Episode 109 – Vernon Wright

109 - Vernon Wright

Meet Vernon Wright

VERNON WRIGHT is an education leader, speaker, host, and editor. He’s a voice for the people, he pours into relationships, and he lives to serve, motivate, and inspire in authentic ways. He has served in education for over fifteen years as a teacher, teacher leader, campus administrator, and central staff leader.

Leading Before the Title

Early into his administrative career, Vernon found himself working for someone who had low visibility, little situational awareness, and almost no emotional intelligence. This leader was invisible in their building, didn’t give voice to staff members, and refused to take action when necesssary. As a result, staff members in the building would seek out Vernon for insights or support, even though in theory they should have been checking in with his superior.

When he asked them why this was happening, they responded that he was visible, he listened to others, and he was a leader of action. Vernon realized through these affirmations that he was leading above his title, and it was a lesson that he has taken with him into every leadership context since. The experience further solidified his core leadership values and helped him understand the nuances of coaching and dialogue, even with people who are at the same level of authority or higher.

Welcome to the #ZeroApologyZone

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Vernon is pioneering a movement among educators that he calls the #ZeroApologyZone. It’s characterized by the words “Believe. Study. Hustle. Manifest. Repeat.”

  • Believe. What do you believe about yourself? What do you believe about others? What do you believe about your purpose?
  • Study. We need to study to show that we are ready to have an impact. We need to prepare. If we want to increase our influence, we must increase our competence.
  • Hustle. Take action. Move from being interested to committed.
  • Manifest. Show outcomes and evidence of impact. Do work that is visible and makes a difference for others.
  • Repeat. Once you’re able to work through this process with positive results, why not do it again? As long as it is bringing impact and benefiting others, this is a cycle worth repeating.

Vernon calls this cycle the #ZeroApologyZone because all too often, we apologize for things that we shouldn’t apologize for. When we become a voice for the people, when we advocate for equity and justice, when we do good work in education, we should never apologize for ruffling feathers along the way.

Who are you? What are you all about? What do you stand for without apologies?

Identify those things, and you’ll be well on your way to creating your own powerful mission and vision statement. You’ll build that emotional intelligence that not only understands who you are in real time, but what is really at your core, your essence, your spiritual DNA. 

Connect, Impact, and Scale

To take our journeys of personal and professional growth to the next level, we need to think in terms of connect, impact, and scale.

  • Connect: we need to reach out, network, dialogue, and understand the mission, vision, and purpose of the people around us.
  • Impact: once we understand others and build authentic connections, we’re in a position to better support and collaborate.
  • Scale: we don’t limit our influence to vertical 1:1 relationships, but expand that influence horizontally. When we support one person, others can and should benefit as well. In the age of the internet, we have all the tools we need to share great learning and leadership with audiences around the world. 

Why YOU Should Create Content

To educators who doubt the value of sharing their own message, Vernon says that what seems obvious to you may not be obvious at all to others. What may be commonplace wisdom to you might be someone else’s breakthrough, but it requires moving from a consumer to a creator in order for the world to share in your learning.

Content creation is sometimes perceived as selfish or narcissistic when actually the opposite is true. Sharing information, ideas, and experiences is actually the selfless thing to do, because it requires courage, time, and energy to share, and it allows others to benefit from your ideas. 

Real Leaders Mentor and Elevate

When you share your ideas and pour into other people, you’re building a legacy that matters. Legacy requires impact and evidence, and when people tell Vernon they are a leader, the first question he asks is “Who are you mentoring?”

Real leaders are always looking for opportunities to impact, influence, and elevate the voices of others. A scarcity mindset says that if we elevate others, we might lose some of the spotlight and audience ourselves, but actually the opposite is true. In contrast, an abundance mindset says that as we elevate others, others will elevate us.

You were put on this earth for a reason. You are not alone, and your existence is not pointless. Your voice and your perspectives are wanted and needed by others, and to believe otherwise is a lie. The greatest fulfillment in life is not found in wealth or fame but in the connections and impact we make on others. If we can reach one person, that act of contribution was worth it.

What is Disrupt Ed TV?

Disrupt Ed TV shares inspiring messages for educators through a number of mediums and platforms. The organization is made up of a team of education leaders who address the most important issues in education, each from their own perspective.

It’s been a phenomenal experience for Vernon, both personally and professionally, and he is deeply grateful to the founders of this project for allowing him to partner with them. He regards his decision to join Disrupt Ed TV as a watershed moment in his journey, a door that he walked through that significantly altered his future.

