The ease with which we can travel and connect with others across the globe is mind-blowing, when you think about how people traveled and communicated just a generation or two ago. But yet, in some of the lower-income communities in the U.S., people often live and work within a 10-block radius. That means the children of these communities have their worlds limited to these confines too.
That’s what makes what Dr. Naomi Johnson-Booker even more extraordinary. This week on the podcast, Dr. Booker is sharing how the Global Leadership Academy is growing global citizens, starting in kindergarten.
Travel opens up minds and hearts, and it also opens up incredible opportunities for these students, who travel across their state of Pennsylvania, into Canada, and even as far as China, the Caribbean, and Kenya. As K-8 students!
I’m in awe of all that Dr. Booker has been able to accomplish since founding this school and I hope our conversation provides inspiration to you!
About Dr. Naomi Johnson-Booker:
Dr. Booker is 76 years old and still works with the motivation and strength she had when she first entered education more than 50 years ago. Dr. Booker’s claim to fame is that after leaving the School District of Philadelphia where she went from a 3rd-grade teacher to an assistant superintendent, she created the first K-8 public charter school in the United States to send urban scholars on expeditions at every grade level to include international travel.
And this dedicated septuagenarian has more than one job—she is the Founder and CEO of the Global Leadership Academy Charter School West, Founder and Executive Director of Global Academies, and Founder and Administrator of Global Leadership Academy Charter School Southwest. Her scholars come from neighborhoods in which children tend not to travel beyond their 10-block radius. Dr. Booker breaks them out of that radius by taking them to culturally relevant historic sites in Center City such as Mother Bethel AME Church where Richard Allen is buried. With each grade level, the scholars travel further from home on GLA’s K-8 designed pathway that includes visiting rural PA in the Amish Country, the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, following the Underground Railroad from the Belmont Mansion to Canada, embarking on a civil rights tour spanning Birmingham, Atlanta, and Memphis where Dr. Martin Luther King was murdered, and in 8th grade, they travel to an international destination based on the school year’s studies. These passport-holding young teens and tweens have been to Africa, China, Bahama, Haiti, Jamaica, and will continue to add more nations each year once travel can safely resume. Dr. Booker has received the School District of Philadelphia’s prestigious Lindback award, named as a “Woman of Distinction” by the Philadelphia Business Journal, and recognized by the Philadelphia City Council as a “Living Legend.” At the time of this writing, Dr. Booker is completing an application to add a high school.
Jump in the Conversation:
[1:54] From not wanting to teach to Johnson became transformational leader
[3:46] Principals can make or break a school & the future of so many youth
[4:25] Doing things differently, starting in the 90s
[7:54] Early teaching developed new curriculum to teach about the city
[10:36] Doing what’s right for kids: get them out of 10-block radius, let them see the world
[11:29] K-8 scholars travel the world
[16:38] Learning how to give back, community service
[17:07] Real world experiences stick
[18:03] Children are not a test score
[20:46] Pandemic was opportunity to change the way we do things
[21:31] 50 years in education and still trying to create more
[26:30] Turbo Time
[37:16] The great part of traveling with youth
[38:59] Magic Wand
[43:23] Maureen’s takeaways
Links & Resources
- Global Academies
- Learn more about Dr. Johnson-Booker
- Book: Making It: What Kids Need for Tomorrow’s World by Stephanie Malia Kraus
- Cultivating Genius by Dr. Gholdy E. Muhammad
- TED Talk: How to Fix a Broken School? Lead Fearlessly, Love Hard
- GLA YouTube summary
- GLA YouTube of alumni stories
- Find out more about the EdActive Summit!
- Email Maureen
- Maureen’s TEDx: Changing My Mind to Change Our Schools
- The Education Evolution
- Facebook: Follow Education Evolution
- Twitter: Follow Education Evolution
- LinkedIn: Follow Education Evolution
- EdActive Collective
- Maureen’s book: Creating Micro-Schools for Colorful Mismatched Kids
- Micro-school feature on Good Morning America
- The Micro-School Coalition
- Facebook: The Micro-School Coalition
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 0:03
Hello fellow parents and educators. Thank you for joining me at Education Evolution, where we are disrupting the status quo in today’s learning models. We talk about present day education, what’s broken, who’s fixing it, and how. I’m Dr. Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your host and founder of education evolution, micro school coalition, and co founder of at active, I consult and train with schools and leaders who are fiercely committed to changing the narrative, reimagining the education landscape, and creating learning that serves all children and prepares them to thrive. If you are new, welcome to the podcast. Please subscribe on our website to get it delivered to your inbox weekly. If you’ve been around a while, have you left a review?
