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This is the Ten Minute Teacher podcast with your host Vicki Davis.
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Today, sponsor is Dell, where Black Friday starts now. Dell has deals for listeners of the show and readers of the Cool Cat Teacher blog going live right now through November 27th of 2022. They have everything from computers, gaming, laptops, or even a slick wireless mouse. So stay tuned at the end of the show to get that link and get your deals on some awesome Dell computers.
Introducing George Couros
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So today we’re talking with my friend Georgia Couros. George is a friend of mine from some time ago. We won’t say how long. Right?
George, he’s author of The Innovators Mindset, Innovate Inside the Box. And he has a newer book that’s inspiring called Because of a Teacher (Volume 1) and Volume 2.
And so, George, you want to tell us a little bit about why you wrote this book?
Why Did You Write “Because of a Teacher?”
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Do you remember in 2020, it was like March of 2020. You know, obviously the world shuts down, you know, like at least on North American side, right. That shut down earlier and some other places. But there is that like two or three week period where everybody loved teachers. Like it was like two or three weeks. And I remember thinking I’m like, oh my,
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Like, this is the awakening that people are going to really start appreciating teachers because you know, a lot of people had to, you know, teach your kids at home. And how hard it was with one kid and they’re like, “Oh my, this is like impossible.” Now doing it and imagine someone, you know, 20, 25 and then, you know, the two weeks is up and then it was kind of, you know, everyone was grumpy.
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And so I don’t know if you remember that. I’m sure you remember that part. And one of the things I started doing, I think it was in 2021, I wanted to just try something new. I always take these little sabbaticals just to kind of think of some new ideas.
So I actually started this series called it was just called Three Questions, and it was I had asked people who was a teacher that inspired you, who is an administrator that inspired you?
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And what advice would you give to your first year? Teach yourself. And so I actually I always like to model this stuff. So I went first and answer these questions and I couldn’t even stick to my own script because I couldn’t name a teacher because I had so many great ones. So I actually talked about my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Stock, my grade three teacher, who’s also my music teacher, Mrs. Penrose, and my high school for teacher, who is also my football coach, Calvin Hobbs.
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And I talked about their impact on me. And literally within like I think it was 24 to 48 hours. Every one of them found it somehow like somebody knew them connect. It said, Hey, do you know this guy’s talking about you? And they all messaged me, some of them commented on the video, some of them messaged me through DM and it’s like I was just kind of thinking like, this is really amazing and how these people don’t know the impact they had on me and how many people don’t hear that impact.
Start of the Innovator’s Mindset Podcast
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And so the podcast kind of started there, you know, where I’d ask people these three questions and then just kind of one day I was like, This is actually a really great book. So I contacted some people. It was a Saturday night. I remember it very distinct, distinct a manner. And I said, What do you think about this idea?
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So I have basically 15 people who answer, you know, the first question, the first question, there’s five of them that who’s a teacher who inspired you? The first you know, the other five answer, which admin inspired you? And then we have another five answers whose you know what advice you give to your first or teacher self?
And it’s kind of like this ode to teachers, like just talking about the teachers from our past and really how much of an impact they’ve had.
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But there’s some really powerful learning there because you see a consistent theme in the stories, right? Nobody’s talking about. Oh, yeah. Like I remember in grade two, that science test like that changed my life, right? Like that. Nobody’s talking about that. So there are some really powerful, you know, learning for, you know, educators today. But it was really kind of it’s one of those books that you can learn from, but you can also sit and read at the beach and, you know, just kind of wherever you’re at and, you know, short stories and just really incredible authors.
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And it was interesting because Saturday I had thought of the idea. By Sunday, I had confirmed 59 which which tells you, you know, if people wanted to share those stories and yeah, they’re just really inspiring people, sharing through all of the stories and just kind of just kind of cool to actually see.
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So as you look at those stories, is there any that just jumps out at you like, wow, I wish that teacher had known this is what they meant?
