Lindsay Lyons is an educational consultant who works with teachers and school leaders to inspire educational innovation for racial and gender justice, design curricula grounded in student voice, and build capacity for shared leadership. Lindsay taught in NYC public schools, holds a PhD in Leadership and Change, and is the founder of the educational blog and podcast, Time for Teachership.
Lindsay helps leaders build their adaptive capacity to lead school-wide change grounded in antiracism, inclusion, and stakeholder wellness. This includes helping leaders set up structures for shared leadership that amplifies student, teacher, and family voice through virtual coaching calls and supporting your teachers to design engaging, culturally responsive, project-based curricula through self-paced online courses.
She’s helped hundreds of dedicated leaders and thousands of passionate teachers across the United States and internationally improve their practice and create educational environments in which all students are able to thrive.
Daniel (00:02): One of my favorites, education books of all time is Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. In that book, he talks about this idea, the banking model of education, where too many teachers think that they are the expert and they want to transmit all their knowledge and experience into the minds of their students. Where Freire argues that the student should be a co-creator or really the creator of his or her education because of ownership. Today's show is about student ownership, student leadership, and how do we get there. Today I get to talk with somebody amazing Dr. Lindsay Lyons, and she shares a story that's pretty interesting of her first few years, teaching in New York City, what that was like and how many students would come to class. When she made the switch and when she made the switch to giving the power to her students and what changed. Hey, it's Daniel. Welcome to the Better Leaders, Better Schools Podcast. A show for Ruckus Makers, those out of the box leaders making change happen in education. We'll be right back after these messages from our show sponsors.
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Daniel (02:24): All students have an opportunity to succeed with Organized Binder who equips educators with a resource to provide stable and consistent learning. Whether that's in a distance hybrid or traditional educational setting, learn more at Organized Binder. Hey, Ruckus Makers. I am joined by Lindsay Lyons, educational consultant who works with teachers and school leaders to inspire educational innovation for racial and gender justice design curriculum grounded in student voice and build capacity for shared leadership. Lindsay taught in New York City public schools, holds a PhD in leadership and change, and is the founder of the educational blog and podcast time for teachership. Lindsay, welcome to the show.
Linsay (03:15): Thanks so much for having me.
Daniel (03:17): It's a pleasure. Love your energy and the work you're doing. So this is going to be a very fun conversation and I think it is valuable for the Ruckus Maker listening. When we had our pre-chat, you were talking about being a teacher and you felt like something was missing and that's how I wanted to set it up and you can take it over from there and share that story.
Linsay (03:39): Absolutely. I think the more I think about this, I realize that I feel a loss for kind of my childhood self and really early on in my first year as a teacher. I didn't experience justice centered education until probably college and what I've learned in my partnership and my collaborations with Dr. Cherie Bridges Patrick, is that when we're complicit as a white person, when I have been complicit in white supremacy, we experienced what she calls soul harm. I want to make sure that all children are able to live as fully human, to repair that soul harm and live into justice. As a teacher I realized that other people were doing this work, and I saw what was possible for me in terms of teaching for justice that looked like, wow, I can teach feminist, anti-racist curriculum and content as my units.
Linsay (04:30): Eventually leading in partnership with teachers, with students, with families, I began to study the patterns and the elements of what was working in the schools and classrooms. When I started implementing teaching for justice and leading for justice, it allowed me to really bring my full self into the school space, into the class space. I let my students do the same and I also saw exponential growth in things that I had never seen before. Growth leadership, social justice skills and now I just want to help other teachers and leaders bring that vision to life. I think one of the ways that's really manifested in that question we've chatted about is I have fielded the same question over and over from a dozen school leaders, particularly since 2020, which is how do we make our schools more equitable? I think that question really frames a lot of the work that I've been doing lately.
Daniel (05:19): Let's go back to what you're talking about in terms of education, justice education, equity, and when you saw that exponential growth. Can you bring life, like you said to what you saw, what were some of the projects you may have engaged in? What was the change? Tell us about the change you saw in your students.
