On this episode of Deeper Learning, Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad speaks with Dwight Carter and Doc West III on the inequities in education, anti-racism, anti-biases and what changes educators and leaders can make. Mr. Carter and Mr. West talk about the current climate of the world in regards to the pandemic, racism and the growth that can come from it. They also touch on topics ranging from making sure every child is given the ability to grow and thrive, that educators are cognizant of any biases they may have and how to change them. Lastly, the three discuss the reopening of schools and working within constraints they may face.
Dwight Carter is a nationally recognized school leader from Central Ohio. Because of his collaborative and innovative leadership, in 2010 he was inducted into the Jostens Renaissance Educator Hall of Fame. He was also named a 2013 National Association of Secondary School Principals “Digital Principal of the Year,” the 2014 Academy of Arts and Science Education “High School Principal of the Year,” and the 2015 Ohio Alliance of Black School Educators “Principal of the Year.” He currently is an Assistant Director and Eastland Career Center in Groveport, Ohio. He is the co-author of three books: What’s In Your Space? Five Steps to Better School and Classroom Design (Corwin, 2015), Leading Schools in Disruptive Times: How to Survive Hyper-change (Corwin 2017), and 10 Perspectives on Innovation in Education (Routledge, 2019). Additionally, he has contributed to a number of educational books and articles. You can follow him on Twitter @dwight_carter or Instagram at @dwightcarter. Reach out by email at email@example.com and visit his website at https://mrdwightcarter.wixsite.com/. His blog is also available at https://dwightcarter.edublogs.org.
Ernest Doc West III, family and friends call him “Doc”. He’s been working in education for 24 years. He is currently the principal of Columbus Scioto High School. He’s also been the principal of Independence High School, he was an administrator at Yorktown and Linmoor middle school, and the Africentric Early College. You can follow him on Instagram @docwestphd or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org to start a conversation.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Hi, welcome to the Deeper Learning with WeVideo Podcast. I am Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad and I’m very excited to have Mr. Dwight Carter and Doc West on the show today. Dwight Carter is a nationally recognized school leader from Central Ohio. Because of his collaborative and innovative leadership, in 2010 he was inducted into the Jostens Renaissance Educator Hall of Fame. He was also named the 2013 National Association of Secondary School Principals Digital Principal of the Year, the 2014 Academy of Arts and Science Education High School Principal of the Year, and the 2015 Ohio Alliance of Black School Educators Principal of the Year. He is currently an assistant director at Eastland Career Center in Groveport, Ohio. He is a co-author of three books, What’s In Your Space? Five Steps to Better School and Classroom Design, Leading Schools in Disruptive Times: How to Survive Hyperchange, and 10 Perspectives on Innovation in Education. Additionally, he has contributed to a number of educational books and articles.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: We also have Ernest Doc West III, but he goes by Doc. He has been in education for 24 years. He is currently the principal of Columbus Scioto High School. He has also been the principal of Independence High School. He was an administrator at Yorktown and Linmoor Middle School and the Africentric Early College. Welcome to both of you. So good to have you here.
Dwight Carter: Thank you for having me.
Doc West III: Thank you for having me.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Dwight, you and I have talked throughout the past two years, and I know your views on education. I feel like I know where you stand with a lot of your beliefs about education. And so, it’s really great to have you here. And Doc, you and I are actually meeting for the very first time today, and I appreciate you being able to share your perspective.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: So let’s go ahead and dive right on in. With everything that has happened recently, especially in June, we were really starting to talk about how can we take what’s happening in our world right now, especially with the inequities and with this racism and with this anti-bias work, anti-racism work, and we want to talk about how to change schools, how to change our leadership structures, how to change curriculum and instruction structures. And I believe that this work has to be a work that’s intentional but has to go beyond just doing a beginning of the year professional development and then checking it off. Dwight, I’ll start with you. I mean, what are your thoughts about creating this structure that’s going to be long-lasting and not just giving out lip service, saying, “We’re doing our anti-racism, anti-bias training.”
Dwight Carter: Right. I think we have to address that expectation because teachers who are, I’ll say, long in the tooth, been around for many, many years, there’s almost a wait and see approach to anything because of this too shall pass. And typically, that’s how education works. There’s a hype, there’s a swelling, swelling goes down, and then we revert back to what’s comfortable, what we know, and what the routines are. And by nature, our brains are wired for us to be comfortable, and that’s just biology. So we have to fight against that comfort level.
