Why “Subject to Change?”

In early December I had the great privilege to have an intimate chat with Vanessa Donino about her experience teaching incarcerated youth. She recently started a blog of her own where she is sharing more about her commitment to the education and rehabilitation of the young people at Oneida County Jail in Central New York. Thank you Vanessa for sharing your voice as a guest blogger here on Chat with Teachers:

Why “Subject to Change?”
by Vanessa Donino

incaceratedyouthI had a bit of difficulty finding the right title for this blog; how can I find the perfect name that encapsulates the essence of my very unique student population? I teach incarcerated youth at Oneida County Jail in Central New York, and when thinking of a title for this blog, I thought of what my students have taught me—and the answer may surprise you.

quoteMy students have taught me many valuable lessons. I’ll take it a step further—my students have inspired me. Their perseverance and seemingly never ending supply of optimism is a testament to their commitment to improving their lives—a task which is not an easy one.

They do not have to be reminded that having a criminal record will dramatically hinder their chances of progress upon release. Former prisoners are routinely denied employment, housing, education, and other benefits that would help ease their integration into life on the outside. Gainful employment will be difficult to procure, even for non-violent convictions. Public and private colleges and universities include questions about criminal history on their applications—a practice that is being challenged right now by the state of Maryland, and by movements such as Ban the Box.

However, with these many hurdles that they will have to face, many of my students are driven to complete their high school equivalency diploma, and for a very proud few, to go on to college to pursue their professional ambitions.

Their drive to create positive change within their lives in spite of the many challenges they will have to endure has created a personal challenge for myself: I want my perseverance, willingness and adaptability mirror theirs. I want to be able to meet my life challenges with the same humble strength they carry with them through their own challenges. I want to be the educator they deserve, and the exemplar global citizen from whom they can (hopefully) get inspiration.

In this way, as a learning community, we are all subject to change.

Subject to Change {an alternative education blog}

Episode 15 – Phil S. Quinlan


PhilPhoto“We have to be activists,” reflects Phil S. Quinlan, 7th grade social studies teacher in Scottville, MI, as he discusses what he believes is the role of educators when discussing the current state of politics with students. “How did all of a sudden our profession become demonized?” he continued. “I have an opinion on it, but I have to be careful as far as, if I want to encourage my students to have voice and choice, I have to model that. I don’t want the students to know my perspective. Because what am I doing? I am not really enabling them to have a thought of their own. So, when it comes to students, I want them to ask driving questions, essential questions of the ‘how’s’ and ‘why’s and try to make connections… of how politics, and today’s world, plays into their future.”

Fast Facts about Phil S. Quinlan

  1. Full Name: Philip S. Quinlan
  2. Years teaching: 29
  3. Current City: Scottville, MI
  4. Current position: 7th Grade Teacher of World Cultures & The Story of Movies at Mason County Central Public Schools
  5. Grade taught: 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th
  6. Favorite books:
  7. Why teach? The French call it raison d’être, ‘a reason for being’; teaching is my purpose, my passion; my raison d’être.

Noteworthy Outtakes from Phil’s Chat

You would be hard pressed not to feel motivated and like you are in a profession among “giants,” while listening to Phil share his journey as an educator. Listen in as Phil discusses a movement he has started called #FTTTP, and how it emphasizes social emotional learning at the core of teaching. He will also be presenting this movement at The 2017 Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning (MACUL) in March!

Phil’s passion for connecting to his students and keeping grounded in his family will remind you what teaching is all about and how important it is to keep family first.

Check out the links below to learn more about Phil and #FTTTP — a mantra Phil uses to remind himself, his students and fellow colleagues of what should be at the center of building relationships with students, and stands for:

  • F: Faith in self and Leadership
  • T: To develop compassion and empathy
  • T: Trust and resilience
  • T: Talents: The world awaits
  • P: Passionate pursuit of knowledge and life


Professional Portfolio
YouTube Channel

Here are some of Phil’s favorite resources

And, if that’s not enough, Phil has also generously shared courses he has created too!



