Brian discusses his education career path, his family, and his hobbies (2:10)
How and why Brian communicates much differently in the classroom than outside of it (3:52)
When and why Brian decided to become a teacher instead of the sportswriter he had planned to be (6:24)
Brian traces his career path from college graduation to the present (9:31)
Brian considered moving into administration, but here’s why he chose to stay in teaching (13:40)
Brian’s advice for teachers wondering if they should make the move into administration – he discusses many factors you may not have considered (17:10)
How Brian avoids boredom and burnout as a teacher (20:00)
How can a principal empower and encourage leadership in his teachers? (23:00)
Advice for teachers who don’t have principals that share their vision and passion for innovation and creativity in the classroom (25:00)
Brian shares one of his favorite stories from his teaching career (28:48)
Brian’s advice for principals on working with his or her teachers (31:35)
The best leadership advice Brian ever received – listen first; speak second (32:33)
If Brian had a time machine, and could go back and talk to his younger self when he had first decided to become a teacher, here’s the advice he would give himself (32:45)
Brian talks about Talks With Teachers, his popular podcast that provides inspiring stories and tips for and about educators (34:14)
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Educators Lead Ep. 32
Make Your Content Interesting, Dynamic, And Creative and Your Students Will Love Learning The Material
Show notes: http://www.educatorslead.com/briansztabnik/
Welcome to Educators Lead where we interview leaders in education to offer inspiration and practical advice to help launch educators into the next level of leadership. I’m your host Jay Willis and I want to thank you for subscribing to our show.
Intro: Brian Sztabnik has been teaching English for over a decade in New York. By day he shares his love of literature with his students and by night he is a husband and father. At the heart of everything he does is the belief that great ideas should be shared and celebrated. Teaching by this principle, Brian has helped his students perform well on the AP Literature and Composition exam and helped keep his podcast in the top spots on iTunes. Brian has been featured on Edutopia, EdWeek, Heineman, and AdLIT. Brian also won the Bammy Educators’ Choice Award in 2015 for Education Commentator/Blogger and he recently published his first book, The Best Lesson Series: Literature, which is available on Amazon.That’s just a brief introduction Brian, but tell us a little bit more about yourself.
Brian Sztabnik: So I’m a high school teacher as you mentioned I teach in New York about 60 miles outside of New York City Long Island, and my schedule’s pretty much been similar for the past few years. I teach 3 sections of AP literature, I also teach a creative writing course, a public speaking course and English to seniors and in addition to that I coach, I have coached for 8 of the last 10 years. I coach varsity basketball, and if you saw me you would know right away cause I’m pretty tall. I’m 6’8 actually.
Jay Willis: Wow, so what do you on all that spare time that you have?
Brian Sztabnik: Oh, I really enjoy being a father so my wife and I have 2 sons, our oldest is Owen he’s about 5 years old and our younger son, Evan just turned 10 months and I really enjoy taking my boys to the library and to the gym so they can just run around, watch me play basketball but also just dealing the stuff around the house where you’re on the floor playing along with the cards on the mat, those kinds of things.
Jay Willis: Yeah I was just actually just kidding about lots of free time cause I’m sure with all the stuff that you mentioned. I’m sure that it keeps you pretty busy so..
Brian Sztabnik: it’s like, it’s a labour of love. I took a risk a couple of years ago and just started getting online and talking about teaching and it kind of spiraled from there where once you connect with other educators I think great things can happen and that’s kind of that core that you’ve mentioned, who am I as a teacher? Cause I really believe that teachers should not exist in isolation that whatever they’re doing in that classroom should be shared to a larger audience so that we all as a profession can improve.
Jay Willis: Yeah, don’t be an island, right?
Brian Sztabnik: Yeah, definitely.
Jay Willis: Yeah, were learning from each other. So, what’s something interesting about yourself that most people don’t know?
Brian Sztabnik: Something interesting about myself that most people don’t know? Well, if you listen to my podcast I come across somewhat serious somewhat monotone, some people joke about that but in the classroom I just kind of… that’s where I feel the most comfortable, I feel so I really love to loosen up there I love having fun every single day in the classroom and I try to make it as enjoyable for students as I do for myself.
