Podcast

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. 

TnT 81 How to support LGBTQ educators and students in our schools

Even though it’s 2019 and it seems like there would be more acceptance and inclusion of the LGBTQ people, there is still a lot of work to do. And while I personally support those in the community, I wanted to know more about how I can do a better job as a teacher. So on Part 1 of my interview with Cody Miller, an assistant professor in New York who gives professional development on these issues,  we discuss what has and hasn’t improved with schools, how cisgender and hetero educators can support their queer colleagues and students, and how to address those that don’t approve of the LGBTQ community.

Where you can find Cody:

Twitter

Links mentioned in this episode:

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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.

His teaching and research focus on the various ways students construct their identities in LA classrooms with a specific emphasis of how 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 LGBTQ students. And currently, he is the chair of the National Council of Teachers of English or NCTE LGBTQ Advisory Committee. Cody was awarded the Teaching Tolerance Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2016 and recognized as one of the International literacy associations 30 under 30 in 2019. So now that you know more about Cody, here’s my conversation with him.

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

Cody
Thank you so much. I’m super excited to be here.

Kim
Now you’ve done some work with teaching tolerance and track to you even received an award and now you’re working with the National Council of Teachers of English on LGBT q issues. So can you talk about this important role that you have within both of the groups.

Cody
Sure. So for teaching tolerance, I was awarded their teaching award back in 2016. And since then I’ve been working on their advisory board. So on that board, teaching tolerance, his mission is pretty broad, right and includes all grades and content areas. So it takes a very generalist approach to education.

The stuff I particularly focused on for teaching tolerance, and what I’ve written is by and large, discussing LGBT q topics and classes, as well as looking at kind of the politics of education and, and what’s happening in schools based on what’s happening in our broader political atmosphere. And I would say that teaching tolerance in general is much more like broadly focused, right, so they have like a best guides for supporting LGBTQ youth that spans K12 all content areas, including administrators as well, so really kind of a holistic view of schools.

So that’s kind of my work. That’s my work there. Whereas in NCTE is more focused on English teachers, of course, and that spans k 12, including higher ed, but it is really focused on English as a subject area, which is what my background is in.

So I’m the chair of the LGBTQ Advisory Committee, which is a committee dedicated to looking at how do we support LGBTQ families and communities within English language arts? How do we make English classes affirming spaces for LGBTQ youth? And the big work I’ve been doing on that this year is once a month, a member from the committee writes a blog piece for NCTE that shares inside and practices for how to make affirming spaces and English class for LGBTQ youth. So that’s been a lot of the work that I’ve been doing this year with that organization

Kim
And is that beyond just including more inclusive texts are we are we talking about? Just like teaching strategies in general?

Cody
Yeah, I mean, obviously text are such an important part, right? But it does go beyond just text, right? Because it also includes how do we make space? We’re talking about LGBT identities and writing instruction, for instance, how can we talk about not just LGBTQ identities, but also things like heteronormativity, and cisnormativity and all of these ideologies that harm LGBT people? How can we talk about those systems? And any text, right?

So I say that you could easily use, you know, Lord of the Flies, which is the canonical text that a lot of schools have to talk about things like toxic masculinity, right? And how manhood and masculinity gets tied up to violence and how does that harm people so texts obviously are super important and my heart is in young adult literature.

However, it’s more than just text. It’s also things like writing instruction, the language and procedures we use in classrooms. Beyond just text, though, my heart will always be with text.

Kim
Yeah, I think that’s interesting that you bring that up. Because a lot of times when we’re analyzing literature, we do talk about gender roles. But it’s always heteronormative gender roles. It’s always, you know, how are men supposed to behave? How are women supposed to behave? But there’s not a whole lot in the middle.

When we have these conversations, at least for a while, and a lot has changed and stayed the same. I feel like in school since you and I were in middle school or high school in terms of LGBT q awareness and issues. So I’m just curious, what have been the most positive changes that you’ve seen? And what have been the biggest disappointments?

Cody
Yeah, so I think a number of things on the positive front, right. So the fact that we now have so much LGBT key representations and books and curricular material right?

It seems like I cannot keep up with the rapidity of how LGBTQ young adult literature is coming out. In fact, I was at a bookstore the other day. And as I was looking through the YA section, I was like, here’s like, you know, five books that came out in the past few months that I haven’t read, and like, part of my job is reading these books and knowing these books.

So that’s really good that there’s so much variety and there’s more curriculum materials being made for for LGBT youth, which is, I think, obviously a step in the positive direction. Also, just in general, you know, schools don’t exist in a vacuum. So changes that we have in society and culture. You know, they eventually bring changes and school. Right. So we know from lots of studies that millennials and Gen Z views on LGBTQ topics are just in general more progressive than previous generations.

And that if you look at polling their kind of is an emerging consensus among millennials and Gen Z that LGBTQ people deserve dignity and deserve rights. And so obviously, when you have, you know, when you have a group of an emerging generation that eventually is going to enter teaching, then they bring their views about LGBT folks to their teaching. Right. So I think that’s a really positive change, as well.

But there are some disappointments, right, because we know that support for LGBTQ rights, it doesn’t always, seamlessly translate into incorporation of LGBTQ curriculum material. There’s some research by Amanda Thein and Paula Greathouse that shows that even teachers who say like, you know, I support LGBT rights. I support, you know, all these kind of big political issues that get talked about the news. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ve been go and use LGBT q material and their classroom right. So there’s still a divide between the political views of thumb Teachers and their actual pedagogy.

And then I think the other disappointment is that we know that, you know, this is kind of common throughout American history that whenever a marginalized group begins to gain rights, there’s always pushback. So while it seems that, you know, it’s very rare to hear, even talks about marriage equality anymore, right, like after the Obergefell decision, suddenly all the people who spent years and years and years saying that gay people getting married will destroy the Foundation of America, like just gave that out for I like, Oh, just kidding. I guess that wasn’t the case. Because they’re gonna become politically salient. It didn’t become a socially acceptable form of hate, right.

But there are new forms of socially acceptable forms of hate. Right. So you see this on, you see the attack on trans students basic rights to use the restroom. I think that that’s become the new battleground that anti-LGBTQ politicians have chose to stake out and make the battleground because once the consensus emerges among the population, it’s hard to push against that consistent consensus. So you find like the next area that’s that, that can be exploited to shut up support for anti-LGBTQ votes.

Kim
For so many, especially in conservative areas, it’s still a really tough time for those students. And, you know, luckily, I am in a more progressive state, but I’m going to be completely transparent here that I’m probably one of more of those disappointments because I completely support the community but I have not done my share in terms of just including it in the conversation, I think because of my own discomfort and not knowing and I guess you could call it my ignorance.

And there’s been a lot of there’s a lot of acceptance you had mentioned Gen Z and there’s a lot of acceptance right now. I can see it in my middle schoolers there are a lot of girls especially who are beginning to wonder if they are by or trans and you know, we have a really strong GSA at my school and a lot of them are going there and I’m and I started thinking you know, this is this is really important to them so I feel like in order to really say that I support it and walk the walk, I have to do this and I’m really interested to hear, as we continue our conversation about ways that people like me who guess we support it, but we haven’t done our share can do that. And you know, it does personally upset me though that there are so few states that have protections for LGBTQ in our schools and workplaces, I think there’s like 13.

I think that’s I mean, that’s ridiculous. So why do you think it’s taking so long for the other 30 plus states to get on board? I mean, if my state doesn’t have such protections, let’s say that I am in one of those 30 plus states also, what are my options if I am LGBTQ?

Cody
Yeah. So I think one of the reasons that it’s taking so long for the other 30 states to get on board is that there’s a lot of misconceptions, right. So if you look at the polling, most Americans support protections for LGBT people. And they believe those protections already exist. Right. So there’s some polling shows most Americans think that like, that already is law. And in fact, this year, the house right passed the Equality Act, which is federal legislation that would protect LGBTQ people from employment discrimination. It’s dead on arrival. The Republican-controlled Senate has that they won’t touch it. Donald Trump is that he won’t sign it. So it’s dead on arrival for now.

But it’s 2019. And that just passed. But there’s this conception that like those protections already exist. And I think that part of that is we have a narrative in this country that inevitable progress, right. We’re always moving forward. So we had Obergefell the Supreme Court decision in 2015. That said same-sex marriage, marriage equality is legal.

But what we don’t talk about is that LGBTQ teachers can get married on Sunday and then fired on Monday. Right. So that’s an important part of the conversation that often has been kind of left out and the bigger marriage equality talk. The other thing is that the Supreme Court will more than likely soon take up. the question of Is it constitutional to fire someone for being LGBTQ and I mean, there are five justices that are very hostile to LGBTQ rights, and four that are pro LGBT rights. And I’m not a math teacher four is less than five, right? One is barely hanging on.

So I think that if the court takes that case, and then rules in favor against LGBTQ people, not only will that be devastating, I think it’s going to be a shock to so many Americans who are not part of the LGBTQ community, because they’re going to assume that like, oh, like why, right, like I thought that there’s already protection.

So I think that one of the most important things you can do is educate yourself and vote right and register people to vote. There was an LGBT q Town Hall presidential Town Hall last week, where a number of candidates in the Democratic Primary, not all candidates, but a number of candidates came in and talked about their agenda. And they were asked questions and it’s telling that the Department of Education and the Department of Justice were two agencies that constantly came up during that town hall because those two agencies have really broad power that can harm or support LGBTQ people and schools, right. So it was Betsy Devos and Jeff Sessions who overturned Loretta Lynch and Arnie Duncan’s pro support for trans students within public schools.

So there’s just so much power in those executive agencies that I think it’s easy when we’re thinking about like laws for LGBTQ people, we get caught up in like these big celebratory court cases, it’s easy to forget the like the minutia of executive action.

But what can you do if your state doesn’t protect you, so check your local district because lots of you know we know that within “progressive states,” there are nonprogressive areas. And then the inverse is true “non-progressive states” or progressive areas. So I think one thing is to check your school district and to check your county because lots of kind of more progressive areas within more conservative states typically have passed laws that protect LGBT people.

So I taught for seven years in Florida. Florida is a state that has not passed protection for LGBTQ people, but the county I was in had passed it. So there is some, you know, kind of local versus state government, their little pockets, their little pockets. Yeah. And I think that’s something to be aware of. That’s really important. But again, I think the most important thing we can do is vote, talk about these issues, register people to vote. You know, I think that that’s super important because I wish I could say I’m optimistic about the Supreme Court, but I would be lying.

Kim
Especially like you said, it’s imbalanced right now. And would you ever recommend that someone move out of an anti-LGBTQ area? If they identify? I’m just curious, like, would you personally not teach in an area that’s hostile?

Cody
Well, it’s complicated, right?

Kim
I mean, just from your perspective, you’re not prescribing, but for you personally, as a teacher, would you venture into an area that is hostile and just stay closeted? Or do you see what I mean?

Cody
For sure. So before I answer that, I want to kind of complicate something really quickly though, that the area of the country that has the highest amount of same-sex parents if I’m, if the numbers still hold true, I need to look into this but it used to be actually the South.

So the area that was most hostile to LGBTQ people in terms of legislation, actually was the area that like same sex couples raising children were right. So life is messy. Life is complicated.

But also, I mean, you think about the south and like, Atlanta right? Atlanta is in Georgia, but Atlanta is like a very progressive city, right. In the way that kind of metropolitan areas are.

So to answer your question, my first year that I taught in Florida was a pretty a pretty homophobic area, both in terms of the local politics but also the school and I only taught there a year and a reason was I didn’t feel not only there’s this thing where like no one wanted, like it was hard for the school to recruit teachers because it was a really small rural area. So it was just hard to get people to apply. So I didn’t really worry about losing my job because they’re having a hard time recruiting teachers anyway, right? But I didn’t feel comfortable and I didn’t feel like I could be myself. And I think about that.

So I left. I mean, I also had kids, one or two kids who were LGBTQ and came out to me and like I became, you know, a space for them to talk. And I think that’s super important. I grew up in an area in North Florida that was very small and rural. And there was no out like LGBTQ educators or even LGBTQ kids. So I come from an area like that.

Unknown Speaker
But yeah, I eventually, I left after a year because I didn’t I kind of felt like I couldn’t kind of keep the mental stamina to bifurcate myself at the school.

Kim
And I’m sure there are a lot of especially new ones because you know, tenure is important. When you’re making these types of decisions. Some teachers might be afraid to even talk about it because of lack of tenure. Or let’s say you work at a charter school and there is no tenure. So, you know, I was just curious about that. And for me personally, as a cisgender straight woman, how can I support my LGBTQ students? Like what can I do to make them feel like they belong? Other than putting up you know, like a flag or putting little signs that say, this is safe space? I mean, something more meaningful, especially since a lot of them still seem to be figuring it out, or, and are scared of what people will think.

Cody
Can I go back to your last question really quick, though, I think not even thinking about because you’d mentioned if you don’t have tenure, or if you’re at a charter school, it doesn’t offer it but Florida is “right to work state.” So there’s no option for teacher tenure in Florida. That was eviscerated back in 2010. So our 2011 after the 2010 midterm, and all the hardcore right-wingers took over various state governments. A lot of them eviscerated tenure.