Episode 14 -Daisy Dyer Duerr


daisy-pink-dress-relaxed-headshot“Educators saw things in me [and] I was able to achieve great things as a child. That was how I was able to get myself out of that cycle of poverty and they really did so much for me that I decided at a young age, probably in 6th grade, I remember actually deciding I that was going to give back and do the same thing for other children. That’s really what made the decision for me that I was going to be an educator.” – Daisy Dyer Duerr

Fast Facts about Daisy

  1. Full name: Daisy Dyer Duerr
  2. Years teaching: 17 years in public education that include:
    • 8 years as a social studies teacher & basketball coach
    • 9 years as a principal/assistant principal
  3. Current city: Ozark, Arkansas
  4. Current position: CEO of Redesigning Rural Education, LLC
  5. Favorite books:
  6. Why teach: All students, regardless of zip code or socioeconomic status deserve learning experiences allowing them to exceed any expectations others have for them; as an educator, mother, and HUMAN…I am passionate about making this a reality in my lifetime.

Noteworthy Outtakes from Daisy’s Chat

Often times when discussing undeserved and underprivileged communities and schools, one thinks of inner city urban schools, however, Daisy Dyer Duerr wakes many of us up to the realities of the poverty and dire needs that exists in rural communities as well.

Daisy is a born and raised Arkansas girl and a self-described “New Age” Southern Belle who talks passionately about the need for rural communities to engage local businesses into the landscape of education. Employment trends in these areas show that the number of people employed in agriculture is decreasing – leading towards insecure, low paid, often part time work with limited potential for progression. Daisy describes how this often leads to students not having access to resources, or even the awareness of the potential they could reach with a quality education.

Along with being a dedicated educator, Daisy is also an entrepreneur who understands and appreciates the community she lives in and is looking to find ways to engage local businesses in local schools. She feels that this partnership could lead to more jobs in the community and the kinds of deeper understanding students need to make meaning of their learning and how it can lead to success for them outside of school.

To learn more about Daisy’s commitment to rural education, check out Totally Rural, a podcast where she talks about Rural Business and Education with guests from allover the country. Totally Rural is about increasing awareness and expanding the dialogue on the most important rural issues we all deal with everyday.

You can subscribe to Totally Rural:
iTunes / iPhone: https://lnkd.in/erg2R5A
Google Play:

Q&A With My Teacher Mentor: Understanding Executive Functioning

At the beginning of my teaching journey I taught in a standard self-contained classroom. Over the past two years, I have had the fortune to join an amazing group of educators in a charter school that is taking Montessori public and offering access to this unique type of learning to a diverse community of students in a typically undeserved and underprivileged community, for FREE!

Along with Montessori’s concept that the classroom environment can be designed to facilitate maximum independent learning and exploration by the child, our school also ef_pullquoteintegrates Design Thinking, the Arts and is an Ashoka Changemaker school. What a mouthful, huh? Well, it is!

With so much to integrate into a day’s curriculum, differentiated small group learning is at the core of running a classroom that also teaches children how to independently go about their day picking and choosing the follow up work that they are most drawn to. That’s right folks, in a classroom of approximately 33 students, while a small group of them are receiving a lesson, all the rest are freely exploring the materials in the classroom and completing work independently.

How is this possible? Well, I will admit it is very useful that each classroom has the benefit of two teachers — but also, one of the central components of running a classroom structured around small group instruction and freedom (within limits) is building a community of trust and being hyper-aware of the need for your students to build self-regulation skills. Or something I have come to learn called, “executive functioning.”

In one of my recent sit downs with my own teacher mentor, Jennifer Heeter, Director of Instruction for the Upper Elementary and Middle School Programs at Urban Montessori Charter School, she answered some of my questions about executive functioning and how understanding it can help me become a better teacher. Here’s a peek at our Q&A, and some insight into how being aware of this developmental function can help any teacher, even if you are in a standard classroom, build trust and teach self-regulation:

Jennifer K.: What is executive functioning?

