Jean Latting, DrPH, LMSW-IPR, is a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant with over 20 years of consulting experience in private and public multicultural organizations. Hundreds of clients in leadership roles have benefitted from her practical solutions for building more rewarding, fulfilled lives at work and home.
Over the last few years, an increased emphasis has been placed on building inclusive organizations. Leaders within fifteen industries have aligned with her to develop quantifiable solutions for addressing “elephant-in-the-room issues.”
Jean gained over 35 years of research and teaching experience at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work (GCSW). Upon retirement, she began consulting and coaching full-time. As President and Founder of Leading Consciously, she challenges her clients to rethink assumptions preventing them from becoming the best they can be as organizations, leaders and individuals.
Daniel: Do you think you are a great advocate for your students, especially the students who seem to maybe be overlooked by society or at least from birth. Nothing that they've done or deserved and have received a hand of cards that weren't the strongest suit, strongest set of cards you could have. What do you do for those students? How do you help them to be the amazing human beings that they can be or at least grow into that success and potential that they have? What do you do to when you see the gaps that exist? The living conditions that might be troubling for you? Today's guest Dr. Jean Latting has done this kind of work for ages. This was really just a positive, feel good episode.
Daniel: I learned a lot from Jean, and I think you'll love the stories that she's told. You can learn from her experience and the one thing I want to point out, because we actually forgot to discuss it in the show. If you love the conversation and you're considering "Well, okay, I get those ideas and thank you for some of those practical tips, but I'd like to go even deeper and maybe even be held accountable." Dr Jean has a Pathfinders membership program, which is about leadership for racial and social justice. I think you might like checking that out. Note that the Pathfinders opportunity is linked up for you in the show notes. I really hope you enjoy our conversation today. Hey, it's Daniel and welcome to the Better Leaders, Better Schools Podcast, a show just for you, a Ruckus Maker.
Daniel: That means you're an out of the box thinker leading and making change in education. We'll get to today's main conversation in just a second. After a few short messages from our show sponsors Learn to navigate change, shape your school's success and lead your teams with Harvard certificate in school management and leadership. Get world-class Harvard faculty research, specifically adapted for pre-K through 12 schools. Self-paced online professional development that fits your schedule. Apply now for our June and July cohorts at betterleadersbetterschools.com/Harvard. That's betterleadersbetterschools.com/Harvard. During COVID, every teacher is a new teacher. That's why innovative school leaders are turning to Teach FX whose virtual PD is equipping thousands of teachers with the skills they need to create engaging, equitable, and rigorous virtual or blended classes. To learn more about TeachFX and get a special offer. Visit teachFx.com/BLBS. That's teachfx.com/BLBS. 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 email@example.com.
Daniel: Ruckus Maker. Today's guest is Dr. Jean Latting the president of Leading Consciously, LLC and Professor Emerita at the Graduate College of Social Work University of Houston as a consultant researcher and educator, Jean focuses on leadership and multicultural and diverse organizations through her organization, Leading Consciously. Jean helps individuals and organizations create resilient, sustainable multicultural, and diverse settings. Welcome to the show Dr. Latting.
Dr Jean: Well, thank you. I'm so delighted to be here.
Daniel: The pleasure is mine. I've enjoyed our brief connection already. I know you've got some really great stories to tell the Ruckus Maker listening. I'd like to start where you're in New York City. I believe the neighborhood was called Two Bridges. You see a huge hole in the floor in somebody's apartment. Can you bring us to that moment? What you were doing there? What's going on? What you learned?
Dr Jean: I'm working for Hamilton Madison House, which is a settlement house. This is the late sixties. We're post, uh, Martin Luther King, '64. We're post all of that legislation and entered into the poor people's movement. I'm part of that. What we're doing is part of that. I'm a welfare rights organizer and tennet's rights organizer, which means I'm door knocking. I'm saying to people "Are you having trouble with your building? Are you having trouble with your landlord? Poverty neighborhoods, Two Bridges is a very interesting neighborhood because it's in the middle of Chinatown, Little Italy. The projects was mostly Black and Puerto Rican and I'm missing, Irish. We have those five ethnic groups and the teenagers in those groups are at war. Our job, as an organizer, we got to bring folks together and see if they're interested in making changes. I'm door knocking. I go into somebody's house, babies, just poverty and this giant hole in the middle of the floor. I speak very little Spanish and she speaks very little English, but we pieced together conversation. The conversation is that hole in the floor is not acceptable. Are you willing to come to a meeting? She's got to think about that because she does not want to antagonize the landlord, nor does she want her toddler to fall in the hole.
