Educator Wellness Podcast

We are Professionals! Educator Compensation, Retention, and Attrition

February 22, 2023 Season 1 Episode 5
We are Professionals! Educator Compensation, Retention, and Attrition
Educator Wellness Podcast
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Educator Wellness Podcast
We are Professionals! Educator Compensation, Retention, and Attrition
Feb 22, 2023 Season 1 Episode 5

Special guests Mary Jane Cobb, Amira Nash, and Dr. Will Coghill-Behrends, join me for a captivating conversation about educator wellness and the future of the profession.

Each brings a unique viewpoint and expertise to the topic. Mary Jane is the Executive Director of the Iowa State Education Association, while Amira and Will both work in the University of Iowa College of Education. Amira serves as the  Associate Director of Programs and Partnerships in the Baker Teacher Leader Center, and Will is an Clinical Associate Professor of Multilingual Education. 

Learn about:

  • Tips to individually and collectively enhance educators' occupational and financial dimensions of wellness
  • Strategies educators can employ to positively impact the profession, their peers, and personal well-being


Thanks for listening! Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, X, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Visit our website: https://scsmh.education.uiowa.edu

Show Notes Transcript

Special guests Mary Jane Cobb, Amira Nash, and Dr. Will Coghill-Behrends, join me for a captivating conversation about educator wellness and the future of the profession.

Each brings a unique viewpoint and expertise to the topic. Mary Jane is the Executive Director of the Iowa State Education Association, while Amira and Will both work in the University of Iowa College of Education. Amira serves as the  Associate Director of Programs and Partnerships in the Baker Teacher Leader Center, and Will is an Clinical Associate Professor of Multilingual Education. 

Learn about:

  • Tips to individually and collectively enhance educators' occupational and financial dimensions of wellness
  • Strategies educators can employ to positively impact the profession, their peers, and personal well-being


Thanks for listening! Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, X, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Visit our website: https://scsmh.education.uiowa.edu

(upbeat music)- Hi everyone. Welcome to another episode of this Scanlan Center for School Mental Health's Educator Wellness Video Podcast. I'm your host, Kari Vogelgesang, and I have some really special guests tonight. We're actually here in Indianapolis, so we're kinda on the road with this show this evening. We are in Indianapolis for ACT, which is the American Association for Colleges of Teacher Education Association. And so we're here with a bunch of teachers this week, the rest of this week and this weekend. This is my colleague, Dr. Will Coghill-Behrends, and then I have Amira Nash, who is one of our associate directors in the Baker Teacher Leader Center. And then we have Mary Jane Cobb with us this evening, and I'm gonna let them introduce themselves tonight since we have three different people joining us. But I just wanna remind everybody that tonight's episode is really focused on two dimensions of wellness, occupational and financial dimensions of wellness, but particularly those dimensions of wellness in relation to teachers or educators and working in a school system and how that impacts directly impacts those two dimensions of wellness. So let's go ahead and get into it, team. Mary Jane, let's maybe start with you. Do you wanna tell our audience tonight where you work and how you got into what you're currently doing right now?- Sure. Be happy to. Good evening everybody. I'm Mary Jane Cobb. I am the Executive Director of the Iowa State Education Association. And ISCA is the education employee union for our pre-K 12 and community college and the AEA practitioners for students in teacher preparation programs and our retired members. And we work with educators on everything from professional learning to social and emotional learning supports to legal representation, legislative issues right now that are on everybody's minds. And of course, collective bargaining for contracts at the local level. And I've been in Iowa in this job for about 14 years. I started in education a long time ago at a technical college as a basically a work study coordinator. So it's terrific to be here tonight.- I'm having to play with Robin to play with our mute button tonight. Folks, you're gonna have to be patient with us because we have so many people. So we are getting some feedback. But thanks Mary Jane. I'm so happy that you're with us and we're gonna really talk a little bit more about your association and maybe how your association directly supports, these two particular dimensions of wellness too, here in just a little bit. But Amira, why don't you go ahead and tell us a little bit about yourself. We've known Amira for a long time and we finally now get to call her a colleague and she's working with us at the College of Education, but specifically in the Baker Teacher Leader Center. So Amira, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself?- Thanks for having me, Kari. So, hi everybody. I'm Amira Nash. I am the Associate Director of partnerships and programs in the Baker Teacher Leader Center. So I mainly work with student pathway programs to becoming teachers. I'm interested in the recruitment and retention of teachers of color. I work with Will on our global education initiatives, and then anti-racism initiatives in the college. And as Kari mentioned, I've been in Iowa for a long time. So I did my undergrad there. I was in the teacher education program at my bachelor's in psychology. I taught social studies and English language learners here in Iowa City for four years prior to this job. And I did my master's program at Iowa and I'm working on my PhD right now at Iowa. So known Kari and Will for a long time.