Jennifer H.: From my perspective, executive functioning is the body’s ability to regulate and control itself. Many Montessorians also call it self-regulation. Essentially it’s about noticing and then bouncing back from a trigger, focusing on a task, understanding and regulating emotions, being kinesthetically aware, recognizing social signs and cues, and setting and following through with goals. From what I’ve learned, the brain at birth is about 70% programmed for emotional reactions, but not regulation. We learn how to regulate (or not) as we develop, based on modeling after the adults and other children in our environment and explicitly taught tools and strategies.

Jennifer K: Why is it important to understand executive functioning, and how can it help me be a better teacher?

Jennifer H: It’s important to understand what it is so that as a teacher, you can focus on the whole child and not isolated traits. Watching a child work, interact, and communicate within the classroom can tell you a lot about where they are in the process of developing these skills. It requires a whole new perspective in how we look at children and what they need to progress. It is easy (for me at least) to look at a child who has been struggling with math and recognize that they have underdeveloped skills in that area, and then find the patience and creativity to come up with new ways to show them the same ideas. It’s trickier to notice their interpersonal challenges and recognize them as “underdeveloped skills” because they show up as negative attention-seeking behaviors. The process a child takes to normalize is very individualized, depending on their background, upbringing, genetic makeup, and exposure to tools and strategies for emotional regulation. Modern neuroscience tells us that children need to attach in order to maximize their learning potential. We need to look at each child to see whether their basic needs are being met and do our best to fill in those gaps and support them where we can.

Jennifer K.:How are some ways I can help teach this skills to my students who have trouble with it?

prezicoverimageJennifer H: If it’s helpful, check out my Teaching to Every Child’s Potential slideshow. Begin with connection. Children can’t take in information unless they feel safe and trust their environment. Then we need to look at their actions and determine the root cause. Children only act out when a need is not being met. What are they looking for? The mistaken belief chart is uber helpful here. Then we explicitly teach skills for problem solving when the child is calm. And practice them. And practice them. And practice them to strengthen those neural pathways so they can easily access those responses when stressed. Mindfulness, brain gym exercises, and community problem solving are whole group tools that help strengthen the whole classroom’s skills. Connecting with the family to share the strategies and build rapport and trust is the last piece so that the child recognizes the importance and experiences the tools in both home and school. Here’s a great article on  thinking outside the box for engagement.


Episode 13 – Bootsie Battle-Holt


Version 2“I hear of people all the time who made choices based on how they felt about themselves as math students,” shares Bootsie Battle-Holt as she explores the very real history of math anxiety. “It’s really poignant that how students feel about themselves as math students makes a tremendous impact on life decisions. One thing I am actually very thankful for with the common core standards is that we give equal credence to the math practices as well as the math content standards, and math practices are something that I think students can find a lot of success in as math students. Things like making sense of problems and preserving and solving them, that’s math practice number one […] math practices are like life practices and there is a place for everyone to find success.”

Fast Facts about Bootsie

  1. Full name: Bootsie Battle-Holt
  2. Years teaching: 11
  3. Grade/Subject taught(s): Middle school math
  4. Current position: 7th and 8th grade math teacher and math department chair, Los Angeles Unified School District Teacher of the year, 2016-2017 and Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year 2016-2017
  5. Current City: Los Angeles, CA
  6. Favorite books:
  7. Favorite resources:
  8. Mentioned during our chat:
  9. Why teach? “I teach because every kid deserves to spend the school day with people who believe they can aim higher and achieve more than they thought possible; and I love working in a school community that shares those high expectations for all kids.”

Noteworthy Outtakes from Bootsie’s Chat

From her honest dissection of mathematical anxiety and the long term affect it can leave on people whose math avoidance goes beyond the classroom, to her passion for educational policy and vision for teacher training reform – Bootsie shares her journey to the classroom and to the oval office where she met with former President Barack Obama to discuss “the ballooning of standardized testing.