So for like most teachers in the south, like, especially new teachers tenure isn’t even an option. And it’s my belief, of course that eviscerating tenure also made workspaces more hostile for queer people, because at least if you have tenure, that’s a level of protection, right? And the way that if you don’t, you don’t even have that. So yeah, the number of states that just tenure is not even an option is also I think, something that we always have to kind of ground in these conversations about protections for LGBT q educators.

So, again, educate yourself and vote. I hope all listeners go and register like five friends to vote after this podcast at least because I think that’s, that’s, that’s how we’re going to have to turn this ship around. But anyway, sorry, your question. Before I get on my soapbox about terrible legislation.

So how can you make them still feel? How can you make them belong? Right? So I think something that you would hinted at earlier is really knowing how your own dominant identities shaped the way you think about the world and schooling curriculum. Right. So how do identities as how to straight and cis identities, shaped the way that you’ve experienced school I think is the first place to start because you first have to know how your own dominant identities have given you access to power within a school that LGBTQ folks would not have access to.

And I think ensuring LGBTQ voices and curriculum is is really important. If that means you can’t do a whole you know read aloud with an LGBT q voice but you can include them on your on your bookshelf, then that’s a really that’s a good start.

I think that always evaluating our language and procedures. So for instance, if we say, ladies and gentlemen, that’s erasing people, nonbinary folks, that’s erasing, anyone who doesn’t fall strictly within that binary. So I’m from the south. I love a good y’all because y’all is inclusive.

So, if we are in elementary school, you know, not lining up boys and girls. Like, that’s really problematic and so not doing that. I think that you had mentioned not just having a sticker, but I do think what is on your wall does communicate powerful ideas. Like, I think that it’s really easy, especially in 2019 to say like, what is the Safe Space sticker do so what? But, you know, like, we know that schools are inherently pretty harmful places to queer people. So sometimes the sticker just to say this space is like, we know it’s not the most affirming but like within this institution, I’m going to be an affirming person. I think stickers are important, like, obviously, not just a sticker, but I think there’s still value in having visibility, just show that you support LGBTQ communities.

And then lastly, I think, how do we communicate ideas about family. So if we only say, you know, mom and dad that that excludes not just kids who come from LGBTQ families, but includes all sorts of kids in their family structures. So I think those are some kind of foundational steps to think about making your spaces affirming for LGBTQ youth.

Kim
And I think especially with the subject area that you and I teach, it’s really easy to, like you had mentioned include, you know, I don’t have to just have normal, like the cannon, you know, whether it’s male and female falling in love. There’s a lot of areas where we can insert the LGBTQ voices and I’m looking into that.

So you know, I’m beginning my personal journey on this. Because I feel like it’s taken. I mean, I’ve been teaching for 18 years, I feel like it’s taken me long enough. And I have now an audience and I would love them as new teachers to not wait this long, especially with the amount of resources that are out there. And I do have to admit there weren’t as many texts when I started teaching. I’m sure you can you know that or I was looking at them through my gender-normative eyes.

So I didn’t see that there could have been undertones or we could have had the discussion about gender normativity, you know, it, I didn’t think outside the box that way. And so now that I’m doing all this research and learning, it’s like, wow, I could have even deeper conversations with my students.

Cody
Yeah, and I think that to always keep in the back of our minds is that by virtue of being Teachers in a way we are rather directly or indirectly, also kind of cultivating the next generation of Teachers. So as a middle school student sees that you are using LGBTQ texts, if they go on to be a teacher, they obviously they will already have a kind of a groundwork for what that could look like. And I think that that’s why I think it’s so important that we talk about why it’s important to include LGBTQ text for the affirmation of LGBTQ kids. I think it’s also important to think about that when we do that we’re also showing the future generations of Teachers, right that like this is, this is the foundation for it. And in a way it like hopefully it continues the process. And so, eventually, we don’t, eventually it’s not something that generations of teachers feel like they have to navigate to do this work.

Kim
It’s just normal because we’re all having the conversation. And, you know, of course, the utopian idea is that there isn’t that separation anymore.

And so, now on the flip side, there are still a lot of Teachers, you and I know this in the field that believe that being gay or transgendered is immoral, that there are, you know, religious reasons for this. They think it’s a mental health reason they think it’s a choice that we’re making or that’s perverted, which influences how much or how little they support our LGBT q students, and I can’t change their minds, especially those that have been teaching a while or tell them what to do. What can administrators do to make the entire school a safe place, knowing that there are these teachers that don’t agree with it?

Cody
Yeah, so I think that to kind of preface an answer. I think that if we frame it as Do you believe all students deserve access to dignity in education? And if you think being LGBTQ is immoral, then your answer is that you don’t think all students deserve dignity. And I think we just have to have that really hard conversation. And I’ve been with teachers who are like, you know, that’s an attack, blah, blah, blah. But it’s like, the reality is schools are very hostile places to LGBTQQ youth, you’re either actively working to make them less hostile or you’re part of the problem. And I think we just have to name that truth.

To get your question though, I think there are a number of things administrators can do so for instance, holding LGBTQ affirming professional development. So administrators can start book clubs that use books that support LGBTQ youth administrators can bring in safe safe zone training, you know, to help their faculty learn how to make their classroom safe spaces for LGBTQ.

There’s a number of readings from GLSEN and Teaching Tolerance that administrators can bring into faculty meetings. Administrators can change language on forms and procedures, right? So we talked about language around family, right? Administrators can, from a top-down perspective, implement that kind of change. Administrators can make sure that in any communication to the community, they take a broad definition of family, they can support the creation of Gay Straight alliances. And not just support the creation of it, but actively advocate for it and talk about it.

You know, and their meetings with other principals, right to show that like, my school did this and here was the what made it great and like you should, you should support your students and starting and I think also advocate for LGBT q curriculum. You know, I think that there’s the old quote in politics, right, show me Show me your budget. I’ll show you your values. I don’t remember who said it. It sounds good. It sometimes gets credited to Joe Biden, but I never want to quote Joe Biden. And he had like plagiarize before. So he probably plagiarize it from someone. And but that’s it, right? Like, show me where you’re spending your money. And I’ll show your values.

So if you say that you support LGBTQ youth like we need some money to get some LGBTQ books and the classrooms. So I think there’s a lot that administrators can do to make schools more affirming for LGBTQ youth. So it is, you know, true that some teachers are going to be bigots. And that’s really unfortunate. But that doesn’t mean that the teacher who was like, Oh, I support LGBT rights, but I don’t know how to do this while I get in trouble. Well, if you have an administrator saying like, here’s the professional development that sends the signal that like you will not get in trouble, right. I think it’s less about like, any kind of movement to recognize the humanity of marginalized folks.

There’s always is going to be brutal on the margins who you can’t, who will never change, right. And I think that spending time, so much time on the folks on the margins is like, just not a good way to spend our capital. And instead, we need to find like, Where are the people who are supportive of this work, but just don’t know how to do it? Or maybe they’re scared to do it? And how do we get them over that fear and show them how to do this work? I think that’s where the energy should be. and administrators can play a really big role in that.

Kim

Isn’t Cody awesome! I got so much out of just this first half of our conversation because Cody has a great way of discussing difficult topics in a way that really shines a light on the problem while also highlighting solutions.

Before I go into my key takeaways, I wanted to define a couple of terms that Cody used that I didn’t know about until this year (yup, it took me that long guys).

He mentioned “Heteronormativity,” which is the assumption or attitude that heterosexuality is the norm or default sexual orientation. When we see the world and our classrooms through the eyes of heteronormativity, we’re teaching that heterosexuality is normal and everything else is not.

 Cisnormativity is the assumption that your gender identity matches your biological sex. In a similar fashion as heteronormativity, cisnormativity makes being trans or nonbinary the exception or abnormal. It’s the idea that if you see a girl then that person must be female, you see a boy they must be male. I can tell you from experience that more and more I’ve seen this assumption as false in my classrooms and operating from this point of view is harmful to those students.

So here are my key takeaways from my conversation with Cody.

First, I’m pretty ashamed that it has taken me so long to start addressing LGBTQ issues in my classroom despite being a staunch supporter of LGBTQ rights. I thought it was enough just to be vocal about their rights but then go back to business as usual in my classroom. If I truly support those students, then I need to do more than just accept them, I need to change the narrative and how I run my classroom.

Second, I can support my students by thinking about how my hetero and cisgender identity shapes how I teach. Cody suggests small but significant changes such as including LGBTQ voices in the curriculum, which can be books on your shelf, changing our language when we address kids, so not saying ladies and gentlemen or boys and girls and eliminating practices that involve sorting students into groups of boys or girls.

Finally, when addressing those that are opposed to members of the LGBTQ community, it’s important to craft the narrative as being about the rights of the students. If you believe that ALL students deserve an education, then whether or not they’re straight or LGBTQ is a non-issue. And admin can step in and create a safe and affirming space in schools by having professional development that specifically addresses these issues.

So Cody and I talked for nearly an hour, so I split up our conversation into two parts. So be sure to hit that subscribe or follow button so that you won’t miss out on the rest of this conversation next week.

Links for the articles and books that Cody mentions are in the shownotes, as well as how to connect with him.

Also, if you’re loving this podcast and are interested in supporting it, please go to teachersneedteachers.com/support. For just $5/month, you can help keep this podcast going with the valuable content that you’ve become addicted to.

TnT 80 Teachers drowning in student loan debt can save so much money by doing this

Student loan debt is no joke, and it creates so much anxiety for just about everyone, ESPECIALLY newer teachers. Programs like Teacher Loan Forgiveness promise to help with this burden, but it barely helps to bring down the tens of thousands of dollars in debt that teachers have. And misinformation about the best way to pay back these loans results in teachers losing thousands of dollars. Why doesn’t anyone tell us about this? Why is it so complicated? In this second part of my conversation with Travis Hornsby from the Student Loan Planner, we get down to the details, and he goes as far as to crunch some numbers so that you can get a really clear idea of just how much you can save.

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Thank you so much for joining me today, I really appreciate it. I’m super excited for this second part of my interview with Travis. As I mentioned in the introduction, Travis is from studentloanplanner.com and the Student Loan Planner podcast. I can’t wait for you to learn more about how you can get out from under the burden of student loan debt.

Travis founded Student Loan Planner after helping his physician wife navigate ridiculously complex student loan repayment decisions. To date, he’s consulted on almost $500 million in student debt personally, more than anyone else in the country. He is a Chartered Financial Analyst and brings his background as a former bond trader trading billions of dollars.

Before we get into part 2, I wanted remind you guys know about an upcoming conference JUST for new teachers. It’s called the New Educator Weekend, and it’s being held in two locations: in San Diego from December 6-8 and Santa Clara, CA from February 21-23. These conferences have everything that you need to be successful in your first few years of teaching with sessions covering topics like classroom management, IEPs, working with colleagues, admin, and parents, common core and state standards, and how to build your teaching career. SO MUCH good stuff you guys, and you KNOW you need it!

As a bonus, I’ll be at both of those conferences both as a presenter and exhibitor for this podcast, so I definitely encourage you to sign up. I’d LOVELOVELOVE to meet you and hear about how your first years are going! So if you DO plan on going, be sure to message me on Instagram or email me so that I can look out for you and we can meet up!

For more information and to sign up, head over to teachersneedteachers.com/conference, where you’ll see information about both the southern on in San Diego and northern one in Santa Clara.


Thank you so much for joining me today, I really appreciate it. I’m super excited for this second part of my interview with Travis. As I mentioned in the introduction, Travis is from studentloanplanner.com and the Student Loan Planner podcast. I can’t wait for you to learn more about how you can get out from under the burden of student loan debt.

Travis founded Student Loan Planner after helping his physician wife navigate ridiculously complex student loan repayment decisions. To date, he’s consulted on almost $500 million in student debt personally, more than anyone else in the country. He is a Chartered Financial Analyst and brings his background as a former bond trader trading billions of dollars.

Before we get into part 2, I wanted to remind you guys about an upcoming conference JUST for new teachers. It’s called the New Educator Weekend, and it’s being held in two locations: in San Diego from December 6-8 and Santa Clara, CA from February 21-23. These conferences have everything that you need to be successful in your first few years of teaching with sessions covering topics like classroom management, IEPs, working with colleagues, admin, and parents, common core and state standards, and how to build your teaching career. SO MUCH good stuff you guys, and you KNOW you need it!

As a bonus, I’ll be at both of those conferences both as a presenter and exhibitor for this podcast, so I definitely encourage you to sign up. I’d LOVELOVELOVE to meet you and hear about how your first years are going! So if you DO plan on going, be sure to message me on Instagram or email me so that I can look out for you and we can meet up!

For more information and to sign up, head over to teachersneedteachers.com/conference, where you’ll see information about both the southern on in San Diego and northern one in Santa Clara.

Kim  

There’s so much like going on in my mind when I’m thinking about this. I’m still kind of reeling from the fact that it doesn’t have to be a title one school, because I’m sure there are other teachers like myself, who were like, We didn’t even think about it or tribe and paying all this time. And it could have been forgiven by now.

Travis  

Pretty upsetting, right? Well, this is my point with the NEA like messing up, right? Like the NEA is supposed to help teachers out. And instead of educating people, they’re just making these like statements just like they’re not informed, you know about, you know, what’s going on? 

Like, I mean, you can say that PSLF might not happen for future borrowers like that haven’t taken that out yet. That’s absolutely a fair statement. Like if you don’t have the debt in your name yet. Like, because you haven’t started a graduate program. Right? Yeah, like there’s a risk that it could go away because it’s not in your promissory note. 

