Erin Igoe is currently a high school administrator, forever teacher, mentor, coach, Gen Z mom, and wannabe Dorthea Lange. Erin has 18 years in education (teaching and administration), a project and problem-based learning classroom guru, 3 years as BTSA Support Provider, Districtwide Literacy Lead on CCSS implementation, Restorative Justice/Peer Court Coordinator and Civic Action Project lead teacher.
Erin Igoe is determined to make a difference by helping young people discover how they can too. Erin gets her students a seat at more than just the lunch table, engaging them as changemakers whose voice matters.
Daniel: Today we're talking with a Ruckus Maker who was a Ruckus Maker as a teacher, and now as an administrator, but we start off with a story of teaching constitutional rights and civic action to seniors. It may be just maybe it ruffled some adult feathers, but for the kids, it was a powerful learning experience. And they really uncovered something about themselves, which is an incredible gift to give to a young person. Hey, it's Daniel, and 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's sponsors, Publish your legacy with Harvard Certificate in School Management and Leadership. Learn from Harvard Business and Education School Faculty. As you develop the framework skills and knowledge, you need to drive change improvement in your learning community. Get started at hgse.me/leader. That's hgse.me/leader.
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Daniel: Hey Ruckus Maker, I'm joined today by a high school administrator, forever teacher, mentor, coach, Gen Z Mom, and wanna be Dorothea Lange. Erin, Igoe is determined to make a difference by helping young people discover how they can too. Erin gets her students a seat at more than just the lunch table, engaging them as change-makers whose voice matters. Erin, welcome to the show,
Erin: Danny. Really honored.
Daniel: This is fun. You caused quite a ruckus teaching constitutional rights and civic action to seniors. What was the change they were seeking to make? I'm curious too, how did the adults respond?
Erin: Yeah, adults are the absolute key in all things students. I first started that adventure because I was getting bored with my own curriculm. If I was bored, I was convinced the kids must be too. I'm the kind of person who really likes to have a seat at the table make meaningful impact. I wanted my kids, my students to be able to do the same. I discovered the Constitutional Rights Foundation and was able to get a grant and was the first teacher in Northern California to do the Civic Action Project. I made it really the cornerstone of my curriculum. When they get to my class is a semester as the senior, either first or second, and the first day I engage them in learning about civic action. What's the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and actions.
Erin: You need to be civically engaged and a good citizen citizen, meaning anyone who lives in this country and they really, really take to it. What it is is really solving and dealing with the causes versus the effects and really breaking down the roots because sometimes you have a cause, but then there's all these mini pauses that beat to it and we learn about our government that way. What I found with my students and I was in a high school of about 1100 students, pretty diverse, 35% socioeconomically disadvantaged, about 33% Latino. I had a number of newcomers. I had kids who were long-term language learners, meaning they were born and raised there, but spoken other language at home and they were really, really engaged in their community and they wanted to make a change in our school.
Erin: So they sought out to do that and the adults were really great. Most of the time there was a point where my students, every Monday would we would cap. They would go down to interview the administrators or counselors or try and do things out in the parking lot. Eventually I was asked to stop sending my kids down to the office and I just said, no, they need to engage in the world around them. They have chosen their schools to make better and it's our job to do so. Anytime they'd come back to the classroom with having been turned away and for whatever reason, I made sure that we went over what adults can and cannot do and how to approach them because sometimes they weren't exactly sure how to react or anything like that.
Erin: I did coach them in that as well. They were able to learn about public policy. A lot of our work was around California Education Eode. So they became really kind of experts in that, more than the adults actually. The way the adults reacted to my kids, engaging in civic action, for the most part, they were really supportive. There was a time where I guess it became a little overwhelming for them and they asked me to stop sending my kids down to the office to interview them. I simply said "no, that it was our obligation to do so." I made sure to coach my students and how to approach their administrators, but also making sure they held them accountable to their job, which was to help them engage in their school.
Daniel: Yeah. Should I put students in a interesting position and wondering what the heck's going on and stuff. I think at some point too, there was some sort of a school board meeting or whatever and some interesting outcomes from that.
Erin: Oh, so great. One of the most rewarding parts of being a teacher is when your students who struggle with school for various reasons have tremendous wins and it's through hard work and meaningful work because these projects that they do, they choose and they choose the people who they're working with. I helped them find exactly what it is that is driving them. I had a group of students who wanted to make their cafeteria better, and this group of students were socioeconomically disadvantaged and they relied on the cafeteria for breakfast and for lunch. I couldn't have them all do the same project so I said, sure, you can do it, but you have to come from four different angles and they did. Their projects were so wonderful that I said to them, "Hey, I think you should take this before the board I'll help you."