- Thanks for joining us tonight, Amira. We are going to definitely talk specifically about some of the programs that you're running and how you're helping our profession in various ways.'Cause you definitely are, particularly in southeast Iowa. So thanks for joining us. And now, the one and only, (indistinct). So, Will, why don't you everybody a little bit about yourself and kinda what you do in the Baker Teacher Leader Center?- Sure, sure. Everybody name is Will Coghill-Behrends. I'm the co-director of the Baker Teacher Leader Center. My work focuses on global education initiatives and support Amira with the students teacher pathway programming. I'm a professor in multilingual education, was a former classroom world language teacher and teach classes in world language education methods, et cetera. So Kari and I are traveling and we traveled early to get away from the storm and she said,"You're gonna be on the podcast since you're gonna be stuck with me in Indianapolis."- I did.- So I'm sort of a last minute addition. Hopefully I'll add something to the conversation tonight.- Of course you're gonna add stuff to the conversation. I specifically am interested in you talking about some of the tags that you run here at for ACTE and how that impacts our profession too. I think it's really interesting work. So, okay. So team, when we're thinking about occupational wellness and we're looking at like, kind of like the shared definition of occupational wellness and those of us who study wellness and we look at SAMSA's framework and that particular dimension, you know, as all of us know, is talking about using our gifts and our talents and our interests in specific ways to fulfill our lives, right? To bring joy to our lives and to other people's lives as well. And we know right now that teachers are reporting that they're really struggling in this area. They're really struggling finding joy in their work. In fact, we have an intake form through the Scanlan Center for School Mental Health, and teachers, administrators, various organizations are able to complete that intake form and kind of share with us what their needs are and how we might be able to help them. And this has definitely been a theme over the past year. And I see Mary Jane and Amira shaking their heads too, wanting us to come in and do some keynotes or some talks or some motivation kinda speaking around finding joy in their work and bringing joy back to the work. So I'm just interested, and Mary Jane, maybe we'll start with you. Where do you think this is coming from and why do you think this is happening?- Oh gosh. That is like the biggest question that we have, I think in education right now. I'm gonna go with some polling data that we saw from the National Education Association from a little while back. But the top issue that was facing educators at that time was burnout, general stress from the pandemic, student absences, unfilled jobs in their schools, pay not being what it should be. But when you dig into it and you talk to teachers about what's really bothering them about their work, it's the lack of agency over their profession. Somebody who doesn't understand what happens in a school or a classroom is telling them what they're supposed to teach, how they're supposed to teach it when they're supposed to teach it. The respect for the profession is not what it used to be. And when you look at the dimensions, the indicators of occupational wellness and you kind of go through them, it's like, oh, teachers aren't feeling that and they're not feeling that. And the joy is the hardest thing for me to see is the lack of joy of teachers right now in a lot of ways in their profession.- Yeah, I couldn't agree more, Mary Jane. I mean, when I'm in and out of schools, I'm just constantly hearing this, you know, that they, teachers are just feeling so overwhelmed and so burnt out and feeling like no matter what they do or how they contribute, it's a got you. They feel like that they're gonna be wrong in some way, shape or form. Amira, you probably, you've been in the classroom compared to Mary Jane, and Will and I, you were in the classroom most recently working as a full-time teacher, but also prior to the pandemic. So would you think that this, when you were teaching still in the classroom, were you feeling this even before the pandemic or did you get a sense that this was happening even before the pandemic?- Yeah, for sure. I mean this, I started teaching in 2017 and so I had, you know, a good two and a half years before the pandemic hit, and this, you know, overwhelming is what you said, Kari. And I think that's what a lot of teachers were feeling, especially teachers of color. Especially like the summer of 2020 and like coming back after that to school and then when the pandemic hit, you know, just all the uncertainty I think is what was most overwhelming and all of, you know, as Mary Jane was saying, not feeling the agency to be able to make decisions of what you're gonna do in your own classroom.- Yeah, so I think we should unpack that, what you just said a little bit, Amira,'cause this is the thing that worries me a lot, what you just said about especially teachers of color. So when we're looking at data and we're looking at the people who are wanting to go into the profession, we know that right now there's actually not many, which is problematic to begin with. But then when we're seeing people who are wanting to go under the profession compared to what the demographics look like in the classroom of our students, there's this, as everybody knows, there's this enormous discrepancy. So first of all, like maybe let's talk about like that intersectionality or identity in the differences that we're seeing and how it's impacting different identities in different races and genders or differently in terms of how they're feeling and why it's so overwhelming for some groups as compared to, I mean I think it's overwhelming, period, but why it's impacting others more.