#24: The Trauma-Informed School Making Waves Across the World (with Mathew Portell)

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Have you ever wondered how to authentically hold space for students who have experienced adverse trauma, uphold a successful results-based academic program, and maintain your sanity? Well, you are in for a treat. My guest has been featured on a number of viral educational videos for the incredible work his school is doing to realize the trauma-informed schools movement. In this episode we discuss 7 keys to developing student leadership and agency, creative ways to reduce compassionate burnout in teachers, specific strategies for developing growth mindset in our students, and explore two proven transformational strategies for reaching at-risk students within your classroom. Please enjoy this conversation.

Mathew Portell has dedicated over a decade to education in his role as a teacher, instructional coach, teacher mentor, and school administrator. He is currently in his third year as principal of Fall-Hamilton Elementary, a nationally recognized innovative model school for trauma-informed school practices in Metro Nashville Public Schools. National Public Radio, Edutopia amongst other organizations have highlighted the school’s work.

In 2008, he combined his passion for literacy and cycling and founded the local double award winning non-profit Ride for Reading. The organization promotes literacy and healthy living through the distribution of more than 500,000 books via bicycle to underserved children. Portell also heads up Paradigm Shift Education which is focused on providing professional learning experience to assist in creating or cultivating a trauma informed school culture.

You can find him on social media by searching his name. For more information visit my website [smallactbigimpact.com][1] and search for episode #24.
[1]: http://smallactbigimpact.com

Old Habits Die Hard

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As I heaved the heavy school door open and headed out into the crisp Friday afternoon sunshine, my eyes, still bleary from an action-packed Halloween week at school and home, scanned the sparsely-filled parking lot for my car. My breath caught as a distant panic in my gut threatened to rise into my chest and ripple out onto my skin in goosebumps.

Where was it?

For a brief moment, I was transported back to my early twenties, where I had spent nearly every weekend and countless evenings in fluorescent, heavily curated, and windex-ed storefronts, selling t-shirts and promises to shoppers in the local mall.

One particular day, having driven my cherry red Celica to work, I parked the car on a slight decline, within close proximity to the front entrance of the mall.

I had a love-hate relationship with this vehicle, by the way. Straight out of the early 90’s, this manual shift was compact and zippy. It was the perfect summertime commuter. The problem was, where we live, it rains most of the year. The sunroof, which worked approximately 25% of the time, had a nasty habit of collecting water within it’s frame and would unleash the load on me every time I took a left-hand turn. I remember heading to a bridal shower, wearing a beautiful dress one weekend, only to arrive at the host’s house completely soaked, with mascara running down my face.

It was a cute looking car, though.

So, at the end of my shift at the mall, I emerged eager to head home for dinner. To my dismay, the car was nowhere to be found. After a few frantic minutes of searching, I received a call from my then-boyfriend-now-husband informing me that the car had been towed.

“What?” I demanded incredulously. “Why would they do such a thing?”

It turns out, in my haste to start my work shift, I had neglected to put my car in park. Unbeknownst to me, the vehicle had reversed slowly into the middle of the parking lot, causing a major headache for those wishing to enter the mall. Classic!

Flash forward to today. As it turns out, relief flooded my chest as I spotted my car tucked behind a lumbering, obtrusive van.

The truth is, I still harbour a little post-“traumatic”-stress from that situation. Although its more than 15 years later, part of me still worries that I might have forgotten to put my car in park.

I often think about the way we cling to past mistakes, reliving them, fearful that we’ll make the same ones again. Our brains are often so quick to jump to the worst-case, to scan for crisis. Optimism is the ability to overcome the conditioned pessimistic response and to talk yourself into believing that what has been will not always be, what has happened, will not necessarily be repeated.

 

Seth Godin: What is School For?

Brian Bloom credit Seth Godin suit
As an educator, have you ever found yourself stumped by the question, “Why are we even doing this?” or have you ever been graced with the inevitable “Is this on the test?” query?

In this very special episode, I talk to the one and only Seth Godin about disrupting the industrial model of education, helping students to get comfortable with struggle of learning and venturing beyond the pull of fitting-in.

