Trust in Your Ideas — and Know Your Impact
Guest(s): Christina Nosek and Lisa Dix
Run time: 50:22
Season 1, Episode 4
Series 1 Teacher to Teacher Podcast
[00:00:03.10] PRESENTER: Welcome to Corwin's Teacher to Teacher podcast with host Carol Pelletier Radford. Carol is an experienced classroom teacher, university educator, founder of mentoringinaction.com, and author of four bestselling professional books for teachers. She believes the best form of professional learning happens when teachers engage in authentic conversations and share their wisdom.
[00:00:23.89] In every episode, Carol and her guests share stories about pivotal moments in their careers, successful classroom strategies, and personal actions they take to minimize stress and stay healthy. The Teacher to Teacher podcast is a place to engage in authentic conversation and reflection with experienced educators. We hope these conversations will energize you, keep you inspired, and remind you why you chose to become a teacher.
[00:00:49.21] TORI BACHMAN: Hello, welcome to the Teacher to Teacher podcast, sharing our wisdom with our host Carol Radford. I'm Tori Bachman, a Corwin editor and co-organizer of this podcast. We created this podcast for teachers at all levels who are searching for practical wisdom that they can use in their classrooms. We're all constantly learning and learning together.
[00:01:10.76] To share their wisdom today, we have two teacher guests that I'm excited to introduce to you, Christina Nosek and Lisa Dix. Christina Nosek is a passionate elementary classroom teacher of 22 years based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She equally loves teaching children and supporting teachers in developing their classroom reading and writing communities. Her past roles include reading specialist and literacy coach.
[00:01:36.71] Christina is also a Corwin author. Her book Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Reading was published in the fall of 2022. Thanks for being here, Christina. Great to see you.
[00:01:49.02] CHRISTINA NOSEK: Thanks, great to see you too. Happy to be here.
[00:01:52.07] TORI BACHMAN: And joining us today is Lisa Dix, a teacher featured in Carol's recent book When I started Teaching, I wish I Had Known-- Weekly Wisdom for Beginning Teachers. Lisa is currently an elementary curriculum director, pre-K to grade five, who taught across grade levels and in many US states before making the switch to administration four years ago.
[00:02:14.66] Lisa has taught first through fourth grades in New York, Ohio, South Carolina, and Massachusetts. She now lives near Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and enjoys the beach and spending time with her family in her spare time. Thank you, Lisa, for being with us today. It's great to have you here in this conversation.
[00:02:34.28] LISA DIX: Hi, thank you. Happy to represent the East Coast.
[00:02:37.85] TORI BACHMAN: Yay. So both Christina and Lisa bring their wisdom and ideas to us. And I am really looking forward to hearing how they can guide us through the first season of the school year when we're really getting started and creating a community of learners. So I will turn it over now to Carol and let our guests begin sharing their teacher wisdom.
[00:03:00.45] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: Thank you, Tori, and thanks to Corwin for organizing this and recognizing the importance of teachers' voices in the conversation and especially through writing and being part of published books and works. I am a big fan of teachers' voices.
[00:03:21.00] I was in the classroom for 20 years and then out of the classroom for 20 years working in higher education and pre-service with teachers' K-12. So I appreciated the value of everyone's voice but especially teachers' voices because teachers are the experienced experts from the classroom. And we don't often have that perspective visualized and articulated, so thank you both for being willing to be here and be part of this new launch.
[00:03:54.84] So before we get started and I dive into the questions, I'd like to have you each three minutes or so. Give a snapshot of your journey into teaching, why you chose to teach, how you ended up where you are now. Lisa's been around the block. So we want to know the beginnings.
[00:04:16.54] And did people help you? Did they guide you? Or did they push you away from teaching? Because we have a lot of that going on right now. So I'm curious to see if any of that happened to you. And how did you follow your heart? So let's start with Christina.
[00:04:33.70] CHRISTINA NOSEK: Sure. My story is pretty unique. I haven't heard one quite like it before. I grew up in high school, college. The start of college-- I had no desire to be a teacher. It was not on my radar. It was not in my realm of thinking at all.
[00:04:50.65] I went to college as a broadcast journalism major. My whole goal-- this was in the '90s. I wanted to be the next Barbara Walters. That was my thing. And once I got to college in some of those courses, I realized this is not for me. It wasn't exactly what I thought it would be, and I was a little lost.
[00:05:11.18] So I just so happened to have a friend in one of my general college courses say to me, you should come work as a teacher's aide. I was looking for a part-time job at the same time coincidentally. And I thought, a teacher's aide? Why would I do that? I have no experience with kids. Why would I-- that's silly. And she said, it's fun. You get to play kickball and do fun things. So I thought, oh, OK.
[00:05:38.59] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: That's a good career path advice.
[00:05:40.84] CHRISTINA NOSEK: Sure, great, kickball.
[00:05:41.95] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: I love it.
