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Inspire & Innovate: A Podcast for Educators

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Our inspire and innovate movement seeks to make visible the expertise of teachers while also upping our game in conversation with other thought leaders. Continue Reading >>
Our inspire and innovate movement seeks to make visible the expertise of teachers while also upping our game in conversation with other thought leaders. << Show Less
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Bridging the Faculty/Admin Division (Ep. 2): Greatness This week’s episode in our season of bridging the faculty/admin divide: Greatness.  What do faculty think make a good administrator? What do administrators think make a great faculty member?  And is there a way we can  all miraculously inch that direction together?  I was lucky to be joined by three incredibly great humans to discuss these big questions: Buck Cooper, 8th grade math educator; Cassie Mendrop, Director of Human Resources; and Blake Ware, Head of Upper School.  
5:27-7:15: Blake Ware’s synopsis of what makes a great teacher, which involves “a real commitment to the human side of things.”
7:30-9:27:  Listen to Buck Cooper illustrate the project of school with the best metaphor I’ve ever heard: “What is school except this ongoing cycle of getting the wheels on only to have them come off only to try to put them back on before they leave us as seniors.” 
10:11-11:07: Learn about the employee lifecycle from Cassie.
12:10-14:05 : Hear real talk from Blake about what it’s like to be an admin recruiting faculty in this particular historical moment.
14:20-19:13: All three guests weigh in on creative ways to approach recruitment in our unique school context.
20:30-22:14 : Buck reminisces about an administrator he encountered in his early career that personified the “north star” of what an administrator should be: “ She took me seriously enough to get past the nuts and bolts pieces . . . and engaged me at the level I really wanted to engage: learning how to think about how children think.”
22:18-23:50:  What keeps Blake up at night, and why trustworthiness is perhaps the most central non-negotiable in an administrator.
24:45-25:36: Cassie shares what Kevin Lewis told her in her first interview that made her want to work at St. Andrew’s, and she elucidates the chief challenge of administrating: balancing the needs of so many constituencies.  
26:48-28:18: Blake’s ideas on how we, both faculty and admin, can inch toward greatness: finding things that are energizing and finding ways to do those things together.
28:25-29:55: Buck describes the double-pronged power of curiosity and love in improving community and helping us inch toward a “greater greatness.”
31:20-33:15 : What Cassie has learned from exit interviews about why people leave, and why preserving relationships is at the heart of job satisfaction.
Newest Audio
Bridging the Faculty/Admin Division (Ep. 2): Greatness This week’s episode in our season of bridging the faculty/admin divide: Greatness.  What do faculty think make a good administrator? What do administrators think make a great faculty member?  And is there a way we can  all miraculously inch that direction together?  I was lucky to be joined by three incredibly great humans to discuss these big questions: Buck Cooper, 8th grade math educator; Cassie Mendrop, Director of Human Resources; and Blake Ware, Head of Upper School.  
5:27-7:15: Blake Ware’s synopsis of what makes a great teacher, which involves “a real commitment to the human side of things.”
7:30-9:27:  Listen to Buck Cooper illustrate the project of school with the best metaphor I’ve ever heard: “What is school except this ongoing cycle of getting the wheels on only to have them come off only to try to put them back on before they leave us as seniors.” 
10:11-11:07: Learn about the employee lifecycle from Cassie.
12:10-14:05 : Hear real talk from Blake about what it’s like to be an admin recruiting faculty in this particular historical moment.
14:20-19:13: All three guests weigh in on creative ways to approach recruitment in our unique school context.
20:30-22:14 : Buck reminisces about an administrator he encountered in his early career that personified the “north star” of what an administrator should be: “ She took me seriously enough to get past the nuts and bolts pieces . . . and engaged me at the level I really wanted to engage: learning how to think about how children think.”