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 1:08
Hi, Dr. Johnson Booker, it is so good to have you on Education Evolution.
Dr. Johnson-Booker 1:13
How are you? I’m so excited to be here. Thank you for inviting me to your program.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 1:19
Absolutely. You are a complete inspiration and listeners. today I’m chatting with the founder and CEO of the global leadership academies of Philadelphia. In the last 15 years, Dr. Booker has taken two failing schools and created empowering K eight schools, in some of Philadelphia’s most financially challenged zip codes. Let’s hear more. Dr. Booker, I’d like to start out with how you even got into this business. So we know that our schools have to evolve to serve all learners. But what prompted you to become this transformational leader.
Dr. Johnson-Booker 1:58
So the first thing is that if I go away back to the very beginning of my experience, I really didn’t even want to teach. So when I say that people are like, this is your gift. But and it was because of family history, and always being the oldest grand and the oldest niece and babysitting everybody. Okay. But when I entered into the profession, I knew that this is where I belonged. And I knew that I needed to figure out how I could help to change the life style or the trajectory of life for some children. So even as a teacher, whatever, I was doing things that were very, very different, or out of the box thinking. And so I then when I became a principal, they put me in a school in North Philadelphia, that was the lowest ranking African American, predominantly African American School, in the city. Okay, and so for me, I by this time, you know, being 15 years in, I never wanted to be in last place. So I said to my staff, we’re not going to be in last place, okay, this train is rolling. And if you want to get on it, get on it. But if you don’t, I think you should go somewhere else, because we’re moving out. At that point, is when I realized that I can, as a principle, change the minds of 30 or 40, adults who can then change the lives of children. And so you can transform an organization, because a principal is the key person that runs a school. And it is under their direction, that you can change what’s going on in your school.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 3:42
Love that. And you know, that’s why I became a principal, because I thought it was going to be a college person like my dad. But a principal let me start a school within a school for Atmos kids in a huge High School with 700 kids per grade. And I saw that she had the ability to see talent and to let things happen and to let our team create, so principals can really make or break a school and hence the future of so many youth. So I can see how that would have been like, okay, we’re doing this and then you were launched as a transformational leader. And, as the years have gone by, what have you created as a result of being this transformational leader.
Dr. Johnson-Booker 4:24
So as the years have gone by and doing a lot of work on the achievement gap, and also, you know, looking at being in in areas where children live in a 10 block radius, and do not go out of it, and they go to schools within it because where I wasn’t where I’m going to Philadelphia, you basically stay in your school, whatever your neighborhood school is good, bad or indifferent. And so I just felt in the 90s that I had to do something different. And so that was when I started out as a principal. That was where I started out go When traveling around the United States to find programs that would work that would help children learn to read. And then part of the reading was also exposing them to other library books that would let them see the world. There were things that I wanted to do in terms of letting children walk the world. But in the district that I was in, they would not allow us to travel outside of the city. And so after 30 years of being in the district, and being I felt at one point, that I was in handcuffs, because some of the things that I wanted to do, that would really work real out of the box thinking I wasn’t allowed to do. And so I kind of stepped out on faith one day, because it would, again, changing the superintendent, and it was going to change again, and all of the programs and all that, and I just decided that I thought we’re gonna do anything with these last so many years of my career, this was the time I stepped out. And then I went into the charter world. And so the first thing that I did, I worked in for profit, charter management company. And after four years, I realized that I just couldn’t do for profit on the backs of children. So I stepped off that again. But in that experience, I traveled all over the United States for this company, because I was their regional superintendent for several schools in the country. But I also saw the power of my own self going and being in Kennesaw, Georgia, or places that I never thought that I would see Carroll, Georgia, just places that were, there was a different vision. And then, part of the program was also, you know, helping children do it in a book, learning from a book about the world. So then, when I came back to Philly, I was called by the district to come and take over one of their failing independent charter schools. And so by the school job being the best job, the principal was probably my happiest moment place. I stepped in and took it over. And I told them that I only do it for about a year or two. That was 16 years ago. And during that time, though, now I’m able to turn around the school with things that I’ve learned over the last 30 plus years. Charter School District traveling, and now but I’m able to put it into real life. So there’s where I start to think about a go back to what I was early teaching. And we had to I had to teach Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. And I was given a little trimmer, this little book that had nothing but you know, sketchy pictures in it, you know, when people draw pitches with a pencil, and the lines are real small. And I was supposed to teach Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on this book. And I went to my principal, and I said, I cannot teach like this. Can I take them to Philadelphia, just that’s where we live. She said for write a proposal. So I did with the help of my special education grandmother, and basically developed a curriculum around the the reading, math, social studies and science. And the study was filled out, getting books, for reading, that we’re about Philadelphia, and so on. And then the social studies piece was the hands on project based learning, wherein the children were learning in the classroom. And then we got up and went to City Hall. And when to this, the founder of my school was also the founder of Germantown, and we went to his mansion. So we were now traveling, learning in the classroom, but then was seeing this night. And then we were also studying were African Americans were and their purpose during the 17 1800s in Philadelphia. And so like was very different in terms of social studies for me, and for them.
