ELENA AGUILAR is an accomplished educational presenter, speaker, and author. She strives to help leaders learn, be their best selves, and serve students well. In 2018, Elena published Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators, and in 2020 she released Coaching for Equity: Conversations That Change Practice.
Questions That Guided Our Conversation
1:15 – Why don’t you start by telling us a little more about your current context in education?
2:27 – First things first: how are you doing right now? How are you handling the home quarantine and social distancing?
4:37 – It’s story time! Please share with us about a low moment or an experience of adversity that you’ve faced in your teaching or education career, and describe how you overcame it.
08:48 – In 2018, you published Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators. This seems like an especially timely focus today, with educators everywhere having to reinvent their practice and respond to challenges on a variety of levels. What are some pieces of wisdom and insight that you could share from your book that might provide educators with some hope and encouragement during a very challenging time in our schools?
18:46 – If you could offer one practical strategy or bit of advice to educators around the challenges of building equity, what would that be?
21:24 – How are you looking to grow professionally and improve your practice right now? Can you share about a specific professional goal or project that you’re currently working on?
22:41 – Outside of education, what’s another area of learning for you? What is it that ignites your passions outside of the classroom and brings you alive as a human being? Tell us why this area interests you and why you enjoy it.
23:39 – When it comes to writing, are you the sort of structured or disciplined writers that follows the same writing time each day?
EVO HANNAN is an educator, education leader, freelance designer, and speaker in Dubai who is passionate about promoting confidence in students through innovation and agency. You’ll find him active on Twitter at the hashtags #Agents4Agency and #CrazyPLN.
Cancelled by COVID: Forced to Pivot
This interview was recorded on March 8, 2020, and Evo had just recently had to cancel his plans for his #Agents4Agency tour of the United States due to the appearance of COVID-19. He had been planning in-person professional development sessions for New York City, Houston, and San Francisco, and four and a half months of work had gone into their preparation.
It was absolutely heartbreaking to cancel these events, but as the pandemic started to make its appearance in North America, people’s health and safety took first priority. Rather than completely give up, however, he began the difficult task of pivoting these events into virtual settings.
“I’ve built up a little bit of resilience over the past decade or so with some of the crazy ideas I’ve come up with,” Evo admits. When it comes to go big or go home, he generally never goes home.
Advocating for Growth: the Work of The Agency
At the core of Evo’s #Agents4Agency movement is the idea that teachers reflect on their own practice and pedagogy first before they start to implement and promote student agency. Agency doesn’t only come from students, Evo points out. As educators, we are the facilitators that can help to elevate their voices. Find out more about The Agency and join the movement at Evo’s website.
The Four Pillars of Innovation
Evo is passionate about innovation in education, and that passion has only grown in his years as a design teacher. His understanding of innovation is quite functional, and he sees it made up of four pillars: knowledge, creativity, characteristics, and culture.
Even with the appearance of COVID-19, Evo is committed to growing these movements and continuing to learn and gain inspiration from the like-minded educators who join forces in the process. His goal is to inspire as many educators as possible and provide them with the tools to help them inspire students to become the innovators of tomorrow.
An Expression of Personal Passion: Project Decade
“I’ve always been quite a positive person,” Evo says. It’s been in the last year or so that some of Evo’s friends have encouraged him to channel those passions into efforts that motivate positive change and transformation in the lives of others, and that’s what motivates him today.
Project Decade is one expression of those efforts. On his Instagram account, he shares daily inspiration and thoughts around inspiration, passion, places, and people. If we can stay in touch with those four on a daily level, Eve suggests, we’ll continue to find ourselves and live positive lives.
Finding Productivity in Ways That Work for You
Evo is quick to admit that his daily routine is not the healthiest: he knows he needs to get to bed earlier and eat more intentionally. Some of the traditionally rigid advice about productivity and time management hasn’t worked for him, he says, but one thing he has found reliable is to work as and when he wants to.
If that means sitting with his wife with both of their laptops open and Netflix on the TV, then so be it. No, it may not be the highest level of productivity on the planet, but it strikes a comfortable balance between having a life, being human, and chipping away at projects to the extent that he’s inclined to do so.
Voices That Spark Evo’s Thinking and Ignite His Professional Practice
On Twitter, Evo shouts out the Lead Agents that have been so instrumental in supporting The Agency’s work in North America, including @KBahri5, @TheWrightLeader, @Support_A_Teach, @ChrisQuinn64, @BBray27, and many more. “These guys inspire me on a daily basis by the things they do and the suggestions they make both on and off Twitter,” Evo says.
The power to really move things forward in the classroom comes from collaboration, Evo says, and in that regard, nothing beats the edtech tools found in the G Suite (now Google Workspace), including the workflow and applications associated with Google Classroom.
When it comes to YouTube, Evo’s more of a searcher and surfer than a subscriber. But on Netflix, one of his recent favorites has been Drive to Survive, a series about Formula One racing. It’s a great place to learn about how people deal with success and failure at a very high level, Evo says. It gives some great perspective for the space you’re in, and it builds your growth mindset in the process.