22:18-23:50:  What keeps Blake up at night, and why trustworthiness is perhaps the most central non-negotiable in an administrator.
24:45-25:36: Cassie shares what Kevin Lewis told her in her first interview that made her want to work at St. Andrew’s, and she elucidates the chief challenge of administrating: balancing the needs of so many constituencies.  
26:48-28:18: Blake’s ideas on how we, both faculty and admin, can inch toward greatness: finding things that are energizing and finding ways to do those things together.
28:25-29:55: Buck describes the double-pronged power of curiosity and love in improving community and helping us inch toward a “greater greatness.”
31:20-33:15 : What Cassie has learned from exit interviews about why people leave, and why preserving relationships is at the heart of job satisfaction.
Bridging the Faculty/Admin Divide (Ep. 1): Unpacking Graduation Requirements with Colin Dunnigan In this inaugural episode of our fourth season, we take on the controversy of graduation requirements with host Toby Lowe, fifth grade math faculty, and guest Colin Dunnigan, Associate Head of Upper School and Director of College Counseling.  Listen in as we find loads of common ground between faculty and administration perspectives: 
0:00- 2:10: Julie takes a trip down memory lane, and and introduces the point of this particular season’s theme: “Bridging the Faculty/Admin Divide.” 
6:50-14:01: The (pretty juicy) faculty meeting that inspired this topic of graduation requirements, as captured by Toby and Colin’s distinct perspectives.
14:02-18:07: Colin gives his honest assessment of our fairly traditional curricular requirements, cites the importance of giving students opportunities to create with technology for jobs of tomorrow, and mentions Global Online Academy and Malone as key pathways into more interest-driven coursework.
18:10-19:40: Should taking calculus be the gatekeeper of “you are a serious student”? 
19:42-20:45:  The one good thing that came of Covid in relation to college admissions, very vividly described in a way that only Colin could do . . . 
20:48-24:15: What students should do if they want to go to the most selective schools in the country . . . and why this particular criterion makes Colin want to cheer. 
24:57-28:24: What colleges are actually looking for in admission materials, and why Colin is not a fan of the phrase “student’s passion”) :) 
28:39-30:48: Julie chimes in with some “end goals” that she’d add to the list if she ruled the world. . . and wonders how we can design coursework that helps get students to those ends.
31:09-36:38: Can a student learn everything they need to learn by playing the guitar? Come visit Toby-Land’s version of school: “the stuff you’re interested in can teach you a lot if you follow it”; moving from content requirements to domains or habits of mind to produce lifelong learners.
38:08-45:10: How to inch our way to Toby Land, even with a fairly traditional model: identifying habits of mind that matter, incorporating programs that immerse youth in experiential learning, and collectively examining whether our current required coursework mirrors the world we live in today
45:18-46:30: Julie talks about her electrical engineer dad (because he tends to come up a lot) and his distaste of “Legos for Kids,” and she wonders out loud whether our traditional course categories are actually in practice as traditional as we assume. 
48:10-48:42: Toby proposes we need a more systematic approach to revisiting our curricular requirements; are we still doing what we should be doing for students? 
49:22-51:20: Colin’s final thought: We need youth to have the capacity to take on difficult material and persist.
Parent Teacher Conference, Lower School Edition: Academic Performance In this final episode drop in our Parent Teacher Conference season, we feature a conversation about the oh-so-fraught topic of academic performance, facilitated by Rachel Scott, our new Lower School Technology Integration Specialist.  Tune in to get some perspective-shifting wisdom from Rachel Rice (mom of five young saints spanning Foundations to fifth grade), real talk from Dalton Howard (third grade teacher and mom of two herself), and honest sharing from Abigail Shannon, third grader who (if she does say so herself) has some pretty great handwriting skills, even if she didn’t totally ace the last timed math test.

