Discovering Children’s Passions & Putting Them on Their Path with Luthern Williams
March 29, 2022
Discovering Children’s Passions & Putting Them on Their Path

Kids need to feel that their passions and ideas matter. Unfortunately, our system is set up to mold kids into who we want them to be. Schools are guilty of this and even well-meaning parents are guilty of it. We have our own versions of success in our minds and trying to steer children on our path is setting them up for failure and for feeling unseen.

This week on the podcast, Luthern Williams is sharing how his school, New Roads School, is doing things differently. And he proves that small, private, and even budget-conscious (or budget-restricted) schools can offer a path for all learners and keep inclusivity and access at its core.

Luthern shares how New Roads has managed to offer 35 electives for middle school students and 65 electives for high schoolers and what this has done to boost the possibilities these students have. We also talk about how radical inclusion doesn’t just benefit the student, why children need to be invited to show up authentically, and why so many children are having mental health issues today.

This episode truly dissects a school and a leader who are living in their values.

About Luthern Williams::

Luthern Williams, a visionary educational leader, is the Head of School at New Roads School in Santa Monica, California. He holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and an Ed.M. in School Leadership from Harvard University. Previously, Luthern was the Assistant Head of School for Program and Middle School Director at New Roads School. Luthern has over twenty-five years of experience as an administrator and English teacher in independent schools in New York City, Boston, and Los Angeles. He served as the Director of College Preparation and College Admissions at College Launch, an educational consulting company; the Director of Studies at the Oakwood School in North Hollywood, California; the Upper School Director at Beaver Country Day School in Boston, Massachusetts; and the Director of Diversity at the Winsor School in Boston, Massachusetts.

Throughout his career, he has drawn on his extensive knowledge of education to align schools’ programs with their missions and to build educational models where all children thrive; learn love, respect, empathy, and compassion; and develop the tools to create a world based on the inherent dignity and worth of each individual. To prepare teachers to educate for this “New World,” Luthern has contributed to the design, redesign, and development of one of the premier teacher induction and professional development programs for independent schools in the nation as well as created professional development processes in many independent schools. In addition, Luthern has trained teachers to devise strategies and assessments for students with various learning styles as well as culturally sensitive teaching methods and curricula.

He has done talks, interviews, presentations and workshops about education on the local, state, national, and international level, including speaking on a panel for the United States Department of Education, Office of Nonpublic Education. He has consulted nationally on education, and he has written articles in this field. In addition, he has served as Board Chair and Board member on nonprofit boards. Currently, he sits on the Board of Directors of California Association of Independent Schools, Private School Axis, Los Encinos School, and the Advisory Board of the National Diversity Coalition. Luthern is deeply committed to democratizing meaningful access to high quality education for socio-economically disadvantaged students and developing schools, built on wellbeing, that are catalysts for societal transformation.

Jump in the Conversation:

[2:26] – What New Road School is all about
[2:48] – It’s the role of school to develop the gifts of children
[3:18] – Kids are young people with feelings and thoughts; give them the tools to explore joy of learning
[4:50] – Robust electives
[6:11] – Structure and freedom allows the school to do more
[9:35] – You have to make sacrifices aligned with value
[12:04 – Creative links
[13:19] – Inviting children to be tested on multiple levels
[14:21] – Meeting the needs of all children
[16:37] – Radical inclusion
[18:58] – All children benefit from diversity if it’s leveraged
[24:09] – Sustaining the school over the years
[25:45] – Why Luthern chooses to do this work
[29:03] – Turbo time
[30:25] – What you need to know about academic rigor
[33:24] – How you can become an educational activist
[36:16] – Luthern’s Magic Wand
[37:31] – Maureen’s Takeaways

Links & Resources



Maureen 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 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 1:08
Today’s interview is super exciting. New road School in Los Angeles is radically inclusive and intentionally authentic. It is wonderfully unique. New road school mirrors the socio economic, cultural and racial diversity of Los Angeles. And its students are challenged daily to question their own worldview, assumptions, perspectives, and righteousness. They do that by creating a space filled with electives and opportunities to express learning creatively and authentically. It was visionary when it began in 1995. And truly needed and powerful in today’s world. Let’s listen in to Director Luthern. Williams, and learn more about how we all can create empowering learning opportunities for our youth have their turn. It is so great to have you on education evolution today.