So like, one thing that you can look for is when you sign up for debt, like they give you a contract, right. And that contract basically gives you the rules and stipulations behind what you’re signing up for. If you look at any of your contracts that have been issued, since 2010, of what you signed up for, it literally says that you have the right to do PSLF in that contract.

Kim  

 

What is the turnaround time when you start filing that paperwork?

Travis  

That takes about two months to move your loans over to the new place, usually, right. So that’s how long it takes to move it over. And then they come back to you with your qualified payment count. 

And this is really where it gets really, really bad. So the backlog right now, for, you know, qualified payment certifications is one year. So in other words, they are one year behind certifying people’s like payment counts when they’re inaccurate. So I would say probably like the majority of the time, they’re not accurate. 

Because what for whatever reason, the loan servicers, there are four big ones, they don’t really communicate very well with each other. So you know, like, maybe it will hold on to its data, and fed loan won’t be able to read it when they transfer over for PSLF. And so then fed loan will like just make up a payment count. That’s not accurate. And so if you know, you’ve been paying on your loans for like, three years, and you know, okay, I should have 36 months of credit, do you have to file an appeal, and it’s pretty easy to do, you just literally call them and say, put my loans into the appeal process. It’s not like you have to have a formal thing or anything. 

But I want to tell your listeners a hack that I’ve learned. So. So if you call your congressperson and senators and ask their constituent services office, all you need to do is call that constituents Services Office, which you just asked for it, you just call their general number and ask for that. And literally say, I’m a teacher, and fed loan, told me that my payment count is this many months, and it shouldn’t be that it should be more, all you have to do is say that and then say like, will you help me? Okay. 

I can tell you that I have seen cases where somebody has this appeal process, it’s supposed to take a year and it takes two weeks because they called their Congresspersons office. Okay, so depending on how powerful your senators are, this can be even faster. 

So for example, I had some people like, you know, like Senator Elizabeth Warren, or like Senator Tim Kaine, or, you know, even some, like senior Republican senators, like, the more powerful your senator is like, the fist the faster, they’re, like afraid, and they change it, you know, to what it should be. So, that’s, that’s a little hot tip for anybody that’s submitting their forms. 

So I can really sympathize with somebody that doesn’t feel like they have the time for this, but just know that you are in a, you know, you’re important, like, you know, like anyone listening to this, like your future is worth this. So, you know, like, they’re already curtailing pensions, like they’re making retirement benefits, not as good as they used to be right now. 

And it’s, like, really frustrated when it comes back. Like, you know, it’s like, I should have five years, not one year, you know, yeah, that’s, that’s the trick to us to get your payments certified. But I think that the, you know, the reality is that, you know, you can really get a lot forgiven if you are intentional about this, and you pay attention, which, you know, most teachers obviously have a lot more things you have to worry about, right that like, yeah, managing the classroom, all the, you know, grades, and they have to do all of the lesson plans they have to put together. 

And so like, if you’re not doing this, then you’re literally like throwing away thousands of dollars, which, like, if you think about it, like imagine a teacher who has 50,000 student loans, like they might literally be able to pay like five to $10,000, over 10 years. So that means that like, the value of loan forgiveness for them could like be like five to $10,000 per year, something like that, like if you include all the principal and interest and everything. And then that’s like, so that can be like two or three months a year of work. 

So like, if you don’t, you know, so if you want to give away like two or three months, a year of going into your school, like for free, then don’t pay attention to this stuff. Basically, every school in America should give their new teachers a little piece of paper, when they sign up to work with them, that says, send this format to fed loan, sign up for the page, we’re in plan and track your progress once a year towards loan forgiveness. Every single school in America should do that. 

But the problem is, is Congress made this bill really complicated, they made PSLS very complicated. And so we actually my wife, and I got kind of screwed over and lost a lot of money, based off of getting bad advice around our student loans, which was why I founded student loan player to make sure that didn’t happen to other people.

Kim  

I can imagine that there are people like me who are pretty feeling pretty bad about this, because, you know, it seems like the only option is to just keep paying it.

We get bombarded with all of these, like, student loan debt consolidation pieces of mail. And I’m really skeptical of all of that.

I know that they are just are going to charge me more interest, my payments going to be higher, I don’t see how I’m going to benefit.

Travis  

Yeah, I mean, like those, those places are absolute scams, I mean, so basically, what these places are trying to do is tell you that the solution to everything is consolidating your student loans, which might act might actually be really bad for you. 

For example, if you’ve been paying for a qualifying plan for five years, and you have directed loans, if you consolidate, you wipe away all five years worth of that credit, you start over from payments, zero, right. And so these consolidation groups just like charge you like $1,000 to do the paperwork. And then they’ll try to charge you like 500, or you know, or 50 a month or 100 a month to say that they’re doing like recertification for you. 

When in reality, these are basically like things, people in Southern California and southern Florida like startup because they want to get rich quickly, right. And they funnel all the money offshore and like this one guy, like pumped out, like $16 million, I think in a year with a bunch of shell corporations, like into offshore bank accounts, like these people don’t care at all about people like they’re just greedy criminals. You know what I mean? 

So I mean, I would say that most of those consolidation, things that send up his letter in the mail, they design those to look like federal programs. Right? Have you seen some of those things like that? All? 

Kim  

lt looks really official. 

Travis  

Yeah, it looks super official. Yeah, it’s because you know, these people are just jerks, like trying to prey on people. So I mean, you know, what’s the difference between something that’s like, charges too much, and something that’s a scam? 

I mean, the scam tries to play itself off as if it’s something that it’s not right. So consolidation, doesn’t wipe away your loans. It does do anything like shocking, you know, it doesn’t give you a loan forgiveness, which gives you a loan forgiveness is that you actually pay attention. And you actually fill out all the paperwork, and you have your loans set up in the right repayment plan and that kind of thing. 

So is there like a little example, like maybe you could pick on like a friend of yours that has student loan debt, like, you know, anonymously, that we could like, model and see like, how much money they could save?

Kim  

Oh, yeah, a lot of my teacher friends have student loan debt, one of them right now. She’s said, I’m going to be paying off forever. But the problem is she took the extended plan. So you can pay it over 30 years or something like that.

Travis  

Right. Did she have direct loans? Or is it FFEL?

Kim  

Yeah, now she had, it was all grad school. So she got it in the last eight or nine years.

Travis  

So then she’s got direct loans. So you know, what she needs to do is switch to an income-driven plan right now. And then as soon as she hits the 10-year mark, she needs to apply for PSLF and get rejected. And then she needs to send an email to that tepslf@fedloan.org place. And she could get all of her ones wiped away with like one or two more years of payments.

Kim  

Why does she have to get rejected?

Travis  

It’s the way they made the program? It’s a great question. That’s a wonderful question. But that’s the way that they made the program was that you first have to apply for PSLF and get rejected, and then you can apply for the expanded PSLF. It’s stupid, but that’s the way they’ve done it.

Kim  

So then technically, what I’ve been reading is correct, that they’re getting rejected, but they don’t know that they have to appeal it.

Travis  

Yeah, you have to appeal it specifically by sending an email to this specific email at this loan servicer.

Kim  

To show how bad you want it.

Travis  

Yeah, it’s basically and there’s $350 million that Congress set aside for this. And when that runs out, it’s gone. So I think that that will probably last us another year or two, and then that money will be gone. 

So but the fact that she was on the extended plan, that means that she probably was making payments, at least of what they would have been if she was on an income-based plan. But let’s pretend that you that friend like it’s starting over fresh, just for fun. Right? So like, how much does this friend have in debt?

Kim  

They this is their first year teaching. Right now, let’s say they went to a state school that costs about 22,000 a year for four years.

Travis  

Okay, well, you probably didn’t get all federal debt for that, you know, you probably just maxed out your Stafford loans. 

Kim  

How much do you think they would have in eligible loans at that point?

Travis  

Without any graduate school? Let’s say 40. Okay, you know, so we’ll do like an undergrad teacher. So you said 30K is like a typical starting salary. So for this teacher will assume they’re single. So this person could pay about $100 a month as a single person. So yeah, because remember, I said that $20,000 deduction approximately. 

So 30,000 minus 20,000 is 10,000. 10,000 times 10 percent is 1000. Divide that by 12. Right? The deduction is not exactly 20,000, which is why it works out to them paying 100 a month, but it’s approximately that. So they’re paying $100 a month, over 10 years, this teacher would pay $13,516 and she would have $54,484 forgiven tax-free.

Kim  

Are you guys listening to that? That’s amazing.

Travis  

Um, this is a little bit crazy. But just for fun. So you know, you can put money into retirement accounts, right, like you have a 403(b). So you wouldn’t do this if you’re single, because you can’t max out 403(b) like, on $30,000. Now, say that you were, you know, like, maybe married to another teacher that maybe doesn’t have any student loan debt because they’re lucky. So now let’s say that you file married filing separately, and you decide to put all of your savings in like your 403(b) right? And so what that does is that lowers your taxable income, which lowers your student loan payment. So instead of $30,000, the government thinks you’re making $11,000. Does that make sense?

Kim  

Yeah, all that pre-tax stuff.

Travis  

Yeah, if you do that you’re paying your student loans goes to zero. You have qualifying payments for 10 years of zero dollars a month. And instead of 54,000, forgiven tax-free, you have 68,000 forgiven tax-free, and you have 19,000 a year contributed for retirement. So you contributed $190,000 for retirement. And you that probably grew to like 300, or something like that. So you’re like a rich teacher with no student debt. 

Can we do on like a graduate school?

Kim  

So I have grad school loans. And that was 30,000.

Travis  

For just grad school, right?

Kim  

Yeah. Just for my master’s.

Travis  

Yeah. So you probably let’s just layer that on to like an undergrad amount. Right. So your typical person $40,000 of undergrad, and we’re going to layer on 30,000 from grad school and will say that there was like interest that built up while you were in school, right. So we’ll save 30 plus 40 from undergrad grew into likes at you know, when you started teaching, right? So now you’ve got $80,000 that you’ve got, and then you probably get a higher wage because you went to masters program, right? So what’s the wage after your masters for a Teacher?

Kim  

I’m just gonna make up a number we’ll say 50.

Travis  

Think up a number. That’s good. So $50,000 Yeah, so, so $50,000 Okay, so 80,000 of debt $50,000 of income, your payment is $265 a month, $265 a month, if you paid it back on the standard 10-year plan, you’re paying 810 a month. 

Okay, if you’re paying it back on your friend’s extended plan, then you’re paying $565 a month. So in other words, you’re paying more than double to pay it back over 30 years compared to what you can be paying to pay back over 10 years, and having a free event tax free. So $265 a month, the same thing holds true if you maxed out your 403(b) instead of paying $265 a month, you’d be paying about 100 a month, right? Because it’s taxable income about 30,000, which is what it was for the non-master’s degree person, but we’ll say 50 will say 50,000 a year of income for 80,000 forgiven debt. 

And so then the total payments over 10 years on your 80,000 would be $36,444. That would be your total payments as a 50,000 a year teacher, and then your remaining balance that’d be forgiven would be 99,556 is forgiven tax-free. 

If you did the teacher loan forgiveness program, five 5000 will be forgiven text for after five years. And you know, so congratulations, you have another 10 years to make payments. And and you got super screwed over. Right? Yeah. If you listen to like the refinancing commercials on TV, then. So this is like the standard 10-year plan with the government. So with $80,000 you’d pay back a total of principal and interest of $111,464. Okay, so that’s like 30,000 of interest. 

Okay, if you refinanced because you saw this like commercial while you were like hanging out, like with friends, you know, and like it said, refinance your student loans. Really, Oh, that sounds responsible. And so you do it. And let’s say you get like a 4% rate, which is so good. Right? That sounds amazing. Yeah. Yeah. 

So your principal and interest that you would pay would be 97,000. Okay. So yeah, you save money, like, you save like 20,000 or 15,000 compared to paying the government back, like the standard tinea route. But the problem is you cost yourself 60,000 compared to optimizing your situation for PSLF. And if you like factor in saving for retirement, then you cost yourself probably like 70, or even $80,000 if you refinance your student loans. So like, imagine you’re watching like your favorite TV program, right? And you see this ad to refinance student loans that adjust cost you $70,000

Kim  

But it made THEM how much?

Travis  

Yeah, well, I mean, I mean, you know, that Yeah, made them make profits, right. And so that’s the thing is the refinancing companies like they have their place. Like if you had private loans from undergrad that were like a super high rate, then you would want to refinance those, you would want to get those on a lower interest rate, you know, um, but the problem is, is like, did you know that every website in the world like makes commissions when you like, see things about refinancing? 

So like, we have that same situation, except like, we do cashback bonuses. So we’ll give like a big portion of what the commission is back to the reader. So like, $500, like for refinancing instead of zero. So everybody else does zero. 

But the thing that scares me is like, even though that’s like, nice, like, I always try to put those disclaimers, like, if you’re a 501c or government job, do not press this link, they do not do this, like this is only for people in the private sector, you know, that are, you know, that have private loans already, like there and, you know, be eligible, right? 

But I just think that’s so interesting that, you know, so so the worst-case scenario is you cost yourself like 60 $70,000, if you if you don’t do PSLF, and if it doesn’t happen, then you only gain like 15,000. Right, right. So all these people are like, Oh, I don’t want to lose my 15,000 I don’t want to pay the government an extra 15,000 of interest, right? But they’re not thinking about the chance that they could lose 60 or 70 grand if this thing works out, like the way we expect it to. 