Walking Through Doors and Watershed Moments

Walking through a door is taking action, and action is the key that unlocks the door of opportunity. It’s committing to step forward, to manifest, to move into our destiny. If we don’t take the action, we leave all the amazing opportunities waiting for us on the other side of the door.

Are you committed to being a lifelong learner? Are you committed to constantly pushing your journey of growth forward? In order to grow it, we need to show it. We can’t ask for growth and innovation from our team unless we’re pushing ourselves first through demonstrated action.

Professional Projects on the Go

Vernon was recently privileged to speak at Rewire, a star-studded education conference that took place in Tabernacle, NJ. He is also developing a line of apparel that amplifies his message, and he invites listeners to join the #ZeroApologyZone at thewrightleader.com.

We’re all walking billboards, he reminds us. What is your billboard saying? We can either choose to craft our message and brand with thought and intentionality, Vernon says, or we can allow others to craft it for us. Do you know what your brand is all about?

Vernon is doing a lot of coaching and consulting, and he invites listeners to reach out by DM if they are interested in engaging his services there. He also enjoys ongoing partnerships with people like Aubrey Patterson at Nohea Kindreds and others like Sarah Thomas and Mandy Froehlich at EduMatch.

A lot of people see the public successes but miss the private hustle, Vernon points out. If you’ve been hustling for some time in private, it may be your moment to start manifesting in public, which helps you connect, impact, and scale your message even further.

Personal Passions: Personal Coaching and Consulting

Vernon lives to take people from version 1.0 to 2.0. To that end, he is passionate about increasing scale in order to reach more people with the message that 1.0 is not good enough. Listen to the small voice inside, he urges, that wants us to take things to the next level. If you’ve been waiting for your sign that it’s time to grow, consider this conversation the sign.

Productivity Hacks: Goal-Setting and Vision Boards

There are two things Vernon does on the regular that he encourages all educators and thought leaders to do in order to maximize their productivity.

  1. Write down your goals and be very specific.
  2. Review them, meditate on them, and reflect on them daily.

Mix in a dash of hustle, and you will realize your goals. It’s about being focused. Vernon has found from personal experience that as he codifies his goals and makes them his Magnificent Obsession, things begin to line up. Make your goals SMART and again — review them daily.

Vernon also recommends using vision boards that can be referred to regularly, from morning to evening. Every time he passes by his vision boards, he is reminded of where he is headed, even if just on a subconscious level.

Voices & Resources That Inspire His Thinking

Over on Twitter, Vernon recommends following DisruptEdTV @DisruptedTV. DisruptEd was the organization that first allowed Vernon to find his voice and grow his influence, and he’s grateful for the opportunities they’ve given him and their continuing influence in education. Two other must-follows that are also connected to DisruptEdTV are Evan and Laura Robb. Follow them @ERobbPrincipal and @LRobbTeacher

The edtech tool that Vernon finds indispensable in his work is the GSuite, Google’s suite of cloud-based applications. In particular, Vernon is a big fan of the power of Google Slides to facilitate creation, collaboration, and communication from any device or location.

10X-RuleA book that was absolutely transformative in Vernon’s personal and professional journey was The 10X Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure by Grant Cardone.

Going back to Ed Mylett, Vernon is a huge fan of Ed’s podcast as well. Although he doesn’t speak directly to education, Ed is another thought leader who challenges you to take your impact to the next level.

Not surprisingly, Vernon’s first YouTube channel shoutout goes to DisruptEd TV – a must for every serious educator. And Vernon also points to Ed Mylett’s YouTube channel as a place for guaranteed inspiration.

When he’s got some down time for Netflix, Vernon is all about learning. His Netflix selections of choice are inevitably documentaries.

We sign off on this legendary conversation, and Vernon gives us the best places to connect with his message online. See below for details!

You can connect with Vernon …

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Episode 104 – Dr. Will Deyamport III

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Meet Dr. Will Deyamport III

Dr. Will Deyamport III is an instructional technologist, educational consultant, documentary producer, keynote speaker, freelance writer, and the producer of the Dr. Will Show, a podcast for educators looking to make an impact and generate income in the process.

Accepting the Things Beyond His Control

Dr. Will recalls a time from a couple of years ago when the district budget dictated cuts in his department. When the news came down that cuts were coming, he remembers feeling shaken and disillusioned. Although he suspected he was in line for a pink slip, he made sure to end the school year by fulfilling all of his responsibilities to the best of his ability.

Eventually, Dr. Will actually discovered that his job was intact, but the close brush with a layoff left him with feelings of lingering discouragement and resentment. Those feelings changed after a conversation with a colleague who reminded him that jobs and positions are ultimately in the hands of God – not school districts. Her comments helped change his perspective on his situation and gave him more peace over challenges that fall outside of his control. 