Erin: We crafted a presentation with their four projects together and they presented before the board and the board was so impressed. They committed to creating a student food advisory council, the following year, which they did begin implementing. It was probably the most incredible, I would say the number one most powerful and meaningful moment of all of my teaching in my 15 years that I spent in the classroom. It was my second to the last year before transitioning to administration. I left the boardroom first and I still see it in slow motion, each of the kids coming out and the looks on their faces. It gives me chills still to this day. They couldn't believe what had just happened. Some of these kids, Danny were maybe not going to graduate because they weren't even passing my class because we didn't just do the Cap project. They just astounded me and awed me. What I think this project did for them is show them that their voice matters, that they can make a difference that they're smart. Being passionate about something and caring about your community and working together can really, really make change happen.
Daniel: Yeah. That's such a gift, right? To give your students. What I appreciate about the story too, it's not like all of them were traditional high achieving students as a school would see, but you gave them an avenue in terms of something they cared about. You helped them see how much their voice mattered. I can relate not so much in voice, but when you set your mind to big goals because when I was in high school, you may have heard this story on this show, a Ruckus Maker that's listening right now probably has to, but I invited all the kids of appropriate age to run a marathon with me and raise money for clean water projects around the world. Over a handful of years I think it was over a hundred kids trained and participated, and it was something like 85, 87% of those kids actually completed the entire marathon. We raised just north of $25,000. Seeing those kids cross the finish line, I was a mess. Like I was crying so much because they would finish, they cross, they would hug me and they would say, I can do anything. I said, that's right. You can do anything.
Erin: They can. Yeah. You just have to let them.
Daniel: Those spaces, those opportunities. You did that as a teacher. Now you're in a new role. What does it look like to make a ruckus an administrator?
Erin: I'm an assistant principal, it's known as people tell me, it's the worst job in a school. I don't get the worst part. It's definitely a tough job but if you are in the right place and you're hired for a reason and you are given the opportunity or give you agency to show how you can make a difference, it's the most rewarding and meaningful job in the world. Transitioning to administration I had done pretty much every leadership opportunity as a teacher, as they could, and I'd love the classroom, but mainly because of the relationships I had with kids and what I was seeing and what they were doing. I also ran Pure Court, was a restorative justice coordinator. I saw the powerful change that, that caused in our campus as well. Where I am right now, I sort of have carte blanche to be the assistant principal of students.
Erin: What I've been doing since I started six years ago is people come in my office and they say, "Oh, I wouldn't want to be in here." I laugh and I say, "I'm actively rebranding this position." I've been doing that since 2015. What I have learned is what I loved about teaching and why I became a teacher. I couldn't not do this job if I didn't have that. I've created an opportunity to do that. I basically just seek out anywhere I see kids, teachers as well, obviously, especially the newbies that come in, but I see them for who they are and I try my best to give them opportunities to be at the table and making change happen in our community. And beyond we have a lot of work to do as most schools do and it's their school. This generation of kids, they're pretty special. Every generation has their hiccups, mind does too. This generation they're activists and they want in their learning and in their school, something meaningful and they want to be part of it and they have a pulse on what's going on in a different way than I do. I know that, and part of that is I'm a mom to kids this age and I've never lost that either. I remember being this age. I'm always trying to put myself in their shoes and it's incredible seeing what they're doing. They're helpers.
Daniel: I appreciate you sharing their strengths too because I don't think I've heard it on the show, but there's some adults that look at that generation and they're just not seeing the strengths as you see them. I see it too, their sensitivity to social issues or the environment and they really care. They do care about meaningfulness. I'm not going to do this just because you're supposed to do it, but like how does it make the world a better place? That's what I want to be a part of. I do think that's a great strength. So thank you. Thank you for highlight.
Erin: Yeah, they want it, they want it everywhere. It's in the classroom and that's where the most work needs to be done.
Daniel: Something else I wanted to ask you about. I know you identify with this term Ruckus Maker. I can make up a million reasons why I think you do, but I want to hear from you. I'm just curious, why you see yourself in that term?