[00:05:43.36] CHRISTINA NOSEK: When I was a kid, sure. So I went, took the test to be a teacher's aide. This was down in San Diego. I did my undergrad at San Diego State University. And I was placed in a kindergarten classroom. And I was a one-to-one aide for a little girl who had Down syndrome, fully included in a general ed class. And I mean, my first day-- I walked in that room, and it was love at first sight.
[00:06:11.14] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: Wow.
[00:06:12.34] CHRISTINA NOSEK: And I knew that's what I needed to do. So teaching found me. I didn't find teaching. And this was in-- I think it was 1998 when I started. So I've been in education ever since.
[00:06:28.09] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: You never looked back. You just kept going, got the credential. You went on. Did anybody say anything like why are you doing this? Or did you have a lot of support in your family?
[00:06:39.52] CHRISTINA NOSEK: Oh, everybody supported me. Everybody I meet supported me. But it is funny you ask because I went back to my-- many years later my high school 10-year reunion. And when I told people I was an elementary school teacher, they were shocked. People just thought, what? How did that happen?
[00:06:54.47] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: How did you end up there?
[00:06:55.59] CHRISTINA NOSEK: Yeah, but here I am. And so after college, I moved back up to the Bay Area. And I've been a teacher ever since.
[00:07:05.43] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: I love it.
[00:07:06.40] CHRISTINA NOSEK: Yeah, I've taught second grade, third grade, fifth grade. I've been a K-5 literacy coach. I've been a K-5 reading specialist. I do staff development on a part-time basis. I haven't done it in a while, but I do it on a part-time basis. I write books. I love writing for teachers. It's my love. I love writing about how the classroom works, and what I do, and colleagues who I trust and respect what they do to support my fellow teachers.
[00:07:35.86] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: So I totally love everything your-- I'm a former elementary teacher. I taught fifth grade for all those years. And I can appreciate your message and the writing for teachers. And this podcast really is about showcasing teachers as writers, teachers with wisdom because we have that wisdom. We don't always have to look outside of the classroom.
[00:08:00.33] And I'm not saying research. I have my doctorate. I believe in research and all of that. But wow, the juicy wisdom really comes from people that have been in the classroom, and teachers want to hear that. Like how do you do that? I want to do what Christine is doing. Especially our beginning teachers who are listening to this podcast-- this is where we're trying to help the profession and lift it up by the wisdom.
[00:08:27.48] So, Lisa, is your story-- like Christina is different. How did you get-- and now you're an administrator, which we used to think is the dark side, going to the dark side. I know. And now, I love teachers that move into administration because I feel like we're having that teacher voice infiltrating the administration in a good way, in a good way to have more of the wisdom come through in the common sense. Sometimes they call it the common sense. So what's your story?
[00:09:00.33] LISA DIX: Well, first of all, Christina, I got goosebumps when you said it was love at first sight. My story is completely different from yours because I can't remember wanting to be anything but a teacher. I just have always had a love of learning, especially reading from an early age.
[00:09:20.70] And I think my desire to be an educator came from the positive impact I had from several of my elementary-aged teachers who made learning fun for me at least. I remember the days when we would come back from lunch, and everyone would sit on the carpet around the rocking chair.
[00:09:45.72] And my third-grade teacher would read a chapter a day from an ongoing book. And she would change her voice for the characters. And it just made it so fun. And I couldn't wait to hear what was going to happen next and just kept thinking one day, I'm going to do this. For sure, this is what I'm meant to do.
[00:10:06.58] And my dad, who is a former CPA, used to-- he's retired now, but when I first said-- when it came time to start to look for colleges, he asked what I wanted to do. And I said, Dad, I'm going into teaching. And he said, you realize there's no money in that.
[00:10:24.34] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: He's a CPA, yeah, the CPA looking at the accounts. Right.
[00:10:30.13] LISA DIX: So I ended up in northern New York at the State University of New York in Potsdam. And I started my own second major in Spanish or teaching foreign languages in the elementary school. There was a campus learning center there, so I had a lot of practice.
[00:10:51.01] My student teaching was in inner city Rochester where I had a combined fifth- and sixth-grade Hispanic class so that I had to speak-- I had to teach in Spanish with these kiddos. And it was a little intimidating because the school was surrounded by barbed wire, and metal detectors, and all of that. But the kids were so great. And I just felt so rewarded every day that I knew that I had to just keep going.
[00:11:20.32] And so, as Tori had mentioned in my introduction, I got married right out of college and moved to Ohio. And I taught there mostly preschool and then did some subbing until I started having my own children. And then I moved to Massachusetts, and I taught preschool there for a good bit of time.
[00:11:42.34] Then we moved to South Carolina, and that's where I really got into the elementary classroom where I mainly taught second grade. And then I came back to Massachusetts and taught fourth grade for several years.
[00:11:55.99] And I just-- every day is different, right? And that's what makes it easy to get up and go to work. And there are certain kiddos that really need you to dig deep and then others that you don't feel you're really making an impact on until you see them years later. Or you bump into their parents in the grocery store, and they remind you of the impact you had. And that's exactly why I went into teaching.
