HybridPod Episode 011 — Openness

Chris Friend with Greg Curran and Paul France

You’re tuned to HybridPod: a show that presents conversations of Critical Digital Pedagogy, listening for ways to empower students and champion learning. It’s the aural side of Hybrid Pedagogy: a online, open-access journal of learning, teaching, and technology. I’m Chris Friend, from Saint Leo University.

This episode is going to be a bit more focused on teachers than the usual emphasis on students. It’s also going to be a lot more personal than normal for this podcast. If this is your first time listening, just know this is an exception, not the rule.

That said, the personal nature of this episode derives directly from its subject matter: teacher openness in a classroom. How, why, and when teachers open up about themselves when working with students. It’s a complicated scenario — a balancing act between caring for the people in the room and honestly responding to the material they’re discussing; between providing lived examples and maintaining anonymity; between being genuine and being afraid.

Let me start with the story that prompted this topic in the first place. In June, 2016, I attended the Digital Humanities Summer Institute in Victoria, British Columbia, over 4000 kilometers or 2600 miles from my home in Florida. During that trip, I woke up one Sunday morning to a slew of text messages asking about my whereabouts and well-being — friends and family wanted to know whether I or anyone I knew was in Pulse the night of the mass shooting. It was Latin night at the Orlando nightclub, and my Latino boyfriend lives in Orlando. Neither of us directly knew any of the 49 victims, but many of our friends did. It hit close to home and shook us up a good bit. The news, grief, and response of my hometown were tough for me to process at a distance, all the way out in BC. I had a hard time managing my emotions and relied on the kindness and empathy of friends with me at DHSI to make it through.

To make matters worse, I had to co-facilitate a seminar 24 hours after I first heard about the shooting. I had to stand in front of a group of adults and help them think about pedagogy while the back of my mind was stuck thinking that by then, half the victims’ names had yet to be released, and there was a decent chance that as they were publicized, I’d see one I recognized. That was a tough mental state to be in on a Monday morning, and it made the prospect of teaching feel almost overwhelming. I fought to keep distraction and tears at bay that morning while in an emotional fog.

I felt the folks in the class deserved to know where I was mentally, especially if things got worse when I read news during the week or if things got even more personal and distracted me from what we were doing. I started the class with introductions, and I chose to open by saying how the events in Orlando were affecting me personally because I grew up in that city, am a member of the LGBT community that was targeted, and had myself gone to Pulse before. It’s the first time I’ve ever started a class by coming out of the closet. The decision to be open about my sexuality was deliberate…and essential. I did it as a show of trust and respect: I respected the people I was working with, and I trusted them to understand my situation and empathize. It’s hard to trust folks in the act of meeting them, but I had to — my emotional state was too fragile, and I had to ask for their help in holding myself together.

This episode of HybridPod explores that decision to be open, for teachers to tell students about themselves, particularly about their sexuality. As we’ll hear, this maddeningly complex decision has to be made again and again with each set of students we encounter, at each institution where we work, in the context of each class discussion. It’s a tough situation to manage, and it deserves careful consideration. To help us do that, I chatted with Greg Curran…

[Greg self-intro]

Greg’s academic work centers on issues of social justice and advocating for students. He writes and speaks openly about his own sexuality, not only with many of his students and colleagues, but also on his excellent podcast, Pushing the Edge. Clearly, Greg has experience working with the decision to be open with people.

I also spoke with Paul France…

[Paul self-intro]

Paul’s blog, InspirEd, shares stories from the classroom designed to inspire teachers to do good work in their own spaces. He’s made a couple posts about his own experiences coming out to his students, who are elementary-aged.

I’d like to start with a common belief: Getting to know students helps us understand their needs, their interests, and their thinking. The better we know them, the more personally meaningful we can make our teaching. Now, the reverse holds true, too: The better our students know us, the more comfortable they can be around us, and the more they might trust us. Besides, students are curious creatures, and they naturally want to know a bit about us to make us seem more real to them.

Students ask about our interests and our lives in an effort to understand and connect with us. But what happens when those questions are more complex than students realize? What happens when the answers to those questions would reveal more about us than we’re ready to reveal?

