Jen is a local here in Atlanta (an “ATLien”) where she is on a mission to make education humanizing and equitable for ALL learners. Shortly after earning her BS.Ed. at UGA, Jen’s fire for student-centered learning was ignited on a year-long adventure in New Zealand. There she taught in a progressive public charter school, trained in student-directed and inquiry-based learning strategies, and began partnering with students to help them take ownership of their educational journeys. She brought those learnings back to the US where she helped found and later led a small private school to meet the needs of neurodiverse students in innovative ways. As her passion for both leadership and educational equity grew, she went on to earn a M.Ed. in Urban Teacher Leadership and an Ed.S. in Educational Leadership from Georgia State University.
Daniel (00:03): The dream that you've tucked away in your closet, or maybe you've neatly folded it up and put it somewhere in your wardrobe or like today's guests, Jen Owen. She took that dream and put it on the back burner. There's a number of reasons for this and we're going to start today's conversation with what held Jen back from pursuing that back burner dream first, but because of the pandemic she had to pivot. She took that dream and put it as the priority and now some interesting things are happening as a result. This is also an interesting discussion to listen to because Jen has experience in schools where they were really driven by students. We also get into a candid conversation about what it's like to be a female entrepreneur in a male dominated tech industry. I think there's value in hearing how she navigates that challenging atmosphere for female leaders and then for a male leaders, there's value in just growing your emotional intelligence and understanding what our female colleagues can go through. Hey, it's Daniel and welcome to the better leaders, better schools podcasts. A show for Ruckus Makers, those out of the box leaders making change happen in education. We'll be right back with these messages from our show's sponsors
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Daniel (02:50): I am joined today by Jen Owen an EDS. The founder of Co-create ED. Jen is a local in Atlanta. I think you call my ATLiens if that's right. I did get my start as well in Atlanta, but this is about you. Where Jen is on a mission to make education humanizing and equitable for all learners shortly after earning her bachelor's at UGA. Jen's fire for student centered learning was ignited on a year long adventure in New Zealand where she taught in a progressive public charter school, trained in self student directed and inquiry-based learning strategies and began partnering with students to help them take ownership of their educational journeys. She brought those learnings back to the US where she helped found, and later led a small private school to meet the needs of neurodiverse students in innovative ways as her passion for both leadership and educational equity group.
Daniel (03:48): She went on to earn a master's in ED in urban teacher leadership and a specialist education in educational leadership from Georgia State University. After a decade of teaching, coaching educators and leading both in private and public school sectors. Jen recently took the leap into her latest endeavor as a co-creator aspiring to close equity gaps in the classroom by making great professional development, more accessible for all educators, Cocreated.org is the first marketplace platform in the PD industry, connecting school leaders directly with professional development providers so that they can easily book their trainings the teachers need. Jen, welcome to the show.
Jen (04:31): Thank you. Thank you. Glad to be here.
Daniel (04:34): We'll get into the marketplace you've created, and I definitely want to hear a bit about the ins and outs with that. I think it would be a value to the Ruckus Maker listening, but prior to what it's all about, and I'm sure you'll explain it a little bit. I want to start with the pivot, the pandemic pivot, because many of us went through that. Whether you're running a business or you're running a school, lots of folks had to pivot at least if they wanted to thrive and be successful. So that's a skill leaders need. Will you tell us that story and start there?
Jen (05:11): Sure. Happy to tell it, even though it's a tough one to tell. You gave a little bit from my bio of the backstory that led us to where we are today with Co-created, but like you mentioned, there was a major pivot involved. When I initially set out to do Co-created, I thought I was going to be working with teachers directly, going into schools, providing training and helping close those equity gaps at the classroom level through direct training services that I would provide myself. I worked on that for months and months and tried to build this startup company and all that entails and then COVID happened. Suddenly the whole world's upside down. Everything's different. My whole customer base, my client base are now all of a sudden out of pocket, everybody is then learning remote. This was right around March and I had my very first major contract with a school on the table in February, and that completely fell through.
