Understanding Learning Systems and Responsive Pedagogy in the AC-Stage of Education

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Dr. Donna Vallese’s entire career has been dedicated to improving outcomes for students by supporting educators in implementing game-changing and innovative practices. I have had the opportunity to work at all levels of education (state, university, district, school, and classroom) and those settings have been in urban, charter, sub-urban, and rural schools.

Dr. Michael Conner

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening and welcome to another episode of Voices for Excellence. I am your host, Dr. Michael Conner, CEO of Founder of the Agile Evolutionary Group and proud host of VFE! And today’s guest, I promise you, it would be that hybrid between censored and uncensored, because she is a great dear friend in the field. A dear friend to me personally, an educator I respect wholeheartedly. You know, we meet at least once a month for what we call giggle sessions where it is this. We’re talking about a guy or we’re talking about some important component within the education vector, and we’re talking about what we are, what our grounded beliefs are, which is around innovation, equity and excellence. And I am proud to have my dear friend, Dr. Donna Vallese. Donna Vallese, how are you?

Dr. Donna Vallese

I am doing great, but you might be making me blush. It’s quite an intro.

Dr. Michael Conner

I absolutely love Dr. Vallese. Dr. Donna Vallese is the Director of Learning and Continuous Improvement for the Green Central Public Schools in Central New York. We got somebody from Central New York on Voices for Excellence, but she is also the proud CEO and Founder of Inspiring Leaders LLC and then now becoming an author. And we’re going to talk about it more of the book, Ed Matadors and the expansion of that as well once we get into the episode. But Dr. Vallese, you know, it is great to have you. You are one of the, I like to say, mine, one of the intellectual properties that I just love to be able to balance my own, whether it be independent or applied research that I’m applying right now in the education field. And you are one of those leaders that I would just say is intentional, bold, and you are certainly unapologetic with your practices. So how are you, Dr. Vallese? Good to have you.

Dr. Donna Vallese

I am doing really great. It’s good to be here. Thank you.

Dr. Michael Conner

Great to have you on. But now I tell you this, right? If you can last VFE, you can last anything. So we’ll get right into the episodes and questions. But or we’ll get right into the episode and questions. But my first question is always a one question and it makes the participant reflect, right? Not reflect in the context around change management or continuous improvement are different type of blended models of education, but it shows a correlation between you and what your excellent song would be, or your excellence or the equity song would be. But when leaders in New York engage with you in education discussions or could be potentially about thought leadership in the context of curriculum instruction and professional learning, what an assessment. Because we know you’re an expert in all those areas. So when they engage with you, whether it be out on a national level or at a local or state level. Right, or it could be even about inspiring leaders, what Equity and Excellence song describes your work in the ecosystem.

Dr. Donna Vallese

So I actually have two, Michael. Already breaking the rules. I have to have kind of my personal anthem and then I have my all time favorite song that just applies to everything in my life. So my personal anthem, are you ready? Raise Your Glass by Pink. Raise Your Glass. Awesome song, awesome song. So raise your glass if you are wrong in all the right ways.

Dr. Michael Conner

That describes your work, Dr. Vallese. Absolutely, please elaborate on that for me.

Dr. Donna Vallese

So what I think of that song, just personality wise and the way that I approach teaching and learning it is totally outside of the box. So it’s not something that is common across the board. And so that’s where you get where you are wrong in all the right ways. It’s really I’m right in all the wrong ways. Maybe you just flip it around. Yeah, yeah. But my second favorite song, my second song is Imagine by John Lennon, and that is tattooed on my foot. But it really has been this this idea of looking from the balcony and just envisioning envisioning how what ways we can cross through that glass ceiling, imagining what ways we can bring people of all sorts of different identities together, just envisioning a world that doesn’t really exist right now, but one that is better than where we found it. And so that has that song has always completely resonated with me, probably since I was tiny. Tiny, a tiny kid right now. I remember my dad telling me when I was probably about fights that John Lennon had been shot and killed, you know, a couple years prior to that. And I started sobbing because I couldn’t imagine this man who had created this amazing song could be dead. Yeah, right. And so that has always sat with me and resonated with me. And it’s just my favorite song of all time.