So like, if you just set like, like, say it’s like a coin flip, right? Would you like say you could afford to take a bet that’s like 15,000, like, you know, heads like 60,000 tails, like, right, you know what I mean? Like, you know, like, if you lose 15, you gain 60. Like, that’s, that’s like, awesome, that that’s an amazing bet. Like, that’s assuming that you don’t have like any promises at all. 

But like I said, it’s in your contract. It’s literally in the loan documents. So people just are not aware of this. And they’re just like, costing themselves tons of money. And like, That stinks. Because teachers work really freaking hard. I have two of them, that are cousins. And like my dad, like I said, was a teacher for 40 years. So like, if anything, teachers deserve this loan forgiveness program, you know, I mean, I like to think that, you know, obviously, physicians work hard to but like, Teachers work super hard, you know, and don’t make a lot of money. And so like you deserve, you know, to invest in this, and, like, understand these rules to get forgiveness.

Kim  

What if I have private loans? Is there a situation where I shouldn’t do PSLF? Or I can’t?

Travis  

Yeah, like, if you don’t want to be a teacher for 10 years? You know, I mean, like, seriously, like, if you are like, you know, I’d prefer to, like go into the private sector. You know, I want to, you know, I want to make money. Yeah, you know, I mean, like, that would be a reason, like, that’d be a reason like to go out and like, just realize that you need to make like, if you’re making 40, as a teacher, you get two or three months off a year, and you get PSLF, which is probably worth like 10 to 15 K a year, if you have a lot of debt. 

So that means that you have to go out and probably make like 20 or 30 k more, just to be equivalent to what a teacher is earning, you know, so like, just make sure people are aware of that, right. 

But yeah, it’s like, so if you want to be in the private sector, you don’t want to do 10 years of teaching, that would be a reason. Another reason would be like private debt, like I mentioned, like, that’s not eligible for PSLF only direct federal stuff. 

And then if you owe a really small amount, so if you owe $10,000, the math is just not going to support you going through all this pain and suffering Ray, you know, $5,000 of loan forgiveness, I would just like do the teacher loan forgiveness program, you know, get five of it wiped, and then just like pay the rest off after the five years. So, you know, that would be who it’s not for, as people who are not playing and being Teachers long term or people that owe a very modest amount of debt.

Kim  

If I have private debt. Like you had mentioned, parents taking out that debt to supplement college, what should they do to help pay that back?

Travis  

Yeah, so there’s a couple of things you can do. So Parent PLUS loans are not eligible for PSLF. You know, basically, you have to have the parents actually be not for profit, or government employees for 10 years, you can’t transfer it. So that’s usually not really doable. Like by the time parents are like in their 60s, like they were ready to retire.

So what you can do is the parent can either refinance that in their name and try to get a lower interest rate, or you can take that over from your parents by refinancing it from your parents to you. So for example, like on our site, like two lenders that do this, or Laurel road and common bond, so on our site, they do like 300 to 500 something dollar bonuses for people to take over their Parent PLUS loans and put them in their name instead of the parents name. You know, so you can do that. And like the reward is usually cutting your interest rate from like, 7% to maybe like four or five?

Kim  

Oh, that’s worth it, for sure. Have about for those of us that are planning for our kids to be in college soon. How can we maximize? I mean, how can we make it so that we’re borrowing correctly? In case PSLF is still around?

Travis  

Like for like sending your kid to like undergrad? 

Kim  

Yes, yeah, sending for undergrad? Assuming we’re going to take out loans.

Travis  

Yeah, well, so my parents made a big mistake when they filled out the FAFSA, and they included that retirement savings on there, and the wrong like form. So they put like all of their, like retirement money, like as if it was like cash in the bank. 

And so it totally messed up my financial aid, because all the schools thought we were rich, but like retirement assets that they’re put in the right box are actually not counted. Okay, so. So I would just say like for Teachers, you know, use your 403(b) like, a lot of them are kind of junky and have high fees, like, it doesn’t count on the FAFSA. 

So you know, you want to try to put as much money into retirement as you can, because just that’s just shielded from the FAFSA, and the more money you have stashed away in retirement, like, you could be a pretty low income individuals, a teacher by putting a lot of money in your 403 B. And then you’ll qualify for more things like Pell Grants, maybe more like, you know, need based scholarships. 

So that’s kind of what I would suggest for and like you can do 529, things like that. But to be honest, like, if you’re kind of, if you have like a 16-year-olds, like, I think that it’s better to try to like, just focus on like, trying to get them into the cheapest and state school possible and try to get them scholarships, and make sure they do really well in their PSAT and their essay T and, you know, look at a lot of these scholarship, you know, websites to try to see if they could be eligible for something. 

So I mean, I would just say that, be wary of private loans, you know, if you’re going to take out private loans, you have to have like rock-solid finances, you have to have an emergency fund, you have to be in, you have a really good income. You know, this, the school that your kids going to is got to be just like, you know, so important for them to go to compared to another program. Right?

Kim  

Okay. That’s good to know, I’m about five years away.

Travis  

Five years away, I’d probably start putting some money into a 529. Perhaps, I mean, the only caveat to that is, like I said, they do count 529 money and they don’t count 403(b) money, in terms of your assets for determining how much they’re going to give your kid. So I think it’s generally better for parents to put the money in retirement instead of 529. Because, you know, the schools will usually give you better aid that way.

Kim  

That’s good to know. So you have a service that actually helps put people on the right track for getting their student loans repaid or forgiven? Can you tell us more about that? Because you’ve mentioned it a few times?

Travis  

Yeah, sure. So it’s, um, it’s a few hundred bucks service. So it’s not like thousand dollars or something, it’s, it’s going to be the price is actually going to be changing at the end of November, it’s going to be like 400 to 600, depending on how much that you have right now, the most teachers would be the $300 range, we’re kind of bumping the price up, and we’re making a cheaper option for people that just want to do it themselves. That’s more like, affordable for people to pay on, like a monthly basis. 

So basically, there’s that easy button, right? Like, so if you hear this and you’re like, Okay, I’m convinced that there could be like major loan forgiveness for my situation, I want to make sure that it’s done, right, I don’t want to mess it up, then you know, you can hire somebody like us to figure it out for you. So our folks are CF ps, CFA is and we’re trying to hire a CPA now, too. So you try to make sure it’s professionals, and not just like random people. People go through rigorous training for this with our team. 

So yeah, so if you if you’re interested in that, you want to learn more student loanplanner.com/help, you can read how that works. And, you know, like I said, also, there’s, we also have a top 40 tips for PSLF article on our site. So that’s in the sidebar, in the blog section that you can read. 

And I’ve got, like, you know, like, so sounds 40 tips that you can use, and implement yourself. So and we also have a, like I said, a bunch of stealing player podcast episodes you can listen to, so don’t feel like you need to pay us. But if you do want that help, you know, we’ve made thousands of plans for people, and yet, we’re trying to be like the Starbucks or the student loan world, you know, like, predictable, solid quality, you know, relentless focus on efficiency to make it a really good process, that experience for everyone. So that’s, that’s what we’re trying to do. 

Kim  

And so it sounds like from our conversation, it’s better for people to come in earlier in the repayment process, and not after 10 years have gone by. 

Travis  

Absolutely. But don’t feel like if you’ve already waited, that you’re screwed. If you’re already five years in, or you’re eight years and like your friend is like had spent on the extended plan, like there’s a very specific set of instructions that could make like a mid to high five-figure difference for her, you know, for for the person that the very front end, like we can set it up in such a way that makes it way easier to manage, where you’re not going to have to like track down fed loan and like, appeal their decisions and like call your congressperson, like, there’s a very easy way to set it up in the beginning. 

If somebody has never made payments, I’ll just tell people like consolidate, if you’ve never made any payments at all, just go to studentloans.gov and consolidate it and send it to fed loan, get it signed up for that page, we’re in plan and check the box that you’re doing it for the public service program. And that’s all you have to do if you’re just starting out. 

You know, there’s there’s like complicated stuff with this. Like, if you’re married, like I mentioned, the tax filing stuff, like, there’s definitely things that we could get into that are just super minutia that I don’t want to lose people over. But you can do this on your own, it’s just like, it’s kind of complicated. So a lot of people are probably not going to want to for like, you know, the price that we charge,

Kim  

I mean, when you consider the peace of mind and knowing that you set yourself on the right track, and that you didn’t screw yourself over. And now you’re going to have to pay an extra X number of years, I think that’s definitely worth it in the long run, especially how much when you consider how much you’re actually saving your clients.

Travis  

We have a teacher scholarship that ends in September too. So go to studentloanplanner.com/scholarship, we actually have a category for teachers. Okay, and we’re like giving away $500, and RM so free courses, and potentially like a free console too. So if anybody is like super cash strapped, you know, go ahead and give it a give that a shot.

Kim  

That’s awesome.

Travis  

Yeah, so we tried it, we try to get back like, my like, kind of theory is like, we try to give back a certain percentage of revenue of the company back to like the people who are struggling, you know, because I know that not everybody can afford, you know, a few hundred bucks for free getting a custom plan. But, but I think that at the same time, like it will make you huge difference. 

Like we don’t generally like taking on a client unless we think we can get them a 10 x return on what they’re spending long term, you know, in a projected basis. So, you know, we’re trying to be, you know, in a world of scammers and sketch balls, trying to be the most ethical company out there. At least that’s what I like to think of, you know, so it’s my dad would be really angry. If I was taking advantage of a bunch of Teachers, he tried to kick my butt or something.

Kim  

I’m sure. Just to drive the picture home here. What is the typical amount of debt that your clients have? And are most people having at least like five-figure numbers forgiven? or?

Travis  

Yeah, so I mean, so a lot of teachers actually, like, our average teacher probably has low six figures, because they went to like, the Columbia Teachers College, right. Or they went, yeah, like, they went to a really expensive master’s program. And like, they didn’t get it covered. And like, they made a bunch of forbearance mistakes, and they capitalize their interest. And it comes did and then like they like, you know, maybe even like when delinquent for a couple of months, because like they’re focused on other things. 

And like, and, you know, I mean, I remember one teacher client that we had early on, like, she was just so ashamed that she had defaulted. Like she didn’t even want to think about it, you know. And that was really tough, because, you know, she could have been paying $200 a month and getting credit for forgiveness. And instead, she had just been compounding her her debt for like, five years, you know. 

So it’s just, it’s really important that if you’re listening, just do something. Like don’t just like, listen to this, and just be like, Oh, great, I’m going to go get back on the treadmill, and like, finish my like, you know, my 30 minute run or something, right? Like, go do something, even if it’s as simple as just like, you know, like typing PSLF in Google. Like, you know, I mean, even if it’s that simple, like do that at least. But you know, just know that there’s help out there if you have like 50,000 or 30,000. Or if you have like 200,000 or something like no matter how much you have. I’ve yet to see somebody that’s beyond help.

Kim  

Okay, that’s good to know. So, you had mentioned student loan planner, calm? Where else can my audience find you if they have more questions?

Travis  

Yes. So you can actually just click on the Contact Us button on the site like so you’ll see that in the bottom right-hand corner if you’re on like a laptop or desktop computer, or even on your mobile, you’ll see that so just use that contact button. And then, you know, you can also find us you can find that steel on planter podcast to we have a lot of like ways to contact us through that and people can ask free questions and things like that. So I think the best link is probably studentloanplanner.com/help.

Kim  

Perfect. Well, thank you so much, Travis for taking the time to explain this. I know that I got a lot out of this. I have a lot to think about. And thank you so much for sharing it.

Travis  

Thanks for having me on Kim.


Key takeaways:

 

First, a lot of the agencies in charge of the loan aren’t necessarily keeping accurate records or certifying how many payments you’ve made. It’s up to you to be sure to know that number and file an appeal to correct it. Travis gave us a really good hack on how to get this done faster! You want to make sure the count is accurate when you’re finally ready to get your loan forgiven.

Next, the student loan consolidation programs you get in the mail are scams. Run, don’t walk, away from those! If you consolidate, you basically negate all of those years you’ve spent paying off your loans and make it harder to get any of the loans forgiven.

Finally, Travis crunched some numbers and showed us how by us the income-based payment to pay back student loans, you could actually be paying significantly less than the extended 30-year repayment plan. This blew my mind and really made things a lot clearer!

Travis and the Student Loan Planner team offer reasonably-priced services to help you figure all of this out for YOUR personal situation. If you DON’T want to mess this up and if you’re even a little bit sure that you qualify, I would definitely recommend contacting them to see what they can do for you.

You can try to do this for free by Googling it or listening to the Student Loan Planner podcast. But when you’re ready to get serious so that these loans can be paid off once and for all, head on over to studentloanplanner.com.

If you have student loans, I know that you got a LOT out of this conversation. If you know of another teacher that’s strapped with student loan debt, please do them a favor and share this episode with them! It’s so easy with any podcast player, and they will forever be grateful to you!

Thank you, as always, for hanging out with me today. I hope you have a fabulous week!

TnT 79 The best and least expensive way to pay off your student loans

The large majority of new teachers have some form of student loan debt are probably trying to figure out how they’re going to pay it off with their new salary. What if I told you that some of you could pay as little as $100 a month AND have all of your debt taken care of in 10 years? Sounds too good to be true, right? In this episode, Travis Hornsby from the Student Loan Planner tells us not only why we’re entitled to do this but also how we can save tens of thousands of dollars on our debt. 

