Podcast

TnT 86 How Open Middle Math lessons can get your students addicted to math

Math tends to be one of those subjects that kids either understand and love or are completely befuddled by and hate. New math teachers often find themselves struggling between teaching procedures versus concepts. Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of controversy in terms of which way leads to greater student success. In this interview, Robert Kaplinsky of openmiddle.com lets us in on why Common Core is given such a bad rap, the concept of Open Middle Math (and if you’re a math teacher who hasn’t heard of it, you’re in for a treat), and then we both get into the complicated discussion of grading.

Where to find Robert:

Open Middle Math

RobertKaplinsky.com

Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook

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Listeners who leave a voicemail will be eligible to receive a FREE Teachers Need Teachers sticker! Click HERE to find out more!

Got questions, feedback, or want to be on the show?

You can email me at kim@teachersneedteachers.com

Connect with me

TnT 85 How to set yourself up for success with station rotations

In the last episode, we covered why teachers should incorporate station rotations into their teaching, the logistics of planning for them, and how they can help with differentiation and classroom management. But if you’ve done them in the past and they were a disaster, chances are you didn’t set them up properly. Today I bring Laura Kebart back to discuss how to use stations for small group instruction as well as how to train your students so that your stations are a success.

Where you can find Laura:

languageartsteachers.com

The station rotation freebie:

languageartsteachers.com/easystations

Sign up for the New Educator Conference in either San Diego or Santa Clara, CA!

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SUPPORT THE PODCAST!

Want to ask a question and be featured on the podcast?

Let your voice be heard! Click here to find out how you can be a part of the podcast by asking a question!

Listeners who leave a voicemail will be eligible to receive a FREE Teachers Need Teachers sticker! Click HERE to find out more!

Got questions, feedback, or want to be on the show?

You can email me at kim@teachersneedteachers.com

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TnT 84 Why station rotations can positively impact your teaching practice

A lot of teachers have different strategies for cooperative learning or to facilitate more engaging learning experiences. One that most know of and not enough try is station rotations. I’d seen these done with various teachers and even dipped my toe in a bit, but I wanted to know more about how to do them effectively. So I invited my friend, Laura Kebart from languageartsteachers.com, who is an expert on making stations fit within the context of your class. We go into what stations are, why we should use them, how to group students, how to create an assignment that lends itself to stations, how to make them work in a 45-minute period, classroom management, AND grading.

Where you can find Laura:

languageartsteachers.com

Sign up for the New Educator Conference in either San Diego or Santa Clara, CA!

Love this show?

SUPPORT THE PODCAST!

Want to ask a question and be featured on the podcast?

Let your voice be heard! Click here to find out how you can be a part of the podcast by asking a question!

Listeners who leave a voicemail will be eligible to receive a FREE Teachers Need Teachers sticker! Click HERE to find out more!

Got questions, feedback, or want to be on the show?

You can email me at kim@teachersneedteachers.com

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Kim  

I’m super excited about this episode because not only do I want to learn more about stations, I want to try to convince you to give them a shot as well. I’m always looking for ways for students to stay engaged and to create deeper learning experiences for them. And I think stations are really going to change up how I do things. 

 

Kim  

Well, thank you, Laura, so much for being on the podcast. I really appreciate you taking the time to do this.

 

Laura  

Oh my gosh, I’m so happy to be here. Kim, happy to talk to you and we’re ready to go. Yeah.

 

Kim  

So about a year ago, actually, you were on the podcast. And you know, we have you back with For those who haven’t heard that episode that you were on, could you tell my listeners more about what you do?

 

Laura  

Oh, sure, yes. So I serve middle school English language arts teachers by providing full curriculum and instructional coaching. So that involves embedding, reading, writing, speaking, listening all those skills into the lessons, and I work with teachers all across the country at this point who either have no resources, or they have too many resources and lots of flexibility. And you know, teachers who were told Oh, just teach the standard, you’ll be fine. Well, what does that mean? 

 

Laura  

And so I provide those resources and that instructional coaching to them and I do it in a way that’s completely realistic. I really take the whole teacher into account when I’m providing advice or instructional coaching in other words, what’s your what’s going on with your family at home? What do you like to do on the weekends? What’s happening in your life outside of school, so that I’m always providing information and resources that make sense for them where they are. 

 

Laura  

So I will never tell a teacher you need to put together this whole project, it’s going to, you know, you ever been to those workshops and conferences and you think, wait, if I was actually going to do that, that would take hours every night, right? And, you know, so I just I never offer that kind of advice. So I serve in a very realistic way. The teachers you know, who are in our membership, so I serve these teachers through membership so that I can provide consistent support and resources every month all year long.

 

Kim  

And what’s great about that is I’ve always recommended to my listeners, especially when they’re starting out to not create their own lessons, because it just it takes a long time, number one and number two, you kind of don’t really know what’s going to work. I think that it’s better to you use other people’s lessons that are vetted and that have worked in the past, you know, they’ve worked out all the kinks. 

 

And with a subscription service like yours for middle school, la Teachers, that overwhelm of Okay, am I covering all of the standards? Am I, you know, doing everything that I’m supposed to do? And then they still have to grade? And then they still have to answer parent emails. 

 

So when you use somebody else’s resources, it just takes one more step in this step that takes up a lot of time. And I think it also helps eliminate that Sunday fear, where what am I going to do tomorrow? Well, if you are using your service, it’s like here, this is what you’re going to do for the next month. You know, it’s already planned out and they don’t have to worry, that’s one less thing for them to worry about.

 

Laura  

Yeah, it’s true and it opens up so much bandwidth, to be able to actually build relationships with your students. So instead of thinking about all the things you’ve got to do, and the random Random resources online and you know, spread out all over the place. You’re trying to kind of Frankenstein your plans together, or you have no resources and you’re trying to invent something scratch that takes so much emotional and mental bandwidth. And then you’re doubting yourself, Is this enough? And, you know, we’re Teachers, it’ll never be enough. 

 

Laura  

So we put that pressure on ourselves. But you know, to have that part, taken off your plate opens up so many more possibilities to just get to know your kids and to build those relationships. And, you know, rather than focusing on what is going to happen the next day in class, because now you’re out of lesson plans, or you don’t have anyone to ask about it, so right. I really enjoy serving in that way.

 

Kim  

Now, the reason why I brought you back this time, is because I want to know more about stations. I’ve heard of other teachers using stations. I tried it in the beginning of the year, and it was really cool. My students were into it, but I still kind of feel like I could be better about it. I don’t know, I was a little bit overwhelmed with it, it was actually super exhausting. So for those of us that either have never used stations or maybe we’ve only dabbled Can you explain how they work?

 

Laura  

To answer that question, so much of what we think about stations comes from seeing how they’re supposed to look after months and months and months of prep time. Or it’s like seeing the final product and not understanding what it takes to get there. And nobody really talks about what it takes to get there. So I know for me, I’ve been through you know, so many workshops and professional developments just like everyone else, and you know, stations, this is what you’re doing and they show you what it’s supposed to look like, but there’s nothing about how to get there. 

 

Laura  

So people who have never used stations, what it is is stations allow students to work for a very specific amount of time. On a very focused piece of content, and then they rotate to another type of work, they can physically get up and go to another table where that next assignment is already there for them. Or if you have a large class or a wonky class, and you don’t want them giving up, because we’ve all been there, um, sometimes the students stay seated and the work itself can rotate. 

 

Laura  

So the point is that students have a very specific amount of time to work on a very focused piece of content. And that’s what makes it so different from just group work. You think well, how’s it different from group work, but group were kind of has a, I don’t know, kind of a connotation that there’s no real star, there’s no real and everyone’s kind of working together and you end up with the one kid who writes in the other, just kind of sit there and you know, gets out of hand. So stations are a lot more strategic is what it is, and it allows for differentiation, which we can get into later. But that’s really the way to think about it is that it’s a special civic amount of time, the students are working on a very specific assignment.

 

Kim  

Okay, so it sounds like you’re more of a proponent for stations compared to just regular group work.

 

Laura  

In most cases, it depends on what you want to happen. So if you want to use stations in other words, if you want your students to slow down, you know you’ve got these fast workers, right? I’m done after five seconds. If you want students to really focus on one thing at a time, give their best effort. If you want your students to not feel overwhelmed. If you want your students to feel successful with just one thing at a time, then that stations now group work there’s nothing wrong with group work. 

 

Laura  

But if your intention is I just need my kids to work together in groups because I’ve got a splitting headache and it’s Friday and it’s 240. Go for it. That’s fine. You know, or if it really is a group project, and you need your students working in groups on the project, that may be a different situation, but stations are just a lot more strategic. And they really allow the teacher to differentiate without doing a whole lot of extra work. So group work is not going to have much differentiation involved. Not typically, you know, and I don’t want to say never, because I know there’s someone out there who will argue, and that’s not the point. It’s just that stations are very, very strategic, whereas group work is a lot more open.

 

Kim  

Okay, so then what do I need to take into consideration in terms of like the classroom layout and how I split up the students to make stations more efficient and make them work better?

 

Laura  

Yeah, and you know, this is going to depend on your group of students, it’s going to depend on the time of day, you may have to approach stations a little bit differently, let’s say after lunch, then maybe before lunch, but it’s you know, you have to think about how many minutes you have in your class period. You’ve got to think about the behaviors in each class, the student dynamics, really looking at which students work well together, which ones don’t. 

 

Laura  

And so, you know, it’s interesting, because we may have listeners right now who are thinking, well wait a second, it should depend on reading level, it should depend on, you know, Lexile or, well, yes, we’re going to get to that as we go. But when you’re just getting started with stations, none of those other things matter. If your students are not working, if they’re not working the way they should, if they’re not getting along with each other, those other pieces don’t matter. So when we’re starting out, we need to consider how much time we actually have for stations per day. And which students work well together and which ones should never be together because that’s just the reality. Right?

 

Kim  

And then is there a better layout for the physical movement that you’ve seen like? Should everyone be at opposite corners of the room or

 

Laura  

Do you know what I mean? I do yeah, I know what you’re saying. And again, that’s going to depend on your students. As you get to know your students throughout the year. You’ll know which ones are okay. Kind of back in a corner working and you know which ones you would never have. Okay over there on that part of the room. When we’re getting started with stations, though, I do want everyone sitting in a chair. Now if you know flexible seating, that’s different, but I need to see all of my students I need to be able to see what they’re doing. I want everything out in the open. 

 

Laura  

And then as we move through the year as I get used to the stations, as the students are getting used to the stations as they’re working up to my standards, then I can start to be more flexible. Yes, you three can go and sit on the pillows over there. Yes, it’s fine for you to go over, you know what I mean? But starting out, I’m I recommend being a little bit more strict about it. 

 

Laura  

You just want to make sure that Visually you can see and hear your students and get to them quickly as you’re going through those initial setup, you know, set up procedures for training them on stations. And I mean, we can talk about how to train your students for stations too. But okay, yeah, but for the layout, I really want my students to have space to work, and I need to be able to see and hear what’s going on.

