we talked a little bit, Aaron mentioned about parent communication and, and challenges for virtual kids, um, or, or those kids that are struggling or even those kids that are unengaged. What has worked the best for you guys in terms of engaging kids that are struggling or families that, um, that are struggling? Because I think the fair thing is, you know, folks in my role hear from both teachers and they hear from both parents, um, from parents as well. And, and I think both groups are, to some degree saying communication is hard. And so what, what has worked for mm-hmm. for, for you all, 

Speaker 3 (12:58):

Uh, constant communication. I know it's hard, but also sending boundaries from communication. So like she said mm-hmm. , she has her cell phone number. I use a Google Voice phone number. Right. Um, it's easier for me to separate mm-hmm. my, uh, their phone number and with my parents. Right. But I also use our natural, like class dojo system, right? Mm-hmm. , um, the parents only use my Google Voice when it's like something they know they need to immediate response to. We have set clear expectations for parent communication, as in when are the best available times. Mm-hmm. , um, you can message me anytime. If I don't get back to you, I will. Um, canvas has a messaging system for the students, so we always send messages to the kids if they're missing assignments, they know that they will get a message from their teacher, their parents know. 

Speaker 3 (13:50):

If those kids are not responding to those messages, we are gonna direct line that to the parent. Mm-hmm. They will get a message, your student has not done this, this, or this. They need to have them completed by, um, if you need help, please reach out and let me know. And they have done a really good job. Um, it is, you have to stay on top of parent communication, and I know that that can be hard for some teachers. Mm-hmm. , um, it's time consuming. Mm-hmm. , but like I said in the beginning, kindness goes a long way with parents. You know, some generosity, some compassion, um, even saying, I know that at 10 o'clock you may have a question for me mm-hmm. , and I wish that I could be there to help you mm-hmm. . Um, but I have, you know, a family I'm attending to, so as soon as I can get back to you, you will hear from me. And making sure that as teachers we follow up on that. Um, and I feel like that's worked really well. Just having an open line of communication with boundaries that are clear Yes. Um, to keep a healthy balance so their kids fall behind and they're also not, you know, getting frustrated. 

Speaker 2 (14:55):

Yeah. 'cause I was just sitting here thinking, you have five girls, so I do. So I think it's really good that, you know, admirable that you set boundaries because I mean, you know, you can't be on call 24 hours a day. 

Speaker 3 (15:08):

Yeah. And that's hard for teachers. Mm-hmm. Because we want to, we want to be there. 

Speaker 2 (15:12):

They wanna help. Yeah. 

Speaker 4 (15:14):

And I think, like, to speak to my parents, they have just done such a phenomenal job of, um, respecting times and saying, if they text me at a certain time, um, like, really, I don't really get any calls or texts after school hours mm-hmm. . And if I do, it's because something like really needs attention or I don't know, it doesn't usually happen. Mm-hmm. . But I like an example, this week, my, um, kiddo got or was running a fever at daycare. Mm-hmm. And so I had to go get him and couldn't make my Google meet. So I just sent a text to the parents in one big group chat mm-hmm. . And they were so quick to say, I'm so sorry that happened. Thank you. And all of them understand how to get in canvas. They all know how to operate. And they were just so kind and graceful to me. 

Speaker 4 (16:02):

And I think just that relation, going back to that just is so important in those instances. 'cause just like, I mean, Roxanne and I are both, we are mothers, we have families, and Right. Things happen. And I think, um, they, we also use ClassDojo and I love that too, for posting announcements or mm-hmm. , your I station is due this week, or there's just a thousand things . So yeah. I just think it, I don't know if there's a right way to do it, but I think it just really does go back to those clear expectations and understanding that the bottom line is your kid has to do their work and we have to show up for each other. 

Speaker 3 (16:43):

Mm-hmm. . Yeah. Showing up for each other as teachers and students, it's important. Mm-hmm. , I think as mothers, we also can look at it from ano, like, being at home, what would we want for our children? Sure. Mm-hmm. . So being available is important. 

Speaker 2 (16:54):


Speaker 1 (16:55):

So as we move forward, um, you know, a lot of people we're struggling in the fall, and as we're in a new year, and as you look ahead to better days, and again, I hope all of us, you know, we're, we're hopeful prayerful that, you know, we're, we're gonna have a vaccine that's coming and hopefully, you know, we begin to knock this down, not only here in Amarillo, but in our world in general. Um, so what, what's your one piece of advice for teachers moving into, um, this semester, starting a new year? What would, what would you say to your peers as the, your one best piece of advice? Um, as we, as we head into the spring? 

Speaker 3 (17:35):

Can I, can I state a quote? That's kind of been my Sure. Yeah. My, my mantra this year mm-hmm. . Okay. I wrote it down so I could share it with everybody. Cool. Um, you gain strength, courage and confidence in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, I can take the, take the next thing that comes along, I must do the thing I thought I could not do. Awesome. That's by Eleanor Roosevelt. It's a hard time. Sometimes it's being selfless and, and really just taking this opportunity to grow mm-hmm. and challenge ourselves because it's been the most rewarding thing I've done in the last seven years. 

Speaker 1 (18:14):

Hmm. Wow. Wow. Thank you for sharing that. That's 

Speaker 4 (18:17):

Great. I think for me, thinking into this new semester, it's just the reminder to have grace and flexibility, because we all do that for our kids all the time, but we don't do it for ourselves. Mm-hmm. . And I think we have to remember that what we're doing is hard, and like, speaking from this elementary perspective, like, we're expecting these babies to get online and learn, and they don't know what the keys to the keyboard are. Right. Or teaching them, like, that's called an icon. Right. Or those things. And I think we, we don't focus on that enough and remember the big leaps that we take mm-hmm. and, um, just remembering that we're, we're teaching great things. 

Speaker 1 (19:06):

All right. So that's great. We kinda, um, we kinda, we kinda, professional development wise, let's talk about that for just a second. So, I don't know, midway through the semester we kinda really realized, and we did a podcast on this actually. We talked about oxygen, and we talked about teachers needing oxygen. And, you know, unless, unless a training or professional development or a meeting was about a very small number of things that we, we began to realize that were the most important things for you all to be focused on. We weren't gonna do 'em. So in some senses, professional development wise, we, we kind of, we kind of started turning the valve off. And so how, how have you all been able to maintain learning what you need to learn? Um, and you kind of talked about this a little bit earlier, but anything else you would add about how you've, you've been able to keep up with what professional development you need, even though we really tried to limit what we were, what we were doing, and what you were asked to do as teachers, 

Speaker 4 (20:11):

I hope professional development is always in canvas, forevermore, . Wow. Because I love that I can go back to it. And I loved that it was set to my own pace and that I could do it with my team. And some of 'em I understood very quickly, and some of 'em I needed a lot more help with mm-hmm. . And I, I would hope that going forward, maybe, um, I know our digital learning team, like, did such an amazing job on those and creating amazing trainings. I would love to see them reopened so I could go through some of them that I didn't get to. Or like Roxanne mentioned way earlier that , we did so many things at the beginning of the year and it was kind of overwhelming. And now that I understand how Canvas works mm-hmm. and how I can actually apply it to what I'm doing every day, I would love to have an opportunity to revisit those things that were even already created. Yeah. 

Speaker 2 (21:04):

Yeah. Go back and refresh. 

Speaker 3 (21:05):

Yeah. I agree with there. If they were available, you know, there, so if anybody at any point needed them, we could. 

Speaker 1 (21:11):

And I heard you say earlier, you really learned a lot initially with a colleague. I did. A team 

Speaker 3 (21:17):

Member. Mm-hmm. . I did. Yeah. She was amazing. I'm, I mean, miss Amy Bunch, if you're listening, that's, that's you, my dear . Uh, some people are real tech, tech savvy. So I think on your campus, I mean, there are people, you know, that's one of the, I think at our campus, one of the things that we have grown with, if a teacher's unsure mm-hmm. and doesn't know how to do something, there is someone on campus that's able to go, come look at this, come watch this. Mm-hmm. , um, share this, can, I'll share this lesson with you. I I'll show you how to upload it. I'll show you how to put it into this format. So I think we've gained a lot of professional development within our campus. Um, I even had some teachers come and ask, how did you do this? I'm like, oh, just like this. 

Speaker 3 (22:02):

Mm-hmm. now go here. And we would work through it together. So I think it's been a collaborative thing, um, where we are reaching out to each other as teachers, um, and really looking for our resources within our campus and even outside of our campus. I mean, I have teachers, friends that work at other campus and they're like, have you tried this? And I'm like, oh, that's really neat. Thanks. And so that's really where I think a lot of mm-hmm. , our current professional development is coming from mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. is within the walls of our campuses and in with other teachers and colleagues. 

Speaker 4 (22:30):

Definitely. That's great. And like my principals let me do a class kick day last week where teachers could come during their planning and we walked through it and what it looked like mm-hmm. and how it could look in their own classrooms. Mm-hmm. and I got to go into their rooms and help them teach and set it up with their kids and 'cause it's overwhelming to introduce it to a room of seven year olds. Right. . And so just teaming with them in that, and also our, um, our tech gal, Katie Cummington, has been amazing and come to our campus and done small professional developments. And I, I love that, that I don't have to leave school or work after hours mm-hmm. to do it. That it's in my normal workday 

Speaker 3 (23:11):

And social media. Social media is a big deal. I mean, even though you can learn, we learn a lot from other teachers. We follow teachers on Instagram, we follow them mm-hmm. on Facebook where we join different groups. I just recently joined like a Jamboard Facebook group and jam board's been a lifesaver for my live lessons. They're interactive. And so, um, I, I, you know, sought out some different things when somebody mentioned something. I'm like, oh, that's, so I think social media's also helped in some 

Speaker 2 (23:37):

Of that. Mm-hmm. That's great. It can be used as a good, good 

Speaker 4 (23:40):

Resource. Definitely. Yes. 

Speaker 1 (23:41):

Yeah. So, um, really just to wrap up, ladies, I, first of all, I just, I'd, I'd just have, you know, that from, from, you know, the district leadership to you guys, um, to all of our teachers. We, we appreciate all that you've done. I I sure appreciate your insights today and, and the transparency and just being a little, little bit vulnerable, um, about how this has affected you as a teacher. But, you know, most of all, I, I just appreciate that you've, you've, um, hit it head on as a learning opportunity and, and mm-hmm. it, I know, at least for myself, it, it's easy on any given day in this to talk about what's happening to us. And what I hear from the both of you is that it, this early is about what, what do I need to do to learn to help my kids? And that's, um, man, that's a, um, just a, a huge thing and, um, shows a great deal of professionalism. So, um, thank you for sharing your insights with us, um, and we hope you have a great new year and a wonderful spring semester of 2021. Yeah. 

Speaker 2 (24:52):

So, okay, Kevin, for the second half of our podcast Yes, ma'am. We've got, yes, ma'am. Uh, secondary teachers with us, uh, Heather Blythe from Memo High and David Price from Johnny Allen's sixth grade campus. So I just wanna start with, with a question, if you all, uh, could think of one word that you hope will describe the second semester, uh, spring semester 2021, what would that be? 

Speaker 5 (25:26):

Oh, the second semester specifically, I would say, are we ever going to get to relax the social distancing at least a little bit 

Speaker 6 (25:35):

Speaker 7 (25:38):

Ooh. I think for me it would be, um, finding the joy again, of teaching. Mm-hmm. not the list and the social distancing and the, oh my gosh, do we have it in canvas? And are we ready to go? But really just being able to connect mm-hmm. back with the kids in a different way. Yeah. So, so your 

Speaker 2 (26:00):

Words joy. 

Speaker 7 (26:01):

My word is joy. I like that. 

Speaker 2 (26:03):

I like 

Speaker 1 (26:03):

That. Tell us, just, uh, if you could just summarize a reflection of last semester, so, you know, what was the biggest lesson you learned, um, you know, what worked well, just kinda generally what's a reflection for each of you on last semester? 

Speaker 5 (26:23):

You know, obviously it started off very hectic. Um, I don't think anybody would deny that. Right. But I, I do think some lessons were learned from it. And I think when we sit back and think about it, I think there are some good things that have come out of this year so far, um, especially looking forward to some things we can continue to, uh, fix and adjust with canvas and the virtual learning and all that. But there are some positives that I hope we get to talk about, um, during this time. 

Speaker 1 (26:49):


Speaker 7 (26:51):

Um, I think for me it was, I had a plan and then, I mean, even with Canvas, like I spent all that time working so hard, and the first two days with kids in class, it was like that, that isn't working at all. Not at all. And 

Speaker 1 (27:10):

A new meaning to monitor and adjust. Huh. 

Speaker 7 (27:12):

Oh, I thought about that when I was driving over here. Like, as teachers we're trained to monitor and adjust constantly all the time. And that was like, not at all prepared for it to look like a disaster. Right. And then the second week, it still looked like a disaster. Um, but then learning how to give grace to myself, but to my kids as well, and mm-hmm. and really listen to what they were saying. And I think in the past I've heard them, but we've just always done it one way. So we keep doing it the same way. Mm-hmm. . And this year, that wasn't an option when I rolled out my canvas and it was a disaster, and it was not functional, even though in my mind it was, but sitting in that kid's spot, it wasn't right. We had to listen. We had to hear like, this isn't working. And we had to ask questions and really look at it from a, their sitting in their seat. And, um, I had never done that in the past. 

Speaker 1 (28:15):

So I, I mm-hmm. , Susan's gonna follow up, I think kind of with a converse of, of my first question there, but before she does, um, tell us a little bit. I think one of the things that we've heard, um, very frequently throughout this from teachers is that it was just, it, it's hard as a teacher to not be on your game, to not be perfect today. I mean, all of us have the bumps and we have that lesson that doesn't work like we thought it was going to, but, you know, I mean, this really has brought new meaning of how to come to grips with a disaster to, to use your word, Heather. So, how, how have the, both of you, how did you deal with, how are you gonna continue to deal with, um, the disasters that come? Um, and hopefully, I think I've heard both of you say it, it's getting better. We can continue to make tweaks. How did you, how did you come to grips with that? 'cause that's hard for teachers. 

Speaker 5 (29:07):

Well, Heather said it, uh, the best that first week we thought we were prepared, and then you're right. That first week it all went south on us. And I think that's almost everybody across the board, um, including district leadership, I think. Sure. Um, and I was talking to a teacher the other day, only half jokingly saying we could have had a month to prepare for this mm-hmm. , and that first day still would've been the exact same disaster. Mm-hmm. mm-hmm. , because like you said, the kids had to be there to test it out for us, right? Mm-hmm. and tell us and show us what the, what needed to be done. And those are things that we were not gonna know until the kids came back, whether we had an extra week to prepare or six months to prepare. Mm-hmm. . So, I agree. 

Speaker 5 (29:44):

Um, a teacher said it best the first day before we came back in August or September. I guess we're gonna have to expect that things are gonna go wrong and be okay with that. Mm-hmm. . And so just that mindset of yes, we know even now, even now that we're a semester in, I know that if I put a lesson in Cammi, there's a decent chance that it doesn't open for kids. Right. But at least I'm starting to understand what that glitch may be and be able to fix it. Or at least I know I better have some kind of backup plan in case it doesn't work. So one of the positives we're, we're growing more technologically advanced in terms of just being able to troubleshoot some of those things for ourself rather than having to call on a digital learning leader or, or help desk and stuff like that. But I would echo what Heather said, just giving yourself some grace and knowing it's gonna happen, but also being prepared for it. 

Speaker 7 (30:36):

I think too, that we say out one side of our mouths to our kids, well, hey, it's okay to fail. Right? It's okay. Right. You know, no big deal. And, and we take that test grade and they failed. And it's easy for us to say mm-hmm. , hey, it's okay. Mm-hmm. , you know, you'll get a second chance. But we were looking at, I think as teachers, we are failing here. Mm-hmm. mm-hmm. , like what would, and my thought so many times was, are my parents, what are my parents saying? Mm-hmm. , are they giving me an F here because I was giving me an F. Right. And so I really had to step back and go, the, the greatest thing I can do is be uncomfortable in my failure. Mm-hmm. mm-hmm. so I can grow out of that. Mm-hmm. . Right. 

Speaker 7 (31:21):

And so I started asking questions like I was, um, I found my people that I have done, uh, you know, blended learning training with and stuff, and like, okay, what are we gonna do here? Mm-hmm. , what do we need to do? What's my thing that I'm gonna get really good at? And what's your thing you're gonna get really good at mm-hmm. and then let's teach each other how to do it. Mm-hmm. and really, um, very spontaneously not in a professional development setting, so to speak. Right. Right. We start having conversations between passing periods or, um, across the hall when I know she has a, um, a period off mm-hmm. , I'm in there, what did you do and how did you do it? Mm-hmm. . And then it would be the opposite. And so I think it taught us, um, how to rely on each other. 

Speaker 7 (32:05):

Mm-hmm. a different way mm-hmm. , but also grow out of our failure. Instead of like he said just, oh, well we better call Tammy Newsom, or we better call, you know, whoever the learning leader is. 'cause they couldn't get there. So it was like, you figure it out. Right. You rely on on somebody mm-hmm. on your campus. Right. And so it caught, for me, it really created an opportunity to grow mm-hmm. , but as teachers, our jobs are to mentor our kids, maybe not just in our subject area. Right. Um, but that they're seeing, oh my gosh, she failed in that. Right. And it did. It's hard. It's, and, but she's hearing and adjusting mm-hmm. and she's growing out of her failure. And I think that sets our kids up ultimately mm-hmm. for a greater amount of success because they're seeing the people that are teaching them failing at something. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. , that's hard. Mm-hmm. and our kids came in learning canvas and a brand new subject and it's, it was okay. Mm-hmm. , it was teaching them that it was okay. Right. To struggle and to it be hard. Right. And we still grow and move out of it. Yeah. 

Speaker 2 (33:07):


Speaker 5 (33:07):

Great. You know, I think that's a really good way to build relationships with kids, honestly as well. Mm-hmm. , just to be honest with them and say, hang on guys, sorry. Mm-hmm. , Mr. Price has got this messed up. Just gimme a second. Mm-hmm. Alright, let me fix it. Right? Mm-hmm. , and then you fix it. And you're right. They see that you've, that you've fixed it. Yeah. And another interesting thing on, at Johnny Allen, we're a very small campus, and so kind of what you were saying about being able to ask each other for advice, what's your person across the hall? Do we can do that on a campus level? 'cause we literally have less than 20 staff mm-hmm. . Um, so it's actually pretty easy for us to, I mean, you can almost talk to the entire staff and say, what did you do? What did you do? What did you do? What did you do? Mm-hmm. . And so in that way, I guess we're, I don't know, you can speak more to how it is at Amarillo High, but I feel like we're able to have a better, an easier time building those teacher to teacher moments. Um, like you said, without even being in P L C mm-hmm. , it just kind of happens naturally. Mm-hmm.

Speaker 2 (33:58):

Yeah. And you know, Heather, you mentioned, um, parents a little bit, and what are some of the things that you all found that worked with parents and communicating with parents and, um, maybe, you know, engaging those parents who weren't maybe at first engaged. You have some tips along those lines. 

Speaker 7 (34:16):

Um, I probably didn't do this until I was for sure about my canvas and how it was working. Mm-hmm. , I'm glad I didn't do it in the beginning because I would've recorded it 12 times Right. Or more. Um, but about midway through the semester, I recorded, uh, this is what my canvas looks like. So if you wanna take you and I sent it out through Skyward. It was just a Screencastify, it was not even five minutes, so it wasn't a long time. And I just said, Hey, this is how I communicate with my kids daily. This is where you can find the modules and this is how we do our tests, and this is where my recorded lectures are. And I sent it out to the parents. And the response back was pretty great, because they also are totally overwhelmed by the new learning system. 

Speaker 7 (35:02):

Sure. And I know some, some of my friends did that quicker than I did. Um, I didn't feel like that my canvas was at a place where I should send that out yet, you know? Mm-hmm. mm-hmm. . But once the kids kind of had a handle on it, then they, um, went in and like with my virtual kids, I started being really intentional about if they weren't showing up in my canvas, sending an email, and I would send an email out weekly with their grades mm-hmm. , and, Hey, this is what we're doing, and check out this. And the response back, and it wasn't long, it was just a few minutes, but it was being consistent in the conversation with my parents. Right. That, um, I think helped the transition even where I felt like I was failing. At least they knew I was trying mm-hmm. mm-hmm. . So that was my, that was for me. Yeah. 

Speaker 5 (35:50):

One of the things I think that helped a lot, and I, correct me if I'm wrong, I think this came from the district level, was every campus finding a way for all the teachers to synchronize the way their canvas course looked? And so we were hearing from parents that, well, math looks this way and science looks this way, and we have no idea what's going on with any given subject. And I think that's a valid point. And so once we kind of made everything the same, we started to see students and their work start to click of, okay, this is how we turn stuff in. We started seeing parents, we were able to call up and say, so-and-so hasn't turned in X assignment. And they, they're better able to go look at it and see it, as opposed to us spending a lot of time, which we were in the beginning, kind of walking students and parents through just the technical side of canvas. So mm-hmm.

Speaker 1 (36:41):

So I, I'm glad I'm, I'm, I'm really glad that you brought that up, um, David, because I, I think that I, I'm just gonna use that as a teaching point. 'cause that's kinda what we're trying to do here with, you know, kind of an all, all staff faculty meeting is, um, I, I think it's a really good point. And, and it's one of the challenges of what we try to do to help in that we want to give you all as much autonomy as we can because you're the ones that are teaching the kids you know what to do best in your classroom. And then you balance, you have to balance sometimes what you hear. And, and you're right. I mean, that was a very common message from parents, Hey, you know, within my child's school, or sometimes, you know, I've got, I've got one kiddo that's at school X and their little brother is at school y, and things look so totally different. 

Speaker 1 (37:31):

And so could we find some kind of commonality or at least some structure to it? And so, um, I just, it it it's a really good point. You know, sometimes, and for a while we, we didn't really go that direction and we just realized at some point, man, parents are really becoming frustrated. And, and I think that you're right. That's one of the things that, even though we hesitated to do that at the district level, I think once we did that help, that helped us and, and, and at least get people started and on the right road, so to speak. 

Speaker 5 (38:01):

So, right. And I can't speak for all campuses, but I know at our campus, yes, we went to a more, synchronous isn't the word, but more consistent, consistent model, but we still have autonomy to plan our lessons. Right. My, my lesson and the way they do it is different than the way social studies or, or math does it, it's just the fact that it's the same, the same route to get there, I guess you might say. Right. But the, the autonomy I've never felt stepped on or anything. So I think it's has been a great balance. 

Speaker 1 (38:27):

Awesome. So, um, little bit different, um, angle for, for the next question. I think you've talked a lot about using canvas and content and some of those things. So tell us a little bit, how have you tried to support, um, not only kids, but I would say how have you tried to support your colleagues socially and emotionally through this whole ordeal? 

Speaker 5 (38:52):

I think you definitely have to become just a, a sounding board for, for certain teachers that are just struggling more than others. And I think, again, I go back to us being a small campus, we're able to build those relationships maybe better than at a bigger campus. Mm-hmm. . And so I, I can't think of anybody on our campus that wouldn't be comfortable going up to anybody else on our campus, uh, administrators included and just saying, look, I need, I just need to talk for a second. Sure. Um, or so and so is happening and I'm frustrated and, you know, I know me personally, sometimes that's all I need. I just need someone to listen to what I said, and then we're good to go. So I think in that regard, that's been very important to us. And also for kids. Um, even back going into the spring, you heard people say, we've gotta, we've gotta put our kids first and give them the grace because this is a tough time. And I think we're still in that, uh, mindset. We're, we're expecting more academically than we were, especially early on. Right. But we've still gotta understand that they're, in my case, sixth graders that are trying to do something that honestly college kids sometimes struggle with. Right. And this online learning. So I think just understanding that, um, is the biggest thing. 