Jay Willis: That’s great, yeah actually I can remember in college I had a professor and it was really the first time I was interested in literature or writing, but I had a professor that was really engaging and it’s amazing what kind of a difference impact that one you know just highly motivated engaged teacher can make on your attitude toward a subject.
Brian Sztabnik: I think there’s a couple of things in play especially with literature in that, I feel it’s the class where you could really have conversations with the students and it’s not so much about the teacher dispensing facts that are tough to memorize it’s really about asking students what they think because especially in my class you know we have this common text. So this year we looked at the Merchant of Venice so students would read that at home, so when we come to school the next day, we’re going to have different opinions and we’re going to be able to argue and debate but also at the same time, see other people’s perspectives and I think that’s such an important skill to see that in English – this is so frustrating for a lot of my students especially the ones that are more on math oriented – there is no one right answer so that you can see shades of grey, you can see different meanings and that since we all come different backgrounds, different experiences and even different reading styles we all can become richer because we’re sharing with each other and not just necessarily just a teacher in front of the room dictating what students should be thinking.
Jay Willis: Yeah and so the depths of the literature draw it out of people you know, their experiences and yeah.
Brian Sztabnik: That’s what I’m thinking how’s cool is that? A part of my responsibility as a teacher is to take this works that I love so much, I’m dealing with Shakespeare, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Harper Lee, and these are things that I have such great appreciation for and such respect for. I’ve got to figure out ways to convey that to my students and not to give it to them on my terms but to see if they can come to their own respect for it on their own terms.
Jay Willis: Yeah, in what point in time did you make the decision that you’d get into teaching?
Brian Sztabnik: It was a little bit after college, I was a journalism major at NYU and I really thought I was going to be a sports writer because I had a great internship year I worked for Madison Square Garden Radio. They had a contract at that time for the New York Yankees Broadcast so, this internship allowed me to go to Yankee games…
Jay Willis: Wow .
Brian Sztabnik: Being in the booth and I did the out of town scoreboard for their 2 announcers, Michael Kay and John Sterling. So the cool part about it was when the Yankees would win and I would go down at the bottom of the ninth in the Yankees club house and try to grab players for the post-game show. And since this was 1999, this is when they were in their heyday they won 3 world series in 4 years so I was there when they won the world series in the clubhouse so the players came in, champagne party’s going on and in that moment I would just say, “this is my life, I want to be a sports journalist and be around these guys talking sports and writing about it.”
But the more I thought about it after college the more experience I had and the more mentoring I got a lot of people gave me the same advice which was if this is something that you really want to do this is what you have to be prepared for. You have to be prepared for traveling across the country to move from one paper to the next. So they encouraged me to start at a low market paper and gradually work my way up to mid-market and that hopefully I get to a major paper. They said be prepared to work at night a lot because almost every sporting event occurs at night they also said to be prepared to travel if you’re going to cover a minor league baseball team, or a major league baseball or professional football team, you’re going to be on the road.
And when I really thought about it, it didn’t seem conducive to the lifestyle that I wanted to have. I wanted to get married eventually; I wanted to be a parent and I didn’t know if I could move my family around the country, be away a lot and not be there to raise my children. So I spent a lot of time thinking about how I could still merge the passions I had and the talents I had and as much as I love to write and to read I thought that being an English teacher would be that perfect fit. And having played basketball and also coached youth basketball throughout high school I really enjoyed working with young kids so I ended up going back to school and getting a master’s degree in English education and funny as it would be my first full time teaching job was in New York City was up in Harlem at Frederick Douglass Academy and my classroom window looked right out into Yankee Stadium.
Jay Willis: Wow.Ha-ha. It isn’t going too far I mean; you still got to hang out right next to Yankees Stadium. What a time to be involved with baseball. Wow.
Brian Sztabnik: I was just, that was their core group of guys had such respectful leaders like Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter. Guys that composed themselves with such class and just exuded professionalism and it was a great learning experience for me.
Jay Willis: Yeah, So I guess from college from that point then what was kind of like a step by step path to where you are now?