 

Kim  

Right. And so now if I decide that, you know, I haven’t figured out in my head, like how the layout is going to be and who can go where what should I consider when I’m creating an assignment for stations?

 

Laura  

Oh, my gosh, that’s a great question. So well, first of all, whatever the assignment is at that station, is it the type of assignment the students have actually done before in your class? So Well, yes, they’ve done vote. Yes, we do vocabulary every week, okay. But is this a totally different way? that they’re using the vocabulary because if so, That’s it’s going to bring up some questions. And so the point of stations is that ultimately you need to get your kids to the point where they can work independently the other institutions, but you know what I mean, they can work independently, without having to ask the teacher a question every two seconds, it really needs to be an assignment that they’ve done before, or that’s very, very similar to what they’ve done before. 

 

Laura  

So when you’re getting started with stations, give them something to do that is very similar to what you’ve done before. So maybe, maybe it’s annotations. Let’s say you’ve been working on poetry annotations. So you know that they can do it whole class, you feel confident that they can handle it. They’ve done it before they’ve seen the work before. So give them a very similar assignment. Something that’s been done before that’s really important. Do they know what their work is supposed to look like? So again, if it’s a similar, you know, if it’s an assignment that similar to what they’ve done before, then they know what their work is supposed to look like if you’re giving them something new. thinking, Oh, well, they’re working together, they can figure it out. They may or may not figure it out. And they may or may not use that as a perfect excuse to not really put forth their best effort because they can always fall back on the well, we weren’t sure what to do. And we know they know that sometimes, you know, it’s just it’s so much easier when you’re starting out with stations if you do. 

 

Laura  

If you provide an assignment that is similar to what they’ve done before, they need to know what their work is supposed to look like as well, which goes back to your expectations, right? So you know, and when we’re creating an assignment for stations, it’s, it’s important that students know what to do when they’re done. So let’s say you’ve got a short 45-minute class. And let’s say you plan on having students do you know, to 20-minute rotations, maybe that’s all you can do that day, right? Um, students need to know what to do when time is up, so or they need to know what to do if they look up and they see your timers. And they’ve still got four minutes. That’s something else to consider as well. 

 

Laura  

So if you’re creating an assignment for stations and you know, they’re only going to have 20 minutes, is the assignment going to be too long? Is it maybe not long enough? Or do you have procedures in place? So the students know what to do next? Or where do they put their work? How do they submitted to you. So those are definitely some things to consider when you’re setting up an assignment for stations. And on that note, when you’re first starting out with stations, I recommend actually giving all of your I’m going to use the word groups here. I recommend giving all of your groups the same assignment because when you’re first training your students, it’s not even about the assignment. It’s about making sure they know what to do without you. Making sure that they know what to do if they finish a little bit early, or what to do. If you know the timer goes off, and they’re not done yet, what the quality of work looks like and so you That’s the other thing too, that is so much easier for teachers starting out with stations. 

 

Laura  

It’s like we’re taught that we need, you know, eight stations in the room and every station is something different. And that’s how we get started, oh my gosh, no. Start with however many groups you need. And just give them all the same assignment because we’re not ready for differentiation yet. We’re not ready to let the kids complete and figure out everything on their own. It’s just a step. It’s a step to figure out who should never be sitting together. Are they completing the assignment with the same level of quality that they would if they were not in a station?

 

Kim  

So that answers my next call. That leads me to my next question is classroom management because, you know, you did mention like some students can and cannot handle it. And of course, that’s the reality. There’s got to be some trust built into there, but it In my mind, it kind of sounds chaotic. And how can I make sure that everyone is actually working when it appears to be complete chaos?

 

Laura  

Yes. And I know what you’re talking about. Yes, complete chaos. And this is the fear that causes many teachers to either give up very quickly on stations or don’t even try them because they don’t even want to go there. And I get that, like, why would you want more chaos to your classroom than what’s already there? So, okay, one tool, I guess that really helps ensure that all students are working, rather than doing what something they’re supposed to be doing, which brings chaos is really using your teacher station strategically. 

 

Laura  

The teacher station is it’s literally just you may be sitting down at a table, not your teacher desk unless your teacher desk is a table but it’s you as a teacher sitting down at a table with a small group of students in front of you. Maybe the goal is you want to do a mini-lesson with them. Maybe you want to extend the lesson for your more advanced students. Maybe you want to just make sure you know you’re closing some gaps, whatever the purpose is of the teacher station when you’re first starting out, you can use the teacher station very strategically to help ensure that your students are actually doing what they’re supposed to be doing. So here’s the deal. 

 

Laura  

Once you feel confident that your students are completing the assignment you gave them and stations, they know what to do if they finished early, they know what to do if you know time is up, and there’s so much done. The quality of work is about where it should be. You can start using the teacher station as a classroom management tool. And so the way this works is you sit down at your teacher station and this is good. You want your students to see that sometimes you sit down and sometimes you’re up, keep them on their toes. 

 

Laura  

So when You sit down your teacher station, the first time you do this, don’t just pull up a group. Well, I need to pull my low group because I need No, don’t do that. Because what happens is now I’m not saying you don’t ever do that I’m saying this is all, in the beginning, this we’re starting out or you know. So instead of pulling one group of students to come and sit with you, so you can reteach or whatever, pull a student from each station over to you. Because what this does is you pull a whole group to you, what are all the other groups in the class thinking for about the next five or 10 minutes? You know, like, oh, we’re off the hook. Okay. She called group a good writer work, you know, but when, when you’re training your students when you’re wanting to hold them accountable for their work. There’s nothing wrong with pulling one kid from each group, pulling it from this group pulling it from that group. Call her names out, have them come to you. And when they come to you, they bring their work with them. Because this is not group work where there’s like one paper for each kid or you know, they’re working in stations, they’re working together, they’re allowed to talk with each other. But ultimately, they’re responsible for their own work. 

 

Laura  

And so when you call their names, they bring those papers to you. Or if you’re, you know, or your one to one device, whatever your situation is, but they have to bring their work to you. And so they sit down with you. And you’re just looking at the work. The point is not to create it. The point is, not to reteach something. The point is not to go in deep with something right now, the point is to get your kids get used to you calling names. They’re getting used to you holding them accountable, they know that you’re going to be looking at their work. And this is just a quick check. 

 

Laura  

And in the beginning, they’re not sitting down with you for 20 minutes. Right now. We’re still in the early stages of training our students for stations So you call, you know, four or five kids over to you. They’re all from different groups in the classroom. They come to you. And maybe you’re just checking in. Maybe you’re just looking at Oh, I noticed you skipped number two. Are you doing okay with that? That’s great, that’s a great checkpoint. Just checking. Hey, I noticed You’re almost done. And we have 14 minutes left in her station. Oh, why do you think you went so quickly? You know, or it’s not a gotcha. It’s not you’re not looking for anything to get them on. It’s just to let kids know that you are always looking, you’re always checking and they have to bring their work to you. 

 

Laura  

Oh, I noticed you don’t have anything on your paper. Tony, what’s going on? You’re not accusing them you’re not, you know, you’re just opening up that dialogue. And so, you know, listeners might now think, well wait a second, but what if we are at the point where each station is doing something different? That’s okay. You can still do this because you’re just checking in. You’re just checking in with them. This whole thing could be three, four or five minutes. That’s it, you send them back to their stations, and then maybe you call another four or five kids. 

 

Laura  

And the beauty of this too, is that when we’re talking about training our students for stations, if your students are in the station, and maybe there’s a mistake, maybe there’s a typo on your instruction sheet. Maybe they truly cannot figure something out and they’re stuck. Well, if they know that anyone from their group could be called it anytime, then they know that they’ll be able to come to you and ask a question like, well, I’m really stuck on number two. I don’t even think number two is right. I think we read this. I think mister mister mister herb is so and so. Made a mistake. Well, okay, so I’m gonna jot that down on a sticky note the next time she calls someone from our table, take that question to her. Okay, yeah. So you just turn your students into problem solvers. They can skip whatever is holding them up, they can move on. And you as a teacher doing these quick check-ins, it gives you a chance to address or questions as well, that’s really good for relationship building too.

 

Kim  

And you do get a chance to see their work and, you know, mini-conference with them to which there’s that already, you’re setting that expectation that they’re going to show you their work, and you’re going to talk to them about it.

 

Laura  

Exactly. And, you know, on that note, if you pull, you know, maybe four or five kids from random groups over to you, and if you see a red flag with one of the ones you called, it’s okay. Just you can do the check-in, send the others back. And then you can do a quick reteach or get them back on track or you know, whatever the situation is. So, you know, it just, it allows for flexibility as you and the students are figuring out this concept, this concept of stations in the classroom, you’re not locking yourself into where my kids had better be a because I’ve got to sit down with this group of students for 20 minutes because we need to do this guided reading activity or I need to get their minutes in. Yes, there’s a lot of pressure to do that. But realistically, you will be able to do that if you’re putting these other pieces in place first.

 

Kim  

Okay, so then when they’re coming, and I’m checking all of their work and have you ever experienced where students are sort of like reluctant to show you their work because they get anything done or while you’re working with the groups, other people are being off task?

 

Laura  

Absolutely. I mean, their kids, it does happen, for sure. And here’s the thing, these strategies will make a huge difference in those kids who are on the fence like they could go this way or they could go that way. But when they know you’re checking, it’s going to help them choose the right direction to go. And now are you gonna have some kids who no matter what you do, are still going to be off task. Yes, but it’s going to be much fewer and it gives you a chance to actually see you.

 

Laura  

You know, because if you’re checking in with kids and you start to notice, okay, it’s the same kid over and over or you know, in some cases, let’s be realistic, it’s the same kids over and over, you’re able to document that. And so you can have a clipboard sitting next to you and they don’t need to see what you’re writing, you know, let you know, let them wonder what you’re writing. It doesn’t matter. But, but you can start just very quickly jotting down notes about how often it happens. Who’s not working consistently like over I’m not talking about one kid one day doesn’t feel good isn’t working. I’m talking about when you start to notice those red flags over and over and over. You are covering yourself because now you’ve got documentation that proves that you’ve been checking in with your students because of course if this goes to a point where the parent says all they do is working groups, you Don’t ever check on them. That is not true. And you have documentation to back it up.

 

Kim  

Oh, that’s good. Yeah. Now how about grading? Do you grade everything that they do in the stations? Because I’ve seen the stations where there’s a different assignment for each station. And I couldn’t even get through all the grading Laura there were like eight stations, which means that times 176.

 

Laura  

No, yeah, whatever that number is no way. Okay, so two things here. First of all, if you need eight stations in your classroom, because let’s say you have that many kids, right like you’ve gotten 30-35 kids you need a station because you don’t want 10 Kids each station That’s ridiculous. If you eight stations, your classroom that does not mean that you need eight different assignments. If you could, you could have four assignments and maybe you have like, there to station to station Bs, you know what I mean to station sees. So right there that cuts the word coat and half. 