- Or just differently.- Yeah, maybe just differently. That's maybe a better way of saying it. How it's impacting different groups differently. Do you wanna start, Will?- Well I would just echo what Amira said, which is, you know, I mean also I think I would add that Amira started teaching following the presidential election of 2016, where that rhetoric, sort of anti-teacher, anti-school rhetoric, had already started escalating, right? Where there was a lot of sort of public conversations about how teachers were somehow, you know, spoiling education. And somehow, you know, I remember the term teacher activist, right, being something that was used at that period of time, which is, you know, wild. So I think that, you know, as we look at the way that the rhetoric of the present moment is shaped by things like legislation and that discourse, I think that when you are a person who has an identity that is being named, right, an identity that's being contested, like an LGBTQ individual, our BIPOC teachers, right? Like that just, that feeling right of like, that targeting is really emotionally heavy. And also know that if teachers are feeling that, imagine the way that the students who also claim these identities are feeling that in the classroom, it's problematic.- Well we know how they're feeling about it, right? I mean, the last CDC report, which came out on February 13th, I believe when you look at how the LGBTQ population was self-reporting, you know, the highest levels even, which are extremely alarming compared to the last CDC report, highest levels of anxiety, depression, suicide ideation than we've ever seen before. Over 52% of them have reported that they had attempted suicide in this past year. That is unbelievable. That's an unbelievable statistic that we're facing. Mary Jane, I saw you nodding your head. Was there something you wanted to say?- Well, the first thing I thought of when Amira said she started teaching in Iowa in 2017 is that in February of 2017, public employees in the state of Iowa were all attacked viciously by the legislature. Their collective bargaining rights were significantly reduced. Their ability to discuss more than base wages. We had districts that removed salary schedules that, you know, showed value for increasing education and increasing years of experience. So Amira's first year in teaching was a year when there was a pretty significant demoralization of educators. And so we've gone from that. We had the election in 2016 that brought a lot of vitriol in the campaign and then the election and then the fear of what was gonna happen. Then we have the collective bargaining attacks in 2017 and then moved into 2020 with the pandemic. All of the, I mean, in the early days of the pandemic teachers where everybody's hero because kids were at home with their parents and their parents were like, "Here, take them. I will give you as much money as you need to do your job." And then as this, as things carried forward, some of that support really started to erode. At the same time we saw a national conversation about race and the George Floyd murder, and it just layered on top of each other. And I think just in having conversations with our BIPOC leaders, a lot of our BIPOC educators are in schools where they may be the only one that looks like them, or one of very few. And to have to represent and sort of carry the conversation, answer the questions for colleagues who are curious and take on a lot of that extra weight, I think has been really difficult as well.- No, I couldn't agree more with you Mary Jane. I mean, I just feel like, you know, when we're getting teachers in Amira, maybe you can talk a little bit about this too, with the group of teachers that you're working with or soon to be teachers maybe hopefully. This is exactly some of the stuff that they're reporting to us is just that it just feels like an attack, a personal attack, and a professional attack. It's like coming at them both ways. Like they're trying to hurt kids in some way, which is so personal because that's not why people do this. And also like professionally, like you're less than because you even wanna be a teacher. I actually have, I have one thing to say about that too. Just this past week I was with a student and the student is a senior in high school and they posted on their schools or high schools, they have some kind of like journalism page or something that goes out on social media and in their school newspaper and about what they're going to do after high school. And this person, this student posted that they wanted to be an English education major and all of these other students, you can see the comments on social media piled on and was like, oh, you must wanna be, you must wanna make a lot of money. Oh, and then it was negative after negative after negative. This student who wants to be a teacher in high school, their peers were saying horrible things about their desire to be a teacher. And you just have to want, you just have to think like, okay, if these kiddos are thinking this, like they're hearing it from somewhere. Amira, you work a lot with kids who are thinking about becoming teachers. Like can you talk a little bit about that?- Yeah, I mean it's fascinating. So I'm the campus advisor for our aspiring educators at Iowa Group, which is our pre-service chapter of ISEA. So we're affiliated with ISEA and NEA, the National Education Association. And so we have students at Iowa that go out to the high schools and mentor students in the high schools in Iowa City and these educators, rising clubs, you know, that may be interested in a career in education. And their questions as high schoolers center around, you know, what is the pay like based on what they're hearing.'Cause they're hearing that from somewhere, you know, like what, how likely is it that I would be safe in my school? Are there some districts that are safer than others? Like, you know, that's a really big one. You know, and a lot of it is, they're not worried about finding a job. They know that they'll find one, but they are worried about, one of the questions we get a lot is, if I get my teaching license and I teach and I wanna quit, where else can I go? What else can I do with this degree?