Brian Sztabnik: So a lot of just figuring out what I needed to do in terms of credentials because some of my journalism classes would have counted as English electives but I didn’t technically have an undergraduate English degree so I had to basically spend a summer and a half at a local community college taking as many English courses as I could then applying to graduate schools so I can get in to the English education program. So the process from start to finish was about 3 years and that includes my student teaching time but it was something that I wanted to do and I knew that this felt right and I wanted to make sure that it was right so I just dove in head first and took as many classes as I could and sat in on as many classrooms as I could and my girlfriend at that time, who’s now my wife, she was teaching middle school English and I saw the relationships that she was building with the students so the experiences that she had, and that kind of solidified it for me that this was the right call.
Jay Willis: And so then after college then what was the next step when you actually graduated?
Brian Sztabnik: I did some subbing for about a semester because I had graduated in February, and I was working in two different districts and I ended up applying to every single job that I could find and applied to the New York City System and got this job at Frederick Douglass Academy. And what was so cool about it, it was a 6-12 public school that in so many respects that acted like a private school, that they wear uniforms, there is a student code of conduct but it wasn’t just something that you know was just handed out the first day of school and then forgotten about. These were things that they held the student’s accountable for. And what I’m so impressed about the Frederick Douglass Academy for is not only the care that the administrators showed for each student because the school would stay open ‘til 9 – 10 o clock at night knowing that many of these students came from disadvantaged backgrounds and they didn’t have a safe comforting place to go home to. So they kept the school open as that safe haven for them. They had ping pong tables set up, the gym was open and because they cared so much it was reflected in what the students were able to accomplish. The year that I was there two students were accepted to Harvard and another one was accepted to Georgetown and it was a crowning moment for the school to show that students who are disadvantaged can still succeed despite the obstacles that they face if they’re motivated and the support system around them encourages them to believe beyond what they expect.
Jay Willis: So, that’s the school you’re still at? Is that right?
Brian Sztabnik: No actually, I ended up going through 4 schools in the first 4 years of teaching for various reasons. So the summer after I taught at Frederick Douglass Academy I got married and my wife and I moved out to Long Island because she had returned to the district she had started at. She ended up going home for a few months because her mother got sick so when she came back we got married and she returned to her job and we moved out to the island. I taught at a Catholic School that second year, my third year I started teaching at a neighbouring public school but ended up getting a coaching job for basketball and this was my dream job. I wanted to be a varsity coach so after that year was over I went to this other district where I was coaching because it’s so much more convenient to coach and teach in the same building where you can see kids in the hallway and be there right after school to start practice and just have that familiarity with teachers and students so that you can encourage people to come to games you can see the teachers and how they’re handling your players and be abreast of any issues may come up so it just made it so much more convenient to be in the same district and I’ve been at Miller Place High School ever since, so it’s been about 10 years now.
Jay Willis: Wow, okay. So you’ve probably noticed as a listener that Brian is a teacher and most of our guests up to this point have been school administrators but I was really excited to have Brian on the show as an Educational Leader who has chosen to stay in the classroom. So Brian, was there a point when you considered leaving the classroom and going to the “dark side” into school administration?
Brian Sztabnik: (Laughter) Yeah, actually there was. I don’t know if I called it a “dark side.”
Jay Willis: A lot of people have referred to it as that (Laughter)
Brian Sztabnik: Yeah, and I know it’s an issue that comes up for a lot of teachers, like what do you do for your career? It’s funny I think it was my second year of teaching I worked with someone who was a new teacher at the time – he had been a lawyer and decided he wanted to become a high school science teacher. He had this interesting observation and he said teaching may be the only profession where your responsibilities on the first day of the job are the same on your last day of the job.
And it’s interesting to think about that how for some people that can be monotonous that it doesn’t change – you’re teaching the same subjects every single year and even though the students may differ it can be repetitive. So I know for some people who need that stimulation there is the thought of moving on and some people consider administration moving up, and it’s easy to see why.
But the choice that I faced was that I had a lot of people expressing to me the idea that it’s always a good idea to have your administrative degree in your back pocket even if you don’t use it. Because in New York, your salary is based on your years of experience as well as the number of graduate credits you have accrued. So people said get this degree because at least it will boost your salary and you’ll have it in your back pocket in case you ever want to use it one day.