Dr. Johnson-Booker 9:27
And this group, so when I left and became the principal in a, in a school district, I thought that they would allow me to do some of this. And that’s when I kind of got disconnected because they would not let me do that. I had a partnership with two with a king from Ghana, because I had taken a couple kids on a Saturday to the UN, because they wouldn’t let me go and on during the weekday. So I had gotten permission from parents, and we went to the UN on a Saturday and I had met this this king He was there. And he wanted to do a partnership with us. He wanted me to send teachers and teachers to come back and forth at the schools. And then he wanted to send children. And of course, when I proposed that to them, they were like, no, no, no, can’t do that, Oh, was that partnership that was kind of gone. And he had two young sons that he wanted to send to the to school. So this was that whole remember, it was the the movie coming to America, it was kind of that. So I know. I was kind of that story. But anyway. So now I’m out here with my school, Global Leadership Academy. And I am now the CEO, I am founder of the new school, and I can do what I feel is right for kids, get them out of the 10, block radius, teach them in the classroom, and then let them see the world. And so we developed a curriculum in 2009. Basically, I, the school had to go to school in 2006, and seven, we had to do a lot of restructuring in terms of getting them to learn to read and, and enjoy reading, as well. So we did that. But then began in 2009, our first trip, which was to Canada. Now, early on, it was one trip at a time, one excursion at a time. But as we built it now the curriculum is such that from K to eight, my scholars travel the world. And so the Cracow such that cater to children, they study people, places, things, you know, community helpers, that kind of stuff. And they also study three countries a year. And so it’s in the first grade, they’re studying China, they are going to take a trip to Chinatown, in Philadelphia, and they wanted to they’re going to use a curriculum, but they’re going to travel out and explore the city. third, and fourth grade, they study Pennsylvania, but they also study cultures of the world. And so different countries and three countries that they study, and they studied their culture. And where did they go in Pennsylvania, they go to Harrisburg, because they do a little bit of politics. So we’ll get to that. But they also go to Lancaster County, to study the the people there.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 12:30
And it’s where the Amish are, is that right? And not for the Amish. Okay.
