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138. How to Facilitate Student-Led Discussions with Kara Pranikoff

by Lindsay Lyons
October 24th 2023
In today's episode with special guest and educator Kara Pranikoff, Lindsay discusses how to properly facilitate studen... More
Kara Prank is an educator in New York City. She has worked as a classroom teacher, reading, interventionist instructional coach, curriculum designer, and an adjunct instructor at Bank Street College of Education as a consultant. Kara partners with schools to nurture independent thinking, voice and a sense of longing for all members of the community. She supports educators in debating their practice of inquiry based teaching of social studies and writing. Kara's book teaching, talk, a practical guide to fostering student thinking and conversation shares ways to foster productive and independent student discussions in elementary and middle school classrooms. I am so excited for this conversation. Let's get right to it. We are talking student led discussions. Today, I'm educational justice coach, Lindsay Lyons. And here on the time for teacher podcast, we learn how to inspire educational innovation for racial and gender justice design curricula grounded in student voice and build capacity for shared leadership. I'm a former teacher leader turned instructional coach. I'm striving to live a life full of learning, running, baking, traveling, and parenting because we can be rockstar educators and be full human beings. If you're a principal assistant superintendent, curriculum director, instructional coach or teacher who enjoys nering out about co-creator curriculum of students.

I made this show for you. Here we go. Hi, Araniko. Welcome to the time for teacher shift podcast. Hi, Lindsay. I'm so delighted to be here to talk to you and to, I think alongside of you, I am so excited and we have so much in common that we do and we also have unique kind of ways that we bring ourselves and our experience to the coaching work that we do. So I am super excited to learn from you in this conversation and also see really exciting points of overlap. And for listeners, I think they'll connect with a lot that you are bringing to this conversation today. So with that, is there anything listeners should know as we're headed into this conversation? Oh, such a good question. Um One of the things that I feel very fortunate about is that in my time as an educator, I've been to able to explore lots of different avenues. And I feel really grateful for the opportunity to have done that um as an educator for, you know, 25 years now. Um I spent time a long time in the classroom.

I was a reading specialist for a long time. I was an instructional coach for a long time. I then went back into the classroom and I think that ARC has provided me uh the opportunity to really wrap my arms around what it looks like in a school community from a lot of different perspectives. So I'm very, very fortunate in that I also am the mom of two young adults. So my eldest child is 21 right now and my youngest is 18. And I feel like that journey of being a mother has provided me like an incredible amount of the depth and understanding both in how to communicate with kids. What are the largest things that you want to teach them? And also just the notion of walking alongside Children as they grow up like adjacent to their journey. But it's their journey. And I think that my role as a mother and my place as a mother has really deepened my own educational practice. Wow, that is such a beautiful idea to keep in mind. I think it actually flows really nicely into the next question that I wanna ask you, which is about freedom dreaming.

And I love Doctor Bettina loves quote around this dreams grounded in the critique of injustice. And so with that in mind, what is that big dream that you hold for the fields? I think my largest dream for educators is to really keep their eye on the big picture of education. So when I think about teaching, I think no matter what we're doing as educators in the school space, our largest goal is that we're raising humans, right? We're trying to, to inform, to create, to support Children whatever age they are and becoming their own best selves. And that's a life's work. Right. We're doing this as adults also. But I think in a school you've got to really keep your eye on that largest picture. Um, and not, not stray from it. So there are times when teachers might say they don't have time for that conversation after recess when kids are in conflict or they, they can't really make time for social studies because there's so many other things that happen. And I really want to encourage educators to stay true to themselves and stay true to what they think is most important in raising humans, right?

And in the incredible beauty that we have in growing alongside the humans that were, that were helping to raise, right? It goes both ways we become better as humans, whatever our age is, if we keep our eye on, on that largest goal. So I really think about that a lot. Yeah. Oh, that's so good. And I, I really appreciate so many of the things that you said one, the goal itself to the idea that we grow with Children. So a lot of times I think we get this martyr to mindset of like we have to expend all of our energy and all of ourselves and sacrifice, sacrifice for Children. Like no, it's it's best when we're both at our best when we're growing alongside. So that idea is so powerful particularly I think for new either teachers or people new to whatever role they're stepping into, whether that's a leader or coach, that is a huge concept that I, I want people to like latch on to as they listen. And then also I think the idea of not having the time is so often what we hear.