Dwight Carter: I will say, with this one, this is truly about our kids and creating a culture where we’re starting to challenge some longstanding beliefs and values that are part of our country. We can’t deny that anymore. What we’re seeing now is almost a manifestation of what’s been boiling over, say, the last few years. And with the combination of the pandemic, the recession, this shelter in place, I think George Floyd was just like the powder keg that was lit. All these other factors combined now led to this awakening, which I hope is an awakening, where we are challenging the status quo. So, how to make it stick? I think we have to make sure we challenge each individual person to challenge themselves to learn more, moving beyond reading a book, but really questioning what are my beliefs? What are my micro messages that I speak every single day that reflect my biases? We all have biases.
Doc West III: Yes, we do.
Dwight Carter: We just have to acknowledge that too. And it’s not a bad thing, it’s not a good thing, it’s just a thing. So I think as educational leaders and those who are in charge of professional development, people will get tired of hearing about it, but that’s why we have to keep doing it. It’s a long process and we can no longer expect a quick fix to some of the problems that we have. Nothing’s a quick fix. I mean this is hard, messy, tiresome work, but so is it for those who deal with racism every single day. It is messy, it’s hard and it’s tiring. I think everybody’s in the same boat now. We’re tired of it, but what are we going to do about it?
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah.
Dwight Carter: Yeah.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: I really appreciate your perspective, Dwight, especially how you focus on the fact that everyone has a bias. And it’s not a matter of if someone has racist views, but … I mean, it’s human nature that we will all posses biases. It’s not a matter of when, it’s basically it has to happen. We have to start now and do the work.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Doc, I mean you are in a new school now. And so, obviously you’re already planning for a lot. But this is something I’m sure that you’re thinking about with opening up a new school year. What are your thoughts about professional development and going beyond the book study?
Doc West III: Definitely, and thank you for the opportunity to answer that question. Because, first, I think that we say that I’m a lifelong learner. First and foremost, we’ve started reaching out to our colleagues or folks we trust. That’s why me and Dwight got on the call. I’ve been on a call with lots of other city leaders, just wanting to get a good idea of where folks are, their comfort level, as Dwight talked about. Then trying to bring that back into our schools because there’s inequities in almost every facet of life. We talk about our police departments, you talk about loans and banking. So then how does that affect our young people who don’t have the advocates to push?
Doc West III: It’s really just trying to break down systems. And really, I just start with my staff. As I’m sitting here today, I want to have an individual conversation with each staff member and really just from an organizational standpoint but also just to get their perspective. And then from there, [inaudible 00:07:36]. So as we move forward, we start talking about just how do you just treat people just on a regular basis?
Doc West III: As Dwight talked about, just implicit biases, we all have them. But just how we treat young people. Teenagers come, teenagers, they’re going to talk the way they talk, but as professionals, we want to make sure that we’re always guiding them in the right direction. So with that, my PD is ongoing. First off, is just getting the truth out there [inaudible 00:08:13]. When I first … Whether it’s a Zoom meeting or it’s in-house meeting, this topic’s going to come up. The two big topics right now are COVID and Black Lives Matter. If you don’t think that I’m going to talk to my staff about both of those two entities … So, that’s the first talk, and get people talking, but it’s ongoing. It’s ongoing. And like I said, it’s levels upon levels.
Doc West III: So that’s some of my piece from book studies to speakers, to outreach into a community, to even teaching our young people and our staff about, okay, what corporations are supporting? It’s just so much education and exposure on so many levels. Those are just some of my initial plans.
Dwight Carter: Yeah.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Absolutely. I appreciate that, Doc. Whenever you were talking about this sustained … Earlier, after Dwight spoke, what I meant to say is it’s not a matter if we have a bias, it’s basically when we’re going to tackle it. And the win should have been decades ago, but now there’s opportunity. I was thinking, when you were talking Doc, about the State of Mississippi. They just changed their flag, but there have been efforts to try and change the flag for decades. But finally it happened now, and I think it’s a result of people continuing to talk about it and continuing to put it forth.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: And I think that’s why, Dwight said it earlier, people may get exhausted about hearing about it constantly. But I’m thankful that actions finally … And there’s so much that has to be done still. I mean, not even the tip of the iceberg has happened yet. I think that’s … You’re exactly right. Black Lives Matter can’t just be in June. We have to continue to talk about it. It has to continue to permeate, I think, every facet of our leadership.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: I’m curious, Dwight, is there anything that you could offer leaders in districts? Obviously, we have to talk about it, that’s one. As far as anything that we can do tangibly, from choosing curricular resources to how we’re conducting our faculty meetings, to how we’re providing discipline or behavior management for kids, what are some of your thoughts about letting this anti-racism, anti-bias work even permeate those tangible actions?