Speaker 1 (40:05):

Heather, anything socially and emotionally you're trying to really work at 

Speaker 7 (40:08):

To help? I think just making connections. Um, one of the things that I figured out pretty early because of social distancing is that we kind of hole up in our classrooms mm-hmm. and don't leave the same way like we used to, you know, you'd go, everybody eat lunch together or whatever. Like, we would have our groups that would eat together. And so I found for myself and some of my closer friends on campus, that all of a sudden we felt as isolated as we were asked to be in order to curb covid. And so I started trying to make more of an effort of saying for me emotionally and my colleagues on my hall, that being out and not always being in my room working so hard because the working so hard was ending up being detrimental to me emotionally. Right. Because I wasn't making the connections. 

Speaker 7 (41:02):

And I mean, I am very relational as it is mm-hmm. . And so, um, it was important for me to kind of go, okay, whoa, getting that lesson plan's really important, but if I don't have some connection with the human other than Canvas today mm-hmm. , I'm gonna have a, I'm gonna be struggling worse. And so, and then with kids, I mean, they've struggled. It's been hard to watch. It's been, I mean, it's been hard to watch, like at the high school level level, us not being able to have pep rallies and mm-hmm. the social aspects that are part of high school. Mm-hmm. , um, the kids have really, really struggled with that mm-hmm. . And so just being available and remembering that, yes, learning biology is super important, but if I don't unders, if I don't have their heart, if I don't have their connection mm-hmm. , they're not gonna learn it anyway. Mm-hmm. . So if we're struggling at home and we are having some issues and I don't stop and address that and even take 10 minutes, then, then I'm losing them anyway. Right. And so the emotional aspect to me has been as important as the content aspect mm-hmm. right now mm-hmm. in this, in this place that we're in. 

Speaker 2 (42:12):

Yeah. And how have you balanced, um, your own family life with school? Because I know, I know teachers are spending so much time, you know, building those connections and trying to keep kids engaged and parents engaged. And so how do you, how do you balance that with your own? 

Speaker 7 (42:31):

It's been really hard. Yeah. Um, I was quarantined the first part of December, and I mean, we worked hard in the spring mm-hmm. , but it was nothing like what I did while I was quarantined. Mm-hmm. And there was no, like, in, in the spring, we weren't creating, we weren't in the middle of learning. Right. And this time, there wasn't any stopping. And so there was not a disconnect. There was not a drive home where you could readjust and, you know, become mom and wife mm-hmm. . Now I'm totally, like, I never, I never knew how it was very hard. And so, even, like I said, when I start the new year, I'm gonna, I've gotta set better boundaries, right. Because my home life can't suffer otherwise. School suffers still. Right. Exactly. And so mine was, mine is a lot about boundaries, about saying, it's okay if I only have half this unit done mm-hmm. , but I'm good, then I need to go home and I need to say, Hey, I'm finished here. Mm-hmm. , it's, you know, it's four 30, it's five. And, um, so that's that. It, it's hard. It's really hard. Yeah. So, yeah. 

Speaker 5 (43:38):

Yeah. I think Mr. Phillips, you said it really well in the beginning, you said teachers naturally want to plan the best lessons and, and make it perfect. Mm-hmm. and that's what we were trying to do in the beginning. And, you know, it just, it just didn't work out. No. Um, but then going back to what we talked about, about being able to let yourself fail, being able to give yourself some grace and understand that maybe I'm supposed to have a whole unit planned right now, but sorry, I only have tomorrow planned. Right, right. And yeah, go home, shut it off. And there for a while we weren't, 'cause we couldn't mm-hmm. , we, we were drowning. We literally could not shut it off. Um, but then like I said in the beginning, we, we've gotten better. I think teachers have gotten more used to it. 

Speaker 5 (44:18):

Students have gotten more used to it. And we've had a lot of things come from the district. Uh, number one for me would be getting skyward and the absences, uh, figured out a little better. 'cause that was a major struggle for a lot US teachers. Mm-hmm. Sure. Mm-hmm. . Sure. Um, so just as things started to kind of fall into place more and more, it kind of felt like a little bit was taken off your plate to the point that now I don't think any teacher would say that they go home totally prepared and feel a hundred percent perfect, but it's definitely better than it was. 

Speaker 1 (44:50):

So as we head into to the spring, and I think we're all just, you know, we're, we're determined to have a better semester and, and we're making adjustments. Was there anything that you experienced in the first semester that was kind of a game changer for you that you would just say to somebody, okay, if you, if you're really looking for a better semester, here's something that, you know, you would encourage people just to jump off into, you know, maybe it was something you didn't really want to do, or it made you uncomfortable, or you were scared to do it, but you jumped off into it and you did it and it seemed to be a game changer for you that, that you might encourage other people to do. 

Speaker 5 (45:30):

I think a lot of teachers are doing this, actually, but it's one that I did struggle with and in fact I haven't implemented it very well yet anyway. Um, and now in my campus, we're changing to a different model for virtual students. So this will help in that regard. But the point I'm trying to make is, I think in the beginning I should have made it a much higher expectation that every virtual student attends a Google meet every day with me, or at least every other day, just if nothing else, just to check in. Right. But, um, one of those misconnections with students we were kind of talking about is, uh, just feedback. Um, especially immediate feedback. And those virtuals just aren't getting it right. Um, not in the way they would in the classroom. And we can try to grade their papers and make a little note to 'em. But I think there's a lot to be said for those students that can just get that immediate feedback of, oh, you made this mistake, or, Hey, you should be a little bit further along in this lesson by now. Or, Hey, let's sit down and talk about this 'cause you're a little bit confused. 

Speaker 1 (46:28):

And that's a, that's a little bit scary, I think, because that's a lot on you, right? Right. Mm-hmm. . And so I, that's what I gleaned from what you just said is, is that it, it, that's that, the scary part about that is, and the, the hesitation to jump off in that is, okay, once I start doing that more often, it probably is gonna reinforce the need to keep it going. And, and that's pretty, that, that's something that's gonna take some stamina to keep up. So I, I appreciate the, the transparency. That's, that's really good. 

Speaker 5 (46:56):

Well, and I wonder if you don't see some unexpected benefits from it in the fact that all of a sudden your kids start engaging more and doing better on the lesson, so then maybe you're not having to spend as much time tracking them down. Sure. Mm-hmm. , or seeing if they got X assignment done. So I don't know, it could have some added benefits as well. Heather, 

Speaker 1 (47:16):

Anything you would encourage somebody to just jump off into? I 

Speaker 7 (47:19):

Kind of two things. One is along the Google meets, Google meets is just, it, it, I mean, y you know, because I was on one with you the other day, , um, it, it's, they, they just have a tendency to be awkward. Like there's this random awkward silence and you're like, wait a minute. Is anybody even there for starters, , you know, you ask a question and they have to unmute and it takes forever. Yes. And the wait time is way worse than a classroom. Yeah. Um, and so in the beginning with my, um, with my AP bio kids, I, that were virtual, I didn't reach out to them in that manner either. Mm-hmm. probably just because, what do you say to someone you've never, ever met and now you're meeting them, you know, it's just weird. Mm-hmm. , I mean just mm-hmm. , I don't know, it's just awkward. 

Speaker 7 (48:08):

Mm-hmm. Um, I tried to go around it like tiptoe around what I really knew I needed to do and it was an investment in my own time. Like I knew it was gonna take something out that I really could be planning or prepping canvas. And um, so I started doing it and then I started seeing them in real time and it makes them not a piece of paper or a number. Sure. Right. Or it makes them more real. Mm-hmm. , even though it's not as much as we would like to have them in the classroom. Sure. And so that Google meets for me, was a big thing. One of my biggest changes, and it has required a large amount of time, was I, um, when I taught freshman bio, we worked out of Veria and I always had my data, but I also teach International Baccalaureate and then now I'm teaching AP this year and there was no way that I had ever been able to track my data mm-hmm. 

Speaker 7 (48:58):

, um, because there was no really way to do it. And so in Canvas, I start, I moved every test that I had ever made into Canvas, into quizzes. And I went from not having any data to having data. Wow. And it required, it did, it required a lot of time from me. Mm-hmm. . But the fact that I can look in and actually see the kids' data and it's right there mm-hmm. and it's building a test bank mm-hmm. . So now I've like got a semester of test bank for seniors that are i b and juniors that are I b and my AP kids. And it, yes, it's required. It takes me a long time to write a test, but when I come back next year Right. I will actually have something to look at. And I've never had that before. Right. And so the time commitment was well worth it. 

Speaker 7 (49:42):

Yes. And I know a lot of people still are working out of Google Forms 'cause that's where it is, where we've had it, but the move for me was, um, phenomenal. Like, it's giving me data that I don't even think that I can get out of c we ever got out of Veja. Foria. Right. So. Right. So that was huge for me. Lots of work on the front end, but we'll save you time. Mm-hmm. . Yeah. Lots of time in the long run. Yep. Yeah. So both of those things were my probably two big takeaways. Mm-hmm. , um, we were talking, I was talking with my colleague across the hall and where I was very nervous about school starting in the fall. Um, just not knowing what it looks like. I feel like leaving tomorrow for Christmas and coming back in January, I'm excited to see mm-hmm. 

Speaker 7 (50:29):

what I, because it's, that part's not new. So the stuff we used to do that was more engaging with the kids, I feel like I have the ability to bring that stuff back. Where before I was just trying to like survive from one 30 minutes to the next rights. Great. So I'm, I'm excited to see what, what's gonna happen in the spring mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. Because I think it's a new, it's a fresh place mm-hmm. to start and the kids are in a fresh place, but they know what they're walking into mm-hmm. and we do too. Mm-hmm. . And so I think it gives us an opportunity to really launch a spring semester that despite what's happening, we can still make it amazing. 

Speaker 2 (51:09):

Yeah. That is so encouraging. That's great. 

Speaker 1 (51:12):

So here's the deal. Um, we appreciate y'all very much. Yes. We do. Just, I mean, every day, but especially, you know, during really what you've done to help us make our way through this. We're thankful for all of our teachers and, and you just spending a little bit of your time to talk about, um, how we're gonna, how we're gonna head into this semester and make it better, um, and, and look forward and, and continue to, to push forward instead of looking backwards. So, um, thank you and happy New year, um, as we kinda wrap up this fifth episode of schoolwork. Everybody have a great semester. Thank 

Speaker 2 (51:50):

You so much for being here. 

Speaker 1 (51:52):

Thanks for having 

Speaker 7 (51:52):

Us. Yeah, thanks for having us.

Season 1, Episode 4 Summary

On this episode we want to address some of the most frequently asked questions we’re getting here at the District and provide some insight that will help us all be able to answer them.

Episode 4 Notes

0:07 – Welcome and Overview

1:40 – Chris Tatum on COVID testing at the District

6:37 – Personnel and substitutes in our Schools

15:50 – The most frequently asked questions with Doug Loomis


Speaker 1 (00:06):

All right. 

Speaker 2 (00:07):

Okay. Hello and welcome to another episode of Schoolwork. We're your hosts Susan Hoyle and Kevin Phillips. 

Speaker 1 (00:15):

Alright. Hey, Kevin, episode number four. Here we go, Susan. That's 

Speaker 2 (00:18):

Right. Okay, well, we wanna get into this episode and address, um, just some speculation and questions and maybe a couple of rumors that we've heard going out, going around out there. Um, and we also wanna tell you about a couple of new developments related to C O V I D in the district. 

Speaker 1 (00:38):

We've got some new info, Susan. And, um, thankfully we have the executive director of Human resources. Chris Tatum's gonna be with us here for just a, a little bit to talk about a couple of new developments. And then we, we swore last time, I think, Susan, that Mr. Loomis was kicked off the island, right? <laugh>. And here we are gonna have Mr. Loomis jump back in with us and, uh, and talk, um, about some of those things that, that are kind of out there and swirling. So, um, we'll just dive right in. A couple of new things we want to talk to Chris about. Susan, I'll just start us off and, and, uh, get Chris to share with, with us about drive-through testing for employees and students. Uh, I know that this is something that Chris has been working a lot on. A couple of projects actually. Both of these are, are riding his wheelhouse down in HR with his staff. So, uh, Chris, tell us a little bit about where did the drive-through testing come? How does it work? Who can get tested and when are we gonna get this started? 

Speaker 3 (01:39):

You bet. Um, you know, I guess, uh, early last week we got some information from t e A in the, uh, T D E M, uh, just about, um, the possibility of having students and staff being tested at the district. Uh, you know, through a little more research, we, we kind of figured out that that would be a good thing for us to do. Um, there were several pilot districts across the state of Texas that did that, and they had some really good results. Um, they, they got to, got to find their, their hotspots and, you know, their mitigation efforts were, were increased, but by having these tests available. So, um, after some research we, we opted in, uh, we applied for, for the, for, you know, for the, the testing to come to Amil, I s d. And, um, really within about five days, we had several thousand tests, um, over, you know, available to us to use and to utilize. So what we did is we, uh, we really developed a, a, a real, really quickly developed a system, a protocol that in place that we can test all A I S D staff. 

Speaker 1 (02:35):

So tell me, Chris, how does that, how does that work? So if, if I wake up tomorrow and I'm not feeling well, or I go home tonight and during the night, I start feeling badly, tell me what do I do? 

Speaker 3 (02:47):

Yep. So really, and it is for symptomatic individuals. So it, it's not for exposures or previous positives. It is really if you, you just feel bad if you have a symptom of covid. Um, if you wake up, you know, we're open from nine 30 to 2:00 PM 9:30 AM to 2:00 PM every single day, Monday through Friday here at the Rod Schroer E S C building. And that's here on at, uh, 7,200 I 40 West. Okay. That's just our, our downtown building here. Um, you know, right off I 40 next to Golden Corral. So if you feel bad, you get up, um, you get in the car, uh, make sure you have your your school ID badge. That's a very, very important thing. You have to be an employee and to show us that you're an employee, you have to have your ID badge with you. Um, and then also you, you would need to print out a, um, a consent form. 

Speaker 3 (03:29):

Um, and we, we have some of those available, but, but it takes a lot longer than it holds up the line if you don't have the, the filled out before you get here. So you come, you get, you stay in your car. It's a drive-through testing site, it's outdoors. Um, so we don't want anybody getting outta their car, outta their vehicles. But we have a great staff of some LVNs and some nurses and, and our student health services director, they, they are manning that they're doing a great job. You may have to wait a little bit, but it's not gonna be a four or five hour wait like it is at some other places. Um, you go through, um, you really, you administer the test yourself. Um, you, you're kind of coached how to do it. You take that swab and it's very minimally invasive. 

Speaker 3 (04:05):

Um, it's not that, not that one that tickles your brain, you know, like, like a lot of people have talked about and that very uncomfortable. Um, but it's a very, very, very tip of the nose. Uh, you do that and really within about, I mean, we're seeing some results as soon as like 3, 4, 5 minutes all the way. But the results are read at 15 minutes. Um, and the information that, that the staff takes from you, um, as you're doing that test, uh, is your, your email, your, your, um, your phone number. And then within about an hour, you're gonna get a text or an email that says you're either positive or negative. And along with that comes some education as well from the ladies down there. And they give you what to do if you're positive and they give you an information sheet. So, 

Speaker 2 (04:46):

And does it cost anything from employees? 

Speaker 3 (04:47):

It's free. The, um, the federal government, T D e m and t e a has, has allowed this for free. It costs, it costs the district nothing and it costs staff nothing at this time, so. 

Speaker 1 (04:58):

Awesome. And so anybody out there that's a staff member, um, I, if for some reason you start feeling badly and think you wanna take advantage of this, get in touch with your principal if you, um, forget this information or pull this podcast back up because Chris has given you basically the down and dirty of, of what to do if you feel like you need to be tested or contact, um, anybody in his office. And, and we'll get you the information. Main thing is nine 30 

Speaker 3 (05:27):

To nine 

Speaker 1 (05:27):

30 to 2, 9 30 to two each day, um, over on the east side side of, of the E S C here, uh, off of I 

Speaker 2 (05:36):

40. And then also I've heard that, uh, we're gonna be doing student testing through this drive-through method. Um, do we know when that's gonna 

Speaker 3 (05:44):

Start? You know, we're, we're hoping, um, in about 10 days. So we're, we're really wanting to make sure that our processes and systems are in place. Um, and we, we wanna make sure that, that people don't wait for five or six hours, um, to get a student tested. We wanna be very, very efficient, but we also, with covid testing, we need to be very, very effective. So, um, here really, um, there's gonna be some media push. There's gonna be some information from campuses, um, and that information isn't gonna come soon. We're hoping about 10 days. Um, but we're not quite sure 

Speaker 2 (06:16):

And how old students get here for the testing, 

Speaker 3 (06:19):

Um, they'll have to be in a vehicle, so their parent and they must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Um, that's one thing that that, um, t e a is very clear on. Uh, and a parent or guardian, even if you're over 18, a parent or guardian must come with the student and they must be in a vehicle. There's no walkup testing that that can happen. Okay. 

Speaker 1 (06:37):

Um, Susan, the other thing, um, substitutes, those are kinda hard people to get right. Um, any normal year. Um, Susan, have you had to sub yet? 

Speaker 2 (06:48):

No, I haven't, Kevin, but I, I plan to go out and help if I can. I, I 

Speaker 3 (06:52):

Think I've got a schedule next week. Is that right? On Monday. All right. 

Speaker 1 (06:55):

Well, Chris, talk to us. Um, we really, as I, I'll just kind of get us started with it. You know, we, we continue to hear, and, and actually one Monday we're having a number of meetings with a, a kind of a, a subset of principles. And one of the common things continued to be substitutes. And so as we have staff members who are ill and being quarantined as we have staff members that just, um, are, are trying to carry on the normal parts of their life and may need to take a day off to help a family member or support a child, or, you know, go, go visit a child at college or whatever the case may be. And then obviously the impacts of our, of our rising numbers, um, we, we realized that we had a lot of principals who were struggling day-to-day to fill the holes created by those absences. 

Speaker 1 (07:46):

Um, not really because we have less subs, but we have, because we have less subs working. And I'll let Chris talk to us a little bit more about that. But, um, really we just, we, after we heard that message, uh, pretty consistently, we just started putting our head together about how can we help? And so really what we did was we, uh, and I say we, Chris really and his group have created a process to pool our internal resources here at the E S C. And really it's, it's, it's been all, all hands on deck. So we have asked, um, a, a pretty good number of people here at the E S C and at Park West and other support areas that aren't directly in a classroom every day to just let us know when they're available so they can go out and become a sub for the day. And so, Chris, what have I forgotten about that, uh, process or how we're doing on that, or what we're trying to solve? Yeah, 

Speaker 3 (08:37):

You really just hit it on the head. So as, as we really look, um, you know, our, our teachers are, are working tirelessly. Um, they're, they're working every single day hard, every day in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening. Um, and one thing that we see that, that we've really, uh, noticed in about the last two or three weeks is, is our need for subs has, um, with, with the increase in, in cases around our district, you know, whether it's, um, positive cases or exposure symptomatic cases, um, we see that, that, um, we need more subs and we have a lot of subs in our district. Um, but you know, some of 'em don't wanna work right now. Um, and, and that's totally understandable and we understand that. So, um, and they're only working a few days a week, but as really, so as we thought about this, we really thought, how, how do we better support our teachers? 

Speaker 3 (09:22):

How do we better have a chance for our kids to have someone in someone of quality in front of 'em, um, you know, in, in the classroom? Um, so really what what we've done is we've, we've reached out and we've developed a protocol that, uh, um, there's about 99, about actually 99 exactly. Um, staff members here at the E S C and across the district, um, that have agreed to, to jump out and to sub and to volunteer. And instead of, instead of taking, you know, doing their job here at the E S C, which are, which are, is important as well, going out there and really backing our teachers and really stepping up for those guys and giving our teachers the ability to, to be off if they have to be off or be in a training, if they have to be in a training or, or if, if they're sick, to be sick at home without worrying about what, what's going on with their kids. Mm-hmm. And we feel, we feel typically between 15 and 20 jobs every single day, um, that doesn't get us to a hundred percent feel rate, but it, it sure does help. And just the, the goodwill from the campuses and, and the teachers being able to think, oh my gosh, I have a sub in my classroom today. Instead of knowing that it's an unfilled job, it, it really does help. 

Speaker 1 (10:27):

I, I'll be honest, uh, there's, there was a little reluctance on my part knowing how our group at the E S C was gonna react to this. I will tell you, our folks here at the E S C have stepped up, embraced, uh, they've been excited about it. You know, almost immediately when we did the Google meet, there were comments that started coming in on the Google meet. I'm excited, let's do this. How can we help? Tell me when to go. Um, and we actually had a group of people, a small group, but you know, within 24 hours, within 12 hours, 15 hours of this conversation, we had people that went the next morning that's right, in kind of a less formalized process. And they were in schools the next day. And so I, I'll just, you know, um, I, I can't let go of the fact that this takes a team and, um, we're all having to do things that are way different and, um, are not what we normally do. 

Speaker 1 (11:17):

And, um, this, this little effort is, is actually both of these, you know, I mean, we have a director of nurses that Patricia's been with us for a while now, and we have a group of nurses who serve kids and, and teachers at out on schools. Whoever would've dreamt that, we would ask them to, you know, work out of an executive dining room here at the E S C and test folks for Covid. That's right. Who would ever dream that? You know, um, someone would go be a sub in an art class, you know, and that's, but, but the fact is that's what people are doing. And so whatever it takes, that's, um, that's what people are doing. So anyways, um, anything else on the whole subbing idea and using E Ss c folks to help? 

Speaker 3 (11:59):

No, I just, I, I appreciate, appreciate the ability to do that and our staff, and, you know, really it always comes down to who we put in front of our kids, and we gotta make sure our kids have people in front of 'em. So, 

Speaker 1 (12:09):

And I would just, last thing I would ask, uh, or add to it, is that if for some reason Chris and, um, and myself have missed anybody that might be available to go and plug a hole at a school, reach out to one of the two of us, we, we've kind of been taking in the names, and then Chris takes 'em and, and plugs them in. But I, I think we have a pretty good list and a pretty good distribution list of, and pool of people, you know, knowing who has the ability to stop what they're doing for a day or two here and there every week, or, you know, even if it's just one day a week, even if it's a half day next week, it, it will help in some way. And so, you know, some people were a little bit nervous and reluctant that they couldn't, they couldn't, you know, commit to every day of every week. And hey, I mean, if you can do it one day, a half day on an afternoon every Monday, that's awesome. It, I promise it will help us and, um, and it will, will do us good. So if we've missed somebody and you're able to do that, that's something that you think maybe you could pull off visit with your, your, uh, direct supervisor and then shoot myself or Chris an email. 

Speaker 2 (13:16):

Okay. Well, Chris, thanks for being here with us on short notice and good luck with everything. All 

Speaker 3 (13:22):

Right. Well, thanks for 

Speaker 2 (13:23):

Having me. See you soon. 

Speaker 1 (13:24):

Thank you, Mr. Tatum. Thank you. So we appreciate Mr. Tatum dropping by talking to us a little bit about the drive-through testing and, and substitutes in the district, um, and how we're using some E s C folks to help support our campuses and our teachers that are working so hard. Um, and we really did, we swore off of Mr. Loomis last time, and, and here he is back again with us. And so, Mr. Loomis, it was good 

Speaker 4 (13:50):

To see you. Just like, just like one of those bad pennies. I just keep showing up. That's right. No matter where you are, Mr. Phillips. 