- What do you tell them? When they have these questions and you're there, you're trying to get teachers to become teachers, but these are valid questions that they're asking you, right? So how do you counsel these folks?- You know, I think it's important that they get their degree in something that they're passionate about so that they can do something else with that, even if it's not in the classroom. And I think it's hard to conceptualize what you could do if you don't know what's out there. And so some of it is just exploration, right? Like in the College of Ed we have this new ESHR program, right? Education Studies and Human Relations. Like some students have never thought about being a school counselor or going into social work or like what that requires and maybe, you know, they just wanna work in a school but not be a teacher. And so thinking about the different, just exploring the different opportunities there could be, the different pathways they might have, and maybe they, you know, wanna work in higher education, but they've never thought about that'cause they haven't been to college yet. So it's just not something that's on their radar now. So just thinking about the different opportunities.- So Mary Jane, going off of that, so if we're seeing less and less people who want to be teachers and going in the teaching profession, what does that mean for us? What does that mean for our communities? What does that mean for our kids? What does that mean for families? What does that mean? What does our future look like? It's interesting. Folks can probably tell that I'm traveling. I'm in a hotel room. I'm actually, I've been at an NEA meeting, meeting with a group of NEA leaders, at Harvard talking about that very thing. You know, what is the future of the profession of education? What is the future of education? What's it gonna look like down the road? And what do we need to be doing today to be prepared for it? What we know, the Pew research has been, they've been conducting research for years and years and years. And this most recent survey was the first time that the majority of parents said they didn't, wouldn't be happy if one of their children went into education. And so the question of where are they hearing it? They're hearing it at home because their parents are talking about the lack of profession, the lack of resources. And so when we don't have enough people coming into our schools, what we have is higher class sizes. We have more burnout for the teachers that are in the school because they're dealing with more students. One of the biggest problems we've had this year is a lack of substitute teachers last year and this year, and educators tell me that, you know, they need to stay home to take care of an ill family member or they're not feeling great themselves. They don't have COVID, but they're not feeling great, but they still go to school because they know if they don't go and there's not a sub there, their colleagues have to step in and take over their workload on top of the workload they're already doing. And none of them want to cause that additional stress. So if we don't have the number of teachers we need, we limit what we can offer in terms of subjects, right? If you don't have a chemistry teacher, it's hard to offer chemistry. If you don't have enough teachers in third grade, you're gonna have larger class sizes. And all of this builds on the narrative that what's happening in our public schools is not good for kids. And then we see a lot of different options being presented about how to draw children out of the public schools and draw resources out of the public schools. Or alternatively, someone decides that we can lessen the requirements for what it takes to be a teacher and then the person that's in that classroom with the students doesn't have the skillset that they need to be able to help students learn. I can read, I have dyslexia, so I'm not a great reader, but I can read, I shouldn't teach anybody how to read because I don't know how to do that. And I'm very afraid that if we don't have people coming into the profession, the answer's gonna be, let's let anybody with a bachelor's degree teach. And that's a little terrifying.- We're very, you know, working in higher ed and teacher education program. I mean, this is one of the big topics here at AACTE this year. And one of the big topics of conversation in our teacher education, like our teacher education committee and different committees that we have in our program, and Will and I both used to share the duty of doing our end of program assessment. So we used to do, we used to be in a TPA program. And so we're very familiar with this conversation, with making sure that we recruit and, you know, people who really wanna be teachers and, you know, get them through the program and then make sure that we're assessing them in ways that they are for sure prepared and ready to be in the classroom.- And all of the competencies.- In all of the competencies.- It's not just your content area, it's all of this stuff, right? It's how to build relationships with students. It's how to create networks within your classroom. You know, it's how to assess student learning and prepare for student learning at least that meet student needs. Mary Jane, you mentioned, you know, the unique needs that everybody has, you know, not every reader is the same, right? And so teachers having to think about how they adjust and differentiate, you know, reading instruction as, you know, one really simple example, but complex example, right? Those strategies are, are not just something that anybody can do.