Dwight Carter: Yeah. Interestingly enough, we looked at our discipline data last winter and saw some huge discrepancies, and the administration didn’t say anything at all. One of our teachers raised his hand and said, “I’m really concerned about the disproportionate number of African American students who are disciplined compared to other students.” That was the first thing everyone saw, and the room just went silent. And we all smiled internally and like, “Okay.” It was that obvious. It was seen and was mentioned by a teacher as opposed to us. People were very open to say, “Let’s explore this. Let’s dig into it.”
Dwight Carter: And then unfortunately, schools were shut down. We couldn’t do a whole lot with that. But that’s still in front of people’s minds, and I sent out a list of resources that tackle the curriculum piece, not just the education piece. And so, some of the curriculum components is teaching tolerance. They have some great resources about how to dismantle colonialism in the curriculum across the board, how to decolonize your bookshelves, take a look at … I ask some teachers to take a look around in your room and look at who’s all represented in your room in the books you have available, the magazine articles that you choose, the images on the walls, the references you use in the classroom? Are they all just white men and women or there’s a diverse group of people? And so, that’s one of the first things teachers can do, it’s almost the easiest things teachers can do, is just start incorporating different voices.
Dwight Carter: And then the second is creating space for students to feel comfortable addressing issues that come up and don’t dismiss … If a student says, “This is what happened to me,” don’t brush it off and say, “Okay, you’ll be fine.” Unpack it a little bit, validate what they say is their experience, because to them, that’s something they experienced, so it’s true. So validate it, dig into it a little bit and create the space for them to talk about it, and use it as a teachable moment. Sometimes the curriculum has to be put on the shelf because life takes precedent at that point. And then find ways to fuse those two things together.
Dwight Carter: I think, just recapping, the first thing is reviewing your data. Your data reveals something. It tells a story. And we can get angry or defensive about it, but it reveals behavior of adults, because we’re the ones who write the referrals, we’re the ones who levy out the discipline consequence. And then we have to think about what is behind that consequence? Is it our perspective of that particular student or is it fair across the board, or there are some inequities there? And then the second thing is dismantling some of the colonial aspects in a classroom, and the third thing is just creating a safe space for students to talk.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah.
Doc West III: That’s big. That’s big Dwight.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah. I think, number one … All things you shared were fantastic. I think number one though, the safety aspect you talked about, I think that people have to be given the safe space to be able to articulate their thinking. I mean, there as some people who are grappling with this for the very first time. And as sad as it is to say that, there are people who are just now finally reflecting on what all of this means. I think we have to give them, okay, the patience and the space to be able to let them express here’s what’s going on in their mind. And then again move from … Like you said, do I move from data to actually doing something about it?
Dwight Carter: Yeah. If I can chime in again, one of the things that we’re considering is, yes, we’re bringing in someone on the first day, that’s expected, but it’s not a one-shot deal. And that’s one of the things that we spent two hours talking about. It cannot be a 35 or 45-minute speech. That’s … compliance. That’s not creating the commitment. So, it’s like, that can be the introduction, but then we have to do some deep-seated training about personal skill, personal mindset, personal accountability, and how that ties into the culture that we want to create, understanding our core values as an organization. Does our behavior reflect those core values? And if so, what does that actually look like as we relate to kids, all kids? That’s where we’re trying to really focus, that long-term, systemic, ongoing, dismantling and unpacking of our thoughts, our beliefs, and our behaviors.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: That’s powerful. Thinking about with the [inaudible 00:15:33] with principals of your school, and how as leaders we always say we start with your why and we start with our vision. And then somehow down the road, we look back at certain things in our schools, like, “Wait a second. That doesn’t reflect our vision,” and you wonder how those things got there in the first place. And I think we can think back [inaudible 00:15:54] just years and years of this industrial revolution structures that we need to place.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: And Doc, I’m wondering, as you were in a new school, in a new setting, and you’re looking at hiring teachers, has this thing that’s happened to us this past couple of months, has this influenced how you’re thinking about recruiting and hiring faculty and staff?
Doc West III: Really Nathan, I can say no. I think Dwight hit on it. When you’re a minority or a black man … This is on my heart and soul every day, and really as it [inaudible 00:16:41] down, I’m an advocate for young people. And you want to make sure that when you’re an advocate for young people, that you put the systems in place, especially when you’re educated enough to know that, “Wow, the systems that came before me aren’t so bright.”