Along with that, Bootsie shares her experience teaching in the same school where her children attend and how’s she’s been able to manage seamlessly incorporating her teacher life with her parent life. As a parent to children in the public school system and a passionate educator, Bootsie is  a fierce advocate for teacher development and education policies that can empower our teachers to engage and teach to the whole child and not only to the test.

“Seize opportunities to talk to other teachers, seize opportunities for professional development,” says Bootsie. “As a teacher a lot of people will  come to you with a lot of requests and you can’t say yes to all of them but, seize opportunities to be part of the bigger picture and step out of your own classroom see what’s happening in education at large.”

Episode 12 – Bill Price


billpricephotoAnybody in power can come and take away your life, they can take your wealth, they can take your freedom, but they can never take your education,” shares Bill as he recalls the lasting impact his grandmothers words has had on his teaching life. “…that really stuck with me and I thought, ‘Yeah, she’s right.’ They can stick me in a prison cell, they can keep me away from the people that I love, they can take all of my material wealth, but they can’t take what I’ve learned. And if I can’t play rock and roll guitar […] then I want to plant seeds, I want to grow gardens on these young impressionable minds and have them be the next change makers.”

Fast Facts about Bill

  1. Full name: William “Bill” Price
  2. Years teaching: 6
  3. Grade(s) taught:
    • 2012-2012: Preschool
    • 2014-2016: Lower Elementary, 1st-3rd
    • 2016-present: Upper Elementary, 4th-6th
  4. Current position: Upper Elementary Montessori Co-Teacher
  5. Current city: Oakland, CA
  6. Favorite books:
  7. Favorite resources: Go to a recycle bin and dig out some art supplies to give students any means necessary to demonstrate understanding. Bring your instrument to work and your favorite books, share what you love with your kiddos.
  8. Why teach? My grandmother told me they can take away your freedom, your life, your wealth, and your family, but they can’t take way your education; I want to plant this seed.

Noteworthy Outtakes from Bill’s Chat

With a combination of his Boston grit, and his Oakland inspired civic pride, Bill courageously shares how stories from his underprivileged childhood has shaped his passion for teaching. From sharing about his father abandoning his blind mother to raise him and his sister, his poor upbringing and his use of those stories to connect with students – Bill’s emboldened vulnerability has delivered the most heartfelt chat with teachers yet.

Listen in as Bill encourages teachers to take risks in speaking to students about things like social justice and to engage with administration for support when needed. Bill is also a self-described “white, middle-aged, male career changer.” He talks about his admiration of lifelong teachers and their fluidity, while also recognizing his unique ability to understand the big picture scope of what lies ahead for his students in a variety of fields and life experiences.

Bill is also a devoted family man whose two children attend the public school he teaches. As a rather new charter school in Oakland, CA taking on bold moves towards transforming public education in a diverse community – Bill says his investment in the school is not just as an educator, but as a parent who “needs” the school to succeed for the sake of his children.

From the strong, yet empathetic way Bill connects with his students to the very real reasons he feels he owes his life’s work to his grandmother, Bill’s “rock and roll” personality is both engaging and warm.

Getting to the “Why” of Teaching!

blog-9I recently had a heartfelt conversation with a colleague about how hard teaching can be. We talked about the current state of political affairs regarding education and how, as public school teachers, we wonder what lies ahead in the future. Part way through our conversation, I paused and had a moment of gratitude — gratitude for the work we do as educators and gratitude for the constant collaboration and growth mindset this profession forces us to have.

As teachers, we are often told that to engage our students and increase their “buy-in,” it helps to explain why they are learning something. In math we might tackle the question, “why does math matter?” We help our students understand the personal satisfaction of being able to solve a problem, or the practical importance of knowing how to figure out real life mathematical problems like, “You have a beginning balance of $150.00 in your checking account. You purchase groceries for $115 on Wednesday. How much money do you have left until your next check gets deposited on Friday?”