 

Laura  

The other thing too, is that you can take a regular assignment, let’s just use the example of a terribly boring 10 question worksheet, I now use the W word which everyone frowns upon. But let’s just say you have a terribly boring 10 question worksheet. Well, for stations, I mean, you can cut, cut that worksheet into five parts or cut that worksheet into four parts. And maybe each station ends up with two questions. Let’s say you only have 15 or 20 minutes for a station. Okay, we’ll let them as a station choose which of those two questions they’re going to answer. I guarantee you will get such a better answer when they’re only responding to one question. And they’ve got 15 or 20 minutes to do it. 

 

Laura  

On better be a fantastic question, especially if you’ve been working on Short answer writing if you’ve been working on, you know, restating the question from the prompt, pulling in a quote, embedding it, adding in some commentaries and text evidence to support that can easily be that one question could easily turn into a 15 or 20 minute assignment. And the focus that they’re going to put in on that question is going to be so much deeper. 

 

Laura  

So right there, we’re not talking about creating eight different activities. That’s, that’s insane. That’s the stuff that Teachers fear, I’m going to be up all night long creating these eight different station activities, because I was told I have to do station, you know, you can take something you already have and just split it up, break it apart, cut it up, and let students really just focus in on one or two things and the quality of work is going to be so much better, because they’re not looking at a worksheet with 10 questions that they are just going to throw any answer down at all to get through it. Okay, I’m done. 10 questions. Great. I’m done. It’s going to be a lot more focused. That’s the first thing. 

 

Laura  

And then the second part of that is, what was the second part of the grading? That’s right. Here’s the thing, when you’re pulling kids up to you, when you’re doing these quick little check-ins, just these five minute little check-ins, you know, you can tell so much about what a student understands, just by talking with them. So if you’re worried that your students are they’re just, they’re just all copying each other. Yeah, I agree. They have their own work, but it’s really not their work. They’re just copying each other. Okay? Well, when they come to you, make them hand their papers to you. And just you know, so they can’t look at them again, but and just just talk about what’s going on. 

 

Laura  

So just look at their paper, look at the questions and just one at a time. Just ask them. If they can explain it back to you. They’ve got it right. And if they’ve got it, could you record a grade? Right there? Oh, good point. Yeah, right there. Have a clipboard sitting there, how your laptop up and just put a note in there. Especially if your standards-based, I mean, if they’ve got it, they’ve got it. If they don’t have it, and you know, they need more practice. Could you give them a temporary grade? Could you give them a little grade and progress? Could you just jot something down next to their name on your roster? So that you know, okay, well, he’s got about 75% of it. And maybe that’s not the real grade. But you know, he’s got about 75% of it. 

 

Laura  

So right there, okay, I’m gonna call him back up. I’m gonna give him a little, you know, a little something to think about. And then I’m gonna call him back up later in class or call him back up tomorrow, and I’m going to look for him to improve upon that. 75% Okay, and then this kid, okay. Wow. I mean, he barely wrote anything on his paper, but wow, we just had a pretty good discussion and two or three minutes. He’s got it. Um, I’m going to encourage him to go back and write it down. But in my grade book, I’m, I’m giving him full credit. He got it. Right. He got it. Yeah. Yeah. So that’s how I handle a lot of the grading. It takes so much pressure off of you. was a teacher to bring home all these stacks of papers. And it’s really good, authentic in time feedback for your kids now they don’t need to know what you’re writing down. If you’re doing this all the time, they’re used to it, they’re using you miss this. So as I was always writing stuff down, I don’t know what she’s doing.

 

Laura  

You know, because I don’t want to, I don’t want to give a kid you know, a perfect score in the first 10 minutes of class and then he goes off and thinks he’s done for the day. But at the same time, I need to record for myself that oh my gosh, this kid has it and I’m probably going to need to extend him a little bit. So and there are other ways that you can handle you know, the grading issue if you know that something is just practice like you really just need them to practice. middle school kids still love stamps and stickers. 

 

Laura  

I mean, if you have a stamp collection not you know, like postage stamps and talking about you know, I have I have a stamp collection like Cookie Monster stamps a rainbow stamp a cupcake stamp but footballs to happen to just have a sitting there and you know, and just talk about Your kids, hey, show me what you like best about this particular paragraph you just wrote, oh, I really liked that I finally figured out how to use a quotation from this text. Great. How about a football stamp? I like that too. Good job. They’re not too old for that. They love it. So there are different ways to assess their different ways to interact with what your kids are doing. And behind the scenes off to the side, if you know they’ve got the concept, give them a grade, you know, just give them a grade and be done with it. Are you going to get through 100 kids in one day with all your classes? No. But I mean, my goodness, if you could get through half of them, right. What would that do to your grading load?

 

Kim  

And then I wouldn’t have to grade outside of school ever again.

 

Laura  

Yeah, and the the assessment is authentic. I mean, it’s meaningful to them. It’s certainly helpful to you, and right there in the moment. Do you know who’s struggling you Who you need to circle back with? And you know who’s writing for something else?

 

Kim  

Can you guys believe how much Laura just covered? I’ve already learned so much from just this conversation right now. And next week, she’s going to tell us how to train our kids for stations, and how to incorporate small group instruction. So here are my key takeaways from today’s conversation. 

 

First, stations aren’t just an alternative to or a fancy way of doing group work. At their simplest stations allow students to hone in on a specific skill and really show mastery of that. So rather than just having students sit and write a science lab, each part of that lab can be split up so that they can focus on one task and make sure it’s really really good. soon as they’re still doing their own work, but they’re working cooperatively through a task. 

 

Second, you don’t need to spend a lot of time doing stations. So even if you only have a 45 minutes period, you can benefit from them. Don’t focus so much on the number of rotations or stations with different activities. Instead, consider how you can split up groups, whether it be by personalities and or levels, and what you can have them accomplish before they switch tasks. You obviously have complete control over how long each station takes. So don’t get hung up on those details. 

 

Now, finally, stations don’t have to be a classroom management and grading nightmare. I originally thought that this is what it was going to be like from my one experience. But you know, Laura gave us some really good advice on how to monitor students with the teacher station, and I’m definitely going to steal her idea but streamlining the grading process with students so that they meet you at the station. So I’m a huge fan of that teacher station part. 

 

So next week I have the second part of this conversation or Laura goes into how to incorporate small group and structure And she breaks down How to Train Your students for stations. You don’t want to miss that. Now, remember, you don’t want to just dive into stations and see how it goes because you just might become overwhelmed and quit like I did. Laura has a systematic method for doing this at ease them into stations, and it’s definitely worth coming back for. Plus, if you come back next week, are you listening? She’s offering a freebie that you can use with your stations. So you can’t get that freebie download unless you come back next week. So of course, then be sure to look down at the device you’re listening on and hit subscribe. That way you won’t miss out on that episode or honestly any week’s episode. Thanks again for hanging out with me today and have a fabulous week.

 

TnT 83 The founders of Prac-E tell us how new teachers can survive in difficult schools

New teachers come out of their practicum excited and ready to dive head-first into teaching. But they often run into the problem of trying to decide which schools to teach at, being a positive force for students with difficult home lives, and a long list of other serious issues. How do they know if a school is right for them? How can they handle being a long-term substitute or start in the middle of the year? In this special interview with Liam Auliciems and Scott Harding, the founders of Prac-E, we answer these questions plus discuss what to do if your school has a toxic culture.

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Kim  

I have a fun and informative interview with Liam Auliciems and Scott Harding, the co-founders of Prac-E. I was originally in contact with Liam through our mutual respect for each other’s work since we both have a mission of helping new teachers. I was particularly impressed with their symposiums for new teachers that Scott and Liam will talk more about, as well as all of the tips and hacks they provide through different types of media. I really enjoy the videos they put on Instagram and YouTube so you guys should definitely check those out, too.

 

Now a little bit about them. Scott is a veteran teacher of more than 22 years and he’s taught in every type of school out there both in his native England, as well as Australia where he’s lived for quite some time. He’s passionate about mentoring beginning teachers and gives us a lot of practical advice on this episode that I know you’re going to find valuable. 

And Liam, who used to be one of Scott’s students, is an education entrepreneur. academic researcher, registered teacher, and a post-grad master student. His teaching experience ranges from being a residential tutor in a private school to volunteering to support some of Australia’s lowest socioeconomic students. And you’ll hear him go into that when we have our conversation. 

As the three of us get into the thick of it, you’ll notice that there are a surprisingly large number of parallels between the problems we face here in the US with Australia, the same teacher shortages, the same frustrations with pre-service programs, the same concerns about the work environment and classroom management are there in two completely different continents across the ocean. Now, I won’t make you wait any longer for this. So here’s my interview with Liam and Scott. Thank you, Scott, and Liam, for being on the podcast. I really appreciate you taking the time all the way from Australia.

 

Prac-E  

Thank you very much. We’re very happy to be here. It’s amazing when we started off this idea a few years ago the last thing that could ever have imagined that we would have enough slides right someone in America is Dr. Have no idea so it’s amazing so thank you so much for having us.

 

Kim  

Yes thank you well now since you brought it up How did you guys get started with Prac-E like the idea of the name everything?

 

Prac-E  

Well I actually taught him of all things is I survived which is nice. I taught him and then he came on prac at my school so basically started out you know, as a substitute teacher at ours and we were chatting one day said look, there is a formal process for for mentoring people we talk we made up on the fly almost there was no specific guiding process for me as an experienced teacher to him. 

So, we work very closely together and we worked at a good working relationship and there was nothing there’s no manual there was nothing to follow. And I said how many people in the first off 2, 3, 4 years their career get no guidance in my huge and you look at the drop out rights was global, you know, not just America. But here in Australia, certainly back home for me in England, I’m English by the way, sorry. I just my accents in advance. And you know, the dropout rates approaching 50 is nothing higher 50% and you look at it and go, a lot of that has to do with the fact that people aren’t, aren’t feeling supported, or there’s a gap between what they’re told in the university, or what they’re told and lectures and the reality of teaching. 

And it’s, it’s alarming if you’re an experienced teacher and you’re expecting people’s coming behind you as a generation. Where’s that going to come from? If people are dropping in this all the time, it’s not going to, it’s not going to be, you know, something that’s supportive, you know, for any kind of batch of education, really, whether it’s private or public. You know, I was able to see it firsthand as well through my university. 

Every time we went, we came back from our practical experience out on school, my cohort had literally halved. We basically had a lecture theatre where we sat 400, 500 students. And then we came to the first lecture post-prac. And it was compulsory to rock up and only eight students were there, including myself on the Hunger Games show. And from what I’ve heard, there was a massive discrepancy between what we’re being told we were in store for. 

And then the reality of the situation once we went out and to prac, and I had people peace of mind out on prac. They had a nightmare listen as any of us do, but they didn’t have that support network or the context to put in why that not man lesson particularly happened. So they blamed it all on themselves. And then you asked where John went because it’s period one and he’s not here. And then his mentor, he goes out, he dropped out last night. And he goes, it’s so there was only so much of that that I could take before we had to step in and come up with some sort of model to actually meet these needs. 