Dr. Johnson-Booker 12:35
And so and they do that. And then in fifth grade, we study capitals of the world. And so where else would you go, but to Washington, DC. That’s our first overnight excursion. And the fifth graders go overnight, and they explore Washington, DC, but during the year in their studies are also studying capitals of the world. So there are three countries that they would study. And they would study the country and the capital and the culture of that we’re in sixth grade, our children begin to study about rights, human rights, gender rights, civil rights. And because we are African American, predominantly in school, 99% of our children are, we also want now children understand the power of being black, and being part of who you are as an African American, and knowing your history. And so we do a civil rights tour. And we traveled from Philadelphia, to Atlanta, to Memphis, to Birmingham, and to the Pettus Bridge. This is our sixth day travel with our young people. Wow, sixth grade. Now, by the time you get to seventh grade, you must have a passport now, because we are getting ready to travel out of the country. And seventh grade, the young people are studying countries or people who are still seeking their freedom. And that could be Iran, Iraq, you know, women’s rights. These are things that are now coming into their sphere. And then we also study Harriet Tubman. And then we traveled from Philadelphia, through Canada, looking at where the slaves moved to when they moved out of the south. And they chose Canada because Canada, slavery did not exist during that time. Okay. And in all these places, also we visit schools. Okay, so we’re also partnering with other schools. We have a group in Atlanta and in Birmingham schools, and Memphis we also we begin in sixth grade traveling to universities, showing them the College world. So we go to Spelman, and Morehouse and Clark. And in Memphis, we go to Memphis, state. And when we come back to go to Canada, we have two schools there that we have partnered with, that they have even come to us. They were about to bring children as when the pandemic hit, adult can come the year before. And then the teachers that come the year before and then the pandemic hit. And so it’s on hold. Yeah, now that’s seventh grade, eighth grade. We’re now looking at slavery, the slavery in America and in the world. So we check, they study the Chinese slavery, they study the Holocaust, they study the transatlantic slave trade. And then we take a ship, cruise ship, we’ve taken a cruise ship to Jamaica, Haiti, the Bahamas, because those three areas had the largest group of artifacts in museums for young people now to be able to put together what they studied in a classroom. And what were they going to see this? There are, there have been two signature trips. And they were seventh and eighth graders who traveled to China. And there were 10 of them. And then there were 10 children, 12 children who traveled to Kenya, East Africa, and the children. We teach Mandarin, at the school. So those 10 children that got very interested in Chinese culture, were the ones who we identified to go to China, we also believe that community service is very important. So from kindergarten up, we’re teaching children how to give back and be a part of your community. And so the children that went to Kenya, East Africa, had done a great deal of work around community service in the city, as well as the school. And so they were the ones identified to go to Kenya, East Africa,
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 17:00
boy, Dr. Parker, this is just about a breed. Oh, my gosh, it’s amazing. And we know experiential learning. And when we really get to experience and we get to see and and when our subjects tie into real world experiences, we know that that’s the learning that sticks and the rest of them because like, When am I ever going to use this? Why am I learning this, they don’t even see the purpose, right? Your model is just awe inspiring. It’s so experiential. And it’s so well thought out. And right now our culture our world is so into the other, the US them the division. And what you’re doing, as you well know, is breeding, understanding, compassion, and a sense of our common humanity versus us. And bam, whoa, what you’re doing those kids, before they enter high school are transformed that that has to feel just so special.
Dr. Johnson-Booker 18:02
And that’s the point of it. So in eighth grade, they have to do a presentation about being a world traveler, you know, and what has the traveling done for you, because you see, my children are not a test score, right. And so when I tell you the places they’re going to, from our school, we call them scholars, because we expect them to be responsible for their learning. So by the time they get to middle school, they’re realizing what that responsibility is. So they leave us in eighth grade, they’re expecting different things in high school, and they’re looking at different things. So when you tell them, which the young people will come back and say to me, they were talking about a class trip to Washington, DC, you know, we told them, no, we’ve been to China, you know, we, you know, they’re like, a different world. They’re going to the best private schools in Philadelphia, they’re going to the top notch high schools in the area. And part of it when I asked other people, they love getting GLA children, because they are so well versed on the world. And when they do their interviews with them, that is what they hear our children wear shirts and ties to school, because this is their job, their job is to get good grades to be a part of their learning, etc. So it’s not a Play Day. So you don’t come to school and play clothes. So that everything has a meaning. That’s I try to get that when you take an organization like this and you create a vision and a mission, you must have also a meaning you must put things together so that everything is is not isolated, you know? Yeah. And here we are now at the end of the pandemic. And again, the achievement gap prior to the pandemic was also in the world also in in the words that we were using. And the creation of the achievement gap was because our young people did not have technology. Okay, now that was the one of the story worries that was out there that, you know, urban children, black and brown children, they didn’t have access to technology. You’re right. But now here we are. So Booker did achievement gap, exposure gap, putting the two of them together to get children exposed to things, to try to get them to want to learn. But not because it’s in a book, but because I want to go there because I want to use my expertise. And now my children have technology that we gave out 2600 devices, we gave out one bites that they have in home. And then in school now there were at one on one, technology. So what did we learn from this pandemic, this was an opportunity for us to change education, to change the way we do it in the classroom, to give children the world so that after 12 years of education, they want to be on the world, they want to make them the world. They don’t want to go back to that little hole that they lived in now. And I’ve said this to my teachers, and my staff since 2011, that if we don’t teach our young people how to live in the 21st century, we are robbing them of their future.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 21:22
Absolutely. Dr. Booker, this legacy is amazing. And you’ve put in what 50 years in education, I’m speaking to your friend, Ken, it sounds like you still have more you’re trying to create and perhaps with older children, what else are you cooking up?