Linsay (05:41): The first two years I taught, I just taught for Regents Prep Courses and it was a test at the end of the year, which was true every year that I taught, but the first few are very concentrated on "kids got to pass that test." I'm going to cram in as much as I can from this textbook of Regions Prep because I was teaching in New York and Regions is that standardized test. I had kids skipping my class. I mean, there were days where I had one student show up to class and then fast forward a few years later where I got to take what started really as an elective course, that I called Introduction to Gender Studies. I brought that into my literacy classes. At that point I was teaching ELA and literacy, and I again still had the test at the end of the year, but I said, let's just try this out.
Linsay (06:26): I saw joy on my students' faces. I saw kids who would never write an essay, write like six pages of brilliant critique of some piece of media that they saw, their favorite song or something. At that point, I was teaching just the elective justice students who had IPS, too. These are students who typically didn't have a lot of success in the way traditional classes were taught and I decided for the last four years I was teaching, that was going to be my class. Introduction to Gender Studies was my class. That was the content through which I taught and all of the projects were really student led things that students wanted to do. I allowed a lot of expressions for how you want to bring this content to life. Show me what you've learned in a variety of ways and that manifested in activist projects, poetry performances, at one point to the entire school. Really cool stuff that I never realized students wanted to do because I had never thought to ask in the early years.
Daniel (07:25): Unfortunately, there might not have been too many students to ask if only one was showing up for class. The funny thing about education and well, I mean, it's really about life. Sometimes it's like the simplest solutions are the answer or at least start there. I love a question, I think I might've heard it from Tim Ferriss at first, but,who knows at this point. I listened to so many different people and read so many books and got coached by coaches, but the question is what would you do if it were easy? Actually, I think that's an all-time NBA question. That's where that one came from. Okay, specifically with the pandemic people, students weren't showing up, what can we do? What can we do? We'll make it interesting.
Daniel (08:07): Just do some interesting things. You're talking about preparing kids for tests. That's not interesting, they don't care but if you start wrestling with the challenges of their community and give them power to figure out how to fix it. You saw incredible engagement. Thanks for highlighting that. I'm curious since we're speaking to school leaders,do you have any sense of what would be the next easiest first step that they might take when hearing what you're talking about in wanting to incorporate this sort of perspective at their school?
Linsay (08:46): Absolutely. In response to that question that I keep getting, right, how do we do this? I think my first answer is always build a solid of shared leadership because I think inherent in the question is that individuals as leaders or even staff, whole leadership teams that are just made up of staff or the consultant or the PD provider like me has the answer. It's just impossible to have an answer. If we're talking about an end result of equity without the process of equity and inclusion in the process of making the decision, then we can't really have equity. I think the biggest thing is to just set up those structures of shared leadership. I can talk a bit about how to do that, if that's helpful,
Daniel (09:28): I think it would be so the Ruckus Maker listening would definitely want to hear about that.
Linsay (09:32): In my research, I have found five big student leadership or what I'm calling shared leadership mechanisms. And this is how other schools out there, really on an international level, so these studies come from all over the globe have been actually doing this well. Some of these are even informed by what we realized has not been working for schools that have tried things and they've failed miserably. I think that's really helpful as well in the learning process. One is to embrace radical collegiality. So this is a big term that Michael Fielding coined, just basically to say as adults need to see students. I would say caretakers as well as partners as colleagues not something that we have a one-way communication relationship with these folks, but we are truly in it together. I think if you don't have that, then none of the other four mechanisms really work.
Linsay (10:22): The second one is to build a representative leadership team. There's a lot in what that looks like in terms of how big, who's on it, what are the ratios of students to adults, but we've generally found 15 members as representative as we can get it with. As many students as we can get is really helpful Clarifying the governance structure, meaning, who decides what is a decision where just the leaders making it or just the leadership team is making it and what's maybe a long-lasting policy that we need to go back and get feedback from the larger stakeholder groups and come back together and revise and resubmit, clarifying that as is I would say mechanism number three. Number four would be using stakeholder research to inform decisions. Anytime we do like youth participatory action research was a big thing in my class as a unit that we would often do for activism, but like, how do we make sure that the data we're collecting a lot of times we talk about equity, we're talking about test scores, we're talking about this quantitative data.
