Permission to Heal

Permission to Heal Episode #30 - A Conversation with Lauren Kaufman - Emotional Health in Education

June 09, 2021 Marci Brockmann Season 1 Episode 30
Permission to Heal
Permission to Heal Episode #30 - A Conversation with Lauren Kaufman - Emotional Health in Education
Show Notes Transcript

Lauren Kaufman believes that cultivating connections and developing strong relationships with colleagues and students should be at the core of all we, as educators, do. Leading from a place of empathy and understanding, meeting people where they are on the learning continuum, sharing stories, listening to hear, and not waiting to respond, embedding and modeling social-emotional learning is at the heart of everything we do.

Our conversation is so rich and dynamic, touching on so many things that are so important to families and parents as related to all aspects of education and social/emotional health.


Connect with Lauren Kaufman
Twitter: @Lau7210
Instagram: laurenmkaufman
Facebook: Lauren M. Kaufman
Clubhouse: Lau7210

Connect with Marci
Marci's Website, Patreon, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Facebook Group, YouTube Channel - What's up, Marci?

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Welcome to permission to heal. I am Marci Brockman, and I am thrilled that you're here and I am very happy to welcome Lauren. Katherine, how are you, Lauren? Hi Marcy. I am good. I'm so happy to be here. Thank you for inviting me on to permission to heal.

I'm excited to chat with you today. You  me too. And it's been a, a long school day for both of us. So yes, it has. As you can see, I'm still at school. I have my school meeting, then this is actually a quiet place right now for me to do this podcast. So it's perfect. Excellent. Excellent. So I begin each interview at six quick questions.

Are you ready? I'm ready. Okay. What six words would you use to describe yourself? Okay, so I would say that I'm passionate. I am dedicated, I am motivated. I am collaborative. I am creative and reflective. Wow, excellent. Well, adjectives. Yeah. Some people pick nouns, people, herbs. I'm like, what do you think that you could do?

But you can, you know? Yeah. Well, you know, I like to write, so I usually write with a lot of adjectives. That makes sense. Yeah. That makes sense. Although, I, I did read something about Stephen King as an author hates adverbs, really? That think that they're unnecessary using too many of them, he thinks is, you know, like the bane of his existence or something.

Now I'm going to have to check my writing to see how many adverbs that you yeah, me too. There's nothing wrong with a good adverb

peculiar. I don't know. Just flew into my head. All right. Number two. What is your favorite way to spend a day? Well right now, I would say that my favorite way to spend the day is probably on the beach. I live right by the beach,  with a good buck, and some relaxation, but I have to throw in there that I do love watching my two boys play sports.

And so that gives me a lot of, I have a lot of pride watching them. So I enjoyed that too sports. Do they play they're young? They're like what? 11 and nine, I think. Yes. Yes. So we'll actually be 10 and 12 soon in June. , right now that are heavy into baseball season. We're on travel baseball. We're on little league baseball.

Um, but the boys were just so excited to get out and play sports again. After the pandemic, now that things are opening up, they're just so happy to be with their friends. So nothing makes me happier than seeing my kids happy. So that's what matters to me right now. See all kids happy, not just my kids.

Excellent. Well, maybe you do the beach in the morning and then you go watch some baseball games. Yes. And I'd also, I could throw in there. I'd love to start traveling again. My favorite place in the world is California, and I would love to go there to LA to visit a friend soon. Um, I'm planning to do that so, well, I hope you get to go.

That's awesome. I certainly miss, uh, pretty much being anywhere, but inside my house. Exactly. We'll take anywhere. I go to school and I come home and that's kind of it. Yeah. Yeah. You're not alone. No, I'm sure. That's what we're all doing. It's crazy. Let's tackle number three. What is your favorite childhood memory?

Wow. So the first that came to mind was going to Nunley's with my grandfather. Nunley's is an amusement park in Baldwin in long island, New York, no longer exists, but actually the fairest deal from Nunley's is now an island park by Bridgeview. Um, and I get to kind of reminisce every time I pass that area, there's like a little shopping center there to where I do my food shopping and I can see the first deal.

There is like a landmark. Um, and the carousel from Nunley's is by NASA, uh, community college. So, um, it's nice. Cause I get to bring my kids there now. That was the same carousel I used to go on as a child, but I just have the fondest memories of my grandfather, David taking me to Nunley's. He was my buddy and uh, we used to spend the day there, go on rides, eat lunch, have ice cream.

And it was a ritual and a routine. So favorite memory? Yes, that's fabulous. I can just totally picture that. You know, it's like so iconic, you know, little girl in her grandpa ice cream and a Ferris wheel. It's cool. Thank you. What is your favorite meal? Oh, my gosh. Hard to choose. Right. So it is so hard to choose because I love food so much.

Uh, food is like a social event for me and, um, I will pretty much try anything, uh, except for a few things, but lately I've gotten really into Mexican food. I love a good burrito or a good taco, um, black Malian chips. Uh, but I close second would have to be sushi. I love sushi. Me too. Me too. There's this at a Mexican place we've been ordering in from throughout the pandemic that makes these great fish tacos that I just love.

And then of course there's a sushi place and I, you know, you've got my favorite things there. That's it, you can't go wrong with a good taco because even if I had to live on one thing for the rest of my life, you could put anything in a task though. You have a breakfast taco or burrito, lunch dinner, you know?