Doc West III: So within a school, what I can control is I control the system and the process, and how they affect my students, and that’s big. When you’re talking about hiring, I ask real questions, Nathan. I ask a question, and hopefully I won’t get into trouble in this piece of, “What are you going to do when a kid cusses you out?” And I ask that real question because if that’s going to shatter your skin, you’re even coming into the wrong profession from the start because that’s going to happen. Because once I get [inaudible 00:17:30] with young people is, that’s not going to turn me off. And we have to know that when you come into the school, you have to, once again, know the nature of young people. And you have to have some type of nature and background of some of the situations that they’re coming from.
Doc West III: When you asked me about hiring, I’m more getting to the character and I think Dwight [inaudible 00:17:52] the character of a person. Are you resilient? Are you pessimistic? I’m looking at certain things that, okay, because these buildings beat us, but then what’s your resilience? I’m more looking for those characteristics in, as we call them, teachers. And that should be the people. What biases and what do you bring to the table that young people can … “Wow. Well, Mr. Nathan did this and …” So, that sparks something. Then I need that happening in every pocket of the building. Hopefully, that answered your question.
Doc West III: And another one that we don’t ask educators a lot is, “Yeah, we pay you to teach every day but what do you bring to the table that’s above and beyond? Did you run track in college? Did you do some outstanding other things that can connect young people?” I always like to know your why within the classroom but also what other intangibles that students and families pick up on sometimes. Hopefully, that heavily goes into my hiring.
Dwight Carter: Yeah. That’s good Doc, that’s real good.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Well, I especially love with the above and beyond. Obviously, as teachers we all know that teachers, I think, are one of the hardest working people out there. But I also know that so much of what we do goes beyond curriculum and instruction, and lesson planning. I know that we know that but so much what we do has to align with how we relate to students. And I really appreciate the behavior management vision you cast for your teachers. I think about as a young teacher, in my first year, when a student said some things that would upset me, I think at the very beginning I took it personal. I took it like they were [crosstalk 00:19:56] and that’s the thing with whenever we’re working with students, that we have to allow them the space to be able to react in a way that makes sense to them.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: And a lot of our kids, they didn’t have their parents to wake them up that morning, they may have been awake all night hearing gunshots, they didn’t get breakfast that morning, so no wonder. I would probably react in a very similar way because I’m trying to figure out how to deal with the feelings of anger. And for a teacher to take that personal, I think we need to step back and take a breath and think about what’s really going on here. And also, to your point Doc, that teaching is so much more than a classroom set of instructional strategies. It’s just a small part of teaching.
Doc West III: And Nathan, if I can add … And thank you for your point. And I know Dwight knows this. When you’re a black male in the building and you know that you’re in that building trying to affect everyone of every color, but those young black boys are looking at you. That’s so major for me from my dress to my talk. And I want to hit two points that I brought up to my staff as we’re talking about stuff and I said, “Teachers, even the 4.0 kids are watching how you discipline. You may never have to talk to that 4.0 kid ever in life but they’re observing your …” Oh well, look Kimberly, she’s cute so I won’t say anything to her. They’re watching you. And I try to teach this to my staff because I don’t want them to get caught up in those pockets of, “Well, you treat this kid this way but you treat me this way.”
Doc West III: Also, another one I’ll get back off as well, and I think me and Dwight laughed about this last week of, I always like to ask staff, “Can you please tell me about the 15-year old you?” Because sometimes we forget that person. Now Nathan, we’re in front of young people so I always try to think back, “Tell me …” And then that helps the room understand our school. Because my staff, one of them said, “Well, I almost didn’t graduate.” One of them, “I was here.” I said, “Staff, you all hear that everyone in this room, as teachers now, were at one point our students.” So, just kind of have them …
Doc West III: And you ask people to reflect and ongoing reflection, and PD. Like you said, it’s not [inaudible 00:22:33]. This is something you have to work on and work on. And then when community things happen, I make sure that we talk about it as a staff, we talk about it as a student body to where they know, “Okay, Mr. West is a real person and he’s seeing some of the same stuff we’re seeing.” And it’s not like … So, I think that’s a major piece as well, is being super real. And Dwight said it, having that voice for our students.