[00:12:26.29] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: I love it. And you also now are an administrator for four years. What was the defining or that decision point to leave the classroom? Because I know when I was teaching, I mean, we make fun of it like, oh, people leave the classroom. Why don't they stay in the classroom?
[00:12:46.36] And some teachers have that goal. Like I want to teach for so many years, and I'd like to be an administrator. And some are like never. I'm never going to be an administrator. And then there are different kinds of-- you're a director of curriculum, which really fits with Christina's love. You two are going to connect after this podcast, I am sure. What was that whole-- because you loved it so much, what happened?
[00:13:14.20] LISA DIX: So I did not have my master's degree when I started working in Massachusetts teaching fourth grade. And that is a requirement to work on for the-- you have five years to--
[00:13:27.19] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: Yeah, the professional license.
[00:13:29.27] LISA DIX: Pick up the professional license. And so when I entered into a master's program, I chose curriculum because I never really had a desire to be a principal or an assistant principal. And then through my work the last couple of years in fourth grade, I matched up with the assistant superintendent in that district and did several different internships with her.
[00:13:56.24] And I broke into that professional development realm. And that's what really pulled me. And so I started thinking maybe it's time that I switch over into an admin role where I could continue an impact but now on adults rather than students.
[00:14:15.58] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: Yes.
[00:14:17.12] LISA DIX: Yeah, so that's why I crossed over. And this is the end now of my fourth year doing curriculum in this district that I'm in. And I am between two buildings. But I handle pre-K through fifth grade, so I still have a pulse on working with students a little. Bit
[00:14:38.60] But I work with teachers and other admin. And I just feel like I still have my foot in the classroom, so to speak, but my reach goes well beyond just the students, which is really great. I'm so blessed to have this job.
[00:14:54.14] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: And it's empowering. And Lisa and I have collaborated on a couple of projects. I'll just give a shout out to those because her leadership through mentoring-- Lisa is very committed to mentoring, uses the Corwin mentoring curriculum that I developed, also piloted-- Teaching With Light has created circles of light for teachers around their well-being.
[00:15:19.36] So I appreciate-- the leadership role is really important. To have teachers in this type of role-- we can really influence a lot of people through these projects. So I thank you for that.
[00:15:34.10] So now, let's dive into some wisdom. You both bring a lot of common sense and experience to this, but I'd like to talk about wisdom from your experience, from your knowledge, and just your good judgment of choosing to teach and learn and become more effective teachers.
[00:15:57.77] So could you each share a story of a time when you had an insight where you changed your practice as a result of something that was happening to you as a teacher? So, Christina, what comes to mind when I share that question?
[00:16:18.26] CHRISTINA NOSEK: Sure. And when I think of that question, I actually jumped to when my mindset as a teacher changed rather than my practice. Well, it probably then changed my practice than my mindset changed.
[00:16:34.14] So this was maybe my seventh or eighth year of teaching. And this was a huge turning point for me in my career. I was in my third grade classroom. I teach fifth grade now, but I taught third for many years. I was in my third grade classroom. And it was the very last day of school. The students had left already.
[00:16:52.40] But one of my student's father knocked on the door. I opened the door. I was surprised to see him came in. And he said he needed to talk to me. And my mind immediately went to worry as a younger teacher. And I said, oh, OK, let's sit down. And I'm getting the chills.
[00:17:16.59] He said to me I need-- ah, I'm getting choked up too when I tell-- every time I talk about this, I get choked up. He said to me, I need you to know you changed my daughter's life. And I was really taken aback. I said, I did? Oh, wow. How did I change your daughter's life? And he proceeded to tell me that she used to hate math. She hated math.
[00:17:44.70] And anybody who knows me knows that I'm a literacy person. Even though I'm multiple subject, I teach all subjects. I love teaching all subjects. I'm a literacy person. I'm pegged as a literacy person. And that's what I do. That's what I write-- one of the things I write about. And he said she hated math before your class, but you've really showed her that she can do math. She can work with numbers that she is capable. And now she believes in herself.
[00:18:14.75] And I thought-- and I remember after he left-- and I've actually been reflecting on this for years since. I've realized the big lesson that this taught me as a teacher and what changed my mindset. Even during your hardest times, even during the hardest years, even if it seems like you're not making progress, you are as a teacher.
[00:18:36.99] And I think teachers, especially younger teachers, when you're questioning yourself, when you're worried that you're not making the impact you feel you should be making, you need to know that you are making that impact.
[00:18:50.30] Very few people are going to take the time to come to tell you that you're changing their life, or you're changing their children's life just because people are busy, just because people are busy. Not everybody's going to take the time to tell you that. But you need to know there are many, many, many people who are thinking that, and that you are having a massive impact on children's lives.
[00:19:13.04] So whenever I'm down, whenever I feel like I'm just not doing the best I can do-- and I still feel that 20 years later. I don't think that ever goes away-- I always think that-- I always think you are making an impact.