We also discuss the real purpose of school and how we can best prepare our students for the uncertain future.

Finally, we explore the best way to provide feedback and advice to our learners, so that they may become the fullest expressions of themselves.

SETH GODIN is the author of 18 books that have been bestsellers around the world and have been translated into more than 35 languages. He’s also the founder of the altMBA and The Marketing Seminar, online workshops that have transformed the work of thousands of people.
He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything. You might be familiar with his books Linchpin, Tribes, The Dip and Purple Cow.

 

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In addition to his writing and speaking, Seth has founded several companies, including Yoyodyne and Squidoo. His blog (which you can find by typing “seth” into Google) is one of the most popular in the world.

In 2018, he was inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame. His latest book, *What To Do When It’s Your Turn* is now in its fifth printing. You can find it at yourturn.link (and the new book, *This Is Marketing*, comes out in November 2018).

Here is a link to his FREE PDF Education Manifesto (it’s so good… consider checking it out for yourself or using it for an in-school book club with your staff.)

Here is a link to his Akimbo Podcast. Seth always loves hearing how his work has impacted listeners, so send a voice message or ask a question about his episodes via his Akimbo website.

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Want to level up? Learn about the amazing online courses and seminars that Seth offers. No matter what type of work you’re doing, learn how to make your mark through the AltMBA and The Marketing Seminar .

Please let me know how you enjoyed the episode and feel free to comment on my blog or website smallactbigimpact.com

Thank you for listening!

 

Photo Credit: Brian Bloom

My Misadventures as a Server: How Failure and Embarrassment Builds Trust

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My Misadventures as a Server: How Failure and Embarrassment Builds Trust

I’ve had my fair share of face-down failures. Abject embarrassment. Moments of complete humiliation that have had the power to reduce me to itty-bitty versions of myself. It’s safe to say that at one time or another, we all have.

Take, for instance, that one summer, between teaching jobs, when I decided to try my hand at serving. When I first applied, I had casually chosen a local pub that concerned itself less with service, efficiency, and quality than a ‘good-enough’ attitude, low standards and fun times. In other words, it was a sure thing that I’d get hired despite my inexperience.

I loved connecting with patrons and the families who came through our doors. That aspect was, for the most part, meaningful and rewarding. Every day was a new opportunity to glimpse through a tiny keyhole into someone else’s existence, good, bad, and complicated. It was thrilling!

Intriguing as it was, I was truly the worst server. A good friend had reassured me during the application process that as a teacher, being so used to multi-tasking, I’d do great. Well…

I’d make a connection with a four-top, then get so busy thinking about their lives and motivations that I’d routinely forget the cream for their coffee orders and the lime for their ciders. I would ring in the appies with the entrees so everything would roll out all at once, crowding the tiny tables after a painfully long wait due to the exceedingly slow pace of the kitchen. I’d get flustered when we were short-staffed and had too many tables. I had (and continue to have) the worst short-term memory when it comes to seemingly trivial stuff.  My most commonly uttered phrases include: “Where’s my purse?” and “Where are my keys?” As you might imagine, it was a long summer.

One night during the dinner rush, a raucous group of baseball lovers settled into the back booth and ordered hot-wings with bleu cheese dressing.

Let me preface this by clearly stating that I don’t really ‘do’ wings.  I’ve never ordered them. Even when my husband hasordered them, I’ve never really paid attention (too busy focusing on other things, remember?).  So, this was a real, face-down Amelia Bedelia moment.

After getting their drinks (and actually nailing it), I keyed in their order and went to the kitchen to confirm that they got the order right on their end.

“Don’t forget the bleu cheese dressing!” I announced confidently through the kitchen window. “They want it on their wings.”

“Like, wings tossed in bleu cheese?” One of the cooks shouted with a look of utter bewilderment.

“Yep!” I yelled assuredly above the clanging of pots and hissing of steam from the dishwasher.

“Oooooo-kay…” The cook nodded slowly with a skeptical side-glance.

Minutes later, my table’s order was up.

