Standing in Love With Teaching
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In this episode, you’ll get to meet William Anderson, high-school history teacher, turbulator, and an optimistic/pessimistic/realist. William is a curious and brilliant person and he’s found space to fearlessly bring courage and love into his classroom. He’s also finding ways to take innovative approaches to how we use data to support students’ definition of success.
William has been called a “teacher’s teacher”. He thinks deeply about his vocation and believes that teaching is not just his job but his calling. To say he’s passionate about teaching is like saying birds are passionate about flying. That may well be, but it’s what they were born to do. So it is with teaching for William.
William doesn’t mince words about the educational system in America today, the respect teachers deserve or his deep connection and love for his students and what he does. William is looking to change our perspective and generate some positive turbulence in the classroom.
Standing in Love with Teaching
Rob Brodnick: Welcome to the Positive Turbulence podcast, Stories from the Periphery, where we journey to the edge to talk to Turbulators about their experiences creating positive change.
Karyn Zuidinga: Imagine a love child, Malcolm X and Harriet Tubman. Now give that child Brene Brown, the power of vulnerability, and Simon Sinek, start with Y, as much loved and deeply influencing uncle and aunt.
Now you begin to have a picture of William Anderson. William is brilliant, and had he chosen to, could have done anything. But he found his calling in teaching history in high school. And in that place, he’s found the space to fearlessly bring courage and love into his classroom. He’s also finding ways to take innovative approaches to how we use data to support students definition of success.
I’m Karen Zuidinga, your co host for the Positive Turbulence podcast, and today, we’re standing in love with teaching.
Rob Brodnick: I’m Rob Brodnick. In this episode, you’ll get to meet William Anderson, high school history teacher, Turbulator, and an optimistic, pessimistic realist. The Positive Turbulence Podcast is a manifestation of AMI, a deep innovation learning community that is celebrating 40 years of supporting innovation and creativity for organizations and individuals.
Learn more at aminnovation. org. Also, we’d like to thank Mack Avenue Music Group as a contributing sponsor. To hear our theme and other great music, visit MackAvenue. com.
Karyn Zuidinga: The school system, it just seems to us to be about as anti positive turbulence as you can imagine. Yeah.
William Anderson: Yeah. I would agree 110%.
Education’s so interesting because their whole, like, schtick is like wanting to, prepare people for the future. But as an institution, the institution of education isn’t at all changing or innovating along with the students that they look to hope to change. Right. It’s still tied to the like 1899 horseman factory ideal of what school is that holds kids going to school in batches and like grouping kids rather than by development and skill by age.
Still having bells in the classroom, still having like all this old stuff, trying to get kids ready for a world that is vastly different from 1890. Right, yeah.
Rob Brodnick: The factory or the farm, that’s basically, the school’s designed to send people to one of those two
William Anderson: places. Yeah, and now they’re really sending them to absolutely neither one of those places.
Yeah. So why? And are they really sending?
Karyn Zuidinga: I mean, are schools really preparing students for anything in terms of what we’re sending them to? Do they arrive in post secondary, whatever post secondary thing they’re doing, whether it be trades or university or going straight to work, are they ready?
William Anderson: Yeah, I don’t know.
And I mean, I think it’s an interesting thing that students leave high school, some students leave high school and they can do calculus and like if a ship in the Atlantic hits a rock and starts spilling oil out at this speed, they can tell you how much water is going to get covered and how deep it’s going to go, but they don’t know how to manage their emotions is like a Total missing factor of education.
Like our students can do academics, but are they socially and emotionally ready to be adults in the world? Schools do a terrible job of preparing students to be human beings. Before they prepare them to be anything else. So what would you change? That’s a long list. How much tape is that? We got all the
Karyn Zuidinga: time in the world, but let’s think of the, you know, the top thing, right?
The top one, top two, maybe top three things. What thread do you pull on first?
William Anderson: I can think of a structural one and then maybe a cultural one. Structurally, I think that we do ourselves a disservice. That the way that we certify teachers is like you can either teach elementary school or you can teach secondary.
The fact that we have so many students that are in secondary school that still need elementary skills, but they don’t have access to teachers who know how to teach in that way, I think is a huge disservice. So like, if it’s me, then I have a high school student who has a fourth grade education. Me trying to teach them literacy is absolutely positively not the best thing for them.
I don’t know how to teach literacy. I wasn’t trained professionally in that science or in that art, but a fourth grade or fifth grade teacher can’t come to a high school and instruct students who are on a fourth or fifth grade level. because they’re a fairly an elementary school teacher and vice versa.
We have students who are in elementary school or middle school who are ready to do high school and college work. Why shouldn’t they be able to do it? If you are eight years old and you can do calculus, you should be eight years old doing calculus. You shouldn’t be stuck doing your times tables just because they say.