Dr. Michael Conner

Absolutely. And, you know, when I look at the causal relationship with the songs that you identified, Raise your Glass. And then also imagine there is a lot of emulation that we see in education as we write specifically what the the the sentiment of what we know is wrong is right, right. When I think about that context of creativity, innovation, underscoring artificial intelligence models, underscoring new emerging technologies and education, it seems like we are hesitant or there’s that strategic stalemate of not integrating a AI or specific analytic models that we know that we can test with some of the persistent problems. But we know that is right, that we have to do that. And imagine, is that all I like to say? That whole empowerment, right, of empowering everybody to imagine what education can look like as we move forward into AC stage of education. But when it comes to you, Dr. Vallese, you and Pink, okay? I like that there’s not a causality, there’s a correlation between the needs and take, but you all it on to the second question, Dr. Vallese. You work in the Great Central School District in central New York, right? And you essentially oversee all of the elements pertaining to teaching and learning. When we think about those isolated elements that make that instructional system of teaching and learning, you oversee that, right? You and the ecosystem. And I want you because we had a conversation and one time when we were together, but it was really resonating for me. But I want my audience to hear you unpack the simulations of what our conversation is are when we’re together. But we’re still addressing the loss of learning gains. I don’t like to use learning loss because there’s two sentiments or pretty much two ideologies that I always say, Why don’t use learning loss? One, there’s a deficit mindset to it, and two are students didn’t lose anything, but they loss learning gains from the baseline that they were at. So I just want to have that critical distinction as we move on. You were still experiencing the loss of learning gains in those critical content areas, right? We talk about the NAPE, standardized assessment outcomes to aggregate that received across the country. But as we continue to unwrap the access and opportunity gaps to strategically address these root causes, either loss of learning gains, how will innovation and creativity within the instructional model just we’re just focusing now just on the instructional model itself, be a key lever that would change pedagogical practices pre-K through pre-K through 12 classrooms in our country. How do we see we’re using creativity, innovation to address these adaptive natures within the instructional model? 

Dr. Donna Vallese

That’s a really great question, and I think I want to start with just acknowledging the fact that prior to COVID, many schools, including the one I’m in now, in schools that I have worked out before, were already seeing a slippage of achievement. Yeah. And so we like to blame COVID because that exacerbated the problem. But we were already starting that backward slide. Yeah. And so we have to really wrap our heads around that because the problem is, is that our practice is have remained largely traditional while our students have changed, our society has changed, the needs of what employers are looking for and colleges are looking for from their graduates have changed and we haven’t really changed. And so when I think of what needs to change and what we need to really think about is really wrapped around the concepts from my TED talk, actually. Yeah. And that is the fact that learning needs to be more hands on. We need to be focused on skills. We have so much content and my son would be the first person to tell you he does. He used to tell me. Yeah, I don’t need to go to college, Mom, I everything I need to learn, I can learn on the internet, I can look it up on YouTube. I can learn whatever I need to do. 15 years ago, 20 years ago, that was not the case, right? We didn’t have access to this much information, and we haven’t shifted practices to help our students really understand what to do with all of that. And so I like to use this metaphor of if you look at a map and you’re planning a trip currently the skills are kind of the skills that we want our kids to learn a map or put out on the map. And the content has been put in the driver’s seat. And so that content remains constant. And we have to get through all this content because these kids have to pass this test and maybe will catch these skills as we go.Like while we may not hit Florida or the skills that are down in Florida, but we’re going to get these skills over in Colorado because that’s where we’re driving. Right. And that’s kind of backwards, right? That’s kind of how things are happening now. But we really need to flip that so that down on the map is the content that we can explore with our kids, that we can take these incredible trips with our kids and we put the skill sets in the driver’s seat so that we’re carrying those skills and developing those skills wherever we go on that map. We are not in a place in society anymore where we have to have all of this stuff memorized, right? It’s still need to memorize information. And so I think we have to really acknowledge that and make a big shift shift in the way that we assess students, a shift in the way that we design and develop curriculum, and certainly a shift in our teaching practices. Because if we’re just standing and delivering, because we want kids to, we want to cover the information so the kids have at least heard the information one time in hopes that maybe they’ll be able to answer a question on a test. Yeah, that’s totally the wrong approach right now. And that’s not what our employers are looking for. And our students are not responsive. When you flip the script and you implement project based learning or you implement things where you put kids in the driver’s seat and the teacher becomes the facilitator here and you teach like that kids come to life. Absolutely. I mean, I used to teach like that all the time. I was very project oriented and I still have students from 20 years ago that will reach out to me and they’ll say, Do you remember when we did this project? And they remember all of the details from their project? Yeah, not that I required them to memorize any of it. I didn’t. There were certain things that I knew I wanted them to learn. I identified that bare minimum and they took it to another level, you know, and we just don’t structure education that way. Even though over a century of research says that we should.

Dr. Michael

Yeah, Yeah. And Dr. Vallese, I really, really loved your answer to this and to my audience. This is one of the answers that you want to rewind and play back and unwrap and totality because there’s a lot of micro and macro ideas and strategies that can be implemented into your practices. Specifically, when Dr. Vallese identified the just disjunction between the or within the education model supply, right? When we think about curriculum, articulation and design and development implementation, articulation of the curriculum through pedagogy and the regurgitation of information, whether it be in a form that’s in summative manner, that’s what our current construct is of what we see in our schools today versus the actual on demand approach that Dr. Vallese is talking about, where we’re actually developing the necessary skills and competencies to be successful in an evolutionary world in accordance to Delta 2030. Now Dr. Vallese again, and I knew I shouldn’t have asked this question because I know I was going to expand on it, but you talk about the change and the redesign specifically around curriculum and assessment. I want to focus just on this linear aspect or this linear apparatus within the instructional model of assessments, right? There’s conclusive, conclusive research that supports that. Summative assessments only assess 50% of the brain. And then more importantly, in a simplified manner, which your son highlighted, is that from this summative assessment, roughly up to 10% of what was demonstrated in that summative assessment is articulated or realized in real world jobs, the workforce. Right? So if we have this and again, this is kind of like a sub very question, if we have this, I like to say over a separation or an assessment, assessment outcomes in aggregate is to determine the quality and effectiveness of schools. When we know on the back end that only 50% of us of a child’s brain is being assessed. And when you look down the line for workforce alignment, only 10% of it is being used. What is this redesign of the assessment model or what does this redesign of assessments specifically around the summative notion? What would this look like in our our future driven environments where now schools are learning, organizations are rooted in grounded in this demand approach to develop competencies for the new workforce of 2023?

