We’ve rounded up some of the best podcasts to listen to in 2019. Here are the top twenty five podcast episodes on our list.
1. Take a breath and reduce stress with Jeff and Sonya Thomlinson
Every school leader, well let’s just admit it, all of us are trying to figure out how to manage stress. In our rapidly changing world, schools are working hard to address this challenge. In this top podcast BLBS host, Danny Sunshine Bauer uncovers a student pre-requisite or many of our self-regulation and social emotional programs: the breath. Jeff and Sonya Thomlinson, with over 70 years of combined yoga training, outline their pre-mindfulness program for schools,Take a Breath (www.nowtakeabreath.com). In this episode, Jeff and Sonya explain stress biologically, discuss the harmful effects on our students, and outline their deep relaxation program designed for students, parents, and educators. You can even try a brief “Take a Breath’ exercise in this episode and see for yourself.
In this episode, Jeff names and personifies the “inherent stress beast” as he turns our attention to parents and teachers, the models for students on how to manage stress. I love how Danny follows with a memory of a teacher who was simply “miserable” due to the high level of responsibility she felt. It reminds me, that as school leaders, we must find programs that infuse our entire communities (students, teachers, and parents), with relaxation practices in order to effectively and efficiently change the reality for our students.
MARQUEE: You are perfect just the way you are.
Take a breath and reduce stress
Chief Learning Officer, Learn Forward & Willowstone Academy
2. 12 Principles of Highly Successful Leaders with Steve Shallenberger
Are you ready to be the best you can be? Steve Shallenberger, Founder and Chairman of Becoming Your Best Global Leadership and author of Becoming Your Best: The 12 Principles of Highly Successful Leaders, talks with Danny in this motivational and inspiring episode about his extensive research and what it means to you as an educator and leader. Steve shares what the highest performers all have in common and walks through a pyramid that will help you lead in the strategic rhythm of transformational leadership rather than busying yourself with the checkboxes of transactional leadership. Steve and Danny together deliver a gold-nugget-packed discussion in what is a can’t-miss episode of Better Leaders Better Schools.
“Great leaders produce great results.“
“Highly successful leaders set the tone with an inspirational vision.”
“Highly successful leaders apply the power of knowledge.”
“Highly successful leaders, they keep getting back up. They don’t give up.”
“We’re all learning about what works and what doesn’t work.”
“Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Your best is yet to be.”
12 Principles of Highly Successful Leaders
Principal, Taylor Mill Elementary
3. Building Relationships and Resilience with Elena Aguilar
Are you a leader who recognizes the power of great relationships and the need to build resilience? Are you unclear what your next steps should be? Consultant, coach, and author Elena Aguilar provides clear, compelling steps to help you grow a thriving school culture. You’ll also get valuable advice in saying no, developing mindfulness, and dealing with resistant individuals and teams. Elena’s fundamental approach is about recognizing the full humanity of each student, teacher, and member of the community.
Elena’s decades of experience started when she became a teacher after discovering her love for building compassionate connections to her students. Insights drawn from her diverse roots, stateside teaching and coaching, and her work supporting educators around the world provide clear steps to developing resilience and building relationships. Her work is about bringing more love and compassion into school communities as a part of remedying injustice.
“Two powerful questions we leaders should be asking more often: “What is your origin story? How do you want to be remembered?”
“How do I help communities find their power, their voice?”
“Love each other.”
Building Relationships and Resilience
Head of Music (Junior School), North London Collegiate School, Jeju
4. Love What You Do, Do What You Love with Jess Hutchinson
It was no surprise to me that episode #153 with Jess Hutcheson was in the top 5 downloaded episodes of Better Leaders Better Schools. If podcasts could be measured in listens instead of downloads, this one would likely be the very top of the list. So when given the opportunity to reflect on an episode I immediately chose this one.
On my walk this morning I listened to Jess and Danny’s conversation again. What I love about Jess is how calm and cool she is. Jess talks about school leadership and motherhood and the way she has found them to complement each other greatly. Jess talked about being a mama in all places in her life, and once she owned that, her transition between home and school stopped being exhausting. Jess is an eduhero for sure, and even more so for each of us who balances the demands of school and the demands of being a mom. What I admire about Jess’s conversation with Danny is how candid she is about the struggles of balance.