Linsay (11:26): How do we think about data as something more expansive, like self reports, for example, like how do we ask students, "Do you feel like you belong here?" Caretakers, "Do you feel like you have a voice in your kids' schooling experience" and really expanding that idea of data and making sure that each stakeholder group has the tools to actually conduct that data and give that information. The fifth one is super simple. It's just meeting consistently. If there's a meeting of the leadership team, don't change the place and the time at the last minute, send it out to students who, "Oh, they have class, then that's not gonna work." Just to do it consistently is really important. I would say almost too simple to not mention, but it's been reported in the literature so many times is like, this is the biggest barrier. So important to mention, I guess.
Daniel (12:11): Well, I think it highlights too back to the sort of simple answers, right? Like consistently meeting or you'd be, you'd be surprised at how many folks gathered educators or school leaders and have no idea what the purpose and agenda, or you talked about governance structure and what's this about building consensus or making debate or is this a decision based meeting. I think those are all actually different things from what I've learned over the years. Let me reflect back to you just to make sure I got it and that I think will help the Ruckus Maker listening too. The five mechanisms of shared leadership embrace radical collegiality, build a representative leadership team, clarify your governance structure, use stakeholder research and meet consistently. Whew. You said the foundation of all that is to embrace that radical collegiality. Tell us more about that please.
Linsay (13:14): Yeah, absolutely. Fielding, Talks about it a little bit as like the idea that educators are actually going to be more effective in educating children when they are able to see students and families as partners. When they share that responsibility of student success. When I think about ways that I think about radical collegiality, a lot of times, I think about ways that it isn't operating and ways that I don't see it show up. One concrete example that I've seen is when we were setting up and when I was a teacher, I was setting up a restorative practices room in our school. Basically ,this idea was that anyone could be called to justice. We would have a scenario where if someone had a situation in class where a student was acting up, instead of sending them to the office, we would send them to this room. There's some self-reflection and then there's an opportunity for that student to call someone else, either a student or a teacher to justice. If that teacher is not willing to be called to justice, to even have the conversation with students and apologize to a student, that whole program fell apart. And that's literally what happened at school no longer has that program because some teachers were holding back from seeing that collegial relationship with students, which I think is so destructive to some of those restorative and repairing the harm practices.
Daniel (14:41): Yeah, and if that's happening, Lindsay in the classroom between teacher and student certainly is probably happening between team members within a school as well. I would just encourage the Ruckus Maker to check out emotional intelligence resources because that's what's at the center of that to say, "Hey, I've harmed somebody. I've screwed up. I've made a mistake and I'm just going to ignore that." Like, that's terrible and the other point I want to make, the anti example is powerful. I used to do that in terms of teaching vocabulary, but also when I think of leaders. Study leaders who suck and I'm not going to name any names, but there might've been some in recent times and what didn't you like about his or her leadership?
Daniel (15:33): What turns you off? If that bothers you, you don't do that and that just helps you grow as a leader yourself. You're talking about that radical collegiality. I think you said like seeing parents and students as partners and that kind of thing too. I just want to ask one more follow-up question here. Have you seen any sort of program or resource help that works to have a staff see the value, the expertise, the knowledge, right? That somebody from outside the school, the parents, the students are bringing because it's not just a top-down right. I'm pouring into you all my knowledge and experience, but what do they have to offer as well?
Linsay (16:21): Absolutely. I would say a couple of things. One is just how we structure our conversations and our partnership ultimately with family members. If we're saying things like your kid got in trouble, now we're calling you, here's what needs to happen, that's a very different conversation from you're regularly and on an ongoing basis welcome to come into our school to sit into our class lessons. So that's something that we did when I was teaching that school did very well was family partnership. Inviting family members at any point to come in and follow and shadow their, their children and their children's classes. That was huge. I think also how we structure our family meetings. I had a teacher that I was coaching, who did a wonderful job,shout out to Morgan, who was actually recently a guest on my podcast who talked about how she had students record videos of themselves, what they were learning in the class, in case the family couldn't actually come in, because that's another thing.
Linsay (17:23): When do we hold the meetings for families to come in and have those conferences? Many of our family members are working and so they can't make it so she had them record videos of the things they were proudest in and really do a student led conference and then invited family feedback. What do you notice about your child? Are they lighting up? Are they talking about this at home? What can support them better? How can I do a better job? Framings for the conversation, in addition to just a more consistent line of communication, that is two way and not rooted in there was a problem and now we're talking, I think are really powerful.
Daniel (17:58): Awesome. I think there's a good place to pause and get a message from our sponsors. When we come back, I'd love to hear more about the stakeholder research. You brought up an interesting idea that a lot of people might not be aware of. I want to hear more about self reports.