Dr. Donna Vallese

So this is a complicated question. I mean Dr. Vallese, it wouldn’t be VFE if we’re not asking the hard questions, right? Exactly, Exactly. So, you know, when I think of assessment, if we’re going to truly focus on skills. So I’m going to back up a little bit to when I worked in some schools where we actually, instead of giving kids an 84 or a 93 or 72, what on earth do those numbers mean? Does it mean that the kid left their name off their paper? Does that mean they turned it in three days late? Like, what do the numbers mean? They honestly don’t mean very much to most children. And so it’s not even a motivator. Giving a kid a zero is not a motivator. Right? You can never recover from it. But when you shift to this idea of standards based or competency based grading, where you’re grading specific skills and giving kids multiple opportunities to be able to demonstrate those skills across all content areas, it becomes more engaging and they start to understand the reason why they’re learning, what they’re learning. And so you can prioritize content which has to be done regardless because you have to have some level to make determinations on what units you’re going to teach and in what content you’re going to use or what content you even going to put in front of kids. Right? So you could put a series of articles in front of kids, gives them a cognitive like an authentic cognitive task that they then have to sift through and use multiple skills to then assemble something that they’ve learned from that is so it’s really assessing the learning and understanding and not the knowledge. Knowledge and understanding are two completely different things. Actually, knowledge, if you look it up in the dictionary, knowledge is literally the discrete pieces of information that you just know right off the bat. Two plus two is four. You just know it, right? Understanding is really understanding how that concept of two plus two actually works and being able to explain that to someone who doesn’t understand it. So that’s that’s the most simplified way I could get that. And so really our assessments have to be more focused on some sort of task that kids are creating. Yeah, we kids that we’re in a world they are creating more time media every single day on their phones, on social media and posting it with their friends. And they’re editing videos and sharing them back and forth with each other. They’re creating things, but we’re not. A lot of us are not using that in the classroom on a regular basis to capitalize on those so that they see their phone or they see technology or the computer as a tool to help them progress, or a tool to help them meet those standards and competencies to demonstrate what they really understand. And so an assessment shouldn’t be it’s okay to to give quick little like assessments to make sure they’ve got some key content because you can’t do this without content. But if you focus at those higher levels of learning, if you’re evaluating something, you have to be able to read and comprehend and you have to be able to do all of the lower levels to be able to provide that, to actually write up an evaluation of something. So all those higher levels encompass the lower levels of thinking. And just actually the entire first chapter of Bloom’s Taxonomy, the actual book, if you’ve ever read it, that first chapter actually dives in and says that this is not a step by step process of how to think. He goes on and they say that it is designed to just identify the different levels of thinking that we engage in with an understanding that they can go in any order at any time. Yeah, right. And so we have to be we have to think high because we want that’s where the skills are. And then we bring that knowledge up and we start to scaffold and build in the knowledge and it’s in pieces. So kind of like in my TED talk, when I go through why teaching and learning should look and feel more like riding a bicycle. Yeah, you did not learn how to ride a bicycle by reading a manual and memorizing all the vocabulary first. Absolutely. You saw somebody do it, you got the big conceptual picture and you were actually trying to replicate that because you did. You had higher level thinking in that you were evaluating and analyzing the situation when you saw your brother as in writing that bike.  Yeah. Yeah. Right. And so when you bring that back and now it’s time for you to learn, you’re trying to replicate what happened. And it’s a trial and error. It’s not a memorize this vocabulary. Yeah. So we just have to really rethink that. In, in part of that starts with how we prepare our teachers.