Luthern Williams 2:08
Oh, Marina, it’s great to be here. Thank you for inviting me.

Maureen 2:11
Yes. Luthern new road school you are leading an amazing learning community. Could you start by telling us what new road school is about?

Luthern Williams 2:25
Well, I have to go back to the founders and why it is they created the school in 1995. They looked around and they said it’s been more than 40 years since Brown versus the Board of Education. But integration of the schools has largely been a failure. And they sort of had just experienced the Rodney King riots. And they said if this thing called the Great American social experiment is going to work. We need to have children living and learning together and built on the assumption that all children are have gifts, and that it is the role of school to help develop those gifts. Yeah, all human beings have inherent worth and dignity and we should create an environment that honors that.

Maureen 3:11
Yes, absolutely. So what did the founders create?

Luthern Williams 3:16
Well, they created a K 12 school. And so we have them throughout the journey. As early as kindergarten, they’re doing wonder projects and learning design thinking because we believe that they’re not children, but they are young people with feelings and thoughts. And our job as educators is to help give them the tools to really explore questions that they innately have, so that we tap into the native joy of the way that learning occurred before they ever got to us. And they have electives in the elementary school. And by the time they’re in the middle school, there are 35 electives. And yes, they’re grounded in social science, sciences and humanities. One of our middle schoolers said, it’s a it’s a liberal arts college for middle schoolers. And in high school, they have 65 electives. And it really gives them an invitation to experiment to try things on to see what sort of they never want to do, again, to sort of have something in a passion spark that really they’re gonna carry not only through high school, but through life, and that may inform the pathway that they take on their life journey.

Maureen 4:28
That is brilliant, and so many kids finished high school, like Okay, now what I guess I’ll go where my cousin went to school, I don’t know what I want to do. And it really is for all of us a process of elimination like, Oh, heck, no, I want nothing to do with accounting and numbers, even though my family our accountants, we know by what we try that doesn’t fit. Give us an example of a couple of the electives that you offer.

Luthern Williams 4:50
Well, it’s interesting, you know, we offer electives and conceptual clothing, you know, where they usually they make mistakes make clothing out of all kinds of materials, including newspapers, you know, and the conceptual clothing. Sometimes it can be worn sometimes it can’t. Um, you know, we offer, you know, electives in robotics, you know, we offer, we offer a sort of figure drawing, you know, in our visual arts department. It’s just it you we offer virtually marine biology, I mean, just whatever you can possibly imagine World Religions of Middle Eastern history. You know, it’s a philosophy.

Maureen 5:40
I love it, I think that kids need, I mean, we’re preparing them for jobs that don’t even exist right now. So they need so many ideas and possibilities to be able to blend them in new ways. I can just picture my colleagues that are our school leaders saying, yeah, so you have an endless budget and 5000 employees? How nice. How in the world? Can you be so robust and probably still meet all of the traditional graduation requirements, like four years of high school English, etc? How do you do it?