Jess’s episode always give me something to aspire to – no email in the morning. She knows she can only love fully at work when she has given herself the opportunity to love fully at work.
“When you leave work, leave work”
She reminds the listener that the email will still be there when you get to work, the inbox zero might be impossible and that the way you start your day sets the tone for your day – so use intentionality to set yourself up for your best day and greatest productivity – and email in the morning just doesn’t do it!
As an avid reader and consumer of content I loved Jess’s answer to the question about what book would she recommend to leaders. I listened intently waiting for my next read – but what she said was so true – whatever that person needs at the time is the right book. It might be a leadership book and it might be a trashy novel. Such good advice and consistent with who she is – a carer of people who really justs wants each person to get what they need in each moment – how great is that.
Despite all the nuggets of wisdom in this episode what Jess shared that was most inspiring to me was her practice of asking her leadership team and faculty to help her hold a mirror up to her blind spots. Jess asked “What would you see are my biggest failures or weak spots and a place that if I wanted to be intentional in turning it around this is where I could put some energy moving forward.” As a leader myself I know how courageous this is. Being open and vulnerable to real feedback is hard but important and this episode gave me the nudge I need to ask this question of my people.
Thanks for a great episode Jess!
“When you leave work, leave work”
When asked for a school marquee Jess said “Love what you do. Do what you love.” It doesn’t get clearer than that!
Love what you do. Do what you love.
Principal, Paul Penna Downtown Jewish Day School, Toronto
5. L.O.V.E. your school (learn, observe, value, & empower) with Gene Park
Why a leader should listen to this podcast: Oh man, Gene speaks the truth! He speaks of the power of lifting others up and inspiring them to be the best version of themselves. He speaks of the power of reflection and looking inward to keep your “why fire” burning. He speaks of surrounding yourself with a tribe that pushes, supports, and encourages you. Gene’s acronym for LOVE is that if you LOVE something you:
L – learn about it
O – Observe and study it
V – Value it through your thoughts and actions
E- Empower others
It’s funny how God puts a people pleaser in a position where you can never really please everyone.” To me, that means you are in the right place!
Find joy in your work. Believe and know that life is bigger than you or me, and what matters most is investing in others.
L.O.V.E. your school (learn, observe, value, & empower)
Director of Teaching and Learning, Stone Bank School, Wisconsin
6. Changing the Game Through Restorative Practices with Demetrius Ball
Mr. Demetrius Ball did an excellent job with explaining the influence that Restorative Practices can have on a school. This episode was impactful for any educator that is seeking alternative methods to school discipline. Traditionally, school discipline involves in school and out of school suspensions, detentions, and other means that involve removing a student from class. Removing students from class, limits their opportunities for learning and doesn’t repair any harm done between the teacher/student or student/student relationships.
“I think a lot of times when we go with the traditional punitive route when something happens, we look at the surface that student A did action X and as a result we go to our traditional discipline model and we don’t really look at the root cause.”
“Suspensions don’t really do a whole lot to fix whatever the situation is.”
To sum up Demetrius’ response, building school communities through developing relationships with students must be at the forefront. It takes a mindset shift from traditional forms of discipline and can have long lasting results for the school community.
Sheldon Eakins, Ph.D.
Director, Leading Equity, LLC, Idaho
Dr. Nathan D. Lang-Raad discusses his book for instructional coaches that includes seven “daily drivers”: activities and mindsets to emphasize the skills we are looking for in students. One of the drivers is collaboration in which he gives ideas regarding how to better provide a place for all personality types.
As coaches, educators, influencers, etc. we should keep in mind our “why” (see Simon Sinek). Nathan’s “why” is to help students direct their own learning and communicate effectively. If we don’t cultivate communication skills then we aren’t setting our students up for success.
Principals who play both coach and evaluator should also incorporate the daily drivers. It is important to have daily presence in the classroom and give positive feedback.
Video is a powerful tool that should be utilized more often with students. Have students explain how they got a to a solution is a powerful engagement tools for students to create a story told from their perspective.
“Leaders need to provide opportunity for quiet time to process. Just as we expect students to have independent time to practice or to think high level concepts we have to provide that for teachers as well.”
“Principals need to ask “how can I better support you”?”
Harness your inner creativity.