It is with this sense of common purpose, especially during this very politically charged time for educators and policy makers across the country, that we take a moment to reflect on why teaching matters. Here are some reasons some amazing educators I have had the pleasure of chatting with have given for the question, “why teach?”:

  1. “To bring equity and quality to education in our Los Angeles schools!” – Andrea Burke, teacher of 14 years in Los Angeles, CA.
  2. “I am an educator because I am passionate about educating all children, regardless of ability, socioeconomic status, or any other mitigating factors, because all children deserve a high quality school experience.” – Dana Graham, educator of 10 years in Oakland, CA.
  3. “I teach because I know it makes a difference.” – Melissa Ascencio, teacher of 16 years in Portsmouth, VA.
  4. “I teach because I want to help fight educational injustice and policies.” – Vanessa Donino, educator of 3 years in several cities including: Bronx, NY, Clark County, NV and currently in Oriskany, NY.
  5. “Every day is different, a triumph, a challenge, an accomplishment, and a chance to change the lives of children and their families.” – Elizabeth Isralowitz, special education teacher of 10+ years in Los Angeles and Riverside, CA.
  6. “Because I want to help enable our future to make better decisions than those from our past.” – Danielle David, teacher for 11 years currently in Fairfield, CA.
  7. “For the children!” – Connie Lam, teacher of 3 years in Oakland, CA.
  8. “I see them survive through the inherit grit that they bring every day with them to the classroom – a skill I don’t need to teach them. I see them dream and hope and love and create. I also see them fear and wonder what the future brings. These young people inspire me to be an active citizen – as the saying goes, we will never be truly free until we all share the same rights as you and me.” – Edwina Lucero, Music teacher for 13 years in the Denver Metro area.
  9. “It feeds your soul and grows others around you.” – Meredith Jacobs, teacher of the arts for 12 years in Plattsburgh, NY.
  10. “If we don’t, who will?” – Iain Lampert, High School speech and debate teacher for 7 years in Van Nuys, CA.
  11. “I always hope to inspire other children to teach – mainly other African American children.” – Barry Turner, teacher for 17 years in North Carolina and currently in Oakland, CA.

Why do you teach?

By Jennifer Khadir

Episode 11 – Barry Turner


barryturner“One thing I do know as far as black males [in] this country, that is only 2% of the teaching population. And I question that, why? So to me, I feel like it goes back to mentoring again,” shares Mr. Barry on the topic of the low representation of black male teachers in the classroom. “… I think black students do need a black male teacher […] I talk to black male students and I ask them, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ ‘An athlete or a rapper..” and that’s it. I ask students, ‘What do you think about being a teacher?’ And just the look on their face, it doesn’t even come across as an idea, and I feel like it’s because they don’t see it enough.”

Fast Facts about Barry

  1. Full Name: Barry Turner
  2. Current city: Oakland, CA
  3. Years teaching: 17
  4. Grades: Early Elementary, and currently a mixed 1st-3rd grade Montessori Classroom
  5. Favorite books:
  6. Why teach: “I always hope to inspire other children to teach – mainly other African American children.”
  7. Resources Barry mentioned:

Noteworthy Outtakes from Mr. Barry’s Chat with Teachers

From his time as a communications professional turned educator in private schools and now working as a teacher in an Oakland school taking Montessori public and transforming the way children learn — Mr. Barry talks honestly about his journey and his passion for connecting with his students, especially his student’s of color.

Barry also shares his take on the importance of professional development and why it’s imperative that teachers continuously seek out opportunities for growth. Whether to spark motivation, or inspire ideas, professional development and collaborating with peers in the field can be a great way for teachers to stay passionate about what they do.

5 Ways To Increase Parent Engagement In Your Classroom

2085ed47-2efa-48cd-b792-521c4aa42e5dStudies show how important parent engagement is in a student’s academic success. But truthfully… parent engagement is also extremely beneficial to you as a teacher too. With a background in communications, and as a parent myself, I love collaborating with peers about the best ways to communicate to parents to increase home and school connection.