- No, and even like coaching students through a teacher education program about, you know, trauma informed instruction and trauma informed schools and where, you know, where behavior comes from. Instead of asking a student, you know, what's wrong with you? What happened? What happened to you? What's, you know, just even little things like that to build relationships with students, when you're not specifically given, you know, an opportunity to build those types of skills. It becomes very scary to think about who is in those classrooms with our little ones and shaping their lives and how they evolve as a human. Yeah.- I think another really challenging thing for teachers right now especially is sort of this notion of like, who has their back? Like who's on their team, right? And for a long time, you know, teachers could count on administrators to be behind them and get their backs. Teachers could count on, you know, the positive relationships that they had built with parents. And now it sort of seems like it's almost like, you know, everybody for themselves, right? We're seeing in the news and even though, you know, I think we do have to be careful about the story that we get from the new media, right? But this notion of, you know, like you mentioned, Mary Jane, parents not trusting, you know, what teachers are doing and not trusting that teachers are capable of working with their children in ways that are safe and productive. And I think that creates a really dangerous and challenging dynamic for teachers, right? Who are just doing their best. I mean, we even know that there's legislation now being introduced, right, that will ask teachers to provide all materials for parents to critique and sort of, you know, cherry pick in ways what they want their students to know about and what they don't want their students to know about. And that establishes a really dangerous precedent.- Okay. So let's unpack that a little bit.'Cause I think that there are gonna be some people who challenge that, Will, I think that there are gonna be some people say, why is that dangerous? So why Amira, Mary Jane, why is that dangerous? Why is that an impossibility for teachers to do that?- I think, you know, the most obvious thing that comes to my mind is you can't plan something for kids you don't know. Like you don't know who your learners are until you meet them, until you get to know their strengths, like areas of growth. And so how are you going to make lesson plans for a whole year when you don't even know your kids? Like you have to adapt daily for different classes, different students. Like not every student is getting the same thing. You have have students enter midyear, you have students exit mid trimester. It just, you know, it erodes the flexibility and the adaptability that that used to be the agency of teachers.- I think another part of that, and that's absolutely the case, that narrative that parents need to have all of the information up front and that they need to be able to tell teachers what they can and can't teach. Seems like teachers are trying to hide something from parents. And every teacher I have ever talked to begs parents to come into the school. You know, teachers don't have parent teacher conferences because they love spending a couple of weeks a year at school all day and all night, they do parent teacher conferences because they want that opportunity to share with parents what's going on in the classroom, what they're doing, how their student is doing, how their student fits in and interacts with the rest of the school population. We have all kinds of systems like Infinite Campus, where teachers are constantly posting information, they're posting lessons. And if there is something that your student comes home with that you take a look at and you have questions about that teacher wants to know about that question and have a conversation with you, no one's trying to hide anything. And the idea that we're starting from a position of distrust rather than, you know what, I trust that educator, this person went to school, went into a profession to help children, is not making very much money and is not getting the kind of public support they deserve. So I can't believe they went into it just to teach some book that some parent's are not gonna like, that's not why they're there.- I think that's such a great point, Mary Jane, and, you know, trying to get people to understand no teacher wants a parent to be upset or wants to do something, or in their classroom that's going to be upsetting or dehumanizing or discouraging to a particular family or a student. I mean, teachers are trying so hard to meet all of the different needs and to try to come together as a shared community to make everybody feel welcome, safe and special. And I know that some are able to do this better than others, right? But I think that you're very, you're just so spot on when you say that we're having to start in a place that's this place of distrust and that just feels so impossible and discouraging. So one of the things I've been thinking a lot about team, and I go back and forth with this thought, I struggle with it because sometimes when I have the thought, I think, oh god, Kari, that's almost gaslighting is it? Like, are you like, what? Ugh. And it's this thought, it's, I also love teaching. Like I think there are so many, I mean, I was talking to a friend of mine on the phone the other night who is an administrator actually in a different state, and we were both talking about how much we love the profession, all the difficulties, right? But also like sharing with people why it is a great gig. Like what all the wonderful things about it and why you should consider being a teacher. And I feel like that is also being last, you guys, that nobody's talking about this anymore either. Well, and but also I don't, it's like sometimes I'm almost scared to say that because I know that teachers are also genuinely struggling too. Like, what do you think?- Yeah, it's sad to see that the conversation move from this is why I teach, you know, here's an example of why I teach, to why do I teach?