Steve Bollar and His Art Teacher
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Yeah. Like there’s one Steve Bollar. He goes by @standtallsteve on Instagram. He’s wonderful, wonderful man. He talked about basically his art teacher. He is actually a trained art teacher who became an administrator, which is not typically you don’t hear that too often. And he talks about this art teacher who basically just advocatee for him the entire time and just kind of thinking about basically it wasn’t even just during school.
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It was actually after the fact that this teacher is still cheering them on him and connecting and seeing that. And like when you read Steve’s story, what I really loved about it is that you kind of realize how when educators have students in their classrooms, they’re kind of always their students like they’re always kind of cheering for them.
The Problem with Negativity on Social Media
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And you see and I’m sure I know you’ve seen this, too, right? There’s some negativity on social media. And I always think about that, that it’s kind of weird sometimes when I see educators being negative towards other educators because they should remember that, you know, a lot of the times I hear people like, oh, this person, they’re complaining about them.
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I’m like, you know, some teacher is actually cheering that kid on right now. Right. Even though they’re like 58 years old, they’re still cheering them on, wishing for the best for them. And it was just really powerful to see that.
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You know, there have been so many teachers who’ve been quitting. And one thing that’s frustrated me about social media is it seems that the algorithms favor the negative and not the positive. So there’s teachers I’ve talked to that are like, why does this matter? I am working so hard and I go to, quote, “relax.”
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You don’t get to relax on Twitter anymore or Instagram like we used to, but used to. That’s how we chilled that. I go there to, quote, “relax” and I see all this negativity like like we’re talking about. What’s your message to teachers about why they matter?
Why Teachers Matter
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I really try to focus on finding people that uplift. And it’s not that I think a lot of times people get mixed up with the notion of negativity and people are challenging like really challenging to elevate to help you get better. And there’s two different things.
It is OK for Teachers Who Hate Teaching to Leave the Profession
And I’m all for I know this might sound kind of weird, but if you’re a teacher and you hate teaching, I honestly think that, you know, if you’re not in a good place, I think, you know, I don’t think it’s the worst thing to actually leave the profession.
It is OK to Leave an Old Job and Move to Another One If It Isn’t Good for Who You Are
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And I know that’s maybe kind of a weird thing to say, but I know that sometimes the best things I’ve ever done in my education career is not getting a new job. It’s actually leaving an old one and saying, like, “this is not good for me, this is not good for who I am.” And, you know, I was blessed to leave one job and then go to another where I was about to quit education.
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And actually, you know, I said, “I’ll give it one more year.” Had the best leader ever. She totally changed my perspective and she didn’t just change my perspective. She also helped me see things in myself that I didn’t see and that, you know, you realize how great that is too, right? So I think if you’re struggling, that’s fine.
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And if you want to leave, that’s fine. But also, you don’t necessarily need the affirmation and make sure that other people dislike the job, too. And I think, you know, there’s a lot of people that, you know, we’re actually struggling.
Teachers Who Are Having a Great Experience Should Be Willing to Share It Too!
And it’s kind of funny because you say this. I saw a few teachers saying like, “I hate saying this, but I had one of the best years of my career last year” and they’re almost felt bad to share that.
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And I think for me, one of the things I realized, especially in the last part of the book, is that you have these really accomplished educators talking about their first year teaching. And now these people are superintendents. They’re consultants that work with, you know, education systems all over the world. And they talked about how they really struggled when they first started teaching.
Even in Difficult Years You Have a Tremendous Impact on Students
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But it was like really fascinating, because what you start to realize is that even in your worst year, right, even in some of the worst years, you have such a tremendous impact that, you know, kids remember you like I you know, I think you’re probably the same way as me. You know, like we the things that we know now, we wish we could go back to our first year teaching and apologize to every kid we taught right now, like, what are we doing?
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But then like some of those kids still, you know, say to me to this day, like, you’re my favorite teacher, I’m like, oh, my, like, if I was your favorite teacher, you must had a pretty low bar, right? Like, you know, because I’m like, I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. So it’s just kind of a realization.