Dr. Michael Conner

Yes, yes. And Dr. Vallese, that is an episode in itself. Well, the march to the redesign of pre-service programs, but you brought in an old friend, Benjamin Bloom right? And when we talk about Bloom and, you know, the knowledge taxonomies of it, one thing that and I apologize for looking down just briefly, it’s in my notes is I always used to say and I created this inverse where time is the variable and learning is a card. Learning is a constant. Looking at your your ideology and theory, which is, I think, wow, unbelievable. This is terribly pure genius where the skills are the variable and the learning hours. I’m sorry, the content is the constant. And now one way I look at this is that the content becomes adaptable and diverse, whereas addressing the multitude of different skills that we’re trying to develop. But, you know, when I think about skill development and having relevant content that is engaging, I goes back to adapt in or modifying or even adopt an pedagogy that focuses on the development and the conceptual skills of our students. How is that equilibrium, right? That I always talk about with we have to maintain content, right? That is grounded in standards, but how do we present that in a pedagogical form? Where is this not stand and deliver? But wow. Benjamin Bloom, I got to go back and reference is research again. You know, when I’m so been immersed in immersed in data analytics and emerging technologies that got to go back to the baseline, which is Bloom’s. But this is a nice segway into this question, right? When we talk about, you know, differentiation in the context of modalities and targeting, what are those antecedents of excellence and aligning them to our friend Benjamin Bloom’s and his research with regards to the knowledge taxonomy on taxonomies. But when I think about this right, it goes back to this baseline framework of continuous improvement, right? And you and I know we’ve been immersed in so much, so much of research, so many empirical studies that what we see is and what you were just talking about. And with your last answer is the lever around continuous improvement is improving the quality of Tier one instruction comprehensively. You and I can universally agree with that. Now, when I think about quality, while it is a very abstract word that we can be able to define, but there are noted and you said this previously at the outset of the episode, there are noted demographic and social graphic changes that mate this sentiment around improving the quality of tier one instruction is arduous to address systematically when we think about it from a systems of change management lens, even broader than continuous improvement. But what are some strategies and coaching approaches you have incorporated in your district or even your national work to improve this loosely coupled definition of quality with Tier one in the stage of education?

Dr. Donna Vallese

Yeah, I think step one. So just from our perspective here at the building I’m at now, and this is what I’ve seen across the board at most schools is because we have so much standard deliver instruction, we know that maybe ten, 15% of the population learns auditory, right? Right. The majority of the population learns visually and tactile.

Dr. Michael Conner

Yeah. The nightly word on we have the any word is innovative. So go ahead. Go right ahead.

Dr. Donna Vallese

And so right there, that alone tells us that we need to be geared more towards that rather than the auditory piece. And just having kids take notes is not quite enough for visual. They need to see something happening and see visuals. So classrooms there, simple, simple things that can just make a huge difference in a classroom to address equity. And so when you think of things like putting visuals up and showing little video clips prior to a lesson, so the kid sees the end. If you think about a math lesson and you think about, you know, the mathematical models, I never I could do math. So I was blue in the face. I understood the process. I could follow the procedures applied. No idea what it meant or why it was turning out that way. Right. And so if we could show students what those mathematical models were and then build backward from those models rather than start at the beginning and build up, we may have some different results because we’re giving kids the end. We’re we’re giving them the vision of what needs to happen or what’s going what they’re going to be learning about, and then building their understanding of how this equation gets to this mathematical model works its name in science. So visuals is one piece, and the other piece is this idea of total participation. Yeah. So too many classrooms over the years I’ve walked into and the teacher standing in the front of the room and they are animated and only one student at a time is answering a question or they’re answering their own questions. Yeah, really, If you have a teacher takes the time to think out some major questions that they’re going to ask, and then you have to have kids turn and talk. You have all students, right? And then they they share or you do a four corner activity. The whole idea is to make all kids accountable for what you’re teaching. Right. And so those little pieces will help make sure that every student is getting it, because otherwise, what were what do you know about what students are actually learning during a lesson If you don’t have those touchpoints? Yeah, you can’t assume that all students are understanding what the heck you’re talking about if you’re only calling on one student at a time. Yeah, right. And so those are two really easy to kick off the shelves and just make minor adjustments to teaching practices That could make a huge difference for our kids. And then the third one is if if we do ever get to this place where we can be more competency based, we can really have assessments that are more authentic and there are more tasks that students are doing, then we can personalize those and students can be setting goals based on what they have and haven’t learned yet what skills they’re still working on. Right? And so they have. We can create their own entry points and truly get at personalized learning, right? Not every kid needs to have an individualized plan, but if they have some choice, they have skin in the game. And right now, if a kid comes in and they sit for 50 minute lessons and they just sit and they have no skin in the game, that’s the same, same model for coaching, right? Yeah. There’s this coaching continuum that you have. And so when you when an administrator or an instructional coach is working with a teacher, you want to get to that coaching where you are facilitating by asking questions and drawing information out of the teacher or the person you’re coaching. And so rather than being directive and saying this is what you need to do, this is how you need to do it, and then that middle phase is if you’re collaborating, you’re co-creating, even that is more powerful than that stand and deliver and that directive model. So we really have to become more student centered. And I know that’s the term student centered is something that we read about and we can talk about and we can define, but we haven’t fully across the board put the rubber to the road on being student centered.