Take, for instance, this seemingly innocuous question:

Greg:        The most common question that I’m often asked is, “Are you married?”

Paul:        Kids would ask…they’d ask if I was married.

“Are you married.” Easy enough to answer, right? Not always. My own answer to that question got pretty complicated for a few years. For a brief period in 2008, I was able to get married in California…but not in my home state of Florida. My then-boyfriend and I took advantage of the window of opportunity, eloping to the west coast for what we couldn’t do at home. My marriage was then recognized in one state but not in another. For a while, it wasn’t recognized by the federal government either; that changed a while later when the feds recognized it, but my home state still did not. Then in January 2015, a ruling from the US Supreme Court made Florida stop discriminating, and the state finally acknowledged my marriage. That ruling ultimately allowed us to end our marriage with a divorce, an option previously unavailable to us.

At any point through all that mess, my answer to “Are you married?” was basically, “Depends who’s asking.” I had to first know the context for the question before I could provide the legally supported answer. To make things more complicated, there are no legal protections in Florida against termination on the basis of sexual orientation, so answering the “are you married” question, which in my case means coming out, could have literally lead to me losing my job.

So if a student asked me, “Are you married?”, I had a choice between risking honesty and violating ethics.

Here’s Paul’s experience.

Paul:        The first couple years I pretty much just didn’t even address it. I’d think about it, and when kids would ask if I was married, I wasn’t, so it was like easier to just be like, “No.” They’d ask if I had a girlfriend, because kids are curious. They want to know about you. I would say, “No,” because it was true. I didn’t feel like I was lying to them. I didn’t. I was on this team of six other teachers, and they were all women, and some of them became my really, really close friends. They would always say, “Oh, Ms. Schmidt’s your girlfriend. You guys are going to get married.”

        There were definitely opportunities for me to just normalize it and say, “No, I’m actually looking to marry a man some day.” I’m sure it would have totally rocked their world if I would have said that in the moment, but I also think that with kids at least — little kids — the surprise with that kind of stuff is really extreme, but it’s also very short-lived.

It’s really shocking at first for them, but they’re able to assimilate the information into what they already know, or accommodate to something that’s so new, they do it relatively quickly, I think.

        Something else that’s really tricky there is that I’m not their parents, and this is one of the big lessons that’s come out of it for me. We try to put a wall between ourselves and our kids, and remain objective, third-party individuals, and I remember feeling that way, and going, “It’s not my business to change these kids’ minds about this. It’s not. I’m not their parents. I’m their teacher. It’s different.”

We’ll come back to that parent/teacher distinction in a bit. But first, let’s address the separation Paul talked about. That kind of a wall, and the distance it brings, hurts the connections that are essential for meaningful dialogue. Those walls show up in Greg’s classes, too. They’re generally formed by society, and the classroom becomes a great place to explore them, discuss them, and start to break them down. Here’s Greg’s take on what happens when students ask, “Are you married?”

Greg:        That commonly comes up. No matter what the class. So then it's like, "Okay, well..."  Well, now we're in this slightly awkward situation because, I live in a country where you can't get married if you're same-sex attracted. I can't marry my partner. So, we have the law around that. So, students asking me, "Am I married," what do I do in that situation? Now, I've always worked from the premise that... for me what's worked is to not immediately come out and not just say, "Oh Hi. I'm Greg and I'm gay." I just see the point necessarily in doing that.

What I tend to do is more look at the issues around the questions that they ask. Okay? In so doing, then it usually becomes obvious that I'm gay or I may then say that I am gay through that. So in that context then, we explore the questions that we ask people in everyday life, personal questions. What's personal? What's private? What's okay to ask? What's not okay to ask and they're great questions in an English language classroom surround appropriateness. What's ok, what's not?