Right. And, and I think it seems to be sometimes and I don't know what you experience, but it seems kind of to erode at that educator by self or like staying true as you said to what's most important in raising humans because we feel like we sacrifice a bit of who we authentically are. And I just, I'd love to hear your thoughts around that idea of not having time. And I think this might even link to, you know, the next thing I usually ask about is like one of those like components that I talk about is like mindset. So like, you know, how, what's our mindset when it comes to this? But I think it also probably transcends into other things like pedagogy, the concept we teach, how we assess all that kind of thing. Um I just asked you like 40 questions in once but to, to get your thoughts. Let's see. Um So I, I think about a abundance mindset and time with teachers a lot. So we're, we're kind of programmed in school settings to think about what's gonna happen in this 45 minute period or what's gonna happen in this one day and when I coach teachers or sit with a team, I try to think big.

Like instead, can we think about where do you wanna be in three months with these kids? Where do we wanna be in six months at the beginning of the year? What are our largest goals? What do we want our Children to walk away with? And I wanna, and I wanna, again, think big. I want my students to really understand uh that their ideas matter that they have the capacity to bring their own voice to discussions. Well, if that's my biggest idea, then I can keep my eye on that idea and it can keep me true to what I'm doing in the day to day and in the, in the moments, I also want to, to help teachers be gracious with themselves. Right? A lot of the work that I do is around communication, around student voice and um student thinking which takes time and is a process and I want teachers to hold on to that process and appreciate that process for themselves as well. So if you're heading into a conversation and you're not sure what to say to a student or you've cut off a student and realize that you shouldn't.

It's OK be gracious. Go back and say, you know, I'm really sorry, I didn't mean to jump into that conversation. Can you continue with your idea or can you continue with your thought? Or if you realize that a student really had something that was pressing and you felt the urgency of moving along in the lesson cycle back, right? Adults appreciate that in our own communication and relationships. We're always appreciative if the next day a colleague or a partner comes back to us and says, you know what I've been thinking about this thing you said and I want to return to it, we can do the same thing with our students and we can encourage our students to do the same thing with each other, right? That's a life skill. And I think we have the capacity in our classroom to, to teach, to teach that we do have time for every conversation that's important to us. We, we have it, we have the capacity to do it. And I want to encourage teachers to trust their instincts and to really tune into what they think is important in that moment and allow themselves to just stop what's happening and, and address what needs to be addressed.

I think that's so important that, that we do have time like you were saying for, for what is important to us to me like often, what we do is we treat it like uh you know, uh we just keep adding to the to do list, right? Like so let's cram it in, let's fit it in, let's cover the content, right? Like these are concepts that we constantly hear, but instead it's like a prioritization. Like what is most important to you? You do that first and then you can get to the other stuff and that's a really different way of looking at it versus I have this finite amount of time and I still must do all of the things on the list which is literally impossible. So, and it never stops. Right. The, the fact of the matter is, is we have to understand the system that we're working in. The system that we're working in is never ever gonna say, OK, teachers, right? Pa pause. Everything really start thinking about the community that you're teaching in, really start listening to the stories that your kids wanna tell about their own lives and their own experiences really stop and think about ways to help kids listen to each other, to develop their own thoughts, to understand how to navigate conflict in a restorative way, teach us stop.

It's never gonna happen. So we can make it happen, right? We can help as coaches. If you're a teacher, you can um find AAA colleague who's in on it with you and be accountable to each other. I don't think this work can happen in isolation. Um But I think we can create the space. I, I know we can create the space. I love that and I, and I love also that you have said several times the word process. And so I think that's really interesting. I'd love to ask you about that. Like, I'm just imagining, you know, a new teacher, for example, or even the new instructional coach who's like, how do I help my teachers? Right. How would you even begin a conversation or the process? Right. With the teacher who's like, I know what I wanna do. I want the same goal. I have the same goal that maybe you just described. I just am not sure what the process looks like. How would you like, encourage them to either think through that or approach that? Right? Such a good question. Yeah, process is a huge word for me clearly.

Um And to your point about education tends to be about product, right? How, how are we, how are we doing on this assessment? What is the data? I actually think if we go back to how we all learn, we are excited about learning and we learn the most when we're in process. So where is it that I wanna go? I think a new teacher or a new coach or even an experienced teacher or coach that has a priority um can literally posts that priority somewhere, hold on to it and understand that the process is about um thinking about that priority across the day. So if I have a priority of ensuring that my students in my classroom develop their own ideas and raise their own voices then across content areas, that process looks like. What am I doing with? My voice. How am I checking my tendency to jump in? What can I do to not jump in? Can I not say anything? Can I be clear with my students and say one goal that I'm working on as a teacher is to center your voices?