And I think that’s where Prac-E originated from? Yeah, we know, from my perspective, certainly I’ve been teaching for 22 years now. And, you know, I can’t in good conscience sit there and watch that. I mean, I really can’t. I’m looking at that and going, there are so many good minds and so many great potential career teachers going to waste because they’re not feeling supported or, or mentor or cancel properly and we all have bad lessons happens. I mean, it’s whether you have bad days than bad weeks and then bad months, that’s a different thing completely. 

But you can see where people would catastrophizing go, Well, I’m, clearly I’m not cut out for this. If I have two or three bad lessons for the classes resistant to them, you know, and they just because as far as I know, it shouldn’t be a teacher. Just stop. must happen to a lot of people in Australia. 

So Scott mentioned that just before we have this thing called the teacher drought, where basically the teachers within the first five years of their careers especially dropping out and then astounding, It is debated whether how high the stats go, some statisticians say that upwards of 50 to 60% of teachers drop out of the profession. We also have the same themes here with the university because a lot of people are saying, you know what I’m learning in the university. It’s a lot of theory. It’s not anything that’s practical. And then so the one I go to my student teaching or practical experience, I feel like I’m completely unprepared and I’m eaten alive. 

 

Kim

I don’t know what why do you guys think that this is so common, though, you think that they would have higher standards for preparing teachers?

 

Prac-E

We are running universities then because I’m sure they do a fine job and in terms of the academic theory, etc, is the practical knowledge that people want is people want to know what happens if a kid throws a chair at me. What happens is, you know, what happens if you know my technology fails on me, which is, you know, technology Driven classrooms is such a thing that But what happens if the internet goes down? What do I do then? How do I cope? I don’t feel that silence. And it’s that it’s the idea of the terrifying silence when you first get up and people looking at you. 

And when we first started, Prac-E, we were discussing how the model should actually look. And obviously, what if you get a whole bunch of teachers in a room? Usually, the discussion goes to debates around big pictures kind of stumped and loaders. Whereas usually, with beginning teachers and university and college students in particular, sometimes we wonder, just the tiniest things that may be an experienced station may take for granted. For example, I have a million resources yet my lessons keep going short by 15 minutes, you know, and then I’ve got this dead air, like, why is this happening? And there are so many little tiny questions that beginning teachers have that don’t get covered in a unit or don’t get covered in a lecture. So Frankie really wanted to be practical. 

So we wanted to hit those tiny little questions that probably caused the most anxiety before you go out on placement, and basically this comes up and gets experienced teachers and change. Yeah, change the context and go, Well, what are those tiny little things? Let’s nail the mole within an hour and a half, two hours. And then from there, you’ll have a bit more experience. So when it happens, it’s not happening for the first time. But the question is what keeps you awake at 2am? In the morning? Yeah, right.

 

Kim  

So then what do you guys actually do with Prac-E? Like, I know that you had some symposiums? And like, how do you get people to go to that? Who are you targeting? What does your model look like?

 

Prac-E  

So Prac-E split into two halves. First half of Prac-E symposiums were a panel of varied panel of experienced teachers aim to demystify the teaching profession for pre-service teachers and early career teachers and a q and a format, every single perspective that you could possibly imagine and we basically sit them down in a panel and Prac-E actually doesn’t present any content ourselves. It comes from the audience. So we have a lot Link as the audience can come through, which links to an online forum, and then it links to me the host, so they can literally ask any anonymous question to this panel for two hours. 

The other half of Prac-E is digital media. So we basically could use the exact same approach to the symposiums. But for ongoing written or written word, audio and video. So we do a series like ask Prac-E anything where the teachers can send in real niche context questions, we answer them in real-time. Hopefully, it’s something that applies across international context anyway, because there’s just universality to a lot of the issues that people face, irrespective of the testing regimes and, and freedom that you’re given or not given rather from the government. Hopefully, there’s some kind of universal application for everyone who listens.

 

Kim  

What factors do you think a new teacher should consider when deciding whether or not they want to even apply for a school? I mean, do you recommend the A new teacher just take whatever job they can get.

 

Prac-E  

We get this question a lot during Prac-E, because obviously, the target market are going out into the profession. And they don’t know. I mean, I’ve worked in some horrible places in when I was a barista working in cafes. So I know the variants of workplace can have on everything, your mindset, your well being. So it’s a big issue for beginning teachers. They obviously want to find a school that they can succeed at. But the problem is, is that like you said, How do you know what that is until you’ve landed the job you have to go in and you have to do diligence, first of all for what you’re going into, you know, that’s, that’s the first thing you’ve got to know and do your research. 

So if you do get a position, and you accept one, you have to have researched it well beforehand. The I mean, so if you know you’re going to be going into an area where there are challenges, you are least ready for those challenges, and then your criteria may well be a little bit different as a result of that. I mean, so for instance, with the low socio economic area, maybe attendance new class, you know, you’re going, if 80, 90% of them are consistently come into your class, and you know, other statistics in the School of 50, 60%, you’re doing well, you know, and yes, it might be physically taxing on you. And you might only last two, three years within the system, for you feel you need to change. But what a way to start your career. And that’s how to get through your first five years is to is to have those success criteria in your own mind as to what you wish to achieve.

 

Kim  

So do you think that go for it, then just go and see how the chips fall?

 

Prac-E  

I think so. I mean, the end of the day, we all start somewhere. I mean, we all start somewhere, and it might be something you didn’t expect to happen happens. I mean, it might be you look at the school and you first come and go, I’m not sure about this. And then six weeks later, you fall in love with it. And as a beginning teacher, there are a lot of things that you can do to fleshes school out and see what they’re like. It’s also beginning that journey to deciding your own pedagogical views as well. 

I mean, when I started my degree, I had just come out of kind of the more private independent sector. And that’s personally where I thought that I was going to go yet through experience in those sectors. And I thought, Well, maybe not, maybe I need to go do this. That’d be I need to go do that. So I think keep your options open. And really ask yourself what you believe in it pedagogy that may be done through further research or practical experience. There’s a lot of things you can do such as, you know, get your foot in the door, volunteering at a school shooter at a school. Coaches sporting team, something along those lines, and then you can actually because if you base all of your opinions about a school or a sector based on an advertising pamphlet, yeah, that’s exactly right. It is it’s a promotional pamphlet, and that may not be the reality of the situation everyone’s going to make up on. 

So get your foot in the door, and actually have tangible solutions. And also that goes a long way to landing a job as well, rather than cold calling the school. If you can show that you’ve had you volunteered your time working with that school and you like it, then that can go a long way towards getting a positive relationship with that school going forward. I think

 

Kim  

You know, something that’s really common for new teachers is they are just kind of desperate for something in terms of a job. And so they’ll take a position like the long term substitute position. Do you guys have that? So maybe someone will go on maternity leave or take sabbatical? Or maybe I’m taking over someone that actually left at the first semester, and now the class is mine. So this is this is actually really common here. So what advice you give to those new teachers who are just kind of like thrown in, and what are the most important things that they should plan for and do like right off the bat?

 

Prac-E

It’s a great question, really, because that’s a big issue here in Australia as well, especially rural. And it rules usually quite short because no one wants to live in the country for a prolonged period. So they always say, so it’s not forever, but then Metropolitan so competitive that they go, Oh, you’re only going to be able to get a contract. And you got Well, which one is it? You know, where do I actually get a full-time position. So it’s something that is very common here. 

That the rhetoric surrounding it is basically you get your foot in the door with some terms, three contracts while someone’s on maternity leave or something along those lines, you put your best foot forward, and hopefully, they offer you a full-time position. It’s a very odd way to structure a career. I think. It’s not a bad thing, though. Because, like I said to you, it’s about collecting experiences and your first five years of your teaching, you should be collecting experiences, right? 

That’s what I personally feel and then you are in a position to be more discerning more discriminating event. Wait until you feel you naturally fit. But until you try something you don’t know, I think contract positions are a really good way to start a career. And the reason I think that is because you have to come in and you have to be on, you have to be on straight up, right? Because you can expect the first two weeks to be very turbulent, you can because the students are disrupted, no one likes change if it’s enforced on them, right? So the students are going to react to that. And they’re going to react that depending on where you are in the context of your country or the class that you’re dealing with all the culture you’re dealing with, in different ways. But you need to be ready for that. 

And again, I come back to my consistent model. Well, that’s that does happen. We draw a line. This is now my classroom, this is what we do. I mean, and you have to you have to enforce that line. I remember seeing that film Coach Carter? And he comes in, and the basketball team already disruptor with the beginning, he goes, these are my standards, and they laugh at him initially, and then they don’t laugh at him when he starts to enforce those standards. Now, I mean, and over time, he makes a real point about those standards, and they become ingrained within him and they respond Well to him, but it takes time. It takes a little bit of time. And for you, you are in a position there, if you think about it’s a bit of a free hit, you know, you’ve come in, it might be that you’re taking over from a very, very loved teacher, in which case, you’ve got a little bit of a harder, harder.

It can be an uphill battle at that point because you might hear that, well, this teacher does it this way, right? We’re used to this. And you’ve got that resistance initially that you have to wear down over time, and they won’t like you. That’s okay. Initially, you know, there there are various people that I’ve met in my life that I didn’t like, but I love them now. I mean, that’s the thing. You say, Well, you don’t like me yet. It’s always like yet the word yet is very powerful. So you don’t like me yet? I mean, and you just leave it there and you just keep enforcing what you do. And eventually you’ll find in three months, six months, that’s a different picture. 

And it’s having that long term idea in your mind is that this isn’t going to last forever. These first two weeks of turbulence won’t last forever. You know, it’ll get better. And it’s about you and what you can bring to the table not so much then you What can you do as an educator to bring things to life a little bit? What can you do that is different? What unique strengths do you have?

 

Kim  

What can they do this first two weeks, knowing that the kids are going to be disrespectful? They might not even know where they left where the teacher left off. You know, if it’s a teacher, that’s a good teacher, and they’re just going on leave. Hopefully, they’ll leave them lesson plans, but let’s just say the teacher leaves and they just kind of have to pull everything together overnight. What are some suggestions so that, you know, when new teachers are faced with bad classroom management or a bad classroom environment, it really wears them down? It makes them feel like failures, they don’t want to do it anymore. How can we help them out in terms of like, preparing them and teaching them these last-minute classroom management type techniques?

 

Prac-E  

The first thing you got to understand is that it’s about establishing your classroom. Right? So it’s not about content, you can catch upright? You can flip content, there’s various different ways of dealing with content. So the first thing got to get out of your head is I must cover content. Because if you haven’t established any kind of report anybody, you don’t know where you’re throwing against the wall and sliding down the wall. So the first few lessons shouldn’t be done through the content should be using them just talking. The beginning Teachers as well, I think you obviously want to put your best foot forward and succeed in the profession. 

But I think an unfortunate symptom of that is that beginning teachers usually overcomplicate things and overstressed things and overwork and don’t put in particular boundaries. So you told me about that situation there. And I’m just thinking, there’s only so much you can control. And I think scheduling admin, you know, where those kids were before. That’s out of your control as a beginning teacher, and so are a lot of things within the happenings of the school, as Scott said, you can only control what happens within those four walls. During those 45 minutes. 

