Teru Clavel is a comparative education expert who has shared her insights on education and globalization on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS, The TODAY Show, CBS This Morning, and others. Teru earned a master’s degree in Global and International Education and a bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies. She spent over a decade as an education journalist and college consultant while raising her three children in the public schools of Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo and California and returned with her family to her hometown, New York City, in 2018.
The Difference between Asian and American Schools
- Teru’s journey on creating a family unit with values that are dependent on everybody appreciating one another
- Teru’s plan on how to solve massive attrition and recruitment dilemmas
- Teru pulls apart what it means to practice and respect social-emotional values
- Why your EQ is much more important than your IQ
- Teru shares how to move past the labels and challenges facing women
- Learn ritual practices in Asia that create a level of inherent respect and build mental acuity, stamina, and grit
- Create hand in hand learning between parents and the school with mandatory parent involvement
- An overabundance of technology requires educators to be the police of technology and not the gardeners of knowledge.
- Dancing poop is education done right ?
“Don’t give up. Just don’t give up because I think now more than ever this country needs leaders who are advocating on behalf of our children because I think it’s not No Child Left Behind. I feel like all our kids are getting left behind right now. With all that’s going on politically in this country, kids with so much technology in their hands, they are seeing it all and I don’t think they have any idea how to make sense of it and it’s our responsibility to look out for them because the world that they are going to be going into is a world that we are creating for them and I don’t think it’s going to be an easy place.”
– Teru Clavel
Full Transcript Available Here
Welcome to the better leaders, better schools podcast. This is your friendly neighborhood podcast host Daniel Bauer,
Better leaders. Better Schools is a weekly show for Ruckus Makers. And what is a Ruckus Maker? A leader who has found freedom from the status quo. A leader who makes change happen. A leader who never ever gives up. In today’s conversation with Teru Clavel,
We dig deep into her personal story because here’s the thing, Ruckus Maker, you’re probably a great leader at school, but how are you leading your family or when you get home, do you get the emotional support you need? We dig into that story first, but continue listening to the show because we dig into Teru’s, wonderful book called World-Class One Mother’s Journey Halfway Around the Globe in Search of the Best Education for her Children. And we get to hear how US schools and Asian schools are very different. Ruckus Maker, thanks for being here. Before we jump into the episode, I’d like to take some time to thank our show sponsors, Better Leaders, Better Schools. Podcast is brought to you by Organized Binder, a program designed to develop your students executive function and noncognitive skills. Learn more at organized binder.com
Ruckus Maker is email, a soul crushing distraction for you. It was for me and that’s why I subscribed to SaneBox. Start your free two week trial and get a $25 credit by visiting sanebox.com/BLBS
In the Mastermind, we believe that questions are better than answers and that there’s power in connecting with other elite performers. Kevin, a principal in Tunisia had this to say about his Mastermind experience. “I Feel more connected to the everyday changes in education. In addition to being more informed, I feel empowered to bring new educational ideas and strategies to my team at my school.” We’d love to serve you in the Mastermind and we welcome your application and role today at Better Leaders. Better Schools.com/mastermind Teru Clavel is a comparative education expert who has shared her insights on education in globalization on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS, the Today Show, CBS this morning and other shows. Teru Clavel earned a master’s degree in global and international education and a bachelor’s degree in Asian studies. She spent over a decade as an education journalist in college consultant, while raising her three children in the public schools of Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo and California, and returned with her family to her home town of New York City in 2018. Welcome to the show. Thanks Daniel. Happy to have you here.
We usually focus on school and we’re definitely going to talk about school during this conversation. I wanted to bring in a bit of the personal life too because it’s probably impossible and unrealistic to separate work and home. They’re definitely integrated. The Ruckus Maker who’s listening right now is probably a world-class leader at work, but she may not be a world class leader at home or She might not have the support she needs. You told me during the intro call that years ago, even though you were highly educated, you were seen only as a wife and a mom and that you lacked emotional support at home. How did you move past that?