Instructional Technology Facilitator, Los Angeles Unified School Dist., California
8. Success is a Process not a Destination with Chris Jones
“Define who you are but not what you do.” These words of advice from Dr. Chris Jones capture his story. Starting as a high school student who felt unengaged, Chris complained about poor teaching. His grandfather and mother both responded to his whining with, “If you don’t like it, change it.”
While it took Chris several career paths before he entered K-12 education (coach, coppersmith, tour guide) he finally went into teaching and school administration, and I for one, am glad he did!
Chris delivers collaborative leadership at Seekonk High School in Massachusetts. He spends much of his week in classrooms, with students or coaching teachers. Chris practices a coaching technique that incorporates inquisitiveness and reflection, while also using personal stories to build trust. Chris believes “The only place growth can start is from being honest with yourselves.” Rather than “best practices,” Chris promotes the concept of “wise practices.” These are instructional practices that are responsive to students, understanding that every class, every individual is different and needs a teacher that can respond to meet those differences.
The school has several innovative programs, including Welcome Wednesdays and Winter School and has received a national award for their inclusion practices. Chris believes that success in not a destination but a process. How does he and his staff get it all done? Listen to the podcast to hear about his morning routine that starts at 4:15 am!
“Define who you are but not what you do.”
If Chris ran the world, his school marquee message would read “Use today to own tomorrow.” I used today to listen to his podcast again and am so glad I did!
Consultant, Speaker, Author, Ideas for Educators, Florida
The one thing I have learned in my first year as an administrator is that conflict is inevitable. Learning to embrace conflict instead of running away from it changes the game. In this podcast Kwame Brown talks about how to be comfortable in the midst of conflict. He helps us know that being comfortable in conflict can be done through following these steps.
- Acknowledge feelings
- Engage in compassionate curiosity through open-ended questions,
- Collaborative problem solving.
This podcast spurred me onto personally reading more of Kwame’s work and it changed the way that I handled an extremely important meeting that I had that upcoming day. The results of that meeting for me were enough to suggest that any school leader invest time into listening to this episode (and on a side note I sure did do a few extra reps at the gym because of this episode too).
“The more negative emotion that exist in the interaction the more personal the communication needs to be”.
Kwame reminds us that often “We choose short term comforts over long term success.”
“The path of least resistance often leads to more resistance down the road.”
Assistant Principal, Pelham Elementary School, Georgia
How do you lead your school with passion, live with purpose, and love with pride? You intentionally choose to live each day with a positive mindset while demonstrating gratitude and celebrating the success of others. In this episode, Jimmy Casas and Jeff Zoul provide ideas to connect with staff, inspire a culture of change, build meaningful relationships, and be present with your words and actions. The ideas are fun, heartwarming, and can be implemented TODAY with ease!
“What we model is what we get-model the behavior you want to see.”
Work hard, have fun, and be nice today.
11. Take Care of Yourself and Your People with Crystal Scillantani
If you are looking to motivate yourself to be a better person Crystal takes you to this level during this podcast. She helps you identify how to build leaders within your organization and she uses her past experiences in the military and as an educator/principal as proof you can be a leader who takes into account that we are all human beings. Building a vision and setting routines will help you find the balance that you need and allows people within your organization take ownership so that they can lead themselves. As leaders remind yourself to step outside your area of expertise and explore. There are great organizations and leadership outside education that we can all learn from!
You get the best out of others when you give the best from yourself”- Harvey Firestone
“…leaders take time to build future leaders…” – Crystal Scillantani
We have to see people where they are to lead them where they need to be.
Principal, Frank Layden Elementary, Kansas
12. The local school as a catalyst for the community with Ryan Jackson
This episode was worth a listen because Ryan spoke about how he changed his life forever, and started the #fitleaders movement 4-5 years ago. Danny himself had an epiphany in the gym while listening to a podcast, about starting his own podcast. Ryan has his best ideas come during intense workouts. His physical presence is tied into how well he takes care of himself. There is so much turnover with leaders, in order to sustain the health of an organization and community, leaders need to find the time to take care of themselves. Through #fitleaders, you’ll see all types of athletes. Take your physical fitness journey as serious as your professional journey. #Fitleaders has people of all creeds, all walks of life, even whole schools. It’s everybody’s approach to a healthy lifestyle. He’s developed strong relationships with community leaders by projecting how his students can be prepared to walk into trade jobs in 3-5 years.