Dr. Michael Conner

I concur, Dr. Vallese. And one of the things that you really hit upon around multiple visuals, total population engagement and personalization with regards to agency and choice in this disaggregated manner. I wrote an article or I’m sorry, a blog that was released by getting smart and is called Schools of the Future. Right? The Designing and Developing and Assets and Entrepreneurial Model of Education, where students that roused this completely, completely, completely correct, where we see a lot of stand and deliver. And when you talk about engaging all students, you know, whether it be through walkthroughs and collecting the reference data, you see that a lot of practitioners unintentionally call on roughly about 2 to 3 of the same students, but not engaging. All right. But there is a subquestion I want to ask, and the subquestion was with regards to improving that while of Tier one. But I think this adds a statistical model where I’m adding in a variable that has a high level of rate rigidity to it that might throw off the coefficient. Of course I like that to you, of course, but I want to add that element of culture, responsive pedagogy, right? Culture of responsive practices that to be in alignment with the changing demographics and socio graphics that we’re experiencing, whether it be the science of reading and unwrap and specific routines and focuses around those isolated skills and that need to develop at the foundational level. You’ve highlighted the math and early yes, when we talk about the standards, disparate level setting with our audience today and I just wrote, when the qualitative and quantitative dimensions of complexity, when we take into consideration readers and task what is absolutely from, let’s say, all of those all of those elements that make up what Tier one instruction is being culturally responsive. Right. And I think that because of the fact that our demographics in public education represent 54% that are black and brown, how do we add in that element of college or a being culture response? If a culture response practices and pedagogy to improve the quality of Tier one.

Dr. Donna Vallese

Well, any any of those things where you are making sure that all students are getting getting what they need, you’re already being responsive, number one. The next thing is just honoring who each individual student is. Absolutely in honoring their differences in different backgrounds and allowing them to share with each other. We all come to the table with different experiences, different backgrounds, different things that we connect to or don’t connect to, and we have to be able to honor that and make shifts and adjustments. And that’s where that becomes much easier if you’re focused on the skill rather than the content. Yeah, because if you’re focused on the skill, I’ll take history, for example. If you’re focused on you want students to be able to analyze text and you want them to a, evaluate a key decision that was made in history and whether that was the right decision or not, the right very high level conceptual thing. And you say, right, we’re going to focus on the civil war in these things that happened during the Civil War, they can explore that. And so many different ways. You can have students that that look into the artwork of the period. You can have students that look into music of the period. You can have students reading journal entries like there’s so many entry points to to enamored kids with learning. And we we have to re think giving every kid exactly the same thing is I need glasses but if if I said because I need glasses you’re all getting the same pair of glasses, it’s only going to benefit me and no one else because this is my prescription. Right. And so we have to treat learning that way and teaching and learning that way. And yeah, it’s easier to just plan one lesson to do the same thing for all kids. It’s much harder to facilitate something like that, but it’s more powerful in the kids get way more out of it. Even if you can do smaller groups and group students together, you just have to know your students and who cares what grade level reading that that a student is reading the text from. So there’s New Zella or UCLA. However you say everybody says it differently. They provide similar content all at different reading levels. Yeah, right. And so the kids are still getting the main concepts in the main understanding of it while they’re building their their reading skills. But they still can take away a lot of the same thing. Yeah, but use different pieces of content. So we just have to realize how interconnected content really is.

Dr. Michael Conner

Yeah. Well-stated. Dr. Vallese, well-stated. And you’re bringing me back to my days when I was a part of writing the Learning 2025 National Commission Report, and that was what 32 other educators nationally and one of the key elements that we were focusing on was really changing not just the vernacular, but the holistic practice within the ecosystem of having students as coauthors of their learning goes back to being students center, which again is another critical, I like to say critical element within the whole responsive domain and how we unwrap that. So very, very well-stated. Now I want to move into your personal work, right? And I like to say that this was the businesses or one of the business are a business that was developed during COVID. And then during COVID, you know, your organization called Inspiring Leaders LLC. Now, I can tell you right now you are is such demand and there’s only been what, two and a half years. You’re doing direct coaching, national coaching, you’re doing national workshops, you’re speaking nationally, you’re customizing professional learning. I mean, to the level of personalization that we want to see in our classrooms. You’re providing that to your clients and the districts that you’re working with. But for my audience that don’t know anything about inspiring leaders LLC, what is the mission and vision of your organization and getting down to the level of specificity? Yes, I know, but my audience don’t know what are the type of services that I could expect from your organization to support specifically for me. And I want you to customize for me. Of course, I’m going to hardcore you right? Okay. What would my support be if I’m focusing on radical and disruptive change in the AC stage of education?

Dr. Donna Vallese

Yeah, So originally, you’re absolutely right. I was I, I had a coaching business that was dormant and during then I, I totally revamped it. It used to be called learning image. Now it’s inspiring leaders because since I had started, you know, both that first initial business, that was during a time where I was like, I don’t ever want to be an administrator, right?

Dr. Michael Conner

Look to be well out. Don’t the ground now. Right. But as like you all say that Dr. Vallese.