Jen (06:11): So, COVID happened. Like I said, schools weren't really in the mindset of let's book professional developments, they were in survival mode, naturally everyone's navigating this completely unprecedented set of circumstances. It definitely sent me back to the drawing board. I had this idea on the back burner, thinking about how we can make professional development, just easier to find and easier to access. As my background, as a school leader, I remember spending hours trying to find professional development for my teachers and it was never straightforward. It was calling into my network saying, "Who did you use? Who did you use? What training did you book or spend hours Googling? On the flip side, when I was then trying to provide those trainings myself and build up a client base, that was challenging too.
Jen (07:02): I think that COVID ended up being the kick in the pants I needed to really get going on this back-burner idea and just take that leap and jump in head first. At that point I switched entirely from being Jen, the education consultant, hoping to work with teachers and do training into Jen the ed tech entrepreneur, entering this brand new world that I'm completely unfamiliar with and figuring it out as I go. So that's what I've been doing ever since March is learning, learning, learning, learning, and building a solution that I hope will help school leaders who have faced what I faced when I was in their shoes.
Daniel (07:44): Thank you for doing that and taking the leap. We're going to dig in later on in terms of what it's like being a woman in a tech space, but Jen, I'm curious, you mentioned that that idea for the marketplace was on the back burner. Can you identify why that wasn't the first idea that you were going after, so to speak and why it was on the back burner?
Jen (08:06): There's two answers to that question. The answer is it's scary. It is scary. Technology is not something that comes naturally to me. I mean, bringing almost 12 years experience in the education field to the table means I have no experience whatsoever in web development, software development. Any of these pieces that it would actually take to make this marketplace a reality. It's been a lot of reaching out into networks asking questions that make me feel really silly. Finding a tech advisor that can actually guide me in this whole new world. So yeah, fear, fear was stopping me in a lot of ways until finally, like I said, the circumstances of the world made it to where I couldn't give into that fear anymore. And I had to just find that courage and make it happen. The other piece is just my one number one true passion is working directly with teachers. Like I hands down think educators are the world's best people and working with them directly. Is it just, it's where I come alive. So the pain of letting go of this idea that I was going to have this cool consulting thing where I get to work directly with teachers was painful. I had to let go of like a piece of my identity with that and then form this new one around being an ed tech entrepreneur.
Daniel (09:32): Thank you for the candor. There's so much good stuff there. What you ended with in terms of identity, right? Part of the first iteration in your passion, working with teachers, that's how you define yourself. So having to change some of that felt personal, right? Obviously it's going to be difficult. You mentioned fear, which I guess that would be something you were experiencing. I'm glad that you shared it because I think for all the Ruckus Makers listening, their school leadership's already complex enough, right. And now with the rate of change with the pandemic who knows what the future will look like. If we're going to create schools with what they truly need to be, we're going to have to push past the fear and push past how we identify as a school leader to turn into what we need to be for our students. Those are two points, among many that I think are very relevant for the Ruckus Makers. I appreciate you sharing that. I know you care about educator activism and maybe you can riff on how you embed social justice into the fabric of what you do.
Jen (10:41): Yeah. Thank you for bringing that up. That is absolutely one of the most foundational aspects of what Co-created stands for as a company and really just who I am as a person. I've had the opportunity through building Co-created and navigating this whole new space to get involved with some other education entrepreneurs and other education activists, and do some more work in the education activism space. One really amazing example recently was being a part of the Atlanta Educators for Black Lives March. I had the opportunity to work together with a team of about 10 other educators. These are educators in a variety of roles, teachers, community leaders, fellow entrepreneurs and we came together around the question, What would it look like if when we say Black Lives Matter at School, we truly, truly meant it. The 10 of us who were on this organizing team, we started brainstorming and imagining and envisioning.
Jen (11:46): And through that came up with a list of demands and created a March event here in Atlanta for those demands that also included a component where we contacted our elected officials directly. There was a call to action with one of those text message things that makes it super easy to put people directly in contact with their elected officials. We sent that out to the Georgia Board of Education, the Metro Atlanta, that a big district board of EDS and some of the legislators on the state level, Congress who are in charge of education related decisions. We had a pretty good turnout. We had between 300 and 400 educators that turned out that day. We had an amazing lineup of speakers and just seeing the really diverse group of educators who came out to support that cause was incredibly inspiring. Something that really pushes me to always keep equity at the center of my work and also know that I'm not alone in it, nobody's alone in it. We are all in this together fighting this fight because equity is so important and we want all students to have a school experience that really shows them that they matter.
