Tara Martin is not only the fantastic creator of #BookSnaps, she is also an amazing educational leader. I have had the pleasure to not only collaboratively write and work with her, but I get to call her my friend. Enjoy the connecting conversation I had with Tara...
Can you tell our readers who you are and a little bit about your background?
I was raised in Southeast Texas but have been a Kansan for about ten years. I completed my undergrad in Texas and my graduate studies in Kansas. I am a passionate educator who thrives on change and refuses to settle for the status quo. I taught in the classroom several years, served as an instructional coach for four years in two different districts, and will be embarking on district administration for the upcoming year.
What is your job in education?
I currently work as an Innovative Curriculum Facilitator for Lawrence Public Schools in Kansas. In this role, I facilitate district level professional development, as well as job-embedded training opportunities. I work alongside teachers to implement engaging instructional practices and help integrate technology into the classroom in a meaningful way. I, also, mentor novice instructional coaches; I'm a coach of coaches. I will serve as a district level administrator, Curriculum Coordinator, for the upcoming year in the Auburn-Washburn Public School District.
I believe our job and our work can be two different things. What do you believe is your work?
With “curriculum” in the title of my work, others often think I’m the standards police. However, that isn’t it at all. My mission is to invigorate educators to apply instructional practices that foster creativity and passion-led learning. Student choice and voice are imperative components of purposeful pedagogy. In fact, I honestly believe that if we are to prepare students for the “future”, we must prepare them for what machines can’t do. I believe machines will never take the place of individuals because of their unique qualities, passions, and strengths that they bring. My ambition is to lead a culture of innovative change and to motivate others to become the best they can be, all while staying R.E.A.L. --never reaching a plateau...always striving to do better, but staying true to who they are.
People seem to connect to our failure stories. Can you share one with our readers?
One that stands out to me in this past year, was I made a decision without collaborating with a team of educators that I work with closely. I gave them my perspective on a decision, with an open mind that they could share ideas, too. But what happened was, I didn’t follow a particular chain of command first. Big mistake.
What was the learning that you took away from that failure? How do you or will you use that learning?
I learned a treasured lesson: clear communication is vital to our work. There is a chain of command when sharing information that will be distributed across a whole system. I needed to follow the communication process set in place to ensure there was no misconception of what I was trying to convey. I sat down with my administrator to talk about what I had learned. Throughout that conversation, I shared with her that I am fully convinced most problems come from an error in communication. When you get down to the core of most problems, there is a communication error somewhere, a misinterpretation. Just a little tiny error in communication can really cause a ruckus and even damage relationships. I learned a very valuable lesson. In fact, one of the first things I did when meeting with my new district was ask, what is the proper chain of command when it comes to getting things approved or moving an initiative forward? Also, in meetings I lead, I often define or establish a common language or a working definition of the topic in hopes to avoid some misinterpretations. It is important to overtly attempt to communicate clearly.
We all want to leave our mark. What do you want your edu-legacy to be?
My edu-legacy goes back to the title of my website: R.E.A.L. (R: Relatable and Reflective E: Expose Vulnerability – Show Empathy A: Approachable L: Learning Through Life). I want to lead and influence as many people as I can, and motivate them to be the best THEM that they can be. I want others to discover they have the tools they need within to reach their fullest potential all while staying REAL. Helping others to tap into their strengths and understand who they really are and become empowered because of their unique, authentic passions, talents and experiences--that’s my mission in this life. I want people to play to their strengths and stop trying to be something that they are not and competing with others and outside forces, but to just be REAL and help students to do the same.
Any parting words or ideas that you would like to leave our readers with?
No matter what role you hold in, in education, (or in life), the best policy is to be transparent. Be humble. Be honest. Be you. Be R.E.A.L. I think that’s what I mean when I say “Be REAL.” When you are truly following that acronym, through and through, you are transparent and what you see is what you get. Also, what you see and get is not JUST enough, it’s AMAZING! Be humble. Be honest. Be YOU. Be R.E.A.L.
Where can people find out more about you and your ideas?
In preparation for the upcoming launch of #SVTBook chat, I was very fortunate to get a chance to catch up with Teacher/Author Matt Miller to discuss his book Ditch That Textbook. Join us every other Wednesday @ 8 (PST) starting September 21, 2016. Check out our conversation...
Why did you decide to write this book?
As a young teacher, I got lots of great advice, ideas and encouragement from teachers who were willing to share online. I grew a lot thanks to my virtual colleagues and the numerous blogs and social media posts I read. I’ve always felt a calling to help other teachers, to create resources and provide support, empowerment and encouragement to other educators. I also wanted to write something that would challenge the status quo and encourage teachers to rethink what they’re doing, how they’re doing it and why they’re doing it.
Looking at the title of the book, some people might assume that it is about throwing away adopted curriculum. Is that the intent? Can you explain the title?
This book is not encouraging throwing out adopted curriculum. That wouldn't help anybody. There are lots of ways to achieve curriculum goals. This book encourages teachers to find their own ways to do that. It’s named in part based on my own experience, finding that my textbooks and workbooks in my high school Spanish classes were standing in the way of helping my students learn and speak Spanish. In part, it gets its name because there are lots of “textbook” practices and “textbook” ways we look at in education that need ditched if we’re going to stay relevant to students and their future.
What is the premise of the book?
It’s broken into four parts:
What advice would you give for a teacher who would like to try the ideas in the book, but doesn’t know where to start?
I would encourage them the same way I do to teachers at workshops or conferences -- don’t try to do it all. If you can find one or two ideas that you can implement, start with those. Start with something you think you can do. Start with something that you’re excited about. Once you’ve got the hang of that (or are improving on it and are ready to try something else), then move on. Don’t feel like you have to implement everything or that meaningful change of your classroom has to happen overnight. That just isn’t reality. It takes time.