- Yeah.- Why are you becoming a teacher, right? Like, you know, I was hanging out with some teacher friends recently and the entire conversation was about just how their entire, like the conversations that they have in the course of a day are just so different now than they were five, six, seven years ago based on all of the tensions that schools are absorbing right now in our society. And I think that's really challenging. I think that's really hard for teachers to get up and do that grind day after day after day. Because in that moment, right, like there used to be sort of daily regular reminders about why you teach. I mean, I remember my time in the classroom and I can think about all of the quirky, funny, amazing things that students do. But then, you know, like I just feel like teachers don't have that same consistency like as maybe they used to in terms of all of the stuff tough stuff that they're dealing with right now.- Yeah. And I also think, yeah, 'cause you know, we have basically a statement here, that burnout is definitely real, and it absolutely is. Like I'm that and that's what I'm struggling with, is it Frank? Yeah, Frank, it's like, I know that it's real. Like that's my work, right? Is thinking about burnout and self-compassion and helping teachers through that. And then also like not always talking about the negative too and like trying to also sometimes help find the joy, which is really hard. But I wanna read the rest of the teachers, students parents in today's study are dealing with more challenges. Yeah, I think a lot. I think there's a lot of social media stuff too. Frank's, it's a really good point. Thanks for sharing that. Mary Jane, I saw you shaking your head, maybe you too. What do you have to say?- Well, I was thinking about something Will said earlier about sort of the switch in how people view teachers and the respect. And I think their saying that often it's the very loud voice that's heard, not the majority of voices that are heard. And the social media thing I think plays right into that. I think that if you stopped 10 people in the grocery store tomorrow and said, what do you think about teachers? You're gonna get smiles and you're gonna get the name of a first grade teacher that made an impact on somebody's life and you're gonna get, oh, my aunt's a teacher. Like, I don't go anywhere that somebody doesn't tell me about a teacher that made an impact. And so I think I often fall into the trap of listening to the loudest voice. I know negative is easier to hear them positive. So I do wanna say yes, there are people who support teachers and yes, there are wonderful reasons to be teachers and there's lots of joy still in it, even with all the stuff. And so keeping that in mind and lifting that up and we're gonna start doing some videos. We filmed some videos of teachers talking about why they're doing what they do and it's, they're really positive and I can't wait for them to get out for people to take a look at.- Mary Jane, I love what you just said. Talk to 10 teachers. Like that should become a movement. Hashtag TTTT right? Go out and everybody has the responsibility of talking to 10 teachers.- Maybe that's what we should do. Maybe we should do, that's what we should do with this. And then we just should just go start talking to teachers. Amira, did you have something to add?- I was thinking about the conversation about teaching I think has shifted but also about administrators has shifted and I think the conversation surrounding what administrators do is different. You know, I was thinking of like, I've heard lots of teachers say recently like, oh, I would never go into administration and you know, that wasn't the case when I started teaching. You know, teachers were thinking maybe they would go into administration someday, but you know, instead of finding joy like they're putting out all of these fires every day, you know, and the burnout, I was just thinking, you know, Mary Jane was talking about conferences and we're at school all day and some of these administrators are administrating all day and then they go to the game after school and then there's something going on at the game, the fire they need to put out there, you know, and they're supposed to be at all these different things all of the time. And I just wanted to give a little shout out to admin, because they're not okay right now.- Yeah, no, I 100% agree with that. My dad was an administrator and we've had this conversation a lot, you know, he said, and he admits, he says, there's no way, media administrator when I was an administrator is completely different. And it's completely different ballgame than what admins are doing in schools in 2023. There's definitely a change. Yeah, for sure. So how do we amplify the voices? What tools can we use to improve our occupational wellness? This is a great question, Wendy. I don't know, does somebody wanna go first? Mary Jane, do you wanna go, how do we amplify the voices? Because I think that is actually, like, that's one of the questions that we talked about prior to this podcast. Like, how can we lock arms and how can we join forces that are like collectively as a profession to amplify our voices and to create change? And I think Mary Jane that this is a great question for you.