That said, it can vary widely by district and community, and depend greatly on things like socioeconomic status and language barriers. However, by making the best effort up front, you can set yourself, and your students, up for success. Here are five ways I use my parent hat to help me to communicate with my teacher hat:

  1. Understand Why Parent Communication is Essential
    Don’t let it be an item on the checklist; make it a strategy for achieving your larger classroom goals. Like I mentioned earlier, parent engagement is not only important for a student’s academic success, it can also make a teacher’s life easier! From engaging parents to help with making copies, bringing in snacks, helping to organize classroom events, or increase your student’s buy-in, your parents are your best “assistants.” No matter the economic disparity, potential language barriers, or the academic levels of your parents — they all generally have one thing in common: they love their children and want them to succeed in school.
  2. Determine Your Parents Needs
    Sure, all parents want their children to succeed, but truth be told, not all parents know what exactly what that means and how they can contribute to the classroom. While it might take some extra work in the beginning to determine and establish your parents needs, it will help in the long run when you’ve been able to come up with a system where you have a basket of homework assignments that need to be checked off in your grade book, or a pile of paperwork that needs to be filed, papers that need to be copied or a classroom library that needs some love. One of the things I work on every summer is a letter to parents introducing myself and offering my contact information. I also include a list of ways parents can help. I like to not only email this letter, but put them in the snail mail too. If you’re not able to get home addresses early enough, send a copy home with their child on the first day of school.

    Back to school night’s can also be a great way to engage parents and have sign-up sheets. Find out if there are parents who speak different languages, learn about them, ask them to introduce themselves and their hobbies — I had a parent who loved to bake, guess what? She was my go-to for bake sales and even came into the classroom and taught kids how to follow a recipe for yummy fruit tarts! I worked at a school where the majority of parents only spoke Spanish, one parent who was fluent in both English and Spanish helped to translate any communications I’d send throughout the year. This not only made her feel useful, it made the Spanish speaking families feel more included.

    If your parents do not show up to back to school night, as they didn’t at a very underprivileged school I have worked in, it will be more challenging, but not impossible. As a parent, I know how much it means to me for my child’s teacher to have an open ear to me. When you have a chance, ask them how they are, really listen with your eyes, ears and heart. The more you open yourself up, the more they will want to engage. Posting paper notices and sign-up sheets outside your classroom door can help too!

  3. Make It Easy For Yourself!
    Along with knowing your school policy when it comes to communicating to parents, see what kinds of apps are available to make communicating to parents easy. I have used Google+ Community as a supplement to the monthly emails my school requires teachers send from our school messenger account. I’m able to instantly send updates, photos, reminders and glimpses of what we are doing in the classroom frequently. It’s as easy as snapping a picture and posting it on your Facebook or other social media app. Through Google+ I am able to make the community for my classroom private to only the individuals I invite. Parents can opt in or opt out… they pretty much always opt in! I get frequent feedback about how fun it is to see posts. Parents and students have also reported that it’s a great tool to spark conversation at the dinner table. Instead of, “How was school today?” Parents whip out their phones, open their apps and say something like, “I saw you exploring maps today, tell me more about what you learned?” Of course, not all parents will have the access to these kinds of apps, again, I encourage keeping a parent bulletin outside your classroom as well. My parent coordinator helps to update a dry erase calendar outside the door and and prints and posts the latest messages and some photos as well.
    Note: After the school year already started I learned about an app called, Bloomz. I already started using Google+ Community with my families this year, but I plan to give Bloomz a try next year!
  4. Value One-On-One Communication Too!
    In today’s technology driven world, it is easy to hide behind emails and apps to communicate, but do not underestimate the value of one-on-one communication. Seeing my son’s teacher give him an encouraging look at the end of the day and a quick smile really makes my day when I pick him up from school. The more you make the slightest effort, the better chance you will have in roping in your parents to consider things like being a chaperone on a field trip, or finally downloading that app, or even trusting that you, like them, have their child’s best interest at heart. At dismissal, my student’s get picked up at the classroom door. This is one of the opportunities I take to touch base with parents one-on-one. During dismissal, my students engage in what is called, “D.E.A.R.” time, Drop Everything And Read. For the last 15 minutes of the day, students read silently to themselves, and with a “dismissal helper in tow,” I stand at the door to greet parents and have at least a second’s worth of face time with them. This may also be when I say things like, “Did you check out the updated bulletin board?” “Be sure to check your email, I sent an update!” or, “Don’t forget to sign up for a parent-teacher conference!”
  5. If Your Student’s Invite You To a Game or Birthday Party On The Weekend: GO!
    So, this is where my parent hat totally gives me a HUGE advantage. I often find myself spending time with not only my students, but students from other classes in my school on the weekends. Whether a play date with my son and his friend’s from school, or playing in a local park or museum, I often find myself running into kids from school. As a matter of fact, just last weekend I was at a local science museum with my 3 and 8 year old boys and ran into a family from school. While my older son was off playing with a friend, my toddler found a playmate with the family kids we met up with.