So that's gonna look different in this classroom than it might in other classrooms. I'm gonna ask a question. I'm gonna be quiet and it might be uncomfortable for a minute, but we're gonna work through that discomfort together. I'm gonna just sit and take notes on what you say. Or I'm gonna ask you, what are you thinking? And that's gonna be the open ended question or I'm gonna just allow quiet to happen, I think are the process is about being clear for yourself, being clear for your students and understanding that the process, the real learning is messy. It's, it's mucky and we sometimes move away from it because it feels mucky and messy. But you're only learning if you're like in the mud of it, all, all of us are on our growth edge teachers and students. If we're in the mud, it's not supposed to be easy. It's supposed to be engaging. It's supposed to be interesting. You're supposed to walk away and keep thinking about it or come into school the next day and say, you know, we talked about this idea and I, at the dinner table, I shared that that's when, you know, the learning is happening and we're in process.

It's not in a container. No, none of us are so. And if you're beginning, I think that listening is crucial. All of us want to be seen and heard regardless of our age. So if you're a teacher, how are you going to help your students feel seen and heard? How are you gonna help them see and hear each other? How are you gonna help the parents in your community be seen and heard and know that they're, they're valued. If you're a coach, it's the same thing. You can't speed through that and it needs to be nurtured and cultivated all the time. Right? If you're a coach, a teacher might sit down, you want that teacher to share what's on their mind, you want to meet them where they are, it's not about your agenda, right? That, that's about the process and when you're coaching, you're in a teacher's process, right? So what can you do to support and nurture that teacher's process? I think listening is really incredibly crucial. Wow, that is so good. And, and I'm thinking too, I, I think you spoke to so many specific things, right?

That an instructional leader can do. I know in, in your practice because you do this all the time. It's like co teachers around this very thing. Are there specific either moves strategies, practices that you have found to be really effective in helping teachers move through this process? That you would suggest to anyone listening. Hm. Yeah, I think, like I said before, I think being clear and explicit with your students about the fact that you are working to ensure their ideas are central is really important. I think establishing community agreements about what talking and listening is going to look like and feel like in the community is crucial, establishing with your kids, what's a good discussion going to feel like we talk sometimes about the obvious points of a conversation, we're gonna look at the speaker, our hands aren't gonna be fidgeting what whatever it might be. Some of those things, most of those things I find not to be true.

There are plenty of us adults in the world who uh pace when they're thinking, right? So is there a space to provide pacing or standing in your classroom? Right? If a student's not looking at someone who's speaking but is doodling, that doesn't mean they're not listening, right? So I think it's about establishing what you're trying to build with your community and then talking through the things that bump. So a student might say to another, it feels like you're not listening to me because you're not looking at me. Well, that's a great point for a conversation that other student can say, you know, it's hard for me to look at you. It's easier for me if I take notes or fidget or whatever it might be. So, I think establishing the criteria. I also believe that students need to bump and then figure out what bumped and come up with how to try again. So oftentimes in a classroom, if you're starting to have a whole group conversation that's moderated from the Children, right?

Not from the teacher, you can imagine sitting in a whole circle so we can see each other. A student has, you know, several students maybe have, uh suggested. Here are some ideas from this text that we just read that I wanna talk about. The students have voted on what they wanna talk about. Even if you think it might not lead to a good conversation. You're the teacher and you're not gonna say that right? You're gonna let it fly, right? The first few conversations are gonna be done. We don't traditionally teach kids how to have their own conversation. We program them how to answer a question. Well, that doesn't help their own critical thinking that doesn't support them in the world. So you have to expect that it's gonna be ugly at the beginning and, and let it go for a minute and then stop and say so is this how we want a conversation to feel? Are are we going to be talking over each other? Right? Or we're not even gonna say that just like does this feel good? What doesn't feel good? How are we gonna make it better and lead from the students? Let them have a sense we underestimate. I think our kids of all ages and what their capacity is and it's important for them to know that they've got agency and the classroom can be their studio, right.

Their classroom can be a space where they can problem solve and try it out as a community and then it figure out what works as a community and individually as well. That was a lot. Then answer that question. Oh, my God. Beautifully. Yes. It's so good. Several things that I was just picking up on. I, I definitely appreciate that. We don't teach kids how to have conversations, particularly in an academic sense, right? Like we just, we totally train them to answer a question and there's typically a rights quote unquote answer. Right? And then it's worth searching for that and, and I love the idea of letting go, like letting them go. I was just reading the new um, Matthew K book with Jennifer or I think, um Yeah. And, and it's interesting, I can't remember the language they use, but they were like, sometimes you rein it back in and you, you, you know, control the conversation and keep it on the question that you had posed or that you had voted on with the students. And other times there are tangents that are worth going on and I can, I can think of so many with my high school students anyways. I know you work with a, with a younger group but they go on a tangent and I'm like, let's just see where this goes.