At eight years old. That’s the that’s what you’re supposed to do. So structurally, I think dropping some of those barriers for students and for educators and being able to provide the type of education that students really need based on their academic ability, I think is huge would be the structural change.
Culturally, I would say we have to really start to care more about kids. I think we I think education talks a good game, but Thank you. really doesn’t pony up to really being interested in the best well being
Karyn Zuidinga: of students. So I guess both of those things, how do you change the system so that we can make those kind of structural changes?
How do you, you know, give the eight year old the opportunity to do calculus and still be an eight year old? And how do you You know, allow that 14, 15 year old who maybe just can’t read yet to read without feeling shame and pressure. I
William Anderson: think that the answer to that really hits on both the structural and cultural piece.
This idea that there is shame around the fact that students that you might be 14 or 15 and still reading at a fourth grade or fifth grade level, there should be no shame on a child for that. That’s not the child’s fault necessarily. I think that’s more. A failure of the education that they’ve gotten up to that point that hasn’t provided them with the skills that they need to be able to read.
So the shame shouldn’t be on the child, the shame should be on the school. So in the way that we support our students socially and emotionally, I think could really deal better with that. And if the structure wasn’t so rigid that it was because you’re this age or this grade, the shame I don’t think would carry with it.
It would be more about. What skills do you have? Structurally, I think that’s a super easy fix. Like, let elementary school teachers teach in high school. And when kids need reading intervention, let them get reading intervention that’s at the grade level that they need to be able to get it. And just by having an elementary school language arts person in a high school building to teach reading intervention solves that problem.
And that’s super easy. That’s not even like a difficult thing to do. We have reading interventionists at our school who are just secondary teachers. So they’re teaching students skills that are still just right outside their reach. So really getting them the developmental reading and literacy skills that they need is just, it’s just missing it by some arbitrary hoop that.
We’ve created an education that doesn’t necessarily need to be there. Like, I don’t understand why a teaching license can’t be for K through 12. Yeah. If that’s what you want, or why elementary school teacher can’t be brought into a high school to provide a service for students that we know that’s where it is.
Like, that’s easy to open this place on the books.
Rob Brodnick: Yeah. I couldn’t imagine Karen, in the situation you describe where there’s 26 students across eight grade levels. And, you know, my background. in education and having spent time in the classroom, it’s a totally different world to be a teacher in that kind of situation.
You have to have, you know, so much awareness about each individual and their abilities and really create a social learning dynamic where seventh grade level or helping the third grade level. So you, you almost have like a community of education rather than a classroom with a teacher and a student. It would almost be like real
William Anderson: life.
Imagine that. Imagine that. Imagine school being in a place where you like go to the different people who, you know, provide the service that you need for you to be able to make the steps that you need to education is just in a very interesting place. I think it’s at like the top of that roller coaster hill and how it goes down and survives and down.
Not as necessarily as in Education is going to crash and burn, but I, it’s time for it to really start to pony up, put the seatbelt on and get ready for the ride of change
Rob Brodnick: as a large system, sort of structural component. I mean, we’ve got federal government, state government, the local, all of these kinds of things.
You have national standards, similarity across the country. It’s going to be a challenge to change things at that level. And so. Thank you. I’m wondering if it’s going to need to come from different kinds of places, whether it’s competition out there. And we know the cost of education is difficult, but maybe there’s some kind of rebellion that occurs within the teacher cohort and teachers start to own things a little more.
I don’t know. I’m just wondering what we’re talking here today about positive turbulence. How do we turbulate that system? What are some ways to create some, some change that, that makes things better?
William Anderson: Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right. And I also think not to be too pessimistic or cynical that part of the reason why we’ve had these attacks over the years on teachers and on the profession of teaching is because.
Of that simple truth that I think teachers are going to be part of the main engine that start to shift education because they’re the ones responsible for doing the work. They’re the ones responsible for the outcomes of the responsibilities being put on them for the outcome. So with that being the case, I think this is part of the reason why we’re Moving away from giving teachers the power that they have by making things more, whether you pass this test or not, or you can just go online and learn these things or anybody can be a teacher.
It takes six weeks over summer for you to be able to learn how to do these things. I was in Tulsa Oklahoma a couple of years ago and their teacher shortage was something around 1200 to 1500 teachers. Wow. And Their solution to that problem wasn’t to re examine the pay structure for teachers, wasn’t to re examine the responsibility of teachers.
Their solution to that problem was, oh we need math teachers, go find an accountant and put an accountant in a classroom and let an accountant teach it. Because they know math. And what they were learning was, those accountants would get to the classroom and have No clue how to teach a class because they’re accountants.