Speaker 1 (13:55):

And hey, before we kind of bombard Doug with some questions, I, I just, you know, I, I really want to challenge everybody out there in our, in our ranks, our staff. Um, we're, we're gonna work really hard in the next 15 to 20 minutes, we're gonna get Mr. Loomis to share, um, kind of the facts as we know 'em, the, the real truth about and towards some things that are, that are being shared out there, that are being talked about, um, really I think, you know, uh, legitimately with, with students and, and parents. But I also think legitimately with staff and some of those things are, are, um, right on target. Very true. Some of them are quite honestly o off base. And so we're gonna try really in the next little bit, Susan and I are gonna try to pull out from Mr. Loomis the details and the information that's, that's factual and real as of right now, that we want all of you as staff members to know. 

Speaker 1 (14:50):

And my challenge to each of you is, um, we, we need you to step up e every single one of you, regardless of what you do for us in a classroom as a custodian, as a counselor, um, and, and I, I'm forgetting a lot of, IM very, very important roles. But my point is, no matter what your role, every one of you is a leader in your own way. You're a leader for your kids in your classroom. You're a leader as a school district employee in your church group. You're a leader, um, as a school district employee in, um, some kind of other social group that you have or on your, as a parent for your, for your kiddos, uh, soccer team or what, whatever the case may be. And we're really gonna challenge all of you to take this information as we know it now and share it. And when you hear people in the grocery store talking about things that aren't exactly, exactly accurate, then we ask you to step up and share with them what we're about to tell you concerning some really important things and things that are kind of burning questions that are on a lot of people's hearts. So, 

Speaker 2 (15:51):

Okay. So yeah, we're hearing a lot of rumors. Um, I think I heard it twice yesterday that schools are gonna close after Thanksgiving, or we're going to go on holiday break and not come back. Yeah. Doug, is that true or false? 

Speaker 4 (16:05):

<laugh>? I've heard those same rumors. Um, uh, I can unequivocally say as we sit here today, that's just false. Uh, but I want, I I do want us to take us back. You know, I, I was, I was thinking earlier today, I've been part of public education over 50 years now. Now, now, be careful, Mr. Phillips, all 50 of those years hasn't been actually as an employee. There are about 16 of those. I was a student myself. I got you. But, but what happened last spring is just unprecedented that we wake up one morning and all of a sudden school is canceled. And, and not only is it canceled, there's no makeup, we just kind of dissolve that, that, uh, that period of time. And then we started anew in, in August. And so, uh, I, I think what everybody needs, needs to know since, since early July, t e a has been really, really clear, can a district close down indefinitely? 

Speaker 4 (16:59):

And the answer from them is just no, they cannot. Um, the, the next question can, can they cancel school because of covid? And, and the answer is no. Um, they do give us a little bit of flexibility if there's a need for a short closure for, for disinfecting and cleaning, um, you could close up to about five days. Uh, but, but even then, those days all have to be made up. And, and you have to look at where are those days gonna fit in your calendar as you make those up. And so we don't really have the ability to close schools. Uh, that really lies, you know, either in the state officials, you know, the governor's office, uh, coming from the commissioner of Ed or, or other public health officials who have that authority. Uh, and I think part of what fields has fielded that, that rumor mill out there is we have been working diligently to be prepared at a time, if, if someone were to say, we're gonna close the doors, that we could very quickly shift to a virtual environment. And as over the last couple of weeks we've passed out Chromebooks, um, as we've once again surveyed families about who has broadband and who doesn't, I think that's just fueled the, these fires. Uh, but, but at the moment, we don't have any plans. Are we planning? Absolutely. We're planning, because we don't wanna be caught behind the eight ball. But are we going to close schools anytime soon? No, there are no plans to do that. Okay. So 

Speaker 2 (18:22):

We're not gonna close schools, but are schools safe? Are schools in A I S D? Yeah. 

Speaker 4 (18:27):

Well, I 

Speaker 2 (18:28):

Still safe. I, 

Speaker 4 (18:29):

You know, you as, as, as Covid continues to rise in our community and across the state and the nation, i, I, I think you, ans you ask that, you ask yourself that question whether you're at home, whether you're out in business or, or whether you're in schools. And, and what I can tell you, Susan, is that, uh, I'm really proud of, of our maintenance and our custodial teams, uh, and their efforts to sanitize anytime somebody tests positive, uh, we've bought hydrostatic sprayers that are, uh, on all facilities. And, and so when somebody tests positive, we very quickly, uh, uh, you many times within just minutes or an hour or two are able to get in and disinfect those, those areas. Then of an evening, we're able to come back and do a more thorough cleaning. Uh, what, um, what I would say is that I, I think it's incumbent on all of us to make sure that we're following through, uh, with those p p e um, guidelines and standards. 

Speaker 4 (19:27):

You know, when, when kids leave your classroom and they're gonna be gone for 30 minutes or so, you know, staff, you use that disinfectant, spray it around the room, spray it on those high touch areas, and then don't be afraid to use the, the, the soap and the water, uh, mixtures that we have that you can use when you're not going to have, uh, time away, uh, from your classroom more than a few minutes. What I, I I, I think ultimately, you know, the question I ask myself every day with 32,000 kids, are they safer in school or out on the streets? And, and one of the things that, that is very recognizable in our students, they're very compliant and they really have done a good job of wearing masks. Do they always have their mask up where it needs to be? Absolutely not. But just with a little bit of reminder, they put 'em up and they wear their mask and they're, they're constantly using disinfectant. 

Speaker 4 (20:18):

Teachers are helping them get their hands washed and practice those good hygienes and, and what we see when they're out in public, they don't always wear their mask. The, the, and, and so I think one of the questions that we have to be, be able to ask ourselves are, are, are kids safer in schools wearing masks and, and all of us wearing masks and, and practicing those goods, those, those good safety protocols than we are, than when we're just out in general on our own. And, and I think the question or the answer is they really are. So, 

Speaker 2 (20:50):

So you would say in general, we're not seeing transmission of covid in schools? 

Speaker 4 (20:57):

No. We, we have not, we have not seen any reliable data as, as we look at data, as data comes from the health department, where, where we're transmitting this, I, I'm not about to say that we're not at any level, but we're not seeing this, uh, for example, in a classroom of a student that that tests positive today. And then over the next 48 hours or so, we're, we're not seeing multiples of his classmates testing positive on the rare occasion that we've seen some of that happen either in classrooms or, or in other venues as the health department investigates that just all, almost every time, maybe every time. But, but generally, um, they're able to trace this right back to a social event that happened outside the school day or outside the bounds of when teachers are reminding kids and to wear a mask where they were wearing mask and that social, and then they brought it back into school. And so really when we, when we see everyone wearing their mask, everyone wearing their shields, everyone practicing those, we're just not seeing that social spread. And we keep a very close eye on that. 

Speaker 1 (22:03):

Doug, talk to us about, I'm sure everybody either in the newspaper on, uh, a TV station, on social media, have seen the reports where it says that A I S D has more covid cases than any other school district in Texas, Texas. So give us a little bit of background and a frame of reference for that claim. Yeah, 

Speaker 4 (22:24):

Well, you know, I'm, I'm always disappointed, you know, in myself or in others, when you take data and you make it say what you want it to say. So I'm gonna work really hard at not trying to spin this data, uh, because I think it's important data. Uh, and I have not looked at the d h s website in since they updated it last, but, but that is correct, Kevin, for, for several weeks, Amarillo led the state in the number of positive tests, and it's really easy to, to jump to the conclusion, oh my goodness, it's out of control in Amarillo. But, but when you get a little deeper into the data and you start to look, we were one of the very first school districts to bring mass numbers of kids back into our school buildings. Remember we gave parents a choice because we understand the importance of, of trying to keep our numbers down. 

Speaker 4 (23:13):

But t e a has said from the beginning, if parents want their kids in school, you have no choice but to put them in school other than a short transition period at the beginning of the school year that we partially took advantage of. Uh, and, and so really from the beginning, over 80% of our parents, and I think it's still around 85% of our parents today are, are saying, we want our kids in school. And, and so we had more kids in school than, than the largest school districts in the state for six to eight weeks. Uh, I really, you know, you, you can go back and look deep into the data, uh, but it, it, it didn't take you long to figure out, you know, Amarillo has 25,000 kids back in person, and San Antonio has 10,000, or Austin has 300, or Houston has 51. 

Speaker 4 (24:01):

And so that, that raw number is, is being generated just because you only report kids who are positive in schools. You don't report kids who are positive in a virtual world or outside of school. It's only those kids that end up being positive when, when they're in school. And, and so, because just by the fact that we started back to school quicker, more of our parents wanted their kids back in person, um, it has caused us to, to lead that number. But when you do it on a percentage basis, uh, really we're, we're, we're right in line with all of our sister school districts in the area at about 2%, one to 2%. And and when you look at overall in the state, um, we were still well down the list instead of being number one, we were a hundred, 150 below that from, from leading the state. 

Speaker 4 (24:52):

And so are those numbers concerning? Absolutely. Anytime you get one, I mean, we've learned over the last few weeks that, that this really is a, this really is a deadly disease that is something every one of us need to take serious. As I look around in, in this room, as we take this podcast, every one of us have a mask on today, and we're, and we're doing our very best to, to model and practice those behaviors. And so I, I'm not making light that, that we're at the top of that. I'm not denying that we're at the top of that, but there are a lot of mitigating, mitigating factors that surround that. And, and over the coming weeks, um, I I, as Dallas and Houston, as they start to report those numbers, um, and there, there's no doubt that they will, they will surpass us on that list. Yeah, the 

Speaker 2 (25:36):

Picture's gonna change. Yeah, 

Speaker 4 (25:38):

The picture definitely won't change Susan, 

Speaker 2 (25:39):

But so if we're doing, uh, more testing and doing our own testing here at the, um, in A I S D at the support center, our, our numbers going to go up, 

Speaker 4 (25:49):

Uh, likely. I mean, we've seen time and time again as, as testing becomes available, numbers in the communities go up and, and, and, and, you know, there was a brief moment you ask yourself, do you really want to, to increase your, your positive cases? And, and my answer to that, to myself was absolutely, uh, if we've got people who are asymptomatic and that are positive and we can get them tested and we can get them in a quarantine, in an isolation setting, we're in such a better position of not creating community spread and, and keeping kids safe, keeping our staff staff safe. Um, those are the things that keep me up at night. Uh, I don't, you know, somebody will look at me and say, did you get any sleep last night? And I don't remember what sleep is. Uh, uh, because what, what you worry about in this is what do you do to make sure everybody's, when, when you have no choice but to have school doors open and kids back in school? And, and the truth of it is, even if we co close school mm-hmm. <affirmative>, would, would that mean we would all move into a quarantine? Would we all stay home? And when I mean all, I mean, our 32,000 kids, would they, would they stay at home if we were to close the doors? And I, and I don't have that answer, but, but that's one of those unintended consequences that you have to think about in terms of are we safer at school or are we safer in closing the doors? 

Speaker 1 (27:14):

So Doug, let's talk about another, another issue that I think, um, is, well, I know is a struggle for our teachers mainly. And I, I mean, I'm trying to be careful that I don't express things that are a struggle for you and I, because there are things that are a struggle for us, but I, I'm, this is a struggle for our teachers. This is frustrating. Um, it's, it's, um, it it's worrisome for our teachers. What are, what are we needing to be doing about the virtual kids who are not engaged in school, who are falling further behind and in many cases are failing their classes? 

Speaker 4 (27:49):

Yeah. We've now been in school for six weeks and, and it's really clear that we've got about, uh, 15 or 20% of our virtual kids who just still, after all the heroic efforts of, of classroom teachers, of, of, of campus administrators, of trying to get them engaged, they're just not engaging. Uh, and, and, and quite frankly, I, I think we've come to a point that, that with the amount of energy that, that teachers are having to expend just trying to get kids engaged, not not even to the level of trying to get kids to learn, but just to get them engaged, it's taking away their ability to, to teach the kids who are on site. And, and so what you have to look at is that has to be hurting the entire system and keeping us from making progress. And so, um, we, we have, we have come, we have finally have a tool in our tool belt that we're able to, to use and able to bring those kids who are unengaged back to campus. 

Speaker 4 (28:50):

Um, there's, there's some caveats to that. If, if they have a me medical certification, um, you can't, obviously, we don't wanna make those kids, uh, come back to school, whether it's themselves or somebody in the family. Um, and there may be other mitigating factors that a, that a parent may need to, to talk about, about bringing their kids back into school that we need to consider. But really for those kids who, who aren't being successful and not being successful, in my mind, are those kids who have multiple unexcused absences, and those kids who have a 69 or below in classes, um, if, if they're not hitting that mark if's time to tell those kids that they have to come back to school. And so, over the coming days and the coming weeks, uh, principals have, have been given the tool to be able to set up conferences with parents and have conversations with parents. 

Speaker 4 (29:41):

Um, part of the rules around this is you have to give kids a a 10 day grace period around this. And so, so if, if we're having that conversation right now, uh, we're really looking at that parent. And more importantly, we're looking at that student saying, you know, you, you gotta get your grades up to passing. You can't have any more unexcused absences. And at the end of this 10 day grace period, which is about the Tuesday or Wednesday, right after spring or after spring break, dang, I've jumped out and I, uh, Thanksgiving, um, you'll be back in school and, and you don't have a choice but to be back in school and we'll cut off that virtual, uh, and, and put them in on onsite learning. And, and really what that does is it allows, you know, teachers to really be able to take a breath because there, there's a segment about two thirds of our virtual kids who are being successful, right? 

Speaker 4 (30:30):

And, and as you talk to teachers and you're out in the trenches listening to them, those are the kids that it's not more, it's, it's not that it's not difficult to do both to, to do it virtual or to do on site, but really what's what's struggling is trying to get those kids engaged, uh, that won't engage. And so when you, by removing those, it, it ought to free up the virtual learning, um, to, to move and, and define more successes, and at the same time not expending all that energy so you can focus on your kids that are, that are in school also. 

Speaker 1 (31:02):

So, so really we are continuing to give parents and students choice, but we are, we're really gonna up the ante, um, moving forward on students being engaged and putting in the appropriate amount of effort and having that support from that learning coach at home so that they can be successful. So Doug, uh, I'm just gonna ask, and we'll just throw the question out a different way just so people have, um, so we're clear, you know, somebody might listen to this and listen to the things we've talked about in terms of challenges in the last 10 minutes. And so then their question might be, um, why don't we just go fully virtual? Yeah. What's the answer to that question? Well, 

Speaker 4 (31:43):

I, I think it's obvious. Uh, I think our, our parents, our kids, uh, but we're in the middle of a pandemic. And, and for our parents and kids who have compromised sys systems, immune systems, or somebody in the family has those, or they just have the ability to be virtual, uh, we ought to give them that, that that opportunity, because one, it protects those kids, it protects that family, but it also protects all of us because that's fewer kids that we have to put under the roof because parents are making that decision. And I, I just think that it's, it, it, it, it, we would be shirking our responsibilities as leaders in this community if we said, we're not gonna offer virtual any longer in the middle of this pandemic. Now, as, as a vaccine becomes available and things change in, in the community, maybe that decision's different. 

Speaker 4 (32:32):

But when we're spiking and we have over 400 cases a day coming in and out of the community, and hospitals are capacity and ambulances are sitting at code zero, um, I, I think we, we have a responsibility in the community to play, even though we are being told, we've been told by t e a and the governor, you have to offer onsite learning. What are the things that we can do to help reduce that? And, and so one of those is by offering virtual learning. Um, the other thing that you'll see coming in, you know, as, as, as you've seen the city tighten up over the last few days and you saw Potter County tighten, uh, we'll start to tighten and, and we'll start to, uh, to discourage or stop, uh, group gatherings or meetings at our schools that are outside of the normal instructional day. 

Speaker 4 (33:24):

We're gonna limit the, the event capacity at, at our, at Dick Bivins. We're going to, to continue to limit, we're already at about 25%, and we're gonna, we're gonna limit it even further. Uh, we're gonna limit that at our activity centers. And, and you're going to see a mandate that you have to wear the mask or you're going to be asked to leave. You know, we, for, since the beginning of this, with our kids, we've not given them an option, but adults that come into our facilities indoors, we've, you have to have a mask to get in, and we highly recommend you to wear that mask. But in response to provide some providing leadership to this community, we're gonna say, if you choose to come to one of our events that are open to the public, you have to wear a mask. Uh, I just think that's where we are. And, and, and whether, whether you believe in it or not, I, I think, I think that's where we are. And, and that's the ability for us to con, continue to keep schools open and offer, offer activities for our kids at, at some level that, that we deem can, can be safe. Okay. 

Speaker 2 (34:25):

But, but, um, we're talking about keeping schools open, but, you know, given, given what's going on in Amarillo in our own city and also in the state now, I mean, I think it's not unreasonable to think that at some point we might be told we have to shut down. Oh, we have to go completely virtual. Yeah. So, and I know you talked a little bit about what we're doing to prepare for that, but could you talk a little bit more about, um, where are we with Chromebooks and are, are we able to, are all of our students able to go virtual? 

Speaker 4 (34:58):

Uh, we, we are getting closer. Uh, if, if for some reason a governor or a health official dean that we had to go virtual, uh, today, uh, first through 12th grade, have Chromebooks available, and, and those are, are starting to be utilized in classrooms, uh, we continue to monitor who in our, who in our district doesn't have broadband, uh, at home. We've got about 17,000 families in the district. And so we're, we're trying to figure out which families don't have broadband, truly don't have any kind of broadband, and we're able to, to supplement that. It's, it's not like a broadband that you can go out and start watching Netflix on, but it is a broadband that has enough speed on it that enables you to do your schoolwork from home. And, and so we continue to do that. And, and so, and by December 1st, uh, our, our pre-K and K will have devices available. And so we, we really anticipate as we start to close out the final days of the semester, we really would be in a position if somebody deemed it necessary, we, we could get there. 

Speaker 1 (36:01):

All right, so we're gonna wrap up with our can't let go of the week or month or however often we do these. Blake, I, I don't, I can't remember, um, I kind of alluded to one earlier about everybody just pitching in wherever he asks to, to help. And I really think my other one is, is kind of what I started before we, we began visiting with Mr. Loomis. And that is, everybody is a leader in your own way. You're an influencer with someone out there. Uh, again, whether it's the 20 kids that are in your class, whether it's your Sunday school group, whether it's, um, you know, all the families that you hang out with every night on Friday nights, um, to watch movies or, or, or be with your kids, um, you're, you're an influencer with a group of people, and hopefully we've given you some good information. So my can't let go, or my second can't lo go, I guess of, of this episode is step out there. You're probably not gonna quote and remember everything from this podcast as far as factual information. Exactly. 100% correct. But it's better than you leaving people out there with false and impressions and misconceptions, um, and rumors swirling in their head. And so we need all of you who work for us to step out there and help us communicate this message. So yeah, and 

Speaker 2 (37:17):

You can always go back and listen again. 

Speaker 1 (37:19):

Absolutely. <laugh>, absolutely, Susan cant let 

Speaker 2 (37:23):

Go. Okay. I have something really profound. Awesome. But I wanna share with you 

Speaker 1 (37:27):

All. Cool. 

Speaker 2 (37:29):

Did anyone ask cauliflower if it wanted to be all these things? 

Speaker 1 (37:35):


Speaker 2 (37:36):


Speaker 4 (37:37):

Was that a joke, Mr. Phillips? Or we just <laugh> 

Speaker 1 (37:40):

It a minute just 

Speaker 4 (37:40):

Too, to catch that <laugh> 

Speaker 2 (37:42):

<laugh>. It's, 

Speaker 1 (37:44):

It took, it took me a minute, <laugh>. Hey, um, what about you, Mr. Loomis? 

Speaker 4 (37:49):

You know, uh, what I can't let go is we, we just seem to be angry all the time anymore. And, and I would just encourage everybody to go back and, and look at the things that we have to be blessed and, and focus on those things that, that we have control over and, and, and work each day to get a little bit better in those things that we have that control over. Um, I, I don't think the, the, the polarization, the anger, uh, the just out and out defiance and disagreement with one another is ever gonna get us to where we need to be. And I think if we can all just put a smile on our face, uh, laugh at Susan's jokes, a little more <laugh>, uh, and, and, and look for a broader tomorrow, uh, tomorrow will be brighter. 

Speaker 2 (38:39):

You know, these podcasts are really meant for staff and kind of an internal communication tool. But, but if you know, um, someone out there who could benefit from this information, you know, these, these are on a public platform. So share it. Share it. Feel free to share it. Share the, the info. 

Speaker 1 (38:55):

Absolutely. You know, whether you, whether you do, you know, my challenge to you, whether you do that by, um, speaking up when you're in, uh, in a position of influence or maybe you just wanna direct people to the podcast, um, share it with them, or better yet, ask them, and even you, yourself, um, go on, you know, Spotify or Apple or whatever those platforms are that I don't know a whole lot about, and subscribe to those. So that way you get that notification every time we post one of these. And, um, and you can kind of be right there with us every time we, we sit down and, and create one of these, what are, what are, what are hoping to be, you know, better internal communication tools for our staff here in A I S D. So again, thanks for tuning in. Thanks for subscribing. Um, we're not gonna ask you to rate yet, because quite honestly, I'm not sure there are any good yet. But, um, we'll let you be the judge of that somewhere down the road. And, uh, I wish everybody, uh, a good rest of the week and a, and a great thanks.

Season 1, Episode 3 Summary

From the latest updates on virtual learning to voting to self-care, this episode tries to keep up with the changing winds of 2020.

Episode 3 Notes

0:15 – Welcome and Overview

2:30 – Update on Virtual Learning

8:20 – Exercising Your Right to Vote

14:30 – Tracey Morman

16:15 – Taking Care of Others by Taking Care of Yourself 

21:15 – Getting Through COVID-19 

27:25 – Can't Let It Go


Speaker 1 (00:00):

<silence> It's 

Speaker 2 (00:08):

You two. Hello. 

Speaker 1 (00:10):

Hey. Hey guys. 

Speaker 2 (00:11):

Oh, oh. <laugh>, <laugh>. Okay. Kevin, you go. 

Speaker 3 (00:15):

Hey guys. Hello and welcome to episode three of Schoolwork. Uh, we're glad you're with us. Susan and I are here gonna, gonna welcome some guests this morning. Um, Mr. Loomis gonna talk to us a little bit about, uh, kind of briefly about virtual learning, kind of an update there, talk about voting and the importance of voting, and really probably something really important. Susan. Um, Tracy's going to Tracy. Mormon's gonna join us, and we're gonna get to know Tracy a little bit. She's gonna talk to us about something that's really important during this time, really about mental health, how to take care of yourself, how to take care of our kids, um, and really probably something that a lot of us are, are shortsighted on right now, but very, very important. So we look forward to talking with Tracy. Um, and then we're just gonna kind of wrap things up with, you know, for, from each of our perspectives, what's something that's kind of uplifting, heartwarming, um, just something a little bit light to kind of keep us all going during a time that can be kind of, um, you know, really heavy sometimes and bogs us down. 

Speaker 3 (01:24):

So we're gonna try to end today's episode with just something that, you know, we can't let go of and something that's important to us, kind of keeping us going and keeping our mo motor full. So, um, good, good to 

Speaker 2 (01:37):

Be with you. 

Speaker 3 (01:37):

Sounds great, Kevin. I'm glad to see you. And, um, I don't know, Mr. Loomis, what do you got for Yeah, 

Speaker 2 (01:42):

We're gonna start with Doug. He seems to be a permanent fixture on this, this podcast 

Speaker 4 (01:46):

Now, and I, a, I apologize to everyone for that, and nobody ought to have to put up with me this early in the morning, especially after a board meeting that ran into the wee hours of the morning. Uh, and so I'm not sure I'm awake, but maybe I've got enough coffee in me to, to, to give a little bit of information this morning. So thanks for having me. And, um, and where are we gonna go, guys? 