See timestamps below:

How academic performance is a fluid concept (3:03-3:55)

One parent’s changing definition of academic performance; the importance of meeting children where they are; and why what matters most is “mental health, love of learning, and not squashing that” (4:14-5:40)

Abigail’s academic performance goals: “I’m trying to be that kid, the kind of kid who knows how to get her stuff done, maybe not on time but she always gets it done.” (6:00-6:43)

Why high performers have a harder time dealing with mistakes and feedback than kids were more experience of struggle (7:10-9:05) 

Growing from mistakes and how to best advocate for your children by partnering with their teachers (9:07-11:45)  

Why the word “bored” isn’t a thing in Dalton Howard’s classroom, and the importance of demonstrating and modeling intellectual curiosity (12:25-13:51)

How a mom of five moved from “you need an A” to a focus on instilling good work habits; and a reminder that what your kids learn or what mistakes they make isn’t a reflection on you as a parent (15:00-18:15) 

Those dreaded timed math tests: from the perspective of a third grader and a third grade teacher (18:50-21:00)

Tips from a very astute third grader on studying (21:20-22:11)

Dalton’s plea to parents: “Let kids mess up, let them take responsibility, let them take ownership, let them remember their own library books.  They are old enough; they are ready.” (22:32-24:38)
Parent Teacher Conference, Early Childhood Edition: Fostering Independence at Home & School Fostering independence in three, four, and five year olds may sound like a paradox, but in this episode of Parent Teacher Conference, Kim Sewell (PK4 faculty member and mom of three not-so-tiny young adults) and Leslie Hambrick (parent to Jimbo, kindergarten, and Charlie, PK4) discuss the successes and challenges they have had both at home and school toward these ends.  In other words, we explore the conundrum that parents and teachers share, well-articulated by Kim: “if we do our job well, we work ourselves out of the job.” Enjoy the entire conversation, or skip to the themes that interest you using the timestamps below:

 

Why the most convenient moves aren’t always the best “long view” approaches: parenting and teaching children that will grow into well rounded, independent adults (1:35-4:25)

How involving all young children in cooking (and other challenges) sets the stage for vital resilience in the face of life’s inevitable messes (5:02-6:27; 9:26-10:50)

What Montessori isn’t and what Montessori is: the centrality of modeling, works, safe structure, and giving children tools they can manage (6:50-8:45)

Real talk on the difficulties of following youth’s interest and fostering independence . . . and why they are still worth it (11:08-12:30; 15:25-16:00)

The history of Maria Montessori and how she came upon her methods to ultimately build a more peaceful world (12:48-15:00)

It’s not a free-for-all; how to avoid chaos by slowly easing your way into choice for youth (16:43-19:38)

PK4 classroom footage brought to us by Seesaw along with a description of jobs and routines that Kim uses to foster independence (20:12-22:57)

Promoting motor skill development at home and in the classroom (23:05-26:20)

How preparing snacks and gardening can build foundational mathematical thinking; “using the materials and the child you have in front of you” to build on (27:10-30:25)

“What happened at school today?” and the home/school connection (31:08-32:27)

Celebrating cultural identities at home and at school (33:09-35:20) 

Parenting as a roller coaster and the reminder to stay calm because “you have years with these kids” (36:40-37:37)

 “If you do parenting well you work yourself out of the job”; why fostering independence is “a gift of love over and over”, a series of “slow deaths” (37:50-39:14)

Final words of wisdom from both guests: trusting children and regulating your own emotions as an adult (40:55-41:32)
Parent Teacher Conference, Upper School Edition: The Power of a Story This episode of “Parent Teacher Conference” takes us to the Upper School, where Emmi Sprayberry (chair of our arts department) facilitates a conversation with Raymond Huang, current senior; Tangela Chambers, mother to two upper school students (a senior and sophomore); and Dawn Denham, senior seminar English teacher. 