An Amazing Educator

Dr. Will recently received recognition as an Amazing Educator in his department, and he credits the quality and timeliness of his work for the gesture. He appreciates the people he works with and tends to get after tasks quickly and well – it’s the best way to serve others, lighten his load, and move on with his day.

The Dr. Will Show: Impact and Income

The tagline of The Dr. Will Show (podcast) is the mobile university for entrepreneurs, where Will focuses on personal development, entrepreneurship, and edupreneurship. He defines an edupreneur as an educator who wants to build an education-based business.

The original intent of his podcast was to talk about issues in pedagogy like blended learning and technology integration – areas of expertise that would build his credibility and visibility as an educational consultant. But after some time in this space, he decided to start asking other questions:

  • Who are we as human beings?
  • How can we become better people?
  • How can we self-actualize and tap into our purpose?
  • How can we fully utilize our talents to benefit others while also increasing our income and quality of life?

These are the questions that drive The Dr. Will Show today. 

About The Edupreneur

The Edupreneur - a documentary by Dr. Will Deyamport IIIDr. Will’s documentary, The Edupreneur, profiles prolific educators, authors, speakers, and consultants who have built impactful resources, businesses, and incomes in the education space.

To educators who are skeptical or squeamish about the idea of charging money for services, Dr. Will says simply to “Get over it.” As an educator, you’re investing time, money, and effort to develop resources to serve learners and other educators, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with earning some money and reaping the benefits of your hard work. Deciding to charge money for your resources, your voice, or your time is simply an acknowledgment of your genius – your unique blend of experiences, knowledge, and expertise that you offer.

Free is great, says Dr. Will, but we need to move past the notion that absolutely everything in education needs to be free. If we want to encourage the creation of great resources and the promotion of impactful ideas in education, we need to be willing to move from free to fee. Learners benefit, and creators are supported – it can and should be a win-win situation.

It can be naive and even dangerous to simply lean back and trust our districts to take care of us as educators and people. Instead, we should take the initiative to constantly build our own expertise, voice, and services in order to increase our professional value and strengthen our job security along the way. 

Define Your Personal Brand

I asked Dr. Will to speak to educators who consume content from other educators but feel like they have no voice or nothing of significance to add to the education conversation themselves. “Educators have to [create],” says Will. “Everyone is a brand.”

Your brand is your reputation, the value that you add to individuals, organizations, and the world. We now live in the world of Google, which means we are Googleable. When your name is searched, what are the results that come up? What narrative is being shaped about you? If you are staying in a passive role, you are allowing other people to tell your narrative in their terms. But instead of leaving your story in the hands of others, Dr. Will urges, start creating content that tells your story and shares your ideas in your own words and on your own terms.

What Else is Setting Dr. Will on  🔥 in Education Today

Other passions for Dr. Will include online learning, entrepreneurial thinking, and financial literacy. These are all areas that are still largely underdeveloped in our schools and districts, but they are essential skills for the twenty-first century. Educators and learners alike have only begun to realize the tremendous potential of video conferencing platforms, for example, that can shrink the world and bring experts to our classrooms.

A Professional Goal for This Year: Building an Online Academy

One of Dr. Will’s immediate goals is to support the development of an online academy for his school district. He’s already begun the work of creating courses in Schoology, but he’d like to do much more in terms of collecting the unique genius and resources that each educator brings for the time that they spend with the district. This might include webinars, video exemplars, clips from teaching, testimonials, vlogs, and other media resources that will help learners and educators to follow.

Areas of Personal Learning and Passion

Outside of his professional work, Dr. Will enjoys learning about entrepreneurship and personal development, and he starts many of his mornings watching YouTube channels dedicated to these topics. He also likes learning about African American history and culture, particularly contributions within Islam.

A Personal Productivity Practice

Dr. Will doesn’t keep a to-do list, partly because multitasking simply builds pressure and raises anxiety, making him less productive. Instead, he tries to do work quickly and do it well, keeping the people he serves happy and himself in a good headspace.

Voices & Resources That Inspire Dr. Will’s Thinking

Over on Twitter, Dr. Will recommends following Dr. Sarah Thomas @SarahDaTeechur. She’s a technology coordinator, professor, speaker, publisher, founder of the EduMatch Project, and one of the most generous educators out there today. Get to know Sarah better in episode 66 of the Teachers on Fire podcast.

One edtech tool at the top of Dr. Will’s list is Zoom, which allows educators to connect, bring speakers into the classroom, and preserve learning through the recording of webinars. Learning is moving to video on demand, and Zoom is leading the way.