That was really hard and it’s not something that I would love to say. I’m not struggling with it still, but it’s tough. It’s really, really tough. There probably isn’t a day, maybe not even an hour that goes by where I don’t feel like it’s harder for not only women in society to persevere but also being half Japanese. I feel like there are a lot of stereotypes that are associated with that as well. I would say as I went back to school in 2011 to get a masters in comparative and international education, which led me to work in journalism. And it was hard because at the time I was married to a corporate executive who was traveling, I’d say at least 80% of the time. So I was home taking care of my three children while also pursuing this masters degree.
And then journalism and you know, like I think a lot of women, they ended up doing well over 50% of the housework and yet they’re still trying to pursue something on their own. And then it was really disheartening because I would have these full page feature articles in outlets like the Japan Times and it would come out and I’ll make this analogy, it was like a pine cone fell in the forest. You know, I get all these outside accolades and comments, but within my home, my kids were still young at that point, so they were all under 10 years old. But it wasn’t like I had a partner who was saying, “That’s fantastic, everybody congratulate mom” or accommodating a schedule whereby I could spend lots of time doing face to face interviews outside. It was crazy and I would stay up until three in the morning writing my articles and sleep, three hours and just scrambling to find any window that I could.
And while I haven’t perfected how to feel like I’m rewarded by my family necessarily, I do feel like that experience made me persevere and push through. In 2016 I came back to the United States after having lived in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo. And that was over 10 years. And I realized with my kids in the public schools of Palo Alto, which was at the time, arguably the best school district in California, and I saw that it had so many kind of laws or shortcomings in it that I said, okay, I have a book I can write now because I can write this comparative book. And I pitched a book deal through an agent and I pitched a book proposal I should say, and got a book deal. And that was kind of my, wow, I can do this. I’m more in the big leagues now.
But it doesn’t come with everybody saying “you’re fantastic.” And I think the most important thing is to realize you’re doing it for yourself and you wake up every day and you have a larger mission and you know, it’s really easy to focus on a negative review or a criticism and heck, I get them a lot with my book being quite controversial, but I can’t, I have to appreciate when I get the daily emails from readers who love my book or posts saying, thank you so much from teachers, parents, educators, and people ask me to come speak. And I think it’s just really easy to think about the negative stuff because it can be so hard to balance it all. But I do have to remind myself all the time. That’s such a nice email I received and to reply right away and thank the person like this is, this is what keeps me going. So thank you. Thank you so much.
Yeah, definitely. So what I heard is to really be very clear on your why and your mission and vision, to understand your values, and the purpose of your work. So that helps ground you. It’s definitely a struggle for all of us, including me, but to ignore and filter out all the negativity, right? And focus on the people, the who’s it for, right? The tribe that is responding to the work you’re putting out there and yeah, pause, say thank you and that kind of thing. I think that’ll help the Ruckus Maker listening if she’s not feeling supported at home. But what if she’s the partner you think that’s not being supportive, I’m just curious, I want to flip it a bit. Any, any ideas or any tips for how to offer that emotional support as well?
Well, in my case, I always thought, I have three children here and I want to raise them to be appreciative of the community that is our home. I would think that’s an important part of instilling values. I still struggle with it and my children are getting a little older. My oldest is 15 at this point and he’s six foot five. I mean he looks like a man even though he is just 15 and I see, you know, he’s, he’s coming to terms with, he has a mom who actually works and I’m a single mom now and it’s different because I was always the one who bent over backwards and never really showed that I was working well taking care of the kids because I prioritize the kids. So obviously to them, but I think it’s important for the partner to show that the family unit is dependent on and the values are dependent on everybody appreciating one another’s role. It’s just like when your kid does well or doesn’t do well in school, has an issue socially you support them and it’s really important to do that with your partner. Everyone in that smaller community that you have, which is your family because that just bleeds throughout the school, the larger community, their future relationships, their workplaces and their social success later in life, which you know, that EQ is, is sometimes much more intelligent than your IQ or more important, I should say, than your IQ
Women’s struggle if they stay at home and then try to reintegrate into the workforce. And you think schools might have an opportunity here. What might schools do to help these women who stay at home and now want to rejoin the workforce?