There, sitting under the warming lights, was the most unappealing pile of wings. The bright-red hot-sauce competed with the creamy, lumpy bleu cheese sauce resulting in a chunky, greasy white and red lumpy mess. Shrugging, (I mean, people want what they want…who am I to judge?), I brought the order to the booth and presented it to them, gingerly.

The guys looked distastefully at the plate of wings, then back at me with incredulous distain. Rolling his eyes with annoyance, one of them spoke up, his voice dripping with scorn: “We meant bleu cheese. On. The. Side. Obviously.’

Obviously.

Crap. Crap. Crap.

In that moment, I wanted to disappear. I wanted to cry. I felt stupid. I wanted to reach across the table and smack the entitled look right off of their faces. I felt a desperate need to relieve myself from the negative self-talk that echoed their expressions.

Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!

They sneered as I grasped the plate of wings and turned to leave. Beaming the shiniest ‘service’ smile I could muster, I made my way back to the kitchen struggling to keep my head above the suffocating waves of humiliation.

Upon reaching the slippery white tile floor of the kitchen, my heel managed to hit a greasy spot. My foot scooted out from under me, sending me flying (think: cartoon character slipping on a banana peel). I fell flat on my back, but not before the goopy, creamy wings soared off the plate in slow-motion, sprinkler-style across the kitchen and all over my lap.

There I sat, drenched in hot-sauce, clumpy, creamy dressing, and failure. It took all I had not to rip my apron off and quit from the embarrassment.

But I didn’t. With a dejected sigh, I collected myself, wiped up the mess as best as I could, chose a new apron, and asked for a rush order on hot-wings, making sure to prepare the side-sauce myself.

I headed out once again to the booth, head held high, knowing in my heart that this would pass. This would not be my story forever.

In the past, reliving public displays of imperfection would have caused me to cringe. Pushing those memories far from my mind felt better than marinating in the torturous discomfort of my inadequacy. Seeking to be perfect once protected me from exposing my vulnerability, the very thing that we all seek in order to feel connected to others.

I’ve recently learned that the more willingly one leans into our own human imperfection, the less we invite shame and humiliation to manifest themselves in our lives and the more connected we feel to those around us.

You see, shame only survives within the protective shadows. The more we live out loud, in the light, the more unshackled we become. We can grow to be more tolerant of our own shortcomings. This tolerance, allows us to survive failure. Instead of wilting and shriveling, we grow strong and tall in the face of adversity.

But our courage to experience life as it is also has the remarkable power to influence those around us. It comes down, once again, to vulnerability.

It turns out, scientists at a number of universities have proven that sharing our embarrassing and vulnerable moments can serve to solidify our relationships through the agency of trust.

“Embarrassment is one emotional signature of a person to whom you can entrust valuable resources. It’s part of the social glue that fosters trust and cooperation in everyday life,” said UC Berkeley social psychologist Robb Willer, a coauthor of the study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

“Moderate levels of embarrassment are signs of virtue,” said Matthew Feinberg, a doctoral student in psychology at UC Berkeley. “Our data suggests embarrassment is a good thing, not something you should fight.”

It’s a great equalizer that reminds us of our humanity. There’s something about offering oneself up that allows others to feel more comfortable.

When people work and learn in an environment that celebrates uniqueness, failure, and imperfection, they are more willing to be creative, take risks, be generous, and reveal their most authentic selves.

Why is this important? Well, when you are in a position of influence, such as a teacher, a manager or the owner of a company, and you want to get the best out of those around you …because it’s your job to motivate, inspire or cajole them into creating something, being brave enough to share their idea, or to collaborate generously with one another, you have to start with trust.

When students or employees can see themselves in you, they tend to trust you. Through that shared experience, they can trust you.

So, maybe next time you need your students or employees to get creative or do their best work, start with an embarrassing story.

 

Sources:
https://hbr.org/2017/10/research-for-better-brainstorming-tell-an-embarrassing-story
” Matthew Feinberg, Robb Willer, Dacher Keltner. Flustered and faithful: Embarrassment as a signal of prosociality.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2011; DOI: 10.1037/a0025403