And some of the most insightful things that were said all year were a result of that tangent. Like it is. Absolutely. I want to say one other thing that I would suggest as you're having a conversation, I think it's incredibly important to hold, create an artifact of the conversation. It's really easy to let a conversation go and lose those nuggets, those tangents, those pieces that you want to come back to. So as a teacher, you can be jotting notes of exactly what said you can do it and a and a projection so that kids can see it. You can type, it doesn't need to be pretty. But I do think there's a real importance to holding on to an artifact of the conversation that helps both those nuggets that you want to come back to. Like, you know, Lindsay said this really interesting thing yesterday and we all seem to have a lot of thoughts about it. Let's look at it again, you know, with fresh eyes or after this next piece of text or at the end of this unit. Now, what do we think about what Lindsay said? And also if you're thinking about how a conversation flows and actually teaching the content of how to have a good conversation, that artifact can be helpful, right?

So sometimes we teach kids that you can't go off topic or that you can't repeat what somebody else has said. That's false. We do that all the time. One of the reasons we repeat what somebody else has said is because by putting it into our own words, we kind of hold on to it and then attach it to the thinking that we're, we're having in our, in our brains. It's not, it's not natural not to repeat what somebody else has said. It's how it flows. And so if you're actually looking at an artifact of a conversation with students, it can help give them a sense of the ways that they can enter and the ways that good conversations develop oftentimes in those tangents. If we don't interrupt them and they're not fruitful tangents, kids get back on track. They don't need us to say, you know, that has nothing to do with what your grandmother said or war has nothing to do with this conversation. Ki kids get it back on track. They don't need us and adults get off track too and then get back on track. Um I think a lot of times we hold students to this when we're starting open conversations, we all go to a false.

Um We, we desire something that's false. It's not the way our conversations go. So I think we need to be true to what's authentic in a, in a conversation and help them develop that. Yeah, that actually that leads me back to another thing. I want to touch on. I love this idea of like naming the challenges that teachers may experience or even honestly, administrators might experience when kind of coming into a class where maybe they're not in tune with what's being tried out. And, and maybe the teacher is nervous because there is this uh expectation of like silence, obedience, compliance, whatever the things are, right? And so I think one of the challenges I think for teachers that I've seen trying to start this work and being on of how to navigate that is redefining expectations, both for themselves and their students, but also for the broader school or the person coming in to observe them. And, and I think with, with what we do, what we both do, we talk a lot about justice and equity. And I think there are a lot of other challenges that given the nature of like what is happening in the world and that we, we know that students are attuned to what is happening in the world, how we navigate particular conversations I think are also, I don't know if they spark fear necessarily, but like maybe like a wariness or some sort of something with people who are doing this like, ok, well, what if a student takes it there or what if I want to have a conversation?

Do I present it to them? Do I wait for them to bring it up? I think there are a lot of challenges just topically of what we discussed. Um, how have you helped teachers to navigate that? Or what advice might you give to some? He's helping teachers navigate it or a teacher themselves who is navigating those challenges? That such a smart and thoughtful question? Lindsay? I think you're right. I think there are a lot of teachers who want to do this work and want to touch on either, you know, current events or ideas that are on their students minds. They know that they're there and they're afraid they're afraid they're gonna say the wrong thing. One strong piece of advice I have is to find a friend. I don't think that the work of talking about any of the typically difficult conversations, it can be done alone and there's a range of difficult conversations, it can be difficult to have a conversation about why kids are being mean to other kids in recess. It can be difficult to have a conversation around um a student or understanding um disability or understanding uh gender diversity or understanding racism or why a comment hit on a stereotype or implicit bias that a student doesn't know.

Right. So when I say difficult conversations, it's a huge range, right? So I think you're right, the teachers are very afraid of saying the wrong thing. So you need a friend and you need that friend so that you can call them at the end of the day and say so this is how it went. I'm not sure about this. Can you uh can I talk out what I'm gonna say the next day or? Oh my gosh, this thing happened and I'm not sure how to address it. Can I prepare with you? Find a friend, find a coach, right? Also understand like I had said before, you don't have to have, how do I say this? There's a sense of urgency all the time in schools and in difficult conversations, you don't need to know exactly how to respond in that moment. But if you're feeling like there is some injustice that's happening in the world in your classroom. The first thing to do is just to say, here's how I'm feeling and here's why and I'm gonna respond in this way, right? Just say something, say something is the first step because you can always come back, you can come back to it.