[00:19:28.19] Remember, you are changing lives even if no one tells you you are. So that was a massive turning point for me. And it really-- and I don't know if it was the seven-year itch or what it was, but I needed to hear that at that time to keep me going in the profession.
[00:19:46.83] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: Thank you, Christina. I think the important part of that-- I mean, all the parts I got goosebumps when you were saying it-- is the acknowledgment that we do need from parents and administrators like Lisa or colleagues. It isn't always available.
[00:20:11.24] And what your message is saying to me is I can change my own mindset. I can tell myself that I'm contributing. And that's a self-talk affirmational practice that we can do. But it is pretty nice to get it from the parents too.
[00:20:32.90] CHRISTINA NOSEK: There's always that one parent.
[00:20:34.86] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: Yes, one. It's true. And, Lisa, what-- before you share your story, Lisa, what's your reaction to Christina's story because I'm wondering what you think.
[00:20:45.21] LISA DIX: I was nodding the whole time. It is truly the most thankless job, isn't it? And I wholeheartedly believe in what you say. You have to be kind to yourself. And we're going to have bad days. We're going to have great days, and we're going to have a kind of days.
[00:21:06.30] And you need to cling to those few and far between moments like you have over these years. It's still choking you up, but it's because it is so special when it does happen. And I think maybe in that way, it doesn't give us the time or allow us the time to take for granted what we do because those moments are so few and far between. Yeah, thank you so much for sharing that.
[00:21:33.34] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: But that's the wisdom. Yeah, it's beautiful. And what we need to do is take the time like this in this podcast and to hear each other, teacher to teacher. Teachers that don't even know each other are nodding and agreeing with each other.
[00:21:46.60] That's the community we're trying to build with this launch of this new paradigm of sharing our wisdom and calling it wisdom because that's the identification with what you're saying, Christina, is I can do this. And yes, it's nice to have it from other people, but that we matter. And we do it through reflection and pausing, not being the Energizer Bunny 24/7. This is the wisdom when we take a breath.
[00:22:19.95] So, OK, Lisa, what's your story? I know it's in the book When I Started Teaching, I wish I Had Known. So what do you wish you had known?
[00:22:31.32] LISA DIX: Oh, my--
[00:22:32.20] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: Thank you.
[00:22:33.99] LISA DIX: My chapter, so to speak, is called trust your ideas, and that comes from when I first moved back up to Massachusetts. I was placed in a fourth grade classroom. And I was with a team that had worked several years already together. They already had their plans. They knew exactly how they wanted to teach pretty much every unit from start to finish, September to June.
[00:23:02.13] And here I come, the new person who's never taught fourth grade before least of all in Massachusetts. And I did things my way. For example, we read Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. And they did it their way, but I brought in pickles on toothpicks, and I made the dump punch.
[00:23:24.22] And if you're familiar with the story, we had a party where we had posters of dogs, and I hung up streamers and that kind of thing because I'm recalling those classrooms when I was in elementary school that I started speaking about earlier in the podcast where the teachers made the books come to life. I remember that.
[00:23:46.19] And because of that, I am an avid reader. And I want that for my students. And so I would do things like that. I would hatch eggs, and hang pink and blue streamers out in the hallway, and have a birth announcement when they hatched.
[00:24:03.49] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: I love it. So did you name them all too?
[00:24:07.42] LISA DIX: The kids did. I can't remember. That was so many years ago. But I was looked at like I wasn't part of the team that had three heads. I know that they went and spoke to the building administration and claimed that I wasn't teaching the curriculum, which is ridiculous just because I wasn't doing it the way they do it.
[00:24:27.06] And so I know now because I have seen the parents in the grocery store, or I'm friends on Facebook with different families, or my kids are around the ages of these kids. They still tell me the things that they remember from their fourth grade experience in my classroom. So I know that I did trust in my ideas, and it was the right thing to do.
[00:24:51.47] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: And I think what's important as beginning teachers who are listening to the podcast is they're uncertain. And you are part of a team of teachers who taught for 20, or 30, or 50 years. And you want to be part of the team, so there's a little bit of tension.
[00:25:08.99] And I know that you've shared with the story that it all worked out. And it wasn't-- it was more you trusting to try something that everybody else wasn't doing. And the teachers could see the result of that. And they could embrace it after you had the courage to actually do the teaching that you were learning how to do.
[00:25:33.92] And I know that you had shared with me at the end of the story is happy. I think some of those teachers started doing some of those engaging activities from watching you. Christina, what's your reaction to Lisa's story? Is that familiar, unfamiliar? Have you ever heard of that?
[00:25:52.26] CHRISTINA NOSEK: Well, yeah. Oh, gosh, yeah, I've been on many different teaching teams in my 20-plus years. And I think the big key message I get to from that, even though that wasn't the main message, a key message I get from that, to newer teachers is just hold on the situation you're in right now.