Dwight Carter: Yeah.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Absolutely. I’m thinking about people who really want to partner with you and do the work. And so, I think a lot of the onus … I mean, other onus must be on white people to come together and finally do this really hard self-reflection, and also the really hard work of changing behavior. But I think the other side, a lot of white people are like, “I want to help but I don’t want to come across doing …” I’m hearing this new term now called white saviorism. I think it’s this concept of the white people are going to go change things and be a savior. What would you say to people who, let’s just say white people in particular, who have a genuine and sincere interest, and truly want to effect change and they wanted to take on leadership responsibilities in your circles or your buildings? How could they maybe come to you? And what advice did you have to get them involved in a way that they feel like they’re making a difference, they don’t feel like it’s something where they’re just going through the motions? Does that question make sense?
Dwight Carter: Yeah.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Okay.
Dwight Carter: I’ve heard that a couple of times already. I mean, pretty much right after George Floyd was murdered and then the protests started, I had several people reach out saying just that, “This is terrible. What do I do? Help me understand, what do I do? Can I talk to you?” And 45, 90 minutes later into the conversation, they were still talking, just unloading. It was like a verbal vomit of what was going on in their head, and I just listened because they were just grappling with experiences.
Dwight Carter: Because I posted a series of questions for people to reflect upon. And one of them was, “When was the last time you were a minority and how did that feel?” And the other one was like, “If your child came home wanting to marry someone of the opposite race or a different race, how would you feel about that? Would you be open and accepting or would you question and worry about the grandkids?” Because that has been a traditional response. Another question I threw out there was, “Who else are you reading that doesn’t look like you? What books are you reading that don’t mirror you but mirror other people?”
Dwight Carter: And I got a lot of feedback from those questions. Wow, that really challenged me. I never thought about it. And not only that opened me up for people to feel like they can talk to me about what they’re going through. I think just asking those type of reflective questions challenged them. Those who were willing to be open and learn, and reflect. Some just dismissed it and one person even said, “Please stop it. This isn’t the 1960s.” I just thought like, “You’re the exact person these are for if you think, yes, these are … No, these are very similar to the 1960s.” And the fact that that was only, what, 50 years ago, that’s a problem. That’s a problem.
Dwight Carter: I’m sorry, the answer to your question, what I’ve told people to do, is start examining your own language, your own beliefs and start really challenging the private conversations that happen in your circles. What private conversations are happening in your family network or your friend network and your family network that are against your values, that seem to come off racist or prejudice, or stereotypical? Are you willing to confront that? If you’re not, this stuff is going to continue. If you are, just know that you’re going to lose friends and it’s going to be exhausting and tiring but that’s how we feel. That’s how we feel.
Dwight Carter: And the second thing is, look at your teaching practices. Are you being fair and equitable and are you representing ways in which you are truly caring for all kids, not treating every kid equally but treating every student equitably? And talking through the differences between the two. And those conversations have been ongoing. And the third thing I do is anytime I have come across a challenging article or a video, or some other type of resource, I send it to them, and is like, “Hey, if it’s too much then just tell me to stop but you did ask for ways to help. And so, I’m sharing information with you.” And they’ve been very appreciative and thankful for it.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Absolutely. I know these questions are helpful to me. And sometimes, I love the phrase of it seems the best answer to a question is another question. And so, I think that the questions you pose are thought-provoking and they get the other person to really self-evaluate. And I think it’s really helpful that you offer questions and then you also offer advice. Like, okay, reflect on these questions. And then so much as people will come to you and say, “Here’s how I think I can support change and help.”
Dwight Carter: Yeah. I was listening to a podcast, I think it was on NPR, It’s Been a Minute. I think that was … but I can’t remember. But one of the podcast guests spoke about this. The question was, what can I do? What should I do? And basically, she’s like, “I’m tired of that question because in the information age, you shouldn’t have to ask me what you should do, you can easily look it up what you should do to be anti-racist.” I was like, “Wow, I never thought about that.” And her take was that’s putting the responsibility back on her as a black woman to then teach somebody else how to treat other blacks and herself, whereas in 2020, do I really have to teach you that, is what her messaging was.
Dwight Carter: [inaudible 00:29:06] just another take on it, I was like, “Yeah, take responsibility for it.” But I also saw it as well the relationship is there where they feel like they’re comfortable enough and there’s a relationship there where they can ask you and be vulnerable, “I don’t know what to do. Help me out.” And so, there’s two ways of looking at it. I choose the way of there’s a relationship there, they feel comfortable, vulnerable, transparent enough to say, “I want to help. I don’t know what to do. What do you suggest?” And so, that’s … It’s a very interesting time right now. People are highly sensitive.