So, you can then explore those questions and then, you can explore the thing of when you ask questions too, then you have to be okay then with the thing of people might say, "Well, that's personal," or people might get upset with your question or they might say something that you don't expect as well. And are you going be okay with that? The fact that they might say something and you're like, "Oh, I didn't they'd say that or I'm particularly comfort with what they just said." So if you ask me, "Are you married?" and I say, "No, I do have a long-term partner but, I'm not able to get married because, we're gay."

Greg started hinting at how much the surrounding community influences the way we have these conversations in our classes. Maybe we’d like to see classrooms as little isolated islands of safety and analysis, but they very much exist in a community, made up of people who each have their own community that they bring with them.

Greg:        So, you can explore these issues with students in a whole range of different ways. I'm not explicitly always saying there that I'm gay but, through the context it might become clear and I know in those context words become clear to students over time. Whether I've said explicitly or whether it's just become obvious through the things that we're talking about and issues we're canvasing. There hasn't really been an issue around that. Now, I think part of that is because, they've gotten to know me and I think one of the things we know around issues across all aspects of diversity is that getting to know people challenges some of the preconceptions that we may have about someone's race, sexuality, gender identity, disability, any aspect.

Once we get to know people may challenge our beliefs and attitudes and I think that sort of played a part in the students that I've taught is that, they've known me. They know Greg. They like me. They like what's going on in the class. They know that I respect them and they're experiences are, "Okay, there's this thing that we've heard and we've been taught about gay people but, it doesn't quite fit for him in this context. In that context now, those students then, they may not necessarily... they then start to open up and start to then generally talk about sexuality in the classroom because of me. Okay?

Because, they are still part of communities. Okay and for them to also be openly supportive of gay people, it may not play out too well in their community but, some of those students then have come to talk to me away from class. Not to necessarily say that they're gay themselves but, to ask me about stuff or when my partner was ill, asking me how my partner was and checking on him and all of those really just human relationship things that students would come in and ask me quietly but, they wouldn't necessarily say in the classroom there.

I guess it opens up them to talk about those things maybe one-to-one with me. It may help them in some context outside of class with other relationships they have. I guess what it does open up is that is a space that's safe and supportive we're hoping for everyone and this is a space where we're going to talk about things that aren't necessarily talked about in a lot of classrooms and that includes things around gender and sexuality diversity. And that's okay.

Chris Friend:        It's fascinating to me that in the process of creating that space where it's safe to discuss those issues that aren't necessarily okay for them to discuss elsewhere, many of your students still don't feel comfortable discussing them in that space that you've created and explicitly said is a safe space. They instead come to you later and know that you are a safe person to discuss things with, even if they themselves don't feel like it's a safe environment.

Greg Curran:        Yeah, I guess what you really hit on there is that it can never be entirely a safe space. There's all these norms operating that prevent them from being totally safe and that, like I said, then... students then, if they say something and then, someone then talks about that and says, "Oh, so-and-so said this in the class." It's reported back and past and da, da, da. The grapevine can be incredibly strong.

Chris Friend:        We have to remember that there's a society that exists outside of the classroom and even if the classroom itself is a safe place, it still operates within a society outside it that may not be.

Greg Curran:        That's right. That's right, yeah. So we have to remember that students, they're navigating all of these different things and most might want more students to open up and talk. We have to think about the context outside the classroom and what could be the ramifications potentially of talking openly.

Now let’s go from the communities Greg works with in Melbourne, Australia, to the ones Paul works with in San Francisco, United States. Yes, the differences in student reactions are striking, but as you’ll hear, Paul himself has been changed between the time he was a student learning to teach and where he is now, working within a community that encourages the kind of openness we’ve been discussing.

Paul:        I remember being in this class in college. It was like a social justice-oriented class. There was also an element of the class that was very much about sharing your identity with the class. I remember that was one of the first times that I came out to a group of people. I’d brought in a picture of me and my then-boyfriend.

The stakes felt a little bit lower when I was a student.

I think one, because I was in college, and I had met enough people that were gay at that point. I knew most people were okay with it, and I had come out to a couple people at that point and everything. It just felt a little lower stakes, because I was like, “Well, even if you don’t like me, what you say and do actually isn’t going to impact me at all.”