Erin: I think because anybody who has a vision or sees change, a need for change is going to be going against the grain. In our profession, business as usual, that's the security. Fear of change really it's normal. I think also it's fear of doing something wrong or being judged, but really for me I do disrupt bringing kids into conversations that they've never had a place in before or having them lead the work. They leave me. I just give them the structure and go, "I'm here and I'll give you guidance." They're already leaders. We just have to train them and give them that seat and that's really hard for adults to do. Adults at every level, anybody with different ideas coming from somewhere else or some kind of vision that doesn't fit, the construct is going to make waves a little bit and sometimes a lot of it. Sometimes it's not supported and you just have to keep finding ways to make it happen even if it's your course goes in different directions. You've just got to keep going and that's what I do.
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Daniel: We're back with Erin Igoe and I know you mentioned earlier on our intro call some stuff with students and the positive things you've seen actually come out of the pandemic and it's so important. I had a coaching call today with a really awesome school leader and she's in a dark spot and just super frustrated, as many educators are right now. One thing I've learned through experiences, when you're in those tough moments. First, it is normal to get there but if you don't want to stay there, it's really hard to be dark and frustrated and all those sorts of negative emotions. If you're also looking for the positives and expressing gratitude, that doesn't mean ignore tough things, but there's a time and place for everything. It's about shifting focus and controlling your mindset. What's some positive that you've seen come out of the pandemic.
Erin: Wow. I can't say I've not been to the dark either. I mean, we all go there. I have to pull myself out because my kids are right across the hall and I need to be their mom and I need to be somebody who's modeling for them what I want them to be. I haven't always done that through this pandemic. I've been serving other kids 15 hours a day, seven days a week for months, but my kids see that too. I've seen lots of positives come from I really think that this is a paradigm shift in for this generation. They are going to be the character that they are building. The flexibility adaptability they have to have is a extraordinary thing to ask from teenagers and they are doing an incredible job.
Erin: I have seen kids the kind of the blessing of this is they have a lot more time because it's pretty intense to be in high school these days and these kids are such doers. I've seen more. I've never seen so many kids wanting to help other people as I do now. Especially little kids, they want to help a little kids in their community so they've created mentoring programs, all virtual. I started working on a peer coaching program that's just launched. I had a junior girl leading that and working with the middle school psychologist and one of my new teachers and we're mentoring freshmen, seventh graders, eighth graders, they're doing peer tutoring and kids drop in, "okay, where do you want to go?" and I can't, I don't have enough things for these kids to do.
Erin: I keep getting emails, they want to help and it gives me chills to, I mean, it's just a beautiful thing. I'm doing my best to make that happen. We're about to embark on some work around relationship centered kind of learning. Our kids are struggling, too at the same time. We have a lot of mental health issues and in kids that never had them before so everything starts in the classroom and ends in the classroom. The importance of making connections and building relationships and making sure kids know that they matter has never before been so important as it is now. I'd like to engage them in that work too. These are some of the blessings that have come in. I do think that what they're learning from what they're seeing the adults do well is already informing them. I see it in my son. He knows what the right thing is, but he can't control that. So he's learning. There are definitely some blessings and you just have to keep remembering your "why", I guess your purpose and why you're in this business to begin with. Some things you can't control, only thing you can control is yourself.
Daniel: Bokebger and Tower. I know you signed up for that, which is amazing. We're recording this in December, it's getting released in April. The plan is for the live event to go through this summer, July through 10th, 2021. We had to push it back a year because of the pandemic but things look hopeful, right. Vaccines on the way and people have been practicing social distancing, all this stuff. Plans that it's going forward, but I'd love to hear why you signed up for that event. That's really interesting to here.
Erin: I think I told you, I discovered your podcast and listening to Will Parker's podcast when I became an assistant principal. I had a long drive so I'm like, okay, "what am I going to do?" I felt like you were talking to me and that we were teacher colleagues, we would have been the same. We would have had the same mindset. You mentioned Bolander, and last year I thought, "Oh, that would be so amazing to go to", but I wasn't in that base yet," but that I could commit to something like that. Maybe I'll do the next time around. The pandemic came and then I was on your website and I saw that it was now going to be next July. I said, "What? " I am the kind of person like, I'm always trying to get better and evolve and I need to be around people who will level me up. I've also working with the company called Entrance Advisor. We're in the process of rebranding. They were originally like a college counseling program and I came on as an added piece for really developing that whole child and focusing on all the other things that I do, which is conflict resolution, community, building character, and really that leadership capacity. I'd like to use Bollinger and being around these people who are there for various, but I'm just really excited to be around people who are committed to becoming better and visioning and setting goals, and really leveling up to the next phase for me. I've given myself several months to get there, to be prepared, to be able to do that. So that's why.