Daniel (12:59): Well, that's really interesting how you're living that out. I liked the juicy questions too. What does it mean to really honor the idea that black lives matter? I have a friend and colleague Demetrius. He's been on the show a number of times,but he's a principal out in California. One of those juicy questions he is trying to answer with his community is the idea that it's common in us, that there's Liberty and justice for all, is that really happening within our community is what he's asking. I love when people aren't afraid of those challenging questions because it's going to bring up a lot of charged reactions potentially.
Jen (13:41): Those big questions though, it's impossible to move progress forward. We have to go there with the hard questions. We have to be willing to face them and wrestle through it. It's messy and it's uncomfortable and it's so, so very worth it.
Daniel (13:56): That's exactly what I was going to say is again that fear of not pursuing what was on the back burner or the fear of discussing Black Lives Matter or Liberty justice for all, you got to push past that. If we're going to create schools to be, can turn into leaders, we need to be for our communities. Another big juicy idea that you care a lot about is this, one of all kids deserve high quality education. I'd love to hear more about the best way you make that a reality.
Jen (14:27): Yeah. It's been like the connecting theme throughout the different moves I've made in my career is, , I want, I'm always striving to make a bigger impact and make that phrase come true, make it true that all students deserve and have access to high quality education. So that's looked different across time. It looked like being a teacher in the classroom and having that really amazing, direct impact directly with the kids. I miss that all the time, kids are just there. They're awesome and then from there it looked like being part of a startup team and helping create a school that serves students who had autism, ADHD, other learning differences and just seeing how much our students are capable of when we just kind of get out of the way. When we truly do define ourselves and our students as Co-creators, and that's foundational to what led to the name of the company, but students are our partners in that learning journey.
Jen (15:27): Just in that experience with that startup school, we had students who were leading their own learning. They were creating portfolios to demonstrate and showcase all that they had learned and all that they had created. They were leading their own conferences and demonstrating to their parents how confident and capable they had become because of being able to lead their own learning. Through that experience and seeing wow this is what awesome high quality education looks like. It looks like students who are owning it, who feel really connected to their own educational path. And then thinking to myself, like, how can I bring this experience on a bigger scale? My next move from that tiny startup school was into a coaching role. An instructional coaching role in the public school space and working with teachers and helping improve instructional practices that way and then from there, finding out that making change within really large public school systems can be extremely challenging. Hopefully, I'm not alone in saying that I'm sure anyone who's had the experience of trying to make change within these really big systems has had that experience of running up against all these different obstacles and the bureaucracy of it. Sometimes the politics of it can be extremely challenging. I kept racking my brain and thinking if this is my mission, if my mission is to help more kids have access to high quality learning, what's my next option and the next option was co-created. It was, let me try the same stuff I believe in from this new angle and maybe they'll hear it with new ears. It's always about just keeping pressing forward, staying committed to that mission and finding a different way to make it happen.
Daniel (17:07): Just seeing to it, then they're staying committed to that message. I'm just reading a book called The Mindset Scorecard. It's more just like an ebook download, but one of the things that I've been really wrestling with lately is that I think the journey of an entrepreneur and that of a leader, I think the biggest challenge, what I'm learning is boredom, honestly, because you want to get off message just because it's a bit newer and presents a new I guess challenge. The importance of staying on message saying the same thing, like you said. Like a million different times, maybe it'll be heard this time. That's the challenge, at least what I'm resonating with. I connect with what you're saying.
Jen (17:53): Yeah. That's an interesting way to put it. I've never heard it framed around boredom and that humans can be attracted to the next shiny thing, like go after the exciting thing. Sometimes the most impactful thing we can do is small, consistent actions steadily over time. And that's not sexy. That's not the thing you get excited about but it's effective.