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Daniel (18:59): Ruckus Maker, I want to tell you about a remote blended learning tool. Your school needs right now, SMART learning suite. Online as a teacher, you can create store and deliver lessons from anywhere, no smart board required, and your students can access and engage with your content from any web browser on any device, no matter what your classroom looks like right now, SMART learning suite online offers many options for flexible learning, engaging students via collaborative workspaces in game based activities, SMART learning suite on nine integrates with tools like Google classroom and Microsoft teams making it an easy to use way to create engaging content and connect with students. Learn more and get started at SMARTtech.com/learning suite. That's smarttech.com/learning suite
Daniel (19:53): Today's show is brought to you by Organized Binder. Organized Binder develops the skills and habits all students need for 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 and learn more at organizedbinder.com. Alright, and we're back with Dr. Lindsay Lyons, and we were talking about the five mechanisms of shared leadership and really dug into embracing radical collegiality before the break. I'd like to talk about using stakeholder research and you talked about the power of quantitative, but qualitative matters too. You said something that peaked my interest. I know the Ruckus Maker wants to hear about it. You said something about self reports. Teach us about that because maybe that's something that we can use.
Linsay (20:54): Actually I have a resource that is completely free for educators to use as well. If they're interested in this piece, in addition to the shared leadership piece, my dissertation actually developed a set of shared leadership skills for students and this basically invites students to share what are your perceived opportunities for leadership here. There's a lot of things I could get into in terms of the type of leadership that they have an opportunity to express or are taught. I talked a lot about positivity, inclusivity and kind of critical awareness. A critical consciousness, kind of a free area and idea mixed with that taking action in response to injustice as really the leadership competencies that I saw as really important to ask students about another piece of the literature is just that when we're talking about adults, you can find, I don't even know 60 leadership theories about adults, of like, these are the types of leaders that we should be.
Linsay (21:54): When you talk about student leaders, there's really not much, there's a handful of researchers who are doing this work to say, this is what quality student leadership looks like. These are the traits or the skills that we're developing. I think a fundamental piece when we're talking about leadership to ask the right questions and to talk about leadership in this very specific way, because we could be educating leaders who are not quality leaders. As you said, the non-examples and we don't want to be doing that. In thinking about how I have built up these shared leadership or student leadership skills, I really tried to think about what researchers, Mitchell and Saxony talk about in terms of Capacity Building. They talk about the personal dimension. I think of that as, what am I learning in class, or maybe in an afterschool program about building the skills for leadership and then the interpersonal, which is how am I talking to my teacher about what I want to learn and how I want to learn it and where I want to learn it and when I want to learn it. All the things about learning, like, am I on as a student or have my friends or I been invited on to a committee about learning or restorative practices or literally anything that affects my experience at school and then finally the organizational piece. Do I know anyone, or am I myself a representative of the school governance structure? If I'm on something like a student council, do I actually have a voice in what happens? Like what the dress code is, what the behavioral outcomes are that we're expected to uphold and those are kind of the questions that I was interested in kind of getting a sense of what students' experiences were like by directly asking the students, instead of just teachers thinking about what how the students may respond.
Daniel (23:39): I think it puts a heart to the numbers and that allows you to receive it to hear the story that students are experiencing. It sounds like it really only transfers a lot of ownership and power into their hands, which is a smart thing to do as a leader because those are the future leaders. So that's pretty cool. I really didn't know we were going to actually talk about those topics during our conversation. Where to get that on your website off the top of your head, we can plug that now, or I can just say,to the Ruckus Maker listening, I promise it'll be in the show notes.
Linsay (24:18): Yeah. I can absolutely send it to you and you can share it in the show notes.
Daniel (24:23): Okay, cool. That's the better route to go. Well, before we get to some questions that I ask everybody, you teased us with this idea of a resource that you made just for our listeners. Tell us about these shared reports.
