Launching Our Next Series, “Living It: Stories from the Teaching Life.”

It’s that smell-of-fresh-marker-beginning-of-school-season again and Inspire & Innovate: A Podcast for Educators is back at it with a mini-series to get you back into the swing of things.  Without a doubt, our first series released last Spring (“Teaching in the Time of Covid”) remains relevant.  We are still masked, still distancing, and still very much figuring out how to teach and learn and build relationships in a pandemic-world.  But we are also very certain that the same enduring truths about youth, systems,  and the subjects we teach that we’ve learned from our collective years of doing what we do continue to resonate and inform what we do today.  We are also quite certain that the best way to figure out this impossible business of teaching well (pre and post pandemic) is to network with educators showing up every day  in our local realities and beyond.   That’s why we think you’ll glean a lot out of this four-episode mini-series that centers on local educators in the Jackson metro area giving it to us straight in: “Living it: Stories from the Teaching Life.” 

Ep. 1: “Leading with Love, Featuring Dr. Anita DeRouen”

This week we are proud to release “Leading with Love,” featuring Anita DeRouen, Ph.D., an English teacher at Murrah High School in Jackson, MS.  A former professor at Millsaps College, DeRouen has published on race and media representation, digital literacy, and most recently Richard Wright and modernism (with Anne MacMaster). DeRouen also serves as Community Liaison for the Millsaps College Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Center and is an independent racial dialogue consultant.  I’ve been lucky enough to count Anita a colleague and a friend, and her ability to crystallize truth into words has shifted my own thinking in powerful ways. 

During this conversation, we discussed:

  • (5:45-6:35) Poetry as a vehicle transporting youth to  literary love.
  • (9:45-13:17) How Anita “winnowed her way” into teaching (and why every single person should work in retail or food service at some point for at least a year).
  • (13:35-18:00 ) The role of empathy, bounded choice, and addressing perfectionism for teachers working with “high achieving kids not living up to their potential.” 
  • (18:28-19:37 ) How particular school contexts produce particular expectations around “what learning looks like” which then trickle down to assessments.
  • (20:19 -23:55 ) Why the next time a student misbehaves in your classroom,  you need to internalize the phrase “it’s not you; it’s the chair.”
  • (24:23-25:50) What a gift it is to see the humans in our classrooms, not as a homogenous group, but as a collective of unique individuals, including our own “geeky . . . nerdy sel[ves]”
  • (31:29-33:30 ) Keys to growing and working with colleagues: brought to you by a compliment from her grandmother and “listening with a healthy, not a sick, ear.”
  • (33:31- 35:10 ) What it requires to work as a Black academic in predominantly white institutions.
  • (35:27-39:37) Pitfalls of white institutions seeking to become “more diverse”: on labor and the importance of discomfort in the process.
  • (40:28-44:21 ) How “leading with love” could open up an entirely different set of questions, positively transforming our education system (and our world).

Stay tuned for more educator-centered real talk to be released the next three Tuesdays; this series may be mini, but each episode is mighty.

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