Dwight Carter: I don’t know if you guys saw this, I think in DC I believe, it was a white man and white woman, they took some black paint and started painting over the Black Lives Matter that’s on the street, it created major upheaval. And their messaging was, “I’m tired of this. This is not going to happen in my city.” And then that sparked. I mean, it was not pretty but is reflective of people’s fatigue in dealing with the real issues. And to me, that was reflective of what’s going on internally with those two people where they just want things to go back to the way they were, and things aren’t going to go back to the way they were because more people are aware and more people are tired of it.
Dwight Carter: And so, the unfortunate part and the fortunate part is that our students aren’t at school. I say it’s unfortunate because we’re not with them to help them navigate through all of this and be a safe space. But at the same time, that’s also arrogant enough to say the only way they can talk about this and be free and comfortable talking about this, is if they’re with us. And I don’t think that’s the case. The unfortunate piece is that, again, we can’t guide those conversations and use them as strong teaching moments to say, “Here’s what we can do and we can create as a school community.” I feel like I’m talking a lot, I’m sorry.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: No.
Doc West III: You’re good bro. I’m listening to you.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: We’re all [inaudible 00:31:22] Dwight, and you too Doc. Doc, talk to me about people coming to you for ways in which they can support this movement in the schools. What is your response to those people?
Doc West III: Because you have to keep a school community so safe. To have folks in a building, you just can’t have somebody off the street saying, “Hey, I want to come in and help.” That just can’t take place. Now, I know that in our experiences, if it’s somebody I’ve known, I said, “Okay.” Well, sometimes I don’t have to go through the proper channels but I definitely will be making sure that if someone was coming in and talk to students about implicit bias or racism, or anything, that they have had some training with it. Because as Dwight said it, some folks’ responses can throw off a situation. So, you want to make sure that within a school setting, with your staff, your students or your parents, that you have the right temperament in front of your students or in the right messaging.
Doc West III: But definitely as always, there are always people trying to come into schools. I’m going to always sit down and talk with folks. They know that, “Okay, you get 10 or 15 minutes of my time.” And I’m kind of even gauging from that, from your delivery and what you’re doing is, “Okay, can we have a followup meeting or can we move forward with it?” But that’s just kind of any situation that comes to a school.
Doc West III: But as leaders of the schools, we want to make sure that we’re messaging … As Dwight said and he was asking in his social media following, I’m challenging my staff. How are you interacting with me as a black man? Just that and just how you interact with our students, our staff. I mean, I just watch all of those individual entities. And I know that we had done some good work at my previous school because my staff had truly understood that no matter what my students do, we are going to react professionally. Once you get a call from … Another one, Nathan, that I’m big on in schools is you cannot defend wrong. I don’t care if it’s your best friend, y’all have been teaching with for 25 years. You defend wrong, you kind of lose me.
Doc West III: And I’ve let all … Dwight talked about expectations from the onset. And those little pieces of well, our students don’t have sometimes a fighting chance, going back to those advocates. When I’m building this team of staff, please don’t show me that you will defend something that will detrimentally affect our students, our system, our reputation, our integrity. I think that’s just big. So, I let everyone know that within a school and we handle it accordingly.
Dwight Carter: Good stuff.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah. I can see you Doc correcting somebody or eliminating someone’s thought being not the right thing. Because I think a lot of people, they are behaving in a way that aligns with their principles, and their principles may not be what’s best for kids. And so, I think they may not know what they’re doing is wrong. And so, I think that’s where you as a leader can have a discussion with someone and have a conversation, and being able to ask these questions and then getting the person to see how their beliefs don’t help kids grow and thrive. And so, I think that’s so important for us to always go back to kind of where we started this conversation, does what we’re doing truly resonate with our vision to ensure that every kid can grow and thrive? And if it doesn’t, then we have to get rid of it, we have to change.
Dwight Carter: Yeah. Yeah.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: I’m curious as far as reopening schools. I know Ohio is putting out plans, I know every state is, especially this past week, has been putting out these plans. And then we’ve gotten all kinds of reactions. I’m just kind of curious about your reactions. What are some things that you’ve seen that you think are good opportunities for us as leaders? And then what are some things that you feel are really big challenges that are going to be kind of some big landmark, things that we have to kind of work through? Dwight, I’ll start with you first.
Dwight Carter: We shouldn’t let this crisis go to waste. This is a huge opportunity to do things differently in terms of our schedule. And so, because of buses and transportation, and lunch periods, we only have maybe truly four or five different schedules we can truly use. I mean, that’s just the reality of it. So, understanding constraints which are there and then work within those constraints. Being that we’re a tech school, our students want and need to be in the labs, that’s why they chose to come to a career tech school. They’re running from their home high school because it just didn’t fit their needs or they’re running to a passion program that speaks to their heart. Either way, they need to be here.