Daniel: That's helpful. Let me just address the Ruckus Maker listening right now. The event is about leveling up. The goal is to talk about and map out the next three years of your personal life, family life, professional life. I love vision that's one of my super powers is to teach that to others and to marry that also with the idea of actually executing on the plan. I know it will be extremely valuable for those that attend. Super small so it's going to be intimate. I didn't want to do a large conference. I value so much that I know everybody there and can develop relationship with them and you'll surround yourself with people who are just as hungry and interested in taking it to the next level.
Daniel: Thanks again for signing up. Really appreciate that. The other thing I wanted to ask you about too, and I just want to read it real quick. Something that drives me nuts about schools is that they'll compete with the school down the road or within the same district. Whose number one in the district, in the County, in the state, in the nation, et cetera. I've told stories like this before in trying to recruit students to a selective enrollment school and all the schools who are doing that at the time, not sharing the secrets of what worked. At the end of the day, it wasn't that my school lost or another school. It's that the students lost because it was a complex process and if they didn't understand the process, they might apply and rank schools in a way that locked them out of all the best schools in the area.
Daniel: And that just drove me nuts as opposed to really informing and educating and collaborating so that all those kids that could get into the best schools did get in. I highly value collaboration versus competition. My thing is everybody wins when a leader gets better, it's not everybody wins when I get better and you lose. We all can all can win. It could be win-win scenarios. I will highlight a book. I highly recommend we read in the Mastermind called The Infinite Game by Simon Sineck. In there he drops this idea and this it's even bigger than mission and vision. It's this thing that guides what you do, but actually is ultimately probably unachievable. It's so big, the vision and the just causes so grand, you need to enroll others with you to try to move it forward.
Daniel: Right. Suddenly, it's all connected, right. Schools collaborating versus competing. My just cause, which I'd like to share with you right now is to grow, connect and mentor every innovative school leader who is desiring to level up. I can't do that just me and it doesn't need to be just me. I say all that, because you're in Will Parker's Mastermind. You're not in mine. Now, Danny, from six years ago, would be like, figure out how can I get Erin in mine. How do I beat,Will? How do I destroy his podcast and his Mastermind and that's wrong. Luckily I've evolved and I've changed. I've matured. I see if the just causes is to grow, connect, mentor, every innovative school leader who wants to level up, well, I can't serve everybody and I don't want to. It's great that Will's doing it. Jethro Jones is doing it and others. Will has a Mastermind. You're not in mine, but I'd love to hear about your experience in his.
Erin: I joined his reopening Mastermind just spontaneously. He was offering it and I said, "Hey, I need as much help as I can get figuring out what we're going to be doing this year." And so that was my introduction. It was so great that I was looking for an opportunity like that. I went for it and joined his Mastermind. There was about five of us. I have to tell you, it's going to be this afternoon at three O'clock my time. It is my most favorite part of the week. I end my day with that. Twice a month I go to another meeting, but I'm invigorated. It's a place where you are with people who know your world because they're living your world and I'm the only assistant principal in it.
Erin: Everyone else is a principal. It's also an opportunity for me to learn and get various perspectives on leadership and their their advice to me and their feedback to me is absolutely the most richest part. You're also really vulnerable and it's it's really difficult to be vulnerable as an administrator, but we need to be. It's a place where I can do that and Will is just so amazing. He also has Dr. Jeff Springer there, who is leading us in the book kind of conversation Will's book and so that's been really fun. It's just been a tremendous growth opportunity and his book is each week it's kind of crazy that I'm like, "Oh, well, this is really applicable to this week and what's going on with me" and that's the beauty of that book. It's been an incredible, incredible learning opportunity. I've taken some of the things I've learned from the other principals and suggested them to my district and to my principal and other assistant principals. It's been a tremendous opportunity.
Daniel: Erie how the timing normally works out. I wish I could say I planned it right when this magic happens in our Mastermind. It doesn't surprise me anymore, but it's extremely satisfying when we just happened to be reading the book I selected. We're discussing the topics or it's the hot seat, so it's not, book-related, it's related to whatever that number one challenges. If the timing is perfect and it helps multiple members do exactly what they need to do that week. The value's incredible. It's been like you talked about that amazing moment with your students. Like this has changed my life and it's such an honor to serve leaders. What I recognize is some people resonate with me. Some people resonate with other facilitators and that's great because it moves the just cause forward. We'll link up information on how to join those Masterminds, both Masterminds, , I'll even throw Jethro's in there. I think Jen David Lang has one. Too. I'll try to remember to add hers because it's about growing school leaders.
