In part 4 of this 4-part interview, TheEduProject CEO Lacrecia Terrance talks about family engagement, student recognition, and stronger school improvement plans.

Adam Geller: Welcome to another PLtogether Lounge Talk. I’m Adam Geller, founder and CEO of Edthena. The video coaching platform for streamlining feedback to teachers and increasing collaboration among teachers. Today, we’re talking with Lacrecia Terrance she’s the founder and CEO of theEduProject and she’s held every role from classroom, teacher, top principal, to district leader. Lacrecia thanks so much for joining us.

Lacrecia Terrance: Thank you Adam, for having me today.

Adam Geller: So I want to be forward-looking here. I don’t wanna you know, turn the mirror on the experience we’ve all have are moving forward and that experience of course, is COVID pandemic. But, hey, I think there’s something to be learned from the ordeal that we’ve gone through, from what schooling means, what learning means to students, what the school day looks like. So, let’s get into it. I mean, how should we be kind of reflecting on what we just experienced and using that to change what our school experiences look like?

Lacrecia Terrance: Right, so COVID has not been all that bad but it has taught us a lot. In a nutshell, I should say, we have had to learn some things, unlearn some things, and then relearn. And so taking those opportunities and those experiences to push forward, is we have to in order to get our students ready for future learning as well as educators, get them prepared for what is coming in the future with education. I don’t think much is going to change, we’re only gonna get greater from here, in those experiences of what we’ve haven’t had to learn. There are three things, you know, just kind of come into my thinking that we definitely have to work on in moving forward. And one is creating those instructional environments that focus on high engagement, not allowing the past year or two for us to lower those expectations, we can’t do that. We have to keep that rigor high. We have to make sure that students are critically thinking and that we are giving them opportunities to just to be creative and not take those frames. I’m gonna say, take the frames down, and not put us back in a box which we’ve worked so hard to get away from. And the other thing is to create connections. I have heard so many stories and I’ve talked to parents, I’ve talked to teachers, stakeholders, you know, everybody that’s especially the homemade connect I’ve been exposed to so much. And one of those is the disconnect. Moving forward, we have to create a cohesiveness where teachers and parents and students, where everyone is on this journey together. We can’t leave each other out anymore, which is gonna take us on that price, which is going to move us in that process of learning more. And that’s what we need to do. And then let, I’m just thinking in my mind, but then the next thing we need to do is create space for students to be recognized individually, while they’re in those collaborative teams. So many students have felt lost, you know in this journey, they felt alone. Like they couldn’t make it. And I feel like we can create structures and we can create models that would not only allow space for students to be seen as an individual learner but also still give them those experiences of working collaboratively with other folks. And so those are the things that I really passionately feel strong about in moving forward in our education journey

Adam Geller: You know, when I hear those kind of big bullet points, engagement, creating connections between students and families and the school, as well as creating space for the students as individuals. There’s one way of looking at that at which is, wait, didn’t I hear this before, you know, a few years ago? But then when you think about it you said something else in there which is we forgot that we really couldn’t get by without investing energy into these areas. And I think what I heard you saying was, during the pandemic, we realized, oh, well we absolutely can’t get by without creating that connection with the parents where maybe before, you know and even as a teacher myself, I was probably guilty of it. You may have not invested as much on that parent angle because there were a lot of competing priorities. So it’s almost like I hear you saying like, okay, reorganize that list of what’s important. And don’t forget that those things have to be on the docket in order to help us move forward.