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I’m so happy you joined me today since I have a seriously valuable episode that you definitely want to stick around until the end for. As I mentioned in the introduction, Travis Hornsby from studentloanplanner.com and the Student Loan Planner podcast is with me to discuss how teachers can get out from under the burden of student loan debt.

Travis founded Student Loan Planner after helping his physician wife navigate ridiculously complex student loan repayment decisions. To date, he’s consulted on almost $500 million in student debt personally, more than anyone else in the country. He is a Chartered Financial Analyst and brings his background as a former bond trader trading billions of dollars.

Before we dive into the interview, I wanted to let you guys know about an upcoming conference JUST for new teachers. It’s called the New Educator Weekend, and it’s being held in two locations: in San Diego from December 6-8 and Santa Clara, CA from February 21-23. These conferences have everything that you need to be successful in your first few years of teaching with sessions covering topics like classroom management, IEPs, working with colleagues, admin, and parents, common core and state standards, and how to build your teaching career.

I’ll be at both of those conferences both as a presenter and exhibitor for this podcast, so I definitely encourage you to sign up. I’d LOVELOVELOVE to meet you and hear about how your first years are going!

For more information and to sign up, head over to teachersneedteachers.com/conference, where you’ll see information about both the southern on in San Diego and northern one in Santa Clara.

 


Kim
Well, thank you, Travis for being on the podcast.

I really appreciate it.

Travis
Thanks for having me, Kim excited.

Kim
Now, I thought your story about helping your wife figure out how to pay her six figure student loan debt was really cute. And I’m pretty sure that every person who listens to my podcast has student loan debt. So they’re definitely going to be interested in hearing about how they can get out from under this just heavy burden of debt.

But just some background for so why were student loan forgiveness programs created in the first place?

Travis
Well it was to incentivize people to do jobs that pay less than other opportunities Right. I mean, that’s kind of the the main goal is to give somebody a little bit of, you know, debt forgiveness where they don’t have to go out and feel like they have to make $80,000 a year, you know, being a salesperson or working in tech or, you know, because we need Teachers, right.

And the problem is, is that people that graduate have the same bachelor’s degree debt, regardless if if you pursuit engineering or teaching, you know, and so that’s clearly a problem. If you’re making 30, or 40, or $45,000, depending on what part of the country you’re in starting out, you know, to pay back 30 or $40,000, on that kind of income is way tougher than to pay it back on, you know, a higher income.

So that’s kind of the original reason for having some sort of forgiveness programs at all in the first place. I’m talking about kind of way back in the day before any of this sort of modern forgiveness programs came into play. So if you’re going to go to graduate school, or med school or anything like that, you’re going to be in debt forever. Just because you make six figures as like a physician doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy to pay back those loans. Right.

And you mentioned mass, you know, graduate degree or master’s degrees, like that’s where we see Teachers with the big debts, you know, like the the Teachers that just have the bachelor’s degrees, they have the kind of the same debts that everybody else has. And so it’s not really like a super unusual strategy for most people if you have 30 or 40,000 in debt. Although you can still save a lot more money than then you would think using some of these loan forgiveness programs.

Kim

There are some student loan forgiveness programs that are actually for teachers. Can you explain how those are unique?

Travis
Yeah, I mean, there’s a bazillion like state specific programs or programs like specific to your local district, you know, but then there, the main one at the federal level is called teacher loan forgiveness. So this is administered, you know, by basically the loan servicer says, Do you have five years of service as a highly qualified teacher.

And basically, most teachers can get that serving in any capacity for about $5,000 worth of loan forgiveness. And then the teachers that are highly qualified for special education, and they’re at the elementary or secondary level, they can get that for, they can get that $17,500 level, which is a lot higher. So actually, I have a cousin that’s a special ed teacher pursuing that 17,500 version. And then if you’re a secondary math or science teacher, then you can also get that $17,500 number.

So the number the number of teachers that can get teacher loan forgiveness for that almost 20 grand figure is actually relatively small, because obviously like there’s not, you know, I mean, there’s a small piece of the pie of all Teachers, you know, like highly qualified, secondary math, science and special ed. And then, you know, most teachers could get that $5,000 level of forgiveness.

But the problem is, is that even though it’s called teacher loan forgiveness, it’s actually often, like more often than not, it’s actually the worst repayment preeminence.

Kim
Oh, wow. Yeah. And I was thinking when I heard that there was even one for teachers, that is kind of too good to be true.

What are the pros and cons of using that teacher, that teacher one? Are there any tax implications if your loans are forgiven?

Travis
No, not really. I mean, not for the public and federal programs, you know, so for the like, if you work in the private sector, then there are tax implications. But if you’re in a not for profit or government world, then there’s not there’s also like some Teachers which I’m not quite as familiar with is the forgiveness programs.

But there was a big scandal where these grants got converted into loans because of some like silly, silly paperwork error that, you know, there’s still one servicer messed up. And so, you know, it’s just kind of amazing to me that the programs that are specifically created for teachers are absolute abject failure. You know, I mean, we have a lot of people, you know, emailing us all the time, like, we have pretty good data on this stuff like that the teacher forgiveness programs are unnecessarily complicated. They’re not very generous at all compared to the programs that exist for people like physicians.

So you know, you’ve got situations where you know, these forgiveness programs, they’re designed for physicians, you can get $400,000 forgiven and meanwhile, a teacher is just scraping by trying to get $5,000 forgiven for working at a title one school, you know, I mean, that’s, yeah, totally, patently poorly designed. You know, whoever the people were that wrote these bills currently didn’t care a lot about Teachers where they just had no clue what they were doing,

Kim
Especially when you’re starting out is it A lot of teachers start out Upper 20s, low 30s. And now, you know, they have to pay back how many 10s of thousands of debt, and they can barely pay their bills. So yeah, it is a little bit unfair to, to just give us at most I mean, I would still be grateful for that. 17,000 but at the same time, I’d still have another, you know, 40 or so thousand ago.

Are there any alternatives to the teacher loan forgiveness program that I can qualify for?

Travis
Yeah, I mean, so basically, anybody that’s got more than $20,000 probably needs to not do teacher loan forgiveness. So here’s the reason why. So for example, you’re eligible for something called Pay As You earn. So pay as you earn is probably the best option for somebody pursuing public service loan forgiveness.

So what that means is you’re going to pay 10% of your income after a deduction for like how big your family is, right? So if you’re single deductions, about 20 grand, you know, you can add about $5,000 for every person in your family in terms of how big that deduction is.

So for example, most teachers that make 20 or $30,000 a year, under the pays room plan, they’re going to be paying 10% of like their income minus that, like 20 k deduction. So that could literally be like 50 or hundred dollars a month, right? Like we’re talking like a really small payment.

Now, here’s where it gets tricky. If you sign up for that teacher loan forgiveness program. Did you know that those five years do not count towards the 10 years needed for public service loan forgiveness? I didn’t know that. So a lot of teachers get screwed over big time this way. They sign up for the $5,000 teacher loan forgiveness, which is like $1,000 per year for five years. Right? Right. You know, and so they commit to that they get the $5,000 forgiven, so they’re 40 goes to 35.

And then they find out that all that time, they could have been just paying like 50 to 100 bucks a month. And they would only have needed five more years and all 40,000 could have been forgiven instead of just five. I’ve never heard of that. Pretty crazy, right? Yeah.

And then what they do is they do that five year period and they find out that their payments don’t count towards PSLF because they were pursuing teacher loan forgiveness, and then they’re stuck, like doing an extra 10 years to get their loans white. And that’s like not I guess the worst thing in the world if you’re a, you know, career teacher, but like, I mean, but it’s super unfair regardless.

So Teachers get I should, you know, call it like the teacher 15-year trick, because basically teachers get tricked by like government stupidity and bureaucracy, the way they name these things, they get tricked into signing up for especially teachers with larger debts than 20 K, you know, the teachers that have these larger debts than 20 K, they get suckered into signing up for teacher loan forgiveness because literally named after Teachers, so you would just have flood you had logical the sign up for the one name that for you, right.

And second, you know, there’s a lot of teachers that will be in the field, like 10 years, you know, or like 15 year like they won’t necessarily spend their entire career as an education professional. So, you know, I mean, that’s just kind of screw somebody over where like, they feel like they’re stuck even longer, which I don’t think that they thought through, you know that from it like, you know, even masterplan like the trap teachers in the profession. But that’s kind of what it does.

Kim
Well, and then you’re paying five more years than necessary.

Travis
Exactly, yeah, you just keep it around when it could have been out of your life. You know, like most teachers probably start, you know, right after graduating, right? So like early 20s. You could be free from your debt by your early 30s. Or if you make these mess ups like we see most people do, you’re afraid more like in your late 30s, because you’re probably doing a little bit of forbearance, you’re maybe on an eligible plan, that’s a big problem we see people do.

And then there’s like, more complicated stuff, like being on the wrong tax filing status. So for example, let’s say that, you know, you’re a teacher, you know, law teachers get married, right, that’s the thing. So, you know, you get married, let’s say you get married to somebody that doesn’t have any student loan debt, right. So you can file taxes, married filing separately and exclude their income from your payment calculation for your loans.

So what happens is a lot of people like they’re paying $50 to $100 a month, they’re single, and then they get married and that payment goes from like, 50 $100 a month to like 400 a month, which is their standard plan. You know, that’s the one that they have you pay off in 10 years, right? So instead of having to pay 400, you could file your taxes separately and keep that 50 $200 a month payment on the right repayment plan pays you were.

Kim

Which means that you’re actually going to pay down less and more will be forgiven in the long run. I don’t know why they don’t tell us this soon as well. It’s because they don’t tell anybody.

Travis
Well, it’s super complicated, right? So like, let’s kind of talk about how like Teachers kind of get screwed over. So we’re talking before we press the record, my dad’s a teacher was a teacher, he retired. He taught for 40 years. And this is the typical interaction with with financial professionals, right, some like high fee like, you know, commission salesperson comes to the teacher lounge, like during lunch and gives away free pizza.

And all the teachers like oh yeah, free stuff, like my favorite, you know, and so they try to put away yeah they tried to put you into like super high commission, you know, insurance products, and the insurance person makes like 10% commissions and whatever you put with them, you know,

So that’s like a typical, you know, arrangement for Teachers that they’re, you know, kind of, you know, susceptible to. And so, you know, sales people do not really understand that much about financial planning, usually, right, like, they understand about the product they sell, and they understand they have to sell this product to get paid. But they, you know, in most cases are not like, super well versed in, you know, financial planning topics, and just things like student debt repayment management, right?

So, so they’re, they’re going to, like, sit there and try to give you financial advice, like, oh, put your money here. And like, you’re not going to get that advice from financial professionals, because, you know, most of the financial planners want to work with the physicians and the attorneys and like the people that have the big incomes that can pay them a lot of money, right. So they’re going to play with, right, exactly.

It’s like that’s because they charge a flat fee for service and so the Teachers that you know, could potentially like be able to pay for help they’re not able to pay as much. And so what happens is you have these like product sales, people that are insurance driven, where they make big commissions. And so that kind of works out for them because they can give somebody advice.

And instead of having to get paid, you know, you know, a couple hundred dollars a year for like a long time, they can make a couple thousand dollars up front all at once, you know, and just be done with you. So that’s, that’s kind of the that’s kind of the model for like how Teachers, you know, like how financial professionals like Target Teachers. And I wouldn’t really call, I would say more financial sales people rather than financial professionals. But so that’s why you don’t hear about it from them. And then the second reason why you don’t hear about it is because like I just mentioned, like the stuff we just talked about, it’s a little bit complicated. You know, I mean, you have to really know this stuff about the conflict between teacher loan forgiveness and PS lF to be able to talk about it. And then you also have to know about how the rules would impact your average teacher that’s making, you know, 2030 40,000 a year in terms of how much that means that they’re going to have to pay and it actually gets like

Even more complicated than that. If you have like, if you’re married to somebody else with high income, and high student loan debt, for example, like there’s all kinds of stuff that can impact things, you know, like Perkins loans, you can get Perkins loans cancelled. Sometimes your loans are not all direct. So maybe only some of your loans are eligible for forgiveness, and some of them are not. So then, you know, there’s, there’s a lot to this, right. So yeah, so I’m excited to keep going through this stuff, try to get people as much free advice as we can.

Kim

To qualify for PSLF, you have to be you have to have had a Direct Loan, the correct repayment plan, work in the right job and make 120 on-time payments. Does that sound about right?

Travis
Right. So Perkins cancellation is a separate thing. So you know, the Perkins cancellation is like, just like a totally separate animal. So So if somebody has Perkins loans, I would contact like, your person that has the Perkins loans and tell them that you want their help setting it up for teacher Perkins forgiveness, okay.

So for the for the PSLF program, like this is kind of how it works. So basically, all loans after 2010 unless their private student loans were issued by the government. So anybody that like went to undergrad, you maxed out all your Stafford loans, and then your parent either took out Parent PLUS loans to cover the difference, or they took out private student loans your parents did to cover like that extra bit, right? And then let’s say you went to graduate school, almost surely all of those loans are in your name, and they’re all direct loans, if you took that debt after 2010 Okay.