And you never know…people had always assumed that coaches often become administrators so people were encouraging me in that direction and at the same time there is that call to – can you have a greater impact beyond just your own classroom? Can you influence an entire school? And they’re interesting ones to debate and for me I ended up deciding to take that plunge. I took one class at our local university and there’s an educational leadership theory part one and the struggle for me was that a lot of what I was learning about in theory I wasn’t necessarily seeing in practice. And there could be a bunch of reasons for that. A part of that was in New York we just had rolled out common core; we had what was known as APPR in which principals had to evaluate teachers and we had to submit portfolios, and there were a lot of hoops that it seemed like administrators had to jump through.
So the theory that I was learning about – that the administrators are the lead teachers of the building, that they can control the environment based on how they interact with the students and how they interact with teachers, was removed from the practice in which it seemed like the administrators under these new regulations had to do a lot of superficial checking and not a lot of genuine interaction. So I ended up deciding to drop out of the program because it just didn’t feel the right at that time and also I felt like I could have a greater impact by working with the 120 to 130 students I had in my classroom every year as compared to being an administrator.
Jay Willis: Yeah, so if there’s somebody listening here who’s maybe kind of on the fence where they’ve considered the idea of going into school administration but they haven’t really started pursuing that and they’re trying to figure out it that would be a good fit for them…would you have some advice for any of our listeners that might help them make that decision? Get some clarity on that?
Brian Sztabnik: I don’t know if this was the best advice but this is what someone had told me once early in my career. They’d been in administration – they did it for 2 years and decided to transition back to the classroom and he told me that when the honour roll came out each quarter, he didn’t know a single name on that list but when the academic probation list came out every quarter he knew every one of those names and he said “that kind of sums up what my day was like.”
In essence, you’re putting lot of fire in terms of discipline or confrontations or conflicts that occur within the school and he said it got to him – he didn’t have those same relations with the good students because so much of his time was devoted to improving the situations that are occurring that came from conflict or discipline and as I’ve said I don’t know if that’s the best advice because I don’t know if that’s just a pessimistic way to look at it.
I think one of the great things that the administrators can do is what I just said before is influence the direction of the entire building and I think that is a powerful thing to be responsible for the culture of a school. And as a teacher you can have an impact on your students, you can have relationships with your colleagues, but the power of the administrator extends greater than that so I think the advice that I would give is to think about what it is that you value? Do you value your subject and the relationships you could build with your students through your subject? Is that something that you truly love? Do you value leadership? Do you see yourself in a position that can change the direction, alter a course, or at the same time keep things steadily progressing in a safe passion? I think that’s the huge part of the administration now is ensuring compliance with the legalities of education right now, the issues that could come up with parents. Are you someone that really does thrive in communication, in conflict management? So there are so many factors to consider. One thing that kept coming back for me was how much I really loved being in the classroom. For me that was the ultimate decision…I knew that’s where I belong. Because as I had said earlier I’m having fun every single day in the classroom and that to me is something that I wouldn’t trade.
Jay Willis: Yeah, well so how did you keep it kind of you know, how did you keep it alive, new and fresh and exciting even though maybe you are using the same lesson plans that you’ve been using for you know several years. Like how did you kind of keep that energy up even if you continue to cover the same content.
Brian Sztabnik: There were a couple of things that I feel were effective through my teaching career and one of the early one’s was after my first year at Miller Place High School, the school I’m at now, the AP literature teacher had retired and no one else in the department wanted to teach that course, so they asked me if I would and I stepped up and did it. And not knowing much about what the course was one of my first things that I did was, thru the college board’s website, was sign up for their online teaching community.
And the reason why that was so pivotal was I was connected with other educators beyond my building…so in my department we have eight English teachers – this online community connected me with close to 9,000 AP literature teachers. And like any thriving community it does a great job of doing multiple things so if teachers have questions that are basic to the course you can get answers through this community.