104 - Malcolm XThe book that changed Dr. Will’s life is The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley by Malcolm X, Alex Haley, and Attallah Shabazz. It’s the kind of book that will motivate anyone to get their stuff together, Dr. Will says.

Dr. Will gets his creative and entrepreneurial inspiration from podcasts like The Sunny Show and Jasmine Star – Making the Impossible Possible. For a great education podcast, tune into 8 Black Hands, a podcast produced by passionate educators who also happen to be African American. Follow this podcast on Twitter @8BlackHands1

On YouTube, Dr. Will singles out Sunny Lenarduzzi, Vanessa Lau, and Jasmine Star – great content creators who model what it means to effectively build a brand, serve others well, and share what it is you are all about.

A bit of a movie buff, Dr. Will has been enjoying a series on Netflix called Raising Dion, which features a strong African American cast and a very compelling storyline.

We sign off on this fun conversation, and Dr. Will gives us the best places to find him online. See below for details!

You can connect with Dr. Will …

Connect with the Teachers on Fire podcast on social media:

Song Track Credits

Listen on YouTube and subscribe to the Teachers on Fire channel!

Episode 66 – Dr. Sarah Thomas

66 - Dr. Sarah Thomas

Guest Profile

DR. SARAH THOMAS is a regional technology coordinator in Maryland and serves as affiliate faculty at Loyola University. In 2014, Sarah founded the EduMatch Project, and she has spoken and presented at numerous conferences since. Find out more about Sarah on her blog and follow her on Twitter at @sarahdateechur.

The Challenge of Finding the Right Fit

Sarah’s first three years in education were the hardest of her career. She came through alternative certification after completing a bachelor’s degree in radio, television, and film. As she began her undergraduate work, Sarah’s mother became a middle school teacher, and Sarah was impressed.

After graduating with her bachelor’s degree in media, she enrolled in a Master’s of Education program. Early into her Master’s studies, she responded to an ad calling for teachers in her district. Once she finished her training program, she found it a challenge to find the right placement in the district. It was discouraging at first to try to figure things out and adapt to different school cultures, but the support of her family and the meaningful relationships she was building with students propelled her through.

The Vision and Mission of EduMatch

EduMatch started from a conversation Sarah had on Twitter, when she connected two educators with unique passions and interests that matched the other’s. That’s what it’s about: learning and growing together, helping others on their education journeys, and leveraging the power of stories. Through its publishing work, EduMatch amplifies the voices of students and educators who have a story to share. A series of crowd-sourced books have led to solo projects, with five solo titles published in 2018 and more on the horizon. If you’re an educator interested in contributing to the 2019 edition of EduMatch’s annual Snapshot in Education, complete this form.

Passions, Goals, and Creativity

Social media has opened incredible opportunities for educators around the world. The democratization effect created by the internet now allows every educator to find their own voice and share their own learning journey. The old paradigm of established voices and gatekeepers has shifted, and as the sharing increases, the professional learning accelerates. This democratization also opens up new possibilities for learning with and from students, which is equally exciting.

In terms of professional growth, Sarah is hoping to get back to producing more content this year. She argues that when we share what we’re doing, what we’re doing well, and what we are trying to improve, the act of publishing helps to give us the valuable feedback that we need to direct our next steps. Over the past year, Sarah was able to collaborate on Closing the Gap: Digital Equity Strategies for Teacher Prep Programs, and now that she’s got the writing bug she feels ready for more!

Outside of her work in education technology, teaching, and publishing, Sarah is most passionate about music. She’s enjoyed listening, playing, and learning musical instruments for as long as she can remember, and she’s excited by the prospects of bringing more music back into her life in 2019.

Voices & Resources That Inspire Sarah’s Professional Practice

If you’re looking for passionate educators to add to your PLN, Sarah invites you to check out the Awesome Table of EduMatch. Find educators around the world who are working in the same spaces you are.

Sarah’s edtech tool recommendation for educators is Voxer. Get in and get connected! Follow Voxer on Twitter @Voxer.

The book that is most meaningful to Sarah at the moment is one written by her father! She’s working through it on her Kindle at the moment and it’s giving her a fascinating understanding of her family’s history.

One education podcast that Sarah has been tuned into for some time is the The Dr. Will Show. The show is hosted and produced by Will Deyamport, with a focus on edupreneurship: serving other educators well while producing an income as well. Follow the host of the show on Twitter @IAmDrWill.

Sarah has two YouTube recommendations to share. The first is The Mr. Wasko, an educator who creates fun similes and metaphors from movies and pop culture. The second pick is purely for fun: Zach Morris is Trash – a serial that appears on the Funny or Die channel. Follow these channels on Twitter @FunnyorDie and @TheMrWasko.