So, so, so what happened before that is you had these loans called FFEL. So FFEL loans were before 2010, that was like the typical way that people had student loans from the government back then. And that stuff’s not eligible for PSFY is that it’s because it’s mostly held by banks. It’s like bank held guaranteed government, government guaranteed stuff. And so the banks are still getting profits off of that to this day. Right.

So and so the banks obviously do not want the government to forgive their debt. Right? That’s like an obvious thing, right? So they put this little loophole in the PSLF rules, that basically said, the only stuff that’s eligible for, you know, PSLF is direct loans. That’s the only thing that can be forgiven. So a lot of the people that had loans from before 2010 had these bank kind of type loans from the federal government, they were like, you know, kind of like, you know, like the big mortgage lenders kind of were like, sort of governmental kind of things, right. So it’s kind of like that, like before 2010.

And so all these people are getting denied, because they all have the wrong kind of loans that were carved out with this, like super weird loophole like so the banks can keep that on their profit balance sheet and everything. And so that’s why people are getting denied right now is because remember, I said before 2010, it was all screwed up. So what’s before 2000 10 plus 10 years? What date? Is that? Right? 2019? And before?

Kim
Yeah, my undergrad wouldn’t qualify for that either.

Travis
Well, it depends. It depends. So we actually so so I just interviewed somebody on our student and player podcast couple Teachers that not only, not just one of them, but both of them just got their loans forgiven tax free. They both they both had like 80 grand each of them. And both of them had their loans forgiven. And what how were they lucky enough to have that happen to them.

So in like the mid 2000s, like a really nice financial aid person just like happened to steer them towards like the really hard to get government loan, like the direct government loan that like was really difficult to access before 2010. And so, you know, a lot of the most ethical places like you had to be super ethical to put somebody in direct loans before 2010. So they just happen to get in those kind of loans.

And then they happen to be paying on like these payment programs that like so like income based repayment, IB are the kind of the first version of plan you have to be on for public service loan forgiveness, that actually didn’t exist until 2009. at all, you know, so if you had the right kind of loans, you weren’t even able to sign up for the right kind of plan that counted towards this program, until 2009.

So almost nobody had the right kind of loans for 2010, almost nobody had access to the right kind of repayment program before 2009. everybody’s like, super confused, because this thing is a big old mess. And so like, this is how all this train wreck happened when everybody started applying thinking that they like, works for 10 years, and they should get their loans forgiven.

Kim

Are there any loopholes to that in terms of all of the requirements?

Because we talked about how you had to have like the right payment plan work in the right job? And all of that? I mean, do you have to check every single box perfectly to qualify for psle?

Travis
Well, yes and no. So they passed the temporary expanded PSLF, about a year or so ago. And that made a several hundred million dollars available to help people there kind of screwed over by that process. So here’s, here’s the problem, right, you have to have had direct loans during during the period that you were serving in the public, or you know, not for profit or government employer, right. So that right away eliminates, like 80 90% of people, okay, because you had to have this like Heart of Gold financial aid person that put you in the right kind of loan before 2010 to potentially qualify for this.

So then what you have to do is apply to the PSF program and get denied. Okay, so once once you’re denied, then you send an email to TEPSLF fed loan org, I believe is the email saying, like, I got denied my PS left, I want my loans forgiven, because I’ve been making payments for 10 years on direct loans. Right. And so the couple that I’m interviewing on our podcast, like they took that route, and that’s how they got their loans forgiven, because, you know, they had these loans from mid 2000s. You know, they were on like the extended plan, which was more than what they would have had to have paid if IPR had existed at the time.

So that’s why they’re getting their loans forgiven under this kind of one shot, you know, temporary, expanded PS left, what’s going to happen though, is once people start hitting like 2020, once we start hitting that kind of date, you’re going to start seeing people that like, Did master’s degree programs, and like 2010 2011, like one year programs into your programs, it’s like 2020 2021 2022, this is when people are going to start ending up doing like, they’re getting loan forgiveness, like just because they had it all set up without having to have a PhD. And like all this bureaucratic nonsense, right?

So like, there’s this exponential curve, if you look at all of the approved applications for like the certificate certifications, repeated PSLF. So it’s like, it’s like small, medium, massive, you know, and so there’s this huge exponential wave that’s coming for loan forgiveness, based off of just how Congress structured the program 10 years ago.

Kim
Everything that I’ve been reading the National Educators Association, they’re like, Oh, it’s not a good idea to go for PLSF because so many people are being denied, and it’s too rigid. And one person said, You know, I, my employer didn’t put down the right phone number and I got denied.

Many teachers complain about being denied. So do you find that these are common experiences when you’re working with teachers? Or do you feel because you have knowledge of it, and the whole process that you’re able to steer them away from making those mistakes?

Travis
I mean, the clients that we’ve advised to not have these problems, because we kind of prepare them on, like how to fill out the forms and like what to do and had everything set up.

So I mean, I haven’t personally had anybody that’s used our service that’s gone through that. But I know, I know that, like, so the NEA like, this is a little unfortunate for them to take that position, because I think they’re going to cost their members billions of dollars in one forgiveness, because they’re just not experts in this program. Right. So like, the NEA is not your financial advisor. Right?

So, you know, I mean, like, they can make comments on like, what they think about, like legislative programs, but like, at the end of the day, like they’re not experts in this program at all, right? Like, the NEA is just taking sort of like a values based position on this, which is that teachers are getting denied, this isn’t right, it should change, right? What they’re, what they’re not doing is saying, like, this is why the PSLF program was broken. This is why it should work for anybody that’s, you know, got loans from after 2010. Right, this is how you can qualify, like they’re not doing any of the education piece, they’re just doing, like the lobbying piece, you know, which is important.

But like, it’s not accurate, even though because, like, again, like it’s very clear that if you have direct loans, you’re eligible for this, like, if you’re on an income based plan, it’s not 120 payments, by the way, that’s not even, like consecutive, that’s cumulative. So if you took time away to have kids or like you went part time and like or you missed payments, or like you went into forbearance, and that doesn’t reset the clock, yeah. Okay, you know, you literally just come right back where you left off.

So also like for summers, like summers count for Teachers, like towards those hundred 20 months of payments, as long as you keep the payments going, also maternity leave or paternity leave, like the three months a year maternity or paternity leave counts towards PSLF to you know, okay, so there’s, there’s, there’s a lot of stuff in there. I would say that any teacher with more than any teacher definitely with more than $20,000 in student loans, absolutely needs to look at this because it could I mean, I think that you would probably call yourself like a five figure sum by not optimizing this stuff. I’m not exaggerating there.

Kim

So then how can we make sure, so let’s say that a teacher listening to this episode, that they’re going to be approved, assuming they have a direct loan, and they made the consecutive payments?

Travis
I’ll tell you like the way to do it on your own. The way to do it on your own is to go to nslds.ed. gov. So that’s a website that you can log into, and you’re going to see a table of all your loans, and it’s going to list all of your loans on there. And if all of your loans say direct, then you’re in great shape, you don’t need to do anything to your loans, right?

If you go in there and you see that your loans say FFEL, then they’re not eligible, right? And anything that says FFEL is not eligible. So. So if you have, let’s pretend that you have all FFEL owns, you would need to consolidate them. So you could consolidate them by going to student loans.gov. Right. So so you know, you need to make sure you have the right kind of loans, that’s first.

The second thing would be to send in the PSLF ECF form. So if you Google that term, PSLF ECF form, you’re going to get a PDF that you can literally send in to fed loan servicing, and it’s going to have the address on there, it’s going to be straightforward, you know, obviously, make sure the information is correct. On the on the application. I mean, usually, that’s like 40% of the reasons for denials is because like someone’s advisor forgot to sign it or like didn’t put the address for the employer on there. It’s silly, but like, you just need to double check the form, right?

And then when you send that in, wherever your loans are in the world, they’ll be transferred to federal servicing. Right? Okay, so they’ll get transferred over there. And then you’re going to be asked to like sign up for an income based plan when you’re at federal and servicing. So that’s the company that manages the PSLF program.

So for most teachers, if you can, I recommend pay as you earn because it gives you the most flexibility to exclude your spouse’s income if you’re married one day. So that’s like the best advice I can give.

But I’m sure there’s some listeners that are listening that are like that sounded like French, I have no idea what he just said. Right? No, hence the reason for groups like us existing is like, we will do it for somebody for except for the document preparation. Like we won’t do that, but we’ll explain exactly how to do it, we’ll make sure that it’s done. Right, we’ll make sure that you understand, like, you know which path is best.

But, but yeah, I think that like Teachers are probably missing out on like, probably, I would guess, 10s of billions of dollars in loan forgiveness right now. Because that there’s just like awareness, there’s lack of like having it set up the right way. Like people are paying stuff off and refinancing stuff when they should be going for forgiveness. Because basically, every teacher or almost every teacher is at a not for profit or government employer. Right. Right.

Like there’s like there’s, I guess, maybe there there’s some, like for profit, like charter schools or something like that, maybe. Private schools are not for profit, right? Like if you’re teaching it like a Catholic school or something like that, you know, like, you’re probably at a not for profit employer, you just have to be a 501 c three employer, or a government employer. Those are the two rules. So for example, like five, one, C three just means that like some rich person could give a million dollars and name the school after themselves, right. And deducted on their taxes. So that’s, that’s basically every private school anywhere, you know, with it.

Kim
It’s not just a title one school, then?

Travis
No, this is like, basically 95% of the teaching profession.

Kim

I was under the impression that because of the teacher, one, that you had to teach at a title one school.

Travis
That’s why the teacher loan forgiveness sucks. Yeah, I mean, you know, Excuse My French, but, you know, it’s lousy, especially if you have more than 20 grand in debt.

Because, you know, if you have 20 grand or less than maybe like that five K, or the 17,500 is like really awesome, you know, you can just do that plan, get most of it forgiven, pay off the rest when it’s gone. Right. But like, if you owe more than 20,000, at all, then you really need to pay attention to this stuff.

Because you know, you could really seriously get a lot of your of your debt forgiven. And, you know, the only thing that’s not eligible is private debt. So that’s like stuff that, you know, maybe your parents took out and undergrad, I very rarely see a teacher that did a master’s degree program where it’s not Stafford or PLUS loans. It’s almost always Stafford or PLUS loans. When somebody goes to grad school. for undergrad, like there’s, there’s limits, so much you can borrow.

So for grad school, there’s no limits, you can borrow as much as you want from the government. for undergrad, you can only borrow like, I think it’s like, you know, like five to 10,000 per year, you know, and so since schools typically cost more than that, like parents will often like, sign up for private loans that they co sign. So that’s the only situation for you know, when teachers should definitely pay something back as if it’s a private loan.


Here are my key takeaways from this episode:

 

First, the Teacher Loan Forgiveness isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. If you qualify by teaching in a Title I school for five consecutive years, then you can get $5,000 forgiven and up to $17,500 forgiven if you teach math, science, or special ed. While that seems like a nice chunk, it doesn’t really help if you have tens of thousands of student loans.

Next, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is THE best option for all teachers. You pay down your loans for ten years using the income-based plan, and after ten years, you can apply to have the rest forgiven. Travis gave us tips on different ways to lower our income base so that your monthly payment is less.

Finally, there’s a lot of misinformation out there about these types of loan forgiveness programs, or even worse, there’s a LACK of information. I’ve been teaching for 18 years now and I had no idea that this was even a possibility! So services like those provided at Student Loan Planner can definitely steer you in the right direction so that you can minimize the amount you pay and maximize the amount of debt that’s forgiven.

I didn’t want to overwhelm you guys with all of this information, so I decided to split this interview into two episodes. I highly recommend that you listen to this one again so that you can wrap your brain around all of the details about the PSLF program. Next week, Travis and I go into more detail about the program as well as calculate some different scenarios so that you can get a really good idea of just how much you can save.

If you want to read more about what Travis and I discussed today, just head on over to teachersneedteachers.com/studentloan.

And if you want to contact the Student Loan Planner, you can email help@studentloanplanner.com or head on over to the Student Loan Planner podcast.

Be sure to subscribe to this podcast so that you can automatically get next week’s episode where I continue the conversation with Travis. Just look at the device you’re on and hit that Subscribe or Follow button now!

And if you have a teacher bestie who would benefit from knowing how to have their student loans forgiven, please share this with them.

Thanks for hanging out with me today, and have a fabulous week!

TnT 78 What you need to understand about why teens to act the way they do in your classes

Educators that teach teenagers have a unique challenge: their students want the same type of love and praise as before, but now they also want more autonomy. This means that the typical model of teachers setting the rules and students complying becomes more complicated as teenagers begin to question and challenge their teachers. What can new teachers do to ensure that they’re respecting the needs of teenagers while still maintaining a positive learning environment? What should they do when their students begin to push back or become defiant? In today’s episode, Andy Earle from Talking to Teens and I dive into the core motivations of teenage students so that teachers can frame their thinking and policies in a way that doesn’t create more frustration and overwhelm for everyone.

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Today on episode 78, I’m talking to Andy Earle from talkingtoteens.com and the Talk to Teens podcast. Since I’ve already done a couple of episodes dedicated to elementary teachers, I wanted an expert for those of us who teach teenagers. As I’ve mentioned before, a lot of what we do in the classroom in terms of policies needs to be appropriate for where our students are developmentally and socially. So I decided to ask Andy to join us and help us frame our students’ actions with the research he’s done on adolescents and teens.