Lacrecia Terrance: Right, absolutely. One of the first things I did as a leader, is I focused on students and parents. I explained to my teachers, which I had to do, I needed to create that connection, that relationship, build those relationships because they were feeling so frustrated, right? They were feeling left out. There are so many systematic structures that are put up on schools, that we get so caught up, not at the fault of anybody. I’m not blaming anyone, I’m not blaming teachers, but we get caught in those systems where we forget about the folks that were doing it for, right? And so that’s really, really important that we kind of just get those nuggets back and reprioritize who is at the center of all of this. And if we can partner with parents I know when I first started teaching, they was like, don’t worry about parents, we don’t have high parent engagement here. We have PTA meetings, they’re not gonna come. And I started thinking to myself, well, what’s gonna make them come. What do we need to do to get our parents back on board? I have been researching and working really hard to form that education, that true educational stakeholder team, right? Bringing everybody back to the playing board, bringing the students at the forefront of the learning of the structures that’s been put in place. Also allowing parents to support that student, but not necessarily taking their voice away, right? Allowing the teacher to also be a team member in that, but the community too, we can’t leave them out. Our students are gonna… If we want them to be productive citizens, right? We have to include the community to see where they’re going. What is it that you’re expecting our students to learn and know when they leave our building. And so even, you have to be a part of this process. And if it’s not, it just makes it harder for students to just say, I’m gonna continue lifelong learning after high school, when there is no cohesiveness in that, right? So we have to bring it back together so that we can, you know, exactly for our students to be successful.

Adam Geller: That’s what we should do. Now tell us what we should stop doing, because I feel like that could have potentially be really helpful advice and you get the luxury of now advising many school leaders. So, wave that magic wands and help them know what’s the one thing or two if you want, that if they can try and do less of this thing, like, we realize we should do less of that now.

Lacrecia Terrance: So I have this thing that I’ve been saying for the last, I don’t know, three or four years before COVID I was alluding to it even as far as back as 2016, I didn’t even know this was gonna happen. When the rules don’t work, I say that all the time, so if you hear my teachers are listening they’re gonna be like, oh, there she go again. So when the rules don’t work for all, is it a fair game? Is it something that we should be putting up on all students? And so where do we start, what do we do? We create these goals. One, you should create a mission that works for all of your students. We can’t have a blanket mission, that we’re saving the world. You need to be specific about your school your population of students, and create a mission and a vision that you actually can unpack and say, one, this is for the students two, this is for whoever, and three, this is for whoever else is gonna be your involve. Create action steps of how the mission is going to be accomplished. And now the reason I’m saying that, Adam, is because I was a principal, right? And we had to do these school-wide improvement plans of how are we gonna make these things happen, but we create these school-wide improvement plans and I’m not really seeing the action happen, right? And so creating those real timelines, putting training in, you know, I’ll get this training, are you working with a mentor or just whatever it takes to get the action done. And so I would say, create actionable items, for each one of your goals and not waiting till the end of the year to see if we’ve created the school-wide improvement plan. We should check on that at least every three months. And I think that would be a good start. So that’s what we need to start doing. One of the other things is that we analyze data so much and we get so involved in the data that we forget about the student looking at their own data, and that needs to change in moving forward, right? And how do we do that? And what does that look like? I explained before that I was doing a lot of reflection with my teachers, that was happening with the students as well. Once a student take a test or an assessment, I should say that. That word test gets me real quick, but once they’ve taken a performance assessment and any type of assessment, they look at what went wrong. How did I do, could I have done better? How many times did it take me? Because we created a culture for that. If I don’t succeed, failure is okay. If I don’t succeed the first time what would it look like if I had to do it again? And then we allow them the opportunity to do it again. And then, so they just keep embarking on that until we get to that final product. And then they reflect on the experience, right? And so those are some things that we could do differently. And that’s a place where you can start as well.

Adam Geller: And I’ll make a quick plug for another PLtogether video that I’m reminded of. You mentioned the value of school leaders reflecting on data. You mentioned the value of reflecting on data with students, the individual teachers, but you skipped over and I’ll put in the plug for this video. Wasn’t I mention there for PLC is doing a data post-mortem and if you’re wondering why that might be a bad idea or maybe not the best use of time, I should say, go check out our other video about that on PLtogether with Heather Hill, a researcher from Harvard. Lacrecia we are out of time, but it has been great learning from you. If you’re somewhere out there listening or watching this. And you’re wondering what we talked about before this video make sure to head to for that Heather Hill video, I was just mentioning but as well as the rest of this conversation and many more. Lacrecia thanks so much for being part of PLtogether.

Lacrecia Terrance: Thank you, Adam, for having me, I’ve really enjoyed our time together.