They’re not teachers. And, you know, kids were running those, those, these volunteers are not volunteers. They’re paid. They’re running these people out of the building 23 weeks in a month in because they don’t have the pedagogy to be able to do the work. I don’t know. I think education is in this very, very interesting place.
I do definitely think teachers are going to be on the forefront. I think communities are going to have to step up, too, and really start demanding more. I think one of the interesting things about education, too, is that it’s one of the few professions where the peanut gallery really rules the profession.
Yeah, like we as a person who has always gotten their trash picked up. I don’t get to tell sanitation people how to do sanitation, even though I’ve always had a garbage man. I’ve always had garbage. I know I don’t want it. I essentially have a pretty good depth of knowledge on sanitation, but I don’t get to tell sanitation what to do.
I don’t get to tell lawyers what to do. I don’t get to tell doctors what to do. As often as I’ve been to the doctors, as much access if I had the web and the But because people have all been to school, at least K through 12, relatively, they get to have this voice and such a huge impact on what happens in education.
And sometimes it’s definitely not for the best. But what do you
Karyn Zuidinga: do, William? Like, so… You’re in an ecosystem that is just fraught with negative turbulence right now. Coming from all sides. The system, the parents, the government, like, wow, like so much pressure. A, how do you personally stay positive? And how do you, how do you start to change it?
What kind of things can you do? To bring a little positive turbulence into your world to innovate a little bit, even in the classroom. What kind of what kind of opportunity is there for
William Anderson: you? I think there’s a lot. I answer myself or pessimistic, optimistic, realist. So I’m always going to think of, like, the worst case possible scenario for most things.
I’m also going to think of like the utopia scenario, but then I’m going to try to ground myself into some reality. And I think for me in education, the reality, the best part of it is the fact that we get to work with kids and that it is a long game. In that. If I can work in places and spaces as small of a contribution as it may be, if I can get students to think about themselves, to think about the world, to think about these systems, structures, different problems, and different successes that are happening in their community, in their state, in their country, in their world, and get them to leave and contribute.
In a different and radical way solely but surely that positive turbulence starts to make its way out. I think Also, just things like this podcast and stuff that you guys are doing that in the information age It’s a lot harder to be able to not show the positive impact that changes of thoughts can have So being a part of things like that and being willing to challenge and say that things could and should be differently, I think for me is a way that I definitely try to stay positive.
And just, I remember not liking data very much. And like, I used to hate, like, Oh my God, you guys want data, data, data, data, data. Like I thought very much what I did was just so qualitative that crunchy numbers like took away from a lot of the work that I did. But then I remember being asked to. Teach things a very particular way and not wanting to do that and thinking I might know a way that better addresses the need in the want that the people above me wanted.
And then I started using data to show that these different ways of doing things could be just as successful or even more successful. So I think that’s going to be the other, that’s another sense of positivity for me. And I think another place for positive turbulence is that when we start to use the same data that people like to hate on, students with lower SATs or ACTs, students with lower GPAs, when we can show those students being able to go to college to go to work and still be successful and sometimes being even more successful than students who have the higher GPAs, who have higher Test scores, and it’s because we did this particular thing with those students, then it’s like, Oh, maybe we don’t have to keep doing things the way we always have.
Maybe we can see success, and it looked differently in different kids, and that’s okay, rather than having these kind of like very cookie cutter ideas of what education should and could look like. So those are some of the spaces.
Karyn Zuidinga: An a Mami meeting is not just your average collection of speakers around a theme.
It’s an end-to-end curated experience. It’s a thoughtful, connected, influential community. It’s pure learning in a super creative environment. Learn firstname.lastname@example.org. I got really interested in using data. Example, and you gave us a little bit showing how, you know, maybe kids who don’t have a high GPA or high test scores actually can be successful later on, but for the student in the middle of it, facing all the pressure, that’s not so great for them at that moment.
Do you have any examples where you’re able to use data more in the moment
William Anderson: for those? Students who struggle like that. All right. So I can think of a stool. I can think of students. So the adults around them, we’ve set this bar and it’s like, yo, you need to get a 3. 5 GPA. You need to score a 1300 on your S.
A. T. And then you can go to. D schools and you can have D successes. Wooty wooty wooty wooty wooty. And then I’m a kid, who I’m like, well man, I have a 2. 7 GPA. I got a 16 on my ACT. I’m not gonna be able to go to those fancy schools. I guess I should just give up then. And it’s like, whoa, man, let’s change what success looks like for you.
Let me bring you data of what it looks like to be successful in other ways. Like, let me show you these people who went to college on a 17 ACT who went on to do these crazy things. Let’s bring in people to talk to you who started their post secondary careers at community colleges and then went to university and then went to go do something else.