High school is full of challenges...and for many students it is where they start to figure out who they are and grapple with the idea of identity and belonging. In the past 19 months, our students have had their worlds deeply changed by a pandemic that redefined what was our new normal as well as the murder of George Floyd that sparked a movement. In this podcast, we feature a meaningful conversation about what diversity, equity, and inclusion look like in a high school setting and how we can create spaces that build deeper connections and community:

What diversity, equity, and inclusion mean to our guests (3:00-7:00)

Bringing people together in a positive way (7:00-13:09)

Encouragement for listening and fighting against fear and the “what if’s" (13:15-17:00)

How educators can help communicate to students where the safe places are that students can go to have conversations (17:30 - 21:30)

The power of a story (21:35-23:35)

Personal experiences in relation to DEI (23:45-31:30)

The need for more educators of color and systems that impact who end up teaching (33:00-36:15)

Self reflection; where it all begins(36:30-42:00)

Being comfortable with being uncomfortable (42:00-45:00)

Suggestions from each guest for one small change in a classroom environment that would help promote more diversity and inclusion (46:10-51:30)
Parent Teacher Conference, Middle School Edition: Positive Classroom Environments Thanks for stopping by to check out the first episode of Parent Teacher Conference! This episode features a thoughtful conversation with 5th Grade History Teacher—and St. Andrew’s parent—Meriwether Truckner, Haydenne Archie, a current 8th grader at St. Andrew’s, and Katie Hathcock, a parent of two St. Andrew’s students, Stella and Carter. We chat about classroom management styles and student behavior, centered around an article in Edutopia by Ben Johnson. It was such a privilege to sit and chat with these three ladies. Mrs. Truckner has been a colleague I’ve looked up to since I started at St. Andrew’s because her organizational skills and her classroom management are among her many talents, and I loved hearing Katie and Haydenne’s perspectives on parent involvement in student success in the class as well as what students can do to be more successful stewards of the classroom. Hope you enjoy the episode!

Our conversation is time stamped below: 

What makes for the best classroom environment (1:45 - 7:00)

Self-care & its impact on behavior/teaching  (7:20 - 14:00)

Parent & Teacher communication (14:05 - 19:20)

What do you do when things go amuk? (19:30 - 24:00)

COVID’s impact on management & behavior (24:05 - end)
”Do it Anyway”: Stories from two third year teachers We end our mini-series, “Living it: Stories from the Teaching Life” with a laughter and truth-packed episode featuring two of my favorite humans (not to mention educators) in the Jackson Metro Area: Shamia Hopper & Lucy Kaplan.  I had the pleasure of working with both of them while at Millsaps College, and I can quite honestly say that both Lucy and Shamia feature the killer combo of being simultaneously (1) real (2) brilliant (3) 100% committed to more equitable spaces for teaching/learning for all youth (4) super fun to be around. 

Shamia Hopper is a founding fourth grade teacher and grade team leader at Smilow Collegiate.  Her passion is teaching black and brown kids that live in low-income areas in our state.  After school she runs a vegan meal prep business called Shamia’s Food Diaries (Find her on Instagram).  Lucy Kaplan is entering her third year teaching middle school ELA in Jackson, MS.  She is passionate about teaching writing, creating an accessible and inclusive classroom, and education policy.  After school, she self-publishes her own writing and sings in a punk band.  Both have taught for three years which puts them squarely in that sweet spot of “knowing stuff” and “still discovering stuff.”  

During our conversation, we discussed:

3:31-5:15:  How Lucy’s experience with challenges in her own schooling led her to a career situated in the classroom.

8:32- 10:50: Why the best teacher education is steeped in community engagement; Shamia’s story of becoming inspired to educate.

11:20- 14:17: Why Shamia loves math, and when it comes to math instruction, multiple strategies beat out one-size-fits-all recipes.

15:19-18:32: Real talk about what it was like teaching kindergarteners at-home and in-person concurrently during a global pandemic.

18:32-20:03: That oh-so-recognizable-teacher-feeling of “I KNOW THIS COULD BE BETTER!” 

22:25-26:33: Stories from Lucy’s first year of teaching seventh grade English: on the feeling of being “coached” and the vital importance of just being yourself as an educator.

28:10-32:04: The most valuable lessons Shamia learned with her five and six year olds first experiencing school in the midst of a pandemic; “it wasn’t me versus them; it was us together.”

33:50-36:55:  The time Lucy raced one of her students during recess.