You might as well just focus on that building rapport with that school and With that class and then leave kind of what’s going on with staffing and all those type of things and content and where they’re going to get with the assessment and what were they doing before? I think that’s that can you be awake or not? If you worry too much about that, you should just focus on that my job is that when those kids are in that classroom for that period of time on teaching, now Scott, you had touched before on how difficult it can be to teach in a more Metropolitan schools, you know, low sec socio-economic.

 

Kim  

I’m sure where you’re at you also have those neighborhoods where there’s a lot of crime. The students have witnessed a lot of hardship, and maybe even experienced trauma. So, Liam, you also mentioned that these areas, ironically, are more popular because new teachers want to live in the city. So how can they prepare for this you know it they may not even be aware of how deep this goes because They may not have experienced it. They’re like I want to go live in the shiny city. But they don’t really know what the people who have grown up in that place are experiencing. So what should they expect and what should their priorities be?

 

Prac-E  

I’ll jump in here because I’ve recently had experience in a very low socio-economic area of Brisbane. And I was in a school where I was shocked. I didn’t know that we had that low socio-economic students with that much hardship in our country, honestly thought that there was a bottom level and then I experienced the reality of the situation that I’ve been ignorant of my whole life. And it opened my eyes honestly thought that there was a base level standard and that these kids, some of the things that they have to go through on a daily basis. It was absolutely shocking to me, and it completely opened my eyes. 

Some of them are in and out of juvie juvenile detention centers. Some literally the majority of school rocked up high on drugs, not just weight either like hardcore drugs, meth and things of that nature. None of them basically had consistent harming. They were all pale and they all had big sunken eyes and sores all over their skin. Some of them had bullet wounds. And then just the initial reaction to me being there was that they threatened me and threaten my life. And it’s just the most it just made me feel so dark and just so sad for them and so empathetic and it was made me feel shocked that this country allows that to happen. I mean, that their lived experience day to day is something that I could never fully understand. 

So as a teacher coming in and those teachers that literally deserve to have their name up in lights every single day for this. Things that they put through and the things that they do, and that they come every single day, at 10 in the morning to do the same thing for those students, and they’re probably the only consistent role models that they have in their whole life. 

You know, that’s jumping back into what you were saying. And going back to what I said earlier, that’s a success criterion right there. You know, you’re adjusting your expectation that points to what you can really achieve, because you are fighting things that you can’t control. So one of the first things you would say to a teacher in a difficult school like that is control what you can control. You can’t worry about things outside of what you’re doing, because it might be and I’ll go back to that safe space thing about again, your your classroom is a safe space, that person knows that they that’s a big responsibility.

 

Kim  

Let’s say that I’m in a school where things like the students aren’t in a bad socio economic area. The kids are well off, the parents have all kinds of money. And then I discovered that the culture is toxic. I’m sure you’ve have experienced this where there’s mistrust between the administration and the staff, or your colleagues that are really, you know, they’re really bitter and jaded. And there might even be factions in the school. So you know, with new teachers, and I hear this all the time. They’re like, I came into this, and everyone hates each other. And I can’t even find a mentor because everyone is so better. So how can we help them out?

 

Prac-E  

So something for getting teachers I think millennials always shocked onto the bus. Because, you know, we say they say that you know, that we can’t communicate and we can’t form one on one relationships anymore. That’s not the fact of it is that it hasn’t gone. It’s just changed. It looks in a different way than it used to be in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. What I’m talking about is that the capability for online platforms in terms of community professional development, communication is unheralded. And it is the point of coal for any beginning teacher that’s struggling out there. I mean, to connect with you, we’re in Brisbane, Australia, and we’re talking about pedagogy the summit in San Diego. That would never have been possible. And I think we need to take advantage of that because studies have shown that millennials value communication in that way. 

And there’s numerous ways of doing it doesn’t have to be Prac-E. You know, Prac-E does that. But if someone finds something else that’s supporting them, I don’t care. As long as they’re finding some support and professional development. The easiest way of doing that is literally a Google search. There’s teacher meetups in your area. There’s Facebook groups, there’s Twitter hashtags, where people you know, talk about their problems. There’s Instagram groups, I mean, the ability to find teachers that are literally in your exact same level of your career is amazing. Whereas back in the day, I think a negative was that you had to find mentors in person. 

I may feel all alone in the staff room, especially if they click off lucky was saying yet in the world today I can find numerous hundreds, if not thousands of like minded teachers that are going through the exact same thing. And that camaraderie is unparalleled. So if there was one thing that I would suggest is that if you’re not getting the support that you need in your school, is to kind of extend your realm of influence, start looking into online platforms, because there’s plenty of it out there. Well, the one thing I would say is any of that, if we’re talking generationally, and millennial teachers, your future, so things are going to change because you will change that. So you get this toxic culture that exists now, it’s not going to be there. When you become somebody who’s in that position. It’s just not gonna be there. So I mean, you look at that and go, I’m not going to go that way. And you can choose to go outside of your school, you don’t have to have a mentor within your school. You just don’t have to do that anymore.

 

Kim  

Just working with them though. Like, I have to go to a department meeting with them. And they disregard everything I say, because I’m a new teacher, or because I’m a millennial, and you know, what, can I contribute to the conversation? How can a new teacher feel like they belong in the situation and not just be completely, you know, overshadowed by everything that’s going on in the school?

 

Prac-E 

Well, the first thing is you got to separate the issue from the content. So if you’re looking at you’re looking at something, for instance, like grading papers and feedback in my subject area of English, that’s a massive thing, right? So you might have somebody who’s very, very adamant that this is the way that we do feedback and someone else is your faculty because they think that decides to go the other way and you’re sitting there watching this big battle going on. Right. Now the honest truth is, as in any situation, there’s probably merit in both their approaches, you take what you need. I mean, you just write it down, keep it for yourself, find a middle way. And getting advice to climb their positions gradually, gradually, gradually over time. You’re not if they actively dislike each other, there’s not much you can do about that. All right, but we’re all professionals at the end of the day. So mainly, hopefully, yeah, hopefully. So if it’s going to be unprofessional behavior or illegal behavior that get dealt with by admin, that’s nothing to do with you, you’re too far down the chain to worry about that. 

 

Kim  

Duck out of the fray.

 

Prac-E  

Duck out of the fray, you stay out of it, don’t take the stand of it, right. And all you do is you sit there and you watch and you go, that person’s got that point, that person’s will that point, and you can suggest the middle way, you know, come out with a solution, you know, be solution oriented. This is My advice. Don’t worry about the issue. Don’t get involved in the politics. If there’s someone asked you to say, I’m sorry, I’m too young. I don’t understand. By played all over, it doesn’t matter. Stay out of it. Do not be recruited. That’s my advice. 

And for the love of God, don’t engage in stuff and gossip yourself. That’s the fastest way to go. Once you’re in that world, you’re in that world forever. You’ll do the high school girl mentality. “You know what Jenny said? And he say, Oh, yeah, whatever.” I don’t even say anything. And then they go to Jenny, “Do you know what Lisa said?” It’s the exact same type of thing. I mean, it’s, you got a question, Who are the adults and they were the kids in some schools. What you’ve seen, but you want to be that one staff member when someone goes, You know what? Liam’s never said anything. Does he have good ideas? Yes. I’ve never heard anyone say anything bad about him or he’s never said anything bad about anyone else. Yeah, if that means you have to get up and leave the room.

 So Be an excuse. But sometimes joining that is never to your advantage ever because people notoriously flip flop. And then sometimes you agree with their opinion on Monday. They’ve disagreed, and they’ve changed their mind on Tuesday, and then suddenly, you’re the enemy and you didn’t even agree with anything. You can’t get dragged into that quicksand. So the obvious social traps avoid is just because they’re toxic doesn’t mean you need to be right. All right, don’t sit there and get sucked into that quicksand of nonsense, you just stay out of it. And as I say, you find that external support, if you can’t find internal support, and you diarize you don’t rise now, this is what I’m learning here. This is what not to do. Apparently, this is what not to do, as opposed to what to do.

 

Kim  

Now, Scott, have you ever been in a situation where you were singled out either by administrators or other colleagues, you know, in a negative way, and they just, it just felt like they had it out for you?

 

Unknown Speaker  

Oh, of course. I think we’ve all been there. When you speak your mind You tend to, to invite that occasionally and English faculties and tourism. Yeah. But, you know, you look at that and go, that’s okay, that’s part and parcel of being that kind of a person is that if you’re going to give your opinion, you’re going to get some back. I mean, you have to understand the rules of the game there. And then obviously, you play within the structure that you have. I mean, you have to understand from a unique perspective, you actually have some rights as a teacher, right? You have some rights, you’ve got responsibilities for your rights. So there’s certain collegial behavior you should expect if that if a faculty member for instance, is criticizing you to the students, you know, and behind your back that’s that’s a massive No, no, in our profession, you just don’t do that kind of thing. I mean, that’s extremely unprofessional. So that’s happened to me occasionally. And I’ve had to come up to the stage with questions like, Can I have a private chat with you please. And if that private chat doesn’t go, Well, it gets escalated. That’s just the way it goes sometimes. And it can just be a personality clash. It can be a lack of professionalism. It can be a lot of different things domain can be misunderstanding sometimes it can be genuine.

 

Kim  

With administrators, though, what if it seems like nothing you do is good enough. They’re always criticizing you. And you know, you’re a new teacher worrying about getting tenure?

 

Prac-E  

Yeah, of course. I mean, that’s something that is a legitimate concern. But again, email everything, email, everything, keep it real, keep it real. Keep it real. Right. All of your interaction with them has to be formal. And it has to be Yeah, on email. Right? Protect yourself and join a union with advice. Those are the two things that I just say to any teacher join a union. All right. I’m not saying that because our catastrophizing, the saying, as a former teacher insurance for yourself is too volatile profession in terms of what you may encounter. You may require it one day, and it’s a very important thing to understand that you have collective voice, you know, so, email everything, join a union, and also seek support colleagues and make people aware what’s happening so that you can’t be taken in isolation at that point. 

There was one school that I went to where I fundamentally disagreed with the head of departments strategy. And then I was foolish enough to say something about it. And this is another practice, you know, this is what happened is that I noticed naturally that type of person anyway. And it probably wasn’t the best way to go about it. And I think there was some other things going around the part of that time was probably the worst period in human history for me to actually be there. There was a lot of things going on. And then it turned into I think it like he was saying, it turns into some also almost personal battle, and I think it might be persecution here. 

But what really helped me in that instance, was that, like I was saying, I focused on my students, and I focused on what I could do in that classroom. And during that time, my job at that point was to teach that group Kids 45 minutes period three, the teaching them 1984. So I made that the best that I could communicate an hour I was doing that, but the department start started to have it out. Because I wasn’t the only one that was disagreeing with this perspective. It was kind of like are saying before like there was a bit of hostile gossip going around and people with you know, saying it’s almost like a House of Cards thing going on. 