Yeah, exactly, exactly. Exactly. When the kids were little, I used to call them kitchen sink tacos. What do it mean? Anything that we had in the house, like throw in the kitchen sink, basically, you know, as a metaphor, I love it. So whatever was loose that we could throw in a, in a tortilla, we did. There you go.

And I'm sure it was fabulous and making a mess and it was fun. Fun. I like to build my own too. Absolutely. That's why I have to switch to fajitas sometimes if I'm in the mood to make it myself, so yeah. Yeah. Cause then you definitely can do it yourself. Yeah. I always get nervous when they bring that sizzling.

A little, um, a Skittle skillet. I wasn't scared skillet over and I'm always afraid, you know, they're like, it's hot, no kidding. It's hot. It's steaming and sizzling. Yeah. But it's part of the whole effect, the whole ambiance of going to a Mexican restaurant. It's like the sizzling. So he does, you know, Marguerite read a little bit of everything, you know?

Absolutely. Okay. Number five. What is your, what? Well, let's try that again. What one piece of advice would you like to give your younger self? Oh gosh, this was a hard one because I always think Warren, if you can go back to like, well, it depends what self, like your kid's self versus your teen self versus your 20 self.

And then there's your 30 cells, you know, I'm 40 now. So. You know, I have like my different stages of what I would tell myself, but I think the biggest one for me is, you know, like turning 40 felt really good. I know some people think that's scary, but one of the reasons I love it is that I am, I am, you know, I have , my strengths, I have my areas for growth.

I kind of own what I'm not good at. I own what I love and I make, so I guess I would tell myself, just see who you are and don't be afraid what others think and give yourself grace, you know, you're not going to be perfect. You're going to make mistakes and you're going to learn from your mistakes. And that's why we are who we are because we've made so many mistakes throughout our lives.

We're humans, places that have worked out or they haven't, but either way we learn something and hopefully grow from them. Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. I felt the same way about 40. I felt really comfortable in my own skin. I had just gotten divorced and I had started a whole new life and I was really in a good place, but a 50 was hard to swallow.

I'm not looking forward to 53 52 was okay, well, you look wonderful. It's just a number, right? Not every one is guaranteed to age. So I'm trying to, trying to be Zen about it. People, there are people that get better with age, you know, still flips me out. Cause if I close my eyes, I feel like I'm about 34 34.

And then I look in the mirror and I'm like, yeah, you know, 34, my grandmother saying the same thing. She was, she was 89 and she. Said that when she first wakes up in the morning before she even opens her eyes before she moves a muscle, that half asleep brain, she feels like she's about 28 and then she moves and she's like, oh, not 28.

She tries to get up and she's moving. She's like the body is not 28. And then she looks in the mirror in the bathroom and she doesn't know what to, how to reconcile the 89 year old face staring at her when she feels 28 in her brain. And I never understood. I was like, oh grandma, you're just full of fear, just so weird.

You know? And, and now I get it. I mean, I'm not anywhere near 89, but I, I get it. Yeah, that must be such a strange feeling because it's like your heart doesn't change. You know, like who you are on the inside, you stay the same and you carry all of your experiences with you and they become a part of who you are.

You have so many stories and you can really live in those moments as if they were yesterday. Those vibrant moments, those significant moments in time, you know, stay with you. So that must be, um, a surreal type of experience I would imagine. So, yes. Last question. What is the one thing you would like to change about the world?

I think that I would love if every single person would really lead their life and live their life with an empathetic lens. I think it's really important to have empathy and understand other people's stories. Everybody has stories hidden within, and sometimes we're so quick to judge, you know, based on what we see , for small, in small snapshots of time. But when we really get to know people and they have so many layers that we can uncover, and if we all took the time to really listen to others and not just listen to people to respond, but to listen, to hear,  and then take time to process that I think that's so important. And I think if everybody in the world led with that empathy, empathetic lens, we will all be a lot kinder to each other.

You know, the whole topography of humanity would be different. Ah, oh, I love the way you just said that. That was beautiful. Thank you. That's beautiful. Rolled off my tongue. It was gorgeous. I try. Okay. So your, a teacher, but you are also a literacy specialist at a mentor coordinator

and an instructional coach. Well, I have served in many roles in education. That's young lady. I have worn a lot of hats. Um, yeah, so this is my 15th year in education. And in 15 years I've been lucky enough to serve in many roles from teaching assistant to classroom teacher. Two elementary literacy specialists, two instructional coach.

Now I'm at the middle school level is a literacy specialist. And I also am the mentor coordinator for my school district K to 12. So I am responsible for pairing, our new teachers with fantastic mentors who will guide them and create a nice solid foundation so that teachers can have long lasting, beautiful careers.

 I'm also facilitating a lot of the professional development support, those teachers , and so that they can really bring out the best our learners. Yeah. And through all of those roles. I've always learned that we have to keep the children at the heart of the decision-making. So, and I also taught me to, to really value every role within an organization.

You know, we are all here to serve our students and to serve the community and we're all in this together. So , it's been quite a wonderful 15 years and I'm grateful for every year. That's awesome. You want to, did you always want to be a teacher? Was this something that little Lauren always wanted to do?

