Episode 130 – Wendy Turner

This podcast episode was published on February 24, 2020.

Meet Wendy Turner

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.

Wendy’s book pick is Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. “I love this book because it talks about the value of stopping work to engage in deep thought,” she says.

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.

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Episode 108 – Deanna Lough

108 - Deanna Lough.png

Meet Deanna Lough

DEANNA LOUGH is an eighth grade English teacher at Sussex Academy of the Arts and Sciences in Georgetown, located in the southern part of Delaware. She’s an aspiring leader, kid Mom, puppy Mom, Mrs., music fan, and a lover of all things inspiring and positive.

How She Rediscovered Her Joy

A few years ago Deanna reached a point where she felt like she was killing herself with work. Her lack of energy and margin was preventing her from connecting with her students the way she wanted to, which led her to start asking how she could make her classroom a better space for her students.

That question has since evolved into a focus on equity, a pursuit that has really driven growth and evolution in her practice. Thanks to the changes she’s made in her thinking and work, she enjoys teaching a whole lot more today and has rekindled the passion that led her to enter the profession in the first place. 

A Journey of Putting the Needs of Learners First

At the time that Deanna really started rethinking her practice and her learning space, she asked her students to describe their ideal classroom.

  • What would it look like?
  • What kind of work would they do?
  • How would teachers support their learning?

Their responses steered her first toward flexible seating and then to her own embedded biases and the obstacles faced by students from cultural and sexual minorities. She also started asking tough questions about her instruction and assessment.

  • Were her assessments actually fair?
  • Were they really assessing what she wanted to assess?
  • Were they really supporting the learning journeys of her students?

As she asked these questions, she realized that a lot of the traditional and adversarial grading policies that she had complied with for so long were causing her the most stress and stealing her joy. Although her school still requires her to submit grades, she’s begun the slow work of changing her assessment practices and allowing her students to demonstrate their learning in new ways. 

What Else is Setting Deanna on 🔥 in Education Today

In addition to her changes in assessment, Deanna is keen on supporting her LGBTQ students and students of color in more effective ways. She’s become aware of so many situations that don’t do a good enough job of supporting these learners, and she’s also started to think about how some of the same systemic barriers affect minority educators, too.

The work of educators such as Dr. Sheldon Eakins (@SheldonEakins) and Dr. Mechele Newell (@mechelenewell) has also been deeply influential in her journey. One of her biggest realizations is that she does have a voice in these issues and that she needs to use it — to advocate not just for her minority students but for all of her learners and for the state of humanity.

A Professional Goal

Deanna is thrilled to teach in a professional environment that allows educators to set their own professional goals. Her focus for this year relates to thoughtful uses of technology in her classroom. Her school is 1:1, meaning all of her learners have Chromebooks, so she wants to not only improve learning experiences for students but also increase her own expertise in the Google environment. She makes the point that as we grow, learn, and gain competence as educators, we bring more joy to the job, and students notice that. Lately, she’s also enjoyed watching her students support the digital expertise of others.

A Personal Passion Outside of Education: Music 🎶

Deanna is a huge music enthusiast, and even though she’s never been trained to play an instrument she’s taken up the challenge of writing about it. This commitment has pushed her to listen to music podcasts to learn more, and shows like Sound Opinions and Rolling Stones Music Now have helped and inspired her to keep going. Right now, her goal is to write one formal music review per month, and she’s shared this journey with her students as well. 

Productivity and Priorities

One set of strategies that Deanna has found valuable is Angela Watson’s 40-hour Teacher Week Club, and one her biggest takeaways has been the prioritized task list. Whenever she has a lot going on, she takes a few minutes to sit down and arrange to-do items by priority.

Another helpful takeaway has been Google Keep, a simple but effective list keeper that syncs across all devices. “Nothing will kill your joy faster than when you try to be overly ambitious and get more things done in a day than are humanly possible,” she points out.

Voices & Resources That Inspire Her Learning

Over on Twitter, Deanna recommends following Dr. Sheldon Eakins @sheldoneakins. As mentioned earlier in our conversation, he’s doing great work in the area of equity and Deanna has learned a lot from his online course. Make sure to visit his site and tune into his podcast as well.

Deanna’s edtech tool pick is Screencastify, a leading screencast application that works well in the Chromebook environment with a handy Google Chrome extension. She’s also been extremely impressed by their customer support.

We Got This by Cornelius MinorA must-read book title in the equity space is We Got This: Equity, Access, and the Quest to Be Who Our Students Need Us to Be by Cornelius Minor. Deanna can’t say enough about how open Cornelius is about his own journey even as he helps other educators rethink the accessibility in their learning spaces.

A few education podcasts that Deanna appreciates include Dear Teacher, Don’t Give Up by Jeffery Frieden, EduMatch Tweet & Talk by Dr. Sarah Thomas, and The Dr. Will Show by Dr. Will Deyamport III. All three hosts are former guests of the Teachers on Fire podcast!

When she’s looking for education inspiration on YouTube, Deanna turns to Edusations by Phil Strunk. On Netflix, the show at the top of her list that just restores her faith in humanity is Queer Eye

We sign off on this great conversation, and Deanna gives us the best ways to connect with her online. See below for details!

You can connect with Deanna …

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