I think it’s interesting. I think schools should work together with their districts and with their state governments, right? Their state school or Department of Education and figure out ways for that re-entry for women who may have taken time out of the workplace. Because I feel like I’m such a more complete person in my late forties than I was in my twenties and I can’t imagine myself ever being able to manage a classroom in my twenties I mean, there are plenty of successful teachers who do, but to me it’s just my lack of maturity at that point. Even though I did get married and have children, you know now the battles you fight and the struggles that you have to live through having children, that kind of perseverance and understanding lends itself so well to the classroom that if there are easier ways for women to become classroom teachers, and I don’t even say easier if there’s a way to tap into that demographic to recruit them and to train them.
I think it is such, there’s so much untapped potential there and I think you would find women really in their forties and fifties just coming into their prime and just having the patience and the perseverance to understand the social emotional needs of the kids in the classroom, to have the patience to work with every child regardless of their socioeconomic background. I mean, there’s so much inherent bias that we hear about in the classrooms. And I think as moms, you know, when, when you’ve had experiences with your own children and you see they’ve been bullied or anything, you just have an empathy and awareness that you may not have had before. And I just, I think we have to, with a massive teacher attrition and recruitment problems that we have, which are, you know, are around 8% in this country annually, 5- 8%. I believe. We just have to, we have to find new sources, new wells and this, women going back to the workplace. It’s, I think it’s, it’s, it would be brilliant to be able to do that.
Yeah, I agree. So your book is called World-Class: One Mother’s Journey Halfway Around the Globe in Search of the Best Education For Her Children. And you mentioned, you know, you’re an expert in these comparative studies and you’ve been around the world. You’ve seen what education looks like over there and over here. What were some of the differences you notice around equity?
That’s a good question. I think Japan does it well and I devote four chapters of world-class to my experience in Japan and something that I think really illustrates it is their academics, their academic calendar begins April 1 and it ends middle of March. So you don’t have this two to three month summer vacation between grades. When do they fit in Disney?? That’s a very, very good and funny question. I mean can you imagine that basically two weeks between school years, right? There’s no summer slide there. Sometimes when people think about summer slide and you just have to do the math and be like, that’s why these countries are two to three years ahead. They don’t have summer slide, but there’s no nostalgia between the end of this school year in the beginning of the next school year in the sense that at our first start of the academic year, April one we go back to the school and all these teachers that aren’t there or so what happened?
Where did they go? And that’s when I learned that within the district, if it’s, if it’s a city or within the prefecture, if it’s a more geographically, let’s say that the numbers are smaller and the prefecture, then the teachers are moved around every two to three years between schools. So you don’t have the best teachers at this school. The most established one are the worst teachers and the new teachers in another school, they’re constantly being moved around. And not only that, the teachers are moved around between grades. So you will rarely, if ever see a teacher staying within, you know, let’s say teaching first grade, two years in a row. They go from first grade to sixth grade to third grade. So they have that vertical alignment. They know what’s coming in and what’s going out. And then they always have mentoring programs, which various States and districts and schools in the US really try to do.
But it’s mandated pretty much by the central government in Japan that you have to have a senior teacher mentor, a junior teacher. And you know, China is obviously a huge country, 1.3 5 billion people. It’s come up out of poverty over the last generation. It’s growing tremendously and they absolutely still have equity issues. But some of the programs that we can learn from in this country are, for example, a more, let’s say established or or well functioning school will take over the management of a lesser one. The more senior teachers go to the more struggling schools and they have career paths for teachers. So it keeps up their motivation and their professional development whereby they will have junior teachers, senior teachers, subject specific teachers that want to go into administration, those that want to go into the government. So all these things really stem like the inequity of problems that they could potentially have or do you have. And in this country, you know, the way that we fund our schools is so completely different by doing it, by, you know, our local tax dollars on our real estate that it’s, unless the States and the federal government get really involved, you know, we have to roll up our sleeves at the community level and help help each other out.
It’s a crazy way to fund schools and it’s good for you if you’re rich, right? You get to keep your resources. But outside of that, a couple of things I want to unpack for the Ruckus Maker listening is that,you know, if you’re a superintendent you might be able to move around your teachers, you know, because if you hear this and you say, well our government, our policy makers are never going to do that. You could do that as a superintendent. Consider it. It’s interesting because if you get stuck in the same grade level or teaching the same thing year after year, you become very comfortable and pretty complacent. Changing folks around, I would think would inspire you to become more creative or reconnect with your passion and purpose of why you became a teacher.