Daniel: It's a tough choice this mother is facing because, I don't want to read in between the lines. I'll throw the mic back to you. In terms of antagonizing the landlord. My brain is thinking because there might be a repercussion or some sort of consequence. Obviously with the toddler and the hole we get that one, but what are you talking about with the landlord?
Dr Jean: Eviction. Not waiting an extra day for the rent. If I happen to be late, because I'm robbing Peter to pay Paul and just being mean. Being mean, not fixing the broken radiator. I don't want to antagonize him, but as a tenant, what rights do I have? Am I willing to join with others on my block, in my community to go and protest at city hall and say, "We need to you to enforce the codes, the building codes."
Daniel: If I'm piecing it together there were codes in the books that should have protected this resident, this human being, this mom, but the landlord, knew he/she could get away with some stuff.
Dr Jean: Yeah. In those days, that's what I would have said. Since then, I've learned to look at all sides.
Daniel: Helped me, help me see that.
Dr Jean: From his side, it is not bringing in much money. It's under rent control. This is New York City. He can't raise the rates, but so much he has to make a living off of it. He might be retired. He might have inherited the building from his deceased father. He has to make a living on it. The tenants are always complaining and it's an old building. What do they expect? It'll never be right. There's a limit of what I can do and what I can afford to do. He's right. I'm saying that's his (inaudible).
Daniel: You're saying, this is what it feels like for him to walk a mile in his shoes. That metaphor, if I caught you correctly, you said, "back then" that's how you would have described it. Nowadays you're able to see from his perspective and walk a mile in his shoes. How did you learn that? It's such a great skill for a leader. You're going to have parents who are upset. Students who make poor decisions, faculty members that do things that just have you scratching your head. To be able to empathize and like you said, it doesn't condone it. I'm not saying it's right, but I'm understanding what's driving this human beings behavior. How did you learn that?
Dr Jean: Literally I devoted my academic career to learning. I'm a social work professor and there's nothing, I can't think of anything better occupation than that. If you're curious about human beings, because I experienced a problem. I say, "I think I'll go learn about that. I go read up on whatever it is and learn about it and please sit together. Based on what I learned and try out new ways of acting and new ways of thinking. I test out things in my classes. I'm teaching empowerment, teaching leadership, teaching community, develop community, organize a community, organize. I forgot what they called it. Teaching leadership and supervision. I learned along the way. Somebody is mean to me. I think I did something wrong. I go learn about that phenomenon. I develop a module and test it out of my class and then the students tell me if it works or not. Little by little, that's how I've learned to put it together. The empathy part came because I was talking to a student. I said, "Can you imagine how Jane felt in that situation? They say, "Well, if I were Jane, I would." I say, "That's not the question I asked you. I asked you, can you imagine how Jane felt? Not how you would have felt if you were Jane."
Dr Jean: People literally can't get there. They say, "but Jane is wrong." Yes. Jane is wrong. Can you imagine why Jane and I've learned to ask people was, "Jane goes to bed every night and sleeps. She's not waking up thinking she acted horribly. What is it that she's thinking that allowed her to sleep soundly and think she was okay? How does she justify that action to herself?" And so that's the question that helped unblock the skill of empathy for a lot of people. Jane thinks she's fine.
Daniel: Yeah. She doesn't see an issue. Can you understand what's motivated and driving her. Another way it was taught to me, "Can you explain why they are right." Not to say that they are, but to get in their mindset because they're acting and showing up in the world a certain way or arguing a worldview and perspective and that kind of thing. What you brilliantly pointed out Jean, was that Jane doesn't think she's wrong. Obviously there's some principles and worldview that's different than your student or me or you and can you get inside her head?
Dr Jean: Some people literally cannot leave themselves and put themselves in somebody else's shoes.
Daniel: What do we do with that person? If they're on our staff, because the Ruckus Maker listening, they're a school leader and that's terrible to say, but, oh my gosh, a faculty member or teacher, God forbid that lacks empathy. What do we do?
Dr Jean: What role are we in? Principle. We're the principal. Whenever you want someone to change, the first question is, are they aware that it's a problem? The principal will move on to try and explain to the person why they should change and they are not changing if they don't even think there's a problem. Are you aware that people think that you're not getting them? I would never say, "Are you aware that people think you lack empathy" because that's too selfish. I would say, " Are you aware that some of your students think you don't get them?" They will respond "What do you mean I don't get them?" Well, then I play the game with them. "Okay. Fernando, in your class, you were complaining that he came in without his homework. What could be going on in his home life that would have him show up to school without his homework on done? What might that be? "Well, if I were Fernando" and that's not the question I asked you. The question asked you was "Just hypothesize, what's going on in Fernando's life."