Dwight Carter: So, we came up with three plans and one that we’re … And I think our schedule is going to be this way anyway and try something new. I mean, what do we have to lose? Just a new schedule. If it doesn’t work, we switch it up in second semester. But we’re doing seniors and juniors on a weekly rotation in the building and then online learning. It’s a hybrid model, our blended learning model, where all week seniors are in the labs and juniors are online learning with their academic classes, and then it switches the following week. And so, it’s still the equal number of days that we would typically have, it’s just delivered in a different way. And meeting the guidelines, 50% of the population will be in the building. That piece is a major challenge.
Dwight Carter: Then you have to think about the cleaning supplies. Those have to be in the part of the equation. Taking temperatures, that will slow things down in the morning but it’s just a new system that we have to adopt. And so, we have staffing in place to do that, we’re working on putting people in different positions. And right now, our staff is very willing to just do anything to make sure our kids are able to come to school because we miss our students, we know that. And we’re a choice school so students can choose not to come to the Career Tech Center and stay at their home school. So, because it’s a choice, they have to be here. We want them to be here because they can choose not to. And that’s an interesting challenge in it of itself.
Dwight Carter: And we’ve been working through and we got a group of teachers together to do some modeling on how to provide online learning or online teaching. They created some modules and videos to share out and so people are practicing those things. We have the PD in place, we have a schedule in place. We’ve communicated it, now we’re just waiting for it to be baked and then moving forward. Either way, our schedule is going to look different and our delivery has to be different. Because I think we’re still in the middle of this pandemic and it’s going to be this way for a while. And my hope is that coming out of this, we can really see that we truly can deliver school in a completely different way that meets the needs of the students.
Dwight Carter: And we’re running up against challenges because it’s been such a long time, a long standard of schools almost being in child care, schools being a safe haven for students and a number of … So parents can go to work. I mean, all these … The travel [inaudible 00:39:43] impacts when schools are in school, vacation. I mean, all these, the entities, play a role in how we do school. I think this pandemic has forced us to say, “No, we can truly deliver something completely different in this road of hyperchange and these kids will be okay, truly okay. And we’re going to make it through.”
Dwight Carter: I think this is also bumping up against nostalgia because we as adults, we are nostalgic about our school experience and think our students have to have that same experience, and it can only be delivered that way. The last, what, six months, we learned that, “No, it can be done differently because it has to.” And now that we had to, it’s like, okay, people are now more comfortable with. Yeah, I can’t really do this. I can deliver content in a different way, I can still connect with my kids in a different way and still provide a quality education.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah. You have a really [inaudible 00:40:36] perspective Dwight. You’re not sugarcoating the challenges because there’s going to be some major … scheduling [inaudible 00:40:45] but at the same time, you provided a really just path where students can finally learn the way that we are as learners. Like [inaudible 00:40:58] self-directed, they’re connected socially. And so, why not finally use this opportunity? As you said, let’s use this opportunity to change the way that we are delivering instruction. And so, I think that’s a really good productive perspective to have, is get that balance. Yes, it’s going to be really challenging but here are some opportunities that we can use to our advantage.
Dwight Carter: Yeah. And I definitely don’t want to say schools were broken before because that wasn’t the case. I think that’s a very damaging language when we say schools are broken, we need to fix it. It’s like, “Well, schools are people. You’re saying people are broken, we need to fix people, and that’s not the case.” We’ve evolved to a different need and that evolution is all about choice and voice, and flexibility with time. Because we have choice in every area of our lives. My wife and I just had a conversation, we can pick and choose when we watch the show of our choice. When we watch the show, we don’t have to watch it when it comes on, we can watch it when we set the DVR. And people create their own playlist, they design their own shoes, they design their own clothes.
Dwight Carter: Kids can pick and choose when they are engaged with their friends and when they’re not. They have choice in every area except for school. And now is an opportunity for them to tap into that choice in terms of when they want to learn and when they want to complete their math or their science or English, or whatever else. And we found that some students really enjoy that. Others needed more structure. The challenging part is how do we meet the needs of all kids with a variety of delivery models? It’s hard, it’s extremely hard.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: It is. Doc, are you seeing the same challenges and opportunities?