Speaker 2 (02:07):

Speaking of the board meeting, uh, the board just recently approved the purchase of some more Chromebooks and, um, but really, you know, you could ask, teachers are struggling. We've got students that are, um, unengaged. We've got virtual learners out there that just, just haven't come back and aren't engaged. And so why are we buying more Chromebooks 

Speaker 4 (02:29):

<laugh>? That, that's a great question, Susan. Uh, I, I think the short answer is, is really simple. You know, the, I get asked 15 times a day, you know, when, when are we gonna close school because of the spikes in, in Covid? And, and, and so really the short answer is if, if, whether it's us or whether it's the health department that comes in and shuts us down, um, the, the, the only way that, that we keep from having to go into June and July to make days up for those days that we miss, is if we have the ability to be a hundred virtual pre-K through 12, and we have the ability to provide broadband, uh, to students who need it. And, and we're in a position that we, we can offer the broadband where we've not been in a position, uh, is to put a device in every kid's hand because we didn't purchase initially, uh, computers or Chromebooks for Pre-K, pre-K, um, and, and K. 

Speaker 4 (03:19):

And so, uh, we've just found, found some, uh, they've come on the market and we're, we're able to finish that up. Uh, and, and that's the short answer, Susan, you know, is, is, is we may, we may have to close this thing down at some point. Um, don't necessarily think that's what's going to happen, but we wanna be in a position to do that long term. Um, I, I just think that that technology in our can, in our kids' hands really opens up doors. It, it, it, it opens up our, our our ability to deliver instruction anywhere we wanna deliver it, you know? And, and once we get to the other side of this pandemic, there, there, there are times that the kids have short-term illnesses. Uh, there are times that kids have to be gone for, you know, funerals and, and, and, and seeing family. 

Speaker 4 (04:05):

And, and there's a myriad of reasons kids have to be outta school. And so we have the ability with the Chromebooks and, and, and with the, with the systems that we're putting in play to be able to deliver instruction on demand. And, and, and you're right. I, this has been hard. Um, and, and teachers are, are, are, it's, it's almost more than anybody ought to be asked to do. Uh, but, but teachers are starting to figure this out lesson or at the board meeting. Um, we, we heard from two te two campuses who really have, uh, gone through the trials of this thing, and they're starting to figure it out. And so long term, uh, putting devices in our kids' hands, I, I believe is, is what will extend education that will help us bridge the achievement gap. It, it will put technology in every kid's hands and, and the ability for them to access a quality education no matter where they are. And, and the most important thing is a I S D teachers will be delivering that instruction. 

Speaker 3 (05:04):

Absolutely. You know, I, I really think we could go on and on about virtual learning. Uh, probably we could do a, another whole entire episode. I, I think what we would say to staff is, um, this is starting to get better. Um, but we realize that it's not perfect. And so, you know, stay in touch with your principal, stay in touch with your team of teachers, let us know where there still are, areas where there are bumps in the road, and we can do something to help smooth those out. We are not at all, um, at the point of saying this is where it needs to be. Um, but, but it's getting there. And so keep us informed. Uh, we got a load of technology coming our way for our, our kids. Some, mostly our younger kids. 

Speaker 4 (05:48):

Our middle school kids just got an email this morning. They're gonna be, they'll be delivered in district on the, on the 28th, ke 29th, 28th or 29th, Kevin. So phone for 

Speaker 3 (05:57):

Coming. And thankfully I think kind of hit the, the Chromebook lottery last week. We've secured and found another, you know, another group of 'em. Those were supposed 

Speaker 4 (06:06):

To be, well, I thought you was gonna use the word tranche, Mr. 

Speaker 3 (06:07):

Phillips? No, not tranche. Okay. It's just, just the lottery of Chromebooks. So somehow we're able to find several, several thousand more Chromebooks. They'll be here by December 1st, and those really are going to our youngest kiddos. So, um, uh, things are, things are, you know, good things are happening. Bright spots are coming. Um, we, we really advocated that this was coming here. And, um, so 

Speaker 4 (06:30):

It is, and, and like we told the the staff last night, Kevin, you know, we just stand in awe, you know, from from the beginning. We, we know where we know where solutions come from. They, they come from the trenches. They come from the classroom teachers and the administrators working together and figuring out how do we take the next step? And, and we've advocated since the beginning of this. If you can just think about what can I do better today? Not, not all the things that we ought to do better. What's the one thing I can do better today? And, and if we can fix that one problem today and tomorrow we can fix another one, all of a sudden you start to get momentum and all of a sudden this thing is flowing. And last night at a board meeting, you know, we, we heard the fourth grade team at Rogers talk, and we heard the, the team at Tascosa talk about, you know, this, this has been hard. 

Speaker 4 (07:13):

And, and we've, there's been a lot of tears and there's been a lot of frustrations. But as we've started to look for solutions and we've taken one step at a day, one step at a time, and one day at a time, you know, this is starting. It's not perfect. And, and there are still a, we've got a long road to go, but, but we've started to figure out what this onsite virtual world may look like. And so the one thing that I'm sure of is I have confidence of the people who are in the trenches, and that we're gonna figure this out and we're gonna figure it out together. 

Speaker 2 (07:42):

Yeah. I think people are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, maybe. So that's good. 

Speaker 4 (07:46):

At least they have a tunnel. I'm not sure there's a light yet, Susan, but they, there's at least a tunnel. 

Speaker 2 (07:51):

Well, maybe they're going in the right direction. 

Speaker 4 (07:52):

Yes, ma'am. I do believe that. 

Speaker 2 (07:54):

Yeah. Okay. Well, like Kevin said, we could probably talk about this for, you know, a couple of hours and we, we will certainly devote more, uh, episodes to talking more about virtual learning and, and Covid. But today we wanna talk a little bit more about, we wanna talk a little bit about voting. We've got, um, the November election coming up in a couple 

Speaker 4 (08:15):

Of weeks. Really? There's an election out there. Yeah, I haven't heard that. I, that's news to me. 

Speaker 2 (08:19):

Yes, we have to, 

Speaker 4 (08:21):

You, you know, it, it, it really is refreshing to drive by the polls in Amarillo and see the long lines and, and see people taking the opportunity to exercise their right to vote. And, uh, you know, as, as we've talked as a leadership team and as, as, as we've talked about the importance of this, you know, we, we have our, our government is, is a representative government, and we elect people to represent us in, in, in Austin or, or at, at the city or in Washington. And really, it, it's important that, that we all, uh, exercise that opportunity. And, and one of the things that I really want to encourage our staff to do is for us to create a culture of voting. Historically, educators, we're not really great at voting. Yeah. And why do you think, why do you think that is? Well, that's, that's because we're busy teaching kids, you know, and, and on election day, uh, so often, you know, on, on a Tuesday in November or, or in May, whenever that election is, we're busy teaching kids. 

Speaker 4 (09:21):

And, and, and it's not always easy to find time to, to make it to the polls. And, and, and, and, and so I, I want us to, to think about how, how do we create a culture that we're gonna vote? Because here's the real truth. If I'm a representative of, of this podcast, and, um, there's an election and I'm elected to be that representative, and Susan goes and votes, and Kevin doesn't go and vote, who's gonna have my ear? And one of the things as educators is, is we want our representation to, to understand what's going on in education. We want to have their ears. And the way we ensure that is we go vote it. It's not important whether you're Republican, you're a Democrat, you're a conservative, you're a progressive, you're left, you're right. And anything in between, that's not what's important. Sure. What's important is we go vote. 

Speaker 4 (10:17):

Mm-hmm. And, and what we tell, tell the people who ultimately are, are elected to represent us, is, uh, we want you to hear us. And, and when in Amarillo, we've got over 5,000 employees and all 5,000 of us go vote. And, and, and our, our 18 year old seniors go vote alongside us. We're sending a real powerful, powerful message to those who are going to represent us. Hey, we we're here and, and we want you to listen to us. And, and so, um, I, I, I think as a, as, as a, as an entity, um, we ought to really think about how do we develop that culture. Yeah. You know, is it one of those things I, I couldn't get to the poll, you know, and so, you know, maybe the superintendent needs to come cover your class so you can slip out and go vote. You know, I, I think we look for ways to try to open doors to make sure our staff have the opportunity to get to vote. 

Speaker 3 (11:09):

You know, I, as, as educators, I think it's a very real thing for our teachers, you know, literally, and especially now with what we're all trying to deal with, with virtual learning and, and the pandemic, you know, more so than even ever we're, our lives as educators are driven by, you know, first period, second period, third period, I barely have time to eat my lunch. And, and so it, it definitely is a struggle. So I, I think anything we can do to encourage our leaders to find creative ways, to free up some time for people to run and vote, I, I will just, you know, personal note, lived here all my life. I'm from Amarillo, at least since I've been voting age. I, I've never seen the number of people standing outside of polling places. Yeah. Uh, but I, i just, my personal perspective and, and, um, encouragement to people out there, even despite that, it was very quick Saturday when I went and voted. 

Speaker 3 (12:06):

So it didn't take me very long. I got to stand outside with my wife for a, a, a few minutes in beautiful weather. And really, honestly, by the time we got there, by the time we finished and we're onto our next thing on a Saturday, it really is very quick. Didn't take long at all. So I, I think all of us can make excuses about how busy we are and how our life is driven from, from Belle to Belle and class to class. Uh, at some point it's just a personal choice of us. And really maybe somebody helping us out and encouraging us, watching our class for a few minutes, but, but get out there and vote. Take the time. Make it a priority. Figure out a way. Um, don't let the long line scare you off. 'cause it really doesn't take very long. 

Speaker 2 (12:46):

Good. And I think it's, you know, voting is part of being a responsible citizen. And I think it's, um, important that as educators, we model that behavior, you know, for our own kids. 

Speaker 4 (12:57):

Well, nothing is more disheartening as, as when you stopped and, and you start looking at, at, at election results and who voted and who didn't vote. And, and you look up and, and, and you see that the education sector, you know, a very, very small percentage voted. And, and that's sending a, that's sending a loud message to to, to those that are representing us. And so, let's, let's get out and let's vote and let's be a part of that process. And, and, um, let's, let's look at those that ultimately become our elected officials and say, uh, here we are. And you need to be listening to us. And, and we need to be working together to, to make things better for everyone. 

Speaker 3 (13:35):

So, um, shifting on, we're gonna, we're gonna be sure we get Tracy in here, Mr. Loomis, I think, I think Susan, Susan and I, we need your key to this room that we're in. So, um, if you can go ahead and just hand us your keys, um, and we'll, we'll let you know when you're gonna get that back. 

Speaker 4 (13:51):

Um, nothing like being politely dismissed, Mr. 

Speaker 3 (13:53):

Phillips <laugh>. Is that what it is? Maybe that's what I just did. I'm, I'm not sure. Anyways, we're gonna have Tracy come talk to us about mental health, but we do appreciate you stopping by talking to us about voting and, and for your leadership as we make our way. Um, again, every day through, through a new and different time. So thanks a lot. Thanks 

Speaker 4 (14:11):

Guys. Appreciate 

Speaker 2 (14:12):

The opportunity and for lucky, we, we, if we're lucky, we may see you again next time. <laugh>, maybe <laugh>, 

Speaker 4 (14:17):

If you're un lucky. If you're only that lucky Susan. Thanks guys. Maybe, yeah. Friends like you, who needs enemies in this world. 

Speaker 3 (14:24):

Alright, so onto our next guest, one of our favorite folks. I know a favorite to many. She's our, uh, she's our, this is Us buddy, which I think is gonna start next week, right? Tracy? This is us. Is gonna start again next week, I think. Yes. I'm so 

Speaker 2 (14:40):

Excited 'cause I'll cry every week. 

Speaker 3 (14:42):

So I'll get to converse back and forth with Tracy via text while we watch. But Tracy Mormon is with us. I'm not gonna really, I'm gonna let Tracy introduce herself 'cause a lot of people may not know you. 

Speaker 5 (14:53):

Well, I'm Tracy Morman. I'm the director of counseling and college and career ready for the district. And so that just means I get to do a lot of fun things with the district and with kids and with teachers and other staff members. So it's, I love my job. Tell 

Speaker 3 (15:07):

Us a little bit about your family. 'cause you got a good family. 

Speaker 5 (15:09):

Yeah, I do. I have a great family. So my husband teaches, um, law enforcement at Amarillo High. He's previously, before that he was at Cap Rock and he worked in law enforcement for, gosh, 20 years. And then I have a son who graduated from Cap Rock and works for the health department. So he's knee deep in Covid right now with like everybody else. And then I have a senior who also is, um, he's at North Heights right now. He was at Amarillo High, but now he's at North Heights. So, um, and both of my kids are adopted, so that's fine. We have, I just always say we have one of those, um, great blended, mixed up little families, so I love it. 

Speaker 3 (15:50):

So Jamie and Tracy are some cool people. Um, they got some cool boys and they take care of, uh, some of the rest of us, our kids. And, uh, Tracy would do the same for any of you all out there. So, um, Tracy, we just want you to share a little bit with us. How do we, um, how do we help each other take care of one another and take care of ourselves in terms of mental health and the social emotional part of what's going on? How do we look after one another and make sure everybody's okay? 

Speaker 5 (16:19):

Yeah. So great questions. I get that question all the time. Like, how do we take care of ourselves? So the first thing, you gotta take care of yourself. I mean, that's the first thing. Like find that stuff that you like to do. Um, you know, we're, we're still missing some of the things that we love to do. So, um, go outside. You know, we can still go outside. I know we live in the Texas panhandle and it's windy some days, but, um, can you sit on your porch? Can you go sit in the backyard? Can you go for a bike ride? Um, do some of those great things. Find some great movies. Like, we loved going to the movies. I'm so glad that the movies kind of opened back up. I've convinced Jamie we can, it's safe to go to the movie. We finally went, we watched Empire Strikes back on Sunday. 

Speaker 5 (17:05):

We were the only ones in the movie theater. So it was safe. Was like, who would've thought we'd be in the movie theater watching Empire Strikes Back? But, um, find movies like you can still have movie night and turn off the lights and pop popcorn. Do those things. You can still have family time and do those things. Like what are the things that you want to pamper yourself with? Can you still do spa time? Um, do those types of things. When we were still completely in shutdown mode, we would still do Google meets or Zoom times with our families so that we could still see each other. Can you do drive-bys and wave at people? And um, one of my counselors, it was, he was so fun, he was talking about like, he would, um, take kids to his grandparents, to his hou to their grandparents' house because they miss their grandparents so much and they would write snail mail and drop it off. Wow. Like, so there's like lots of things that you can still do to stay in touch with each other, but find those things that are like really great. 'cause you have to take care of yourself. You know, we talk all the time that if your oxygen mask isn't on, you can't take care of anybody else. You've got to fill your cup up before you can help anybody else. So, um, yeah. 

Speaker 2 (18:18):

And that's a real good point Tracy. And, um, you know, for a lot of our kids, school just isn't fun anymore. And you know, we know that a lot of our kids out there are just struggling with life and, and school right now. So how, how are we helping adults in the schools, um, help 

Speaker 5 (18:36):


Speaker 2 (18:37):

Right now? 

Speaker 5 (18:38):

Yeah, so I think, you know, one of the things is just be there. Like, that's the most important things. Some consistency. That was one of the things I think kids miss so much when we went to school Closure. We were the, the safe place, the consistent place. They knew every day when they came to school, Mr. Phillips was gonna be there. They knew when they came to school that principal's gonna be there, that teacher was gonna be there, and then we shut down and they couldn't see their friends, they couldn't see their teacher. And so now just showing up and being there is the best thing that we can do. And so we know that just being there for them, being consistent, being the stable place, math, english, science, and social studies all gonna fall into place as long as we're there for them. Um, the high fives, the elbow bumps, that's, that's what they need. And then so 

Speaker 3 (19:31):

You, you went right where I was gonna go. You know, I think, I think sometimes, and I think Tracy would agree, you know, the, I guess nowadays instead of the handshakes, it's gonna be the fist bumps. It's just, it's gonna be kids noticing that we care and that we recognize that they're here and they're at school and we recognize that and somebody caress that they're there and they're just not, you know, another person that's walking in and out of, you know, classroom 1 0 6 and then to 2 24. And so I, I don't know, I, Tracy's always reiterated to me that sometimes the littlest things are the most important for our kids that are struggling in some way. So, um, I I've always appreciated, you've, you've, you've helped me understand that from a mental health perspective. Yeah, there are, there are some pretty complex things and it takes people like you and our counselors who, um, are awesome by the way. 

Speaker 3 (20:28):

Um, but it takes people with expertise sometimes to work through all those. But for, for people like me, for our, you know, our, our teachers, um, you know, the PE teacher, the, the math teacher, it's just little things sometimes that, that go a long way with kids that are struggling. So, um, um, anyway, tell us, tell us Tracy, what's, you know, what are, what are, what are your counselors, what are you guys, your, your department as you, you are app piece to the puzzle in Covid right now. What's on y'all's radar? What are the things y'all are working on? What are, what do you have principals asking you about? You know, what are principals asking, or even our families, moms and dads and families, what's on y'all's radar to be, um, a piece of the puzzle that helps us all get through Covid? 

Speaker 5 (21:18):

So what, what are kids safe? Like we hear that all the time. Are they safe physically? Are they safe mentally? Um, when they come to school, what's happening? And so the counselors are doing a lot of check-ins with kids. We want eyeballs on kids, whether they're virtual, whether they're in person. They really wanna place, um, eyeballs on kids. So they're doing home visits for our kids that aren't in school. They're making phone calls. They want them to still feel connected to the school. And so that's what's really, really important. And so we're checking in on those kids. We're, we're still doing groups, we're still having lunch groups with them. They may look way different because, you know, we can't be in a small confined space, but we're still, it's all about that connectiveness. Like, that's what's so important. And I think that's what was so hard when we weren't able to be together, is you didn't feel connected. And so it's trying to bring kids back together and, and be connected so that everybody feels a, a part of their school community, um, whatever that might look like. And so, and being safe and find and realizing what might have happened when they were at home, um, whatever that might have looked like because everybody's story looked a little different. And, and figuring out what their safety might have to look like when we, now that we're back in school mm-hmm. 

Speaker 2 (22:40):

<affirmative>. So, and I think what I think about the vir, the virtual kids out there that are, you know, learning virtually and what, what are some specific examples of the way that we're counselors are connecting with those kids, you know, that aren't in the school 

Speaker 5 (22:55):

Building? Yeah, so we've, we've used Canvas. So even the counselors are using Canvas. And, and so we're, we're pushing out some lessons to, to those kiddos. We're trying to meet with them through Google meets, do some one-on-one lessons if we need to do that, some counseling sessions with them. Um, even if we're having to do some group meetings with 'em, try to at least have some of those together. Make sure that we're just checking in on them, like I said. Um, but we're trying to push out some of those lessons so that they know that we care about them and hey, these are some things that you can work on while you're at home to help with your social needs that you might not be getting. That this is what we're doing here and we're about to push out Red Ribbon Week. So we want those kids to be able to participate in those activities as well, even though they might be at school. So they'll be getting those activities as well. And we want them to participate. 

Speaker 3 (23:50):

So Tracy, in, in terms of kind of the whole picture, help us out. Give us kind of a, give us some next steps. So for each of us, as we do whatever it is that we're doing right now, whatever our part as as staff members for A I S D, give us what's, you know, what are, what's the top three things that we can do to help ourselves, to help kids most importantly, and to help our colleagues around us as we work. What, what's the top three things we could do to, to make a difference and take care of ourselves and one another through the pandemic? 

Speaker 5 (24:26):

I think one thing we have to give ourselves permission to, to make mistakes and to not be perfect. I think right now everybody still wants to be perfect. They want to not make mistakes. They are afraid that if they don't get something completed today, that something's gonna happen tomorrow. It, it's okay, take a break. It's okay to give yourself permission to not work on something over the weekend. Um, that that's okay. You know, give yourself permission to take a break to, to not answer that email on Saturday or on Sunday. Take time for your family. Um, that's the first thing that you need to do as, as the teacher, as the educator. Because if you're doing that, then you're gonna be better off on Monday or on Thursday when you come back to the classroom for the student. Um, be aware of like what's happening in your classroom. 

Speaker 5 (25:20):

Sometimes I think that sometimes we forget and we think that because student A is doing a certain behavior that there must be something wrong with me and I must be a, a bad teacher, or something's wrong with them. And, and sometimes we forget that their behavior is communication. What are they trying to communicate to us? And so if, if they're not doing their work, it's not necessarily a reflection of you, the educator, it's a reflection of something that they're trying to communicate to us. So what are they trying to communicate to us? Did something happen at home? Um, did, was there a trauma that happened? And sometimes we always think that that trauma has to be something detrimental, like their house burned down or there was some type of sexual abuse, but their trauma could be they're going through a divorce, mom or dad lost their job. 

Speaker 5 (26:14):

Um, all of that is a trauma. And so we just have to take a step back, take a breather and start, um, maybe asking questions or just saying, Hey, you know, um, I noticed that something's a little different today. You wanna talk about it? Or do you just need to take a step back for a second? Um, and, and start realizing that something's just a little bit different. It doesn't have anything to do with you. But sometimes as educators, we're so type A and we want everything to be perfect, that we take everything personal, um, and real and start thinking that there must be something wrong with me because not everybody in my class is turning in their work the way they're supposed to, and it doesn't all work and not everybody's moving at the pace I want them to. And so we just have to take a step back and realize it's all okay. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> 2020 is different <laugh>. Right? And so once I think we do that, then we'll all be okay. 

Speaker 2 (27:09):

Yeah. 'cause the student not understanding the assignment might be because of what happened the night before at home. 

Speaker 5 (27:15):

Yeah. You know, and we haven't been in school since March. <laugh>. 

Speaker 2 (27:18):

Right, exactly. 

Speaker 3 (27:20):

That's great advice. That's, that's awesome. And, um, you know, I really kind of just leading in Susan and, and I are gonna kind of end today with something a little different. We're gonna try to talk and, and end up on a, on a, on a ladder note, maybe a more important note. So we're gonna talk about, um, kind of in line with what Tracy's sharing with us, things that we can't let go of. So, um, you know, um, hopefully Tracy can join, you know, add one. I I think I'll just step out there. I'll go first. Susan can share hers and then Tracy, if you have one. So, um, you know, as we, we talked about doing this, I I was, um, it actually was weird. So I had, um, um, I don't, I don't know exactly why it happened, but you know, it's, it's fall, um, hunting season is around the corner. 

Speaker 3 (28:08):

And so that's kind of the, the gear that my mind is, is, um, is in right now and, and something that happens, you know, it's also football season with, with my senior son. And so there's some important moments going on there. Just really the opportunity to, to even play is, is amazing. But, you know, fall and, and hunting season is, is something that, that I get geared up for every year. And so, you know, I start doing goofy things like listening and watching to different shows about this time of year about hunting. So there's, there's one out there. I'm sure many, many people know about it. It's called Meat Eater. Um, so I, I was watching an episode of it and 

Speaker 2 (28:50):

I've never watched that have you, 

Speaker 5 (28:51):

Tracy? I, I have to 

Speaker 3 (28:52):

Admit I'm kind of different. I, I, I didn't, I probably expected that maybe you ladies hadn't watched it, but I know I'll have a lot of friends out there who, who in the, the, in the, the ranks of our teachers and staff that have, I do know that for a fact anyways, more so, um, in this episode of Me Eater that I was watching the other night and I actually was watching it laying in bed and my wife was giving me a hard time. But really, no kidding aside, more importantly than, than the hunting aspect of the show, um, it, it caught me in one of the episodes, um, Giannis, who's actually one of the producers of the show, is really good buddies with the, uh, I guess the, the star of the show, Steve. Anyways, they took Gianni's dad on a hunting trip, um, to Alaska, really, because his dad is getting older and they realize that probably if he was gonna be able to make that trip, they were gonna have to do it. 