I also believe that we say sometimes um that kids can lead the conversations, right? That don't bring something up that your kids aren't bringing into your classroom. I don't believe that I think kids are very tuned in, they hear their adults talking, they listen to the news, they're on whatever social media they're on, they know what's happening in the world. They're developing their own ideas, whether or not they're talking about them. So instead I would like our classrooms to be a place where there are no questions that are taboo that I'm going to bring up something that's on my mind because chances are you've heard about it and you've thought about it, teachers sometimes are afraid of what parents are going to say. I think that if you are in a clear communication with parents from the get go that this is my philosophical belief. Here's my pedagogy, here's what this is gonna look like. Then parents aren't surprised. Parents are surprised when there's not communication, right? Communication needs to be steady and consistent all year long. And parents I found because I've led a lot of parent workshops about how to have conversations with your kids about XY and Z.

Parents aren't sure either how to talk to their kids. So again, if we can all give ourselves grace and know that most of us did not grow up in school settings or in family settings where we were talking about gender diversity, racism, uh ability, disability, neuro divergence, you know how to really resolve the conflict that I had in the playground in a restorative way where I can still get along with this kid in my class. We probably weren't having those conversations. So, so let's be gracious with ourselves and support each other in jumping in. Let let, let's have them, let's bring them up. And what I found is that as soon as you let kids know that there's no topic that's taboo. As soon as you let kids know here's what's on my mind. Here, here's what I'm I'm hearing and feeling kids are ready to talk, right? And in terms of equity, we need to allow them to talk and share their thoughts in a range of ways, right? Kids might not be ready to talk right then and there in the whole circle.

So you wanna provide space for kids to talk in writing, you wanna make sure that kids are, know that you're available to have quieter conversations that it you've left a conversation and it feels finished in the whole group. But if some child is still thinking about it on Wednesday, that that child can come back to you and keep talking about it right? There is equity. Again, it's about what's most important. If what's most important is the communication and the notion that in this classroom, kids can share their ideas and their voice then that you need to afford for that all the time and really clearly communicate that hi listeners. It's Lindsay popping in to tell you about today's episode. Freebie Cara is sharing a partner talk data collection sheet. It is amazing and packed with resources for you. You can grab this at Lindsey Beth lions dot com slash blog slash 138. Back to the episode that resonates so much with me as a college student. Actually, I had a professor who showed we, we were watching like video clips and like discussing it and there was an interpretation of a scene that I I felt was like, really upsetting to me and like I wanted to write about it the next week I brought it back up even though it wasn't actually the clip that we were discussing or writing.

And I was told that was last week's discussion. There was like this, these bumpers on the conversation, even though it was truly like, something that bothered me. And that, like, I just think about, I never thought about it in that way in that context for students to be like, I need a place to return to this conversation. I mean, it could be for a reason because it was upsetting, but it could also be I just finally connected the dots on what the student said and what I read and you know, like people have these different processing experiences, right? And like they're gonna come to it when they come to it. Like we need to be there ready for them and not say that was Wednesday's class, period. No, thank you. Conversation is done to how we learn, right? We as adults, I'm always writing down quotes ideas from books. I'm reading from podcasts. I'm listening to from conversations I have because that information informs my current thinking and then I integrate it into my future thinking, right? So we that's what we want, that's authentic learning. So yeah, conversations should not have bumpers.

I'm really sorry that that happened. No. Yeah. Yeah. No, that, that thank you. And that I think really, really resonates with me. I mean, one of the things too, um, I consult with Panorama Education and they do surveys for students and one of their survey questions and in one of their topics about, I think engagement is like, how often do you talk about the classroom stuff you're learning about at home, like at work, even outside of the school. So I know you've brought that up a couple of times that is like such a beautiful indicator and such a quick question that we could ask students in like a quick Google form or something to try to gauge, is this resonating and and is it meaningful? And did that discussion help you synthesize things in your world? Right? I I think there's so much here and, and it makes me think too again about that kind of like redefining expectations for an administrator coming in to like, see something in action. I'm wondering what advice you would give like an evaluator. Whether that was, I think coaches that I think sometimes are seen as evaluators, even though that's not the role of a coach. Um but any person, whether it's a principal admin type who's coming in to, to do an evaluation and is witnessing kind of a student discussion lesson?