Dr. Johnson-Booker 21:43
Well, you know, that’s exactly what what it is cooking up, there’s some things that I want to do I have a five year plan ahead of me. One is that I want a high school, because we work very hard to get our young people to eighth grade, to give them the tools so that they can be successful in high school. Mind you, some may fall off the grid. But we try but I have a director of scholar advancement and one of his roles is to stay with my alumni, and try to keep them on target. And we have a very strong alumni group, we have a group that is raising money for the children to travel, they raise money for kids to get supplies and things of that nature. If I could get them from to 12th grade, just imagine how many more would reach that level of success. And I have children right now that are first level high school graduates first level college graduates, I have six people that are working for me at our schools that graduated from GLA years ago. Wonderful. The circle this?
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 22:49
Dr. Johnson-Booker 22:50
you know, for me, that’s that’s, that’s really a big push this year, along with, I have a $5 million endowment that I’m trying to raise, because I want us to have money so that all the children can travel, no child should be left behind because they can’t travel or because their mothers, their families don’t have the money. And so we do see that. So we do raise as much money in, fundraise for our young people. But then when you have a parent who has a sixth grader, a seventh grader, or eighth grader, and has two kids, somebody’s not going to be able to go because my parents are low income. And our church costs from 1000 to $1,500. Average. Of course, when we went out to China, in Kenya, that was like a $3,000 trip. So again, you know, parents do put in, but most of them, what they do is they get their taxes, and then they use their taxes to pay for their child to go on a trip. So anyway, the $5 million endowment will will allow us that be able to have children travel, not for free. I believe that every parent should have some buy in. But you know, maybe they would only have to pay $250 as opposed to paying 1000. That’s my download that I’m trying to make sure we have. I also have founded an organization, Johnson Booker Leadership Institute, where this is for aspiring leaders, seasoned leaders, I feel that what I have done in the world of education, I would like to share with other leaders so that you know, you may not be a GLA, but you may be at another school where you can change the world of that school, that you can take that low performing school and turn it around with some of the things that you have learned from me at our institute. So I do that we do that once a year, the last week of June when school is out. Five days and right now it’s on Zoom, which is proved to be really good. We’ve done for the last couple of years, but it’s been a had this is my sixth year of the Johnson Booker Leadership Institute. I’m finishing up my book, which I hope to be in print by the fall. And the book is titled, and finally out of the box and educators journey. Love it. And and then just really looking at my own succession plan to make sure that who’s gonna fall behind me at the Global schools?
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 25:27
Wow, five year plan five key elements and you’re over 70 So you’re most people say I want to make it to 65 and just be done with this. And your energy is obvious you are not even slowing down. Wow, Dr. Booker, you are blessing so many young lives. This is just super impressive.
Dr. Johnson-Booker 25:52
You know, there was a there was something that I heard a long time ago the Philadelphia Phillies, they said, it’s not over till the fat lady sings. So, you know, for me, that’s kind of what I feel like, you know, I got, I try to, I try to work out you know, I play golf, you know, avid golfer and got on a peloton bike before bought one right before the pandemic. So I really try to keep my spirit up. And, you know, I just have a lot more to do you know, and I guess that’s, I just pray every day that, you know, you know, God gives me an ability to be able to do that.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 26:26
Love it. Well, I wouldn’t like just to pivot and get to know you a bit better. What you are doing is amazing. And it’s it’s fun on our interviews to shift and so I’ve turbo time questions that just let us pick out a little bit more into your life. Are you ready?
Dr. Johnson-Booker 26:42
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 26:42
here we go. Okay, what’s the last book you read?
Dr. Johnson-Booker 26:47
Making it? This book is about how we turn the modern classroom. How do we create the modern classroom? And there it is. He’s got to press up. What’s the you’re you? We can’t see the name of it. But bring it back a little more. Bring it back to you. Maybe okay, you have to read it. You got on you have it on.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 27:09
Can you go? Mute? Unmute. Just tell us can because
Dr. Johnson-Booker 27:13
you’re on Blur? Yeah. That’s why we can’t see it. Well done making it by Stephanie Malia Krause. What today’s kids need for tomorrow’s world. She got me a copy too. She’s that excited about the book.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 27:26
Now. I’m excited. Perfect.