Word to Administrators: Don’t Tell Teachers to “Remember Their Why” and then Extinguish the Flame
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And, you know, I think one of the conversations and I’ve been talking about this quite a bit is that it’s really important, like, you know, this whole you know, I hear people say like, oh, “you remember your why?” And I truly believe that you have to remember why you teach. But, you know, the administrators have been really challenging them is that “do not actually tell teachers to remember their why and get in the way of extinguishing that flame.”
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Like you have to like make sure you get as much out of the way of your staff to let them have that impact, let them, you know, make that impact, that they wanted to when they first, you know, wanted to go in the career in the first place.
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You have to remember your why. But then there’s also what are you actually doing every day? It’s so easy to get, you know, who’s your audience? You know, the years that my audience has been more my admin than my teachers. My students, and my teachers because I work with teachers also. Those are the years of struggle.
When What You’re Doing Doesn’t Line Up With Your Why
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Not that I don’t have great admin, but if I’m spending all this time writing these massive lesson plans and not actually preparing what I’m actually going to do with class, then sometimes it’s like, okay, “I know my why, but what I’m doing doesn’t line up with my why.”
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Right? And that’s all I want to do. Percent agree with you and like I really challenged, you know, administrators over time. But sometimes I don’t like this, but I know that you want every kid to have an amazing experience. But you also hired people to create that, not to actually script them throughout the entire day.
The More Administrators Micromanage, the Harder It Can Be For Teachers To Do Their Jobs
And sometimes – and this was my approach when I was an administrator, I realized very quickly, the more you micromanage, the harder it is for you to do your job.
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And you just have to build a culture of trust, you know, have a vision, check in on people, make sure they have what they need to be supported. And educators will really do a great job.
The Problem with “Personalizing” Learning but then Standardizing Assessments
I really struggle and I’ve been having this conversation quite a bit that we so often talk about personalizing learning, but then we standardize the assessments but actually saying like, hey, like you actually know this kid and maybe that test isn’t the best for them because, you know, maybe that they’re they’re not explaining their understanding of science,
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they’re trying to write about their understanding of science, which is a totally different skill. And you’re not actually assessing the right way. So can we trust the teacher to actually get that information out of the student to actually understand that?
Trust Is Important in This Profession
And that’s where, you know, trust is really important in this profession. And a lot of times the micromanaging that, you know, the endless, you know, initiatives and things like that comes from a place where we don’t trust you and that that actually makes things really hard.
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And I’m a big believer in the Covey – The Speed of Trust [Book] that the more we trust people to do what they need to do, the easier things are and the faster they get done. Wow.
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I do hope you are speaking a lot because there’s a lot of folks who need to hear that message, George. Yeah. So we’ve all been through a lot. You know, you’ve been you’ve been in education now, what, over 20 years, is that right?
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Yeah, plus 20 plus years. I’m at the point where if you ask me, I have to like I.
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When Did I Start
What Do You Hope Teachers Never Forget?
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Anyone here. Right. So being through the what we’ve been through in the last 3 to 4 as well as all the previous, what are the things that you hope teachers will never forget?
Some Kids Thrived with Remote Learning
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Look, I think for me, when you when you look at this, too, is that did we actually see some kids thriving, you know, for the first time, right? They do. We actually when some kids went to remote learning, did some of them thrive and actually do well? And you and I have been a big advocates of kids, you know, using technology in meaningful ways, not just using it, you know, like not just having their phones in classrooms.
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Because I think there’s a disconnect there is that we’re just saying, like, let kids do whatever they want. No, no, there’s there’s opportunity here. And you watched that in basically in March 2020. Some kids for the first time going to remote learning. They actually started to do well because they’re actually encouraged to use devices they weren’t allowed to have in a classroom two weeks earlier.
Whatever a Kid Needs to Succeed is Where We Need to Start
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And so I’ve been saying this forever, that if you have a child who thrives with paper and pencil and you take that away from them, I’d be just as bothered if you took away a piece of technology. Whatever kid needs to succeed is where we need to start. And I think that to me is a really big, you know, thought.
Sometimes We Learn the Best Lessons from the Hard Stuff
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But I think part of it is that the years have been really hard and sometimes we learn the best lessons from the hard stuff and we all like it wasn’t like in 2019, everything was just going awesome, right? We are struggling with this too.