- Thanks. And Amira, you're right. Our administrators are having the same level of stress and challenges. And I would say that one of the things that we're doing and really trying to build on is really productive conversations with the school administrators of Iowa Organization and the Iowa Association of School Boards and the leadership within our AA system to really talk about how all of the sort of component parts of our school system, our public school system, can work together to kind of solve some of these problems. I think one of the first things that we all have to do is lift up every voice that we can get in the conversation to the legislature right now and to tell them to stop. There are bills in the Iowa legislature right now that will harm children's mental health. They will take away teacher's ability to teach what they need in their classroom and to do the work they need to do. So as demoralizing as it is, because if I had to list every bill I needed you to call somebody and say no to, we would be here for the rest of the hour talking about that list of bills. But just everybody needs to lift their voice up and say, stop. Let us do our job in the schools and let us partner with you. And I think that, you know, this idea, I love this, you know, talk to 10 teachers, let's make it popular again to love our local public school, right? Like I love the the t-shirt shop ray gun, because they do all of the great America needs public schools, America needs teachers shirts. What if we just all always had one of those on? We just made some little buttons that say I love public education and our goal is to get them in as many hands as possible so that we show visible signs that we're all supporting this institution that we care about. And honestly, when I looked at the materials around the dimensions of wellness and the occupational wellness self-assessment, some of the questions in there, you know, one of them, "I look forward to my work." That worries me in the kind of conversations we're having now. I'm happy with the professional growth and personal growth that is provided in my job. And I think about what happened in the bill that is bringing universal vouchers into Iowa also allowed districts to walk away from teacher leadership positions in their districts. Places where educators were given the opportunity to support each other in their profession. So there are a lot of places, you know, go into your district and talk about what you need from that teacher leadership program to support student mental health and your mental health, your professional growth. Just figure out in your sphere, you don't have to solve the whole system, but what is the one thing you have control over or that you can say to the next level up from you, if we did this one thing, I'd look forward to my job more each day. Or I would feel more like I'm using my professional talents and skills better. Just one thing.- Yeah, so like the second part of Wendy's question, which is a great question is, you know, what are some of the tools that we can use that are out there for us to improve occupational wellness, and one of the things that we know that does work, particularly in our profession, is building community with people within our system. So you know, and I know that for some that's easier than others, I get that. But whatever school system you are in, if you can start a book club, and I know that sometimes that seems like an add-on, I get that. But we do know when we study like these different communities that come together within a school system, we do know that those teachers end up, always end up saying how thankful they are for that group, that they can lean into each other, they help each other out, they share things with each other. They even end up helping each other not only at school but then outside of school as well. So building different types of networks and communities within your system is one of the first things that I would, and I even always recommend new teachers in particular doing if they can. I think that's really helpful. Also, really accurately identifying your gifts and your strengths and then thinking about how you can contribute those gifts and strengths in unique ways within your profession is something that always brings joy to people as well. So instead of constantly focusing on and struggling with your areas of growth, which is that I'm not telling you to ignore them, I'm telling you to use your gifts and strengths to pull from there. So it's like sitting down and thinking through, okay, what are my gifts, what are my strengths? What are the things that I really enjoy doing in the day? I'm gonna focus my attention on that and then try to use that to help me in these other areas that I need some support in. And then being able to articulate that really, really well with your administrators as well so they can help you. But you know what, we've all been teachers, so that's like kind of like science kind of stuff that we know when we're studying occupational wellness and we're studying various tools that really can help and support teachers in the profession. I'm sure we all also have some kind of our own like personal tips and tricks as well. I dunno, do you have one that kinda worked for you, Will?- Yeah, I think one thing I would add about building your networks is if you are a teacher who has contested identity in schools, right? So you identify as BIPOC, LGBTQ, finding those affinity spaces that help you connect with other teachers, help you think about strategies for addressing and sort of, you know, being in the midst of this present moment that we're in. And I would really love to highlight some of the awesome work that Amira is doing at the end of April. We're hosting a celebrating teachers of color event at Iowa. And maybe, Amira, you can speak to that, but those kinds of spaces. Where people can come together and be in community are really, really important in this moment.- Amira, what about you? Do you have some suggestions?