That’s sort of the superintendent. If you’re the principal, you can definitely move things around per grade level and based on certifications, maybe the different subject areas. Just a quick shout out to Dr Chris Jones because he does amazing stuff over the summers, but I’d like to let you know, and then the Ruckus Maker listening, he does a winter school as well. Just because our official school year is from this date to this date and there is that slide. Chris Jones says, what if we did summers? And a lot of schools do that, but he does winter school, too. And so his kids don’t have that slide because he’s been very creative with positions and with funding to make sure that kids get what they need. So I really appreciate you bringing up that point. And I wanted to highlight somebody that I know and love that’s doing some good stuff.
That sounds fantastic.
Yeah. Before the break, let’s talk about pay as well. We discussed equity. I know people are gonna write in about this, but what have you seen in regards to pay?
So this is fascinating. Teachers in China and Japan are not paid more than the teachers here. There is, if you look at what a typical college graduate can earn compared to the teacher salary though in this country it is lower, right? So if you could be, I’m just throwing, I don’t know, if you could go into finance of some kind find a financial job, then you will take a significant discount on your salary if you become a teacher. But in terms of just looking at the raw numbers, cost of living adjusted teachers do not get paid more overseas. That said, the huge, huge difference is the level of respect that these teachers get within their society. And that is something that I wish, hope for. We’ll change in, in this country. I don’t have a solution for it, but I can tell you what they do overseas, let’s start with China first.
And, and I talk about this in rural class because it’s, when you see it, it’s this beautiful thing. At first, it’s confusing, but then you see the results. And my children, when I went to their public schools in Shanghai, and I’m telling you there’s not even running water in the bathrooms. Okay. They have troughs. They didn’t have heat. So they were snow suits to school yet at the front gate there were always teachers lined up, always the principal, the school and the students were saluted. The teachers when they entered literally like a military salute and they would go to school that way and they would end school that way. In Japan they bow. I mean it’s typical, I mean people know that I think the Japanese custom of bowing, but at the beginning of every class they bow and they, and they say, you know, we are beginning this class.
Thank you very much. And they all bow at the end of the class, they do the same thing. And that’s to the teacher and the meaning of the teacher itself. It’s not, you know, Ms. Smith or these days we’re getting very casual sometimes in the classrooms. And it’s Carla, right. In Japan. And in China they call the teacher, Teacher Smith teacher. Every time they mention the teacher, it’s teacher and the meaning of the characters of teacher is future leader or leader of future generations. So every time they say it, which is constantly throughout the day, you know, teachers, math teachers, it’s leader of the future Smith leader of the future Smith. And there’s so much inherent respect that is repeated throughout the rituals of the day that we don’t really practice here. And that leads to all kinds of issues from, you know, and I don’t have to tell your audience from discipline to even parents, not really. Sometimes knowing where that line is between what’s appropriate or what’s not. It’s so unfortunate because the kind of behaviors I saw when I started observing US classrooms when I came back versus what I saw in Japan and in China, was really kind of day and night.
I can only imagine. Well true. We’re gonna pause here for a message from our sponsors, but when we get back, we’re gonna talk about parents. We’re going to talk about tech. And if there’s time we might talk about poop as well. The Better Leaders, Better Schools podcast is brought to you by organized binder organized binders in evidence-based RTI, tier one universal level solution and focuses on improving executive functioning and non cognitive skills. You can learn more and improve your student email@example.com
Today’s podcast is sponsored by SaneBox. I’m a current subscriber to SaneBox and it is absolutely a tool that all school leaders cannot live without. Why do I love it? It just works. There is nothing to learn, nothing to install in. Sanebox works directly with every single email service out there. Imagine a world where only the important emails make it to your inbox. All the unimportant stuff is magically filtered out to folders that you can review later. That Sane boxes, artificial intelligence, working behind the scenes. It has saved me countless hours of filtering emails each week and it will do the same for you. If I could give you three or more extra hours each week, what would you be able to accomplish with that time? That’s what SaneBox does for me, and it will do it for you. Start your free two week trial and get a $25 credit by visiting sanebox.com/BLBS that’s sanebox.com/BLBS and we’re back with Teru Clavel, the author of a fantastic book, World-class one mother’s journey halfway around the globe in search of the best education for her children. So traveling around the world, living around the world. What were the differences you saw Teru, with parent involvement?