        That changed when I went into the workplace, because suddenly it was like my career trajectory could depend on what my superiors think of me. My actions will follow me.

        The stakes become much higher, I think, when you’re in the workplace, because after a couple years, you’re relying on the people you worked with to vouch for you when you want a new job.

        It’s just harder, and I’m really grateful that I found a place in San Francisco. I was very open about being a gay teacher. It’s just so normal. I can’t even fully describe it. It’s just not even a thing at all. I don’t want to say no one cares, because people care, but it’s just not a thing.

It’s not always been that simple for him, though. Before moving to San Francisco, Paul had an experience that showed him the restrictions that can show up in a school district.

Paul:        There is, I guess, a little bit of context that’s important there. I was actually teaching in Illinois when all this happened. Granted, Chicago is pretty liberal, but I was in the suburbs, in a more affluent area. So, I felt some of the same pressures.

Around the time that marriage equality became a national conversation in the United States, a colleague of Paul’s had an idea to do a whole unit on the issue. As an aside, Paul pointed out that the colleague who proposed the idea was straight, which becomes relevant in a minute. This lesson they created did not go over well, landing both teachers in some pretty hot water. Quite frankly, Paul got called to the principal’s office as a result.

Paul:        We got in huge trouble for it. You know, it was also about “my personal agenda,” which was interesting, because it was like “my personal agenda.” I didn’t say this, but I wanted to be like, “Well, actually this was his idea,” you know?

        I didn’t say that because it wasn’t productive, and I was just reflecting about how interesting it was that because of who I was, and what she knew about me, that she immediately went that way. What was interesting about it, too, was that she was like, “Paul, if my granddaughter was in your class, I would love for her to be part of a lesson like this.” I’m like, “What? Then what’s the problem, then?” It clearly uncovered this pervasive problem in education that isn’t just related to being gay or being black or whatever. It’s related to everything, and it’s that there’s this toxic culture of fear in education.

        It’s all about accountability. It’s all about keeping people happy. It’s all about making yourself look good, which is absolutely devastating, because education should be liberating. Part of liberating yourself is sometimes feeling uncomfortable. It’s being really vulnerable.

The superintendent ended up having a meeting with me, and I later found out it was because he wanted to see if I had learned my lesson from what I did. He said something along the lines of, I was putting too many of my values into the classroom. It’s not my place to do that.

        We have to teach with our values. We can’t teach in a vacuum without values. If I did, then I would just come in and very benignly present academic content to the children, and then leave.

        What I do is so much more than that. What I do is I understand my children as human beings, and I help them develop a literacy for the world, whether it’s math or reading or writing or science or social studies or social-emotional capacities. My job is to help them learn how to read and communicate with the world. That requires you not to divorce from your values. It requires you to really understand your values, and then…it’s almost like make those known, but also you have to respect your kids’ values too, right?

Respecting the values of our students while maintaining our own dignity can be a delicate balancing act, a process of constant adjustment and re-evaluation. The decision to come out to a class isn’t an easy one, and it needs to be made sometimes on a class-by-class basis. No matter how a teacher identifies or presents on a campus, each class brings a new collection of students who want, as we discussed earlier, to get to know us. Since each class contains a different mix of people, each one needs special consideration, which can get tricky. Here’s Greg again.

Greg:        I think awkwardness is all part of the discussions around being open. Whether it's being open about your sexuality or your gender identity, there can be awkwardness and can be some discomfort around that. I guess it sort of highlights that there's no one coming out so to speak or one being totally open and then that's the end of the matter. It's a constant sort of coming in and out of the closet so to speak. What works in one situation may not work in another one. It's incredibly varied and there's no one prescription around being open. It's about everyone else in their own situation in their own time in their own context to make that decision and it's not about them prescribing what to do or what not to do in this area.

It's dependent on the situation that you're in. So, you can have a particular class where you've may have come out to the class and then maybe, a new student comes into that classroom. Unless other students may have told them but, they may be that thing of having to go through that process again or it may be that you've taught in one context and you could be really open about your sexuality or gender identity in that context. Then, you change and you're in a different situation and you're not not as open about your sexuality. There's a whole range of different contexts that I work in. So, there's no one state where I'm totally out.