Let’s bring in this dude. I remember I had a student whose dad came to this country with a third grade education and owns one of the largest concrete companies in the state of Colorado now. And it’s like, we need to put this man. In front of students because that’s data. That’s like proof in pudding.
Look at this person the same way that we want to point to all the kids who go to see you or all the kids who go to Berkeley or like, yeah, those those kids are successful. I don’t want to take anything away from them and what they go on to do. But This guy’s successful, too, and you should be able to hear a story and understand that Joe, just because you might start off in a community college just because you might want to start off and work just because your success looks different doesn’t mean that you’re unsuccessful.
You shouldn’t feel that shame we were talking about before. You shouldn’t feel this this sense of letting yourself for letting others in the world around you down because you couldn’t follow this kind of mystical ideal to elevate yourself into success that like this road has so many different side streets to it that can get you to where you want.
I mean, I think that data is hyper important too. I
Rob Brodnick: think it’s really important and you know, we can, we can take our averages and look and see how the average group does over an average period of time. And you know, with average outcomes and all of those kinds of things. And the data suggests Certain kinds of patterns.
But learning is a really different kind of thing. I think learning is important to innovation. It’s important to self growth, important to happiness, so many different kinds of things. So let me let me set something up for you. I teach a course on innovation, and one of the things I do in the opening session is, is I ask, and I won’t even call them my students, we’re co learners in a sense, but I say, let’s talk about profound learning and the times in your life when something really happened and you emerged from this as a different person.
And you know, there’s lots of definitions of what learning is. Learning is change. It’s being different. And so I say, tell me what are the characteristics of the situation, you know, what was going on and words come up and there’s a pattern and I’ve done this for over a decade and it repeats, but things like fear, uncertainty, difficult situations, all these really negative kind of terms pop up when people talk about their most profound learning.
And I, at the end of the conversation, come back and say, okay, now, if I were to tell you, you’re going to come to this learning experience and we’re going to focus on you being afraid, being unsure of yourself, not knowing what to do. And all of these things that make this profound learning experience, people wouldn’t do it.
They wouldn’t sign up for the course. They wouldn’t pay for it. They would stay away from that. So there’s some kind of paradox. about what true learning is. There’s some kind of irony in all of this. And if you, the teacher, were to tell some learning expert that’s studying learning, say, yeah, I, I, my classroom, I try to, you know, make people afraid.
And I try to get them out of their comfort zone and do all these things. And, and really, you know, that’s where some of the magic does come from. It’s been cooked out of our system. we’re not allowed to do that, right? And so how do you struggle with that kind of paradox in our world? And so that’s one of the questions.
Part two is how do you bring turbulence to that to try to create something special for a single learner as opposed to a whole
William Anderson: class? I think that’s a great question. Great two questions. And I love that you start your class off asking that question because it makes a beautiful point that for most of us learning happens in that Uncomfortable space in that place where there was so much uncertainty, and then you were able to discover that you were able, I think, for my classroom, the way that we do that is through deep self reflection.
So, this last semester, I actually got to pilot a senior seminar course, and the senior seminar course was rooted in. Mastering literary standards through writing and rewriting three main papers. One paper, which was a, like a book review, uh, Mark Manson’s Subtle Art of Not Giving an F, which was all about organizing your life and thinking about everything that you do and do not want to care about the why.
Then students having to write an autobiography, a detailed autobiography that forced them to really reflect on their different stages of life and the three main events that they think impacted them the most and why. And then the final paper that was Let’s action plan for the future based on these first two papers and what it ended up being was a bunch of juniors and seniors, mostly seniors, actually only one junior who who made it into the senior class, a bunch of seniors writing these anywhere between.
15 to 25 page papers that was just drenched in their self reflection and the decisions that they made and why they did the things that they did and what they learned from it and how we could tie those things to other reading that we were doing that were tied to different critical social theories and students.
Being so mad at me for forcing them to, like, have to interact with their older self and to, like, having to dive into why they made the decisions that they made, having them dive into, like, a really painful moment that happened when they were eight years old. And, like, articulate in written word what that did to you and how it impacts you now, and what is it going to mean for your future.
And, like, having students just, like, live that for 18 weeks and then produce something out of it, I think, was the positive turbulence that a lot of them needed. And by the time we were done, they hated me for about 18 weeks, relatively. But kids were turning in papers like, Mr., like, I’m handing you this, and like, taking weight off of my shoulders that I’ve been carrying for so long.
I’m giving you, like, other kids being like, man, like, I feel so much better. Thinking about what my life is going to be after high school, like you were asking us questions that I really didn’t have answers to, like, I knew I wanted to go to college. I didn’t know why people have been telling me to go for the last 12 years of my life.
