6 episodes

Honest, compassionate conversations about what brings joy into the lives of children, parents, and educators.

Opening the Door with Joyful Classrooms Joyful Classrooms

    • Education
    • 5.0 • 7 Ratings

Honest, compassionate conversations about what brings joy into the lives of children, parents, and educators.

    Episode 6 - Transformational Mindsets, Equity, Improving School Culture, and Courageous Acts with Dr. Anthony Muhammad

    Episode 6 - Transformational Mindsets, Equity, Improving School Culture, and Courageous Acts with Dr. Anthony Muhammad

     I recorded this episode on March 30th 2020, about two weeks into shelter in place due to Covid-19 and nearly two months before the death of George Floyd. 
    I mention the date of this recording in relation to the events to which it preceded and proceeded not to capitalize on the sensational aspects of what is happening today this June 11, 2020, as the streets flood with folks fighting for a voice, a justice, and a liberty they have long been entitled to.  
    As a white woman, and one troubled as much by the manufacturing of the racial binary as I am by those who wish to ignore it, I am always uncomfortable speaking on behalf of a community and a legacy that I believe has always and will always be more than capable of speaking for itself.  So today, I offer you the voice and wisdom of Dr. Anthony Muhammad.  
    Dr. Muhammad is an educational leader with over 30 years of experience.  He spent 19 of those years serving in schools in the Detroit area.  His tenure earned him a number of awards both as a teacher and a principal.  Dr. Muhammad is both a wonderful author and a highly sought after educational consultant.  He is the CEO of New Frontier 21 Consulting, a company dedicated to supporting cutting-edge professional development for teachers and leaders around the world. 
    His books include: The Will to Lead and the Skill to Teach; Transforming Schools at Every Level (2011); Transforming School Culture: How to Overcome Staff Division (2009); Overcoming the Achievement Gap Trap: Liberating Mindsets to Effect Change (Reduce Inequality in Education and Examine the School’s Roles in Superiority and Victim Mindsets) (2015).
    In this episode, Dr. Muhammad honored me, the educational practice, and the world with his time, voice, and wisdom in relationship to instructional leadership, school cultures, equity, transformational mindsets, and what true courageousness involves.  
    So I release this conversation into the present moment, but I do so wanting to emphasize that the wisdom shared by Dr. Muhammad cannot, nor should there be an attempt for it to be contained to a matter of minutes, months, or even years.  The fight for liberation is long and to do it justice all it’s beautiful and painful clambering should continue at whatever volume it chooses until it’s will is fully heard and finally met.
    Again, I have heaping gratitude for your hearing minds and open hearts.  
    In justice and harmony, I bring you: Dr. Anthony Muhammad.  
    Please find Dr. Muhammad via his website: http://newfrontier21.com/consulting/anthony/
    *I changed all my business media images to black and white in solidarity with the black lives matter movement during the month of June and until justice has been achieved.

    • 1 hr 5 min
    Episode 5 - Exploring Cultural Proficiency with Kikanza Nuri-Robins

    Episode 5 - Exploring Cultural Proficiency with Kikanza Nuri-Robins

    In this episode, I was blessed to converse with the wonderful and life-changing, Kikanza Nuri-Robins.
    To read from her website:
    [She makes clear that] our values declare who we want to be; Kikanza, helps people to close the gap between who they say they are and what they actually do.  Whether she is in a corporate boardroom, the fireside room of a retreat center, or a convention center auditorium, Kikanza uses her skills as a compelling speaker and compassionate listener to help people and organizations that are in transition – or ought to be.
    Kikanza has been an advocate for justice, equity, and inclusion her entire career, serving mission-driven organizations across the country. She focuses on sustaining healthy organization cultures by improving communication, developing effective leaders, and nurturing corporate values for cultural proficiency. 
    Kikanza is the author of many articles and six books, including: Cultural Proficiency and Fish out of Water. She lives in Los Angeles where she serves on the Bio-Ethics Committee of the UCLA Medical Center and the boards of several social-service organizations. She spends her discretionary time in her studio playing with color and textiles.
    You can find Kikanza Nuri-Robins at her website: 


    • 1 hr 5 min
    Episode 4 - Dr. Timothy Shanahan on Great Reading Instruction and the Pillars of Authentic Literacy

    Episode 4 - Dr. Timothy Shanahan on Great Reading Instruction and the Pillars of Authentic Literacy

    In this episode, a dream came true and I was able to dialogue with another great hero: Dr. Timothy Shanahan.  To quote the biography on his website, “Shanahanoliteracy.com,” 
    Timothy Shanahan is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chi­cago where he was Founding Di­rector of the UIC Center for Literacy. Previously, he was director of reading for the Chicago Public Schools. He is author/editor of more than 200 publications on literacy education. His research emphasizes the connections between reading and writing, literacy in the disciplines, and improvement of reading achievement.
    Tim is past president of the International Literacy Association. He served as a member of the Advisory Board of the National Institute for Literacy under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and he helped lead the National Reading Panel, convened at the request of Congress to evaluate research on the teaching reading. and helped write the Common Core State Standards.
    He was inducted to the Reading Hall of Fame in 2007, and is a former first-grade teacher.
    Years ago, Tim’s work and leadership transformed the way I taught reading, text analysis, and radically disrupted my notions about how to work with students who struggle to read, write, and engage in authentic literacies. On a personal level, it is because of his wisdom that I did far better for my students and he helped me foster vast reading and writing gains.  More importantly, I saw a drastic increase in my students’ eagerness to work hard. I watched their levels of self-efficacy shoot up. And, they reported a sense that what they did each day felt valuable and just made sense. I try to avoid gushing during these interviews, but he truly made a difference in my life and in the lives of groups of young people who will navigate this world with far greater agency.  
    This episode contains all the wisdom that changed my life as a teacher and much, much more. 
    It is a distinct honor to share with you a conversation I will never forget!  And with that, I bring you Dr. Tim Shanahan! 
    Mentioned Resources:

    Dr. Shananah’s Website: https://shanahanonliteracy.com/
    Dr. Shananah’s Blog: https://shanahanonliteracy.com/blog (Please Subscribe!)
    The “Hard Words” Article: (Click Here) 

    • 1 hr 24 min
    Episode 3 - Dr. Jim Knight and the Transformational Power of Coaching and Conversations

    Episode 3 - Dr. Jim Knight and the Transformational Power of Coaching and Conversations

    In this episode, I was blessed to converse with a great hero of mine, Dr. Jim Knight.  Dr. Knight is a senior research associate at Kansas University Center for Research on Learning and director of the Kansas Coaching Project. He has spent close to two decades studying professional learning and instructional coaching. He has written or co-authored several books on the topic including Instructional Coaching: A Partnership Approach to Improving Instruction published by Corwin and Learning Forward (2007) and Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction (2011). Knight co-authored Coaching Classroom Management (2006) and also edited Coaching: Approaches and Perspectives (2008). He also wrote one of my favorite books of all time: Better Conversations (2016). Knight has authored articles on instructional coaching and professional learning in publications such as The Journal of Staff Development, Educational Leadership, Principal Leadership, The School Administrator, and Kappan.
    While I was initially intimidated to converse with an expert in effective communication, Dr. Kight reminded me of the importance of grace and self-compassion as we all work to become better in all aspects of our humanity including our teaching, leadership, and parenting practices.  In this episode, we dive into the issue of human motivation, effective feedback, teacher autonomy, effective coaching practices, and how we truly effectuate change but within ourselves and within organizational systems.  
    As with all my guests, Jim was an absolute joy and I am thrilled and honored to share his infinite wisdom with you.  With that, I bring you: Dr. Jim Knight.

    His current work can be found and followed at: 


    • 1 hr 7 min
    Episode 2 - Dr. Mike Schmoker Emphasizes Focus

    Episode 2 - Dr. Mike Schmoker Emphasizes Focus

    For this episode  I had the great honor to speak with Dr. Mike Schmoker. Dr. Schmoker is a former administrator, English teacher and football coach. He has written several bestselling books and dozens of articles for educational journals, newspapers and for TIME magazine. His most recent bestseller is the expanded 2018 edition of FOCUS: Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning (ASCD, 2018). His previous bestsellers include: Leading with FOCUS and Results NOW. 
    Speaking with Dr. Schmoker reminds me of how many competing pressures teachers, administrators, parents and students feel to achieve or master so, so many skills and tasks.  Dr. Schmoker helps us take a step back and reevaluate what are real priorities. During this dialogue, Mike shares his wisdom around how to create a coherent curriculum within teacher teams, he provides his ideas around how simple authentic literacies truly are, and also gives us permission to focus, focus, focus.  In other words, he illustrates by simplifying and focusing on a smaller number of shared goals, priorities, and values that we would do dramatically better in the way of student outcomes. This is a principle shared and confirmed by volumes of studies and research, including the work of Michael Fullan.  
    Throughout my experience in the classroom as well as in leadership, I know I have always felt a sense of constantly tumbling in an avalanche of expectations, standards, tasks, and more.  Mike uses the word shock to describe what it feels like to enter the classroom for the first time.  I want to share his message because I believe focus is one of the critical shifts we need to make in education and as parents if we want to truly make a difference in the lives of children. 

    Dr. Schmoker's Website
    Links to Dr. Schmoker's Books:

    Focus: Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning, 2nd Edition
    FOCUS: Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning
    Link to Results NOW

    Link to Additional Resources

    • 38 min
    Episode 1 - Dr. Timothy Odegard Demystifies Dyslexia

    Episode 1 - Dr. Timothy Odegard Demystifies Dyslexia

    In this episode, I had the great honor to speak with Dr. Timothy Odegard regarding the subject of his work in the field of cognitive neuroscience and we took a specific look at the characteristics of dyslexia. Dr. Odegard holds a Chair of Excellence in the field of dyslexia, he is a faculty member at Middle Tennessee State University and researcher at the Tennessee Center for Study & Treatment of Dyslexia.  
    Our discussion reminded me of how highly intellectual great teaching is, how imperative it is to remain informed by the current research and learning science, but also how much compassion, love, and sensitivity teachers and parents need when supporting students who struggle.  
    Tim takes us deep into the brain and the neurology of learning nuances, how teachers and parents can and should respond when reading difficulties emerge; however, the backdrop is his message is one of perseverance.  And I feel he spotlights the importance of trusting that every child is on his or her own path and that we can be powerful shepherds in their unique journeys. And that if we do so effectively, we must trust deeply in the unbelievable endurance of the human spirit to our ability to overcome what, to some, may seem impossible.  
    Episode Resources:

    Dr. Odegard's Student Literacy Profiles
    Educator and Parent Resouces from the Center for DyslexiaTennessee Center for the Study and Treatment of Dyslexia
    Center Activities from the Florida Center for Reading Research

    • 1 hr 5 min

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