But what happened to me was that I simplified things, actually simplifying things and boiling it down to what are your core responsibilities and when can really help you get through the day. I mean, sometimes it is heavy, especially if there’s a department meeting, you know, after the beginning of school during school and you have it out and then you’re quite upset, or something gets said and you you take it personally and there’s something that needs to be happening somewhere down the line, but it’s hard to go back to the classroom after that sometimes Because you just want to be like, what was that about? Then you start questioning yourself. But it is difficult. I can fully empathize with the perspective of this question, but simplifying it and analyzing your role, and really looking into what matters and what doesn’t. And changing your perspective and what is in control of what is not in my control can really help you get through day to day.

 

Kim  

I’m imagining this might be different for each of you. At what point do you think a teacher should leave their school? When is it time for them to move on to a different school because some teachers they don’t want to leave because they feel like they’re quitting on the kids and they’re quitting on themselves, but they’re just really is a point when it’s not good enough for you anymore. It’s not good for you anymore. What do you think that point is?

 

Prac-E 

I think once it starts bleeding into your well-being, I think that critical point where you need to deeply question your circumstances. Now whether that’s changing things within the school and sticking it out and maybe that some other circumstances leading to that, that’s one thing. But if it’s day in day out from the school, then there’s questions to be had. I think it’s alright to have a bad day, bad week, bad month, even bad term. 

You know, sometimes just from the nature of where the school is at the moment where you’re at pedagogically in the combination of your classes, sometimes you are going to have a bad thing. We talked about resilience earlier. However, if it’s month after month, month after month, month after month, and it’s just you don’t see any kind of light at the end of the tunnel and that’s bleeding into your well being day to day, your relationships with other people. That’s when you need to question. If those schools the right fit for you, school culture is very dramatically different. 

Through the symposiums to teachers that you think should be relatively similar from similar sectors have very drastically different opinions. And it just goes to show that schools are very different places than what they’ve taught us. We’ve talked to teachers who basically got fired from the school because they thought they couldn’t teach us themselves out of a wet paper bag. Yeah, they go to the next school and they get a promotion straight away, and then suddenly, they’re headed of the department. Sometimes schools are very insular bubble places. And sometimes, if you’re not in that bubble, and you don’t agree with it straight away, you know, they are very different approaches to education it can definitely change. 

So I think if it starts bleeding into your well being and you just have fundamental differences step by step for prolonged period of time, that’s when you need to start looking to greener pastures, I think, was as two ways of looking at it right. So firstly, certainly there’s the there’s the well being aspects of things which is the obvious answer, but If you’re feeling like you’re getting stale. 

I remember my first school, right? And six years I was there and I can remember the day I remember the lesson even though I decided that’s it, I’m done. And it was literally it was a French lesson with my European class. And I was literally repeating line for line the same lesson done the same week, the previous one, because you can see yourself becoming a robot that ends up happening stale. And it’s, it’s not it’s admitting that to yourself and going, I’ve hit my limit here. I mean, I need to move for my own sake at this point. And as it turned out, I emigrated but it’s really interesting to see. 

When you know, you know, I mean, it’s whether you wish to admit it to yourself. I’ll give you example, right we watch UFC Conor McGregor hasn’t admitted it to himself yet either. He hasn’t. And it’s the same kind of thing with you with your teaching career. When you think, I’m at the point. Now. I need to do something different to myself. And so you can get stale. So the the corollary to the idea of well being is that you’re actually in a place for 7, 8, 9 years. And you hit that slump, which I’m sure you know, your 18 years in your career, I’m 21 into mind, you go, what do I do next? What do I do now?

 

Kim  

So I’m curious with Prac-E, what’s next for you guys? What do you have down the tube?

 

Prac-E  

Where is this with Prac-E? The The response has been absolutely amazing. And I think that it’s really hit a gap in the market that this needed to be here. I think is a global issue as well. The advice for beginning teachers from the perspective of beginning teachers is very rare. And it gives us a unique voice that I think is refreshing. These are the practical things that helped me perhaps help you as well. I think it cuts through a lot of the discussion at a real gets to what works and what doesn’t. And now we’re really finding our feet from now on, and it’s really going to explode from here. 

So we’re going to be doing a new model where we’re doing four symposiums a year whereas before we were just kind of doing when and where we could raise. Now we’re actually getting a consistent model that I think is going to just extend the momentum because we were doing cold calls from nobodies to now, whereas now it used to just be me and my little basement. Now it’s people coming to us and I think that’s been a massive difference. 

And I think it’s just going to go strength to strength from there. And then obviously, the videos and the audio will just, you know, production values will just extend from there. And then we’re also going to be offering, we’re going to be calling them Prac-E double downs, because something that we’ve found very interesting, Kim is that after our symposium and no one leaves, because I think people are hesitant to ask niche questions n an open forum. Everyone thinks, what’s a general question I can bring to bring value to the whole room? 

So they’ll have some issues that can help everybody but someone may want to know I’ve got this one particular naughty boy. In my grade eight spirited six class, we’re teaching Hamlet, you know, and we got Scott here is an experienced English teacher. Now that you people are hesitant to ask that question because it’s so specific, that they wouldn’t bring value to anyone else. 

So what we’re going to be doing is offering that context now with Prac-E double down. So we’re going to have basically our own thing where we’re going to have the Prac-E team, having a whole day conference, basically, we’re going to be giving that access that’s never been given before. Yeah, we’re going to be running, you know, we’re literally going to get principals in to do mock job interviews. We’re going to have Scott sit there who’s, you know, top ladder jobs in any type of school you can imagine go through your CV and say, if he had hire you or not what you can do to change it. 

Now it’s going to be exactly the same ethos for symposiums. But it’s going to be to a selected few, which will give us the opportunity to really go deep dive with these people. I think that’s going to bring a lot of value as well. So with the symposiums with the double downs, we’re going to be doing post event kickoff as well. So the panelists are going to be logging on to our platform post event. And doing like asked me anything’s through throughout online platform because we get into literally hundreds of questions can every single symposium and we’ve only got time to get to maybe 10. You know, so there’s a lot of demand. And at the moment, we’re not meeting that demand. So what’s the next for practically is we’re going to be meeting that demand through a whole lot of things. That’s awesome.

 

Kim  

And so now I know that my listeners because they’re all brand new Teachers, their interest is piqued so where can they get ahold of you? If they have questions?

 

Prac-E  

I think the most the best way to contact Prac-E is through our website. That’s the really the One-Stop Shop everything that we do, we obviously diversify content. So our Instagram, Twitter our Facebook offers unique content to the way that you like we obviously we have our Prac-E podcast as well. And the YouTube and LinkedIn basically, you can find Prac-E on any platform that you would like in the way that you might like to engage with content. The best way to connect with everything that we’re doing is our website which is www.Prac-E.com and that’s the best way everything gets uploaded there and that’s kind of the One-Stop Shop native place where if you want anything to do with Prac-E it will be the set.

But I just want to say that if beginning teachers are out there and they just are interested, I don’t particularly want to promote Prac-E, I want to promote beginning teacher support platforms. It doesn’t have to be Prac-E. If I want to find support, then I implore them to it can be Prac-E then we will be there if they want to connect with us. But if they need something specific to look into Facebook groups, Twitter and just engage in the community and we can help with that. And don’t be afraid to ask questions and I sometimes it’s such an odd thing to feel like if that was an in person you disrupt trends and asking them questions. But online support platforms offer a way that no one’s ever communicated with before. I see it bringing value to beginning teachers every day. It can be Prac-E, it could be not, but I feel if you’re, if you are not feeling 100% of that way, you are pedagogically to reach out a lot and engage with the community. Absolutely.

 

Kim  

Well, thank you two, for being on the podcast. I really, really appreciate it.

 

Prac-E  

Awesome. Pleasure. Oh, thank you so much.

 

Kim  

I’m sure you guys could tell that I had a great time talking to Scott and Liam. And don’t you guys wish we had something like Prac-E out here. I mean, I do my best with this podcast to provide you with as much knowledge as I can. But those symposiums sound amazing. I feel like I need to start saving up so that I can head down there and witness it myself. So here are my key takeaways from our conversation. First, don’t get too hung up on where your first teaching job will be. Liam had mentioned that there are ways to research a school and find out if it’s a good fit, but Scott then insisted that you should just apply anywhere and see what happens. You just might end up loving it, or vice versa, you know, a school that you thought was your dream school could be terrible. If you go in with an open mind, and without too many expectations, you’re less likely to be disappointed. Next, and similar to this first point, a lot of younger teachers want to live in the big city and teach in more metropolitan areas. But with that comes a unique set of challenges. Scott and Liam gave tips on how to prepare yourself for that and temper your expectations and realize that there are trade-offs regardless of which area you teach in. Finally, we spent a good amount of time talking about school culture and how to deal with toxicity. Both limits got recommend keeping your head down and staying out of gossip. And if you can’t find positive role models at your school, then reach out to online like-minded teachers, you can definitely find support where you need it in online spaces. I really want to thank Scott and Liam for being such awesome guests on the podcast and if you want to connect with them and learn more about Prac-E, I have links for you in the show notes. And if you enjoyed this and other episodes, please subscribe to the show and share it with your teacher besties so that they can benefit from it too. Thanks again for hanging out with me today and have a fabulous week

TnT 82 What teachers can do to foster LGBTQ inclusivity in the classroom

New teachers often come into teaching already supporting LGBTQ rights and have good intentions to demonstrate this support but can fall short on implementation. How can they start eradicating cisnormativity and heteronormativity that has been institutionalized for many students? How can they create a safe space that goes beyond rainbow flags and stickers? In part 2 of my interview with Cody Miller, we continue to discuss how to support queer educators in our schools, how to deal with derogatory slurs involving being gay, and how non-English and history teachers can do their part to be LGBTQ allies.

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Kim  

Cody Miller is an assistant professor of English education at the College at Brockport, State University of New York. Prior to that he taught high school English for seven years in Florida. And he’s teaching and research focus on the various ways students construct their identities in LA classrooms with a specific emphasis on how a young adult literature influences students worldviews, and meaning-making capacities. He’s also led professional development sessions that focus on writing instruction and developing inclusive spaces for LGBT students. And currently, he is the chair of the National Council of Teachers of English LGBT q Advisory Committee. And he was awarded the Teaching Tolerance Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2016, and recognized as one of the inner National Literacy associations 30, under 30, and 2019. So now that you know more about Cody, here’s our conversation. 

 

And how do we have this conversation with our LGBT q colleagues and let them know that we support it? I mean, it might isn’t going to be jarring if I came up to you and say I support LGBT q out of nowhere. Or, oh, hey, I went to the Pride Parade or, you know, how can I let them also know that there’s, there’s someone in the staff that that is there to champion them? Yeah.