Daniel (18:18): I'm trying to just continue and I think for you, and then for the Ruckus Maker, listening, continue to look at your schedule and where possible delegate and eliminate those things that are getting you off that message, right? Because that's a time and energy and focus drain, and therefore it's going to limit the type of impact you can have if you go all in on that passionate thing, you're really about like all kids deserving, high quality education. You talked about the startup school a bit. I'm not sure if that was the one in New Zealand or if that was in the US but then you mentioned,portfolios and some presentations. Can you share just a little more and give,I guess some meat on the bones to those listening to what student directed learning has been like in your experience, so they might implement potentially in their schools.
Jen (19:09): Definitely. I first became familiar with student directed and student centered learning practices in New Zealand. It was that first year that most formative year of a teacher's career when you're just getting your feet wet and figuring it all out, that for me, was in this school that was specifically designed around student directed learning and it was mind blowing. Honestly, coming straight out of college and into that environment and the students they're having so much freedom and so much leeway to the point where even our seventh and eighth graders at that school were able to earn something called a trust license and what that meant. And this is going to sound pretty wild to any of our listeners in America as our students earned this Trust License by proving they are trustworthy. Our school at that time was actually located right above a city bus station. When the students would design their projects that they were working on, it was a project based learning student directed school, they would say, this is what I'm interested in learning. This is how it's going to hit my learning goals and then they could go out into the community. They could ride a city bus in groups of four students with no adult supervision and go out there and find the stuff they needed for that project. So they might go to a museum, they might go interview an expert, but there were parameters in place to make sure they have to get back on time, that kind of thing. It was incredible to see that they were capable of handling that much responsibility and that much freedom. When one, they had to earn that trust license, it felt very symbolic.
Jen (20:43): And then two, like feeling like they're being trusted. It shifts the mindset. It really does and that was one piece that's kind of to an extreme, right? Is the students that are independently navigating the city to pursue these projects. Getting to that point though, took a lot of scaffolding, a lot of building up to that level of freedom, responsibilities, self-leadership. We've got our youngest learners, our first grade age kids who are also doing project based learning who are also doing self-directed kinds of stuff and thinking about, what am I interested in? What am I curious about? What am I wanting to learn more about? And then over time as they go through the school, that support that they initially get scaffolded back to where they're more and more in charge of the process.
Jen (21:31): And so then fast forward to back in the US in the startup school for students with autism and ADHD, we implemented those same kinds of practices. A lot of it in a practical sense, looked like student centered and student directed assessments. I mentioned the portfolio, with every unit of instruction at the end of it, students would select the pieces of work that they had created to then put in their portfolio to showcase and they would write a small reflection to go with it. Like, this is why I chose this piece. This is what it means to me. This is why I'm proud of it. Or this is a big fat mistake I made. I learned something because that's learning too. We want to really highlight that as well. So they'd have the portfolios and we have a big showcase night.
Jen (22:13): The portfolios will be on display. Any projects they've created were on display and they would kind of tour their families through this showcase to demonstrate all that they learned. At conference time there was kind of an agenda they would follow and they would walk their parents, not only through the portfolio, but through any other assessments they had taken and show the progress they had made over time and just different things like that. So the portfolio, the conference piece, and then just them having a lot of choice and voice throughout the learning unit beyond just the assessment at the end, right from the beginning, their goal setting. Every unit they set a personal goal about this is something I either want to learn more about or something I want to get better at. And then over the course of that unit, they would pursue those goals and then provide evidence at the end of how they went towards achieving that goal. So goal setting and reflections, another really big component of it.
Daniel (23:09): Yeah. That's huge. I'm hearing a lot of ownership and agency learning from failure. Like you said, the trust license, maybe the US might be the only place. I don't know, I guess lived experience. I haven't been everywhere, but where you don't necessarily have that trust with the students or have the ability to earn it. When I was in Europe and then the UK there's kids always around everywhere. You only didn't know they were students when school was out of session when they weren't in their school uniforms but even in South Africa, when I was there the kids weren't going off campus, but I remember this is like a while ago, 10 years ago. But I remember going in for a passing period and it became a tea break because the British colonies. South Africa was a colony of Britain.