Are We So Eager to Get Back to 2019 or Are We Trying to Create Something New and Better for Every One of Our kids?
And so I’ve been challenging people and saying like, “Hey, are we so desperately trying to get back to 2019 or are we trying to create something new and better for every one of our kids?”
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Are we actually trying to emulate the things that we dreamed of when we first became educators? So, you know, I think it’s really important to acknowledge how hard stuff was and, you know, not to dismiss that at all, but also that we ensure that we are focusing on helping every single kid find success in a way that’s meaningful to them.
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And, you know, maybe challenging some of the things that we do. Like I say this about my own kids, I don’t care if my kids go to college. All I care about my kids, my own children is that I help them find success in a way that’s meaningful to them. And that could be college. It could be something else.
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And is that what we’re trying to achieve? Are we helping kids find success in a way that’s meaningful to them, or are we trying to get them to do certain things? Are we trying to, you know, say personalize learning by making every kid try to be exactly the same in education? And so I think, you know, more and more people are seeing, you know, some of the challenges that we’ve had, but also seeing some of the opportunities that we can create something way better for our kids and honestly, for ourselves.
“I Didn’t Go Into Education to Test Kids Every Single Day”
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Right. I didn’t go into education to test kids every single day.
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True. So it sounds like it is. I think back to your word for administrators was “trust” as we finish up my last question is, if you could pick one word for educators, teachers right now, what would that word be?
George’s Word for Teachers: Relationships
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Yeah, it would it would always be relationships. Right. How we connect with the people that we serve, you know, how we even you know, and I know a lot of teachers out there really are frustrated with their administrators. And I don’t get that right. I understand I’ve been in that situation, too. And I think sometimes your administrators that are there, they’re not making necessary decisions that they think are bad.
Teachers Can Coach “Down” and Up: Administrators Need Support and Relationships
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They’re trying to do what’s right. And I think sometimes they just need you know, they need some of that coaching. Like we feel we can only coach down that on the hierarchy of, you know, our, you know, staff ladder or whatever it’s called. But I think sometimes, you know, administrators need support, we need checking in. So like relationships go every single way, just like, you know, it’s always nice when a student can say, Hey, Mr. Couros, you off a little.
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It’s a joke, right? Like, I always appreciated that too. And it wasn’t like, don’t talk to me like this. I would never say that, right? Like it was always kind of a check in. So I think for me, especially when I was doing virtual stuff at the beginning, you know, you don’t know what you’re doing. And I would just get into the stuff and was way harder.
Build Relationships and Culture
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But what I would do and I started to figure out is I would actually spend 50 minutes just kind of getting to know the participants, having conversations, you know, we would do name that tune, have a little fun things and, and then I would only have 45 minutes left, but they were more invested in the 45 minutes because I built that relationship and I’m like, “Oh yeah, this is what I do when I’m in person, right?”
Relationships Are the Starting Point
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And so really kind of building that community, building that culture. It’s all starts with relationships. And I think a lot of times people just kind of leave it up. They’re like, That’s the goal of education. No, no, it’s the starting point. We build those relationships so that when we challenge the people we serve, they know we got their back.
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And I think that’s where it’s crucial because people are way more likely to take risks if they know they’re supported. Right. But if they’re not so sure, then they just kind of stick in their box, right? They kind of stick to what they know. And I think that to me, you know, it always goes back to relationships.
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How do we connect with people? That’s the beginning, not the end. Right.
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As I always say, you have to relate to educate, but you also have to relate to innovate. Another one of your favorite words, you also have an awesome podcast called Innovator’s Mindset Because of a Teacher” stories of the past to inspire the future of education as well as all of his other books. So thank you for coming on the show, George.
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It’s been very inspiring.
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You’ve been listening to the Ten Minute Teacher podcast. If you like this program, you can find more at coolcatteacher.com. If you wish to see more content by Vicki Davis, you can find her on Facebook and Twitter under @coolcatteacher. Thank you for listening.