Well, this is like a funny story , well it's something that was always within me because I come from a family of educators, both my parents are educators, my grandfather, who I spoke about earlier.  He was an educator, , at the college level, he was a law professor and a lawyer. So I always had great models in my life.

And my, I only saw how my parents really only spoke about their students, such loving care. , they were always so concerned about their social, emotional wellbeing. And I love like, yes, and they worked in the community that we lived in. So everywhere we went , we'd be like, oh, Mr. FCMS, miss does that seem like high?

And they'd be so excited to see my parents. And I'm like, wow, that's really cool. You know, I'm so glad that I have parents that, you know, were great inspiring teachers, you know? And so that was really motivating for me, but I didn't start as an educator. I actually, when I was in college to become an educator, I was in the cosmetics industry.

And so I was in the cosmetic world for eight years and I worked for a company and I worked in various department stores. I was a trainer. I used to train other makeup artists. So yes, I was an educator even then. And then, you know, I was kind of missing that feeling of being around children and kids. And, I went back to education and I haven't looked back since then.

That's cool. Yeah. Very interested in people's career journeys because they're some are very straight and laser-focused like, since I was six, I knew I wanted to be, you know, whatever. And I was one of those people who did 49 things before I figured out I was going to be a teacher. So, you know, I just, I liked the process of that.

And, and as a teacher, I always have students who are. Asking, you know, for advice, what do I do with this? And I'm good at this and what kind of career should I have? And I don't know what to do with my life and what should my major be. And, you know, I, I teach high school kids, so there's all that stuff going on.

And I, I think that they benefit from hearing our journeys as well. Oh my gosh. I am such a big. Storyteller. I love telling stories because I love when my students tell me stories because it creates a community, a where of trust and respect. And having those relationships, as you know, is the foundation of everything we do, you know, it, children, want to learn from people they like and care about.

Right. And they want to know that you have a respect for them. So it's like the symbiotic relationship. So yes, I think the journey is important and also like being there to help facilitate that journey for them and expose them to so many different, so many different ideas and topics, because we want to try to spark their passion and interest for things and peak their curiosity.

So that they can discover a passion for something. And that's why we're here to support them and facilitate that work. We're not here to tell them, at least this is my perspective what to do or what they should do of course, but to nurture within them, the creativity and the self examination and the self-esteem to be able to work through those interests and intelligences, to figure out what they want to do, you know, giving them the tools to live a healthy life, to know that they're the ones who are responsible and it's up to them and the choices are theirs and, and so on.

I think it's extremely important because you can't, and I don't think that you can take for granted that they're getting that information at home. Yes. And I always say connection before content. Yeah. You know, we have to work on that connection so that students can be open and we remove those barriers, for them to be able to learn and to be open to those things and also learn how to love themselves.

You know, it's like our obligation, you know, moral, ethical obligation to bring out the best in our learners and to recognize their guests and to elevate them and to give them recognition and celebrate them, when they're doing great things, because not all of our learners might come from those homes, like you were just saying, so we have to be their advocates and their allies.

Right. Absolutely. Now I am a firm believer in the whole connection thing before content. Absolutely. How do you feel that that has changed this year? Since really, since March of last year with the whole. COVID thing, you know, do you, do you see in your school a difference in student mental health, student attitudes, moods, fear, et cetera?

Yes. There has certainly been, over, you know, it's been a little over a year now. In the very beginning it was like we had that emergency shutdown and we, at that point we didn't really know what was going to be two weeks was right. I didn't know. And I saw the fear at that time. I think more in the adults than the kids, because I think kids kind of are more resilient than adults.

 So during that time I don't have all the facts either. Exactly. I have sense of cause and effect of things, you know? Exactly. And you know, if you had told us then, oh, a year later, we'd still be in this position. I think mental health would be. You know, worse than it is now, because I think mental health has, you know, have suffered a great deal during this time.

 But we kind of were taking this in increments, which I think was helpful to the process and to this journey.  But yes, I need the you're going from physical spaces where you're able to connect with children and have conversations with your kids, with colleagues , we're used to having that energy in front of us and doing things in those more traditional ways.

 And then when we went to virtual learning, it was a big change for kids and for teachers and for families learning or preparation, it was just, yeah. You know, from my lens too, you know, I am a mom, so I was home watching my kids learn virtually as I was. You know, at that at last year I was a coach.

 I was helping the teachers support kids. So, and my husband was home. He was also working. So in that space, that was very stressful and it was stressful for all the families because everybody has different living environments and different living situations. So I think that initially,  and then also getting devices into all of the kids' hands, because during all this time, the digital divide was kind of brought to the surface.

There were always inequities, right? Of course. But you know, this really brought everything to the surface. So, you know, I have to give a big round of applause to all the school districts everywhere who worked so hard, to get devices into their students' hands and families who needed them, , connecting them with wifi.

Because without that, it was all hands on deck. And it was incredible because without those devices, there was no connection at all whatsoever. You're completely taking it away. , so virtual student trying to do my class through Google, meet on her phone. I'm like, it's totally not going to work. No, no, no, because they need to be able to manipulate the tech tools.

 And also there was a transition of teachers learning a new way of teaching, right. They had to shift their practice and roll up their sleeves and learn learning management systems. Tech tools like your teacher all over again, as, as naive as a first year teacher. Cause there were some processes and tools already there at my disposal, but, and I had my second master's in ed tech, so I, and I was still like Google classroom, what, you know?