Daniel: Let me ask you this Jean because I've worked with these people, so then they're going to say "Those are just excuses and I'm trying to hold high expectations for Fernando to come to class with his homework."
Dr Jean: Yes. "Is it working?"
Daniel: Right!? I love that that's so good, How's it working for you? Is it effective?
Daniel: If it's working, keep doing it, but if it's not working, change strategies.
Daniel: I love that so much. That's brilliant. I want to go back to Two Bridges just for a second and sort of connect the dots to where we are now talking to a principal, a Ruckus Makers. In a school there you are knocking on doors and advocating for people. If you're a school leader and you want to knock on doors and get to know your community better, let's say I'm an advocate for those that are maybe underserved. Any tips or ideas about how they might approach that work?
Daniel: There's a guy at Yale who years ago did a fantastic study. He's in New Haven, he took the bottom school district. That was mostly black, I think, and they were bottom scoring and he raised them second from the top. He had a three prong program with regard to the parents. He discovered that the students, the teachers and the school were waiting for the parents to come to them. They were complaining. These poor people, never show up for the PTA and he turned it, "no, you go to them. They are not going to come to you unless you go to them." The teachers, some of them had to go because they weren't willing to do home visits, but he had them go to home visits, talk to the parents. The parents were willing to come to the school.
Daniel: He took the systematic barriers that kept the parents from coming to the school. He eliminated those barriers. He set up times in the evenings, not just the daytime, I think today's KIPP Academy, has some similar approaches so that they have intense parent parental involvement. Number one is, if your school does not have parental involvement you got to figure out how to have it. If the poor kid is dicodimized between home life and school life, they already got one down. So that's a very important tip. The second, which I know is still true today, is if you're in a rich, affluent neighborhood where every kid has their own laptop bought by their parent then you know they have the resources there.
Dr Jean: If the kid is still underperforming, then you gotta figure out what's going on in the home. Is there abuse? This is in the affluent neighborhoods. In the poor neighborhoods, what resources do they need? Do you believe those kids can learn? There are so many teachers if you listen to them, they think poor kids cannot learn. The second thing to work on is mindset, expectations, beliefs, and expectations of the teachers for the kids. It's from lack of empathy because the teachers used to be certain cues that this is a kid ready to learn shop and pinch laptop, clean, big backpack whatever the highfalutin shoes. The teacher has these cues, they are looking at and you got half the kid. The teacher learned how to recognize cues for readiness, for learning from a kid who doesn't have all of those documents, those things surrounding them. Those are the two big things, parental involvement that I would emphasize and check and make sure your teacher believes that every kid in their class can learn.
Daniel: Before our break here, I'd like to ask one more question in. You mentioned going meeting parents where they're at conducting home visits any other sort of strategy or tactics you'd like to share with the Ruckus Maker, listening regarding just bringing people together.
Dr Jean: I'm not clear how much time there is in your typical public school to do that. To the extent that it's possible, yes, obviously have opportunities for teachers to discuss. Have small groups, rather than waiting until the big forum where nobody gets to talk, except the principal. If you can set up small groups, small learning groups within the school of teachers where they share. I know that sometimes teachers in adjacent classrooms share, but sometimes they don't. If you have a high-performing teacher, that's a super out performing the other three, let's say, in a pod, then that high-performing teachers going to be isolated. The other three may not know how to learn from that person. Figuring out how you're going to get that rectified.
Daniel: Dr. Latting, I'm enjoying this, uh, conversation. We're going to continue, but we're going to pause right here for quick for a message from our show sponsors. Learn how to successfully navigate, change, shape school's success and empower your teams with Harvard certificate in school management and leadership. Get online professional development that fits your schedule. Now enrolling for June and July, 2021 courses include leading change leading schools, leading people and leading learning. Apply today at betterleadersbetterschools.com/Harvard. That's betterleadersbetterschools.com/Harvard. Are you automatically tracking online student participation data during COVID innovative school leaders across the country have started tracking online student participation using teacher effects because it's one of the most powerful ways to improve student outcomes during COVID, especially for English learners and students of color. Learn more about TeachFX and get a special offer @teachfx.com/BLBS. That's teachfx.com/BLBS.
Daniel: 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, firstname.lastname@example.org. All right. We're back with Dr. Jean Latting, the president of Leading Consciously LLC. We were having a great conversation talking about bringing people together, advocating for those that are underserved. Challenging mindsets and beliefs of our faculty and that kind of thing. This has been a very rewarding conversation for me already. I remember from our intro chat, you had a story where you learned that you can't be scared into silence. I'm wondering if you would share that story with the Ruckus Maker listening.