Dr. Johnson-Booker 27:30
Thank you. That’s that. And then the other one. And I also, I have about four or five books that I read. But I’m reading 1619 which is the our journey over the last 400 years. And also, I I listen, also when I’m driving. So that’s the other thing I do audible reading as well. And I also have one that’s kind of a fun book. And right now I’m reading Gabrielle Union’s book, we need another glass of wine. title sounds fun. It is.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 28:03
And who are two inspirational folks you’d love to meet.
Dr. Johnson-Booker 28:08
I would like to meet Goldie Mohamad. She has a powerful message as well, about being an abolitionist teacher. And I really would like to get into a conversation with her. And I would really like to meet Jill Biden. She’s an educator. And I really would like to have a conversation with her about what she believes and what I believe and where we should go from here. About that, that just impressed me.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 28:40
Yeah, yeah. And you and I can relate. One of my friends has a t shirt that says, That’s Dr. Biden to you.
Dr. Johnson-Booker 28:48
Yeah. Yeah, and of course, not Michelle Obama, but I would like to sit in a room with her. You know, because a lot of the things like I’m a wellness school. We we we don’t serve certain foods, and we do family style dinner and lunch room where kids come together. I am very much trying to change the mindset, that prison to pipeline mindset. So I don’t have I have roundtable so children can converse with each other during the course of the day. We don’t wear khaki pants. We don’t you know, we wear belts, things that it’s not okay, because it goes in the mind of a child as they grow up. So very intentional. What we do at GLA is very intentional.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 29:40
Wow. Yeah, some of these things haven’t really even I haven’t thought about the shape of our lunchroom tables. super powerful. How about your favorite place to travel?
Dr. Johnson-Booker 29:53
Oh, wow. My favorite place to travel has was been Jamaica and I am I love the ocean, I have, I can sit on the beach, never getting the water, not interested in getting the water. But watching the waves come back and forth. So anywhere where there’s a beach type situation I like, but Jamaicans seems to be that place where I feel like I had my hand on heaven, I have sat on the beach and read more books of the whole book, just on, you know, in a couple of days because of that piece that I find there in those areas. So yeah, that’s, that’s my favorite place. And when I went there, early days, I went when I was traveling, that was another thing when I was came out of college, and I was doing a lot of traveling to make it was one of those places that I just really enjoyed, and always had up on my screen, my computer screen and at the office, which had a person sitting on the beach, and only loan person at an umbrella. And people would always ask me, where the kids would come in and say, Dr. Berger work Why do you have those? Yes, because that’s really where I want to be right now.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 31:06
Yes, hmm. How about a TED Talk that inspires you.
Dr. Johnson-Booker 31:11
There was a there was a principal in Philadelphia, that would did a TED talk a number of years ago, about how she turned around. One of our high schools are failing High School strawberry mansion. I can’t remember her name right now. But she told her story. And it was so much like my story, the story that she turned around the school, she knew what it needed to have, it was the lowest performing high school in the city, gang related all the violence, everything and she turned it around to be a high steppin school in North Philadelphia. Wow, when I was at my school, in North Philadelphia, I spent 12 years turning that school around much of the same things that she kind of did. When I left, the person behind me, that school went down the drain inside of six months, the person that they put in that school did not want to be there. You know, it was a stepping stone for her to get to a school up in the Northeast. And so, you know, I was an area superintendent at the time. And so I would send in the same district, but I would send her messages or I would ask her if she needed my help, you know, whatever else, but she just, you know, stay away, stay away. And so I would go there and visit and it would just be so hurt me to my heart. And my father said, you know, stop going, you know, because you did your best for 12 years. Yeah. Well, this was the same thing with this school that this woman had turned around story mentioned his high school. And when she left, the same thing happened. And it taught me, you have to have a succession plan. Yes, if you want your legacy to continue. And it’s not about you, it’s about this school, or this organization, continuing on, to go to the next level, because somebody who falls behind me is not me, you’re not going to be me. You can’t be me. But you can take where I left this organization, and move it to the next level, building on what I did. Yeah. That’s what happened. And she when she left, and moved on that, that’s what happened to her school, the same thing. So when I saw her later, do this TED talk, I was like, yes. And that’s what made me think about this whole succession plan, which I tried to get my colleagues right now other CEOs that I work with, to look in terms of that same conversation.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 33:57
Absolutely. So sad, and so important to be intentional about who continues after us, so that they can build and not your hard work goes down the drain.