Right, right. It was a lot to get. Right. And then, yeah,

silver lining for that is that sometimes when you dive into it and you're forced to do it, you have no other choice, but to do it and sink or swim, I think, or swim. And it was a huge learning curve for. Us, because we also had to recognize that we needed to learn so that we can connect to the students.

But what, I guess, what I also quickly learned is that, you know, the students were teaching me things too this year.  They, they have that, they have less fear with tests than adults because they'll pick something up and they'll just start playing with it and they just figure it out and that's the best way to do it.

Exactly. But, you know, adults where we question things a little bit more, we want to follow the directions, you know? , but yeah, I mean, yeah, there was a sense of underlying fear, but there was also, you know, a lot of things going on, you know, I live in a community where we have a very diverse population.

And we had, you know, families in all different types of situations. So what was really most important was for my school district. And I know all the school districts everywhere was to really check on the families to make sure that they had the necessities, right. That they had food, that they had devices.

They, that they were,  you know, that their health needs were being met.  There were so many moving parts to this that takes supremacy over content. You know, they don't have their basic needs being met. Hello, Maslow, you know, then, then the, none of the learning can take place. You know, so it was a lot of turmoil for the teachers and the learning curve and the stress in the middle of a pandemic or the beginning of a pandemic, and then the kids and the community and the parents.

And it was,  and then we have families who lost their jobs because of the shut down, you know, and family members were getting sick and exactly, and, and things we didn't even know about I'm sure. So you do the best that you can to keep those lines of communication open with the families, but also for us to have to take care of ourselves.

Because as educators, during that time, we were struggling as well with various things. You know, I would speak to colleagues, not just in my district, but from everywhere. I'm a connected educator. So I, I speak globally to educators and, you know,  Self care with a major thing, because there was, there were very blurred lines teaching virtually at home.

It was like the class just didn't stop. We didn't know when the beginning, when the end was to the day, you can be on a computer all day answering emails, speaking to parents, helping children. Great. And then you need back plate and then you get lost in that virtual bubble and that virtual world. And suddenly you look at the clock and you go, oh my gosh, like I'm answering at night.

Yes. I haven't even spoken to my husband yesterday. I haven't connected with my own children. So that balance was really off for a really long time.  Connect it to correct it. How did you find your own footing again? Assuming you have, I mean, you look very well put together, so thank you. You know, Marcy.

It's interesting that you say that because what looks on the outside is always what's going on inside. You know, I definitely had my struggles. , there were a lot of changes that happened over the past year and I had to get used to having my whole family at home. My husband used to travel for work all the time.

Now he was home 24 seven. So I had to acclimate, I had to, we had to adjust our relationship, right, for him being home and then our roles within the family, because I was the one taking the kids everywhere and making sure that no one's going anywhere. And we're both home in things that I used to do now he's doing or.

It, you know, it's just, our roles kind of changed in the household. So it was getting used to being altogether. And what does that look like now? What is family time look like now? And where do we draw the line between work and, and our personal life and giving that attention to our own children that they needed it so much during that time.

So you focus on your kids during that. I mean, what kind of guidelines did you give them or, or strategies did you give them to be able to manage the, the big change? Right. Well, for my older one, the transition was a little bit easier because he was on Google classroom already. So his teacher was already using a lot of technology.

 For my younger one, he was also using technology, but my younger one is different than my older one. He's not as independent. So we had to work out a schedule and I would tell the teachers that my son, you know, they knew I was working. Then I'm a teacher. I think communication was key. And if I didn't communicate to his teachers, what's going on at home and just, I can't help Ethan with his work until this time.

Right. So if he's not responding or handing things in, that is because I am working, I have an obligation to my students at that time. So I think communication was back during this time. Like, I think as a mom, I had to communicate to my kids' teachers. What was going on at home as much as I could. So that they can understand.

And, and like I said earlier, lead with that empathetic lens and adjust their expectations. And I think we all had to adjust our expectations of course, and our norms.  So I think that also vulnerability came in tremendously. I've I feel like I've learned how to be more vulnerable and show vulnerability.

during this time I think it's okay to not be okay. Absolutely. You have to show that to your kids or their work there. They're not going to think that that's how people feel and there'll be too much. Exactly. I mean, they saw when mommy was having a hard time and, you know, they saw when I wasn't. And I think when you're vulnerable and you're open and you're communicative.

About what's happening. Then I think that things can be worked out. You know, I think that it was like a slow process. I think, you know, it was like almost like we had this transition plan as a family that wasn't always discussed in detail. It just happened like gradually, as we were dealing with COVID, you know, as parents, as an educator.

 So there were so many things involved and, but the good that came out of it too, is we can hold on to some of these things that we found that we love during this time as well.  You know, we, maybe we ate dinner together a little bit more.  Maybe we went for more walks and more bike rides. And so there are some activities that maybe we didn't do as much together, maybe movie time or movie time that we can hold onto.

As a family, you know, and, and, and bring that into our traditions now. Yeah. Memories and all that shared time that you wouldn't have necessarily had my kids are 23 and 20, and my son is a way, , in grad at grad school, but he was home for the summer where he was doing an internship and it would have been away in Maryland. And because of COVID, he was doing it from my living room table, my dining room table rather. And my daughter, her college, her school, her classes were all online.