Jen (23:59): We had tea time, too. We had morning tea. That was our job.
Daniel (24:03): Yeah. So everyone got around for tea and biscuits, which are cookies and they laughed and sang and told jokes. It was so cool and there were no adults with the kids. They were all outside by themselves, multi grade levels from the nappies. Actually those guys did have adult supervision, the kindergarteners that still wear diapers or whatever preschool, I don't know, obviously I'm not an early childhood person,but then bigger adults. Right. Your elementary and middle school kids, they were just all out there.
Jen (24:34): It's interesting. You bring up the morning tea. That's reminded me of another memory from that time. That's actually more specific to leadership is we had a duties rotation at that school. I remember this again was my first year teaching. It was always really striking to me that our principal at that school put himself on the duties rotation alongside all the teachers. He would take his shift at morning tea duty, which is the person who was supposed to at least circulate, make sure the kids are all still accounted for. Loose supervision, but yeah, I remember that really standing out that he was on that duties rotation, just like we were and it was not so much of a hierarchy. It was a lot more like we're in this together and that really, that stood out.
Daniel (25:12): Well, speaking of standing out, I think being a woman in the tech space also has you stand out whether you want to or not. I'd love to get to that story right after this break. Let's pause here just for a moment from a message from our sponsors, learn how to successfully navigate change, shape your school's success and empower your teams with Harvard certificates in school management and leadership programs, and get online professional development that fits your schedule. We're now enrolling for February and June, 2021 courses include leading change leading schools and leading people applied today@ hgsc.Me/leader. That's hgsc.me/leader. SMART has an incredible research backed tool that allows you as a leader to self-assess your capabilities at the school level or broader to help you with planning and prioritizing discovering your strengths and best area of focus across five different modules, including leadership and remote learning.
Daniel (26:24): The tool inspires collaboration with your colleagues and provides massive value. Whether you complete one or all five in the modules, you'll get a personalized report that shows where you stack up against other Ruckus Makers in maps. Some areas of focus that will have the greatest impact for you. Take 10 minutes and get with this ed tech assessment tool. Today. I suggest beginning with the strategic leadership module, check it out@ smarttech.com/profile. That's smart tech.com/profile. Today's show is brought to you by Organized Binder. Organized Binder develops the skills and habits. All students need success. During these uncertain times of distance learning and hybrid education settings, organized binder, equips educators with a resource to provide stable and consistent learning routines so that all students have an opportunity to succeed, whether at home or in the classroom, learn more at organizedbinder.com. Alright, and we're back with Jen Owen, who is the founder of Co-created.org.
Daniel (27:34): We will be linked up for you in the show notes. She had to pivot and so I'm sure you heard the beginning story of the pandemic pivot that happened within her company. I want to talk about what it's like being a woman in the tech space. It's important because hopefully women, Ruckus Makers listening will get some encouragement or some ideas on how to navigate what goes from a female dominated teaching faculty, I think it's like 70 something, almost 80% of our teachers are women and then my research the other day for my book, I think it's like only 34%. It's a low thirties of principals are actually women. Those are just the results. I won't judge it on the show, but I think it's been a challenge for you. I also want the male, Ruckus Makers listening to grow in their emotional intelligence and awareness of issues that female leaders face. What's it like for you being in the tech space?
Jen (28:30): Oh, wow. Wow. This question. I love that you shared those statistics. First of all, because what's interesting to me is as you start out in education at the bottom rung of the ladder, so to speak, I hate that term, but that's just speaking of what it is, the teaching force is made up predominantly of women. Like you mentioned a really high percentage and then the higher up the rungs of that ladder, you go the lower and lower that percentage of women get. So you mentioned principals are a much smaller percentage than teachers. If you get to district level leadership, that percentage is even more minuscule. So our representation of women in higher leadership positions is like a complete inverse of what we see in the teaching force. So just something really, really interesting that I hope over time, we do something about in education.