If there’s a specific work of literature that you’re struggling to teach, people offer resources. If you’re looking for great professional development people can advise you on that. So it was that tribe that I was looking for; these were my people finally and especially as an early AP teacher a lot of the things I didn’t know as it was the first time I was teaching the course I found answers thru that community. So that allowed me to grow so much as a teacher.
The other thing that keeps me fresh is the willingness to experiment. In my classroom we have what we call Wacky Wednesday so every Wednesday I try to come up with an out of the box lesson and I remember a few years ago Grant Wiggins published an article on his blog and, I believe it was his daughter, shadowed a student for 3 – 4 days and then wrote about the experience. A couple of things that were mentioned in the article were how tiresome it is to sit all day long at a desk and listen to someone talk, how little a student actually speaks in the course of the entire school day, how stressful it is to take a test you’re aren’t prepared for. Because she did everything that the students did; if the students had a foreign language test she took the test.
So a lot of those things influenced my thinking about, can I get students out of their desks? And moving around to make the classroom more dynamic? Can I get the students interacting so it’s not me telling them what I think about the book it’s them building a collective knowledge by sharing ideas? Can I make it fun by introducing games and challenges and contests? So all these things have produced a lot of creative thought on my part in that it’s trying to solve those problems. How do I get them to move around? How do I get them to think? How do I get them to talk? How do I get the classroom to be not a stressful place or a place they fear coming to, but one they actively anticipate coming to not just Wednesdays but every day of the week?
Jay Willis: Good Advice. So from a teacher perspective like how can a principal empower and encourage leadership from his or her teachers. How can a principal encourage that?
Brian Sztabnik: I think one of the most important things a principal could do is encourage teachers to experiment and I think I use that word carefully. It’s not to be reckless but just to try things out and see how they go. And I think what principals need to do is twofold, after they encourage teachers to be experimental to either give them the feedback they need so they know what might have worked, what might’ve gone wrong and the other thing is to be supportive – it’s to build that culture where teachers are willing to take risks that they are willing to have a Wacky Wednesday every week of the year. So that students actually are excited about coming to not just an English class but math class, science class, social studies class.
I think a huge thing is just making teachers feel comfortable with not just doing the same old thing and one of the things I heard so often over the years as a teacher is “most teachers teach the way they were taught.” And I graduated from high school in 1996 that’s 20 years ago so if I were to do what was done 20 years ago there would be very little innovation. But as you stay abreast of education you realize there’s these interesting trends with project based learning, and the flip classroom that allow teachers to move beyond just handing out packets or worksheets or copying down notes from an overhead or a smartboard, or from a PowerPoint presentation. II think there’s so much that could be done. I think that is one of things I respected about a lesson is that it is so flexible there’s so much that you can do it doesn’t have to be repetitive. So that’s what the administration do – just encourage teachers not to be repetitive.
Jay Willis: Yeah, do you think there’s something that you can do as a teacher in a situation where maybe, yeah because you know obviously you’re a leading teacher and have a lot of great ideas for what you can implement in the classrooms. So what if one of our listeners as a teacher finds himself in a situation where maybe their principal isn’t it quite as encouraging and maybe doesn’t have quite the vision and passion for the innovation and kind of unique teaching styles…like what advice would you have for them, I guess on some level to kind of lead up?
Brian Sztabnik: I think that’s kind of a huge issue right now and that is the culture of getting immediate results and teaching to the test and making sure that lessons are standards base and follow a consistent format. I remember my first year of teaching we had to have the aim on the board every single day, we had to list the standards we were going to accomplish for the students to see. And I can see the theory behind that but this kind of goes find back to this idea of theory and practice. I don’t know if students necessarily benefit from seeing the standards. Maybe having an aim I can understand but I don’t know if that’s for their benefit I think it’s just for an administrative checks so if that if someone were to walk in they would know as an administrator what they were gonna get, but I don’t know if the students, if that translates to them.
One of the things I could encourage teachers to do is to find ways to take the small risks and I think one of the things I’ve been successful with in my teaching career is knowing the exam that I’m teaching to which so often is that AP literature exam. But not doing direct test instruction. So what I mean by that is in having a deep understanding of the tests I can tailor my lessons to meet those expectations without just handing kids a sample test and say “let’s just tackle this.”