And so she decided this semester to stay home. And so I've had all this extra time that I'm very keenly aware of because they're getting. To be adults, you know? Yeah. I wouldn't have had this time with her. Right, right. Absolutely. Yeah. There's we were talking, I was talking about that with my students today.

Silver lining, you know, when there's a challenge, there's always something that's good. That's good. That comes with it. But yeah, you just made me think of my niece. You know, she was a senior last year and she missed her, you know, her graduation and her prom and her freshman year of college now,  you know, she stayed home she's online.

 It just changed all of those traditions that we're used to. You know, we've had sort of, re-imagine what these things look like now. And I don't think it's bad to re I think there's some good that comes out of it. With that when we rethink and we re-imagine what life should be, and what's really important.

Right. What's important, happiness, happiness, and health down to that. Really? Yes. Yes. I mean, it's not about money or material things and,  it's about being true to yourself, having gratitude.  I think gratitude is a huge thing. Thinking about what you do have when you go through a challenging time and,  that connection, you know, I think that going back to the original question with connection is I think educators, we're trying to find so many ways to connect with students during this time.

It is especially with the big ones, because they don't want to turn on their cameras. I don't want to turn on their cameras. They don't want to talk. They're behind these masks and they feel like they're, you know, gagging them. They don't want to talk. And I have a few kids thank goodness, one or two or three in each class who are willing to talk to me and the rest of them.

You know, if I don't call on them directly, they say nothing. And it's been really hard to figure out who they are. I mean, I know their names clearly, but, but I don't really know much about very many of them because the amount of connection and the sharing and the things that would go on during a normal school year and the joking and the stories and the it's all gone this year.

It's none of that is happening. I have to thank, after Mary handheld, Joseph, who I discovered through George Carlos, one of his podcasts, she is incredible. I now am connected to her and I consider her to be a mentor and friend. She wrote a book called the one minute meeting, and she's now doing a book club with a few educators in my district.

Um, and what the one minute meeting is, is it is a time where we want to view the students as stakeholders. We want to, we want to show them that they have a voice in their learning while also Philly building and cultivating that connection with them so that they can be open to the learning. So she has something that she, she turned around to school that was struggling when she was a principal and she decided that she was going to interview children, every single child in the school for one minute.

And she was going to ask them three questions. How are you today? What is your greatest celebration and what challenges have you had lately, right? Yeah. So I took this one minute meeting concept and I adapted it a little bit and I turned them into five minute meetings. And I've been doing this since the beginning of the year.

 I do it about. Once or twice a month, depending on how the school year is going. Now, it's a little bit less that the kids are back in person. And that question of how are you today? In the beginning of the year, the kids are like good, you know? And like, I don't accept good. So of course I would probe them a little bit.

 But now there's like the evolution of that question. How are you today? Because when I say it, the kids, they start telling me their whole life story and what's happening in their life. They know that you're a safe place and a safe person, and that you're actually going to listen and you care. Exactly.

And I was consistent with this process. They know what the three questions are. So they know when I'm doing my five minute meetings and, you know, for my virtual students, like put them into individual breakout rooms and do it for privacy. You know, for my physical students, I pull them separately, of course, socially distant, but you know, no one can hear.

And they know exactly what to expect in these conversations and the things that I have learned about them. Anything from like my dog died last week too. I got into a really bad fight with my parents and they're not talking to me too. You know, I've had, I had the squirrel, that's bothering me in school.

Um, and that's all I can think about when I come to school. Like, think about that information. Then I'm getting, because that is impacting the way I'm approaching teaching and learning with my, with my students. I know where my students are in a social emotional, what social, emotional place they're in, what mental state they're in.

Yeah. If there's anything that we took away from this whole serious experience as teachers is that social, emotional health is paramount. Oh my goodness. And that is a practice I will move forward. And I always thought that in my teaching that the social emotional piece was critical. Um, you know, Well, we have to look at children holistically, right.

You know, we're here to, um, for their academic achievement, but we're also here to maximize their social, emotional growth as well. So we have to look at them holistically. And, um, when we do practices like this, like the five-minute meetings, what an invest in, in investment, in the emotional deposit box for kids, for teachers, um, you are, this is quality time where you are able to expand your influence and have greater impact on your students.

So, um, this is something that I highly recommend for all educators. What w what a great investment of time I'm going to do it. Yes. And I highly recommend the book. It's so awesome. And I can connect you with Dr. Hemphill anytime. She's so wonderful. Yeah. Excellent. So you have trained pre-service or new service teachers.

What kind of guidelines do you give them about their jobs about, um, scheduling and prioritizing their time about not feeling overwhelmed with the myriad of things that go on every single hour that you're in a classroom. Um, what other, what kinds of things do you, you start talking to them about when you start with them?

Well, there are so many moving parts to being a teacher induction process. And this is one of the most important pieces of being part of the school system, because we want to retain great educators. We want them to have. Long lasting careers. And we want them to leave a legacy, um, that touches the heart of every student that crosses their path.

So those first few years are critical in setting them up with strong mentors and providing a community for them of support. So one of the things, I do many things in the mentor programs, but I am very, um, strategic and purposeful with every meeting that I have for these teachers. Um, first of all, their voice and choice is their voice and choice about how they want to learn is really important to me.