So I just figured I’d go now. I like actually think I know a reason why. So, like, to your point of getting kids to be innovative, to getting people to feel that positive turbulence, I think Forcing them to reflect and to be better, critical analysts of themselves and of the world around them, I think, is just key to that.
Karyn Zuidinga: extraordinary gift for those students, right? To work through all that, like, most of us carry on with all that. from our early lives, hardly anyone gets through their early lives without some crap, you know, we get to 40, 50, you know, and beyond still carrying it, right. And still stuck in that, whatever that thing that was going on then.
And what an extraordinary gift to have the opportunity to work through that in a wholesome way. Right? Rather than through it, say, 18 hours a day of video games, which, you know, is another path that people take. Right? And what an extraordinary gift to give young people a sense of optimism about what their future could be and the reason why.
You know, wow, what a great thing because again, you know, my experience with young people Is that you know, they get from the day they start high school Maybe even earlier than that they get barraged with what are you going to do when you get up? What are you going to do? What are you going to do? What are you to do?
And then when they get to university What kind of job are you going to get? What kind of job, like it’s this constant, it’s you must go to university without any reason why, you know, what are you going to do with that? What are you going to do? And who knows? Right? And so I think it’s an amazing, what a, what a lovely exercise.
And what a, what a lot of hard work on your part as well. I
William Anderson: mean, it was a little bit of both, like being able to. help students just work through some of their stuff. And I mean, the only way we were able to do it was for me and my student teacher who I was working with, brother Gonzalez, who us having to model it for him and having to like, again, this is some more of that data that you’re talking about.
Like when I think of the qualitative data that often is ignored and that’s just sharing our stories and that’s sharing our negative turbulences that. It took for us to be able to get to these positive spaces and creating an atmosphere within the classroom that was of love, that was of respect, that was of understanding, that was of comfort, that lacked judgment, and being able to have conversations with students that were genuine, that was out there.
And we just wanted to make sure kids knew that they were whole because of the reflection that they did. And the kid who had the most beautiful life growing up, it’s like, dude, you’re whole because look at how wonderful life you’ve had and all the opportunity you’ve been given for the kid who’s just been through so much trauma and dread and just terrible circumstances, which were some of the stories that we heard.
Look, you’re still here, man. Yeah, you still here. You still in class. You’re writing a paper. You’re doing all this stuff. You have the opportunity to do all these things. If you can overcome what you’ve done here at a young age. Oh, my God, the world that you have. What can’t you do moving forward? You know, things are only going to get better for you if you continue.
to build and to take what you’ve learned right and wrong from your past to move forward.
Rob Brodnick: Telling that story, William, the word that came to my mind was vulnerability. Mm hmm. And I hadn’t really connected this, this point before, but, you know, as I was talking about what, what creates true profound learning, thinking that being able to be vulnerable, In some kind of way allows you to tap into some kind of space that we normally don’t access and And your story about having people explore their experiences I mean you created a safe space for them to be vulnerable and I can only think about the learners That never have that opportunity You’re only going to get, get back from them, you know, the minimum requirements of the assignment or, you know, which train makes it to the station first kind of answers.
You’re never going to, well, what was your experience like? creates a different level. And it seems to me there’s some kind of connection between the positive side of positive turbulence and an individual’s or a group’s ability to be able to step into that space of vulnerability. Does that resonate for you
William Anderson: in any kind of way?
I mean, I think that vulnerability piece is the key. That’s the major, the linchpin or the lever that is going to get students to be able to actually feel and see that the work is worth it and that their vulnerability isn’t a sign of weakness but rather a sign of strength and of them being able to understand that like, you know, you’re not the only person who’s going through this, right?
You know, like everybody’s going through something. And it’s all some version of whatever it is one of us is going through. So, like, being able to create that type of space, I think, is absolutely critical, and I think the only way that it really happens is with an instructor who’s willing to be just as vulnerable with those students, because I’m not going to be vulnerable with somebody who I don’t see be vulnerable.
You know what I mean? I’m not going to open up to somebody who is always closed off, who I see as somebody who’s like, Oh, if I was Mr. Anderson, who they knew from eight in the morning until four in the afternoon, and that was it. I don’t want to share my life with this person. Who are you? You’re just another body in the room.
That’s making sure that I answer questions on a piece of paper. But when, like, they know. Mr. Anderson, where I’m from, they know my parents, like I’ve done speakerphone calls with my mom calling in to my classroom to talk to my students about me and like me growing up and like them being able to ask my mom questions like, Oh, Anderson, what about that?
Like, my wife has come in, talked to my students, I’ve had different brothers come and talk to my students. I share with them my successes, I also share with them my failures, I share with them my fears, I share with them the struggles that I have on a day to day basis with whatever level of success they see and think that I have.