Dr. Johnson-Booker 34:11
And see and that’s the thing about getting the high school, that our young people go on these off, and on ramps throughout their educational career. And every time they they’re on a ramp, like at the elementary level, you know, and then they shift and they go to middle school, they have to get off that ramp and get on another ramp. And they have to learn people all over again. And they have to figure out what’s going on in this organization all over again. So now, you know the research will talk to you about often on ramps and in tabbing continuous education from a K to eight is a K to 12 is a better model for young people. And mostly your private schools are like that, they go K to 12. Now you can decide to take them out, but there there there there is the availability that for them to go for 12 yours.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 35:00
Absolutely, we had that overseas all the time for a lot of reasons. And it was a wonderful community and your rankings didn’t have to relearn and figure out a new system and adapt, they just got to keep growing.
Dr. Johnson-Booker 35:13
And they were used to that same kind of family orientation. Yeah, even though the teachers were different when he got to high school, but like, when we’re writing our application, now, you know, we are bringing in some of those things that we built on in K to eight, that will make the nine to 12, stronger, you know, the, the idea that your scholar, you know, that, you know, just some of those kinds of things. We don’t our behavior, we do power positive behavior. We don’t we don’t do a negative behavior plan, right? Children values, you know, so every month, they learn a value, they learn responsibility, they learn resiliency, they learn caring, and, and we have to call them jewels of the month, and they learn one a month, and it’s part of the language. So if you are doing something that’s incorrect, I’m not going to say the negative of it, I’m going to say is this, how you care about your, your friend, your colleague, your your person is this caring might be the word of the month. Caring is also a word that they learned a couple of months ago, we had a fire in January 2010. That burned down our building. So in January, the word is resilience, because we didn’t give up. We didn’t say no to GLA, we went and found another building. And we came in three weeks we came back. So resiliency is something that we teach our children, because it’s not about how you fall down. It’s about how you get up, you know, so you have to, like, put that in your life that’s in your mind, you know, because we’re all on this journey. And this journey has little I call him hitting the road. You know, yeah. You think everything is going real good. And all of a sudden, somebody says, bam, and you say, oh, okay, but then I gotta regroup. I can’t give us
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 37:06
Absolutely. What about what is your favorite thing about traveling with youth?
Dr. Johnson-Booker 37:15
Seeing the light bulb go off in their eyes, having them take what they’ve learned, and really, really take it into their spirit. So went to Atlanta. Young lady says to me, Dr. Booker, can you take my picture here? I’m sitting in the seat that Coretta Scott King said in the day of her husband’s funeral,
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 37:39
Dr. Johnson-Booker 37:42
what are you what am I gonna say? You know, that’s the kind of interaction I walk with them. We walk through the museums, we go, we talk questions, you know, they and for me, I went to school in the south during the uprisings, if you want to call them or do any, you know, during that time, when, you know, the, the environment of the South was changing, because of Dr. King and Stokely Carmichael, and all of the folks that were there. During that time, the movement started, you know, really in the 50s, and 60s, and I was in Atlanta, during the end of the 60s. And so I’m able to now replicate and talk about my conversations with Zen citizens. And I was with Dr. King, and you know, so these are, these are things that are part of my life, that I can have conversations with them when I’m talking and walking with them when we walk through history in the South.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 38:41
Yes. And the kids getting to experience this, and you being with them, how powerful to merge all of those experiences. Dr. Booker, I like to end our interview with a magic wand moment. So if I handed you that magic wand, what would you wish for to empower learners in schools, especially our bipoc use? Magic Wand is yours.
Dr. Johnson-Booker 39:17
That is so such a powerful question, especially coming out of the pandemic. I would hope that people would not go back to 2018 2019 in the classrooms, I would hope that they would take the learnings that we have right now particularly the bipod children, to use technology to use exposure, whether it be traveling or just getting young people exposed to different walks of life. Those are the things that for me right now, that I would hope that my colleagues would definitely create A new educational platform, this is the time that we do this. There is no other time in the history of my experience that I don’t have the power to do that. And every educator, teacher, instructional assistant, whoever has the power to change what’s going on in there. And then educational experience with children.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 40:24
Absolutely. And this is the time.