Dr. Donna Vallese

In and I’ll and as I got more and more experience I realized just how much I don’t know I don’t know what the right word is, but just what a difference a leader, a really great leader can make. Yeah, right. Because I’ve seen really great leaders and I have seen not great leaders. Right? And so I want everyone to be a great leader because I don’t see leadership is not positional to me. Yeah, leadership and everyone exhibits leadership in some way and it’s it’s my job to identify how you exhibit leadership so that I can build your skill set about making the lives of others better. Right. And so what I decided to do is I’m really to hone in on that piece that I love so much. I always wanted to be a teacher. And if our leaders are not able to support our teachers the way they need to be supported, they’re not going to be able to support our kids. Yeah, because the leader can’t support a thousand kids, but 100 teachers can support 1000 kids in an administrator can support 100 teachers. Absolutely right. And so so I really wanted to focus on those leadership pieces. So so let’s say, you know, you wanted to you are in a space where you are. You’re ready to really rock and roll and make some big change and revolutionize some things. That is my space. I have specific training in turnaround. I’ve done turnaround work and in urban settings. And so working with me would include 1 to 1 coaching, perhaps even some group coaching and like right now I’m just doing some one on one coaching with the Labor Institute who solely works with the Lakota people out on out in South Dakota and on to help leverage their own leadership. And so I’m I am coaching the consultants who are working with those leaders. Yeah. So when you have a coaching model like that, you want to practice what you preach. You can’t just identify someone as a coach and send them out and expect them to coach. Yeah, you have to be able to coach them as well. And and I have people who coach me. Yeah, right. And so we’ve got to practice what we preach because if it’s not systematic like that, then you end up with instructional coaches who are struggling to figure out how do I, how do I make moves, how do I help this person? So that’s true. But I think the third thing is really looking at that system, the whole system, and identifying what are the critical points where if we made a shift here, it would shift five or six of those things. And if we made a shift here, it would shift five or six others. And then once you have those identified, putting them in the order of how to go about doing that work right, whether it’s you have to provide professional development or we need to build capacity around this part of the model. So it’s really I have this balance of coaching and consulting with the whole idea that I should be working myself out of a job. Absolutely. So that the next person who needs that type of support can get it from me? Absolutely. So, you know, I don’t while it’s great to work with an organization for a long period of time and have that ongoing and have a great contract that’s ongoing, yeah, if it’s ongoing, then I’m not really doing my job as a coach to make sure I’m building the capacity for that work to continue. Or it’s also okay if I stay on and realize that the work is continually shifting because transformation is not an overnight saying. It is not a one year thing. It takes 3 to 5 years to really put something in place that will stick so that as you’re putting things in place, you want to be able to leave your legacy. Absolutely right. You want to be able to leave. If you had to step out that door because you broke your leg and you couldn’t work for eight weeks or six months or whatever, you want those things to continue. Yeah. And they won’t continue if you really haven’t laid the foundation right. And so that’s where I come in and helping organizations do that piece as well. Unbelievable doctor beliefs. And you contextualize that perfectly right. I always say this is kind of like my tagline at the end conjunction with Change the World. This is Leadership matters, right? And a good leader. We know that research by enact that leader can also, especially at the site based level, can always have the biggest impact on teaching and learning and outcomes. But you know what I love about your answer to Dr. Vallese is you started to unwrap the importance of the parallel zation between having a systems lens and really understanding change management in the context of systems. But more importantly, the parallel ization is capacity, right human capital to be able to ensure the new system, whether it be some of the subsystems that you’re addressing, or it could be very headsets that live within those systems, how does it broadly impact one another? And I think that what we need to do is comprehensively build capital around. I like to say, what are those residual effects? If you make one decision with regards to the opera opera’s opera opera, like I can’t even say operationalizing or optimizing, I should say optimizing some of the systems that are integrated into the whole, I like to say, most structure in totality. But yes, I don’t know why I couldn’t say that for some reason, operationalizing, operationalizing, we got it. I was going through my head. I’m like, What word is he trying to say above? I was thinking of optimizing, but yes, that too. But anyways, got it.

Dr. Donna Vallese

I think you were combining the words. You were coming up with a new word for Webster.

Dr. Michael Conner

So you even did it yourself a few minutes ago with the new words that we would create. But I would like to I want to say congratulations to you on the background and your that you’re the now Ed Matadors. Right? The book is the book is going to be lodged. And so you and Dr. B, I mean, you guys are taking this off to another level. Thank you for including me to write a book chapter in it. More than honored, humble. Absolutely. Say yes to that. The Dr. Donna Vallese, asked me to write a book chapter in it. Absolutely. But Ed Matadors, right. The book is going to be featuring many different educators that are coming from the ecosystem representing different verticals in the ecosystem. So first, what are the multidimensional beings that are going to come out of the book and matadors and set get you? And I had a discussion about the long term vision of what you’re going to do after the book. Can you talk about the vision and some of the visionary impact that you want to have while learning organizations through the support of Ed Matadors?