What are the things that you would want for the teachers that you coach, that admin coming in to look for and like celebrate great question. If we go back to the thinking. I would want the administrators to keep their eye on what's actually being discussed. Sometimes administrators come in and they wanna make sure that everybody in the circle is speaking. I also don't think that's how conversations go. I think everybody needs to have access to speak. I think it is ok that some kids might want to be quiet until later in the conversation. Right? We need to nurture our quieter students and also help our students who talk and process out loud all the time to understand that those quieter students have important things to say. Also, maybe not at the beginning, right? Or maybe not today, maybe tomorrow or maybe with notes or, right? So I, I think that notion that everybody is gonna speak is not true. I think we want to think about the quality of the thinking, our ideas connected is what is the teacher doing to encourage and stay in the conversation?

Is she smiling and nodding? Is she bending down to whisper into the ear of a student that uh might look confused? Or is she coaching into a student that might need a nudge in a conversation? Is she making sure that if something really incredible is said, she pauses the conversation, she says, I, I just want everyone to think for a second about what Lindsay just said, give yourself a minute, take a note, think about it, then go back. I don't need to repeat the brilliance. I can let the student have it. Right. Ho how am I facilitating a conversation? So it stays with the students and I don't bring it to a place where I think it needs to go. Right? I also would want an administrator to ask a teacher about their process. What are you trying to achieve in this process of developing student conversation? Where have your students grown? How are you supporting the students before the conversation and after the conversation, what does reflection look like?

And that's gonna be different, right? If you go back again to the I talk to them, uh call them frequent talkers and quiet listeners. The frequent talkers need something before a conversation that's different. You might circle up all your frequent talkers and let them get their ideas out and process before you get to the whole group, you might circle up your quiet listeners and also let them practice and talk and take notes so they know what it is that they wanna share. So they've had some practice, but they need different supports, different, different practice before our whole group conversation. I would also want an administrator to have a sense of what are the expectations that have been developed inside this classroom. Right? I want an administrator to clue into the community that they're in and um see what's happening for the community understanding that the goal is not that I share my thought, but that as a whole we all deepen our understanding. So what does that look like? Right. And again, that takes, that takes training and a resh shifting of what it is that we're looking like for an administrator to this process is slow, right?

This isn't, you're not establishing this in a week. We're, we're growing. And so if we're thinking again about process, I want an administrator to understand where a teacher might be in their process and for a teacher to be able to articulate that to an administrator, here's what I'm going for. Here's what I've tried. What, what do you see as new eyes? What, what advice might you have? Ask me why I've made a decision or a choice, right? Oh, I love this and, and I, I'm gonna move in a minute to our final closing questions. But before I do that, I wanna make sure because you were a wealth of information and knowledge and experience. Is there anything that we didn't get to talk about that you wanted to add in? Because we kind of went all over the place it go all over the place. Is there anything else that I want to add in? Yeah, I do want to add this in. So we're speaking and it's the summer, it's the beginning of August. And I think if you're interested in student conversation and centering student ideas, you can be on the lookout all of the time for things that spark your thoughts and your ideas.

So I think all of the time about having conversations, but teaching kids how to navigate conversations with an interesting piece of art with a quote with a short video clip that maybe isn't content related, it's related to the content of life. Right? And summer, the reason I bring that up is that I think that in the summer process, we as teachers are, are probably at more museums than we usually are. We're walking around, there might be an image, a piece of graffiti, some mural somewhere that might spark conversation. So I think that we can attune our own selves to what makes us wanna talk, chances are it will make our students want to talk and you can start to gather um ways uh images, topics, quotes that might spark conversation. I think I, I love that so much and I used to do that in like a Google doc for my own students. And now that I'm a coach, I have tried to make transparent that process.

So I have started posting on linkedin under the hashtag unit dreaming just like here once a week, here's like what this could look like and it's so expansive, it could be like here's like a thing that I was staring at that is on my dining room table or something or, you know, or it's like a piece of nature like, you know, that I'm experiencing, it could be a book that I'm reading that's a fiction and it's just sparking something. It could be a podcast I listen to or a news story like it is like, what you're talking about, car I think is so much more than like sometimes what we allow ourselves to think about as teachers. We're very, sometimes like, oh, academics, it has to be an academic test or something or an academic quote that it's like, no, it could be a song lyric. It should be a song lyric. You want your kids to come in and say I was thinking about this lyric. Can we talk about it? That's the dream. Because to go back to where we started, we're raising humans and we want to raise humans who are thinking all of the time they're observing, they're thinking they're curious. We have to model that and we have to make space for that in our classroom. I love the song, lyric, songs are the best.