Speaker 3 (29:47):

So this, this particular episode is about that. I'm really not getting, gonna go into the hunting part of it 'cause that's not my point. My point is, at some point in the show in this episode, Gianni's dad is an older man who's had this opportunity that was awesome to go with his son and go to a place that, you know, is completely wild in Alaska. Um, he, he has this little, um, this little portion of the segment in the show where he talks about living in the moment. And so, you know, he talks about just really simply in a, in a two or three minute segment with Steve and his son about, you know, being alive is good and just recognizing that being alive is good and, and trying to value every day that we live and that we get the opportunity to live. You know, being thankful that we're even here or being thankful for wherever we are. 

Speaker 3 (30:42):

You know, the good and the bad about wherever we are deciding in our mind, you know what, I'm, I'm gonna live every day that I have to the moment. I'm gonna walk a little bit slower. And I know that's a struggle. Tracy will tell you, Susan will tell you, people that work around me know that I, I I move fast and I really probably honestly move too fast and I need to slow down a little bit. Yeah. And I need to walk a little bit slower. And, and that was kind of one of his points. And, and when you walk a little bit slower, what he, what he was sharing was that when, you know, when you walk a little bit slower, you begin to notice where you're gonna place your feet and you don't miss where you're placing your feet and you realize that where you place your feet every time you take a step is, is a moment. 

Speaker 3 (31:28):

And, and if you're not careful, you will begin to just take steps and you'll miss the moments of where you're stepping. And, you know, I, I mean, just kind of where I am in life and what we've been through in the last few months, you know, I've, I'm like many parents out there. I've got a senior in high school. So there literally are steps we're taking right now that we may not take 'em, you know, for sure. A year from now, um, we're gonna be taking very different steps. So don't miss the steps that you're taking right now. Don't miss important footsteps and realize that every footstep there's a, you know, there's a photograph in your mind that, that that has the opportunity to be there if you don't miss it. And if you're not, um, walking past it. And, and really this whole process of, of being thankful for where you are and the moments that you have and not missing the moments, you know, it helps you begin to conjure up whatever else it is that you want in your life. 

Speaker 3 (32:21):

You know, what, what, what is it ultimately that you want in your life as opposed to being, um, a good deputy superintendent or a good director of counselors or, you know, a good teacher or a great principal. And I think all those things are worthy, and they're very, very important. There are more important things in life than what we do inside of the school district for each one of us. And I think sometimes when we get so wrapped up in what we're doing and we move so fast, we, we have a tendency sometimes to miss those moments. So that's, that's kind of my can't let go of for, for this week or this month, I guess. Um, something that caught me up in the most, I, I never dreamed that, uh, an episode of Meat Eater that I have watched actually several times would catch me again as we were kind of having this conversation. So that's my can't let go for the, for the 

Speaker 2 (33:15):

Day. Okay. Well, Kevin, Susan, what's yours? Yeah, I, I really should've gone first 'cause I'm, mine's not nearly as meaty as yours is, but Oh, that was good. <laugh>. But <laugh>, I saw this little video clip on Instagram probably two days ago, and I've watched it maybe 20 times since then. 'cause I just, it makes me laugh every time I watch it. And, but I follow Country Living Magazine. I bet Tracy followed Country Living. Do you 

Speaker 5 (33:39):

Know what 

Speaker 2 (33:39):

Magazine you're talking about? Kevin doesn't, 

Speaker 3 (33:40):

I have not read it, but I know which one you're, I've seen pic I've seen it before. I've seen the magazine. But 

Speaker 2 (33:45):

There's this little video and it's, it's a, it just makes me laugh 'cause I love fall and I love this time of year and it's a, it's a clip of some little pigs and they're in a pumpkin patch and they're, they're dancing around and they have little pumpkin costumes on and it's set to this little fun music and it's just, there's, that's all it is. It's just pigs, you know, in a pumpkin patch. But they're live, they're real pigs and they have these little Halloween pumpkin costumes on and there's people around and they're just all dancing in this little pumpkin patch. And so <laugh>. Anyway, that's it. It definitely makes me 

Speaker 3 (34:20):

Laugh that time of year. 

Speaker 5 (34:21):


Speaker 2 (34:22):

Yes, it's 

Speaker 3 (34:23):

Nice weather. And, um, I'm ready 

Speaker 5 (34:25):

For fall. 

Speaker 3 (34:26):

All that. So cool. Tracy, 

Speaker 5 (34:27):

I love 

Speaker 3 (34:27):

It. Not to put you on a spot, I don't think we prepared you very well for this. No. Is there, is there a can't let go that you have? 

Speaker 5 (34:33):

So there is. So, and when my dad first gave it to me, he gave my brother and I both this plaque and we were like, oh my God, that's so cheesy. What my dad like, so weird. But, um, I really love my dad. He like, gives us lots of great advice. And as I've moved into different positions, like I, I rely on my dad. And so it's actually in my office behind my desk. And so I see it all the time. And it's, it's a saying that says, you know, we can't change the wind, but we can adjust ourselves. And so I see it all the time, but throughout this whole, past several months, it's hard to believe how many months I really stop and have to think like that. What a true saying. Like, you know, I, I can't change like what is really going on around me, but I can adjust my attitude. 

Speaker 5 (35:21):

I can adjust. I can adjust what, what I'm doing. I'm in control of myself. I'm in control of what's going on. I can change my attitude about things and I can adjust my cells. I can't change the wind, I can't change the circumstances, but I can, I can change what I'm doing about them. I can change my attitude, my beliefs, my um, all of those types of things. I can help those around me. And so, um, even though it was pretty cheesy when I was 19 and my dad gave it to me, um, it's one of those things that I, I realize I fall back on a lot. It's like I'm in control of me. I can take care of myself, I can help those around me, um, and change my attitude about what's going on. And, um, and all of you guys that I work with are, are pretty good at helping me, me do that sometimes and, and put me in my place when I realize that I haven't adjusted my sales very well. 

Speaker 3 (36:12):

Well you do a pretty good job of keeping us on track with that too. So that's something Yes, you do. That's a gift you share with other people for sure. So, yes. Anyways, well, and thanks for being here, Tracy. Well, 

Speaker 5 (36:22):

Thanks for having me. 

Speaker 3 (36:23):

Absolutely. Thanks for joining us. We need to have you on again as we can talk about some other things, maybe, you know, at a later time, college, you know, preparedness. I know that's a big thing that's going on for a lot of kids. And then just other things, almost 

Speaker 5 (36:36):

It's time to start doing your fafsa, your CMRs. We have, we have lots of things we can talk 

Speaker 3 (36:41):

About. That's exactly right. We'll get you back on and talk. And, um, so well Susan, well 

Speaker 5 (36:45):

Thanks for having 

Speaker 3 (36:46):

Me. I think we've made it our, we've made our way through another episode, third episode. I think we have third episode. Um, again, everybody hope you'll tune in and keep coming back and we'll find other ways. If you have topics you want to talk about, you know, let us know. Yeah, let us know. Um, remember our intent here is just to have kind of an honest, open conversation, kinda like a, an all staff faculty meeting, so to speak. So, um, anyways, that's what we're working towards here with schoolwork. We appreciate Mr. Loomis and Tracy joining us today. Susan, thanks for being with us and, uh, it was always. Thanks Kevin. Fun and we'll talk to you guys next time. Thanks. See you next time.

Season 1, Episode 2 Summary

We've implemented several years worth of change and technology into the first three weeks of school. It's been a lot. And, now it's time to come up for a breath of air. In this episode we talk about in-person and virtual learning, canvas, and district enrollment.

Episode 2 Notes

1:00 – Welcome

6:30 – In-Person Learning

11:00 – Doing both, In-Person and Virtual

18:00 – Canvas

36:35 – COVID-19 Update

39:40 – Adding Staff + District Enrollment


Speaker 1 (00:00):

Hey, everyone. Welcome back to episode two. Um, before we jump in, just a couple things. This one was recorded in a little bit smaller of a room than last time. And so, um, if their voices sound a little bit muffled, it's because they are, uh, we couldn't social distance, and so everybody kept their masks on, um, which is an ideal for audio quality. Um, secondly, even though warned about it from the first episode, Doug, uh, continued to let his excitement be expressed sometimes through, um, um, his fist and the table. And so that may come through a little bit every now and then. So let's go. 

Speaker 2 (00:39):

Yeah. Well, why don't you introduce this thing and then let's just kind of, 

Speaker 3 (00:41):

So, is, is Doug a guest? He's not one of you. <laugh>. I've been aware of that for a long time. <laugh>. 

Speaker 4 (00:57):

Hey, Kevin. Hey everyone. Welcome back to podcast. Hi, Susan <laugh>, welcome back to Schoolwork. We brought D Doug in Off the street to be our guest again today. And, um, we're all talking about Covid. We're three weeks into school. What's keeping you up at night, Doug, right 

Speaker 2 (01:16):

Now? Well, I don't, I'm, I'm not sure what's keeping me up at Wake this morning, but leave it to a four year old to put you in your place, uh, where a group of fourth graders walked by me a little bit ago, and they were all so cute walking and having smiling and having such a good time, joking and laughing. I looked at 'em and said, Hey guys, can I, can I join your class? And a little four year old boy didn't miss a beat. He looked right at me, right straight in the eye and said, Nope, <laugh>. 

Speaker 2 (01:43):

And so, you know, leave it to a four year old or remind you, uh, who you are and where you go. Uh, I, I think there's a lot of things that, that are, that are keeping us up at night and, and we're not sleeping very well. And, and, and, you know, I, what, what dawned on me, you know, when when you don't sleep at night, you, you have the opportunity to really take a hard look in that mirror and, and figure out, you know, you whose fault is this? Who, who has blame? And, and in a pandemic, you know, there's not anybody to blame. Uh, but you, you look in the, you look in the mirror and think, what could have you done better? And, uh, met with principals, uh, this morning. Um, and, and, and one of the things that I wanted to look at 'em and say, you know, uh, we, we were gone for five months. 

Speaker 2 (02:30):

We, we came back into the building, uh, together as, as a team the very first time in, in, in late July or early July. And as they came into the building, um, we just really picked up with the stress that was on our shoulders and dove right in to this pandemic and, and how we were going to try to stand this system up that supported kids, that supported teachers, and that supported this community. And I think I sent a really powerful, uh, to our leadership who, who in turn may be maybe pushing it out on our staff that there's really not room for margin. And, uh, I looked at our principals this morning and said, you know, I'm, I'm sorry I set that tone. Um, this work is, is overwhelming. It feels like it's not doable. It's, it's, it's, it's causing tremendous stress on all of us, but it is doable. 

Speaker 2 (03:23):

And, and we have to give each other permission to have margin to be able to say, you know, there are 10,000 things we need to fix today, much less what we need to fix tomorrow. And, and what we have to be able to do is look at first things first. We have to be able to say, today we're gonna solve problem. We're gonna solve this problem together as a team, and then tomorrow we'll solve another one and we'll solve another one. And, and, and, and I have no doubt somewhere along the line we're all gonna look up and think, wow, this really was doable. But I don't think we can do that. If we don't give each other the opportunity to say, we have to have margin and we have to understand we're not gonna be perfect. Um, things aren't gonna be at the level that, that we expect them. 

Speaker 2 (04:03):

I think that's what I appreciate about our teachers more than anything. Uh, I don't, I don't hear them yelling that this is too much work. This is not doable. Right. What they're saying is, we, we can't deliver the kind of quality we know it's gonna take to make sure kids are successful. Right. And I, and I think, I think it's, I think that's powerful. And I, and I think the way we start to get there is to recognize we have to have margin. And this is gonna be a process. And this is not gonna be fixed overnight. It, it's gonna be fixed down the road. And, you know, Kevin and I have started talking about, you know, the analogy, uh, you know, as, as humans, you know, what do we need? Well, we need, we need oxygen, we need food, we need water. Uh, but ultimately if somebody cuts our oxygen off, we're gonna die much quicker than if, if somebody cuts off our food or, or, or, or, uh, water supply. 

Speaker 2 (04:53):

And, you know, when I look in the mirror, somebody oughta probably cut my food supply off and, and that might help me in the long run some of this <laugh>. But that being said, you know, the, the oxygen in, in the room is, is really about, you know, we've, in three weeks, literally in the three weeks of August, we stood up this whole new instructional process of that we're gonna deliver instruction on site and we're gonna teach it virtually. And no matter how many of those things, other things that we think we ought to be doing, really that's the only thing we can afford to focus on right now is, is that virtual and onsite instruction and, and the issues that come along with that. And then ultimately where our enrollment is and, and how we continue to, to move forward. So those are the things that are keeping me up at night. You know, how do you, how do you make sure that that a, that a staff can have enough oxygen, uh, to make sure in the morning they can get up and come back to work? 

Speaker 3 (05:48):

So we're, we're really just dialing things back, stripping it down, and trying to create margin for folks, as Doug says. And I, I know having worked with Doug for a long time, it, it's, um, it's hard to, to recognize and acknowledge sometimes that things aren't perfect, that, you know, people need margin. 'cause sometimes you just go and go and work and keep going at what you're doing. But at some point we recognize and hear from our teachers, you know, that this is extremely challenging. And so really, you know, Doug talked about the need for continuing to provide in-person instruction in an environment that's so different. Uh, the truth of it is what we've always known in, in-person instruction, it is very different than it's ever been. Um, yes, it's in-person instruction, but it comes with a whole host of challenges in terms of masking and social distancing and how you get kids in and out of buildings and, and, and really hearing from parents the fact that our parents are a missing piece of what's going on right now, that they, they're not at the school, they're not able to walk their kids inside. They're, uh, so in-person learning is just very, very different. And, and it's a challenge in and of itself, even though we've participated in help facilitate in-person, in-person learning for years, that in and of itself is very different than it's ever been. 

Speaker 2 (07:15):

Yeah. We, we, we heard, we, we've heard from parents over the last few days, really emotional parents that are really empathetic, that they're supporters of school, uh, but they're the missing ingredient, especially for those parents who have chosen for their kids to be back on site. Uh, we, we have, we have first time parents, you know, pre-Ks or kindergartners, and they've yet to be inside the school. Right. And, you know, if they've had other kids that, that have gone through the system, they've at least been in the school. But, you know, if you're brand new to Amarillo, you moved here in June or July or during this pandemic and you put your kid in school, you, the, the odds are you, you've not even walked inside the school. You registered online, you took all of that and you trusted us, uh, to drop your child off at the front door and say, I love you and, and, and this we're you, you're gonna have a great day. 

Speaker 2 (08:05):

And, and those parents haven't been in the building. And so we, we've done a lot of things that have just changed the dynamics of, of how we, how we deliver school. Ultimately. Every one of these decisions that we've made, it's about keeping the schoolhouse doors open. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it, it really is. I, i, I believe in my heart that, that the best place for our kids to be as long as we do it safely is inside the school. And, and we have to do everything in our power that keeps us from being in a shutdown like we were back in March. 

Speaker 4 (08:37):

Yeah. And I think we're used to thinking of parents as our partners in education, and now they're remote partners and, um, can't come into the school building. So that, that makes it hard. It makes it a real challenge for teachers when we don't have the volunteers, you know, in the school building to help us. 

Speaker 2 (08:56):

It, it, it absolutely does. And, and, you know, and, and what we have to be prepared to do is, is reexamine policy stances that, that we made even just a few weeks ago. And have we outgrown that policy or that stance? And, and are there things that we can do differently today that, that, that creates more of a partnership? Uh, I, I, I told our principals, uh, you know, I, I serve with a team of eight that I, that I respect so much. I'm a part of a, a team of eight. And, and really our goal is, you know, how, how do we say yes more than we say no? Um, because when people are getting yeses for the right reasons, people are happy, people are making progress, people are moving forward. And, and, and quite frankly, we, we we're living in the midst of this pandemic that so many of the things we've said are just no. And so I think it's important that every time we've said no, regularly, periodically we're going back looking at saying is, is that no still necessary? Is it still really necessary to wear a mask? Is it really necessary not to let people into the building? What are those things that we have to do with understanding? The ultimate goal is how do we keep schools open? 

Speaker 4 (10:12):

Yeah. So I, I love that idea of oxygen and just kind of getting back to the very basics, because when you think about it, in four or five weeks, we've, we've implemented, jumped into the deep end on, uh, something that normally would've taken a year or maybe even two years. And we've asked, we're asking so much of teachers right now, and I think we're hearing out there that, you know, a, a significant number of teachers are trying to, are needing to prepare lessons for both in-person and virtual learners. So, and they're, you know, struggling with that. Yeah. So how are we helping that? So how are we making it better? 

Speaker 3 (10:54):

I, I think really we've, we've, we've really tried to focus on, you know, how do, how do we help teachers figure out how, how to teach both sets of kids? And so, again, what, what we've always done in, in-person looks significantly different because of the implications of C O V I D. And then on top of it, we have a, a number of kids who've made a decision that the best thing for them to, to be at home and learning virtually. Um, or even those kids that unfortunately end up in a quarantine or, um, or end up testing positive and have to be at home for a period of time. And so our teachers begin to have to try to figure out how do we teach both kinds of kids? And that is, 

Speaker 2 (11:39):

Well, in, in reality, Kevin, you know, our, our, our teachers, they have real ownership in these kids. And, and, and, you know, is right, wrong or indifferent, you know, when, when we made this decision, we pushed this decision back to campuses to make a determination who's gonna serve in person, who's gonna serve the virtual kids? And, and by and large, some out of necessity. But, but really because of teacher ownership, many of the decisions were made without even understanding why we, how we were making that decision that I wanna serve my kids, I wanna serve 'em in both environments. Right. And, and, and so without really understanding even what that really looked like and, and what we figured out over the last three weeks, uh, it, that, that's a pretty tough hill to climb up. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And, and we don't have any real, real great simple solutions around how to fix that. 

Speaker 2 (12:34):

Uh, but, but I think what we've learned is when, now that we understand what some of the problems are, not we as in the superintendent, but as we as classroom teachers and principals, they're starting to see the dilemmas and, and they're starting to come together. And I'm so proud of it, the collaborative effort that says, Hey, as a team, I figured this out, or Kevin's figured this out, or Susan's figured this out and together we're making inroads and we're making this easier. And, and, and we may very likely, we may very well find out as we keep moving, there are some places that we really ought to, you ought to just be an an in-person teacher, or you might just be a virtual teacher. Uh, and there are other places you're gonna look at and say, you know, as, as, as tough it is to do both, right? It, it might be worse if, if, if it's just the virtual teacher, because you start thinking about preps and you start thinking about numbers of kids and where those kids are located throughout the city, there's just not a cookie cutter approach of a win with this. Where the win happens is with, in those collaborative efforts with teachers and for administrators and for parents and for community to listen and say, okay, we hear the problem. And so let, let's see if we can fix this today. And so when we, 

Speaker 3 (13:56):

You know, I've been inspired actually in the last week or so, 'cause it reinforces, you know, a lot of times people say, you know, Doug, I don't know how you do your job. Or Kevin, I don't know. How do you do the job that you do? And, and really what we do is in some semblance is irrelevant to what's going on. It's not the most important thing that's happening. The most important thing that's happening is what teachers are doing. And so it's really reminded me that teachers and their ability to solve problems, they're masters of the last few days. We've been in situations where, you know, we're not taking the mentality of, you know, how do we, how do we list a problem on a sheet of paper and give it to somebody else and at, at, even at the e s e to figure out, teachers are in conversations with one another where they realize, I don't know how to do this in virtual learning, and does anybody in this room or does anybody at my school, or does somebody else who teaches sixth grade do they know how to fix this problem? And we've watched teachers do that. And really our conversation, and really what we want to communi communicate today is how do we strip it down and create more of those opportunities for our teachers to, to have a conversation, to collaborate with one another and really figure out how do we make in-person and virtual learning in a very different environment, productive for 

Speaker 2 (15:23):

Kids? Yeah. Well, that description, Kevin's using, you know, as complex as this thing is, not everything is complex. You know, when you trust the people who are on the front line and you bring to them together. Last Friday, we watched a group of high school teachers that came together from across the district, look at us and say, you know, there are a lot of things that we've gotta get fixed, and we've gotta get right to make this tough. But, you know, the very first thing that we could do if we could just figure out how to make check attendance from, from a positive assumption instead of a negative assumption, that would make all our lives so much easier. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, what does that mean? Well, when it, we assume, when, when you're in person, you assume that you're present until you don't show up in the seat or your parent calls you in absent. 

Speaker 2 (16:14):

And only then do we go in and make a check mark that Susan's absent. Well, in, in this new virtual world, we were just doing the opposite. We were assuming everybody is absent. And so, and the reality is about 90% of our kids are being, are engaged every day in the virtual world, at least at the, at the high school level. And so teachers were having to touch 90% of their kids instead of 10% of their kids. And so just that, that, that conversation about can we not fix that? That's an easy solution. Yeah. There are some simple fixes. Yeah. There, there are some. And, and if we can just all get to the table together and make those decisions together and communicate those, we, we have a way to start chipping away at, Hey, there's a problem solved, so what's the next problem? And, and what are the ones that we can solve today? 

Speaker 2 (17:02):

What are the ones that we can solve two or three days from now or a week from now? And, and really what we're able to see, and and what I, what I'm fearful for are the people in the trenches can't see those fixes yet, you know? But, but with the groups that are coming together saying, if you'll fix this, if you'll fix this, we're starting to see conversations that are going to fix those things that maybe it wasn't just the flip of a switch, but it, it takes seven or eight steps. Those are happening. And, and I, and I truly believe over the next week to 10 days or so, many of those fixes that can be made relatively sim simply are gonna be made. Uh, and and so I I I, I think that that's exciting to know that, that that teachers are the ones that are driving those discussions and, and asking us, these are the things that we need you to fix. Right? 

Speaker 4 (17:54):


Speaker 3 (17:55):

I think we've, you know, I think we've heard also that our, our parents and students need us to back up and, and recommunicate and retrain them about how they can jump on in canvas and, you know, maneuver problem areas and how they can, parents can be watchful of what's going on with their kids and know that they're engaging and know that they're participating. So really, you know, kind of the third priority for oxygen that we've identified over the past week is how, how do we help teachers navigate the struggles that we're having in Canvas? Because again, back to what Doug said earlier, this is, this is something we've done in four or five weeks that we would've normally taken months or even up to a year to fix and implement. And we're doing it all in the midst of kids coming back in a very different time. 

Speaker 3 (18:49):

And so what are we doing to beef up and, and provide additional support? How do we create the right conversations for teachers? And in some stances, how do we stop doing some other things that distract us from the most important priorities for us right now, um, to, to make, to make school a place where staff want to come to work, kids can come in person and engage and do what they need to do. We can keep the school doors open for those that want to come in person. And for those that want and feel like they need to be at home and doing it virtually or get forced into that position because of illness or quarantine, uh, we have, we have a, you know, an offering for them that's engaging through Canvas. Well, but 

Speaker 4 (19:33):

Kevin, what do we do about those virtual kids who aren't engaged? 

Speaker 3 (19:37):

So I, I think that's another place where we're having to double down, you know, for those that are having some kind of a technology barrier, or they're having trouble logging on, or they're just, for whatever reason, not engaging, it's, it's a challenge. And so, you know, how do we, how do we really create the right conversations with parents and kids? And if, if, if it's really not working for you Yeah. How, how do we talk about should you come back in person? 