[00:26:12.71] If it's not easy, that's not going to be the situation for the rest of your career. It's not. You're going to have colleagues who might be challenging. You might have administrators who are challenging. And then one day you might find yourself on a team where it is your dream team.
[00:26:31.87] It took me-- let me think. Where am I at right now? It took me 17 years to get on my dream team. And I'm on my dream team now where we all collaborate together. But just hold on. If you're in a tough teaching situation, it's not your forever teaching situation.
[00:26:50.83] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: I love that.
[00:26:52.15] CHRISTINA NOSEK: Things constantly change.
[00:26:54.13] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: Yes. And we want it to change. I mean, Lisa was in many places, but that underscore of-- I mean, we have to trust her. Right, you can't give up in the first, second, or third year and not trust that your ideas are good because they're not the same as somebody else's. So that's wisdom, so thanks.
[00:27:13.12] All right, let's get to the practical part of the podcast like teachers are listening and they're like, OK, I love this, but what can I take away and do in my classroom right now? And we know it's the beginning of the year, and it's creating community. And you both have a zillion ideas.
[00:27:28.75] But if you each could pick one thing that you've done that works that even experienced teachers might want to try at the beginning of the year, what do you think you would want to share with us? Lisa, what do you think? What's your practical--
[00:27:49.73] LISA DIX: My message is mainly about-- or my advice is mainly about finding humor and laughing every day at yourself with the kids, have them see that you make mistakes too, and it's OK. That's how we learn. I wish that I had written down some of the funny things that kids have said over the years or some of the funny things that have happened.
[00:28:15.17] But I would come home every night and sit with my family and have dinner and tell them about the funny things like from the kid who had to work on a science lab and use a tuning fork. And hit it on his shoe. And then hit it on a bowl with water in it. And write in his journal, what did you hear? And he would run across the room and say, Mrs. Dix, how do you write wow, wow, wow.
[00:28:44.42] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: Because that's what he heard. I love it.
[00:28:48.41] LISA DIX: He's not wrong. But if you can't laugh and find the humor in things, then I think you're going to have too many miserable days.
[00:28:59.48] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: Right, so OK. So my advice to listeners is just start a humor list. And yeah, once a day, just jot it down because we all said that we were going to do that and make a priority of curriculum or something else. So that would be a fabulous book of humor, the crazy things that kids say and do that keeps us going. I love that.
[00:29:21.59] All right, what about you, Christina? What's a practical takeaway that people-- I know that we're talking elementary here, so those listeners that are secondary like K-12. These are K-12 things. It doesn't matter what grade level we teach. I mean, I taught adults using my elementary strategies most of the time. So what shows up for you, Christina?
[00:29:45.92] CHRISTINA NOSEK: Sure. I think there's one specific thing I think about. And I think a lot of newer teachers I talk to especially-- their biggest questions revolve around managing a classroom and running a classroom and classroom management.
[00:29:59.64] So I think the number one biggest thing that I've done-- and I actually learned this from a secondary teacher, even though I'm an elementary teacher. And I've seen kindergarten teachers do this really well-- is every single morning, we have what we call a morning soft start. It's a very clear structure and procedure.
[00:30:18.35] The kids know it's happening every day. It's not a surprise. So they come in. They put their stuff away. They pick a book, a choice book. So it's not an instructional time. It's 15 to 20 minutes of choice reading to really help them get settled into their day at school.
[00:30:36.60] And this is really big because if a child comes to school dysregulated, many children through this process of just having a really slow, calm 15, 20 minutes to start the day, they can start to regulate themselves. For other children, it really gives me that opportunity to check in with each of them before we start our heavy academics for the next six hours.
[00:31:00.41] So morning soft starts are just-- I've been doing them for maybe 10 years now since I first learned about them. Shout out to Sara Ahmed who I've learned about them from. And I know kindergarten teachers who do them. I know high school teachers who do them maybe not for 15 or 20 minutes, but for three to five minutes to get the day started, to get discussions started.
[00:31:24.63] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: I love that, so the routines and rituals, and you teach the kids how to do it. And then you have that freedom at the beginning to really attend to the specific needs of the students. I love that.
[00:31:40.45] CHRISTINA NOSEK: I'm glad you said teach the kids how to do it because if I just told them this is what we're going to do, it would have never worked. So on the very first day of school, end of the day, we practiced it.
[00:31:52.51] We went outside. They lined up as if it was the beginning of the day. They practiced coming in, getting their choice book, sitting down, and reading. And then I reiterated this is what we're going to teach you tomorrow morning. And they were excited because they already knew the fifth grade procedure for the second day.
[00:32:08.21] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: I love that. I can remember when I was in the classroom doing that, and then for some reason, I guess with the humor that Lisa's talking about, I decided-- because I had some real characters in this class. I was like, oh, they're not really practicing right.
