*For more insights about supporting teachers, head over to the Edthena blog

Watch this #PLtogether Lounge Talk with Amy Tepper and Patrick Flynn about why teachers must take classroom risks to meet students’ evolving needs.

You can find the transcript below:

– Welcome to another PLTogether Lounge Talk. I’m Adam Geller, founder and CEO of Edthena, the video professional learning platform focused on teacher learning and student growth. Today we’re talking with Amy Tepper and Patrick Flynn of Tepper and Flynn. They’re both former teachers and former school leaders and co-authors of multiple books. Amy and Patrick, thanks so much for joining us again here on PLTogether.

– Oh, thank you, Adam, appreciate it.

– So I wanna start in the meat of where we are, there’s a lot of things happening in schools. There’s a lot of, let’s say the context, the today’s needs part of the problem, right? So I’m curious about innovating for today’s needs, both from the kind of coach perspective and the school leader perspective. Patrick, I know that you’ve been talking recently about the need for risk taking to build culture, like that opportunity for risk taking to exist. So what do teachers need in order to feel ready to learn and improve their teaching?

– Well, certainly the teachers need to be taking risks, but as we think about what risks they need to be taking, it’s still about meeting student needs, and so it always does come back to what are we doing to meet students’ needs? And in this context, especially in a post-pandemic context, it’s challenging in the sense that we’re striving to build towards independent learners and students who own their own learning. But that means taking risks of allowing that opportunity inside the classroom and really opening in the classroom to release some of that control. And sometimes that’s the biggest risk that teachers take of them all. And I think in this particular environment, as I said, as we move out of the pandemic, it is really challenging for them to be able to take those risks and and allow that environment to gel within their classrooms.

– Amy, tell us a little bit about how risk taking today can feel different for educators given, just again, that context. How has this idea of risk taking changed over time for educators?

– Well, we all suddenly were thrown into Zoom and Flipgrid and Seesaw and had to take these tremendous risks, dancing on our cameras to keep kids entertained and engaged and in their seats, facing in their cameras. But I think something that has been really driven home this year has been the risk taking is required in terms of kids are different, those kids sitting in our classrooms are different. They’ve gone through experiences that we’ve never been trained to handle or respond to. So now the risk taking is trying to understand while we’re in it, who these kids and who these learners are? What the changing and evolving needs are of these learners, and continuing to be willing to try new things, completely out of our comfort zones or even in our training. And so it’s going to come down to really tapping into the resources around us. It takes a village mentality as well to be able to take these risks, because we’re trying to solve problems while we’re in them. And I don’t think we even truly understand the implications that all of these collective and unique experiences have had on our kids and then the staff trying to support them.

– I almost hear you having us focus on the part of the things that have changed that we can, for lack of a better word, accept, right? So accept the parts that we can know are different, maybe acknowledge them as different, in the case of these are different students with different sets of experiences than we might know from four or five years ago. But then get back to that work of adjusting based on what we see around us and continuing to innovate for this particular moment.

– And I think it’s about finding the right entry point, especially for those teachers to be able to initiate the professional learning and the support that’s gonna bring them down a path towards achieving towards that student growth.

– So let’s zoom out one layer from the teacher and student portion of this and think about that school context that they’re part of and the school leaders or the coaches or the Tepper and Flynns coming in to take a look at what’s happening in classrooms, but really are there to create a supportive environment for the teachers to do the professional learning. In the context of this question of the risk taking and that piece of it, how should that school leader or coach be changing or personalizing how they talk about how they’re going to support a teacher?

– Well, I think it’s still is about clarity, right? Is what is it that is needed? Making sure that we differentiate towards those teachers to ensure that, as we’re saying, hey, this is what we can do, let’s get on the same page as Amy was talking about, a collective movement of get on the same page as to what it is that is really needed, find your entry point and then make sure that, I think this is the most important point, that there’s formative opportunities. It’s not always a summative assessment of how you’re doing or a measurement of how you’re doing or a rating about how you’re doing, instead, it’s a true coaching model of here’s where we know where we are and how we can move forward together, and provide that formative and informative opportunity throughout the entire year, especially much more frequently than we have been able to do in the past.

– I think too, Patrick and I have evolved so much over the last few years, when you talk about supporting a school to be able to support their staff, and really helping them make some connections between wellbeing and feedback and efficacy, and recognizing how actions that we take as leaders can support adults in different ways. It’s not just about a professional growth goal, or the evaluation. it’s about how can just making contact with them and helping them feel better about something happening in their classroom, or just basic empathy. I think those pieces have become just essential in the work that we’re doing, coming into buildings and really recognizing, we gave you an example of a school has seven out of 12 staff members out today, how do we support those leaders differently? They’re in classrooms today, subbing.

– I hear echoes here of the kind of conversations that folks are having related to social emotional learning and that dynamic between the student, the teacher, and the context of the classroom, of echoes in that you’re reminding us that the school leader or the coach, the person in the role to support the teachers needs to remember that social emotional part for the teachers in this whole process.

– Absolutely, it continues to be about human relationships and trust and developing a compassionate eye towards, as Amy put, an empathetic eye towards what the experiences are so that whatever context we are placing that into and we’re placed into, it provides us with that building of trust towards that growth that we’re really looking for.

– Well, we need to take a short break. If you are watching this video on some corner of the internet or shared on social media, and you’re wondering what are we gonna talk about next or what have we talked about before this, head to PLTogether.org for the rest of this interview as well as many more. Amy and Patrick, thanks so much for joining us to be part of PLTogether.

– Thanks.

– Thanks Adam.