Speaker 2 (20:08):

Well, I, I think it's even, I, I think we just have to, we have to be honest with one another. You know, we, we were outta school from March to May, and, and, and quite frankly, the, the expectations for kids and what they needed to accomplish that time were at a lowest level of something we would, we would never accept during a normal situation. And, and I, I quite frankly, you know, there, I think there, we, we have a segment of, of our, of our virtual kids who, who, who have a perception of that's, that's the way the virtual school ought to be now. And in reality, virtual school is just like a regular school. And there, there are a tremendous amount of expectations that come along with being virtual. And, and for those kids who have not found a pathway in to get engaged and start working, I think we have to have really hard conversations with parents and say, you know, this, this is not about finding an easy way outta school. 

Speaker 2 (21:03):

This is a way to make sure we're all safe. And, and if you're, and, and if your kiddo needs to be in a virtual world, we respect that. And we get it because of compromised health immune system, health systems, immune systems issues, because grandparents live at home and we're afraid of, I get all the reasons why we wouldn't want kids to come to school, but, but if our, if our child is not engaging in school and taking the ownership in that, you know, as, as, as parents and as educators, we need to have hard conversations about, we, we need to get your child back in school and, and we need to figure out how to get them reengaged. 'cause if we don't get them reengaged at, at some point, it's not gonna be five months that we, we've lost education. It's gonna be a year that we've lost education. 

Speaker 2 (21:48):

And, and that's just criminal. And so I, I think we have to be, I think we have to be with one honest with one another. You know, why, why are kids in person? Why are kids in, in the virtual world? And when it's not working on either side of that, we need to have the courage to say, but well, maybe this environment works versus that environment. And, and, and we need to be honest with parents. We need to be honest with, with staff members and, and, and, and we need to look to say, are we really doing what's best for kids? The thing about this pandemic that I just love, you know, you know this, this is about 10,000 problems going in a circular motion. And, and so you, you work on a little bit of a problem here, and you move and, and, and it never fails. 

Speaker 2 (22:30):

You, you recognize this problem. And before you get five minutes into the conversation, there are 15 other problems. And that kind of circular discussion around the big environment I get excited about it drives my friend across the, across the table from me. Just insane because of that linear need and of, of answering questions in, in that linear mode. Right? And, and so I, we, we all just have to recognize that, that we all have different styles of solving and attacking problems. And, and, and we just need to be able to come to the table and work together to solve these. And if we'll do that, we'll, we'll have the right people at the table. We, we'll, we'll find these solutions. 

Speaker 3 (23:09):

You know, we, we've talked about how to decrease complexity for teachers. We, we, we probably, one of the things we need to talk about is, you know, for unengaged or kids or kids that are struggling with virtual learning, we've talked about, you know, should we, for at least a period of time limit electives or limit o other things in their schedule that aren't essential at this point, so that they can become engaged on the most important things and get back on track with school and, you know, not forever. Uh, I think in a lot, a lot of things in this conversation that we're talking about today and that we've been talking about with our teachers, this isn't a conversation that's something that's gonna be in place for, you know, forever, for till the end of the first semester. Maybe not even, you know, till the end of, of, of November, so to speak, you know, but for a period of time, how do we give some margin to both teachers and kids that are working on virtual learning and trying to figure all of this out and trying to help, you know, get everybody engaged. 

Speaker 3 (24:12):

And so that every day as we come to work in school, whether that's in person or at home, how, how do we try to make every day a little smoother and, um, and get everybody in whichever environment they're going on? And it smooths out over time. You're, 

Speaker 2 (24:28):

You're, i I, you know, that that is about unattended consequences. You know, everybody in, in, and in today's society and today's world, everybody has the solution. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And, and really the solutions, almost every time that comes outta somebody's mouth will work. I I, I mean, you, you could take that solution, whatever it is, but what we don't spend nearly enough time on, so what are the unintended consequences around that? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And, and so, you know, last night, uh, in, in, in a conversation as I was walking to the parking lot at midnight, um, it, it was around there, there are gonna be some consequences and, and sometimes that, that's consequences for our staff. But there, there also may be some consequences for, for kiddos, uh, because we may need to be prepared to say, for kids who are in a virtual world, do they really need eight periods that you would have in a normal school day where there is a teacher standing in front of them driving this? 

Speaker 2 (25:30):

And in this asynchronous world, that's just not true. Right? And, and so, so maybe, maybe the answer is those kids really need to, to be given, you know, the priorities of, of the cores and, and maybe a vital additional class or so. And, and what that does is, what that means for a kid is they're having one less experience mm-hmm. <affirmative> on the other side. What it may be doing is it may be freeing up some capacity and some margin, especially in our non-core classes, that, that give our elective teachers an ability to take a, take a breath and say, this, this is a doable kind of thing. Yeah. 

Speaker 4 (26:09):

Well, okay. I wanna get back to our, our, we talked about, we're talking about oxygen priorities, and there's really four of 'em. We've talked about, um, in-person learning, we've talked about virtual learning. Um, and the next thing is, is canvas. And, you know, we're three weeks into, into school now, and, um, teachers are, I mean, yeah. Doing an abnormal job, you know, learning all this and implementing all this. Um, 

Speaker 2 (26:37):

I, you just can't break enough on, on how teachers are doing this, Susan, and, and they're trying, and, and I don't blame 'em. Uh, the, the stress, uh, I, I, we, we remind everybody, you know, when, when we move into an initiative like this, and remember it wasn't just one initiative. It's we're adding virtual, we're adding all the safety, we're adding an L M Ss, we're adding one-to-one initiatives, and we're adding all these new platforms to help support the, you know, and so, so the list of what we're implementing is just at a breakneck pace. Historically, if we were gonna just do one of those initiatives, a large one, like an L m S, we'd take a full year at least to do that. We'd spend, we'd spend months investigating, which is the best l m s mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and, and is there one that is a little bit better than the other? 

Speaker 2 (27:25):

We didn't have that opportunity in this. We, we had an opportunity to say, we need one. And this seems to be as, as the best option that we have at the moment. But we did that in literally days where we would've taken months, right? And then, and then when you think about once you've, once you've settled on it, we'd have taken another six to seven months to try to integrate in this term canvas with skyward, with eduforia, with attendance, you know, all those different mechanisms. W we would've spent a lot of time with programmers and, and, and, and behind the scenes how to integrate this. And then we've started rolling this out in phases and test pilots. And maybe we'd have just done it at one high school, or one level, or one grade level, and we would've slowly rolled this thing out. And, and what all of us know that have been around, and we've, we've rolled these kinds of systems out. Even when we take the time to do that, when it rolls out, there's still so many issues that we all look at one another and think, what do we do to one another? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, now take, take what? We take that and look at it. We did this in three weeks. Right? And, and so it, it really is one of those things that are just impossible to, to, to fix immediately. But, but even in three weeks of being in school, we're starting to see solutions around issues of the integration. Yeah. 

Speaker 4 (28:51):

And what are some of those solutions? What are we, what, 

Speaker 2 (28:54):

Well, what 

Speaker 4 (28:55):

Are we doing to beef up support 

Speaker 3 (28:56):

For teachers? You know, we're trying to, we're trying to make a catalog of Yeah. Of solutions. So we have a lot of conversations that are beginning to happen. We have teachers that are able to answer the questions and provide ideas on how to solve problems that other teachers, their colleagues are having. And really what we've started moving down the road to do is how do we catalog those in a document where teachers can go on or into a document and look at it and scroll through and, oh, this is the problem I'm having, and look, it looks like this teacher that teaches over in a, a different part of our city, or in a different part of my cluster. This is how they're solving that problem. And, um, and, and, and I'm try that because that's, that, that might be something that I, that I can make work for my kids for the way I teach. And really what we may find is that's not the ultimate way that that canvas should be manipulated in order to do it. But that's what we're having to do for right now in order to create that margin and have that oxygen to breathe. And, um, and 

Speaker 2 (30:03):

So, well, it ought to be a crime if somebody at one school has found a solution and there's another campus that is just drowning in it because they haven't figured that solution out. What whoever helped 'em solve it. And, and that became really clear as we started pulling, you know, staff members in to, to brainstorm what are the problems, what's the priority, and how do you attack them? And so, so this, you know, canvas for Dummies idea is, is is just one solution around that. Uh, we're, we're coming together as teams. Another way we're solving these problems when we identify the problem at attendance that we talked about a little bit ago mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, we agree that that's exactly what we need to do. So we're, we're having to go back to the, to the programmers a little bit. And so it's not just as simple as flipping a switch, but it's one of those solutions that we can solve probably in just the next few days. 

Speaker 2 (30:55):

And, and for, for all. I know, maybe we've solved it this morning and, and we've changed that, but, but that'll be coming. There, there are. So, so we've, we've created this list out there of where the problems are, and we're really, what's the first one you want us to tackle? What's the next one? There, there are just issues around, you know, when we've, in other products that we've used, you know, you've, you, you're able to clone lessons and you're able to just, you know, and, and move it from, you know, one day to the next day or, or move it from one year to the next year. And, and that's not as simple in, in Canvas. And, and so we're, we're, we're talking about this, this cross-referencing that's not the exact right term. 

Speaker 3 (31:38):


Speaker 2 (31:39):

Cross-listing, thank you Mr. Phillips cross cross-listing. I, I knew I I didn't have it, right. But, you know, cross-listing, which, which means if I teach Algebra one all day long, all I have to do is create that in, in first period. And the cross-listing goes all the way across my schedule. And, and so I'm not having to recreate that for, for every period, because in this new l m s, it's not just about a lesson plan for teachers. We really are creating content for kids across, across our schedule. So it's important that whatever I give first period, I can give second period that I can give fifth period. 

Speaker 3 (32:15):

You know, it, it's, and really we're focusing and having to wrap our mind around how, how do we create, uh, a hope, you know, that this is gonna get a little bit better every day. How do we create a lot at the end of the tunnel for our teachers and, and provide them support to do that? And really, honestly, I I, this probably is a good place where we jump off over into what may be one of the biggest unknowns and biggest challenges that we have, Mr. Loomis. And that's, that's how do we recapture our enrollment gap? And so right now, you know, we're, we're down a little bit over a thousand kids from last year, and we're really working hard to think about how do we get those students back. So, you know, that that may be a kind of a, we know that's happening. We can see in some of our classrooms where we have a, a lower number of kids, probably one that people are able to see pretty, pretty obviously is in pre-K and K. Yeah. Uh, and we see that we have a lower number of kids in those areas. And so, you know, we're, we're also Why, why do you 

Speaker 4 (33:18):

Think that is? In pre-K and K? 

Speaker 2 (33:20):

We're, we're down, you know, we're, we're down pre-k k, uh, between six and 700 kids. And, and as you talk to parents, you know, there, there, there are several things that play here. Uh, the very first time in my life, I'm a first time parent and I have a four year old, and I am I really gonna send them to school. I can, you know, I, I can keep 'em at home and, and I have more of a control around whether they end up in social contacting with this virus. And so I, I, I think there's a fear and, and I, and I really get that with first, especially with first time parents. Um, and, and there's, there's also many, many of our families have multi-generational families that are living together, especially with younger kids, outta outta necessity. And so the question is, do I send my four year old when I don't have to send my four year old and have, have the chance that they, they come back and, and we contact the virus? 

Speaker 2 (34:13):

Uh, that, that's an issue that we're, we're hearing some other, some of the other issues are, you know, I'd really like to send my four year old, but right now I have 'em in daycare. And, and what my biggest concern is, what caught us in March is all of a sudden the school's closed down. And if I've given up my seat in, in, in the daycare and schools closed down, I don't have a place for my kids and I'm still going to have to go to work short of, of, of a, of an overall shutdown. And so those are all sort of compounding that around those pre-K and K kids. 'cause 'cause they don't have to be in school. And so one of the best things that I think we can do is, is we continue with the safety protocols that we've put in place and, and we continue to march along with trying to limit the, the positive case numbers. 

Speaker 2 (34:59):

You know, I, I, Kevin, I, I didn't look this morning. I think we're around about 90, 90 cases of positive, of positive cases. And, and remember 90 may sound like a big number coming outta my mouth, but we, we've got over 31,000 kids and we have about six or 7,000 staff members. And so that, that is a very, very small percentage of positive cases that are happening. So I think one of the things, one of the messages that, that we need to get out is that schools really are, we, we're doing a lot of things to keep things safe. Uh, we're, we're all masked up. We're using lots of hand sanitizer. You know, our board allowed us to purchase, uh, desk shields, which, which really, if, if you've, if you've seen pictures, you look around those classrooms and you think, wow, there, there are a lot of barriers in this room to keep that virus from spreading. 

Speaker 2 (35:53):

Because one of our biggest concerns was, you know, the, the social distancing in a classroom is virtually impossible unless you're just gonna allow 10 kids at a time into the classroom, and sometimes 10 kids would not allow social distancing. So I, we've built a lot of, we've, we've put a lot of protocols in place, um, and we're just now getting all those up and running, you know, and again, another one of those, we made some decisions, but it took some time to get here. So really we, we've we're three weeks into this before we get all 30,000 of those shields in. But as of last Friday, they were all delivered and out. And, and so as you look at pictures or you tour classrooms and you walk through classrooms, you think, wow, it, it feels 

Speaker 3 (36:35):

Good. So, you know, for all the things that seem like a struggle and are not where we want 'em to be, I mean, I, I think there's something that's going on that's good. I mean, we're at less than one half of 1% Yes. As far as cases that are going on in our schools. And so, you know, we're, we're, we're really focused on how do we, how do we create the safest environment that we can? How do we keep the doors open? How do we keep schools moving? Uh, and, and all the while, you know, how do we help support teachers as, as the backbone of, of what's going on instructionally in our schools? And again, doing that with a lot of empathy and realizing that we have folks that are trying to recreate the wheel, so to speak, and they really are having to figure out how do we, how do we work through in-person instruction that's impacted by covid? How do we, how do we create an environment virtually that's that's good for our kids? How do we navigate through a a learning management system that's just very difficult and going through kind of bumps in the road? And, um, and then how do we try to recapture some of these kids that aren't with us, at least currently? And, um, and don't lose hope, uh, as we go to do that. And so, um, you know, 

Speaker 2 (37:53):

And, and, and we, we will start to look at our pre-K and K as, as we get a little further into this. I'm not, I'm not naive to believe that, you know, after three weeks we can state, you know, we're not getting, we're not getting a large increase of positive test rates. I, I'm, I'm, I'm absolutely not saying that, but, but at least over the last three weeks, schools have felt predominantly as a safe place. And the vast majority of the positive cases, I can't say all of them, but, but well into the, you know, 97, 90 8%, the, that those contacts are not happening in the classroom. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, they're, they're happening, you know, out outside where sometimes we let our guards down in the community and we don't wear a mask and we have social gatherings or, or, you know, it is just going to happen. 

Speaker 2 (38:42):

You, you, you go home and, and of an ev you know, of an evening, a a relative ends up, you know, testing positive and, and, and in that family unit, you're not wearing mask. And, and it's gonna happen. And, and that's where we're seeing those kinds of things happen. And so I, I think it's just important that we remember, let, let's let, what can we do to mitigate this? You know, can we, wearing masks using the hand sanitizer, good hygiene, the desk shields. And if we'll continue to do those things, um, we have a chance to, you know, at, at the end of October to be able to look back over our shoulder and say, you know, our infection rate has been really low. Now, I, I pray to God that's, that's what we say at the end of October. 'cause I don't know yet, but at least in the initial looking at it, the positivity rate coming directly out of, of infecting one another at school has been, been, been relatively low, uh, especially out of classrooms and, and out of, out of the, out of the normal school day. 

Speaker 4 (39:40):

So I think, um, we're hearing from teachers out there that they're just, they're just overwhelmed. I mean, a lot of, a lot of teachers are saying, you know, this is just almost more than I can do. Yeah. And, and we're hearing things about, you know, can, can we add staff? Can we add teachers to take some of this burden? Can we add, um, you know, 

Speaker 2 (40:01):

Yeah, we 

Speaker 4 (40:01):

Helpers. Um, is that a possibility? And I, 

Speaker 2 (40:04):

Everything's on the table. Um, you know, uh, what, what can't be the fix at one place can't automatically just be the fix for the next place because, because that's not necessarily the best solution. And, and so, you know, we, we have spent, when, when we was really clear, uh, as we talked to the, to the four, uh, presidents of our teacher organizations a, a week or so ago, it, it really became clear in some places at some different levels that really we, we need to think about do we just either do in-person or do we do virtual? And, and so we've, we've spent the last really since that conversation in, in deep, deep data dives on do, do we have the personnel and do we have the staff to do that? And, and I, and I would tell you, if I'm just looking at a level, at the elementary level, we're starting to believe that we, we could, we could make those kind of thing those kind of moves happen, um, across the district, if that's the answer. Um, 

Speaker 2 (41:16):

Am I moving too much and dancing too much? No, you're not. Am I getting They're tagging. Oh, guys, for those of you that are out there, um, they've, they've, they've told me I move too much. I tap too much, I make too much noise. Uh, I, some, I think they're trying to plotly say if we had medicate the superintendent, we could get a clean, uh, podcast <laugh>. And so, uh, and that just is not ever going to happen. And so I, I apologize to everyone and, and so that's okay, dad. Um, but, but really back, back to the, back to the answer about staff, you know, the first thing that we have to do is we, we, we have to look at are we, are we effectively and efficiently using the staff that we have? Because what are the things that, that nobody wants to point picture to? 

Speaker 2 (41:58):

But we staffed up in the spring for 32,000 plus kids. Today we only have 31,000 plus kids. And so when, when you do the math, you know, we're somewhere in the neighborhood of, you know, 30, 40, 50 teachers overstaffed, depending on certifications, depending on a lot of things. And, and so, um, we've gotta first figure out, you know, can we utilize our staff differently? And those have a lot of unintended consequences and, and things that we may or may not like. And when, I mean, we, I'm, I'm really talking about the classrooms, the, the campuses, but we're gonna have in, in the coming days, and we've already started, we're gonna have those kinds of conversations and, and we're gonna start making moves and we're gonna try to start alleviating as much as we can. Places where, where it's just not clear that you can do both mm-hmm. 

Speaker 2 (42:49):

<affirmative> and, and in places where we can't fix that problem, um, we're gonna look for, you know, are there, are there permanent tutors, long-term substitute certified substitutes that we can give and, and add to that team, to the support? And those things are already happening as we start to look at conversations. I, I think this is a really good, good point. You know, how you fix problems is, is, is at the, at the grassroots level when somebody recognizes there are a problem and they stop long enough to get all the right people at the table to fix the problem, you know, where, where we almost never solve problems is, is in the parking lot. And, and that parking lot in today's world can be in lots of places. You know, it can be a virtual parking lot, it can be the actual parking lot, it can be in the grocery store line. 

Speaker 2 (43:41):

The, those, those problems are not ever gonna get solved there. They're just, they're just going to, to get larger and, and, and it's gonna polarize us even more. What I can tell the staff is, you, you have a superintendent, you have a board, you have an executive team that is committed to finding the answers for you and being a part of the solution. And so ultimately, if, if the way we have to fix this is through additional staff, and we've, we've done all the things that we can do to get efficiency out and, and, you know, maybe some hard decisions about do we, do we have, do we need to look at our virtual kids and are we asking them to cover too many classes? And, and by, by lessening the class loads there, all of those, all of those kinds of conversations, once we get there and, and we can't find another solution, absolutely. We'll start to look at do we need to add personnel? And who is that personnel? And how does that look? 

Speaker 3 (44:41):

Um, and that's really a process. Mr. Loomis. I, I mean, I think, um, you know, what, what we have to continue to, to, to remind people of is that, you know, we're, we're listening to what is being said. Um, I'll, I'll just be really honest. You know, I've had people look at me and say, are you having fun yet? And the real truth of that is no <laugh>, there are times I'm not having a lot of fun's not much fun. And I think I would, I think I would get a lot of teachers that would say they're right in line with that, because this is at, at points not very fun. And so we're about trying to figure out how do we, how do we refocus what we're doing on the positive things that are going on? Because I, I don't wanna lose sight of the fact that we have kids that we tell us, um, they're, you know, we're, we're their lifeblood. 

Speaker 3 (45:28):

We're helping them get back on track, or we're finding new ways to help them learn. Um, we've had kids recently tell us that new programs that we've created in the midst of all of this is helping to refocus them on school and, and, and will prevent them from dropping out, and that will eventually help them graduate and, and move on to the next thing in their life. So, you know, I, I just think I would encourage everybody hang in there, know that we're listening. We're, we're working on solutions, and we're trying to create margin for you and for our district, and we're trying to really focus on what are the four or five things that are most important that we're calling oxygen priorities. And, and know that, that our, our efforts are focused in, in that direction, at least for the next little bit so that we can, we can make this, um, a, a better, better October and then a better November as we move towards, um, you know, the holiday break and, and move through the rest of this school year. So, hey, thanks for joining us. I know in the first Susan, we ran a little bit long this time. We tried to shorten it up. 

Speaker 2 (46:33):

Well, that didn't work very well. 

Speaker 3 (46:34):

Yeah, we, we, we can all just kind of keep on going and keep on going, but again, we appreciate you as we try to help everybody navigate through these different times. And, and we ask that you continue to come back next time for our next, uh, episode of Schoolwork. 

Speaker 4 (46:49):

We'll see you next time.

Season 1, Episode 1 Summary

A roundtable discussion with Kevin Phillips, Susan Hoyl and Doug Loomis; talking back-to-school in the age of COVID-19 and how, despite its best efforts, the pandemic hasn't stopped important work.

Episode 1 Notes

0:00 - Introduction to SchoolWork.

0:51 - A Message from Doug Loomis.

2:10 - What is SchoolWork?

5:24 - Episode Overview.

6:28 - COVID-19 and the 20-21 school year.

24:48 - What happens when we get a positive COVID case?

33:23 - Staff safeguards if they were to test positive. 

38:55 - Canvas; the new Learning Management System.

48:15 - Update on the Intercultural Development Research Association efforts  & closing the learning gap. 

1:01:15 - Wrap-up.


Speaker 1 (00:00:00):

Okay. Hey everyone. Real quick before we jump into the first episode of schoolwork, we wanted to touch on a few things. First. This podcast is just an effort for us as a district to be better communicators. Um, mainly with you, our staff. It really came into existence just as an all staff meeting that you can take with you on the go. This first episode runs a little over an hour. So if you're new to podcasts, here's a little hack. Listen at one and a half time speed. It might take some getting used to it first, but I promise you'll never listen to podcasts at regular speed again. And lastly, in the notes of each episode, we will put a breakdown with timestamps so that if you wanna skip over anything, you can just jump straight to the things you care about the most. We promise to continue to get better at these and hopefully make this something that you can look forward to. So, here we go. 

Speaker 2 (00:00:52):

Is there a reason that I can only hear out of my right ear? Should I be hearing out of both? 

Speaker 3 (00:01:00):

Welcome everybody to our very first episode of Schoolwork, um, which is really kind of a monthly podcast conversation, or really maybe a different way to think about it. Uh, an all staff, all users faculty meeting. Um, my name is Kevin Phillips. I work here at the E S C with, um, a number of other leaders and instructional support staff, um, to really, um, our, our main goal is to serve our, our principals and our campuses who then in turn provide awesome instruction and, and education for our students and A I S D. So, um, I'm happy to be with you. Happy to work with the awesome people that I work with, um, day to day to try to make an impact and support our leaders, um, and our teachers ultimately in our schools. And, and with me this morning is Susan Hoyle. Susan, tell us a little bit about yourself. 

Speaker 4 (00:01:50):

Yeah, Kevin. Thank you. I'm Susan Hoyle and I also work here at the support center. Uh, my primary role is to support the board of trustees, um, the school board. And I really just help them be better board members. Um, that's really primarily what I do. And I also get involved in some communications and special events here at the district. 