[00:32:23.44] So I said now, who would like to volunteer to show me what you're not going to do? And, of course, I knew who was going to raise their hands. So they raised their hand. And I think it was about finding your seat. Maybe it was choosing a book. I don't remember. But, of course, they loved coming in, and pushing somebody, and not picking a book.
[00:32:46.33] And then we all said this isn't-- now, we're demonstrating what you don't do. And everybody laughed. And it diffused the-- two or three people that I knew were not as happy about this routine and ritual as I was. So thanks for sharing that.
[00:33:08.03] All right, we're going to wind down. What I'd like to do is ask both of you what you intentionally do to maintain your balance as a human being and not be in that work mode 24/7, which we mostly are, so we have to intentionally do things to balance that. And it could be something that inspires you that you do or just-- I don't know. What is it? Lisa, what do you do to take care of your psyche and your body, mind, spirit?
[00:33:44.53] LISA DIX: Well, I find it's very powerful to surround myself with positive people and people I love. And so I have a 20-month-old granddaughter. And I make it a point-- she lives in Maryland, but I make it a point to see her at least every three weeks, once a month, or something.
[00:34:05.50] I feel like just a weekend spent with her fills my tank again so that I'm ready to go and give my best back in the office. It is so hard to shut down with our email attached to our cell phones, and everybody knows how to reach you all the time. And so just unplugging and spending time with my family is really what I'm concentrating on doing.
[00:34:32.53] Carol, you've been trying to pull me into meditation, and yoga, and all those things as long as I've known you, and still I can't do it.
[00:34:43.69] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: Well, because I think we have to find the thing we love and, as you said, that fills our tank. And it doesn't mean it's one thing. And what I'm hearing you say it has to be intentional and put in the schedule.
[00:35:00.17] So the daily things sometimes-- I'm still going to encourage you to do the daily one-minute breathing because that's just what I do. But I think the bigger one with your family is something you have to plan ahead so that's what inspires you and keeps you going. What about you, Christina? What's your magic medicine?
[00:35:28.64] CHRISTINA NOSEK: Sure. It's so funny. I love yoga and meditation, but that's not what I was going to say. So everybody's different, right?
[00:35:36.14] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: Yes.
[00:35:36.98] CHRISTINA NOSEK: There are different things that work for them. For me-- and it took me a while to get to this, but I'm actually very strict with it now-- I leave school at school. I don't make myself available 24 hours a day anymore. And I've learned over time that boundaries are necessary to not get burnt out.
[00:36:01.02] And it's OK to not answer school email at 5 o'clock at night. And it's OK to take a break, to have dinner with your family, or go out with your friends, your teacher friends or your non-teacher friends to really have those other parts of your life and not have school come into it.
[00:36:21.60] Now, I will say this means I am incredibly strategic with my time at school. So I often work through my lunch, so I can leave school at school. I'm very big on getting to school really early to get work done early, so I don't have to stay until 5 o'clock.
[00:36:40.79] But that's my new thing, school stays at school. And home and personal life are at home and in my personal life, compartmentalizing. And it's hard. It took me a long while to get here, but I think I can attribute my longevity to that.
[00:36:58.46] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: You're sustaining in your positivity. And the beginning teachers that are listening probably are like, oh, my God, I don't think I could ever do that. And it isn't for everyone, but I think it is strategic that we intentionally think about what's sustaining us. So both of you had this opportunity to reflect on that and share that with this wider audience. And then we pick and choose what works for us. That's what we have to find.
[00:37:26.12] So I want to-- Christina, could you just give a shout out about your book, your Corwin book because we want to hear like why did you write it? And what do you love about it?
[00:37:38.69] CHRISTINA NOSEK: Absolutely. So Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Reading-- it's been out for roughly a year now, maybe a smidge bit more. But I wrote it because, nowadays, everybody has a curriculum, right? Everybody has a reading curriculum they're using. Very few places don't use a curriculum.
[00:37:56.75] And Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Reading answers all of those questions that the curriculum just doesn't like how do I set up my classroom for small groups, how do I set up my classroom library, what does small group reading look like, how do I know if my students are really reading, those types of questions, classroom management-type questions too.
[00:38:18.99] So it's the one book that I tell teachers. You have your reading curriculum. You have your reading standards. This answer is every single other question you need to know. How do I set up a reading community? So my children are actually talking about books and sharing books with each other and find that love of books. So that--
[00:38:40.37] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: That Lisa talked about in the beginning. Like that's what brought her to teaching, actually. So I love this idea of this book. And I think it could be for middle school as well because so many people are coming into the profession through alternative routes. They do have the Basil curriculum or the basics.
[00:38:59.71] But those types of topics that you're talking about-- you can't just do it. You have to understand the theory behind it and then find a mentor at the school who could model it. But at least you then know what to ask somebody because they don't know what they don't know. So this is a huge contribution, I think.
[00:39:23.94] CHRISTINA NOSEK: Thank you.
[00:39:24.26] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: What do you think, Lisa?