Erin: Definitely. Definitely. We need to grow each other and that's how you impact kids. Can I comment on your just cause for a moment?
Daniel: I'd love to hear that. Yeah. Yeah. That's great.
Erin: It reminded of this movie, this docentary called "I am" have you seen that? The creator of all of like the Jim Carrey movies, I forgot his, but he made this movie and it was, I'm not going to ruin it for you, but basically he starts off with what's wrong with this world. I am. What's right with this world in the end. I am. When you were talking about competition versus collaboration, there was a part in there that struck me. I can't get out of my head ever is several shots of wildlife and moving together, birds deer, they all look up at the same time and he references Darwin. He says that Darwin's theory of evolution in the origin of species. 95% of that book was about cooperation among the species, five was about competition and that's what we took. When you see cooperation or collaboration, what you see is a tremendous things happening and competition is fine. But competition through cooperation I think is really, is really where it's at because when you just compete, you're othering people. All you're doing is perpetuating what we already have. So that's just what that reminded me of that. You should definitely check that film out
Daniel: Well. And thank you for the feedback on the just cause. Erin, if you had the opportunity to put a message on all school marquees around the world, just for a day, what would you put on there?
Erin: Well it's funny. Every time I listened to your show, it changes. One of the principals in the reopening Mastermind, I can't remember her name, unfortunately, but she's a principal in San Antonio, Texas. She said,"It's their future, not ours." I can't get that out of my head every day when I come to work or I wake up and I look at my kids. As their future, not ours. I guess it would be a marquee that's from adults it's not ours and their voice matters. I think it would just be that it's a great reminder, I think, as a mom and as an educator and as a woman that everything I do is impacting this next generation,
Daniel: 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?
Erin: Okay. I would say my top priority would be that we're always getting better. We're always evolving. You're never get complacent. We're always trying new things. Creativity, I think it was Sir Kenneth Robinson who said, "Kids go to school and there goes creativity." I'd like the opposite. Creative thinking is the most important thing. I think that would be my priority in terms of kind of the mindset of everybody. The role of the adults would be the second priority. Every single adult should have a role with kids on campus in terms of building relationships. We want every kid to be connected to an adult on campus. That's really important and really showing them and modeling for them, what kind of humans we want them to be. Really centering our practice around building community and building them in character as doers and leaders would be my second priority. Third would really, it would be real world. I was a PBL teacher. It was really all about addressing problems and trying to solve them and you do that collaboratively and you learn a lot of you heard my story about my students. Problem solving and really purpose driven meaningful work and engaging them in that in all subject areas and really integrating that would be a dream.
Daniel: Thank you so much for being a part of the Better Leaders, Better Schools Podcast. Of everything we talked about today. What's the one thing you want a Ruckus Maker to remember?
Erin: What you do matters. Always remember why you're doing what you're doing. Give yourself compassion and grace. Be patient with yourself because the kids need it. It's for their future and give them that voice because it does matter.
Daniel: 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 tagging me on Twitter a@alienearbud and using the #BLBS. Level up your leadership at better leaders, better schools.com and talk to you next time until then class dismissed.
- Ruffle your adult feathers to soar
- Ruckus teaching with constitutional rights and civic action
- A seat at the table makes meaningful impact
- Train your students to hold you accountable to lead your mission
- The pandemic paradigm shift for this generation
- The challenge of making change in high performing schools
- “Master” a tremendous opportunity for growth
- School’s should collaborate versus compete for better outcomes
“We need to grow each other and that’s how you impact kids.
When you see cooperation or collaboration, what you see is tremendous things happening. Competition is fine but competition through cooperation I think is really where it’s at. When you just compete, you’re othering people. All you’re doing is perpetuating what we already have.”
– Erin Igoe
Erin Igoe’s Resources & Contact Info:
- Level Up Join Mastermind
- Mastermind — Jethro Jones
- Will Parker’s Join a Mastermind
- Jenn David-Lang Mastermind
- The Infinite Game (192 GRAND): Sinek, Simon … – Amazon.com
- Watch I Am | Prime Video – Amazon.com
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