Speaker 3 (00:02:12):

Also with us is Mr. Loomis, our superintendent. We'll give him, um, a minute to kind of, um, start us off, uh, and then we'll really dig into the meat of, of what we want to talk about in our first episode. So, um, Mr. Loomis, I think I'll just toss it over to you and give you a chance to, um, talk to us a little bit about, um, our, our, our attitudes and our approach as we begin this new school year. 

Speaker 2 (00:02:34):

It's always special to be the first guest on anyone's first pod cast. 'cause the only place your other guest can go is just straight up. So, uh, I can't believe it's been six months, uh, since we walked out in March. Uh, and, and every time we think we're about to get back on this horse and ride it again, we're, we're throwing another loop. Um, but I think, uh, what I'm, what I'm most proud of, of this is, is the grit. Um, the work attitude, uh, the belief that we can do this together and, and the strength of, of pulling together. Um, I think that was seen, uh, at its finest last week as staff came back together for the very first time. And, and I think it's important for all of us to remember, as scary as it was for us to come back to, to work together as, as a staff, as we bring students back in, um, what they're going to be feeling. 

Speaker 2 (00:03:30):

You know, they got up, they, they left for spring break and, and they never got to come back. And so the fear that we all have the in trepidations that we have, they're real. Um, and it doesn't really matter which side of this virus you fall on, what you believe and what you're hearing. I just think if, if we can all remember to, or to respect one another, to listen to one another, um, to make sure we're trying to understand each other's point of view, um, we're gonna make better decisions. Um, last night, I think, uh, that was evident at the board meeting. You know, we, we gave staff an opportunity, um, as we said, a measured approach about wearing mask, uh, for staff. Uh, a couple of weeks ago, maybe that's been a month ago, as staff came back together and talked about who really should be wearing masks. 

Speaker 2 (00:04:19):

And as we got input from the health department, um, all of that conversation, uh, came to a head and we, um, decided that we're all gonna wear mask, uh, all students, all kids, all adults, uh, anybody that comes on to a school property, doesn't matter what your age is, anyone from a pre-care all the way through adult at Hood. And, and I think that happened because we came together as a staff and, and made a priority that we were gonna take care of one another. Um, and our ultimate goal is getting kids back into school safely. Um, and, and inter do our very best not to create this, uh, uh, a quarantine situation that you see happening over and over again in so many other places. No guarantee that won't happen, but that's kind of the hope, Kevin. 

Speaker 3 (00:05:08):

Um, well, really, I, I'll back up just a little bit and talk about the concept of, of the name, of, of this podcast Schoolwork. Uh, really, and that was an intentional effort on our part to choose that name. Um, and the reason that I think we believe that's important is because, um, you know, when you talk about school and you talk about work, um, I think obviously for our teachers, our principals, anybody that works at a campus work really means school. And, um, and I think that sometimes it, for those of us who don't work at a school, um, it, many people view it as as work. And so we also want to communicate that we realize, and we intentionally put ourselves in a position to talk with teachers and talk with parents, and talk with principals, and talk with kids so that our work here at the E S C really is about school. And so school is work, um, and work is always about what happens at the school. So, uh, I introduced Susan and Susan's gonna kind of get us going into our two topics. 

Speaker 4 (00:06:16):

We're gonna be talking about the new reality for all of us, which is C Ovid 19, but specifically about some of the preparations that we're all making for the start of school in a couple of weeks. The bottom line is that Covid is going to affect every aspect of our work and of what we do in the schools, but we're going to be prepared, we're gonna be flexible, we're gonna continue to do what we all do so well. And that is carry out the mission of preparing students for life and success beyond high school. And then that's going to lead us into the next topic for this episode today. And that's, uh, the work that we're doing with an organization called the Intercultural Research Development Association, or I D R A to try to address, uh, learning gaps among some of the student populations that we have in our district. 

Speaker 4 (00:07:11):

And we'll talk about why it matters for you and why you should care about it, and why it also matters for the students and families that we serve in our district. So we'll get right into, uh, talking about a little bit about C Ovid 19. And, um, Kevin, I know many teachers and staff members are ready to get back into the classroom, um, ready to get back to the business of educating our students, but we all know that out there, there is also concern about the risks in this c Ovid 19 environment. And could you tell us briefly about the, just about the safety precautions that we're taking in our schools to try to mitigate the spread of the virus and keep everyone as safe as possible? 

Speaker 3 (00:07:57):

So, I, I think something really important to start off with is, um, we've tried to listen to our parents, um, and, and across the district, our parents are indicating, um, that they, they want to pursue in-person instruction for their kids. Um, that number does. Um, it, it, it, it's different from campus to campus. Some campuses you have over 90% of the kids indicating that they want to come in person. That number drops to 70, 75 at other campuses. But still in, in every campus, the majority of parents are indicating that they really want their kids in school. And so, um, we've tried from the beginning, um, with Mr. Loomis's leadership to really, um, always remember a measured approach. So as, as we, as we embark upon a new school year, and we have many people that are very excited about being with their kids, we have kids that are excited to be back in school. 

Speaker 3 (00:08:54):

Um, we just are trying to think in terms of layers. And so how, how do we layer safety precautions with masks and distancing and screening our kids and reminding them and asking them questions about how they feel, um, reminding them about hand sanitizers and, and washing their hands as many times as they have the opportunity to do that. And creating opportunities for us to get a squirt of hand sanitizer, go to the restroom and wash our hands. Um, you know, some other things that we've, that we've really worked on, um, with the support of our board are, um, the, the desk shield. So for, at, at some point, we, when we move down the road here, um, our kids are gonna have access to trifold desk shields that they can use in a classroom, um, and really they can use in other settings in the cafeteria or in choir. 

Speaker 3 (00:09:49):

Um, and so really just trying to create layers that really reinforce masks and social distancing, um, wherever that we can make that happen. And so I believe that, you know, as we've worked with the health department, that's, that's the main message that they've given, given us as we, um, as we try to bring kids back to school, is, is how do we, how do we make it as safe as it possibly can be by reinforcing the things that really have been talked about for a long time. And that is wearing a mask or face covering, um, staying six feet or more apart whenever you can, and, and when you can't really take in the precautions that, that you're able to take to keep things as safe as possible. 

Speaker 4 (00:10:33):

So, as Mr. Limi was saying, um, last night, he announced at the board meeting that we have a, a change in our mask protocol. And that is that now we're requiring all students, um, not just fourth grade and up, but all students to wear a mask as they, uh, come into school. And so, uh, Kevin, what's, I know there's been talk about out there about, uh, masks and what's the appropriate kind of mask to wear. Do we have a, a rule about what kind of mask you can wear in schools? 

Speaker 3 (00:11:03):

So, um, you're right. I think we've listened to our teachers, our principals, and, um, last night at the board meeting, Mr. Loomis, um, did share that, that we are reinforcing masks for all. Um, and so again, I I would say that, you know, working with the Casey Stoughton, the folks at the health department, that is probably at the top of their list of what they believe we all can do. And, and, and when I say all, I mean, um, those of us who are staff members, parents, kids, all of us working together wearing a mask or a face covering is at the top of the list. Um, you know, and I think there have been several studies, a lot of Facebook posts, many things on social media about the kinds of masks. Um, I I will say that once we began to see some of those, um, we really, again, trying to take a measured approach instead of just reading it on Facebook or reading it on Twitter and turning around and, and making a decision or providing guidance solely on that, um, we consulted with the health department. 

Speaker 3 (00:12:06):

And so in talking with Casey, um, I spent one day last week talking with Casey about this particular issue. Um, you know, I really think one of the big points in that, that, um, study that was, that was pushed out by a lot of people was about gators. And, um, really Casey helped me understand that the study really was about fleece skaters. And so, again, I think, you know, sometimes it depends on the material, uh, of the face covering. Um, obviously I think, you know, some of those, um, certain kinds of masks are more protective. Um, ironically, there's a lot of studies that say that the homemade masks made of two pieces of cotton, um, that we've, you know, had a lot of folks make at home are, are very protective. And so, um, we really, um, in consultation with Casey, um, have not gotten into, you know, which masks are and aren't allowed. We're trying to reinforce a face covering. Um, and really, I think as we look around and watch our staff and watch kids who are already coming for, um, some of our band and music activities, our athletic activities, um, kid, kids are wearing, um, and staff are wearing masks that generally we see are acceptable. 

Speaker 4 (00:13:19):

Okay. And what if someone comes to school and doesn't have a mask? Are we going to have supplies available? 

Speaker 3 (00:13:25):

So t e a and the state have provided us a, uh, with a really, a good, a good stock of, uh, p p e to start the school year. Um, I think we're already talking about, you know, how how would we extend that into later parts of the year? But at least for right now, um, if kiddos show up, they've forgotten their mask, they lose their mask, um, we have a number of disposable masks, um, throughout the district that have been delivered to all of our campuses. Uh, and our approach will be at least in the beginning, Hey, let's get you one of our masks. If you've forgotten it, if you can't find it, let's get one of those on you, uh, get you to class. Um, same thing with staff, you know, I mean, uh, how many times have, have all of us since this started, um, pulled up at the convenience store to run in and get an iced tea, and we get halfway to the door and we realize we've forgotten our mask. And so, um, you know, we, we have to either run back to the car or maybe you run back to the car and there's not one in the car. And so in a lot of places, you walk in the front door of a business and right by the door, there's a little stack of masks in a, you know, piece of plastic, and you grab one of those and put it on. That's really the approach that we're gonna try to have. And, 

Speaker 4 (00:14:34):

And talk a little bit about face shields. 

Speaker 3 (00:14:36):

So we, we have a number of face shields, um, again, that were provided through t e a to, to start us off. Uh, I think we also have gone back and, and doubled down in some areas where we know that we're gonna have to use shields. Um, part of our protocol that we have in place is, um, you know, figuring out where we have situations where staff may need to wear a shield based on some kind of a medical complication. Um, and then the actuality of it is, is that we, we have some situations and environments where those are gonna need to be used in, in, from an educational sense. So if you think about our students who are deaf or hard of hearing, um, which that directly influences Lamar Fanin and Caprock in a number of settings, um, those are gonna be situations where shields are gonna be very appropriate for our teachers, because our kids need to see our teacher's mouth move. 

Speaker 3 (00:15:35):

Um, and, and then I think, we'll, you know, we have other, um, classrooms where, where that's an impact, uh, in the elementary realm of what we do. Um, I would say that our elementary teachers who know much more about teaching reading than I do, um, they would talk to you and tell you about many, many instances where a kiddo being able to see their teacher's mouth move when we're trying to work on our reading skills is very important. And so, um, we have a process for someone who might prefer to wear a shield. Um, and we have, um, we've been thinking about where are the educational situations where a shield is appropriate from an educational standpoint. Having said all that, I, I would remind everyone that, that we are reminded by the health department that shields only provide a certain degree of protection. And so that's why we are not advocating for shields across the board. Um, and, and we're gonna reinforce masks where masks can be worn, um, and it's appropriate and it doesn't impede the learning process and, or it doesn't, um, you know, make, create a, a further complication for someone health-wise. Um, because the mask is, is the most protective, um, face covering that can be worn. But we have some, we have some leeway there for shields and the use of those. We have a stock of them and, and we're prepared to order more as we need to. 

Speaker 4 (00:17:02):

And, uh, one question I think probably at least teachers are having out there is what are they going to be required to do as far as, um, cleaning their classrooms? Because we talk about sanitizing in the aspect of cleaning, and then there's also disinfecting that our custodians and maintenance department will be involved in. But what, on a day-to-day basis, would a just a teacher out there in the classroom be required to do as far as cleaning? 

Speaker 3 (00:17:33):

So, I, I think I would start by saying Kirk Self in our operations department, um, has really worked on, um, procuring some of the Mr. Sanitation guns that, that are really pretty prevalent today. Um, we have, we have a stock of those that our custodial staff is using. Um, our custodial staff really has had, um, to become focused on some of those areas that are high touch. And, um, and so all of those things are going on with our custodial staff, um, at, at all of our locations, um, campuses here at the E S C, um, you know, for every teacher we've provided a, uh, a spray bottle of disinfectant. And, um, so really one of the things that we've been encouraging is, um, you know, at different parts of the day, whenever you can spray that down, spray desktops, high touch surfaces, and really the def disinfectant that we have is, is, is designed to, um, to spray on and just let it air dry. 

Speaker 3 (00:18:34):

Um, we're working hard, um, to even look at other disinfectants that may be out there that have a quicker drying time, because we know that in our day to day with kids moving in and out class to class, sometimes we have limited timeframes. And so, um, the products that we can procure that have the shortest dry time, I think that will be helpful for teachers, um, and it'll allow us to do that more and more. Um, and then lastly, I would say, you know, one of the things we've already started to promote are, is, um, for a teacher to grab that spray bottle and kind of the last thing out the door when they leave their classroom each afternoon, um, spray down those high touch areas, spray down desktops, um, set that by the door, walk out and let that dry overnight. 

Speaker 2 (00:19:22):

Kevin, just to jump in, um, yesterday, visited with Kirk, uh, about, you know, what's the difference between what teachers can do and, and what students can do. Because as you look, read the disinfectant bottles, it talks about keep outta reach of children and, and absolutely, uh, you know, any type of cleaner, uh, can be poisonous and needs to be ke kept out of the reach of, of kids and, and kids probably shouldn't, not probably, they shouldn't be using the disinfectant. Um, that ought to be in teacher's hands, you know, spraying the high touch areas, um, hitting, hitting on the desk and letting those air dry. And so an effort to help kids, uh, be able to be a part of this process, especially around their own workstations. Um, we anticipate in the next week getting sanitizing bottles of spray that students can use and, and just a, a general sense that it's, it's a, it's a soap based product, uh, that, that would not be dangerous to kids, and that kids could spray on their desk or any of their, you know, the, their chair and quickly wipe them off so the kids can be a part of that san, uh, of sanitizing. 

Speaker 2 (00:20:32):

And then teachers can come by at the end of the period or at times when there's enough time to, to spray it and let it air dry. So it's just one more layer of being able, um, to, to protect kids and, and staff while they're at. Um, and, and that, again, is coming directly out of the work that our safety committees have been doing at campuses and, and bringing up either concerns or what ifs or what could we do differently. And, and so what I would encourage everybody out there, keep engaged in those safety committees, keep talking to one another, keep being partners with one another, hearing each other's side of this, and, and allowing those conversations to move and, and we'll just get better and better. 

Speaker 3 (00:21:16):

Susan, o one thing that I probably skipped over that I, I want to back up on, on the masks and face coverings, um, is about, you know, why, why are, why do we believe that's so important? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, and, and yes, there's a governor's order. Yes, it's in our guidance. Um, yes, you, you could approach it from that's the rule. That's what we are supposed to do. And I think what I would want all of our staff to know and, and really even parents and kids, um, it, it really is not about those things to us. It, it is about, go back to my original, um, kind of where I started about the Covid update and the new reality. It, it's about trying to have school. Um, and so as our team has worked through our approach to masks and face coverings, it's not about really the governor's order. 

Speaker 3 (00:22:08):

It's not about the rule. It's not about the guidance. It's about how do we try to meet the expectation that's been clearly communicated to us that our parents and our kids want in-person instruction. And so, if we can all do our part to protect imper, because by wearing a mask at school, by wearing a face, covering when, when you have a medical issue or, or when it's really necessary that kids see your lips move wearing a shield by always doing that, we're protecting our ability to be at school. That's really what this is about. And that's, that's what we've made it about. And, and I'll just be real transparent and tell you that I, I don't prefer to wear one. Uh, it's hard to breathe. It's aggravating. I mentioned earlier, you know, running into a convenience store to get a drink or whatever, and, and forgetting it and having to go back and, and, um, it, it really is aggravating at times. 

Speaker 3 (00:23:01):

But we have gotten into the habit here at the E S C, um, of, of doing this and modeling this behavior. And really now it, it really has become part of what we do. I mean, we don't even really have to tell one another very much anymore. Um, we know to pull our face covering up or get it in the right place when people begin to get close to us, or they need to read something over our shoulder. And, and so all that to say, um, we really have tried to make this about how do we protect ourselves from quarantine, and how do we protect our ability to provide what our parents and kids are indicating for the most part that they want. Uh, and not to diminish that we have parents and families that have, uh, really made a choice and feel like it's best for them to be at home learning virtually. Um, but for those who really want to be in person wearing a face, covering seems to be one of the best things we can do to protect our ability to do that and continue to do that, not just September 1st, but that we make it all the way into November in December and January and February. You 

Speaker 2 (00:24:02):

Know, I've already been on the phone this morning with one mother who is really concerned that we're gonna wear a mask pre-K through second grade. And my response to her was, really, our goal is to keep schools open at all costs. We, we don't want to be in a, in a, in a situation where we're closing down an entire school or the entire district. And, and as, as we visit with the health Depar, health Department officials, what's really, really clear is if we've got a classroom of 22nd graders and a teacher, and all 21 of them are wearing a mask, and a student becomes symptomatic during the day, goes home and eventually tests positive, there's a high likelihood that no one will be quarantined in that class if everyone was wearing a mask. But if 10 are wearing a mask and the teacher's wearing a mask, but the other tent aren't, and somebody becomes symptomatic and comes down, um, with, with the virus, the odds are it's not just gonna be the 10 without a mask, it's gonna be the other 11 that were without a mask also. 

Speaker 2 (00:25:10):

And so, as we look at this, we believe our best option and our best opportunity to keep schools open and keep them functioning and moving forward, and never forgetting safety, uh, for our STA staff and students, that's always first, but in an effort to keep schools moving, uh, and keep the doors open, wearing masks, just seems like one of those things that, that we're all going to have to get used to. And, and Mr. Phillips and I are just gonna have to get over that. We don't really like wearing masks very much. Yeah, that's right. I don't 

Speaker 3 (00:25:40):

Like 'em either. Alright, so, um, you know, Susan, let's, let's just jump right into something that I, I think a lot of people really want to know more about. So what happens if we have a kiddo or a student in our schools, um, and, and they're, they're positive for covid or they start feeling ill? So, you know, I think, um, we have a process. That's what I would say. Um, if you go out on our website, Mr. Tatum, down in Human Reach resources has created really, um, some flow charts and, and a whole lot of texts that explains what we'll do. But to try to summarize, you know, what we're gonna do is, um, you know, whoever at the campus is gonna contact the appropriate person and human resources. Um, just as an example, you know, Mrs. Atkinson works in our, with our elementary teachers in the human resources department. 

Speaker 3 (00:26:34):

If it's an elementary related situation, they'll call Karen. If it's a secondary related situation, they'll call Mr. Manchi. Um, and we have those divided out. There are four kind of point persons down in hr, um, at the campus. We will separate, um, the person that we're concerned about, whether that's a staff member or a student. Um, we will begin to deeply sanitize the area where that person was. Um, and really from there, um, obviously we would call a parent or a family member, you know, if it's a staff member to help us get that person, um, toward, you know, get 'em home and separated from others. And, and the last part of that is we're gonna begin to work very intently with public health. And so, um, that point person in the human resources department will, will call, um, the contact folks, um, at public health. 

Speaker 3 (00:27:28):

And just for everybody's knowledge, um, this is a good thing. Public health has de designated two of their staff members who are gonna work, um, solely on school cases. Um, and so there's a good system at public health. We've had good collaboration with them setting up the process. And so we will begin to work with public health to trace and, um, and determine, you know, who had close contact. Were we wearing a mask? Is that, um, is that situation with the presence or absence of masks? Um, what, what are the details? What kind of interactions were going on? Um, how close were they? How long were they together? Um, and public health will help us begin to figure out, you know, who might need to be, um, quarantined or isolated until we can figure out exactly what's going on. Um, and then, um, in, in that process, once we get a good handle on, um, where we were, who all was there, what is the extent of exposure we will then begin to communicate, um, with parents and other staff members, um, in collaboration with public 

Speaker 2 (00:28:38):

Health? You know, what I, what I think I would encourage everyone is, you know, our HR folks really have, have dug deep into this and, and really have a really good understanding about, you know, what should you do. Uh, if, if, if a staff member or student becomes symptomatic at, at school, Kevin's right, we've got a really good process about getting them to the nurse and, and making a determination. Do you need to just go home and, and, and see if his symptoms improve? Do you need to go to the doctor and get a rapid test and, and check for covid? Uh, and, and so that, that one's a little bit easier because you're at school and it happens. You're, you're gonna wake up of a some morning and, you know, the day before you were just fine and, and you wake up and you're just not feeling well. 

Speaker 2 (00:29:20):

And, and, and so you make a determination. I better not go to school. And so somewhere along the way, do those symptoms continue to get worse or do they get much better? And do I need to go get a a test before I can come back to school? Do I have to go get a doctor's note? And there, there's a little bit of gray there. It's not a real easy, quick answer. And, and so I, you know, the call hr, you know, and let Chris, Karen, or David, page one of them walk you through and, and, and make a good determination of whether you have to have that test before you come back. And, you know, then everybody's favorite one is, you know, if you just end up being in close contact, another reason that you ought to always social distance, you ought to always have good hygiene and you ought to be wearing that mask. 

Speaker 2 (00:30:03):

It's, it's the, the close contact. So if I'm not wearing my mask today and, and I become symptomatic, and it ultimately tests positive and, and, and Susan's with me and I, and she's not wearing a mask, she's going to be defined by the health department in contact tracing is up close and person or up close contact. And because of that, Susan's going to be automatically quarantined for 14 days, uh, whether she ever has a symptom or not. So it's, it's really, really important that, that everybody remembers if you're wearing a mask and you're wearing that shield, um, you really are in, in the best position that you can be in to protect yourself. And, and over the summer, you know, we've had three and 400 athletes and fine arts students in and out of our high schools all summer long. And we've had several that have had tested positive over that time. 

Speaker 2 (00:30:55):

Uh, and, and we've gone into brief quarantines. We've had to shut down programs for a day or two. But, but, but the really good news is because our coaches and our directors and our students are wearing masks the way they're supposed to, you know, knock on wood, we've not had to quarantine mass numbers of kids out of programs. Right? And, and you see that happening. We saw that happening this just this morning in one of our, one of our sister, uh, school districts having to quarantine, um, an athletic program. And, and so not that, not that we won't, but I, I think if we can continue to wear those masks and, and we can continue that social distancing and we can do the things that we've put in place and protocols, we are all going to be much safer and we have an opportunity to keep doors open. 

Speaker 4 (00:31:41):

Right. And I'm glad you mentioned that, Doug, because we have had instances of c Ovid 19 and, um, with everyone coming back to school, or most everyone coming back, um, it's going to be inevitable that we're going to have some cases. And so what are we required to notify, um, parents when we have a case of c Ovid 19 on a campus? Yes. How does 

Speaker 3 (00:32:03):

That work? That's part of our guidance. Um, again, once, and, and I think it's important to remember, we're we're going to take big steps whenever we have a confirmed case that's important. Um, and, and the reason it's important is because, you know, if if someone's just not feeling real well or we're worried that we might have been in contact, we definitely need to have that conversation. But, um, we're gonna take big steps and communicate with the health department when we have co lab confirmed cases. And so when we have those lab confirmed cases, um, and we, we, we figure out where that is, um, where that person has been, who have been the people around them, um, we're gonna communicate with parents either by a phone call or a letter home, maybe both, um, to, to make them aware of what's going on. And then from there, really we will, um, we will work with public health to make the final decision of, you know, who might need to stay at home for, um, a period of days or the whole 14 days. Um, and, you know, where do we need to sanitize all of those kinds of precautions. But, but parent communication is definitely a part of that. Once we get the facts and know what we're dealing with and, and, and realize who's, IM been impacted, you know, 

Speaker 2 (00:33:22):

Kevin, we've, we've gotten so much better over the years, uh, over the last couple of years of just being transparent over all sorts of things that historically maybe we didn't share. And this is gonna be one of those times that, that we're going to be over transparent, uh, parents and staff that they don't have to worry about. Well, or is someone just not telling me. Um, this is one of those cases, the way we're all going to stay safe, we're all going to stay healthy, is that we're open and transparent. And you may not know who, but you're gonna know that you were in close contact, or there was someone in the school who tested positive today. And, and if you were in close contact, you'll know you were one of those people. And, and even if you weren't in close contact, you now know, well, there was the, you know, we, we had a, a confirmed case, uh, on our campus or in our department or whatever it happened to be, and, you know, to, to watch yourself closely over the next 24 or 48 hours. 