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this, but I currently have a teenager in my house. While I’ve always taught seventh graders who happen to be 12-13 year-olds, having my own has been…a journey.

As expected, there was a point where my daughter and I were butting heads. I was getting frustrated with her attitude, and she was annoyed with my bossiness and for being unreasonable. In a way, we were both right.

But I was concerned that we were going to be battling like this all the way through middle school and college, which I really dreaded. I’d been used to being the one person she could talk to, and if we kept on arguing like this, I knew our relationship would be damaged.

So I frantically searched for podcasts – which are my own professional and personal development – and stumbled upon Talking to Teens. You guys, it has been a GODSEND for me. I’ve taken a lot of the advice on the podcast and I have to say that I’ve been able to not only reframe how I perceive her actions but also communicate with my daughter more effectively.

So it dawned on me that I should have Andy come on the podcast to talk about teens. He’s a researcher who studies adolescent behavior and parent-teen communication. His award-winning academic work with Loyola Marymount University’s HeadsUp Research Lab focuses on how parents and educators can positively influence defiant and rebellious teenagers. Raise your hand if you have some of those in your classes!

His findings have been featured on hundreds of websites, TV news stations, and radio programs, including CNN, NPR, and The Huffington Post. He’s the Co-Founder of TalkingtoTeens.com and the host of the Talking to Teens podcast, where he speaks with leading experts from a variety of disciplines about the art and science of parenting teenagers. His widely-anticipated book, Parent Like A Badass, is due out this December. 

So now that you know a bit about Andy, here’s my conversation with him.


Kim  

Andy, I think it’s really interesting that you specialized in researching adolescents and teens. And I even saw that some of your recent research had to do with things like underage drinking. And of course, you know, like, I want to know more about that, because I have a 13 year old. So, just out of curiosity, what drew you to this focus?

Andy  

Well, that’s a good question. I, you know, I feel like, I’ve always been interested in parenting, and kind of, I’ve been really interested in like, how we become who we are, and how we kind of develop our identity. 

And so I guess that just, I feel like a lot of our identity kind of gets formed during adolescence. And as I kind of, you know, went through college and was studying developmental psychology, and kind of just trying to figure out what I wanted to do. There was this lab at our university heads up lab, that studies risk behavior among adolescents. And I just really kind of latched onto that. Because I’d done stuff with, you know, kids in kindergarten, and grade school and studying learning among younger kids, which, which is interesting, too. 

But for me, the period of adolescence specifically is just so interesting, because it’s like the time when so many new possibilities are opening, and your life can go in any direction, and you’re kind of kind of choosing the person that you’re going to be, or making choices that really affect kind of your identity and how you see yourself. So that was fascinating to me. And, you know, a big part of that is risk risk behaviors. And a big part of what we associate with adolescence is this propensity to get engaged in risky behaviors and to do drugs, and to experiment with drinking, and it’s kind of the time of your life, when you’re maybe, you know, thinking about experimenting with those things. 

And when you’re deciding, is that can be part of my identity, you know, am I going to be someone who drinks or someone who doesn’t drink, you know, someone who uses drugs, or someone who doesn’t use drugs, all of these things, kind of are, are forming during that time. So I guess it just like a happy coincidence of getting connected with this lab that happened to be studying those things, and be kind of at the same time realizing that, hey, this is really interesting to me, and how can we design programs that will reach kids, and they know help them to make better choices during this period of their life.

Kim  

To me, as a teacher is also really interesting, which is why I prefer seventh graders, they’re going through this transition from a lot of hand holding and sixth grade. And then in seventh grade, they’re seeming to, to pull away. And you know, a lot of my listeners, they teach at the secondary level. So, you know, dealing with teenagers is constant, and I feel this push and pull with them, in terms of they want their independence, but they still want us to, you know, like bail them out when they get in trouble or ease up on them with consequences. So I’m just curious, from what you’ve learned, what do teenagers want and need from adults?

Andy  

So this kind of goes hand in hand with what I was talking about with just this time of their life, where they’re developing their identity. I think that what they what they want, what they need is to be different, you know, to, to have some help, finding the ways that they’re different, and the ways that they’re unique, and to be affirmed in that. 

And one thing that we do here is kind of try and apply studies and research that happens in academia, to actual parenting, and you know, what you can actually say to adolescence, and so we have parents come to us here, we have this, this company called talking to teens. And they come and have a lot of questions about, hey, why is my teenager doing this? And why are they acting this way? And why are they acting that way. And so we do consulting with people. And we started keeping track of all of the things that that people came in with. And one of the most, the things that parents found most helpful was this article that I written that was based on some research that shows that one of the best things you can do when you’re communicating with a teenager, is figure out what their values are, and frame, whatever you’re saying, in terms of their values. 

And so we kind of just came up with all these different values that teenagers could hold. And we did some research and we looked at the literature, what are you know, just different values, that teenagers had different identities, different things that teenagers could kind of see, see as important or see as part of who they are. And we came up with this whole list of them. And then we started just like sending that list to parents that came in for consulting and having them look at and say, hey, what resonates with you? What do you think, on this list is something that your teenager values. 

And it was interesting, because there were, you know, 10 things on this list. But there were three that kept coming back to us over and over again, as the things that parents said, Oh, yeah, that’s my teenager. That’s what my teenager values. That’s what my teenager needs. And the three things were love, independence, and power. 

As so as we saw this, I kind of it was like too strong of a pattern to ignore Kim, it was like, everybody was saying the same things. And then we started noticing that there were differences between people who came in and they said, hey, my teenager is, you know, lying to me, and they’re sneaking at night. And there, they won’t listen, anything I say, tended to say independence. And people who came in and they said, Oh, my teenagers are manipulative, and we get in arguments all the time. And they really like will challenge me would say power. And people who would come in and say that, you know, they don’t have any problems with their teenager, they’re teenagers, pretty compliant, would say lot. 

And so we started to build out this model, at where every teenager, and really every person has these three kind of core needs, at the core of their being the need for love, the need for independence, and the need for power. But the way I see it is, we kind of all have a different balance of these needs. So some people tend to need independence more, some people need power more, and some people need love more. And, you know, I think it changes across the lifespan. 

So especially in the teenagers that need for independence, the need for power, really start to take over, you know, and as a parent, finding ways to help your teenager get those things, to give those things to your teenager, or to help your teenager find ways to use their, their talents, the things that they’re good at, to fill those needs. And to get the things that they want in life is is to me, one of the most helpful things that you can do.

Kim  

That gives me a lot to think about here. Because, you know, as a teacher, when I translate love, I think that is, you know, like, well, we love our students, but also it reminds me of things like praise. So you know, I know that kids really respond to lots and lots of praise. But sometimes I personally feel like when I praise a student, especially like in the middle school time, it embarrassing some of them, and I want to let them know that they’re doing a good job, and I appreciate what they’re doing without giving them unwanted attention. So what type of praise Do you think they need? And what’s the best way to deliver it when they’re super self-conscious?

Andy  

So how would you connect this to the three core needs? And I would say different, depending on what the kids strongest needed? For a lot of teenagers, you know, for me as a teenager independence, far and away was my strongest needs still is. And so, I will respond really well. If a teacher told me, wow, I had, I’ve been teaching this class for 20 years, I have never seen someone do it that way before that is so unique. And that’s really cool. You know, if they affirmed my independence in some way, and gave me praise, that would, you know, affirm how unique and different I am. Right? 

That would that to be, but to someone, you know, who wants love, it’s more like making them feel like they belong? Wow. I just want to say, the way you contributed that discussion today, was was so cool. And it’s so cool to see that you know, that you’re just diving right in and getting involved and being like a, an integral part of this group and being a part of this team, you know, and that’s really cool to see. Right. So that would be maybe praising them in terms of love. 

Or you could praise them in terms of power and say, Hey, wow, it was really cool to see you just take charge, you know, during that activity, and I’m really, really impressed at your leadership abilities. And kind of the way that I see the see the other kids kind of look up to you a lot. And I just wanted to let you let you know how cool that is.

Kim  

Okay, so reframing it. So I guess I’d have to get to know, I’d have to learn that about my students to and seeing what they really need and what they respond to. But I like how you’re, you’re responding. Based on what they’re doing. It sounds like for more like independence and power and, and for love, it sounds like on a deeper level, like you’re praising also who they are.

Andy  

And affirming that they belong, you know, affirming, that they kind of have a role and that they’re valued, and that they’re, you know, a part of the group, I think is that’s what, you know, we all want all these things. So I don’t make it sound like oh, some people only want independence. And some only want love, I mean, we’ll need to feel like we belong. But just for some people, it’s stronger. 

For some people, they would rather feel like they belong, then feel like they’re, you know, unique and don’t need anybody, right? Some people would rather feel like, Hey, I’m totally independent and cool. And then you know, they also want to belong to, but that’s kind of secondary. So I think if we can kind of tune if you know, as it as a teacher, as a parent, if you can just start to kind of like, pick up on those clues. 

And we have a quiz on our website. You know, it’s it’s free, and it gives you a whole report on you can figure out what your what your teenager’s core needs are, and what’s their strongest need, and what’s their weakest need. And you know, what takes a couple minutes to do. 

But as a, you know, as a parent, as a teacher, you can kind of start to just like, watch for clues, and see. And I think that once you kind of start thinking about this, then it starts to get obvious, you know, you can see like, I see this kids independence get Oh, this kid who’s always acting defined in class and like challenging me, that’s a power kid, right? These kids who kind of like sit in the background are kind of like, a little more like need want my approval and you know, don’t disrupt the class, because they don’t want to have me not approve of them. They’re more love kids, whatever. So you can kind of start to pick up on those clues, I think and then tie the praise into what you see as kind of them meeting.

Kim  

So speaking of power, though, because that kind of made me think about teachers and their need to develop classroom rules in order to maintain order. You know, with the younger kids in elementary, they’ll have rules like keep your hands to your or raise your hand when you need to use the restroom. But I can see how some teenagers could see rules as part of a power struggle. So I’m curious, what kind of classroom rules would work best with teens considering their desire for power or independence or maybe even being treated more like an adult?

Andy  

So this ties into the core needs. And also into all this research by Dan Ariely on the IKEA effect, which basically shows you know, when we feel like we’ve played a part in creating something, we value it a lot more. 

And so, you know, they do these studies with like origami, little folding little birds and stuff, right? And they asked people to kind of estimate how much this thing is worth. And people say, Oh, yeah, it’s worth 50 cents. And then they take another group of people, and they teach them how to fold it themselves, step by step, and the people fold the exact same thing. And then they asked me to estimate how much it’s worth missing. Oh, it’s worth $3 or $4, right? 

We value things way more, if we feel like we kind of contributed to them. And so we, in our research, on adolescent risk taking behaviors, we kind of took this idea. And we applied it to teenagers to giving them feedback on their risk taking behaviors. And what we found is if instead of just saying, Hey, we’re going to give you feedback on your alcohol use, here’s your feedback. If we kind of like had them submit questions and say, hey, what would you be curious about finding out there, they’re curious about how much other kids are drinking, they want to know that. So 30% of the questions that they submitted, were about that. 

So we gave, we were able to give them the exact same feedback, but just let them kind of run the show a little more, and let them kind of feel like it was coming from them. And what we found is, when we looked at the data, it was a lot more impactful, they change their behavior a lot more. And, you know, they paid off attention to the feedback. 

And what I think you could do to apply this in the classroom is, and again, a lot of this stuff is more work, you know, so it’s a lot easier to just say, here’s the rules, follow them, but a lot easier to just say, Hey, here’s the feedback. Here you go. That’s why all the other researchers had done it that way. But what we what we found was, it was a lot more impactful when we kind of did this whole scenario first, and we had them submit the questions and make them feel like they had kind of contributed to it. 

So I think as a teacher, you could do something similar to that. Right? You could have to take the first day of class, and work out the rules with your class. What do you guys want me to do? If someone does this during class? Or someone does that? or someone’s not raising their hand? Or do you even care about raising hands? Do we all just want to shout things out? Do you want to be graded based on participation? Like, I’m open? You know, I want to kind of create this classroom experience with you guys. Let’s have a discussion about it. What do you like about your other classes? What do you not like about your other classes? And how could we kind of create some rules together that we could all agree on? And we can all follow? At what what would you want from me? You know, and, and if we could kind of make those together, that IKEA effect is that if we if the kids feel like they have made the rules, then they’re going to be way more likely to follow them.

Kim  

You know, actually, a lot of teachers do that they have the kids come up with classroom rules. And while others, you know, we we have our own set of rules, but from what I’ve heard, when students develop the rules with the teacher, they kind of end up being the same ones, but they like you said, they kind of feel like there’s more buy in because they thought that they came up with it themselves.

Andy  

Yeah, especially if you talk through it. I mean, because it’s like, what, what positively Are you going to make the rules be that like, oh, everyone just does whatever they want? And that’s just not a productive class, right? I mean, like that, if you if you sit down with them and talk through? Well, so what would be the pros of having there will be that, oh, and what would be the cons? And what if the role was that, you know, you’ll arrive at basically the same general thing as you would have, if you just said, here’s the rules. But, you know, the classes going to feel much more like, Hey, this is ours, you know,

Kim  

On your podcast, you talk a lot about parents setting boundaries, with their, with their child with their teenager and and I started thinking about things like consequences in terms of what actually works, because there comes a point. And I’ve told a lot of teachers about this, if you’re just a mean teacher that yells all the time, then when you are actually upset, it doesn’t affect the students anymore. Because they’ve sort of become anesthetize to that, you know, they they’re just like, well, that’s just your talking voice. So then what I wonder is, how can we give consequences that actually matter? And I don’t mean punishments, but I mean, consequences when they break the rules?