 

Cody  

It’s, like, in a perfect world, you don’t want that. But also, like, I get that all the time, right. Like, you know, like, I’ve had called well-intentioned colleagues, right, like, I just went to a wedding and it was like, two grooms. And it’s like, Oh, great. Like, I just want to throw everything was the bride and groom. Or, like, you know, people are like, oh, like, my  kid is gay? You know, I’ll be like, oh, like my mom straight. It’s wild. 

 

I don’t want to make a jest of that, because it really does come from a good space. But your question is really good. Because I as a teacher, whenever we hired new teachers, the first question that was always on my mind is like, is this someone who’s going to like, you know, be a bigot? Or is this someone who is going to be supportive? And that’s a real question that weighs heavily on LGBTQ educators. 

 

So why can you do I think kind of, similarly, what we had talked about earlier, I think having some kind of visible sign that you’re supportive, is really important. I think having material in your classroom. You know, I think we’re in a socially mediated world. And we always look up people on social media, when they get hired a new face, right. 

 

And so I think that using your position in all sorts of spaces, both in school and out of school online and offline to advocate for LGBT rights signals that So yeah, I think all of that is, is really important. And I would say I would advise people not to do the go up, and hey, I love LGBTQ people. But I only speak for myself, like, I always was kind of like, oh, like, great, you know, haha, though, I knew it was coming from a good place. But impact matters more than intent. I’m only speaking for myself. I would much rather find out by looking on their walls and seeing like a, you know, a safe zone sticker or looking on their bookshelves and seeing, you know, a book, or looking on their Twitter. And seeing that they like retweeted something like that was that was more important to me.

 

Kim  

And, you know, one of my colleagues at my school, we talked about this. And she said, You know, I, I appreciate the support, I appreciate people and want to know more. But I don’t want to be their teacher about this when there’s this thing called Google. And, but people still will come to her and ask her because they’re curious, and they want to support their students. Do you find that to happen to you as well?

 

Cody  

I think that like, so I agree, a thing called Google does exist, there are so many resources out there, right. I think that I’m only going to speak obviously, from my own perspective, but because so much of my work, both at school, the school I taught at, and then where I am now, and then just in the community was around LGBTQ education, that I positioned myself as someone who would talk about this, right. 

 

I didn’t mind when people ask because like, I was running professional developments on this. And the way that if someone asked me how to structure a book club and the club, right, I was running on like, young adult literature. So like, I position myself as someone who was doing that work and who didn’t mind. That is one person me, right, that is not obviously, all LGBTQ educators. I think in general, if someone is not positioning themselves in that way, then like, task them is like pretty taxing, right. And they’re also not getting paid for it.  

 

I used to joke before I started doing professional development about an LGBTQ education. And I was kind of doing it, because people would come ask me questions, right, I used to joke that, like, I was going to charge a rainbow tax, right. And like that was gonna be at the end, you have to pay me a certain percentage. But then I started doing professional development work. So I, that was like my position. That’s how I positioned myself within the broader education community. So I didn’t mind but that certainly is not everyone. 

 

It’s like, there’s so many resources out there now. I’d like start there, right and right. I always felt there was a difference to with someone coming with a question, versus someone coming with like, Hey, I like read this article. Or I read this book, and I’m thinking this, can you help me think through it, right, because I’m called the second like, example, as someone who is like trying to do the word, and they need someone to help them kind of think through an idea. But they’ve shown the initiative to do the work, which I think that’s the difference.

 

Kim  

Here’s something I think about a lot. And this is something that I used to have the wrong reaction. So I used to get mad when I would hear kids say, Oh, you’re so gay, or that’s so gay. And I would get angry. And I feel like I should have stopped and had the conversation. I think it’s it’s something that I even heard other teachers say, you know what, that’s not a nice thing to say. And luckily, I didn’t say that. I just say, you know, that’s not appropriate. But at the same time, I feel like when we say that, not a nice thing to say that implies that being gay is bad. And so what isn’t more appropriate way to address it? And how do you suggest we start breaking down the idea that calling someone gay is an insult or a slur?

 

Cody  

Yeah, so the last time I heard someone say, “That’s so gay!” was last school year, and I hadn’t heard it in so long, it felt like an anachronism that I was like, I was like, Wait, are we in like, 2003? Like, what is going on? Like, that’s still like, What?

 

But I always start with, like, you know, what did you mean by that comment, right. And typically, a student says, Whatever I meant something is bad or not cool. And then I always say, well, like, you know, we want language that reflects our intent. Because the impact of saying that so gay or so gay is really harmful. It’s definitely students will say like, I didn’t mean anything by it. I’m cool with gay people, you know, my cousins, gay, blah, blah, blah. And then right, and then you have the call to qualify it. You have to give like your you know, like eight steps to prove, you know, whatever, you’re not a homophobe. I’m gay friendly. 

 

And I think that that’s where the important conversation about intent versus impact comes in. That we want to be really careful with our language. And we want to say what we mean. And if we mean that something’s not cool, then like, say not cool, right. But when we say that so gay or that’s gay, regardless of our intent, the impact is it does harm people. So I always thought that opens up good conversations about intent versus impact. It also lets you know, all students, family members who are LGBTQ, because they will always that that, that, that approach, always let me know all of their gay aunts and uncles.

 

Kim  

And then I heard that some schools are discussing LGBTQ issues in schools as young as elementary and, and so I was wondering, what are your thoughts on this? And how old you think that we should be having this topic with students? How old should they be? And do we have to talk about sex in order to have this conversation? Because that’s going to be the pushback is, where are they talking about sex to my first grader?

 

Cody  

Yeah. So I think that’s really important to note that there are right now elementary and pre-K students who come from queer families. So right now, it’s a Monday, in an elementary school, or pre-k class, there’s a student with queer family. And so to not talk about LGBQ  topics and elementary and preschools is a violation of those students rights. Like, if you’re not talking about them, you’re denying the visibility of their family. And you’re saying there, there’s something controversial about their family, right. And so that’s a violation of their rights. 

 

So we should always be talking about LGBTQ topics, LGBT people exists at all ages. So we should discuss LGBTQ topics with all ages. And there’s a variety of ways to do that, right. 

 

So we can select a book that show a variety of family structures and literature. So the school I worked at was a K-12 School, and I worked with some really amazing kindergarten teachers, who had a whole like book, like a whole book display of like, family, right, because it was the opening unit. And they had books that same-sex families, single families, kids being raised by grandparents adopted families, right, and that send a signal that this is a welcoming and affirming places for LGBTQ families. And, you know, like, 50 Shades of Grey wasn’t up there.  There was no, no sex in that. 

 

And it’s pretty wild to me when people bring up sex because I don’t know, like, you can talk about. Like, it’s not like, kids books in general talk about sex. So why would LGBTQ books and it’s very interesting, because I’m sure you’ve seen this where you hear pushback, like why do we have to sexualize children? And usually, like, that’s by someone who’s holding, you know, a three month old baby with a shirt that says like, Lady Killer.

 

So like, we’re always sexualized kids. Like, if you go to like a toddler section of like, Target, you’ll see that we sexualized infants all the time, right, but we sexualize them straight. Right. So this idea that like conflating LGBTQ families identities with sex is just like, just odd. And we should call it out for what it is, which is like not true. 

 

And so, for especially elementary teachers who want to do this work, there’s a new book that’s really wonderful. It’s by Caitlin Ryan and Jill Hermann- Willmarth. That’s called Reading the Rainbow LGBTQ Inclusive Literacy Instruction. And it does a really great job showing both and reading and writing instruction elementary grades, how to make elementary classrooms are affirming for LGBTQ youth. But yeah, I mean, LGBT q people existed all ages and deserve to be seen in curriculum at all ages.

 

Kim  

Right. And so it doesn’t have to be a conversation. I think people are conflating LGBTQ with sexual orientation. So like, kids have to know if they like boys or girls. That’s why they think of it as you know, do you like boys, you like girls? Do you like both? And maybe that’s why some people are thinking that talking about this, so young is sexual, it would really like from what I’m getting, from what you’re saying. It’s also about talking about family structure, and maybe eventually, you know, gender identity, because this, kids start thinking about that younger than they make us aware of it. So we may not be able to see that they’re wondering necessarily, but they are, you know, not feeling comfortable in their own skin in that way.

 

Cody  

Also think to note that we, as a culture and society, you’re always enforcing gender identities and sexualities on kids, right. We’re just in the system. Yeah, right onto kids. So I think that is something that’s really important to note, there’s a really great article in Slate by a scholar named Harper Benjamin Keenan. And the article is called, There’s a Reason the Department of Education is Ignoring Trans kids, it does a really good job talking about the way schools and force sis identities onto kids through school scripts. So we’re constantly putting these scripts and identities onto kids without their consent. 

 

So it’s when we start to say like, well, there could be an option for queer people that like, then it’s once you know what I mean, like, part of being a dominant social identity is you never have to name yourself and you get a masquerade as normal, right. And I think that gets to a good point that giving kids the language to talk about characters. So if you’re reading about a system or character, just giving kids that language like this, is this gender, this character is this gender, so we’re not right. So we’re not only naming gender identity when it’s a trans person. Or this is a heterosexual family. That way, we’re not only naming family, when it’s a queer family. We’re always kind of naming these identities. So that way, dominant groups don’t get to hide behind, you know, the kind of mask of objectivity at the child.

 

Kim  

That’s a good point. Because if we only bring it up, when it’s not just gender, hetero, then we’re making it seem on the fringe, and not normal. And making those kids feel like their family structure is not normal, if they identify with that.

 

Cody  

Yeah, and I mean, it’s also denying kids language to describe reality. It’s like kids also need to know what’s this gender and heterosexual are because that’s a part of our culture. And it’s a part of our politics, and it’s a part of our world. So also given in that language is really important.

 

Kim  

So along with this conversation about including this in the curriculum, as young as preschool, there’s a problem in terms of parents and community. So I’ve read in, you know, different community Facebook groups, there are parents that think that public schools are indoctrinating their kids with these liberal views. And, you know, there’s there’s a backlash against this, to the point where some, you know, parents are not allowing their kids to go to public school. And so let’s say that entire community feels this way. What can LGBTQ educators and allies do to protect themselves and the students within the LGBTQ community?

 

Cody  

Yeah, so I think it’s worth remembering that even in the most seemingly homophobic communities, there’s a queer person somewhere living in that community and attending that school. Right, and they need educators are going to be supporting and affirming of them. I can say that because I was that person. 

 

Like, I grew up in a pretty homophobic area. And I never had that kind of affirmation in school. So I think that’s kind of important to always foreground that queer folks exists, and kind of all pockets of the world. So I think that finding allies in spaces where you can discuss and grow and reflect are really important. And if you cannot find those spaces physically, I think that looking online is really important. I think Twitter is a really great space for that. I think that looking at things like teaching tolerance glisten. You know, there’s also things like webinars, there’s a number of online spaces where you can find ways to grow that kind of knowledge, if it’s not offered within the community. 