I work with students learning English and many of those come from countries where being gay is totally wrong and where you would be put to death for it and for some of my students, the context that I could be anything other than heterosexuality is unthinkable to some of them but, if a student were to look me up on line, certainly my sexuality's out there. I've written… I've published and talk about it online. So, it doesn't take too much to find that out, but a class where I teach at the moment, I've haven't come out publically to those students and unless I'm out to people that I work with and what have you, the discussions that I've had in the classroom around sexuality or gender diversity have lead me to think, well, it may not be a necessarily a particular safe context for me to be open about my sexuality here.

There’s our interesting turn. As educators, we spend a lot of time talking about ways to make our classes spaces where students feel safe to bring up new ideas, to make personal connections, to take risks. The idea of a “safe space” gets lots of attention, but it’s always in the context of student safety. Greg here shows that there’s more to the classroom environment, and that teacher safety influences the discussion, too.

Greg:        Yeah well, I guess it's not necessarily a physical worry about safety. I guess it's more about emotional, mental safety as well and in the context of when we've had discussions around sexuality in the classroom, then the issues are raised around the killing of gay people in their country and students saying that has been okay and students talking in such a way as if it's not even fathomable to them that there could be anyone other than heterosexual people in the classroom. As a teacher in that context then, there's a couple of different things at play for me.

There's the context of being the teacher and notions around what does being a teacher mean. There's a context of being a gay man in that context and thinking about my own sense of self in that context where people are saying awful, awful things about gay people and what have you and what in that context I can come in and say, "Okay in Australia, it's about equal opportunity for everyone and we can look at the law and all of those things around that." That comment is still out there percolating and even after all this time... you know; I've been a teacher for nearly 30 years.

I'd be lying if I said that those comments don't hurt and that they don't percolate through and niggle away at me and upset me but, I'm not going to necessarily be openly upset about it. I've learned to manage myself in that context but, it's still there.

I've been thinking about that a bit recently and then thinking about discussions around discrimination, I guess in the context of "Black Lives Matter" and violence towards people based on the color of their skin and chats on line within Educolor and just things coming up around trauma and the trauma experienced by people and the trauma experienced within communities. So, I was thinking about that in the content then of... not just about students but, like you were saying too, then, in terms of educators. Now whether it's strictly qualifies as being trauma or not, I guess that's open to debate but, I guess in terms of feeling upset, feeling discarded, feeling emotional feeling, really caught up in what's going on and really resonating to your core and bringing up memories from your past.

I guess in any context where people are saying that they want to put people like you to death, that's not exactly a happy, happy class. That sort of context to have those things being said especially when those students themselves that I'm teaching are often escaping from those sort of situations where they've been persecuted and traumatize and tortured and witnessed unthinkable violence towards themselves and their loved ones.

Now we get into messy, murky, ugly issues. Those kinds of scenarios are hard to imagine, much less examine in class, especially when we’re talking about young students. Shouldn’t we protect students from the ugliness? Shouldn’t we help preserve their innocence?

Paul:        What’s important is, parents need to trust you. Trust is so interesting. I think there’s also a big difference between, you know, “understand” and “trust.” You need both in the classroom.

        What’s scary about teaching young children is that that’s like their baby, right? Their baby isn’t 13 yet, so it’s like their little perfect baby that has not been marred by the world yet, which I think is a really limited view to have of your kids. There’s the idea of innocence.

I’m not a parent, and I don't know really what that feels like, but you can’t protect your kids from everything. You just can’t. Your best shot is letting them see — you know, within reason.

With parents, though, they need to trust you to take care of their child. If they don’t trust you, the relationship just becomes really difficult and really strained. When you are concerned that part of your identity is actually going to make them trust you less, the stakes become even higher, I think, than just your co-workers not liking you, or your boss disagreeing with you, or whatever. It becomes so personal. Oh, you don’t trust me with your child? That really hurts. That was a fear for a long time.