“Believe, just begin”
There is so much turnover with leaders, in order to sustain the health of an organization and community, leaders need to find the time to take care of themselves.
Dean (AP), Colorado Springs School District 11, Colorado
Adam Welcome wanted to be the un-principal. So he was; he made the job cool (again). In the episode Adam emphasizes how if it was good for kids, they were doing it; if it wasn’t they weren’t. And Adam did a lot of things that were good for kids. To name a few, he got down on the carpet with the kids, he rode tricycles and played kickball at recess with the kids, he wore the mascot costume for the kids, he knew their names. Adam got to know his students as a result of his efforts to be visible throughout campus. He didn’t have to be in his office all day to run the school, instead, he relied on the little computer that he carries around in his pocket. As the leader of the building, he modeled the interactions that he wanted for his students.
“Schools don’t exist for us, they exist for the kids.”
Elementary School Principal, Van Allen Elementar, Iowa City CSD
14. Relentless Learning with Hamish Brewer
Relentless. Game Changer. Visionary. Haven’t heard of Hamish Brewer, the tattooed, skateboarding, and no holds bar principal that is flipping the educational world on its head. He has transformed his current school to be awarded the Nationally Distinguished Title One School. How did he do this you ask, by going against the status quo and rewriting what education should look like?
Looking for a change and interested in seeing a model of it, Hamish Brewer is your man. In this episode Hamish discusses how his program of Relentless Learning came about and how it stems from his own personal educational experience. He explains that we have to get away for the old style of learning that was designed to create factory workers. Teachers want a different way of teaching and students want to learn in an authentic way. If you have students misbehaving it most probably means that they’re disengaged with their learning and that needs to change. Provide these authentic learning opportunities because our students are going to need to solve problems we don’t even know of yet.
My favorite quote from the podcast comes when Hamish is talking about this, “We don’t have to worry about 21 century skills man, we have been here for eighteen years, what’s next?” Hamish discusses with Bauer the power of leadership and that you can’t serve people when you think you’re better than them. You have to create an “all in” mind frame. The team also discusses in different way in which expectations set the present in your organization. “If you allow average, average is all you’ll get. Be the expectation you want to see and it will happen.”
Hamish finishes this episode by saying he wishes he could have every school believe “Everyone is someone and just be you because you matter.”
Middle School Special Needs Teacher, Regional Day School, New Jersey
Wax On Wax off – Co Teaching Co Planning! What does co teaching and specially designed instruction look like? Anne Benninghof explains the difference between specially designed instruction and highly quality instruction and the importance of two specially trained talents working together. How can our acts of courage lead to better student success? Anne shares how having courageous conversations centered around instruction for all leads to increased student success for all. Simple steps for school leaders to use while conducting walkthroughs and coaching talent so specially designed instruction is part of the classroom daily routine.
“Our courage leads to their success. ”
How can our acts of courage lead to success?
Kathy Jo Standefer
Assistant Principal, Lakewood Elementary School, Tomball ISD, Texas
Are you balanced as a leader? How do you know? According to the three leaders in this podcast, it’s easy to know, but much harder to obtain. It’s a ‘balancing act’ of aligning the four P’s in your life: Professional, personal, positional, and passion. How do you achieve this balance? I will let the experts take it from here. It’s all inside the podcast.
“Put the life jacket on yourself first before you go try saving everyone else.”
What have you done for yourself lately?
Innovations Coordinator, Transform Educational Consulting, Hong Kong
17. Can 30 Minute Conversations Improve a School? with Dan Butler
In this episode, Dan Butler talks about the productivity strategies he developed as the leader of two schools at the same time. Dan talks about the importance of delegation, high leverage “to-do” items, and clear communication. In addition, Dan talks about how he develops a positive culture in his schools through quarterly meetings with each staff member and staying in touch with what it’s like for the staff members in their everyday position.
“If you need a response within 24 hours, email me. If you need a response within an hour, text me. If you need a response right now, call me.”
We care about your kid.