    But I digress, I cannot begin to express how extending yourself to your students and their families beyond the school day can help build a strong relationship and accountability. When I worked at a school in East Oakland, with students who often did not have many adults who took an interest in their activities, seeing me show up at their ball game was the highlight of their week! Of course, this may not be possible with all the birthdays and events on weekends and wanting to well, have a life of your own… but there are always creative ways to allow your students to see you outside of the classroom setting. Last year I had yard sale and invited parents and students to come and join. Some families brought things to add to the sale, and the kids loved squeezing lemons and running a lemonade stand — they decided all proceeds should go to a local charity!

Whatever the effort you make, just remember, that by opening your communications efforts to your student’s families will be beneficial to their success and to yours!

Episode 10 -Iain Lampert


Initially I thought that the best teachers were able to create success stories out of any student, but it really does take two to tango,” says Iain Lampert when recounting one of his own personal a-ha moments as a teacher. “I initially was hurt when a student would transfer out of my class, because I took it personally. And the challenge was realizing how sensitive I was … and to stop taking it so personally.”

14316712_10153870036428202_3288112764384533690_nFast Facts about Iain

  1. Full name: Iain Gabriel Lampert
  2. Current city: Van Nuys, CA
  3. Years teaching: 7, including coaching Speech and Debate since 2010 and teaching speech classes since 2014
  4. Grades taught: 6th-12th
  5. Favorite books:
  6. Why teach? If we don’t, who will?
  7. Some of Iain’s favorite resources:

Noteworthy Outtakes from Iain’s Chat with Teachers

Listen in as Iain takes us on a journey through his time as a child who had no desire to become a teacher, to a High School student who found his voice and passion for speech through various theater and debate classes. And, finally to a dedicated teacher to a future generation of confident communicators.

Iain shares his love for speech and debate and how he  uses his passion to teach children to use the skills they learn in his class in all parts of their lives that include communications – whether interviewing for a job or communicating with a partner.

Some valuable tips he also shares for any new teachers in the field, regardless of grade or content area, is the value of self-reflection. As a lover of all things speech and theater related, Iain talks about teaching being a stage for educating children. He has a deep recognition of all the roles a teacher plays: teacher, friend, counselor and more – many roles that a  teaching program simply cannot prepare you for. But be that as it may, Iain encourages new teachers to never walk into a classroom for the first time without first recording yourself and playing the recording back twice.

First to listen to the audio only. By isolating your voice, says Iain, you are able to hear whether or not there are any problematic things in your voice, such as verbal flubs. Second, Iain suggests watching yourself with the video portion of the recording only to see if you have any awkward hand gestures or if you move in any unstructured or unfocused way that may be distracting your students.