It’s knowing the content of the exam the skills, that need to be taught, and then coming up with interesting ways. I think what happens when you do that is you start to become creative in the ways you can teach to those skills without making it boring. And I think administrators certainly respond to that – seeing kids that are engaged that are enthusiastic to come to class that are willing to participate. You know when you see a classroom sometimes you do see, and this happens in my classroom, when I’m teaching high school seniors, kids work late into the night they might have homework that they might either get done or just decide to push off to the next day, kids are lethargic, they want to put their heads down and you’ve got to figure out the ways to engage those students and I think when you try to do things like that the administrators will respect the effort to engage everyone. Not just the kids that have their hands raised that know all the answers, but you’re reaching out to the entire classroom.
Jay Willis: Yeah, so maybe start small and then once the administration sees that positive results of what you’re testing out in the classroom they’ll become more supportive from that.
Brian Sztabnik: And I think it’s not easy, I think some people do fear change and they like things extremely regimented, because there are no surprises there, it’s what’s expected. But I feel like when there are no surprises that’s when there’s very little progress being made because things become repetitive and monotonous. I think when students do get really engaged I think great things happen so that’s my real, huge wish that people would encourage teachers to be calculated within their experiments to not just do something silly for the sake of silliness but to have a true pedagogical value behind what you’re doing.
Jay Willis: So, have you been in education for a while. A question I wanted to ask to you I’m sure you have some neat stories to share. Can I just ask and can you maybe share one of the best stories that you have or most impactful stories of the difference you had a chance to make or be a part of on a student’s life.
Brian Sztabnik: One thing has come up recently is there’s this great educator in Atlanta, Susan Barber. She’s another AP teacher that I’ve gotten to know online. She did a bulletin board display and she had the cover of the book from Dr. Seus, Oh, The Places You’ll Go. And she put up the student’s college letters of acceptance. And it’s such a good idea that I copied it and then recently what I’ve done is kind of break it up in half. So the beginning half of the year I have still Oh, The Places You’ll Go that I have all the graduates of previous years and I can’t said all but the few I stayed in touch with – I have what we’re doing now and it’s really cool to see that in the same desk someone maybe sitting now there was the girl that now is working for Apple doing IOS software development and to see in the back of the room where one of my students Ryan said he’s now working in marketing and his clients include Toyota, the NFL, and Pepsi. There’s another student that is working for the Israeli, United States, I can’t take it the word lobbying group so there’s the girl is working for the Israeli American Lobbying group lives in Brooklyn but works in New York City. I think that’s really inspiring to have students see the same people that walked the hallways that they’re walking, that sat in the same desk that they’re sitting in, have gone on beyond our school to accomplish great things and have an impact on the culture at large.
Jay Willis: Yeah.
Brian Sztabnik: So I break it up where the first half of the year is recent graduates and then the second half of the year I allow the students to shine and put up their college letters of acceptance. So I think it’s just a great way to add a little warmth to the classroom so it’s not just about you’re coming in this room to learn in English you’re going to be inspired by what other people have done and what your classmates are doing.
Jay Willis: Yeah, and show them a larger vision like a not just getting in a college but like here’s what, here’s some success stories for down the road like here’s where you could be one day so I like that. That’s great.
Brian Sztabnik: Well I think our town is a lot like many towns across the country where people think of it as a bubble and people go away to college and end up coming back and either living in town or staying at home for a while. It’s nice for them to see that you can leave our school, still have roots here but go on to do amazing things out in the world.
Jay Willis: So I have couple more quick questions before I wrap up. First question I would have, is if you could give advice to any principal out there who might be listening, what advice would you give them in regard to working with the teachers in their school?
Brian Sztabnik: That’s exactly what I said before and that is just to be supportive, but encourage teachers to be great. And I think one of the ways that you can do that is just to encourage teachers to love their content, love working with students, and figure out the interesting, dynamic, creative ways to merge those two. How do you take your content and make your students love it? Because I think when students are really loving what they’re doing the learning is exponential compared to if they’re just doing it for the sake of their grade.