That is a great one. I will say that in China at the time, there was a very strict one child only policy. So you had basically one child that had two working parents and each of those parents usually had two parents of their own. So you had basically two, four, six people watching that one child and everybody in that family felt that their future was dependent on the future success of that child and the entire nation. Success was dependent on that child as well. So everything was all the emphasis was on that child’s education. Pick up, and I do talk about this in world class. I would almost find it amusing because typically it was a grandparent who’d come to pick up the child and you could see in slow motion. I felt like I was in some strange Scifi movie where you could see the teacher kind of scolding the child and then the grandparents looking at the child and then the grandparents wagging a finger and scolding the child and then the child looking down at his or her shoes.
And then because it was just, you know, they didn’t do something right in the day. I don’t know if it was something academic or something behavioral, but everybody was on the same page to get that kid to the top level of whatever it was that was expected of that child. And it was, it was remarkable. I mean, at one point I took my phone out and took a video of one of these things. I just thought, wow, I don’t think this is really replicable or I don’t see this very often in other, in other places. And interestingly when I got to Japan it was, it was so different. It’s much softer. But there is a requirement that for every child that you have in a public elementary school, you must volunteer a year of your time and that can be literally 40 hours per week job as part of the PTA, a class parent.
And there was a story that I wrote about where all the parents got together and they had to decide who the PTA and class parents would be for the following year. And it was all women. It’s always all women. And you know there’s a gender equality problem in Japan and you see it right? And you see why the birth rate is going down because the requirements of the mom are just so high and heavy. The only way to get out of that one year volunteer is to announce to everybody that you’re pregnant, that you’re planning on getting pregnant or that you have some kind of a sickness that prevents you from doing so. And I’m going, wait, my Japanese must not be good here. This cannot be happening. I know, from a US background, that this must be violating all kinds of human rights and I don’t even know what’s going on here.
And you had to have a doctor’s note stating one of those three things and it was just remarkable to me. But at the same time as extreme as that is the parents and the schools are hand in hand and understanding exactly what the child is learning, what the child needs. And there’s even a daily notebook that goes back and forth between the home and the teacher that the teacher checks every day that the family checks every day. And it could be about whether or not your child didn’t feel well, didn’t understand the homework, wasn’t getting along with someone. And that communication is so seamless. And it was, it was, it was this beautiful thing. So the parent involvement model was extremely, extremely different. But what was so different too, was that it wasn’t as contentious, I should say. This is what I see happening in the US.
You could have that requirement, right? But that doesn’t necessarily mean that people will do it. So that’s a really good question too. And I don’t mean to cut you off, but this was so funny to me because at my daughter’s preschool in Japan, we get these letters and there in Japanese, and although Japanese is my first language, my reading and writing are okay, but not fantastic. If I thought I kind of misunderstood something, I’d be like, wait, this can’t be and they had tons of parent education and this one meeting it said you’d have a form that you have to fill out. And I figured, okay, you fill out the form if you’re going to attend.
No, no, no, no. You fill out the form if you are opting out and you have to have a reason. And that’s what it’s like, they’re mandatory and one of the first times I went I said “this is my third kid. I mean, what am I going to learn in this parent education?” It required parent education. The teachers are all in their twenties and are so young and was I wrong? Within five minutes I had my notebook out taking copious notes because there I am learning about the social emotional developmental needs of my three or four year old and what I have to be doing at home to supplement her, her school learning so that there’s a hand in hand. I guess understanding what she needed was phenomenal.
Let’s transition to tech and I think a misconception we often have in the US is that overseas especially in Asia that it’s a tech heaven and it’s everywhere. When did you come to find in terms of tech in classrooms?