And, like, I let them know, man, I’m a human being just like you, man. I got hurt feelings. If I get cut, I bleed. I be tired. Like, sometimes I want to go home and I don’t want to work and I don’t. Sometimes the work piles up and I got to stay up until four in the morning getting it done. Like, they know. this individual who’s in front of them, and they’re willing to be able to be like, all right, for this guy, I guess I can share my story because he shared his.
So I think that vulnerability thing is huge, but it’s one that definitely has to be modeled and one that has to be really broached with love first at the forefront of it all. Love really, really has to be the thing that like, I’m not asking you to do this because And I want you to be a better writer.
I’m not asking you to do this because I want you to go to college. I’m not asking you to do this because I want you to get this scholarship. I’m asking you to do this because I love you. And I think this is going to help us be better people.
Karyn Zuidinga: Wow. So much courage right there, William. You know, wow, so few people have that kind of courage to just say, hey, I’m just like you, I’ve got my flaws, I’m imperfect.
And I think, you know, there’s a message here that goes so far beyond the classroom. Right? You know, I’ve got a friend who’s, who’s, you know, in a workplace right now where she’s being harassed and if some vulnerability was acceptable there, you know, I’ve got another friend who, whose strategy right now in her workplace after a big corporate shuffle is just to keep her head down.
Okay, so we’re going to dampen our light, we’re going to dim who we are, so we don’t get noticed, so we don’t get laid off. Yeah.
William Anderson: What? It’s brutal. It’s brutal. It’s brutal,
Karyn Zuidinga: right? It’s awful. You know, classrooms are hard places. Teaching is a hard job. Boy, and there’s lots of, a ton of trade off, right? Like, every day, every day, there’s a compromise you’ve got to make to get it done.
But I love the message of starting with love, just begin there, you know, and open yourself and be vulnerable to whatever’s coming
William Anderson: and support one another. Yeah, it’ll be all right.
Karyn Zuidinga: Yeah, it’ll be all right. It might not work out exactly as you planned, but that’s a conversation you and I have had, Rob, so many times is that, you know, that there’s a whole ton of ambiguity mixed into this positive turbulence thing, but if you generate the right kind of energy.
Good outcomes come.
William Anderson: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.
Rob Brodnick: Right. And there’s some important assumptions and beliefs that are operating underneath all that, that, you know, these things that give you the courage, the ability to be vulnerable, and the motivation to, to disrupt something in order to make it better. Yeah.
Because you just can’t accept the status quo.
Karyn Zuidinga: No. So for the teachers that are listening, you know, and the situation isn’t that much better here in Canada. You know, we’ve got a massive teaching shortage in British Columbia right now. You know, I was, I was reading on the weekend in the Wall Street Journal that teachers, at least in the States, are leaving their jobs in record numbers.
What are you going to tell those folks, William? How are you going to convince those teachers to stay? For years, you know, my kids are a little bit older than me. Parents I knew whose, whose kids wanted to be teachers, they were actively discouraging that because they’re like, Oh my God, it’s such a terrible job, the pay is shit,
William Anderson: you know?
Yeah. And I think what we’re talking about is like, like maybe a two or three fold way to address the problem. I think in recruiting and getting more teachers, like we really have to do a better job of changing the narrative of what it means to be a teacher. A lot of the people who leave the profession and this is me making a dangerous assumption so I don’t want to put words in anybody’s mouth, but a lot of people come into the profession not fully understanding what is being asked of them and teaching is a service job.
We serve and we are underpaid for over serving. What we do and that’s okay. I think it’s not okay that you know that the pay that some teachers are getting. There’s a couple of states where teachers starting pay is like 26, 000, 28, 000 a year, which is like totally insane for me to think of, like, you’re going to entrust somebody to teach your children and they make less than like a Walmart manager.
But then that’s no disrespect any Walmart managers out there. So the way we think about the teaching profession has to change. If we can start to see teachers as the professionals that they are of the scientists and historians and literary masters and all these different areas. Thank you. Like the real assets that they bring and just being able to understand the art and the science of teaching.
I think when kids say, Hey, I want to be a teacher rather than being like, Oh, don’t do that. People will be like, what? Hell yes. You want to be a teacher? How can we help you make sure you make that dream a reality? Because I know you little Steve. I know you little Jane. You need to be a teacher. You’re the type of person that we need to put in front of kids.
Let’s do that. Yes. Rather than telling somebody not don’t do that. There’s no pain and try to find something that pays you more. So as soon as we Get out of that mind state that like people should be working for money rather than working for a passion and an ability to serve. I think is going to be a major shift and teacher preparation has to be better like colleges and universities do an okay job at best of preparing teachers for the work.
I think that’s a whole teacher preparation. I think is a whole nother podcast for hours of tape and discussion, dissertation and data to be discussed. But. Universities and colleges and alternative teaching prep programs have to have to, they have a moral obligation to do a better job as far as retaining teachers.