Jay Willis: Yeah. That’s true actually every phase of life, I think. Not just student. (Laughter)
Brian Sztabnik: That’s the secret ingredient right there is passion..if the teacher is passionate or students becomes passionate, remarkable things are going to happen.
Jay Willis: Yeah. So what would you say is the best leadership advice you’ve ever received?
Brian Sztabnik: Listen first and speak second.
Jay Willis: So last question, if you had a time machine and you could hop in it and go back to the point in time when you just had made the decision that you’re going to go into teaching and you could give yourself some advice what advice would you give to that younger version of yourself?
Brian Sztabnik: Probably two things, number one is not everything needs to be checked. As an English teacher the paper load can be overwhelming. I think I’ve achieved a much greater value in the home, work balance equation by not reading every single thing that my students write. There’s an English teacher in college in California named Kelly Gallagher…one of the pieces of advice that he had that really stuck with me is that your students should be reading and writing more than you can keep up with. So just because my students are writing doesn’t mean I have to check everything. What it means is I’m building them into better writers thru the habit of consistent writing and there are certain things that I do check to see their progress to give feedback on, but not everything needs to be checked. But back then I would check every homework assignment, every essay…it doesn’t have to happen that way I think the great thing that can happen in classroom is that the students are doing the majority of the work and the teacher is guiding them in that practice. It shouldn’t be the other way around where the teacher is doing the majority of the work and the students are on the side being guided.
Jay Willis: Great so one last thing I’m going to guess real quick, I’m curious about if you could share for our listeners a little about your podcast and what is it about?
Brian Sztabnik: So my podcast has a very simple premise – it’s the idea that in teaching we need inspiring stories. So 2 and a half years ago I started a podcast because my wife and I had a conversation in the car where we realized how much negativity was going on in education. Common Core had just been rolled out, budgets were being slashed across the country, and our teacher friends that we talked to in different districts said the same thing – that it was just a dark time in their building so we wanted to do something to kind of just move that needle in the right direction.
So knowing nothing about podcasting either, I ended up going online and reading a lot of tutorials, bought a microphone, hooked it into my laptop and just started emailing teachers asking them if they would share their story and also offer some practical tips. So many teachers were responsive because they said that this was a need, that we need to put great ideas out there. We all have a story that’s worth sharing and every teacher’s voice matters so we’ve published 78 episodes thus far. I do podcast episodes once every 2 weeks now and I find an inspiring educator and I just ask them about their teaching career and one of the most important things that I do is ask them to talk about a time when they failed in the classroom. Why I think that’s so crucial is because in interviewing master teacher after master teacher one of the things I’ve learned is that we all fail almost on a daily basis. It is an extremely difficult job that we have and when you have an elementary school classroom or a high school classroom you have so many different needs that you need to meet on a daily basis that you are going to fail at it. But the thing that I’ve learned from these master teachers is while they accept the fact that there is failure, they don’t let it discourage them; if anything they use it as motivation to get better the next day.
Jay Willis: Yeah, what was that what does it call again, your podcast?
Brian Sztabnik: Talks with Teachers
Jay Willis: Great, and I will make sure to put that in the show notes. Eduleaders this has been a great interview today. For more information about Brian and the show notes of today’s show, go to educatorslead.com and type Brian into the search tool. Brian thank you for sharing with us today.
Brian Sztabnik: Thank you Jay, it’s been an absolute pleasure
Jay Willis: And that wraps up another episode of Educators Lead.
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Edu-leaders, thank you for joining us on Educators Lead. Visit us at EducatorsLead.com for everything we talked about today, free resources and much, much more!
Educators Lead is a podcast created to help launch educators into the next level of leadership. This show is for you if you are interested in educational leadership as an assistant principal, principal, superintendent, teacher or someone who hopes to be a school leader one day. Educators Lead offers inspiration and practical advice to help you lead more effectively. Jay Willis interviews school leaders three days a week to discuss why and when these educators made the decision to move into school leadership, challenges along the journey, and stories that made it all worthwhile. Educators Lead is a great resource for any educator looking to make a greater impact.
Educate. Inspire. Lead.