There is virtually no technology in the classrooms. And when I say virtually it’s because there’s literally just electricity in the glass room. But the whole one-to-one iPad or Chromebook kind of doesn’t exist and there is still so much handwriting, handwriting repeated handwriting from lettering to mathematics. And I do tell this story in world-class where I felt like I was in a different era entirely. Like pre my birth year of 1973 where my son would come home from elementary school in Shanghai and his entire jacket sleeve, because he wore his coat in school because there wasn’t any heat, would be black with letter, whatever was the entire side of his hand would be covered in his black from just writing, writing, writing all day. And it was, it was pretty amazing. And I feel like that builds so much just mental acuity and stamina.
And I hear often these days a lot of teachers struggle with even when they want to have their students write, they complain that after writing one page their hands cramp and you know, and we all have that bump, well not maybe all of us, but we have the bump on our middle finger from having written so much growing up. And it’s kind of, to me I’m like wow, that’s like a point of pride now. Because that’s my sign of grit. So when we came to the US though it was just such an, I felt like an overabundance of technology and while I understand why it’s in our classrooms, I really wish that we could take a step back and think about how it’s being used, the intentionality behind it and how it is disintermediating the relationship between the teacher and the student more than it’s actually assisting.
Because I miss those days when you could see what the student was doing in math and why they were making the mistakes. And kids are smart, right? We’re all kind of clever, but kids are quick so they can figure out the multiple choice. They can skip things if they want to. They can all tab and look at other things. The number of schools from the 2017 -18 academic year, I traveled across the country and visited countless schools and met with professors of education and went to conferences and such. And there wasn’t a single school I went to where when I was doing the tour with usually the principal at the school where they were not the police of the school monitoring the technology, “get off Fortnite. Get off this. Focus on this.” I can probably spend the next hour or two telling you about the technology issues that I observed, but I feel like we’ve just, we’re too hot to trot in this country and taking on the latest and greatest and there’s just so much intentionality behind what goes on in the classrooms in Japan and in China and it just doesn’t happen there.
There’s a real cost to adopting all this technology and like you said, having the latest and greatest. I think we have time for the poop story. You know, it’s just so loud and this would never happen, I don’t think, in the US so do you mind just sharing that story quickly before we wrap up our conversation?
There was a parent observation day in Japan, they’re on the trimester system, and two days during every term, it’s usually on a Friday and a Saturday and in sequence. Usually it’s because typically the men work and they can’t come on a Friday and there’s always school every other Saturday in Japan. So then they come on Saturday if the husbands or fathers are working. I’ve heard so many times in the US like the teachers, if they have a school, a parent observation day, they’ll modify the lesson plan. Whereas in Japan it’s a centralized curriculum. Like they follow what’s in the book. There is no modifying the lesson. So on this particular day, during their health class, I’m watching the regrade teachers come out dressed up like, what is it? Who’s that sponge Bob square pants. Like one of those huge outfits. It was like this big, big like sponge basically with just two hands sticking out and two legs and tights. But they’re dressed as the poop emoji, you know, so it’s like a swirl of poop and there’s a song playing and they’re dancing around about poop and singing about it. And I’m going, Oh my gosh, this is a man and I’m looking around the classroom. To all the other parents thinking this is amazing, isn’t it? And everybody, all the parents like rocking it out, they think this is like totally normal. This is great. And I’m going, I can’t think of any teacher wanting to keep his or her job if they were made to do this, like I don’t even know who would actually do this in the US, I wouldn’t do it as a parent, you know? But this is so normal.
And to make a long story short, what’s so brilliant about this is not only just probably every child and parent, remember that lesson, but starting in first grade in health class, they learn something so easy. Are they healthy? And they learned that there are four kinds of poop. And by looking at your poop every day, and they’re supposed to poop at least once a day and they keep a poop journal, literally it tells you, and in the poop journal says what you ate, how much water you drank, what kind of exercise you did, how much you slept, and then when you pooped and what kind of poop it was and you had to draw it. There are four kinds and you knew that if there was one kind of poop that it was the healthy kind, soft and a little shiny. I mean they get into the texture, they get into the appearance, they get into the length. If it’s like little pellets, then you know you’re dehydrated. But for, you know, a six year old, it’s so easy to understand. Right? So the first thing they ask you, Oh I’m sorry, my dog is barking. You’re getting real life here.