Dr. Donna Valesse

Well, thank you for the opportunity to talk about this because I’m incredibly excited about this. Yeah. So, Dr. B, let me tell you who Dr. B is. As far as I know, Michael, you know, but your audience doesn’t know. So Dr. B and I, we were in a collaborative book together that became an international bestseller on Amazon. And we met at a castle in Northern Ireland called Crome Castle. We physically met for the first time. We stayed there for five days, had an incredible experience. Dr. B is a retired special education director down in Texas. I live up in New York and now she is a publisher, so she has her own publishing business. And so we got talking and we knew we had to do something together, but we weren’t quite sure what it was until finally I was like, We need to write a book. We need a collaborative book. Right, right, right. And so when you think about a matador killing the bull, right, there’s some innuendos in there, but killing the bull, you think about the educational system. It’s this vast thing. Yeah. Coming at you in all these different directions all the time. Yeah. And and that’s kind of like the system in. It’s telling you, like you’re not going to get through this. Yeah, and. But a manager has to is like a leader, right? The, the educational leader has to stand there with composure. They have to think systemically and they have to think strategically. How am I going to calm this bull down and we’re going to slay this bull and we have this landscape of innovation in schools and classrooms. I’m going to go back to the map. Right. So if you have this world map and you dip your hand into the sprinkle, John, the ice cream shop and you drop the sprinkles, those are all the little specks. Yeah, innovation is happening in the classroom a year and a district. They’re in a school over there and in, but nothing’s ever moving in the same direction. So it’s like how do we get people moving in the same direction? So it’s starting with the book. So this first book has 30 authors. We have topics that range from leadership to transforming schools to career in technical education to socio emotional learning, to addressing trauma. I’m going to be doing a chapter from my dissertation on competency based student teaching. So so we’re bringing all these different topics because our system is enormous, which is why we can’t really ever get traction to make a big difference. I’m already recruiting for the second book. I, I already have authors that are ready to to sign on and pay their money to be in the second book. Right. And so the first book will be we’re launching doing an online launch on Cyber Monday, which is November 27th. It’s the Monday after Thanksgiving. And then we’re doing a live book launch in Syracuse with a book signing and lots of really cool things happening that will be December 9th. And then six months later, we’re just it’s rinse and repeat with different authors and different topics. All of these authors, many of them will probably publish again because there’s so many things they can write about right. They’re so entrenched in what they’re doing. We even have some we have some people writing about financial literacy. And the other one I also forgot this is not just a national thing. This is becoming international. So we do have one author from Germany who is doing work teaching kids how to farm in Africa. Wow. So we have one of those. I do have some people from the U.K. who are interested in publishing. So this education problem is is not a U.S. problem. It’s a worldwide problem that many countries have not quite figured out. And so so we publish this these books with the whole idea of after we get a few books. So if you think five years of books, 30 authors in each book times two every year, so every year, so 120, 120 different chapters every year addressing different aspects of the system. Now each chapter starts off with who the author is, what it is that they’re doing, what their innovation is, that is that they’re talking about or implementing what the results are and what are the challenges and the things that have to shift in the system, whether it be policy or a law or something. What has to shift to make it a widespread thing? Because they’re already getting if they already have established their proof point. Yeah. So how do we make it more of a national thing to really fix the system? Now imagine taking that to a group of legislators or to a state education department or to the federal Education Department. We’ve already, with all of these sprinkled innovations, we’ve figured a whole lot out. So my idea is to get everybody moving in the same direction, building a collective of people, which leads to the second strand. So building that collective of people will have four conferences every year or at Matador conferences, one will be a mastermind that will probably focus more on turn around leadership and how you actually do the work. One will be an in-person conference and two will be online. Summits will be before every year. The critical aspect of these, though, is that during the conferences, there’s also going to be networking time, not just like a half an hour here or a half an hour there, but really really structured and intentional networking so that you can find some accountability partners that you can check in with along the way. And then you come when you come back to the next conference, you get to share out what you’ve done since the last conference. Wow. And then and then get ideas on how do I take this to the next level? How do I take this the next step? Because we all love conferences. We get excited and then we talk. After we talk, our education is and we get all jazzed about what we’re doing and then we go back to our and within a week or two it’s like, there’s let down. And I, I want to keep that momentum going. So that’s number two. And then the third piece is building out memberships. These are like we’re states as states and towns could have chapters kind of like a you think like a fraternity or an CD or, you know, different organizations where they can have chapters and we could have international chapters and and run workshops and run training and actually like certify some people to actually be Ed Matador trainers. So there’s a big vision around this, and it’s a whole systems piece to get everyone going in the same direction. So revolutionize education.

Dr. Michael Conner

Wow. Compelling Dr. Vallese, compelling vision. Again, thank you for asking me to be a part of the first book, but looking forward to the book signing that’s going to be occurring in December. And you want to talk about your second book not to release. I haven’t made this announcement yet. You do now, but I’m making it here where? Yes, I am going to be writing and publishing my second book and it will be completed by August 2024. So I’m going to be making that official announcement roughly, probably the end of November, early December. So, yes, we are on this book journey together.

Dr. Donna Vallese

Fantastic, and we’ve also talked about writing one together. Is it like a sequel or like a workbook thing for.

Dr. Michael Conner

You are giving too much away? Yes, to my audience, yes Dr. Vallese and I, we will be collaborating with regards to…

Dr. Donna Vallese

They haven’t seen the end of us yet.