I did like a media critique year where all of my curriculum was through the lens of media critique. And so students are bringing like music videos and things like that. It's just like that is where we get the good conversation. Absolutely. I start with what they're on about. You gotta get there. Yep. Absolutely. So we talked to about so many different things. I know that this is a hard question. But if there's one thing that you would have a listener maybe start with once they end the episode kind of like, ok, I'm gonna go do this thing. It's gonna like, really help me as you were saying, remember what is important, right about raising humans and what is important to, to be a do as an educator. Um What would that one thing be that you would recommend only one Lindsay? Really? Only one you can cheat and do more than one if you like, I'm gonna give two. I think the first thing I would want all educators to do is to give them, say themselves the space and time before the year starts and then some check ins during the year to write down. What are the three highest priorities I have.

What do I want my students to walk away? Thinking and feeling and knowing about our community when we're finished? Right? Maybe it's not three, maybe it's one or two. It's certainly not more than three. But I think that's not, I think you wanna give some space and time for that and literally, I would post them somewhere for yourself. And I would be honest about them with your students, with your colleagues, with your parents. Here's what I'm on about, this is where we are. This is what's most important to me. I think that's huge. I think the second thing I would want all educators to do is practice listening and attune their own selves to where they are in a conversation. What does it feel like to be quiet to give yourself a pause when you're listening to an adult or to a student. How does that feel to understand that you're walking alongside and learning alongside that person in a conversation? Whatever their age is, it's not, it's not about sharing your thoughts. It's about walking alongside and constructing together.

And that requires adults to be quiet, quieter than we generally are. That is so good. Thank you for both of those. Those are so amazing. And, and so two final questions for you, what is something that you have been learning about lately? And this could be related to the field of education, but it could also be totally random. Um I love, I, I'm a huge reader and I'm kind of always in the middle of, you know, seven books at once related to teaching, related to, you know, the world related to whatever it is. Um But summer I find my reading life shifts and I end up reading more like memoir essays, narratives. I have more like capacity to take that in and to reflect. So I would say I'm in the midst of two of those types of books right now and they're providing a lot of good reflection. The first is there's an amazing essayist Rebecca Solnit. I don't know if you're familiar with her, but several years ago, I read her book, a field guide to getting lost.

And recently I took it and it was very influential. It's just like a really beautiful kind of meditation on getting lost, like physically, you know, in space and mentally and the, the importance of that and how we kind of come through that process. Anyway, I found this book on my shelf as I was looking for something else and I handed it to my 18 year old who um is leaving and going on to his next journey soon. And he read it recently, which allowed me to reread it and kind of re explore it, which was this like, beautiful, a really beautiful moment in our relationship to get his thinking on a book that had been so influential. So I'm reading kind of the companion book to that uh by so that, which is much more straight memoir. Um And it's called The Far Away Nearby. And the other essay book that I'm deep in the middle of is um a republished book of essays by Alice Walker called, we are the ones we have been waiting for. And the essay I'm currently reading is about the importance of pause and she talks about how in our culture, we don't really appreciate transition, right?

We, we come to the end of something and we think great, we've gotta move on what is coming next. And she talks about the importance of actually pausing and giving ourselves the space of thinking about like, WW what is this transition? We're, we're ending up in where, where is it that we're going and that's important for all parts of our life. And so I'm, I'm really just like leaning into both Rebecca Solnit and Alice Walker. Wow, those are great and going on my to read recommendations. Um The last question I have for you is where can listeners learn more about you, connect with you if you want to also talk about what you and I have been working on as well. Like feel free. This is, this is a great faith. I think it's so connected to what we've been talking about. That would be something we can share with listeners as well. Ok, great. So the way that listeners can connect with me directly is I have a website called Eyes Open Education. And you can find me in some of my writing there. I'm also on linkedin and I'm on Instagram at KL Prank off. So I would love to be in touch. I am certainly somebody who loves a conversation.

So if something I've said, resonates, send me an email, find me. I would love to be in conversation with you, Lindsay. I'm really excited about this idea that we're germinating and, and growing together. Um And uh you know, you started by saying that we overlap in, in ways and I so enjoyed enjoy you as a, as a colleague and as, as a friend and the idea that we're germinating is a way to create a coaching relationship virtually. So we're envisioning a way that teachers either new to a practice or, you know, further along in their practice can reach out to us on a virtual platform. We're playing around with Slack right now. Ask a question about really anything that's happening in their classroom. It could be a question about a conversation. They weren't sure how to navigate it could be a question about language in a letter that's going home to parents. It could be a question about how to develop a unit of curriculum.