[00:39:26.65] LISA DIX: Yeah, I love it. I mean, speaking from a curriculum administrative standpoint--
[00:39:32.74] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: Right. Don't you want to get this book? You need--
[00:39:35.56] LISA DIX: I do because we have adopted-- now, this is the third year of implementation of a brand new core reading program that is no longer like what you're describing, Carol, with the Basil where it lays out exactly what to say and do, and what to copy, and all of that each day.
[00:39:55.95] And so people who come to the classroom in alternative means are wondering, oh, OK, so I can read this framework, but it doesn't exactly tell me what to do, and I don't instinctually know that. And so there are a lot of questions.
[00:40:13.25] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: Yes, yes, I love it. So take a look at that book. You can get it on Corwin, right?
[00:40:18.35] LISA DIX: I will, yeah.
[00:40:19.30] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: Yes, I think that's going to be really useful.
[00:40:22.49] CHRISTINA NOSEK: And can I just-- sorry.
[00:40:24.20] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: Go ahead. Yes, Christina.
[00:40:25.37] CHRISTINA NOSEK: So can I just say one more thing?
[00:40:26.25] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: Yeah.
[00:40:26.57] CHRISTINA NOSEK: So I actually wrote the elementary version of the book, but there's also a secondary version of the book to secondary teachers, Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Secondary-- I want to say English. I hope I might--
[00:40:39.23] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: English or literacy?
[00:40:39.67] CHRISTINA NOSEK: Yes.
[00:40:39.95] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: OK. All right, that sounds great.
[00:40:42.12] CHRISTINA NOSEK: Yeah, so there's one for secondary, and then there's one for elementary.
[00:40:45.50] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: And I think again, I'm just going to underscore how important this book is because of people coming in from all different roots. And just the different beginning teachers and experienced teachers want refreshers as well to just remember how to do all those things. And it sounds amazing. I'm really excited.
[00:41:08.30] Lisa, give a shout out to-- when I started-- what did it feel like to be featured in a book? What do your colleagues think about you having your story in there?
[00:41:17.75] LISA DIX: Well, I'd be curious to know what your sales have been like, Carol, because I'm willing to bet a bunch of that are my friends and co-workers because they're bringing their copies to me now, asking me to sign them. It's so funny.
[00:41:33.60] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: I love that. So how do you feel-- what did it feel like to be a published contributor with your wisdom being--
[00:41:41.95] LISA DIX: Well, I was very-- yeah, I was flattered to be asked to send in something and then even more excited when Carol let me know that my submission was accepted as part of the project. And I was just-- you were feeding me as we were going with, oh, it's coming out. We're going to let you know this time, and you have time when it's coming out, and all that good stuff. So this is really great timing.
[00:42:11.00] Just the other night, my granddaughter is actually here visiting because my youngest son is about to graduate from college this coming weekend. And so we've had a lot of family come and go over the last week. But I pulled the book out, and I showed my mom. And my granddaughter got a hold of it, and she's sitting on the carpet reading it.
[00:42:30.19] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: I love it.
[00:42:31.37] LISA DIX: And I sent the video to Carol. It is so heartwarming. But it makes me feel really good to be part of a project like this, Carol, so thank you for the opportunity.
[00:42:42.29] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: You're very welcome. And thank you both. My final question to you relates to a prompt that I learned from a professor at Harvard. His name is Richard Elmore. And he wrote a book titled I Used to Think-- And Now I Think-- and I was inspired by his book. He was writing about educational policy, and he'd been in his career for decades. And he started to write about how he changed his thinking over time.
[00:43:12.79] And it's a very powerful book and story. It's an article if people are interested in hearing what he had to say. But I'm going to use it as the closing prompt for this wisdom podcast because I think it's important for all of our listeners to understand that we do change over time when we reflect on our practice, when we think about our wisdom.
[00:43:35.86] And it's OK. We changed our minds because we learned something new, that that's wisdom. And common sense is not to stay doing what we did from the beginning year of teaching, but to actually change as we go. So, Christina, what did you use to think about teaching education? And what do you think now?
[00:43:59.08] CHRISTINA NOSEK: Sure. So this is another one that's a big mind shift more rather than a doing shift. It's a mindset shift. And this one was really huge for me. And really, it ended up informing how I run my classroom and how I run my day to day. And I used to think that I was the one who was making change for kids. Like I used to think it was about me and me being the one doing things.
[00:44:29.50] But now, I absolutely know and 100% believe that I'm the one who puts systems and conditions in place in order to support kids in helping themselves carve their own path and supporting themselves and really having that agency and that power themselves.
[00:44:50.30] So really I used to-- not that I used to think it was about me, and now I know it's about them. It's bigger than that. But it's really-- I'm the one putting the systems in place. They are the ones creating and carving their paths and making change because of those systems and conditions that I put in place.
[00:45:08.19] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: Thank you for that. And Lisa?
[00:45:11.10] LISA DIX: Well, I'm going to stick to the trust your ideas theme that I've got going here when I say that I used to think that I had to do everything perfectly the first time around, and I had to please everybody, but now, I think that I can trust my gut and trust my instincts, my ideas, and follow my heart. And I will always end up in the best place.