Speaker 4 (00:34:15):

Okay? So I, if I'm a teacher or a cafeteria worker or a custodian at a campus, and I, um, say I get sick with C O V I D and have to stay home, is there paid leave that I can access? Or do I have to use my vacation days? Do I have to use my sick leave? 

Speaker 2 (00:34:33):

Yeah. Uh, our board has done something, uh, that, and I, and I hope our, I hope our staff really appreciates this. I, I guess I can't say this morning, there's not any other school district in the state, but I can assure you I'm not aware of any, and, and most of my colleague friends have called me saying, what have you done in Amarillo? Uh, and, and what we've done is our board is, is does not want our staff, um, to be penalized because we're asking them to come back to work. And so they've built, built a, a safeguard in play, uh, for, for, for, for, for staff members who are quarantined, uh, because of close contact. They may be asymptomatic, they may, uh, they may not even have really been exposed, but they, they've been up close contact. Um, their, the staff, the, the board has, has given 30 additional days that, that we're calling covid. 

Speaker 2 (00:35:28):

And so in that quarantine, it's, it's not about, uh, them having to use their own. It's, we ask 'em to come to work and, and so we're, we're going protect you that way. And then on the outside chance, and then I'm going to pray that it, it's an outside chance, and, and we don't have anybody who gets really ill, but if we use all 30 of those days, because, you know, the, the quarantine becomes isolation and isolation becomes illness, and illness ends up in a hospital. Um, when, if those 30 days are used, HR will bring that to my attention. And, and based on the diagnosis, uh, from the doctor, we'll, we will continue to, uh, take care of that person's leave while, while they're out on covid. 

Speaker 4 (00:36:11):

That's good to know. 

Speaker 3 (00:36:12):

So Susan, we, we really have talked for quite some time. We could probably talk all day, um, because there's just a lot that that's the truth. Um, what I would probably say is we kinda wrap up our covid section in this conversation is, you know, if you have questions, go see your principal, um, go talk to your supervisor. Um, those are folks that, you know, as we have worked through this, um, we've kept them in the loop about guidance and, and what to do. Um, you know, have grace, have mercy for people. Um, they're not perfect, including our principals and our supervisors, but they're working hard to stay up to date and know what to do. Um, and so go talk to your principal. Go talk to your supervisor. If you have questions, go to the webpage. Um, you know, Holly, our, our crew, um, that handles our, our webpage, um, they've done an an amazing job trying to keep up with things, uh, and putting 'em in written form and putting 'em on the website and updating them as they need to be updated. 

Speaker 3 (00:37:15):

Um, yes. And really just ask questions. That that's the biggest thing. Um, we don't want you to, um, to have a question and, and worry about the answer. Um, we really have, uh, as we've moved through the summer and now that we finally have some semblance of, um, constancy to, to the guidance, um, we have the ability to answer a lot of those questions that really we, we might not have been able to answer two weeks ago, three weeks ago, for sure. A month ago. And so, um, we have a whole lot better guidance and, and information and, and we can answer your questions. 

Speaker 4 (00:37:50):

And I think you mentioned this before, but I, I did wanna mention again, uh, the resource that HR put together, um, and probably some people out there have seen it and used it as a resource. It's a great, uh, document for information. It's called the A I S D guidebook for c ovid 19 Public Health. 

Speaker 3 (00:38:10):

Absolutely. Mr. Tatum has done, uh, a heck of a job, um, compiling that. And really honestly, um, maybe twice a week, he updates usually every Sunday, Mr. Tatum spends some time, um, updating or making the little tweaks that have that need to be made based on the week's worth of information. Um, and so that absolutely, Susan, that's an awesome resource Yes. For people to take a at. And 

Speaker 4 (00:38:35):

It's on our website at the return to school tab. 

Speaker 2 (00:38:37):

It is under, under the, the staff right staff portion of it. Uh, I would just, you know, I, all of us have some fear in this. We have some anxiety, uh, and some days that fear and anxiety just flat turns to anger. Uh, and it's, it's because we're worried about our health. We're worried about our families, we're worried about our kids, and we're gonna make missteps. Uh, you're gonna make missteps. And, and so when those happen, take a really deep breath and think about, you know, uh, how, how could we fix this? What might be a solution to this? And, and get that in, in front of your, your safety committees, wherever it needs to be, um, to make sure that your concerns are being heard. Uh, but, but we are a team. We are a family. Uh, and there are times that families, you know, get a little crossways with one another. Uh, but, but, but we, but this, this is, this is about a family, and it's about taking care of one another. And we're a really big family. 'cause we've got 5,000 employees. We've got 32,000 kids, um, and, and trying to meet the needs of, of every one of those, the very best that we can. 

Speaker 4 (00:39:47):

So last month, the school board approved the purchase of a new learning management system called Canvas Yes, ma'am. For schools to use, um, in particular with remote learning. But I think we're, we're also realizing there are applications for, um, in-person learning as well. So, Kevin, could you just, can I kind of give us a bird's eye overview of Canvas and Sure. I, how we landed on that particular platform, 

Speaker 3 (00:40:12):

And I, I'm gonna, I'm gonna do my best, Susan. There are a lot of people, um, probably many of our teachers that are much better people to talk about Canvas than myself. But, um, really, um, in a nutshell, you know, if, if everybody were to think back to last spring when our kids, um, you know, school was closed by order of the governor and all of our kids were at home and in, and in some way, shape or form, they were engaging in learning from home. Um, some of that was, you know, in the form of packets, paper packets of, of, um, worksheets, just to be quite honest, that they picked up and then returned to the school. Um, but then there were, um, you know, in cases where we had, we had computers and we had internet access, we had kids doing, um, doing their learning on, on a computer and doing it virtually. 

Speaker 3 (00:41:02):

Um, and so as we move fast forward to this fall, um, the rules really have changed. And, and t e a has a much higher expectation for the level of learning that will need to be taking place, um, for those kids that choose to learn virtually. And so, one of the ways that, um, that really, in some sense, they're not requiring us to use a specific learning management system, but, but t e a is requiring that we can really closely watch and measure the level of student engagement for virtual learning. And, and, and really one of the, one of the best ways to do that is using what is called a learning management system. And so we, we have, um, tapped into Canvas for our district. That's what we're gonna use as our learning management system. Um, and really if, um, this is probably way too simplistic, but just think of Canvas as the hub or the umbrella. 

Speaker 3 (00:42:02):

And so if you think back to the spring, you know, kids were having to go to five or six different places to do their online learning. You know, this website, this website, okay, when you do this over here for science, you go here. Um, and, and Canvas becomes the place for, that's the hub. That's the place where each student goes. And from there they can, um, hopefully we'll tie all the pieces together and connect it to Canvas so that it's, it's, it's the one place that kids go to engage virtually. And then Susan, you alluded to, we really believe that once we get our virtual learners taken care of, and really we need to do this sooner rather than later, we also apply Canvas in, in-person learning. Um, and I will, again, just a kind of a personal note. Um, you know, my, my son just graduated from college, um, and even before Canvas in college, and this is true for many of our kids that have, you know, experienced college or even our staff who have gone back to work on a master's degree, canvas has been a part of what they're doing at the college level for in-person instruction. 

Speaker 3 (00:43:08):

So when things were normal, I was going to class every day. I didn't have to do anything really learning wise on a computer. I still have been using Canvas for assignments and the submission of quizzes and other things like that. So, um, canvas is, um, gonna help us really measure the engagement of a kiddo online and for the purposes and expectations that t e a also has that engagement and us being able to gauge that allows us to mark them present or absent for a particular day of learning. So, um, uh, to kinda wrap this up, man, we've, we have had, um, an unbelievable effort. Our digital learning specialists, two or three of them in particular, have built a training course from the ground up that really we've phased in with, with groups of our staff. Um, week before last, we had 400 plus staff members, most of whom were not on contract yet, who engaged in this course, 14 hours. 

Speaker 3 (00:44:10):

They learned it. So that starting last week when our, all of our teachers came back to work, they could, um, create an army of teachers, an army of trainers to train their colleagues, um, and to help one another learn canvas. And, um, and again, we had all of our schools, with the exception of about eight, who were engaged in a, in another training that maybe one day we'll talk about in schoolwork. Um, they trained all of last week, then that group of eight campuses that I'm referring to, they, they are taking care of it this week. Um, and really kind of keeping us on track to get all of our staff trained in that learning management system. 

Speaker 4 (00:44:51):

Well, that's great. If it has the added benefit of helping our kids, um, yeah. Into the transition into college. 

Speaker 3 (00:44:57):

Absolutely. I think it, it helps us there. It, it also, and I skipped over this part, but, um, you know, the use of canvas, even with in-person students, it does prepare us. It's a proactive step that I think is important that, um, and man, nobody wants to really think about this. We don't even really wanna speak it out loud, but the truth is, if we ever got back into a situation where we had to close a school, if we're all using Canvas, we can make that transition from in-person to virtual very quick. Um, that's the thought process of it, and it really could happen if we were to get in that situation. 

Speaker 2 (00:45:34):

Well, even Kevin, if we don't get in a situation with Covid, which I hope we don't, you know, I, I'm really excited about the tools. You know, we talked about at the beginning of this, when this is all over, education will never look the same. And at the time, we had no idea what we really meant by that. And I'm not, I'm not suggesting we think we know what it'll look like today, but we're starting to get a picture, a glimpse of what the future may hold. And we really may live in a world where it's not as important about sitting within four walls and in rows. It really may be about being out in the world and learning and, and, and, and being more authentic, um, as, as we move forward in, into this thing. 

Speaker 4 (00:46:11):

Well, I like what you said, Doug, a few weeks ago now, um, never let a good pandemic go to waste. Yeah. 

Speaker 2 (00:46:17):

Never, never waste 

Speaker 4 (00:46:19):

It. So maybe there's some things that we're learning that we can continue using Well, in our education world beyond 

Speaker 2 (00:46:25):

Covid. When, when we started talking about this, you know, um, it's, I guess it's been a month ago, the, uh, as as it just sort of dropped in our lap of one of those things that was clear that we were going to have to do in the, in the demonstration that we did it, it was powerful for me because, uh, I'm not always as organiz organized as I need to be. And I always didn't get to the copy machine the way I needed to or have the papers presented. And really just on the fly, um, the, the, the person that was doing the demonstration wrote out a quick assignment, just wrote it out, took a picture of it, and uploaded it into Canvas, uh, sent the assignment to all of us sitting around the table. We used the toolbox in Canvas to answer it. We immediately sent it back to him, and, and he graded it, annotated it gave us notes back on it, gave us a grade, it went to the grade book, and the paper came back to us. And I thought, wow, no more excuses for the dog ate my homework. 

Speaker 4 (00:47:24):

<laugh> <laugh>. That's good. Well, Kevin, I do wanna go back to one thing that you said. Uh, you mentioned that Canvas will be sort of the umbrella, um, over all of the different, um, platforms or programs that students will use mainly in a virtual environment. So they just have one place they need to go. But does that work for teachers too? Is is Canvas going to be synced to Skyward? Yes. And euphoria. 

Speaker 3 (00:47:50):

And so same thing for teachers. It becomes the place where teachers create, um, virtual learning, or even as Mr. Loomis just said, that that's the place where they use it for in-person learning. So same, same real thought process. The teacher goes one place to create the lessons and the activities and what needs to happen day to day. Um, and then the kids go to that same place just kind of in a different way and access what their teacher is making available for them. So, um, for both kids and teachers, it becomes kind of that hub where we go. Um, and again, that that's, that's, that will be the place for virtual learning. And then we will begin to find ways that we tie that into in-person learning as well. And then that'll, that'll allow us and prepare us to make a quick transition, should we need to do that. 

Speaker 4 (00:48:42):

It'll allow us to pivot. Yes, pivot. I think that's the new 

Speaker 3 (00:48:44):

Word. That's kind of a new buzzword that's out there. 

Speaker 2 (00:48:47):

Okay. Pivot. We add that to tranche. 

Speaker 3 (00:48:50):


Speaker 4 (00:48:51):

<laugh>. Yeah. Just 

Speaker 2 (00:48:52):

We've learned a lot of new words. This 

Speaker 4 (00:48:53):

Springs lots of new vocabulary. Well, it's, uh, talking about learning, I think kind of is a good segue into the last thing that we wanted to kind of discuss today. And that's, um, the Intercultural Development Research Association and our partnership as a district with that organization. Um, Kevin, can you just tell us what I D R A is Sure. And how we got involved with this organization and what we're hoping to get out of it? 

Speaker 3 (00:49:22):

You know, I think it's, it's fair to start, um, that as we began last school year, um, we began talking about something that, that we have talked about over and over in A I S D for those of us who've, who've had the opportunity to work in Amarillo for a long time, it, it really has been a conversation that we've had for a while. And I really think that at, at certain times when we've had that conversation, we've been able to, to, um, to make progress in some of those areas. But overall, what, what we, what we began to realize again, is we have an achievement gap issue in A I S D, and, and we just, um, with Mr. Loomis's challenge and, um, and push, you know, we just really, were, were rededicated to the fact that, um, we have areas where we have certain groups of students who, who, who don't succeed, um, as much as other groups, just to be quite honest. 

Speaker 3 (00:50:22):

And, um, and we really decided, you know, what, we're gonna rededicate ourselves to trying to make a difference and working really not to try, I guess I should take the word try out, but we're gonna make a difference, you know, every kiddo, regardless of where they come from and their background deserves access and an opportunity and, and they, they deserve to succeed, period. And so, um, we partnered with, um, I D R A, um, last school year in the, you know, 19, 20 school year to begin working and studying our data and, and to ask them to provide us guidance assistance, um, and help as we, as we begin to, to identify areas in our system that may be just systemic places where bias exists. Um, this is a really hard conversation for a lot of people to have. And we, um, although we're, we're having this conversation in the right way, um, we're, we're stepping forward as leaders and saying, we're not afraid to have this conversation. 

Speaker 3 (00:51:24):

And so, um, you know, we've, we've, uh, assembled a group of, of staff that we've called the Achievement Gap Focus group. And so it's made up of several of our assistant superintendents, um, actually all four of them, I believe, um, our several principals, curriculum support type folks and, and teachers. And really those teachers, what I would want you to know is this group of, I don't know, 20 folks, 25 folks, um, they demographically represent our school district. And so, um, how do we bring a demographically diverse group of staff and all sit at the same table and have this conversation? And, and really that's what's going on. Um, I D R A has provided us some support in terms of, you know, coming to us and leading us through a little bit of training and helping us to think about, you know, here are the things you need to look at. 

Speaker 3 (00:52:19):

Um, but really our, our, our focus group of staff members have done a great job, um, throughout last school year, even despite covid, they continued to stay in touch, and then when it was appropriate for us to be back together in purpose, in in person, that's one of the first groups that came back together was this focus group. And so really they're, they've studied a lot of data. Um, what have they learned? I, I think that it's been reiterated and they've learned again and reminded that we have areas where, um, where, where we are extremely disproportionate. So some of our groups are much more at risk to suffer a dis discipline consequence. Um, some of our kids are much more at risk to failing a class. Some of our kids are much more at risk to not be in an AP class, our most rigorous curriculum. 

Speaker 3 (00:53:13):

And so I D R A has helped guide us toward studying our data and our system and, and helping us identify, here are the areas where if you are an African American student, when you are a Hispanic student, um, you are less likely to have access and or success. And again, that may be shocking to people that I'm using those terms, those that bluntly. Um, but that's the conversation that we are committed to have, and we are committed to fixing this problem and making this truly a level playing field and, and making it to where, um, your ability to succeed at the highest levels in our school district does not depend on what color your skin is. And that really is about the bluntest way that I can say it, and the most transparent way that I can say it. And, um, I think for a lot of people, um, they would appreciate that we're taking that kind of an approach. 

Speaker 2 (00:54:09):

We're, we're seeing this play out on a national stage. And, and, and we started this conversation and, and we should have started it much earlier, but, but we really started having a, a, a, a really hard conversation. You know, last August, uh, our brand new, you know, we had seven brand new board members, uh, and I just applaud them. Uh, they were, they were quick to look at our data, to have conversations and to be able to realize that as important as safety is closing the achievement gap is just as important and is one of those, one of their three main goals that, that we stay focused on. And, you know, I, we, we have to do a better job of not marginalizing kids and one another. Uh, it happens. And when you start marginalizing people, um, you, you start to isolate those people and, and you, you create, uh, biases, um, uh, that, that, that, that stymie the growth of one another. 

Speaker 2 (00:55:10):

And, um, I, I have, I have a, I have promised our staff, I've made a commitment to myself, um, that we're gonna learn to understand each other's cultures, and we're gonna understand why certain things happen certain ways and why one way isn't necessarily the right way. Um, and, and that, that we all need to embrace that and have high expectations of one another, because ultimately what I want for every one of the 32,000 kids we have in this district is to be able to graduate from this district and fulfill their passion, whatever that is. And, and I, I, I don't want it to be because somehow we, we marginalized that kid and, and somehow sent a message to that kid that they, they weren't important. Um, and was that because of, of the color of their skin? Was it because of the socioeconomic status they have? 

Speaker 2 (00:56:01):

Um, I want us to arise above that. Um, I, I am committed that, that people have to be able to see it, to believe it. Uh, and, and whether that's about being able, if I'm a, if, if I'm a Hispanic student or an African American student, I ought to be able to see leaders and teachers in this district and in this community that, that I can look up to and say, I, I, I can be that person. Um, we, we need to make sure we figure out a way to ensure our community and our parents are engaged with us. And I will tell you, um, sometimes that gets a little bit uncomfortable. Uh, when people talk about, we, we gotta figure out a way for parents to be able to advocate for their, for their kids. Uh, we gotta be able to figure out a way for the community to advocate for, for, for, for groups of kids. 

Speaker 2 (00:56:49):

And, and I think that word advocate, what that means is we've all come to the table and we figured out the most important thing at this table isn't the adults. It's the student that's sitting in the middle of that, of that table. And, and we're gonna find a way to help that student rise to the occasion. And we're not gonna marginalize that student because of their culture, because of their status or, or anything else that, that is keeping that kid from being successful. And, and we're committed to that. Um, and doesn't mean we're lowering expectations. It means we're, we're raising expectations, not just on the kid, but on ourselves. 

Speaker 4 (00:57:23):

I appreciate that message, Doug and Kevin also. And I'm excited about the work that we're doing with I D R A. Are there some things that, um, schools will be implementing even this next school year that would be a visible, um, so, you know, indication of things that were 

Speaker 3 (00:57:44):

Right and 

Speaker 4 (00:57:44):

Progress that we're making along these lines? 

Speaker 3 (00:57:46):

You know, and it, that's a good point, Susan. It, it really is. It's not about the talk and it's not about the meetings, it's about the action. Right. Um, you know, I, I'll be honest, covid kind of got us sidetracked with our work with I D R A. Um, it, it shut us down for a little while, and it, and it, we had several, um, activities that were planned during that time when school was shut down and closed. Um, we've gotten back on track. I D R A shared with our board of trustees recently with our principals recently. Um, and so, uh, you know, I know that we are actually working right now on, um, another meeting with our achievement gap, um, focus group. And so really I think what we will begin to see and hear, I D R A will make some final recommendations, um, that is coming soon from I D R A. 

Speaker 3 (00:58:35):

And really those recommendations, we will take those as a part of our focus group. Again, that group of, of assistant superintendents and, and campus leaders and teachers will take those recommendations. And I really think that what we will see over the next little bit this school year is, um, you know, what, what kind of training might we need to consider for all of our staff? You know, and how do we involve DAC in a conversation about, you know, here's a, here's a training segment that, that all staff members need that break down bias in our system. You know, what are things in our system that we need to change? You know, what processes, what, what applications exist that are barriers for kids? Um, what things in, um, in our process, um, for enrolling in school or having access to certain things, what, what parts of our system create barriers for kids? And how do we break those barriers down and or remove them completely? And so, um, I think those are the things that you will be begin to see because of our work with I D R A. 

Speaker 2 (00:59:39):

You know, you, you can see that in campuses that who have already bought into things like unconscious discipline, um, things like restorative discipline, looking for ways to, to change the narrative from how do you, how, how, how do you punish kids to how do you discipline kids? Because in, in the, in the world we live in, punishment is something I do to you. Discipline is something only you do, you can do to yourself. And, and you have to learn that skill, and you have to learn that ability. And things like unconscious discipline and restorative discipline, uh, techniques do that. Um, you know, helping parents engage. We, we've got a new parent engagement, uh, team, uh, that is up and running that will be holding seminars and trainings for, for our parents out at, at the schools to give them the ability to, how do you navigate the school system? 

Speaker 2 (01:00:29):

You know, I, I grew up as a teacher's kid, you know, I, I know how to navigate the school system. I know how to miss the hurdles and, and get over the hurdles, uh, when I need to. But there are so many people, especially when you think about new to the new to the states, you know, there, there are immigrants that have come in, or there are people who have, were never successful in school, and they have kids that they don't know how to advocate necessarily, and how to, how to manage the system and, and, and ask the right questions. And so we have a new parent engagement group that's that's out there that, that's holding those trainings. Uh, you know, we're, we're building, you know, at Hamlet, uh, we, we developed the, uh, the buddy system last year. And, and really what that is, you know, is, is where can we find, uh, really successful leaders in the community that can come in that look like our kids, um, that, that many cases walked in the shoes that our kids have walked in and, and just build a buddy system for, for those kids. 

Speaker 2 (01:01:30):

Um, so they, so they can see it, and so they can start to believe it. And so we, we see those kinds of initiatives growing across the district. Our, our question ought to be how do we engage versus how do we isolate or, or the, not the 1950 schools of of Chicago that, that chained all the doors and, and turned all the phones off and said, don't call us. We'll call you. Uh, we, we live in a world where, where we have to engage and we have to look for partnerships with our parents. Um, if, if we're gonna make a difference in our kids' lives, it can't just be about the job that we're doing any 

Speaker 3 (01:02:07):

Longer. That to kinda wrap us up on I D R A. And really, that's, that's the intent of schoolwork. That that's why we are engaging in this, um, to bring this conversation and kind the thoughts behind different decisions and conversations, um, to a bigger audience with schoolwork and our staff. Um, what we know is, is, um, you know, it, it's, it's one thing for us to have meetings or schedule meetings and even involve the right people in meetings. Um, but, but the real work happens in the classroom and, uh, and in our schools. And so, uh, the intent, um, and, and the focus with, with schoolwork is to bring that conversation to a bigger group of folks, um, to do that kind of monthly as we move forward. Um, and to really have a transparent look into what's going on. What are the efforts that are there? 

Speaker 3 (01:02:55):

How are we dealing with challenges? How are we working to break down barriers, um, not only for our kids, but for ourself as, as those who work with them. Um, and, and we're excited again, bear with us. We'll, we'll spice this up and make it better. Susan's gonna get all of us to kind of relax a little bit more and, and, um, have a good time with, with this conversation each month. And, um, and, and we appreciate you hanging with us, and we look forward to sharing more as we move forward during the, um, 20 20 20 21, um, school year, um, and our conversations in schoolwork.