Dr Jean: Okay. So remind me which one this was because I have a bunch. That's a lesson I keep learning.
Daniel: You keep learning. I have that written after some notes about a welfare rights and the Vietnam War. I don't know if that helps.
Dr Jean: I'll just pick a story then. I have been in situations, I'll talk about the first time I went to my first big university meeting. I'm the only black person in the room. The chairs are tall leather mahogney color because this is in the administration building, which was old elegant, old stuff. There are six to eight of us around the table. I started talking and somebody interrupts me and I stop. I mean, just talks. I started talking again, I get my little nerve up and I see another thing I might say something on. I say that thing and somebody interrupts me, they just talking to each other. I say another thing and somebody interrupts me and I decided to keep on talking. He's talking and I'm talking and I just keep talking and I finished saying my thing. We are bumping heads. Not even 10 seconds. 10 seconds is a painfully long time for two people to bump heads. For me, it was a game of chicken. Somebody is going to shut up talking and it's not me. I just kept going and then he looked up and looked at me, very startled and he shut up. Everybody looked at me. Everybody's eyes were big. I could tell they were looking at me for the first time. My heart was pounding. My voice was quavering, but this is a game of chicken and I'm not going to lose this game. I kept going. After that, every time I spoke, people shut up real quick. Look man, listen, I didn't have any more problems after that.
Daniel: Where did you find the strength to continue talking or to not back down, as a woman, as a person of color in this space? I think that would be really useful for folks listening to the podcast.
Dr Jean: My father always said, "It's all about strategy" and this is where I got, "Is it working for you?" My father was, "If the strategist is not working, you switch strategies, you don't hang onto the same strategy." I was raised to think I can outsmart anybody. I can just figure it out. I can just figure it out. It's all about mindset and so, no you're not going to beat me. Yes, I do have a better strategy. Yes, I do have something to say. No, you will not shut me down. If I can use the word is that we're at the begins with D and ends and n. I think I'll be damned, but that something that clicks that says I'll be damned, you will not knock me into the ground. I have a better strategy.
Daniel: What if they didn't have such a great, uh, role model like you did in your father?
Dr Jean: Okay. There are things that I don't do well at all. Nobody taught me and that I had to learn through the school of hard knocks. I had the advantage that I could go read about it. Let's just take the school of hard knocks. Your average person has to learn through the school of hard knocks. Look at the person who does it. Whatever this thing is, if this thing is speaking up, look for someone who does it well, and go talk to that person and ask them, "I noticed you spoke up, where do you nervous? How did it feel?" and then go find somebody else and then go find somebody else. By the fourth or fifth time, you will at least have a clear understanding of what it takes. By that time you will be acclimated. It's like a snake phobia. You get up each time, you get a little closer to the snake until you can touch the snake. Each conversation is going to bring you a little bit closer to being able to do that thing. You're breaking down the barrier that you have, that the thing is over here and you're way over there. Each conversation brings it a little bit closer until one day you say, "I'm ready to try it."
Daniel: That's really great advice. I have a friend Josh Spodak and uh, he wrote a book called, Leadership, Step by Step. He talks about getting yourself a mentor, which I think is exactly what you're talking about. You find somebody who's exhibiting a behavior that you desire. That's the challenge for you and like you said, have a conversation. I liked the language you said, "I noticed that you do X really well. I'm trying to grow in that area. I don't know. I wonder if we could talk about that topic and maybe if you provide some feedback to how I'm doing it?" I really appreciate how you shared that. I have one more question before I get to the last two questions. I ask all my guests, but I just love to hear your perspective on talking about race. Depending on the school and the community. For all schools, that's an important discussion to be had, but depending on the setting of the school, folks are going to have different comfort levels around that. Do you have any tips for the Ruckus Maker listening, How to discuss race?