No real life is fine. You can’t make up real life. Don’t worry about it.
Basically what they do is when you go to the nurse for instance, if you aren’t feeling well, the first question they ask you is, Oh, so tell us about your poop.
And the kids can answer because they’ve been taught, it’s funny you say that and I don’t want to get into it now, but you know I’m over 40 and you mentioned four types of poop and I’m like, I think there’s only two good and bad. Like what are the other two kinds? So that’s a first for the podcast and I appreciate you going there with me.
Read my book and then you’ll not only be able to find out, you’ll be able to sing this song about it too.
I would do it for the song. I don’t know if I have the level of maturity that I, you know, I need to access that material yet, but I’ll consider it so Teru. If you could put a message across the world for just a day, what would it say right now?
You told me to go with my gut earlier. So what I’m really thinking about now is something, and I’m going to play with this a little bit, it would be something to the effect of we’re in it together, but also we’re only as good as our weakest link, but not so negative because it’s based on a whole equity conversation. We have to help everybody in this country because not all of us are lucky enough to have a good school nearby or parents that can support us or resources that are available. We have to help every single child in this country if we are to continue to have any kind of hope with a prosperous democracy. So I don’t want to say we’re only as strong as our weakest link, but something to that effect.
Got it. Yeah. And if you are building a school from the ground up, not limited by any resources, you’re only limiting your imagination. How would you build your dream school and what would be your top three priorities?
My top priority would easily be teacher recruitment. It would be investing in getting the best and the brightest to be interested in becoming teachers and making sure their credentialing programs were of the highest, highest quality. And they learn not only theory, there’s so much theory in these schools. They have to learn about the actual neurological psychological development of these kids. They need to know the vertical alignment of what goes on from grade to grade, from elementary to middle to high school. There’s just so much that I feel is, you know, teachers in this country are shocked out of their minds the first years they are teaching and we don’t help them. We don’t scaffold them enough and they want to leave. Our retention rate is one of the lowest in the world. And so my number one priority would be investing in the teachers across the board and continuing on with their professional development.
We do an atrocious job with professional development in this country and they are the most important resource we have. If we have any hope of a future our children are in their hands and I don’t know why we can’t get that right in this country. It really, really upsets me. So that would be the first thing. The second thing I would do is I would really pull apart what it means to have a community. And you know, we can talk about social emotional development all we want and we can add the curriculum, but we actually have to practice those values in the classroom and we have to teach our kids that they are a part of something bigger. Something that I would love to do is actually to have kids have assigned leadership roles that rotate every week and to give them class chores and to even remove like they do in Japan they do not have a janitorial staff and to give kids an understanding that you have to take care of something other than yourself.
And if you don’t clean the chalkboard, we’re not going to have a chalkboard to use. And if you don’t mop the floor, then it’s going to be dirty and we all have to work together and we can do that starting in elementary, first grade. And that really builds that verbiage to the social emotional curriculum. It’s actually practicing it and showing respect. A third thing, I would hardcore that I am, I would invest in no technology if that’s even a thing, investing in not having something. And I think these days it actually does cost more to not have technology because it’s a harder route. And I think teachers would have to work harder to not have technology because there’s just so much more paperwork and organization required, but I would go old school and get kids back to building the resiliency of knowing what it’s like to read an actual book read and research information from a library where they have to go and find the book on their own and all that information. The research shows when you engage all your senses and those are probably, yeah, those are the three things that I would do. I would do teachers community and old school, no tech.
Thank you so much for being a part of the Better Leaders, Better Schools, podcast, all the things we talked about today. What’s the one thing you want a Ruckus Maker to remember?
Don’t give up. Just don’t give up because I think now more than ever this country needs leaders who are advocating on behalf of our children because I think it’s not no child left behind. I feel like all our kids are getting left behind right now and with all that’s going on politically in this country, you know our kids with with so much technology in their hands, they are seeing it all and I don’t think they have any idea how to make sense of it and it’s our responsibility to look out for them because the world that they are going to be going into is a world that we are creating for them and I don’t think it’s going to be an easy place.
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 hashtag #BLBS level up your leadership at Better Leaders, Better Schools.com and talk to you next time until then, class dismissed.
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