Dr. Johnson-Booker 40:30
This is the time. Because, you know, like I said, these young people now, young people can run circles around me in terms of the technology. And when I first got it just reminded me of something when I first got my an iPad, and we were going to Bahamas, and we were on the plane. And I had just gotten it. And there was a young man sitting behind me, and he was in in seventh grade, eighth grade. And I said, I was, I was like, fiddling with it. I didn’t know what to do with it. And he leaned up and he saw me and then he said, Dr. Booker, let me set that up for you. And I turned around, and I said, first, I’m nervous. Because this is his first because I was getting the iPad because I wanted to use it. I go into a conference. And I wanted to use it in the classroom, and I want to the children have access to it. And this was in like, 2012 13. And then I said, You know what, that amount. And I gave it to him, and he set it up. And he showed me what to do with now Little did I know that he had had an iPad at home that his mom had gotten for him. And Marshall was able to show me how to use this thing. Well, you know, yeah. And that has gone on and on, you know. So right now with technology, what we have to do is teach our young people how to be use it in a positive way. Because they can use it in a way that’s not so good. And so we must show them how to use Google Drive and all these programs in a very positive way.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 42:07
Absolutely. Dr. Booker, I am completely inspired. And thank you for the hundreds of lives that you have changed and for your institute so that other educators can come and learn and, and for the inspiration. I mean, you’re adding a high school, you’ve got this amazing five year plan. It’s been an honor to have you as a guest today.
Dr. Johnson-Booker 42:30
Thank you so much. I have so enjoyed this, you know, I have not a person to talk about myself. Ken will tell you that you know that I don’t. I don’t send out laurels if you will about Booker, but but I do enjoy talking. Because it just reminds me of the work I do. I am blessed to be able to do this work, touch many lives, young and old. And I hope that that’s my legacy. That if you don’t know anything about me, you know that I wanted to touch some lives, young people, children and adults to change the trajectory of lives for children.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 43:08
And you’re doing it. Thank you.
Dr. Johnson-Booker 43:10
Thank you so much.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 43:21
I have to confess that I was so inspired the day I got to interview Dr. Booker that I rewrote my weekly LinkedIn newsletter to pay her tribute. It seemed particularly fitting since March, when the newsletter was published is National Women’s History Month. Dr. Booker is definitely a transformational leader who is making history. I remember early in my career when I was a high school teacher, 40 miles south of Seattle. I was fascinated to discover that many of my students had never been to Seattle. I couldn’t imagine them not wanting to explore a city with so many diverse facets. So when Dr. Booker talked about many folks near her not getting out of their 10 block radius, I understood, but again, felt a sadness. I love being fortunate enough to have lived and traveled in so many countries. The world is such an amazing classroom, so Dr. Booker’s mission of global citizenship moved me. Our youth are big hearted unless we adults shrink their views with our prejudices, listening to some of the student testimonials on YouTube, and the link to this is in the show notes. I heard how lives were stretched and understanding extended by the travels of the GLA students. And Dr. Booker is 76 As someone with almost 30 years in school leadership, I am in awe of Dr. Booker’s steadfast perseverance toward her goal. I can’t wait to read her book when it comes out. And before that, I get to meet her and visit her school this spring. While I’m in Philly with my girls, lucky me. We can all contribute to this needed education evolution. In closing, please remember that we would love to have you attend this month’s Summit hosted by the EDD active collective. This free event is on April 28 and 29th. Come listen and ask questions and learn with us. Go to Edie active collective.org. The link is in the show notes and register today. Many of my podcast guests are joining me as presenters and panelists. Parents you are going to come away with many powerful ideas and educators and school leaders and students. This will be a place to affirm the innovations you believe in, and you’ll even get continuing and units for this time. What a beautiful way to end the month of April. We hope to see all of you at the AED active collective Summit. Thank you for being a part of the education evolution.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 46:29
If you are finding yourself thinking, I need to do this in my school. Let’s talk about it. I consult and also have a book TEDx talk an online course to support starting learner driven schools and programs. My goal is to help schools and individuals find new innovative solutions to reaching every student. Let’s create an action plan together. Visit educationevolution.org/consult to book a call and let’s get started. Education evolution listeners, you are the ones to ensure we create classrooms where each student is seen, heard, valued and thriving. We need you. Let’s go out and reach every student today. I’d be so grateful if you’d head over to your podcast app to give a great rating and review if you found this episode valuable. Don’t wait. Please do it right now before you forget. I really appreciate it. Thank you listeners signing off. This is Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your partner in boldly reimagining education
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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