37:05-41:10: Two reflective teaching practices you have to try, courtesy of Lucy: (1) keep a list of something good you observe each day when teaching in tweet form and (2) ask your students for “one piece of advice you’d give youth taking this class next year.”

44:58- 45:33 : Shamia’s final tip, bound to inspire us all: “Do it anyway.”
Meeting Students Where They Are: Mentoring as Teaching This week's podcast features Tonja Murphy, Community Engagement Coordinator for the Mississippi Book Fest. Tonja is an amazingly passionate and talented woman who uses her skills as author, consultant, and motivational speaker to give back and invest in the community of Jackson, MS. I first met Tonja at a banquet for Red Door Jackson, an after school tutoring program for kids in JPS. I was serving as a coordinator and she had come as a community member and JPS parent to support the work that Red Door was doing within the community. From the moment we met, I was blown away by her heart to empower others to be their best selves. This theme is at the heart of anything she does, whether it is helping kids navigate what books they need to get and how to do online schooling in the middle of a pandemic, mentoring young teens, or promoting a love for reading. I could go on and on with her list of accomplishments and why you should know her if you don’t, but I’ll let the podcast speak for itself. I always come away from my time with Tonja inspired and challenged. I hope you too are able to come away with some strong nuggets of wisdom.  

During our conversation we discussed 

The wonder of teaching middle school  (2:00) 

Guidance for middle school students vs. telling them what to do (3:00-4:00)

Expectations vs. rules (4:00-5:00)

Mentoring and tutoring in the middle of a pandemic, using the platforms that students already used to connect with them , and the power of meeting students where they are (6:20-11:00)

Using Tik Tok as a means to get students to analyze music, apply critical thinking, and engage in textual analysis  (11:00-13:15)

How Tonja came to do working in community, where passion met vocation (14:00-16:25)

The importance of having something outside of you to inform your work (17:00-17:30)

What do you wish educators knew? (17:45-20:)

What advice would you give teachers coming back into the classroom this year?(21:00-21:25)

Grace (21:25-22:40)

The importance of community engagement  (23:00- 25:50)

Instances that have stuck with Tonja (28:20-30:08)

 Was there an interaction that was a pivot moment that moved you to turn outward vs inward? (31:30-32:47)

Avoiding the scenario of “when helping hurts” and cultivating mental health (33:05-38:08)

Living what you preach and teach; fostering the skill of reflection. (38:08-44:10)

Socio-emotional-learning and the loss during a pandemic -- getting to know the students and where they are at now (46:15-50:00)

Fostering community within a classroom and knowing who is in the room  (50:01- 52:05)

What book should every educator read? (52:20-53:25)

Don’t let your experience frame how you help them navigate theirs (53:45) 

Organizations to connect your students with (54:50-56:25)
Finding Your Jam When You Feel Like an Imposter (Featuring Josh Brister) This week we’re pumped to release our second episode of "Living it: Stories from the Teaching Life" featuring Josh Brister, a great human and an even better Spanish teacher at St. Andrew’s. Josh Brister came to St. Andrew’s in perhaps one of the most challenging years for educators in a century. In the episode we discuss being a new teacher, being a new teacher in the time of COVID-19, the joys of teaching middle school, and developing meaningful relationships with kids. Personally, I’m honored to be able to call Josh a friend, I’m even more fortunate to call him a colleague, and I had the pleasure of being his mentor last year during his maiden voyage at St. Andrew’s. Hope you enjoy the episode!

During our conversation, we discussed: 

Being a teacher, especially a new teacher, in the time of COVID, Imposter Syndrome, and working at a place like St. Andrew’s (1:30 - 12:00) 

The educational value of YouTube for Teachers (13:00 - 16:00)

“Show me you’re a middle school teacher without telling me you’re a middle school teacher” + Why Josh hates baseball (16:00 - 25:00)

Building relationships with kids and dealing with setbacks/conflict (26:00 - 36:00)

Burnout & managing other interests/hobbies while teaching full time (36:30 - End)
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