I’m kind of at a mixed feeling for it. I think some of the people who leave probably shouldn’t be in it. It’s one of those things where it’s like, if you become a fireman or firewoman, I want that person to really be excited about waking up every morning to be a fireman or a firewoman, to be a fireperson.
I’m gonna get my house on fire into my showing up disgruntled and mad. Right. Oh, I can put out another fight. Oh, okay. Oh, God. Jeez Louise. You know what I mean? The same for like people who are on the ambulances, the same for people who are doing surgery. Like, I don’t need my surgeon showing up to surgery disgruntled.
You know, I want them to have a passion for it. I want them to have a love and a burning desire for it. That regardless of the circumstances, they’re like, yes, I’ve dedicated my life to this thing. And this is what I’m going to do. For a lot of those people who are leaving. I understand how hard it is to teach.
I understand that the ask that is being asked of these people, and for some people, you know, it’s too much and that’s okay. I don’t think there’s a problem with that. The ones that stay though, we’re sitting back like, okay, well, there’s another Mr. and Mrs. out the door. You got to try to find a way to fill the space, which I think goes back to that first.
Issue of like, what are we doing to like actually recruit, what are we doing to actually prepare so that when people actually do become teachers, they actually know fully the job that they’re getting into and they’re willing to dedicate themselves to it because they pay us more, they can pay us more.
And would that keep more people in it? It would, you know what I mean? Plain and simple. We look at the way we allocate our money in this country and education is so low on that totem pole that, are we surprised that record numbers of teachers are leaving? We shouldn’t be. You know, if all of a sudden Wall Street executives pay got cut to what teachers pay was, you’d have a lot less people on Wall Street.
If doctors pay got cut to what teachers pay was, there’d be a whole lot less people becoming doctors. You know what I mean? So like, we gotta, as a society, That’s us. That’s not even the teachers and those people who are leaving his fault. That’s us as a society not valuing the expertise and the professionalism that comes with teaching and people just being fed up and being like, you know what, I’m straight.
I can go work in corporate America, make this a more living wage. And it sucks because it hurts kids. And I think it hurts those people’s quality of life, especially those people who really wanted to be teachers. Like if I had to leave teaching and take a corporate job where I made more money, would I be happy that I made more money?
Absolutely. When I missed the kids every single day, absolutely. Would I be happier? Probably not. Yeah. You know what I mean? So it’s Some of the perfect jobs
Rob Brodnick: just don’t give you the opportunity to impact people and that’s, that’s tough. I mean, you might, the salary might be higher, but it’s a totally different kind of lifestyle and totally different kind of impact that you’re
William Anderson: having.
I think teachers are one of the, some of the people, are a profession full of people chasing immortality. In the sense that they’re like, if I can teach these kids, I’ll live through this kid. And then hopefully that kid to teach their kids some of what I taught them and I’ll be gone but they’ll still remember, you know, the things like I have teachers that I know are no longer on this earth, but I’ll never forget this July was my fourth grade teacher.
About that woman, it will impact me forever. I’ll never forget Ms. Snow. I’ll never forget, um, Ms. Keeler, Ms. Delmont, or I’ll never forget Mr. Roundtree. Those cats are cemented, you know? So like, this idea of being able to teach, it brings in a very particular fold of people. And we just have to do a better job supporting them.
Yeah, I totally agree with you.
Rob Brodnick: Turbulator.
As someone who creates turbulence, it goes in and mixes things up. I met you about a year ago, William, but I heard about you, I saw about you when I was at the Gates Foundation in Seattle. And if you don’t mind, can you tell us a little bit of the story about your relationship with Gates? How, how you ended up with your picture on that wall?
And then a little bit of a follow up, if that’s given you the opportunity to in any kind of way?
William Anderson: Strangely enough, I have to credit my mom for raising me right. I was at work one day and saw a lady like carrying in a whole bunch of stuff. And I was like, Oh man, like, why are you carrying this? Let me help you out.
You know, trying to be the gentleman mama would want me to be and got nothing else of it. Probably like a month later, I got an email from the Gage Foundation saying I was invited to ESET 2 conference in La Jolla, California, like all expense paid for. And I was like, this is a trick. This is like some email fish or something like that.
Nobody gives away free stuff, but look more into it. I was like, okay, cool, man. Went, had an amazing time, came back, and after I came back, probably a week after I came back, the lady who was, who had helped carry stuff in, was like, Hey, did you ever get an email from the Gate Foundation? I was like, yeah, I did.
I actually just got back from a trip from them. She was like, oh, I recommended you for it because you were so nice that day, and you helped me out, and they were asking for great teachers, and I thought I’d pass your name along. And I was like, oh, that was really sweet of you. Thank you so much. Like, it was an amazing thing.