 

I also think that finding people who have more power within your school, if they’re supportive of LGBT people, this is really important. So let’s say you’re a new English teacher, and you’re kind of in the scenario you described. But as the department chair, you know, is supportive of LGBT rights and has some institutional power, find that ally? Because that’s going to be your kind of go-to person. You know, if you get pushed back, or when you get pushed back, if it’s inevitable. But I think that it’s so important that we cannot say that only, we cannot say that only kids in metropolitan areas that are seen as more progressive get to have their identities affirmed. And, you know, that’s kind of if you remember way back, and I think those 2010 it gets better campaign do more with the It Gets Better campaign. It was started by Dan Savage, it was okay.

 

Yeah. So that campaign one I get, like, I get the intent behind it. And it certainly spoke to me at the time that someone who grew up in a small town and didn’t experience any kind of affirmation for queer identities until I moved to a metropolitan area and undergrad. The idea that you have to hold on and suffer, and then it’ll get better. 

 

While that is still true for many people,you kind of you start with the responsibility of adults and the schools. Like, we shouldn’t be telling kids, it gets better, we shouldn’t be like making it better for kids. So again, I get the reason behind that it gets better. But I think that we can do more and make schools better. 

 

Another thing that I know, I keep saying like, here’s a great piece to read. But that’s kind of what I do. So another point to reading. I talked a little bit earlier about the series of blog posts we’re doing with the LGBT Advisory Committee for NCTE. And the one that came out yesterday, actually, by a friend Craig Young, is all about how he grew up in a really rural area like West Virginia and teaches in a rural part of Pennsylvania, and the importance of being out within those spaces, and also working with teachers to even if it’s just including a book on the shelf, right, like more about space, and those areas, which is really important.

 

Kim  

So these small things that symbolize the fact that you support it can mean a lot to someone who hasn’t come out, is afraid that no one will understand. But now they know they had an ally.

 

Cody  

Yeah, and I mentioned Caitlin Ryan and Joe Herman-Wilmarth book, they also have an article I really liked called doing what you can. And if doing what you can mean that you can get a whole book, a whole book club, like five kids can read a book with LGBTQ characters, do that, if doing what you can mean that you can do a whole real out of the class do that if doing what you can put that book on the shelf, do that there’s something you can always do. Right. And so start there. I think that’s really important. You know, don’t give away your power. I think sometimes it’s easy for teachers to feel the weight of these oppressive systems and to want to, like give up their power but like, don’t get, like harmful forces want to take your power away all the time. Like, don’t make it easy for them.

 

Kim  

Yeah. And now if a student comes out to a teacher, what’s an appropriate reaction?

 

Cody  

Yeah, so I think that you want to remind the student that you support them, and you’re in a safe space, do not tell their family or anyone else, because you do not know their level of aliveness. Let them know that you’re there for them. And I always let the student guide the conversation and set the ground rules for how comfortable they are talking about their identities, right. So, for instance, I would say like, do you want to meet up? Would you like to talk at lunch? More? Would you like to meet after school and talk? Is this something you want to talk about more? Now? Is this something you just needed to say for yourself now, but you’ll talk about it more later? Do your friends note, like let them set the ground rules for their outlets? Right. So that way, you don’t overstep anything. And you also don’t accidentally out them, which would be really bad. So I think letting them set the ground rules is really important. And being an open ear and a listener is the best, honestly, the best thing you can do.

 

Kim  

So don’t tell a counselor or anything like that. Just one on one.

 

Cody  

That’s my stance. Yeah. Okay. Yep.

 

Kim  

Okay. And now, I’ve seen a growing number of books with LGBT characters, you’d mentioned this and plots. And even I think it’s interesting that now there, you know, in California, we’re like, we’re going to have LGBTQ history. And I was like, that’s awesome. Because there were relationships in history that included that and that, you know, a lot of really famous people are included in this conversation. So I was like, you know, why should we just have it be one-sided? But then I think about someone who teaches science or math or PE, what can they do to support this as well?

 

Cody  

Yeah, so all of those classes. Every class has language norms and procedures that can affirm LGBTQ or deny them their identities. So procedures, like we talked about changing language around the procedures you use in your class, like, that’s a simple step. That’s a really simple step that all teachers in any content area can do. 

 

I also think that in this place, like in a space, like science and biology, really talking about how sex is a biological construct, but gender is a social construct. A lot of folks still conflate those two, but those are very different. And when you’re talking about sex, you’re talking about something that’s very different than gender. And you do have to talk about biological sex and biology. So I think that’s a really important space. To name that right to name that difference. 

 

So there’s one, my friend summer now has a really great book called Queering Critical Literacy and Numeracy for Social Justice. And in that book, she looks at numeracy and math, and how can that how can we use math right to support queer students beyond just like a word problem with like, you know, Joe has two dads or whatever. Although like, I don’t know, like a word called what Joe has two dads is like a good place to start.It’s something better than nothing. 

 

And then I think PE is where so much system activity and homophobia can be most explicit. Because PE becomes a space where the gender boundaries get really pronounced. And especially because typically, in PE classes, least in my experiences, where you have, you have things like human growth and development and sex add. So like locker rooms. 

 

And so I had a former colleague who taught me who was really awesome. And when she talked about human growth and development, she brought in Planned Parenthood, and they took an expansive view, like they, you know, they took an expansive view on sex health. And within that, they talked about sexuality. They talked about gender, they talked about gender norms, they talked about, you know, violence within relationships. And that’s not just male partners being bonded to female partners, right. But it can be beyond that. And so those were spaces where teachers who weren’t English or social studies, teachers, were able to affirm LGBT youth.

 

Kim  

That would be awesome for them to do that, especially since there, I would also hate for any of those faculty members to misinform, you know, the kids about these issues. So do you better have someone come in like Planned Parenthood, and even though they tend to be synonymous with things like abortion, I think most people who are against them don’t realize that that’s just one small part of what they do. And this education part, they would be really like a great ally, and they’d be really powerful to tap into.

 

Cody  

Yeah, and I think that Planned Parenthood has kind of, yeah, Planned Parenthood has come under attack by right-wingers and they do kind of spread this myth around. Planned Parenthood, is this like, massive abortion provider? And they also provide a lot of other things as well. But yeah, if you have colleagues who are like, you know, why are you bringing in Planned Parenthood, you can always point out that, like, actually hears their social services beyond just abortion, and, you know, that support students thinking about development in body and, and there’s a number of local organizations to right, so there’s a local organization that one of the P Teachers also brought in to do this work.

 

Kim  

And then, you know, as a fellow English teacher, luckily, the use of day in there is now grammatically acceptable. I really struggled with this, Cody, because I wanted to use them in there, but, you know, I’m a stickler for grammar. And so when they said it was acceptable, I just breathed the biggest sigh of relief. So what are what types of activities can we do in our classes? To find out their pronoun? And I do know their pronoun, or if they tell me what it is, am I calling out like, Am I outing them? And at what age should we start doing having them do that?

 

Unknown Speaker  

Yeah, so I want to say that people have always use singular they write like, my own writing.

 

Kim  

Though I wanted to be really correct in my writing.

 

Cody  

Right, like grammatically acceptable, like, is all about power? Because like, we can now separate, “correct grammar” from power. Like, who’s grammar. So I think that that’s in and of itself, a lesson to have right that people’s lives exists, and they live their lives. And that’s they create language to describe their experiences. And then later institutions catch on. And often there’s a power struggle within those institutions catching on, so that in and of itself was like a whole, whole interesting conversation to have with students, I think. 

 

But anyways, so I think that when asking students about their pronouns, it’s always really important to ask them to if they use different pronouns in different spaces, so I went to a safe zone training. Okay. Yeah, I went to a safe zone training recently, and this was brought up and I was like, Oh, that’s a really good point. Because you don’t know. Again, kind of back to our conversation about levels of aliveness with students, you don’t ever want to out a student. I also always wrote letters on the first day of school, I included my own pronouns. And then I asked students if they were comfortable to write their pronouns. So that way, it’s not this is not a public declaration per se. If they feel comfortable saying in a letter, then I know, it doesn’t, it doesn’t require this kind of public outing. 

 

But I think it’s also important to know that kids are they’re always surrounded by pronoun talk. So asking kids in kindergarten to discuss pronouns, like it’s not radical, because we’re already doing it. Right. kindergarteners already using pronouns. I think something I mentioned earlier, too, is you can always use fiction as a vehicle. So even think saying like, Who is this character? What are their pronouns? putting that in as part of like, kind of literary analysis, I think is also a good way to do that sometimes. Sometimes conversations that can be difficult for adults to have right about the real world can be a little bit easier if we use fiction. That’s part of the beauty of being in the knowledge that. And the beauty of being an English teacher.

 

Kim  

Well, and also, from what I’m hearing, for a lot of our conversation, it’s a lot of being intentional and not assuming this heteronormative here. So, you know, of course, we’d say here, she, because that’s what they’ve been taught since they were little, but then now incorporating, you know, how can we talk about this differently? You said, What are their pronouns? That’s not something I would ever think of doing because it’s, the character is written as male or is written as female. But those are the assumptions again, that if I’m making these assumptions, you know, that it’s one of the things that I have to break out of, and then train the kids that they in the future no longer make those assumptions.

 

Cody  

Yeah, I think that I mean, we know that part of the power of having the part of the power of social dominant identities is that you get to go throughout life, never having your dominant identity named, right, because it gets to masquerade as normal. So disrupting that I think is really important.

 

Kim  

Well, thank you so much, Cody, for taking the time to do this. This was a little bit selfish. For me, it’s part of my own personal journey as a teacher, so that I can grow and like I mentioned, so I can help future educators grow, who may be also struggling to know what to do. And, you know, I can now I feel more comfortable having this conversation, even with my colleagues that have been teaching for a while that kind of aligned with me in terms of like, we support it, but we haven’t done enough. So I really appreciate you taking the time to educate us on these issues.

 

Cody  

Thank you. I appreciate your stance of always learning and growing. And I also appreciate your 18 years to the service of public school. So thank you so much for that. Thanks.

 

Kim  

I absolutely loved this conversation with Cody, I really feel like I’m now armed with so much knowledge to really advocate and support the LGBT community and my school. 

So here are my key takeaways from our conversation. First, we may feel compelled to show our support by proclaiming that we have maybe a gay friend or relative. But there are other and better ways to do that. Even just displaying it in our classrooms or having actual conversations about LGBTQ issues can show that you’re an ally better than walking up and saying, Hey, I went to a gay wedding. Well, Cody is fine with educating those that are not LGBTQ, about issues in the community, not all are necessarily feeling that way. 

Second, there really isn’t an age that’s too young to talk about LGBT issues. When it comes to discussions about gender, it’s so easy to just default to system entity and header interactivity, which really shapes how these kids see the world and the language they use to describe it. Plus, there are many students with queer parents and not involved in discussions about gender identity is teaching them that their situation isn’t normal or accepted. 

Finally, it seems easier for English and history teachers to be inclusive of LGBTQ voices in our curriculum. So Cody gives us some really useful suggestions on how other teachers can also show their support and eradicate hetero normative city and system relativity and their teaching. And you guys links for articles and books that Cody mentions are in the show notes as well as how to connect with him.