Jen (29:20): Going from this really female dominated industry of education into the technology world, the ed tech space has been like culture shock to be totally honest. Being a woman in this very male dominated field has been, I always knew it. It's one of those things like you can know it intellectually, but then when you experience it and feel it it's a completely different thing. It's been a lot of feeling like the people who wrote the rules of the game, know the rules, and then I'm coming in as this outsider trying to play catch up, like what is this game that we're playing and what are the rules and how do we interact and why is it that I always feel 20 steps behind? Why is the language different? The interactions are different. Just every piece of it feels so different.
Jen (30:09): I had an interaction not too long ago with a mentor or it was supposed to be a mentor. He was someone who was extremely successful in the technology world he's bought and sold companies. He's a very wealthy man, an older white man, just for context. I get on the phone with them expecting like a mentorship conversation, right. Something like, "okay, well tell me about your company. Let's get to know each other. Let's feel this out. Is this going to be a good fit? Mentorship wise. No. First question out of the gate, what are your revenue projections for the next 12 months? My company has only existed since March so answering that question, I kind of was like, well, the reason I'm reaching out for mentorship is my background is in education. I'm coming to this with some leadership experience, some field expertise, but when it comes to revenue, projections and financial strategy, that's something that I'm reaching out for mentorship.
Jen (31:04): That's the whole point of this conversation and his response was, well, I thought that you went through an incubator program already, which in this world, that's a program that helps you get your business off the ground, which I had. It has helped me go from idea stage to at least a website existing stage but no, I don't have all the answers. I don't and it was very clear to me that in this world, there's an expectation to have all the answers and to know all the answers and if you don't, it's an aha. Gotcha. There's this kind of ritual that goes on where it's like the people that have been in this world longer have to grill the people that are new at it and try to get them and try to like find the hole and find the Gacha opportunity.
Jen (31:47): It's an interesting dynamic. It's one that I really hope that we, as women entering this space can do something to change because it doesn't have to be that way. I really don't like, I think we're all on the same team as far as trying to push innovation forward, trying to come up with these new solutions to old problems. And shouldn't we be supporting one another. Shouldn't we be coming at this from, let's build each other up? And that's something that I think women could really bring to the table here.
Daniel (32:20): I'm interested, Too, Jen, are there any routines and rituals or anything you're doing to help you survive and thrive in this sort of environment at times? As a bit antagonistic. How do you prepare for these?
Jen (32:38): There's a few different pieces to it. After that experience, it was very eye opening. That particular one, I just told you. Since then I've sought out other mentors, preferably a woman. I would like to be my mentor in this technology space who has dealt with this and gone through this before me. There's that piece and then there's also just general self care stuff that I've tried to get more diligent about. Back when 2020 began, it's a fresh new year. I chose my words of the year, my new year's resolution words of the year. I'm sure everybody can relate to this. My words back then were courage and consistency. I knew that if I'm trying to start a business and make a difference in the world, those are going to be the two keys to success.
Jen (33:27): I have to courageously continue putting myself out there, even when it's extremely uncomfortable. I have to take consistent steps forward. Kind of like you were mentioning earlier about overcoming that boredom piece is like, I can't just go this direction, go that direction, go this direction. I have to stay focused and stay consistent and then the pandemic happened and consistency just felt impossible to attain. Consistency felt like the opposite of 2020. So instead I was like, well, what's the background skill necessary for consistency? I came up with discipline. So my mid 2020 resolution became discipline. That's my new word to focus on. I've got my morning routine now and every morning, or at least, I'm going for 80% here, not going for perfection. I try to start my day on my yoga mat. So my alarm goes off. I pet my dogs, that's also part of the routine and then make my way to the yoga mat, do my meditation, prayer, yoga, and then some journaling. I try to devote that first hour and a half of my day into pouring back into myself because as a solo founder and as a business leader, I have to remember, I am my most important resource right now, my most important asset. I have to try to feed into that. Starting my day with those practices has made a really big difference and it helps me think clearer. The meditation piece helps me be less reactive. Having the power of the pause and the ability to find that gap of time between the input coming in and the output of my reaction and being a little bit more thoughtful and purposeful with it. Those kinds of routines have helped a lot. In addition, just having a great support network, like having friends around who you can vent to. Friends who I've been through thick and thin with like, even back to that school startup story, I've got a group that we were all part of that school startup team together. The school mascot was the wolves. So now the four of us call ourselves the Wolf pack. My Wolf pack is who I always turned to when things like that mentorship phone call go off the rails. I call them up and say, y'all are never going to believe this one. They're my go-to group of people that I can be my complete, full, real self with and just let it out, let it go and move on.