And I went to that first one and was blown away, was lucky enough to go to a second one in Snowbird, Salt Lake. And there they were recruiting for their TAC, which is the Teacher Advisory Council. And I talked to as many people as I could while I was there to be able to get onto this board. So, put my name in the hat, they called, I interviewed, was lucky enough to be accepted.
Accepted to be on their teacher advisory council and worked with the foundation for two years and just over those two years, I’m going to Seattle in different places all over the country, just helping push some of their different initiatives, helping provide feedback to some of the different work that they were doing and.
Just over that time, cultivating some relationships with some of the people there, telling them about the work that I was doing in Denver, they were like, well, hey, can we come out and check it out? They came, checked it out. We’re like, oh, man, this is really great work. And I mean, for me, I was like, no one started was work.
They’re like, can we film this? Can we do this? And that All that turned into that screen that’s out there in the museum, which still is, to this day, like a mind blowing thing that you can do. But since then, with that, it’s just been amazing to be able to just provide some insight to just different places and spaces about education.
I like to call it, like, education mercenary work, where they, like, Call you in. Here’s the job. We need your insight. Let us ask us these questions. Let’s do this work here and then fly back out type of work in education. It’s kind of based in that I met so many like crazy good educators there in particular.
My boy, Brandon White. Who is a teacher in Rochester, New York, me and him were able to create this critical pedagogy and an emancipatory pedagogy professional development that I’ve been able to teach and train with around the country. That’s been really awesome. So that experience more than anything else.
Let me know that being a positive Turbulator, is that the word you use? Positive Turbulator. One was a thing, and that it was needed, and that it was okay to do it, like, I remember going into teaching thinking, you know, almost to your friend’s thoughts, just like, keep my head down, close my door, do my teaching.
But being able to work on that national level really showed me like, yo, William, you should say something, you should do something, you should turbulate in a positive way. And you’re not always going to be right and you have a crap ton to learn, but you also have a crap ton that you can contribute, which I never thought I did.
So like, that was probably the biggest takeaway from that.
Karyn Zuidinga: Thank you so much, William, for your time and generosity and spending time with us today. You know, for me, these lessons in positive turbulence, they go so far beyond the classroom. Right? They’re not just about, they’re just about interacting as a human, really.
But I think if we want to have a culture that’s innovative, have a culture that’s riding this future wave, that’s looking to the future that, that will be thriving in the next 20 years. We need to start thinking less about this model that was developed for the 1890s. Much, much more about raising students and children that are creative and innovative and, you know, forward thinking and living in their passion.
Right. And doing. Like you say, doing it. What they really love, because I I do not want my surgeons showing up. No
William Anderson: disgruntled, no disgruntled
Karyn Zuidinga: surgeons.
William Anderson: No disgruntled, not another brain surgery. No. What surgery today? Shit,
Karyn Zuidinga: I’m just not feeling,
William Anderson: I don’t need that. Not need that.
Karyn Zuidinga: Right. So, yeah, no, I’m with you on that.
I, I love that thought and I’m gonna hold that thought. Absolutely. I’m quiet to many things.
Rob Brodnick: You know, I’ve got to say, learning about positive turbulence from Stan years ago, studying it, practicing it in organizational change, writing about it, honestly, starting this podcast with you, Karen and William, spending time with you, my learning has now changed and I’m a student again in a different kind of way.
And I, I really appreciate that. So thanks. Thanks to you both for doing this. This is just, it’s a ton of fun. We’re
William Anderson: having a good time. I appreciate you guys 110 percent man for even the opportunity to come in and share. A little piece.
Rob Brodnick: Little, yeah. Well, who knows where everything’s gonna go. Yeah. Yeah.
We’ll see. . That’s the beauty of it. All right. Crazy optimists like the three of
William Anderson: us. Right? , this is very, very true.
Karyn Zuidinga: Thank you to a m i who have nurtured us in developing this podcast is the source of so many of our guests. And of course, the founder, Stan Kovich is also the author of the original book, and dare I say, The Guru of Positive Turbulence.
AMI is a
Rob Brodnick: pioneering nonprofit organization comprised of committed individuals who foster and leverage creativity and innovation in organizations and society. AMI identifies leading edge innovation, shares experiences, sponsors research, and recognizes innovation and creative processes. Find out more at aminnovation.
org. And thank you to Mac Avenue Music Group, our contributing sponsor for providing our podcast soundtrack, Late Night Sunrise. If
Karyn Zuidinga: you want to find out more about your hosts, Positive Turbulence, our guests, or check out our very cool and very diverse reading list, head over to positiveturbulence. com.
Until next time, keep the turbulence positive.