So I ask them what their strengths and what their goals are at the very beginning of the year. And we keep those lines of communication open. I also invite them to share their own gifts. So if they, I asked them in the beginning of the year, would you be willing to facilitate a session either with me, um, or you could do it by yourself or with somebody else in the program?

I love bringing out the gifts in others. I love elevating others and giving them recognition. I think it's great for mental health. Um, and it, it builds their social emotional capacity because they feel more comfortable and confident efficacy as a teacher, their own connection with colleagues. Absolutely.

Exactly. Um, so that's, that's important to me. Uh, the program is also grounded in the New York state mentoring standards. Um, and that's really important for me to know as a mentor coordinator, as I plan. The program. Um, I invite not only people within our organization to speak at meetings, but I also like getting outside perspectives.

So I've had a lot of guests, um, a lot of educators from outside of our community, um, presenting all different topics and ideas. And I really want to show the teachers the value of being a connected and networked educator that we can shatter the walls of isolation and reach out because this can be a very isolating career.

Yeah. Especially during this time, um, I haven't even met many of these teachers in-person um, it would be funny if I like ran into them in the grocery store or something. Cause I've only seen them on this little screen unless they work with me, uh, where, you know, in the building that I'm in, um, So I really try to show them, uh, the power of using social media to learn from each other and to connect with other educators, to see what's working for them so that they can impact their students' learning.

Um, and also build a network of support. You know, there's always someone else that's going to know something you don't know. Um, so you're building this network. Of course, we want to build powerful professional learning communities within our own organizations, but we want to show the teachers that they can reach out to others too.

And there are so many wonderful educators out there that want to help. Um, and also, uh, what I did is I created a mentor program page on Twitter and we use a hashtag, um, lb leads so that we can follow the stories of our classrooms. Oh, that's cool. It's, it's pretty cool because it keeps us connected. And then I looked through that hashtag before every meeting and I like to celebrate teacher leaders in every meeting.

Um, and I'll highlight certain tweets and I'll ask teachers to share their practice and tell us more about this. And what's beautiful about it is that they're giving their peers and colleagues ideas and they're using those ideas in their classroom. So they're able to collaborate and share best practices, right?

That's everything right there. It's everything. And one thing like we don't have to worry about anymore, I think is we always have these virtual spaces where we can connect if logistics get in the way, right? Because sometimes with district meetings and you're trying to get coverage and you're trying to get everyone in one space, there's so many moving parts to that process.

The one nice thing about virtual meetings other than travel anywhere. Exactly. Even though I do miss being in person, if I had to choose, I would pick in person or do a mix of both maybe in person and virtual, because it is a lot just from different districts across states, across counties, across the country to share and connect and motivate and inspire each other.

We couldn't do that before, before Google meet and zoom and all of these, uh, teleconferencing. Absolutely. Oh my goodness. Um, yes. I mean, if we didn't take the meetings virtually, I wouldn't have had all of the guests that I've had now, um, in these meetings and, um, it's just been an incredible experience.

And for me, it's never about me. It's always about these new teachers and how can I support them and how can we create a network so that. These educators can turn into the great educators. They're already great educators, because I have to tell you, new teachers are, it's a symbiotic relationship with, um, the mentors and the mentees because the new teachers know all of these practices that some more veteran teachers might not be aware of than the veteran teachers are sharing all this wisdom from having that experience.

So this relationship is symbiotic in nature, and, um, we're learning from, uh, from one another. You know, I view everyone in a school system is a learner, um, including the teachers. Absolutely. I learned from my students every damn day. Exactly. So, so, uh, this program is very near and dear to my heart. Um, I think that I'm so honored that my school district invests, um, in this program because, um, I think the return on investment.

Uh, there is no price. You can really put on it because these teachers, when you have happy teachers who are confident in what they do, that positive energy is contagious, and that impacts our students, our learners. Those are the most important people in the school organization. That is why we're here.

Exactly. That's why we're all here. So it's so important. You know, my friend, Stephanie Ross seen she's brilliant. You should follow her on social media. She's wonderful. She always says that she wants to make education less competitive and more collaborative. And I just think it's brilliant. That little phrase , because it shouldn't be a competition we're here for children.

You know, I remember years ago, I used to compete even I'm going to blame it on myself or who has the best bulletin board, right? Like when I worked in the city, it was like, we had to put up these beautiful bulletin boards and the kids' work had to be perfect. And the performance task had to be up. And the teachers all had top outs on their bulletin board.

Let me tell you something. Me today. I can care less about those things because that's not what it's now, you know, but, uh, it's, it's funny how in different stages of our career, you know, we definitely evolve, you know, it's like the evolution. So I, I always want to, I'm always, so I want to share, I want to share my stories, my journey.

I want other educators to share their stories and their journey. Um, so that these new teachers can have different perspectives, um, on life, on teaching. And also to understand that first and foremost healthcare, my gosh, I was hospitalized my first year of teaching because I never went to the bathroom. Oh my God, you had a kidney infection or something.

They said to me, you know, I woke up with like the severe back pain one night. And of course my husband is like in flight to California and I'm like literally crying in pain. I call up my brother-in-law cause I didn't want to. Upset my parents. And I said, listen, you have to come over and take me to the hospital.