Finishing her doctorate has allowed Sarah to enjoy a season of reduced demands, leisure, and rest. On Netflix, she’s been enjoying Wentworth.

We sign off on this conversation and Sarah shares the best ways to follow her and EduMatch online. See below for details!

Follow Sarah …

Subscribe to the Teachers on Fire podcast on your mobile device.

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Song Track Credits

Listen on YouTube and subscribe to the Teachers on Fire channel.

Episode 38 – John Sowash

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JOHN SOWASH is an educator, freelancer, presenter, husband, and dad. He is also the author of The Chromebook Classroom, which you can check out at http://chrmbook.com.

In this conversation, John describes how a dead end in his high school context launched him into the business of teaching teachers – a true passion. You’ll hear him explain why the Chromebook is so much more than just a web browser – it’s a creation tool as well. You’ll also hear about the personal habit that keeps him on track, some great edtech tools to consider using, and much more.

Check out The Chromebook Classroom on Amazon!

Follow John:

Find the highlights from our conversation at the timestamps below:

  • 0:52 – John describes his education context and background: starting as a high school science teacher, leading a big edtech transition in his school, began sharing his learning in a blog, and today enjoys helping other educators.
  • 3:32 – A very low moment: when John’s superintendent was suddenly fired, the project he was investing in was suddenly dropped. This dead end led him to venture out on his own, focusing on professional development resources for educators.
  • 6:36 – What excites him about education today: the ongoing commitment of teachers.
  • 9:24 – Speaking about his book, The Chromebook Classroom, John reminds teachers that Chromebooks are so much more than “just web browsers” – they’re creation devices, too.
  • 13:26 – John shares about another passion outside of education: serial entrepreneurship. Some ventures crash and burn, while others work well. And there’s always more to learn.
  • 15:12 – A personal habit that contributes to his personal and professional success is leveraging his email inbox as a reminder and task list.
  • 18:17 – Twitter recommendation: @JakeMillerTech.
  • 19:15 – John recommends two edtech tools worth using: Canva and Screencastify.
  • 22:25 – Book recommendations: Start with Why by Simon Sinek and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.
  • 24:01 – John has a few favorite podcasts to share: the first is The Chromebook Classroom – a podcast series he produced as a way to share additional stories that couldn’t fit in his book, Reply All by Gimlet Media, Smart Passive Income by Pat Flynn, The Gary Vee Audio Experience by Gary Vee, and This Week in Google by TWiT.
  • 26:17 – A YouTube channel to check out that isn’t strictly education-related but does demonstrate some incredible strategies worth trying on Google Sheets: Ben Collins.
  • 29:16 – Although he doesn’t have much time for TV or movies, John’s latest pick on Netflix was Nailed It.
  • 30:20 – We sign off on our conversation and John shares the best ways to follow him and receive more of his content online (see above).

Subscribe to the podcast on your mobile device: iTunes | Google Podcasts | YouTube

Follow the podcast on Twitter @TeachersOnFire and on Instagram @TeachersOnFire.

Song Track Credits

  • Intro: Relax (by Simon More)
  • Outtro: Starley – Call on Me Remix (by DJ Zhorik)

Listen to this episode on YouTube and subscribe for more episodes!

Episode 31 – Jeff Gargas

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Jeff Gargas is the COO/Co-founder of Progressive Mastery Learning and The Teach Better Team. Jeff works with teachers across the United States to help them improve their practice and “reach the unreachable student.”

An entrepreneur at heart, Jeff shares about the challenges of hitting walls in the music industry and the educational training space. He shares how he redefined his mission, finding strength in gratitude and the knowledge that as long as he was doing the right thing for learners, the rest would follow. Today, Jeff loves nothing better than to see teachers learn, grow, and take risks to improve their practice. In our conversation, he points to an app that reliably corrects his mindset, recommends some great Twitter accounts to follow, and more.

Follow Jeff on Twitter @JeffGargas & @TheGridMethod, and check out the resources he offers teachers at TeachBetter.com, TeachBetterAcademy.com, and www.facebook.com/thegridmethod.

Find the highlights from our conversation at the timestamps below.

SUBSCRIBE to the podcast on your mobile device: iTunes | Google Podcasts | YouTube

FOLLOW Teachers on Fire on Twitter: @TeachersOnFire

Song Track Credits

  • Intro: Relax (by Simon More)
  • Outtro: Starley – Call on Me Remix (by DJ Zhorik)

LISTEN to this episode on YouTube and SUBSCRIBE for more episodes!