Daniel (35:46): Everybody needs a Wolf pack and reminds me of Berne Brown's idea of the square squad, where you write down on a one inch by one inch piece of paper, all the people's opinions who matter. I actually put out a piece of content that when they responded really well to, it had to do with our unconventional quotes. But one of the ideas there is an art gallery, right? Like, have you seen the Mona Lisa right in the Loo or something like that? There it is. There's the name and there's no spot where people get to leave feedback, right? In any gallery under any painting. There's no spot where people get to leave comments and feedback and that's such an important leadership and artist learning because you create something, you do it with care, with empathy, you say, Hey, I made this.
Daniel (36:36): Hopefully it resonates with people, but the guy that gave you that difficult feedback, you don't have to listen. Right, and you go to the Wolf pack so that's something really important, the other piece. I want to get to our last two questions that I want to draw out from what you shared. I was recently reading this other book. I think life is for the givers or give, to give. It's the idea of being generous, as opposed to a taker. The author used a metaphor that I thought was really great. Imagine you have some sort of thoroughbred, prize winning horse and think about how you would treat that horse. What kind of care would it get in terms of taking care of its coat and it's body, it's makeup, that kind of thing.
Daniel (37:21): What kind of food would you give it? When it was cold, would you put some sort of horsey blanket on it? What would training look like? What kind of sleep would it get, et cetera. It's very simple. You'd obviously give it the best. If it was a thoroughbred, you're trying to win prizes and all this sort of stuff. When you think about yourself, either you lead in your business or the school leader, the Ruckus Maker, listening to this, how are they treating themselves, right. Are they getting on the yoga mat, petting dogs, hanging out with the Wolfpack, et cetera, or just, work, work, work. First one at the building, last one out and not enough nutrition, sleep care. They don't have a Wolf pack, et cetera and people don't, you don't have to exist that way. I think that's the last point I want to make.
Jen (38:13): Right. And it's also hard to remember that, and it's hard to reconceptualize self-care as care in the way you would for like an animal, a horse and another person that kind of thing. I keep thinking to myself, like, first of all, it took me a while to understand what does self care even mean? What are those words like? Are these just things I see on an Instagram graphic that's going, or like, what's the reality. I had to think, and reconceptualize self-care as, I don't know, like 2020 is hard, 2020 is a really hard time. I'm noticing in myself that I'm really seeking out softness, like softness is what I need and it's what my body is wanting and that's what I'm seeking out. It's self care to me to be gentle on myself. It's being self-soothing after a really rough experience happens like, Oh Jen, it's okay. ,Sometimes People conceptualize it as caring for the inner child. Maybe that's easier to visualize. I keep thinking about this concept about 2020 is hard and I'm seeking out softness and how can I be soft with myself right now during this time?
Daniel (39:20): So, Jen, what message would you put on all school markees across the world, if you could do so for just a day?
Jen (39:26): Okay. So mine, it would have to be one of those like scrolling marquees, because it would say kids are people too. Teachers are people too. Principals are people too. Parents are people too. It would just scroll through those words because I think we forget that we're all in this shared human experience together. Sometimes it's just worth that reminder. Yes, these are children, but they're also humans. Yes, this parent is a little bit on my nerves right now, but they're doing the best they can to raise that kid. Just like I'm doing the best I can to educate their child. My boss, the principal is giving me a hard time right now, but I might not know the million things that are going on in the background. That's also on my boss's mind and I have to give that grace and give that, just understanding that human understanding that we're all in this together doing the very best we can.
Daniel (40:20): I thought you were going to use a one word descriptor of the shared human experience and boil that down into one, but that's okay. I'm just being silly. I was thinking with curse words. Okay, Jen, you're building a school from the ground up. You're not limited by any resources. You're only limited to your imagination. How would you build your dream school and what would be your top three?