Assistant Principal, Holyoke Public Schools, Massachusetts
18. Leverage Leadership 2.0 with Paul Bambrick Santoyo
If as a school leader, you are interested in cultivating your teachers’ instructional practices to get to the next level, this episode is a must listen! Paul Bambrick- Santoyo is an educational leader who pushes for people to become “comfortable being uncomfortable.” His outlook on how to transform our schools so all students are learning at maximum potential is refreshing, and at its core simple: practice. Bambrick- Santoyo shares concrete ways for how to get your staff to practice to try out new instructional strategies or pedagogical shifts without making educators feel fearful.
“If you want them to get it, get them to see it. Because to see it is to believe it.”
“You’re only as good as what you practice.”
He didn’t get asked the school marquee question. He did share his three priorities for his dream school, which were:
- Culture where kids want to come to school, and learning is sacred.
- Teachers and leaders are relentless with paying attention to if students are learning everyday
- Every child has their niche
Dean of Curriculum, Lawrence Public Schools, Massachusetts
Why you should listen to this episode:
- Ryan is high energy and he and Danny feed off of each other.
- To refocus on the reason why you got into education.
- You need to hear the story of the blind man in the subway on September 11th
- If you are new into your leadership position or want to get reacquainted with your staff, you need to hear about Ryan’s 1-on-1 meetings at the coffeehouse.
“Are your dreams of tomorrow on par with your habits of today?”-Steph Curry
You have the power to change the life of a child.
Principal, Appoquinimink School District, Delaware
20. Innovation Student-Centered Real-World Innovation with Nancy Conrad
This is a great episode that starts out with the promise of being all about a system and challenge (the Conrad Challenge) that helps students think outside the box and design innovative challenges to real world issues. It is rife with the idea of listening and value of authenticity. The value of this episode for anyone who wants to become a ruckus maker comes from the realization or reinforcement that this is the direction in which traditional education needs to be moving. Nancy Conrad does an excellent job of leading us down this path by explaining the reasoning behind the Conrad Challenge, what its participants have currently done, and how to start fostering its growth in your schools.
The idea of growth and changing our systemic thinking is the framework of this episode. It contains the central theme that while there are templates to follow; innovation cannot be born from them; only guided. True innovation can only grow when the mindset of those involved has changed. In short, when they stop thinking inside the box because they realize the only box is the one of their own creation.
I found it meaningful when Nancy Conrad taed that we need to focus more on “creating conversations with them rather than at them.” This fits so well with the idea that we can only release students from the confines of their thinking by engaging them in the chance to examine their own creativity. This episode drives home the end result of liberating students’ thinking when Nancy says; “they really understand who they are.” After all, shouldn’t that be the true goal of education?
“Pay attention to your consumer.”
Principal, Whitman-Hanson Regional School District, Massachusetts
In this episode, I found myself leaning into the explorations of engaging students, working with teams and being strategic in our efforts as professionals. Alexander challenged listeners with the question, “When is good ‘good enough’ and where do I need perfection?” Danny added in that it’s easy to get caught with a hyper focus on what’s not perfect which can cause us to freeze up, become stagnated or lead to “analysis paralysis.” My greatest takeaway came from Alexander’s response to what leaders should be looking for in potential students in a program, new staff or administrative teammates. He said, “I want passion and intelligence. Those are two things that I cannot train. I can train everything else.” I personally find myself surrounded by staff that are extremely intelligent and know their craft, and I’m inspired by the passion they show for students on a regular basis. It makes me want to grow as a better leader and make my site a better school so I truly appreciate the dialogue that Danny had with Alexander Lowry in this “Better Leader Better Schools” podcast.
“I want passion and intelligence. Those are two things that I cannot train. I can train everything else.”
Associate Principal for Teaching and Learning, Jenks High School, Oklahoma
22. Be Legendary By Being Different with Christopher Lochhead
In this episode Christopher Lochhead engages us in three main areas: having good conversations, niching down, and being problem focused instead of solution focused. Good conversations come from being authentically curious instead of trying to push your own agenda. Pushing your own agenda leads to a win-lose situation and as leaders even if we “win”, we are probably losing. One other piece that stood out in this area, was the focus on bringing the background conversations that happen into the foreground (being candid). The second main area of the episode, that ties to the first, was the idea of being engaged and “in love” with a problem, not the solution and especially not YOUR solution. As leaders it is important for us to find a problem that is important and is worth solving. This allows us to niche down, the third part of the episode. This is the part of the conversation that impacted me the most. Christopher talked about finding your niche, your place to stand out and how that is what being legendary is about. I felt this tied well to the well known Stephen Covey’s principle of “Begin with the end in mind.” If we as leaders can find our niche or our problem to solve, we can be legendary.