We sign off on this international learning experience, and Evo gives us the best ways to connect with him and follow his work. See below for details!
WENDY TURNER is a 2nd grade teacher and 2017 Delaware Teacher of the Year. She teaches at Mt. Pleasant Elementary School, a large suburban school in Wilmington, Delaware, with over 750 students and a diverse population. Wendy is interested in trauma-informed practices, global education, social-emotional learning, and empathy in education, and she loves every moment spent with her seven- and eight-year-olds.
Confronted with Tragedy in Week Two of Teaching
Wendy was only two weeks into her teaching career when a mother of one of her students passed away after a lengthy illness. She found herself frozen with fear, paralyzed by grief and unsure of what to do to support this child. What saved her in the days that followed, she says, is that she immediately recognized her own shortcomings and reached out for help.
That experience set Wendy on a journey of intentional social-emotional learning, growth, and healing that supported her student, the class, and the entire school community, ultimately impacting her teaching philosophy and career trajectory.
How Can SEL Be Infused Into the Walls of Our Classrooms?
Wendy points out that SEL is not addressed adequately in our teacher preparation programs. Teachers learn about classroom management, but that’s not enough.
The biggest thing that teachers can do to introduce a culture of SEL in their classrooms is begin working on themselves first, she says. Embrace self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, problem-solving, conflict resolution strategies, and other competencies. As we intentionally develop these skills and mindsets in ourselves, they will become part of the fabric of our classrooms automatically.
Saying No to Recess Detention
In 2019, Wendy wrote an article for Education Post titled Here’s Why I Say No to Recess Detention, and You Should, Too. “If you define recess as a privilege, I think that’s a problem,” she says. “When recess is taken away from children in a punitive way, we’re depriving them of a type of learning that they really need to engage in.”
Recess allows children to learn about the natural world, experience joy through unstructured play, and working through social interactions and negotiation are essential rites of child development. We also need to see misbehavior as communication, she points out. As educators, our response to misbehaving students should be more about support than punishment. If misbehavior signals struggle, how can we best help that student?
What’s Setting Wendy on 🔥 for Education
Wendy is passionate about the mission and vision of global education. She was recently made a Global Learning Fellow by the National Education Foundation, and she traveled to South Africa with a group of fifty educators for a year of professional development on the topic of global education. It was an amazing learning experience.
The UN Sustainable Development Goals provide a powerful framework for global education that engages students and helps classes take concrete action. She encourages teachers to start at The World’s Largest Lesson for free resources and learning strategies that can be applied at any grade level. “The level of engagement in my classroom around this is through the roof,” she reports.
Wendy’s Professional Goals and Current Projects
Wendy began speaking and presenting last year, and she has taken a position as a trainer and national speaker for Fostering Resilient Learners, a program based on a book written by Kristin Souers and Pete Hall.
“This book changed my life in terms of what I bring to the classroom and how I support students,” Wendy says. It wasn’t easy to go from the classroom to audiences of 400 people, she explains, but she’s enjoyed the professional stretch and the growth it’s created in her knowledge and communication skills.
A Reflective Morning Routine
Wendy has found that she is much more efficient in the morning, and she begins with intention. Her routine starts with coffee, a few minutes of silence, a stated purpose for the day, and an exercise session.
Mornings that begin in this quiet, reflective way set a positive tone for the day and get things off on the right foot. “It’s really hard not to pick up the phone,” she admits, but we need those times of disconnection to find clarity and peace.
Resources That Spark Her Thinking and Ignite Her Practice
Over on Twitter, Wendy recommends following two accounts: @BalancedTeacher and @NativeESoul. Mike is an accomplished author and recently published an article about student motivation that resonated powerfully with Wendy. And the Native American Soul account features a steady stream of images from nature – something we all need more of.
An edtech tool that does wonders in Wendy’s second grade classroom is the BONAOK Wireless Bluetooth Karaoke Microphone. This microphone equitably normalizes participation by literally amplifying the voice of every student, and it makes a great talking stick in restorative circles.
It also validates something that Wendy has struggled with her whole life: the fact that rest may look different for everyone. For one person, rest may look like climbing a really difficult mountain. For someone else, it may look like a Sunday afternoon nap. The point is to be deeply intentional about the activities we engage in and the ways that activities affect us.
The Tim Janis YouTube channel has been Wendy’s go-to in her classroom for three years now. It offers relaxing classical music set to beautiful scenes of nature. It’s one that Wendy turns to daily. It’s a great support for social-emotional regulation and happy brains for students.
When time allows for some family Netflix, Wendy is tuning into Cheer. “Isn’t everyone watching Cheer right now?” she asks, laughing. It’s hard to find suitable viewing for the whole family, Wendy admits. Cheer is one show that everyone in her family can safely enjoy.
We sign off on this illuminating conversation, and Wendy gives the best ways to reach out and connect with her learning. See below for details.