Greg:        I get why people say, "Okay well, there's a difference between students and adults." In my context, everyone's an adult but, I guess what I want to is that everyone is supposed to be able to go to work in a safe place. I should have a safe working environment to be part of and that encompasses these sort of issues and things that come up and these things being said and we do have things about occupational health and safety in Australia which is about safe work spaces for everyone and that includes students as well as the people working in those places. So, I don't see that it should necessarily be a distinction and I guess I can hear people saying, "Well okay, you can avoid this by not talking about it. Okay? Just don't talk about it."

Paul:        I remember someone saying that to me one time. “They’re just so innocent, and I don’t want to bring up those topics because they’re so innocent,” and I’m like, “That’s offensive, actually. How does knowing about my identity and the person in my family — how does that take away their innocence?” You know, that doesn’t seem fair to me, that my identity as a gay man takes away from a child’s innocence.

Greg:        Yeah and my response is, "Yeah and that's how the oppression continues. That's how the silence continues. That's how we still have incredibly unsafe spaces in our schools." The fact that research after research comes out saying that school is the most unsafe place for same-sex attracted and gender diverse young people.

Now, that is an incredible thing to say about our education system. It's an incredibly damning thing to say about our education system and yet sadly, I have to say, I think for a lot of educators, they seem to be... they may not necessarily want it to be an unsafe and I think it's necessarily deliberate but, their silence contributes to that unsafe space. They're not speaking up. They're not raising issues around sexual and gender diversity. They're not amplifying the voices of those who are speaking up.

They are contributing to this silence around sexual diversity and that contributes to harm. It contributes to death. It contributes to awful lives for so many, so many people — not just students but also educators, and it's not right, and we need more people to speak up and do something about it.

I can talk about the research and my experience as well around sexuality but, I can't expect to represent all the diversity of gay people. So, we need to hear multiple stories and I guess to pick around that thing of the expectations or thing is then put on same-sex attracted people or gender diverse people is that...

Yeah, it has to be about more than us speaking. I guess, this is a lesson also coming out of "Black Lives Matter" and around issues affecting people of color as well. It's not just those communities that should be speaking up about it and they're speaking about their experience and what's happening to them but, it's got to be about then white people speaking up and challenging the silence and amplifying the voices that are out there as well. If you don't feel like you can speak about those things, you don't feel qualified to speak about those things, help amplify the voices that are out there and support those voices that are out there because there aren’t a lot of support around sexuality or gender diversity amongst educators on line. I just don't see it. I mean, there's pockets of support and there's fantastic people who support the work that I do but, in the main, there's a lot of people who still are really quiet about this stuff. I guess that's what the "Black Lives Matter" and "Educolor" are highlighting that there is still too much silence from the white community around issues affecting race as well. So, it's about more people need to speak up and join us and support and don't just leave us there out on the ledge with these issues because, we can't represent all these issues. Sometimes, people will listen far more to people who are not part of the community than the people from the community themselves. I mean, it's not necessarily great to say that but, you can use your voice if you're not part of that community to great effect to really support change and support people from different communities.

We need everyone to speak out. The power that an ally holds can often be much, much greater than the power that someone in that community holds because the ally would be in a position of privilege and be able to look at a marginalized person and say, "Nope, they really need this as well." That can be a strong message and a clear way of showing support. We are ultimately supporting identity. It’s not just about sexuality, and it’s essential for everyone’s growth. It starts with conversations among educators, like the one you and I having here and now. It also starts with teacher education programs. Here’s Greg again.

Greg:        Just in terms of talking about teacher education, from the time when I started in teacher education to now, I just to say that there's been (in Australian context, in my context) a tremendous change around how these issues around sexual and gender diversity are talked about and discussed. So when I first started talking about this, it was tremendously taboo and there was all sort of issues within class and people would get upset. "We shouldn't be talking about things. It's not okay to talk about these issues with kids in school."