“Who would you rather be? The 47th cubist painter or the 1st?”
“It’s what makes us different that makes the difference. We live in a world that teaches us that the path to success is fitting in. In reality, [success] is about standing out!!”
Christopher didn’t answer this question specifically but if he had, I believe his school marquee would say “Follow your different . . . be Legendary!!”
Vice Principal, Sa-Hali Secondary School, Canada
23. Knocking Down the Walls of the Classroom with Chris Nesi
In “Knocking Down the Walls of the Classroom,” founder of the Education Podcast Network, Chris Nesi, shares the importance of elevating schools and classrooms with the integration of technology while maintaining a balance for managing the demands of technology in our home lives. He provides a background of how the Education Podcast Network began and how it continues to grow by allowing educators to connect and share ideas with people from all over the world. Since the plethora of EdTech tools can be overwhelming for some, and Nesi provides advice of always being open to learning, leading by example, and adopting a “no fear” attitude that questions the worst and best possible outcomes of trying something new. He claims that maintaining tough love with oneself and with students, while providing a supportive safety net, is what will inspire reluctant teachers and students to take more risks beyond their comfort zones with technology integration. He also acknowledges the much-needed balance between being attentive to responsibilities and joys at home and taking advantage of available opportunities in the EdTech world.
“Learn. Accumulate. Share.”
“If we are good at home…everything else will take care of itself.”
“Smile at as many people possible today and everyday.”
Anna M. Savino
Teacher, PLC Lead, ELD Curriculum Specialist, and Induction Mentor
Olympian High School, SUHSD, California
24. Creating a Supportive Environment for Students and Staff with Dr. Elizabeth Burris
This episode focus on the work Mrs Burris has been developing with teachers in order to help them develop their social-emotional skills and put them to a good use in their daily practice in schools.
She provides data for teachers to rethink behavior, emotions and interpretations so that they can change the way they relate to students and also colleagues .She started doing this after noticing that there where ways to support students but nobody had yet thought about a way to support teachers.
The way she does it can be by either working with teachers individually or in groups. She works as a facilitator and organizes sessions where teachers participate at their own free will and are asked to reflect upon the way they act together and in relation to students. Mrs Burris gives an example of how these sessions are organized: she explains the boundaries, they analyze the various reasons why a student was labelled as troublemaker, make a plan to treat the student differently next time and support each other. She calls this “a new lens” to look at the problem of behaviour .She likes so much what she’s doing and is so commited to it that she says “ I´m on this planet to do this work”.
Another important aspect is her suggestion to create spaces in schools and in the students/children families which she names “The holding environment” a physical space where children/students can grow and develop the way they deserve because she believes we are all improvable we all can grow and change with each other. Her belief is also that when people are/feel safe creativity happens.
From all that is written above ,which I consider innovative and important, leaders should reflect upon and so build a better school where everyone feels they belong .
“I´m on this planet to do this work.”
Emotions even negative ones are used to find better ways of teaching,relating better and helping students learn.
Maria Irene Pinheiro
Teacher,Headteacher: English, German, E.B.S.Passos Manuel, Portugal
25. Stress Less in School Leadership with Courtney Elmer
Brief summary: As someone who has felt like my identity is too wrapped up in my work, Courtney Elmer’s honest account of how she broke the metaphorical chains around overwork and burn out was grounding and inspiring. I learned that even though being busy can be seen as a badge of honor, I was not put on this Earth just to be busy. Anytime we say yes to one thing, we’re saying no to something else. Courtney inspired me to live a more purposeful life and stress less!
“That’s the thing with being mission driven. We have these passions within us and so there seems to be an endless source of energy that comes from within. But at the same time we have to remember that we can’t give from an empty well. If we aren’t tending to our own garden first, than nothing is going to grow.”
“What if we recharged ourselves as often as we did our phones?”
PD Manager, Opportunities for Learning Charter Schools, California