I think something's wrong with me. That's how painful was. Wow. And when they said to me, oh, we're admitting you, honey. I said, oh no, you can't admit me. I'm a first year teacher. I have to be at school. I don't think so. You're not going anywhere. You're

so, um, you know, that's a great story. I also gave the Heimlich maneuver, like in my first few years of teaching, it's like all these things that we don't learn, you know, in, in college when we're, when we're going to be teachers, you know, we're in the field. Um, first year they threw me into directing the middle school musical.

Oh, wow. So I was hired to teach seventh grade English, but a brand new writing program that we sort of wrote the curriculum for on the fly. There was no textbook, there was no money for materials, and yet they wanted us to move mountains. And in between all of that, I'm directing the musical. And I was so overwhelmed and so exhausted.

I didn't know what the hell was going on. I remember standing on stage. Trying to block a number, you know, telling the, which group of kids is going to move which direction. And, and the music is playing the piano players, playing the music, and I'm backing up walking towards the edge of the stage. As the kids are walking toward me, like I'm facing them and they're facing the audience.

And then. I was so into what I was doing that I didn't realize I was at the edge of the stage and I kept walking and fell off the stage backwards and landed on my back in the orchestra pit. Oh gosh. Where are you? Okay. I was bruised and sprain, but it could've been so much worse picturing this all happening only because I'm a theater person myself.

I was in all the plays in high school. So like, I know exactly I can picture this happening. It's funny. Now it wasn't funny then it was a long time ago, but. When we're overwrought and exhausted and really focused on keeping all of the juggling, all the balls and keeping them in the air. It is very easy to lose track of ourselves because we want to do such a good job for our kids.

And we take it so seriously. You know, I always had this image, you know, like I'm going to be teaching for 30 years. And so one group of kids kind of melds into every other group of kids to a degree, but that 10th grade students sitting in my English class, I'm their only shot at a 10th grade English class.

And so while she, that student may be one in three or 4,000, by the end of the career, my career, I'm her only 10th grade English teacher. So I've taken that very seriously. You know, you have 180 chances to make an impact. And then that is powerful that no, that right there is powerful. Um, Every single interaction, big and small matters.

Your words matter. Words are powerful. Your body language is powerful. Children know kids know when you like them when you're there to support them when your heart is there for them. And they know when it's not. Um, so you said that so beautifully 180 days to make an impact or something. Is that what you said?

180 chances. Relatively most school districts are 180 days, but, uh, how many use that in my meeting this week? Is that okay? My mentor? Yeah. That's, that's beautiful. I love that as we wind down that I've always taken extremely seriously and  I was in a bunch of careers before I became a teacher and I always had this idea that, that from the.

Bottom of my lesson plan to every single handout. I hand out to every interaction I have with the kids that they deserved the most professional, the most put well put together, well thought out assignments, interactions, experience from me. And it's been, I can't even tell you, you know, how rewarding this, this career can be.

You see your kids grow and learn and become, become themselves in better richer ways. Yeah, it is a, it is a privilege and an honor to be an educator. And I tell the new teachers that, um, you know, when you were hired by a school district, they are putting, um, they, they, they, they are giving you that voice to empower our learners.

You know, our children. We're making an impact on them for the rest of their lives. How do you want to be remembered? And then just numbers. They're not just test scores. They're, someone's cherished little baby, you know, whole world. Absolutely. Um, so it is, it's a major job to be impacting and influencing the lives of students and learners.

Um, you know, and you know, a lot of people say there are leaders of tomorrow, but I feel like why can't they be the leaders of today? You know, I see kids today doing such incredible things and, and sharing their voice with the world and innovating and creating and, um, You know, they're, they're, they're the teachers of today and tomorrow.

So the latenesses on entrepreneurship, philanthropy does medical discoveries, all sorts of things are happening with, with kids nowadays. Exactly. Let me tell you something. I don't remember one lesson like a teacher ever taught me, but like Maya Angelo said, you remember how people make you feel, you remember experiences?

Like I remember being in all the high school plays, you know, I remember being in battle of the classes. I remember, you know, writing for our school magazine and newspaper. Like those were the things I was passionate about. So that's what I remember. So our job is to really. Develop and bring out those passions in our learners, like I said earlier, so that they can remember and have those experiences, you know, we're, we, we create the path for them.

We open that path and then they can choose their way, you know, and then we're w we're there to guide them. And, you know, we, we want to see them be independent and go off and, you know, make good choices and, you know, change their course if they need to and be okay with that. Because there's a lot of that too.

We don't all, you know, it's not linear. The process learning is not linear. The world is not linear, it's messy. Um, so we're going to have to, you know, make approximations and we're going to have to come up with different solutions to our destination. Right. But if we have a destination, we can always figure out a route.

You know, we might change our course, you know, and we have to just get the right people on our bus too. You know, uh, like Jim Collins says, I love Jim Collins. Good to great. You know, who's on your bus, get the right people on your bus who are going to support you and bring out the best in you. Right. And who are going to, you know, you want to mirror the quality, those qualities that you see in other people and take a little bit from all those people to become you.

Right. But a better version, you know, what's that dang you, you are the product or average of the five people you hang out with the most. Oh yeah. And I don't know the exact quote, but yes, I like that. Choose your friends, choose your colleagues, choose your associates wisely because you are them sort of. We function on a feeling level, not an analytic level.