Dr Jean: Everybody needs to know that it's uncomfortable and it's okay. If we want the students to grow and learn, we as teachers and educators, if we stay in our comfort zone, we're not role modeling to kids how to do something that's hard. Let's conquer this thing. Let's role model to kids that even though it's hard work, we can do this thing and it's okay to be uncomfortable. Step one is to acknowledge that and to be willing to bear the discomfort. Step two is to have a rule of non-shaming. If it's an uncomfortable situation, somebody's going to say something horribly offensive and stupid. Those who know that are going to sit around snickering to themselves or cutting eyes at one another. Those who don't know it are going to be oblivious. To praise calling out, I object to, I say, call them into community. "So Fred, I've noticed that you've used the word Oriental. As far as I know right now, most, Asian Americans, that term Oriental brings, the Geisha girl image and human trafficking so let's not go there. This is the term, but a lot of people don't know the term. I know you didn't know the term, so it's really okay. Do you want to say what you just said again, but this time refer to Asian Americans?" I'm giving him a chance to self-correct in front of people. If I shame him, "oh, how terrible. Everybody knows better than to say that", then I'm shaming him. If I correct him and he has to sit there and mute and embarrassed, he's still mute and embarrassed. If I give him a chance to say it, now, he's learned, he's demonstrated learning and he's showing that he can say the right term.
Daniel: I would add to that as his opportunity at a second score. The first score he failed. Second time that's growth mindset and that's what we want to see for our students too. Appreciate you sharing it. Well, Jean, I'd love to hear, if you could put a message on all school marquees around the world for a single day, what would your message reads?
Dr Jean: Okay. It's fun to learn.
Daniel: It's fun to learn. If you were building a school from the ground up, Jean, it's your dream school, you have no limitations besides your imagination, how would you build that dream school? What would be your top three priorities?
Dr Jean: The list that I have here, I'm going to switch up based on this conversation. I would make social skills and emotional self-awareness as important as the content math and algebra and all of that stuff. If I believe in myself and I know how to manage my negative emotions, and I know how to manage other people's negative emotions, I'm not blocked from learning the time invested in me, learning how to do those things. It frees me up to learn math, frees me up to do the homework ,and all of that so that would be number one. Add social skills, both for the educators and for the students, because the educators need to be freed up from all that negative energy. The second is I would have the flipped curriculum. Instead of the teacher lecturing and students expecting to hear it from the first time, if it has to be videos for the visual folks, whatever, but let them learn the content and then bring the class together to discuss it, ask questions and all of that.
Dr Jean: I think that's so important and it allows people to learn it for the first and they own pace and have multiple sources for them to learn. I think that's number two. That's very important. Number three, I would hire a hard core leadership training for the principal and the assistants. Everybody in a leadership capacity. Just because how to teach doesn't mean, you'd know how to learn. Just because you are empathetic and a nice person doesn't mean you know how to leed. That's what I meant to say. So they need to have bonafide leadership skills.
Daniel: I agree. The skill set, you have to be an effective teacher doesn't necessarily translate to the principal's office, although it can help them. Then you learn those leadership skills. Jean, thank you so much for being a part of the Better Leaders, Better Schools Podcasts. We talked about a lot today of everything we've talked about. What's the one thing you want to Ruckus Maker to remember.
Daniel: It's fun to learn.
Daniel: 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@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 an honest rating and review or share on social media with your biggest takeaway. From the episode, extra credit for tagging me on Twitter @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.
She grew up on stories of generations of family members rising above adversity and supporting their communities. As a result, her career has followed a similar path toward helping others gain greater insight into the value of an empowered life, agile and resilient leadership, and culturally competent relationships with others.
Jean’s personal philosophy: “Helping people ‘level up’ by maximizing their potential in the workplace, community, and home through self-discovery and by building supportive environments.”
- Living with a hole in the floor teaches empathize.
- Advocate for the underserved by challenging mindsets and beliefs of our faculty.
- Find the strength to “play chicken” in a room.
- Learn “You can’t scare me into silence” when presenting valuable information.
- How leaders learn to live out the metaphor and walk a mile leadership
- The question that unblocks the skill of empathy.
- Tips to get comfortable in uncomfortable conversations about race.
- The school of hard knocks helps develop courage to touch the snake.
- Actionable tips to get people to change without isolating anyone.
- Eliminate systematic barriers that kept parents from coming to the school with a simple knock.
“Everybody needs to know that it’s uncomfortable and it’s okay. If we want the students to grow and learn, as teachers and educators, if we stay in our comfort zone, we’re not role modeling to kids how to do something that’s hard. Let’s conquer this thing. Let’s be role models to kids that even though it’s hard work, we can do this thing. It’s okay to be uncomfortable. Step one is to acknowledge that and to be willing to bear the discomfort. Step two is to have a rule of non-shaming. If it’s an uncomfortable situation, somebody’s going to say something horribly offensive and stupid. Those who know that are going to sit around snickering to themselves or cutting eyes at one another. Those who don’t know it are going to be oblivious. To praise calling out, I object to. I say, call them into the community.”
– Dr Jean Letting
“Some people literally cannot leave themselves and put themselves in somebody else’s shoes.”
–Dr Jean Letting
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