Linsay (24:37): Definitely. So it basically takes you through some of these questions about things like radical collegiality and the decisions to be made. Thinking through, as a principal, do I know what type of decisions that I'm making by myself or that should be shared? I have communicated what is required? You mentioned consensus, so questions like, what is required is consensus required for this decision? Is it a majority vote? How are we going about this? There's several questions there. I think one of the best is pulling in this idea, Kimberle Crenshaw's idea of intersectionality. It talks a lot about specific identities. If we can only have 15 people on the leadership team who can be represented and what are the ratios of that representation, and really think through the lens of structural power dynamics. We don't just want necessarily an equitable amount. We want a justice based amount. If we're talking about youth and adults being in the same group, we've seen countless times one or two students in a group of 15 adults is not going to cut it because those students are going to probably remain pretty quiet because they can see that the power dynamic has really shifted towards adults. It'll just kind of take you through a lot of those different questions.
Daniel (25:50): Beautiful. A free resource that Lindsay created just for you. It'll be in the show notes, but also it's a Bitly link. So bit.LY/sharedleadershipworksheet is how you can get your hands on that resource. One more question. You got the time for teacher leadership podcast, my just causes to connect, grow and mentor every school leader that wants to level ups. That means I'm in collaboration with you and not competition. What can a Ruckus Maker listening to this show expect from your podcast?
Linsay (26:27): Such a good question. We talk a lot about the curriculum for justice and leading for justice. Shared leadership is a really common theme. I get to interview brilliant guests who are just the best of the best in thought leadership and realities. Every single week, I try to create a freebie for my listeners who can take the theory kind of stuff we talk about and actually put it into action.
Daniel (26:55): Beautiful. Wellou've enticed me, so that's pretty cool. I know you enticed the Ruckus Maker listening. Lindsay, if you could put a message on all school marquees across the globe for just a day, what would it say?
Linsay (27:09): It would say think big, act brave and be your best self.
Daniel (27:15): You're building a school from the ground up. You're not limited by any resources, your only limitation is your imagination. How would you build your dream school and what would be your top three priorities?
Linsay (27:26): I love this question. I've been listening to your podcast for so long. I keep thinking every time I listen, I keep thinking of a different answer. Here's my answer for today. The top three priorities would actually be beliefs that the staff and the stakeholders who are part of the school would have to kind of commit to and belief is that being neutral about injustice is really silence and therefore oppression. So we must actively teach and lead for justice. That has to be a conscious decision and commitment. Number two would be a commitment to radical collegiality. So just this idea I am excited to learn from and partner with students and their families. The last one speaks to the work I think I've done with Dr. Cherie Bridges, Patrick, which is that being able to talk in a generative way about race, identity, intersectional justice is imperative for the health of our schools and our souls. It requires that we constantly each do our own internal reflection and regular dialogic practice with other folks.
Daniel (28:25): Yeah, that's a great answer. And Lindsay, and before we hit record, we were talking about the importance of mindset. I think you, you spoke to that importance there and there's this guy, Steve Chandler, who's an incredible expert coach. He taught me the difference between expectations versus agreements. I think that's also what your answer modeled there. The importance of those agreements because your beliefs lead to actions. Last thing I want to say is that Lindsay, thank you so much for being a part of this better leaders, better schools podcast, and of all the things we talked about today. What's the one thing you want a Ruckus Maker to remember?
Linsay (29:06): Setting up structures for shared leadership ensures that equity and justice initiatives are really sustainable and not just one-time actions.
Daniel (29:16): Thanks for listening to the better leaders, better schools podcast for Ruckus Maker. If you have a question or would like to connect my email, Daniel at betterleadersbetterschools.com or hit me up on Twitter at @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 a rating and review or share on social media with your biggest takeaway. From the episode, extra credit for tagging me on Twitter at @alienearbud and using the hashtag #BLBS level up your leadership at betterleadersbetterschools.com. Talk to you next time. Until then, class dismissed.
- Healing “soul harm”
- Teaching for justice and leading for justice
- How do we make schools more equitable
- The easiest first step for leaders
- Five big shared leadership mechanisms
- Simple answers and the biggest barrier
- Embrace that radical collegiality as a foundation
- Family partnership is made easy with this invitation
- Essential Self Reports
“Setting up structures for shared leadership ensures that equity and justice initiatives are really sustainable and not just one-time actions.”
– Lindsay Lyons
Lindsay Lyons’ Resources & Contact Info:
- Time for Teachership Blog
- Setting Up Shared Leadership Worksheet
- Student perceived leadership opportunities: http://bit.ly/SLCBsurvey
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