Doc West III: I am. I am. We polled our students as well when the pandemic first started and you’re just like, “Wow, I would have never thought of that perspective,” to where the students are … Some of their gripe was that, “I don’t like having to wait for my teacher to get back to me.” Typically, in the classroom, they only got to wait a couple of minutes for you to get back around to their row or what have you. But when teachers are assigning work and then a student is working on it, they’re just working on it, as Dwight said, within their own, whether that’s 8:00 AM, whether that’s 8:00 PM, 12 midnight, whatever their preference, but the teacher is not on that time. So, that was one of the pushbacks.
Doc West III: Also, just me holding staff accountable in the virtual world. In the age of Google Classroom and they have other platforms coming out. I know we’re going more towards Canvas for next year so I’ll have to learn and know more about this system. But I was in every, all 55 of my teachers’ Google Classrooms almost every day just looking at their assignments, looking at what kinds of challenges and assignments they were giving our students. Some of our students were working them, some of them weren’t. So, there’s a lot of accountability that from a leadership standpoint, we have to put in place.
Doc West III: Even looking at athletics, almost every student was deemed eligible for sports going into the fall because our district couldn’t get a good hold on, “Are we going to fail them? Are we not going to fail them? We’re going to let them graduate.” Because we kind of hit a brick wall quick too. So, just being strategic in your rollout of your educational plan by trying to get parents onboard. As Dwight said, having schedules, having a whole Loom scheduled that I will probably send out every Sunday. We’re trying to keep … Communication is key even in this time of keeping everybody in the loop of what’s going on. Because kids are going to say, “Hey.” They’re going to fill you the same, “Well, we have no homework.” I mean, my son still tries it and he knows I can check every system. I’m like, “Okay.” I’m like, “Well, if I get on the computer and check.” And then he’s like, “Well, I think I did have an assignment.” But a moment ago you were so sure you didn’t. So, that accountability the staff and students.
Doc West III: But then also have a very unique building with the … It’s a 6-12 and it’s a very unique school to where we’re saying that our sixth to eighth grade will be here, our high schoolers will not be. And then managing that whole piece. But my thing is, still wanting young people to fulfill their dreams, still wanting them to be resilient but I think … It was hard for me being at home. It was hard for me balancing home and when do I start work, when do I quit work? So, if that was hard, a challenge for me, imagine … Because I’m always trying to put myself back into the mind frame of my customers, a high school student having to juggle what I juggle, and it’s difficult. I’ve even seen changes in my 12-year old over the pandemic time. It’s going to be ongoing learning, as I said earlier.
Dwight Carter: Great point Doc.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: It really is. And communication is key. I took a lot of things from what you just said with accountability, giving your students opportunities to be challenged appropriately and let them kind of respond. But your thoughts around communication. And I think teachers really appreciate when you’re real with them about the challenges that we are going to have to face but also the opportunities. And there’s always the old adage about you can’t communicate enough. And that’s something that as leaders, we always strive to do, is be completely open and transparent with how we’re feeling and what we’re thinking but also what our plan is.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: In this time, people need leadership and I see that in both of you. You have a vision, you have ways of connecting with people and to people, and you have a strategy, and that’s what’s needed to go forward here. I know that I will be paying attention to both of you as we progress over the next few weeks, for my own personal learning and guidance. And if people want to follow your journey, can you share how they can connect with you, either through Twitter or through a website? Doc, we’ll start with you. How can people stay in touch with you?
Doc West III: Definitely. I’m on social media, I’m on Doc West on Instagram, Doc West on Facebook. I’m on LinkedIn, Doc West on LinkedIn as well, Twitter under the same name. Or they can always do the old fashioned email. Email was so prevalent at one point. Email, but reaching out. I just love to have conversation, especially as we move forward. Because I don’t know it all but I definitely try to seek knowledge and I try to put head at the table. So definitely, if folks want to reach out, those are the ways they can reach out to me.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: That’s amazing. Thank you Doc. And then Dwight.
Dwight Carter: Like Doc said, you can email me at email@example.com. You can reach me on Twitter at Dwight_carter, LinkedIn Dwight Carter, Facebook, same name. Instagram, Dwight Carter as well. Either those. I have a website I don’t use that often but it’s dwightcarterwix.com. There’s information there. And my blog is Mr.Carter’sOffice@edublogs.org.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Awesome. All right, we’ll make sure and get those on the transcript as well. Hey, thank you both for being here, for this very important conversation. And again, I look up to both of you and I really appreciate all the guidance and wisdom that you’ve passed on, to not only me, but all the listeners today. Thank you and we’ll stay connected.
Dwight Carter: All right. Appreciate you Nathan.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Yep.
Doc West III: Hey, thank you Nathan.