I've gotten to this point. It could be a question really about anything. There would be have the chance to ask that question directly to us and we will answer either with text or with video or provide a resource. But really, Lindsay, what I think you and I are are most on about one of our priorities is developing a way that teachers can support each other and that we all teachers really have the space to ask a question when it arises and get an answer. And what we know from our practice is that reflective teachers are thinking about their practice all the time, right? And there's not always a person to ask, it doesn't happen in that PD session, right? To your point, right? The discussion isn't bumper, right? So we wanna provide space an opportunity for teachers to ask their questions and get customizable coaching when they need it. What would you say? In addition, I was gonna say, oh my gosh, I didn't mean to put you on the spot there, but that was beautiful. Um And it's so fun listeners, you get to kind of the the creation process because who knows by the time this airs, if they be, if they look slightly different, right?

Or that. But right now we're, yeah, we're excited to pilot with a small group because we're just interested in what this could look like. I think we've reflected on those moments where we didn't have a person, right? And those moments when we did that were transformative, that were just a quick question, you know, oh, this happened in my class. Oh, I, I need a resource for this and just like one thing that maybe someone, it could have a coach, another teacher, a leader, anyone gave us in that quick moment might have meant not a lot to them. They're just kind of passing something along. And then to us, it was like my practice was at an inflection point and it totally transformed the rest of how I did things. And so I think we just want that for every educator and, and I mean, teachers, coaches and leaders, like anyone who needs that support, like we want to make sure that you get it. And we also recognize that time which we talked about earlier, right? It's so hard that like, I think we've both been coaches in the sense of part in person and me virtually for a lot of people like, like defined.

Here's the time that you need it scheduled on the calendar. And I personally have seen some teachers who come into that space and all they need is to just go take a walk or go grab lunch and, and the time that we've carved out, we have to try to make the most of it because that's the time we have. But I think in so many cases it's like, oh, no, it is that like subway ride home or it is like nine o'clock at night. And I just want to throw a message out there, maybe not expecting response right away, but within the next day, I'll get one and I could get it out of my head and into slack or whatever. Um, whenever it is helpful for me and not be pressured to use the five amount of time that I might have needed a break and not to get a coaching session. And those are my two sons right now. I think that's great. And I think what we're acknowledging is the learning process of teachers. Right. Our strongest. Well, no, let's rephrase that all teachers are in their learning process and if we can meet them at that moment and help at that moment, then they continue on with a gain, right?

They continue on having um, a better idea of how to proceed and that muscle in whatever area strengthens. Right. And if we can help that happen on a more regular basis. When a teacher, a leader, a coach needs it. It's gonna help them, help their students, help their teachers, help their, help their building. And so I think that that's what we want more than anything is that people feel like they're supported in their process when they need it. Absolutely. And I think one of the things we constantly are talking to administrators about people who control the PD funding is, right? Like, it's really hard to get a coach for every teacher, every coach, every leader themselves, right? And we are just trying to find a way that it's both impactful to individual educators and community at large. But also that is affordable. And I think that is like very aligned to all of the things that we prioritize as important. And we've had a lot of conversations about this, but I, I'm really excited to see where it goes and listeners if you have ideas or wanna hop in on the pilot that we're doing this fall, please just let us know.

Great. Absolutely. Lindsay, I'm excited to watch it grow too. Yeah. And Carl, thank you so much. This is a wonderful conversation. I'm sure listeners are getting a ton and maybe we'll have you back for another episode of the Future because I feel like this is just, this is just scratching the surface of so much Lindsay. Thank you so much. I've really enjoyed this conversation. With you and um I am just so happy to be able to be part of time for teacher. If you like this episode. I bet you'll be just as jazz as I am about my coaching program for increasing student led discussions in your school, Shane, Sapir and Jamila Dugan. Talk about a pedagogy of student voice in their book Street Data. They say students should be talking for 75% of class time. Do students in your school talk for 75% of each class period? I would love for you to walk into any classroom in your community and see this in action. If you're smiling yourself as you listen right now, grab 20 minutes on my calendar to brainstorm. How I can help you make this big dream a reality. I'll help you build a comprehensive plan from full day trainings and discussion protocols like circle and Socratic seminar to follow up classroom visits where I can plan witness and debrief discussion based lessons with your teachers. Sign up for a nerdy, no strings attached to brainstorm.

Call at Lindsay beth lions dot com slash contact. Until next time leaders think big act brave and be your best self. This podcast is a proud member of the Teach Better Podcast Network better today, better tomorrow and the podcast to get you there, explore more podcasts at teach better dot com slash podcasts and we'll see you at the next episode

138. How to Facilitate Student-Led Discussions with Kara Pranikoff
138. How to Facilitate Student-Led Discussions with Kara Pranikoff
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