Andy  

Yeah, I think that’s a great question. I would just, I mean, I’ll just tie it right back into, on that discussion that we have on the first day class at what, what should the consequences be? What should we do? If someone does x? Was we do someone knows? Why what should we do if someone’s, you know, being disruptive?

Kim 

And I wonder, though, if you’ve experienced anything like this, or had anyone talk to you about this, how do parents feel? Or how do students feel? Or is it effective when we call home? So if we say, you know, I got to call your parents, when they’re getting up into sophomore, junior senior year, is that even something that works for the students or, you know, to help them, I guess, comply or fall in line?

Andy  

Sure, you know, every student is different, I would go back to those core needs, and say, if they’re high in love, then that would maybe be possibly effective. If they’re high independence, that’s going to maybe backfire. If they’re high in power, then that might start a real argument and power struggle. 

In general, I think teens respond really well when you treat them like an adult. And you would never call an adults parents and say, Hey, this is a problem, you would just talk to them about it. Right. So it obviously in certain circumstances, you know, you have to I guess it depends on what the schools policy is. But yeah, I would, I would just always try to first address it with the kid and the teenager, and see, see what you can do you know, because once you call the parents, then that feels like, Hey, you went over my head and like, why don’t you just talk to me about it, and like, what we got to work this out. And then there’s going to be a lot of resentment there. And it’s really going to damage I think your relationship with that student,

Kim  

Something that a teacher who had switched from elementary to eighth grade, something that she had noticed was just how more unmotivated students seem to be in their teenage years. Can you explain that apathy and how we can address that?

Andy  

That’s one of the biggest comments we get from parents, too. My teenager is so lazy, and is checking out and doesn’t do their homework, I can’t get him to get a job, I can’t get him to stop playing video games, I can’t get him to get off the couch, they’re not engaged in anything, it’s driving me crazy, they won’t do your chores will help out on house. They’re completely unmotivated, what do we do? I know, it’s not going to happen for all teenagers. 

But I think this ties into the need for independence, what teenagers are trying to do is form their own identity. And if they feel like you’re trying to push a certain identity on them, and if they’re high independence, they’re going to fiercely resistant. And there’s a whole bunch of studies on this concept called psychological reactants, which is basically just reverse psychology. 

You know, it’s like, if you tell someone to do X, they’re going to resist that, if you if someone feels like their autonomy is being threatened by you, then they’re going to try to do the opposite of whatever you’re suggesting that they do. And for teenagers, it’s, it’s really, really strong, right? 

They’ve got that that need for independence, flares up really strong during the teenage years. And if you’re trying to suggest a certain identity for them, and well, maybe that’s not who I am, that’s not who I want to be right, they’re going to resist it. And so a lot of times that these parents that are, that are having problems with, you know, my teenagers lazy, are parents who are really gogo motivated, right, their parents, like their parents who just I just don’t get it, because in our family, you know, we’re everyone is so much and we’re so we’re such go getters and that’s what I always try to teach my team that you need to be is, you know, you need to be you to be rah, rah rah, go, go go. 

Well, of course, the teenager doesn’t want your identity, they want their own identity. So if the identity that you’re trying to push on them is motivated, motivated, rah, rah, rah, the only option for them is to do the opposite, that there’s no other way for them to differentiate and to become their own person and have their own identity, then to literally just do the opposite of what you’re pushing them to do. And especially if you’re their parent, it’s a really strong drive, right? So the more you say, hey, you’re unmotivated, you’re lazy. Be more like me, right? 

Essentially, the more they’re going to kick it, dig in their heels and kick their feet and say, no, that’s not who I am. You don’t get me, that’s not where I want to be. I don’t want to be you. I don’t want to do that. Right. And so I think the same thing happens with Teachers happens in the classroom.

Kim  

And what do you usually tell the parents in terms of, you know, reframing their mindset or ways that they talk to teenagers, when their own teenager is apathetic or pushing back for independence.

Andy  

I think you just got to stop making them feel like you’re pushing them towards a certain way, you need to make them feel like you really don’t care. You like, what you want most for them is to discover who they are. And for them to be the person that they’re becoming. And if that’s not the same as me, that is totally fine. If you decide you just want to sit on the couch all day and chill. Totally fine, right? You, you need to first teenagers need to feel like they’re completely accepted, and like you understand them, and you get why they want to be the way that they are.

And then you can start to slowly kind of steer them with natural consequences, I think it just comes down to natural consequences, where if they’re going to be lazy and sit on the couch, then they’re probably not gonna have money to do X, Y, Z, or they’re probably, you know, they’re not going to get other some other thing that they may be wanted, because they can’t afford it, or they didn’t hold up their end of the deal that you made, which was you know, if you get A’s, then you get whatever, right? 

I think completely accept them, and you give them love, but you, you know, are firm in whatever the consequences are. And if the consequence is that, you know, they don’t get something that they wanted, then they’re going to maybe learn a lesson. But you’re not going to be like, haha, told you so, you know, you’re gonna be like, Ah, it’s so hard. I hate it when I don’t get the things that I want, you know, I really sucks.

Kim  

So I can just look at a student sitting there. And if they’re not doing their work, they’re slouched in their seat, and I asked them do their work and they don’t, then that natural consequence could be something like, okay, you know, that’s fine. You don’t have to do the work right now. But just understand that you’re going to get a zero for this, but you’re making that choice.

Andy  

Yeah, totally. Hey, bud. I get it. Man. I used to man when I was your age, I used to hate these kind of assignments. Man, I get it. Right, I feel you on this one. And if you want to just sit this one out. Okay, no problem. And, you know, but we as a class member, we set the syllabus. And so this assignment is, you know, we decided as a classes, were going to be worth 5% your grade. 

I don’t care if we get zero for it. I don’t want to force you to do stuff you don’t want to do but I also don’t want to waste your time. Just giving them the autonomy to decide if they want to do it or not, and kind of empathizing with them. I think empathy is really big, if they understand if they feel like you understand how they feel, or they feel like you kind of see them, then they’re more likely to kind of go along, right?

Kim  

Is it the same thing with defiance to like, if you ask them to do something, and they kind of laugh it off with their friends. I’ve heard of teachers in, especially in some tougher classrooms where they’ll say, I need you to sit down, please. And that student will look at their friend across the room. And they all start laughing together and being more disruptive, or, you know, the pretend to stop, but then sneakily do it again? Is it just one of those things where you just have to give them the natural consequences? Or would you talk to them one on one, like, what are they vying for at that point when they’re having that struggle with the teacher?

Andy  

Okay, so what I would say to this is, yes, teenagers have these three core needs love, independence and power, but we also do to adults have them just as much as a teacher you have needs. And if you have a need for power, then you like to be in control of the classroom, and you like everyone to be doing things that they’re supposed to do, like you said, like, what the schedule is like, what this on task, right? 

So if you have a kid who’s high in power, also, then there’s going to be some really strong conflicts when we have a parent of a high power parent and a high power kid, or high power teacher and a high power kid, that is a recipe for some really explosive conflicts. I think you have to be honest with yourself, Why do you care that this student is doing what they’re doing? If they’re not disrupting anybody else? If they’re not, like, stopping other people from being able to learn, then maybe you just let it go, and maybe just, you know, let those natural consequences happen?

Kim  

And would you do the same thing, because with swearing because it’s something that even for me as a parent, like it’s an issue. In fact, my daughter even asked me, you know, how old do I have to be before I can start swimming? And I hear kids starting from seventh grade on, you know, starting to swear. And I’m wondering, what, what is that? Why, what can we as adults do to kind of curb that, especially because it’s obviously not appropriate at school? I kind of don’t care what happens when they leave the school. But you know, what’s, what’s going on with that?

Andy  

We need to come up with a real reason why we care if they’re swearing, and it can’t just be like, because we’re not supposed to. Teenagers just don’t like to go along with rules, if there’s no reason for them, or if they seem pointless. So there’s, I’m sure there’s good reason for not swearing. But if I’m a teenager, and it’s just like, the rule is we don’t swear, then I’m like, well, screw that. I’m aware, you know.

Kim  

So you have a blog, and a podcast, and two books right now. And then you have a third book coming out. So can you tell us more about that?

Andy  

We’ve been doing this podcast now for coming up on two years, is called Talking to Teens. And we interview parenting authors and experts about kind of their special strategies for dealing with teenagers. And then I kind of try and talk them through this stuff from their book, different situations, and really try to get like actionable like exactly what parents can do to handle different situations. 

Because what we found in helping parents out, is that kind of the most helpful thing that parents want, is scripts of just exactly what I could say, if my teenager is doing x, y, z, you know, what, what can I say? And just like, now, I can’t help it. Like, as we’ve been talking for the past hour, I’ve been giving, you know, scripts for Teachers, I would say, hey, you could sit down with a kid and say, This isn’t okay. Right. I’ve been receiving complaints from others. But I’ve been talking and scripts, because what we found is that parents far and away, say that’s the most helpful thing is just like examples of what you could say. 

So once we realized that, I also realized that during a lot of our interviews, there were scripts in there, the experts had said, examples of things you could say, just like we’ve been doing here on this podcast. So what I did was I went back through all of our previous interviews and pulled out everywhere in our hours and hours of interviews that we’ve done all of the different scripts, and I compiled them into a book. 

And so there’s over 200 pages of them every possible situation that you could possibly want to deal with a teenager. And there’s like word for word scripts, of exactly what you could say, different examples. And this is not me making it up. This is from all kinds of different experts all over the world. 

So that’s the first book, it’s, you know, the scripts book, you can find that on our website, talking to teens calm, then then the second one is exercise, because what we also found is, parents, a lot of times have the best intent to apply this stuff. But then they don’t follow through with it. It’s the hardest part is like actually implementing it. So we went through and we found all of the things that people we’re recommending that parents do, and we turn it into an exercise so that you write it down. And then you commit to a day, you know, when are you going to do this with your teenager, and what exactly you’re going to do, and you write that down, and kind of make a commitment to yourself, and then put it into your calendar to just kind of force you to actually follow through. So those books are both available on our website. 

And we have a membership program, which gets you access to the extended cuts of our interviews with parents and also gets you those books for half off. So you can check that out. And like I mentioned, there’s a quiz on our website that will let you kind of discover what your teenagers core needs are based on that coordinates thing. And we’ll give you a a nice little PDF that is all about your teenager and their needs. 

And the new book that’s coming out in December is going to be really excited about it. It’s where you can kind of learn the ins and outs of this core needs theory that I’ve been talking about the three knees and there’s a whole nother aspect to it, which is what your teenagers aptitudes or skills are. And what we found is what teenagers want to do is to fill their needs, using their skills. So once you can know what their needs are, and you can know where their skills are, and you can see where they’re misbehaving or were having problems, then what you can go ahead and do is just find better ways for them to fill their needs, using their skills. And it’s a really cool system, the book is going to be called parent like a badass, and it’s coming out in December.

Kim  

Nice. That sounds awesome kind of a way for parents to figure this out on their own without having to necessarily go to therapy. If they just could reframe it, reframe how their students or their child is behaving, then they could probably communicate better with them. Awesome. Now, if my listeners want to connect with you for more information, where can they find you?

Andy  

So you can find us on Instagram at talkingtoteenspodcast, and we love to hear from people and always I love to hear from parents go just email me Andy@talkingtoteens.com.

Kim  

Well thank you so much, Andy, for taking the time to do this. I really appreciate it.

Andy  

Thank you, Kim. This has been a blast. And you know, I hope that some teachers out there find it helpful. I feel like there’s some parallels. So I really hope that it wasn’t a it’s not a waste of people’s time.

Kim  

No, definitely parallels there. Thank you.


I definitely think that Andy’s tapped into a lot of insights about teens that teachers can benefit from. So here are my takeaways.

First, teenagers tend to fall within three categories: a need for love, independence, or power. Their specific need or desire will influence how they interact with adults. So teachers need to observe and try to read their students to figure out what that need is for each student, and they’ll be able to understand what’s motivating that student to behave that way.

Also, autonomy for teens equals buy-in. When you let teens feel like they’re part of the decision-making process or they have some say, they feel respected and more likely to be cooperative. They’re at that point in their lives when they don’t want to be babied and just told what to do because we’re the adults and they’re not.

Finally, treating teens like adults helps teachers maintain relationships with students. But having the freedom to act like an adult also means adult consequences. If they want more freedom, then they have to accept the fact that their teachers aren’t going to bail them out, make excuses for them, or give them multiple passes when they mess up. I can only imagine that the hardest part is letting them make mistakes or fail so that they can learn and grow. But in the long run, they’ll benefit from that experience.

I hope you found this episode useful, especially if you teach teens or have one of your own like I do. If you’re enjoying the show and want to support it, then head over to teachersneedteachers.com/support. For just $5 a month, you can help keep the show alive and running, and as a thank you I’ll give you a shoutout on a future podcast episode and social media, plus I’ll send you some swag.

Thanks again for hanging out with me today, and have a fabulous week!