Dr. Michael Conner

They haven’t. This is just the beginning of the collaboration. But that reason, we’re looking at creating this workbook or this kind of like this, a tool we haven’t really finalized of what that looks like with my book Intentional, Bold and Unapologetic. And Dr. Vallese will be one of the co-authors with regards to that workbook or a tool right now is really in this high conceptual design phase. But trust me, it will be coming out probably we’re looking at early 2024, so this episode is not the last you will see of Dr. Donna Vallese, we know that. Amazing, compelling from the book with Ed matadors all the way down to forming international and domestic networks and having people that are Ed Matador, or I should say Ed Matador Train with regards to leveraging the vision of this. So just absolutely captivating that to release. Fascinating. And again, very, very humbled and honored to be a part of it. But this is our last question, right, guy? And I thought you would be a rule breaker on this question, but you are a rule breaker on that first question. Well, now I’m inferring because you are Rule Breaker on the first question, you could be a rule breaker on this. So I want to give you context or previous participants of the fear or I guess the VFE, I try to limit them to three words, but you see three times 100, you see three words in a detailed explanation. I even had to point where it was three words and another three words to support that. So it was three times two equals six. So I’m leaving it like this. Take it as it is, Dr. Vallese. What three words do you want today’s audience to leave our episode with regards to achieving all, and I mean all 100%, achieving all in the AC stage of education, what three words will lead all educators to ensure excellence and equity is the twofold baseline to garner access and opportunity during these volatile times in education.

Dr. Donna Vallese

I’m going to follow your rule.

Dr. Michael Conner

Oh, no you’re not.

Dr. Donna Vallese

Is that a challenge?

Dr. Michael Conner

Let’s see. Let’s see.

Dr. Donna Vallese

We. Must. Revolutionize.

Dr. Michael Conner

Wow, please elaborate.

Dr. Donna Vallese

Look, you’re mak– you’re forcing you to break the rules now.

Dr. Michael Conner

I’m telling you to break the rules when you have a statement like that or three words of we must revolutionize, you have to expand on that.

Dr. Donna Vallese

Alright, well, I mean, it goes along with the whole theme of this entire conversation, right? That we are still very traditional. School still looks like it did when I went to school. Yeah, I’m in my four, I’m in my mid-forties, we will be exact, in my mid-fourties and school looks the same in general. But our world does not. We have to change what we’re doing. We have to change the way we approach curriculum. We have to change the the traditional like teacher stands and talks as the lecturer to being the facilitator. The teacher is no longer needs to be the carrier of all knowledge. We have to make these shifts if we’re going to be able to continue to compete in the world. So now we’re going to leave the world a better place than we found it. So I mean, education, that you could fairly say, education has been changing and shifting all along. And I question, has it been changing and shifting in the right ways. But there is no question that it has not been changing fast enough to keep up with the world.

Dr. Michael Conner

And Dr. Vallese, When you say we must revolutionize, you’re completely correct. And I look at the emulation of we must revolutionize to what I highlight in my book now as serial disruption. And you’re absolutely correct that we see isolated signals of this revolution in education, but we have to ensure that these signals are interfacing each other so that we reach that level of accelerated disruption. I always like to reference the book a 2.0, which is unvice – Uncertainty. I know. Get it right. We’ll talk about this next time we get together, unvice – uncertainty, being volatile, intersectionality, complexity, and exponential and that’s that last E and vice that you’re talking about. Right. That we need to have this exponential accelerated outcomes around this level of revolutionizing education. Dr. Donna Vallese, you lasted voices for Excellence. Unbelievable. Dr. Vallese, It was such an honor to have you on the show. Look at you. You made VFE, you’re a guest. Unbelievable. I don’t know how you got on. I don’t know who recommended you, but you made me feel that.

Dr. Donna Vallese

You know, I just I just called you and told you you needed to have me on your show, and you just listened.

Dr. Michael Conner

You strong armed me, as they always say. But Dr. Vallese and I’ll see if my audience want to reach out to you further with questions or want to know more about Ed Matadors, or even want to look into partnering with you with Inspiring Leaders LLC, how would they be able to get in contact with you?

Dr. Donna Vallese

I think the best way I have a public profile on LinkedIn, send me a message on LinkedIn, connect with me there. Tell me that you heard me on VFE and and you want to connect further. That’s probably the best place. I do check that pretty much every day. If you send me an email, it gets lost, but it does not get lost when it’s on LinkedIn. So I think that’s the best way.

Dr. Michael Conner

Oh man, Dr. Vallese. Donna, I tell you, you’re one of my personal favorites. You’re one of my close friends. First of all, thank you for your friendship. Second of all, thank you for the continuous conversations and discussions that we have around education. I learn every time that I’m around you. And also thank you for being a guest on my podcast, Voices for Excellence. It has been such an honor, my friend.

Dr. Donna Vallese

The honor is all mine.

Dr. Michael Conner

Absolutely, Dr. Vallese. I know that look. And when we come back together, I know I’m gonna hear something from you, but thank you so much, Donna. And on that note, onward and upward, everybody. Have a great evening.