[00:45:36.51] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: Thank you, Lisa. And what would you like to say to each other because you got-- it's like a dating game. We matched you up, but you didn't know each other but you seem to have a lot in common. Do you have anything you'd like to say Christina to Lisa and Lisa to Christina?
[00:45:53.46] CHRISTINA NOSEK: So I love that about trusting yourself and trusting your gut. And I think that's just so important because I think we question ourselves so much as teachers. Veteran teachers do too. We do too.
[00:46:05.37] And it's really important to trust ourselves and not just trust ourselves, but if you're not quite sure, it's OK to ask for help too. I think that's a big thing. Trust yourself that you're doing the right thing also if you need to ask for help. There's nothing wrong with that also. Yeah.
[00:46:22.99] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: And, Lisa, the last word-- any final comment about what you learned from Christina today?
[00:46:31.18] LISA DIX: Yeah, well, I feel like, in a way, we're leading parallel lives here, me in the east and you in the west. But we both are literacy brains, I feel like. And I'm definitely going to check out your book because I think it can help so many of the teachers that I work with, especially given that we've adopted this new reading program.
[00:46:53.48] And I have to say that I did look up your website before we came on just so I could have an idea of what you did. And I love your mingle it idea.
[00:47:05.74] CHRISTINA NOSEK: Oh, my book mingle. Yes.
[00:47:07.18] LISA DIX: Yes. And you talked about that a little bit with your soft start. So I've already-- I've just met you, and I've already gotten so many ideas from you, so thank you.
[00:47:17.09] CHRISTINA NOSEK: I was pleased, Lisa.
[00:47:18.28] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: So we are doing it. So this is the thank you both for taking the time to share your wisdom and to give our listeners an inspiring start to the school year. I so appreciate this. Tori, what are your final thoughts as we close this episode?
[00:47:38.48] TORI BACHMAN: I thought this was really interesting to, again, hear how you both have parallel thinking but in very different ways. Like your paths to teaching were so different.
[00:47:51.51] Listening to Lisa say that she knew always that she wanted to be a teacher was so interesting that you knew so early on because you had such really good experiences with teachers. That's pretty awesome. And what strikes me is that you're both teacher leaders and you're leading teachers in different ways but definitely having impact on students as well as adults.
[00:48:18.21] Just in the way you are conducting yourself in your classroom, Christina, and with your team, and with the teachers that you mentor, and, Lisa, with the work that you're doing with teachers around curriculum and instruction, you've both come to this leadership space but in different ways. And that is also really cool.
[00:48:37.17] And I think something that a lot of our listeners might be interested to think about-- what is the path for me as a teacher? Do I feel more comfortable in the classroom and leading in this way? Do I feel more comfortable as an administrator and leading in this way? It's really interesting to think about all the different possibilities that could arise in your career if you trust your instincts, if you trust your ideas, ask for help when you need it.
[00:49:07.08] The soft start idea, Christina, is one of my favorites. It's actually something I do. I'm a soft starter. I need a lot of time to get going in the morning. So I could see how it would be really helpful in a classroom, so I appreciate that tidbit of advice.
[00:49:22.15] But yeah, thank you both. This is a really good conversation and lots of good things to think about. And I hope that our listeners will continue to think about it and talk with each other. We will leave some notes also about the books that we mentioned and ways to access those and ways to get in touch with you both as well.
[00:49:44.78] CAROL PELLETIER RADFORD: Great. Thank you, everyone and have a great, great time. See you next episode.
[00:49:52.42] PRESENTER: Thanks, everyone, for joining today's Teacher to Teacher conversation. We hope this time together energized you, inspired you, and reminded you why you chose to become a teacher. You can purchase any of Carol's books and any books mentioned in the podcast online at www.corwin.com.
[00:50:08.70] Please leave a review and share this podcast with your colleagues. Thank you for listening to the Corwin Teacher to Teacher podcast, a place to share teacher wisdom and engage in authentic conversations with experienced educators.
Christina Nosek is a passionate classroom teacher of 20 years and literacy education staff developer in her time away from the classroom. She equally loves teaching children and supporting teachers in developing their classroom reading and writing communities. Her past roles include reading specialist and literacy coach. When she is not working in education, she’s enjoying life in the sunny San Francisco Bay Area. This is her second book for teachers.
Carol Pelletier Radford
Carol received her Education Doctorate from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, where she focused her studies on mentoring and teacher leadership. She is also a certified yoga teacher who practices meditation and shares mindfulness strategies with educators through her online courses and website. Her podcast Teaching With Light features the stories of teachers and inspirational leaders. Her next passion project is the creation of a Teacher Legacy Network, where retired teachers can share their wisdom with the next generation of teachers.
You can learn more about Carol, find free resources, videos, meditations, courses, and all of her books at mentoringinaction.com/.
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