Jen (40:45): I always love this question on your show. I love hearing people's answers because I think as educators, we all think about this, right? We all think about, Oh, well, my school will be like this and if I could do it, it would be like that. When I was first starting Co-created I had a partner I was working with at the time and we would sit around thinking about this, like, well, what if we started a school and what would it be like? One aspect that kept coming up is taking care of the adults who do so much to pour into the children. How can we make teachers feel more professionalized, more valued as whole people. One idea that we came up with is what if somehow we figured out a schedule to where the school could have two complete sets of staff.
Jen (41:30): So there's like an AM staff and a PM staff that way a teacher half your day is FaceTime with the kids teaching. And half your day is planning because really the amount of planning time that teachers get to do the job we're asking them to do is outrageously small. You think about other places, like you mentioned, teaching in Europe and how much different it is there. I know a lot of schools there get an outrageously more amount of planning time and our teachers need more planning time. Some way to have this staff thing that allows the teachers to get the planning time that they need so that they can do the job we're asking them to do. Another piece is I've been really inspired by the physical aspect of the school being inspired by coworking spaces. I love in a coworking space, how there's a couch and a group of chairs over here and then there's like an individual booth where you can make a phone call over there. And there's a small table here where you can have a meeting. I think having this variety of workspaces would make so much sense in a school. I want kids to have these flexible workspaces. I always go back to the quote that the environment's the third teacher it's from like the Reggio Emilia philosophy. There's three teachers of children. It's the teacher, other children and the environment. I would love to see us getting more purposeful with designing the environment with that in mind. What if we really meant it when we said the environments, the third teacher, what would that school look like?
Daniel (42:56): If we just put any type of effort at all into designing schools? There's a lot of great ones, right? But the ones that I attended and taught in are older, I mean, it's just so boring. So that's a great spot to end. Jen, thanks so much for being a part of the better leaders, better schools podcasts of everything we talked about today. What's the one thing you want a Ruckus Maker to remember?
Jen (43:20): Well, I mean, I hope that what I'm building is truly useful to the Ruckus Makers. I hope that the school leaders that are out there listening can visit, Co-created.org, check it out. When I say co-created, I truly mean it. Like, this is more than a buzzword to me. If you go on the website and you've got feedback, if you've got ideas, let me know. I want this to be something that serves the people who need it most, and I'm completely open to input in that. Hopefully people take away that Co-create is not a buzzword. It's what I'm about. If anyone needs anything, please reach out.
Daniel (43:59): Thanks for listening to the better leaders, better schools podcast for Ruckus Makers. If you have a question or would like to connect my email, Daniel@betterleadersbetterschools.com or hit me up on Twitter @alienearbud. If the better leaders better schools podcast is helping you grow as a school leader, then please help us serve more Ruckus Makers like you. You can subscribe, leave an honest rating and review or share on social media with your biggest takeaway. From the episode, extra credit for me on Twitter @alienearbud and using the hashtag #BLBS level up your leadership at better leaders, better schools.com and talk to you next time until then class discipline.
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After a decade of teaching, coaching educators, and leading in both the private and public school sectors, Jen recently took the leap into her latest endeavor as a Co-Creator, aspiring to close equity gaps in the classroom by making great professional development more accessible for all educators. Co-CreatED.org is the first marketplace platform in the PD industry, connecting school leaders directly with professional development providers, so they can easily book the trainings their teachers need.
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- Make high quality education a reality with a Trust License
- The BIG building questions you need to ask to move progress forward.
- Candid conversation about a female in a male dominated industry
- Everybody needs a Wolf pack to reconceptualize self-care
- Co-create is not a buzzword but a foundation in the learning journey
“That’s an interesting way to put it. I’ve never heard it framed around boredom and that humans can be attracted to the next shiny thing, like go after the exciting thing. Sometimes the most impactful thing we can do is small, consistent actions steadily over time. And that’s not sexy. That’s not the thing you get excited about, but it’s effective.”
– Jen Owen
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