- Yeah, I mean, so I would say finding your people is important, especially as a teacher of color. I mean we know in Iowa City where I work, 6% of teachers were teachers of color, 6%, you know, compared to a student body that was almost 50% students of color. So we know, you know, that the educator force is not representative of the students in the schools. But I mean, when I look around for another colleague, you know, I was a social studies teacher and I was the only black social studies teacher in my district, the only one. And so finding those spaces and those people is really important and the mentors. But you know, one of the issues with that is that, you know, I find like a black mentor in my school, the only other black teacher in my school and she's mentoring me for free. You know, she's doing this labor for free. And so when we, you know, visit different websites, you know, different school sites like everybody has on their site, you know, they're interested in recruitment and retaining teachers, especially teachers of color. But you know, like where is the support for that? Where is it written in, was there a policy? Where is there a line item in the budget that's supporting that work and paying that mentor for their time? And well, I like that you highlighted the Celebrating Educators of Color event we're doing because ISEA is supporting it, you know, and they supported us last year in our first one and now it's an annual thing. You know, last year we had 50 educators of color from Iowa, you know, from paraprofessionals to administrators. And this year we have some superintendents, we have support staff, we have teachers, we have admin coming, nearly a hundred people from across Iowa to be in community for a day. And the support that ISEA has given that, speaks volumes, right? When they say like we support our teachers of color, we support recruitment and retention. We want to, you know, advocate for you, we wanna talk to your districts and make sure this is a professional leave day. They're not needing to take a personal day to go have this professional experience.- That was really great, Amira, thank you.- Thank you, Mary Jane, for your work in helping make that happen.- Oh, we have partners on that. We appreciate that. And I would absolutely be remiss if I let this part of the conversation go about like how you build community. One of the ways you build communities, you join your union, there's a group of folks there to support you. And if you don't have, if you are in a, and while I love the language of contested identity, if you don't have somebody that looks like you or fits that profile in your district, I promise you when you come to one of our statewide meetings or conferences, you're gonna meet somebody who you can identify with and make connections with across districts. And so I just, it would not be good for the executive director of the ISEA, not to say one of the ways you can build community is to be a part of ISEA.- Yeah. And I think that this is one of the, that's a great point. I'm so, and this is why you're on here, Mary Jane, and all of you brought great points and unique perspectives to this conversation. And it's also one of the reasons for the podcast, you know, just trying to build community, trying to give people a space, even just once a month to come together and chime in and ask questions and share, you know, in our conversation, I think it's just really, it's really important and it's the only way that we're going to, like we were talking about before, to kind of join forces and amplify our voices and speak up for our profession, this profession that we really love. Amira, how can we best support the BIPOC fellow teachers?- That's a million dollar question. I think there's a lot of movement right now around recruitment and retaining teachers of color, but I would highlight an article that Dr. Grooms wrote when she was at Iowa, you know, a couple of years ago about, it's important to recruit and retain absolutely. But is that distracting from the reality that we're working in racialized institutions, and how are we trying, how are we dismantling the racialized school systems that we're working in? Because I can, you know, I can do wellness all day long and my colleagues can do things that help me. But if I'm coming every day to this system, you know, like those two things don't fit. There's no, you can't wellness your way out of that. So I think one of the things that people can do really if you're trying to be an ally is educate yourself. You know, don't ask them to do extra work to educate you on what they need. Like there are books, there are so many books, there are webinars, there are podcasts, there's so many things. So just educate yourself to figure out, you know, what you should do and what you shouldn't do. Like a lot of people want give me this, tell me what I should do, what I shouldn't do. But you really have to put in the work to figure out, you know, starting with you, who am I? How do I identify, how does my actions, how do my actions contribute to this racialized system? And then, you know, start there.- Wendy, that was a great question. Thanks Amira, for taking that, and it was actually really good to hear. We were actually talking about IE earlier today, so it's interesting that you brought Dr. Grooms up. We were talking about how we missed her.- A lot, yeah.- Yeah. Well, friends, we are at about 50 minutes and I said, I promised you we were gonna keep it just under an hour. So let's go ahead and wrap things up. I just wanna thank all of you for taking time out of your evening, out of a weeknight evening and joining us in this conversation. I'm sure that I will be in touch with you again and maybe we can even join all forces again on this podcast in some shape or form. Mary Jane, I think I have some work that I need to touch. I know I have a meeting or something coming up with someone from ISEA so we can partner on some more work with this Scanlan Center.- You all are coming to talk to our staff about what you offer so that our staff can be good resources to our members and we are so grateful for it. Thank you.- Yeah, I knew that I had something coming up with ISEA, I didn't know what I was doing though, so. Well, again, I really appreciate everybody and I hope you're all staying safe in Iowa. We're in Indianapolis like we said before, but I hope that the weather isn't too bad there. I know that I have an 18 year old at home, that have to school and he was very happy about that. I hope you're all safe and sound, but thank you for joining us and we look forward to you joining us next month.(upbeat music)