So all that sort of stuff would go down and having been out of higher education for a number years and then going back into it as well, I've seen tremendous changes in terms of I guess new generations of young people coming through. Being much more exposed to having gay or GLBTI friends, just through their life experience and what have you. So that there's not the same hostility around the issues and there is much more openness around talking about this and a recognition that it's important to talk about these things. Not to say that there's still aren't... I mean, there's still pockets of our position. It's not all rosy but, there's been a tremendous change and much less sort of shock that someone would even raise these issues in an education classroom now.

So, I think that's tremendously encouraging to have that in terms of people coming out of teacher education and I think then, the challenge for us then within education institutions then is about then, "How do we support teachers then to better to be able to support their students around gender and sexual diversity? How do we support educators to have these discussions around all aspects of diversity?" because, I think that there are teachers out there who are really wanting to go there and want to do something and play their part and challenge the silence but, they don't feel necessarily supported to do so. So, I think it's a challenge for our leaders and our systems to support teachers to have these conversations and to work with them around how to have these conversations because, I think there is some tremendous good will out there but, teachers need support to have these conversations. They also need to support the students who want to make change happen in their schools.

What we’re pushing for here is a deeply personal approach to learning — one in which the whole person, and every person, gets involved in the discussion and the discovery. To be clear, this is a very, very different proposition than the current push toward “personalized learning”. Here’s Paul.

Paul:        It’s becoming a buzzword, right? Or it’s already a buzzword. Everybody’s talking about personalized learning. Even the concept of personalized learning is, as it stands right now, totally flawed. It’s like a factory model 2.0.

        It’s like, “Let’s use a computer and quantitative data to say, ‘This kid needs this skill, and this kid needs this,’ and then just fill them with them. It’s the factory model for education, but instead of having all 150 students come to the same thing after nine weeks, it’s have all 150 students contain the same things, but just on different timelines.

To a certain extent, we want to have things that most kids are supposed to know and be able to do, because we know there’s lots of things that will make them able to communicate with and listen to the world.

        What personalized learning has become is, “Fill them with facts, but use technology to do it instead.” What I’m trying to argue, both here in San Francisco — in the tech Mecca of the world, you know — but also more broadly, is advocate for personalized learning to become learning that becomes personal to children.

Like you said, we also have to model our own identity, and how we’ve grown into our own identity, because I think when you model vulnerability, and you model resilience, and you model at the same time a humility, and you share your own struggles, it makes it okay to struggle with it. It normalizes the process of learning to love yourself, which is so hard. It’s something I think we all are still learning. I don’t think it’s something I started learning until about five or six years ago. Imagine if kids started learning that when they were one, you know? Or five, or eight or whatever. I think it would really change things.

Just imagine if normalizing the process of developing your identity and learning to love yourself were what schools helped everyone — teachers and students alike — to do. Imagine the benefit education would have on humanity.


You've been tuned to HybridPod, a production of Digital Pedagogy Lab.

Just because the show is over doesn't mean the conversation ends. Greg, Paul, and I are each accessible through Twitter, and so is the show itself. So along those lines, @HybridPod and @chris_friend would like to thank @gregbcurran (that’s C-U-R-R-A-N) and @paul_emerich (that’s E-M-E-R-I-C-H) for taking the time to talk with me for this episode.

On a more juvenile note, I’d also like to thank Greg for starting his intro with “G’day.” Having that quintessential phrase as the first words from my first Australian guest brightened my day. So there’s that.

Oh, and while I’m teetering on unprofessionalism, I’m going to take a page from the excellent NPR Podcast Invisibilia and offer what they call a “moment of non-zen”. I live in Tampa, which claims to be the lightning capital of the US. For the record, I believe the claim. Anyway, during my interview with Greg, a thunderstorm developed, and one bolt struck super close to my window, and the resulting bang… well, I’ll just let you listen and laugh at me.

[lightning strike excerpt]

Hmm. Perhaps next time I’ll postpone the call until after the storm passes.

That’s it for this episode of HybridPod. To hear more episodes, you can subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast listing service. But the best place to go is our home on the web: Find us at hybridpod.audio, where you can hear all our episodes, read show notes and complete transcripts, and contribute to the conversations online. That's hybridpod.audio.

Thanks for listening!