Like that's how we fundamentally function as human beings. Right. So, um, yes, like getting those, having a cheering section behind you is so important, not only in your professional life, but in your personal life to people who are going to support you and when you're there and you mess up, you know, they're still loving you.

Absolutely. On again, I heard somebody speaking a couple of weeks ago, um, about this concept of creating a board of directors for your own life. Like you were a corporation in a way, and like, who would you, it's probably the same kind of concept as who's on your bus, you know, who's on your personal life board of directors, you know, it's interesting to think about.

So that person, those people are going to help motivate you. They're going to help support you. They're going to help you problem solve. They're going to help you, you know, figure out and negotiate the highs and the lows in your life as you will do for them. A nice supportive symbiotic kind of thing. Yes.

And I think we also have to recognize that the people that you start with aren't necessarily the people you grow with and I have to give sign and Senate credit for that because, um, I think I heard him in a Bernay brown podcast say that, and it was so when I heard that it was powerful because it's, you have to respect the people on the journey.

Right. And those connections that you have made from your past impact, your future, right? So you need to value those connections that have brought you to the point you are at today, right? So, um, you might grow with different people. But you hold on and value the past exactly as it impacted the future. So, um, yeah, you might not be meant to walk side by side for more than a short time, but, but the impact that we make on each other's lives is lifelong.

Absolutely. Absolutely. And, and, and that's through like, it's a positive and negative lens too, because if the people who have negatively impacted your life, you know, I look at them as important people too, in my life because you learn about what, what you don't want for yourself through that process. Um, you learn that you don't connect to certain energies that it's not good for you.

Um, but you need that in your life to appreciate. The true connections that you do make over the course of time, those negative in ha in quotes, relationships do teach you about yourself and you learn resilience and you learn flexibility and you learn strength and how to create healthy boundaries for yourself, and you know how to foster better relationships, but also how to deal with problematic ones.

I mean, that's a skill in itself and you know, what else I've been really obsessed with lately is toxic positivity. Have you looked into this concept because you could sometimes have people in your life that like, they think everything's great, they wear rose colored glasses, and they're not being honest with you about what's really happening.

And when they're too positive, That's not good either. I think it's important, like to meet people where they are validate their feelings, right. From a social emotional standpoint and, you know, help them make choices or help them embrace where they are so that they can get to the neck wherever they need to be.

Right. Absolutely. Absolutely. Wow.  I write, I have, I have a blog, um, which is pretty widely read, especially the blog about my mentor, mentorship matters. Um, so I mean, I do a lot of different things, but, my blog right now is my main platform because that's where I share my learning about all different things.

 So to impact, you know, you want more people to, to read that. Yeah. Yeah. That would be awesome. That would be awesome. I've also recently written chapters for educational books that they haven't been published yet. So I don't, I can't talk about it yet. There'll be awesome I'm in a book called because of a teacher and George Cross is publishing it.

 So it's for the bunch of educators who I highly regard and respect. And,  yeah, we're sharing. Thank you. We're sharing her stories about, who has impact, one section is, what teacher has impacted you, another is, what administrator, and what advice would you give your first year teacher yourself?

So it's kind of like a chicken soup book, chicken soup for the soul kind of book. So it was fun to kind of tell that story, but it's not going to be out til September. I'm excited about that though. That's cool. Yeah, I, yeah, I did an authority magazine interview. What are the five most essential things you need to be an educator.

And, that was a difficult one to write, to boil it down to five things and a bunch of questions I had to answer. So I think it came out pretty well. I think, oh, I have to, I don't want to check that out. I'd like to know. I'd like to read your book too. Oh yeah. It's that on the list? It's available everywhere books are sold online.

 So tell me about your blog. So my blog is me sharing my learning and my voice with other educators and with the world. And actually George Carlos is the one who he was actually the book we use for our mentor, my mentor program. Last year, we use the innovator's mindset and when I connected with him, he really encouraged me to have my own platform for writing.

So I took his course. I developed a website on my own and,  I blog pretty consistently, but I also share a lot of teacher resources on there, to help educators help their students. So anything I create,  it's not just for myself and my own learners, but I look at it is helping the greater community.

Um, I like to serve others and help others be successful. So I share anything from strategies,  literacy strategies to stuff about mentorship, to just pieces that pieces like, you know, things I'm thinking about, you know, like during COVID it was about transitioning and, you know, also like inquiry and, and just my thoughts, you know, and ideas that I share with the world.

So it's nice because I connected actually through the innovator's mindset, hashtag I connected with a global educator, Naomi Tolan, who is amazing, and I'm a, co-host on her podcast now on,  nice empathetic educators live, where we interviewed different authors from around the world.  And that's been great.

So. George has connected, connected me with so many different people and has given me so many opportunities of my own. That's amazing. Yeah. Thank you. It's only been like a little over a year now, so, it's exciting. It's exciting to be in that space and connect with so many wonderful people who are just, it's like a family, you know, it's like people who are kind of like-minded, but I also like people who push me out of my comfort zone too.

 I like people who see things in different ways and got me to think differently because there's that saying great minds think the life, but they also think differently too. So then there's the adverb there. It is very nice. Well, this has been wonderful, Laura, and thank you so much for being with us today and, and having this fabulous conversation.

Thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure chatting with you today. Likewise.