Luthern Williams 6:11
Well, it’s interesting, because we have one of our commitments is structuring freedom. So the kids get more freedom as they go through the years, you know, and so basically, all of our kids in the high school have to meet the UC requirements, if not exceed them. And for those who have not heard the University of California, so all of our kids are qualified to go based on their requirements. So that means they have a steep grounding in social science, humanities, in the sciences. And in like, for instance, our kids take four years of history, you know, where it’s not typical at a number of schools. And most of them take four years of lab science, but within that program, there is also an elective system. So the way electives work is in the high school, they have their electors first and second period every day. And so they start the day with something that really engages them, and then they, you know, they go on to their academic subjects. And so that means that they have 10 hours of potential electives a week. And so they are doing the academic core, but they’re also able to make choices about their electives. And that’s what ends up happening so that by 11th, grade, the students are sort of going deeper into an area, whether they sort of say, I’m a stem person, I really love science, and this is my passion, or I’m a writer, and I’m going to take every writing elective that we have, you know, I’m a visual artist, you know, whatever. So, so I think that there’s the high school part, in some ways, the consolidation of the Academic Skills ends in 10th grade. And so by 11th grade, that’s what we’re doing the life in college prep, you know, where they really are starting to go more deeply. And they’re telling their own unique story through their schedule. And I think, you know, as far as the budgets concerned, we, you know, give more financial aid than, you know, as a percentage of budget than any school around us, because school is built on that. So about, you know, 40% of our families receive financial aid. And in the school’s history, it’s been 40 to 50%, depending on, you know, where we are. And so I think what we’ve sacrificed like over since 1995, the school has given about $120 million in financial aid. And so what we’ve sacrificed is having a campus that could look like it cost $125 million. So it’s really about priorities and where the money’s going, you know, and for us, the money is going in the investment in great teacher in every classroom, and also, you know, a great program, and the foundation being the diversity of students whom they are fortunate to teach.

Maureen 9:04
I love that I share that value in my micro school. both campuses are leased, and one family called us scrappy and happy. And that’s it our facility, we have not done annual funds or capital campaigns. But we have one teacher for every five students and relationships are our foundation and love and communication. So yeah, it’s not a palace that we’re in, but it’s happy kids within the structure and something has to give to make these educational pieces work.

Luthern Williams 9:33
Yeah, there’s a sacrifice, you sacrifice something, but I think it has to be aligned to your core values and assumptions about what makes the educational experience.

Maureen 9:43
Yes. So does that mean like if I’m an English teacher during the core blocks, I might be teaching the conceptual clothing class or something during the elective block or

Maureen 9:53
No, actually, we have mostly when especially for the arts, we have the who are working artists who really teach the classes? We’ve always had that model. So we have pretty much experts in the field, teaching those classes. And they’re working artists talk about real life relevance and applicability and good thing.

Maureen 10:18
Gosh, how would I ever apply this to the real world being able to say, hey, here’s what I do on a daily basis, instant connection.

Luthern Williams 10:25
Yeah. And I think one of the examples, like we have this student, she’s at Carnegie Mellon, now studying visual arts. She, while she was here, she was obsessed with Shakespeare. In fact, she would come to my office, you know, almost on a weekly basis to tell me about the newest Shakespearean play that she had read. And she’s so excited about it, that she started a Shakespeare club in elementary school, and she’s read them Shakespeare. And they had no idea what she was saying, but she was so passionate about it, they were really into it with her. Then she became obsessed with Elizabeth in England. And so for her creative Lynx project, she ended up doing constructing a Elizabeth and corset to talk about the construction of a woman’s body. In the middle of the high school, she became a mixed mixed media sculptor, who explored the constraints in the modern and contemporary society on a woman’s body. And she ended up becoming a presidential scholar in the arts. And, you know, when they asked her, you know, why did you do this? I mean, why, why have you sort of constructed your art the way you have, and she said, because this is a conversation society needs to have, and somebody needs to initiate it.

Maureen 11:46
Wow. metaphor would be astounding from somebody with a lot of life experience for a youth to get that the metaphor and then to keep building and growing and, and modern day relevance. super powerful. Tell me what this creative links project is,

Luthern Williams 12:06
well, the creative lynxes sort of, they get an opportunity. And it used to be in their humanities classes, they got an opportunity to really think about how they could express their understanding of exploring a particular problem or topic, you know, through a variety of forms. And so sometimes the kids would do the conceptual, you know, like they would do a sculpture, a painting, a play rap song, do what I’m saying that there was always a, there was always a research and writing component to all of it, but they could express their understanding in a variety of ways, really allowing them to highlight different media that they are most comfortable working and telling you, this is what I got from this. This is sort of in a creative way.

Maureen 12:57
And that when we think of, you know, Bloom’s Taxonomy, that analysts analysis to kind of know what you’re thinking about, and then synthesis to put it together with different media and stuff, talk about taking rote memorization and saying Heck no, and going straight to the top, where they’re doing super deep, thinking,

Luthern Williams 13:18
well, and it also brings in very naturally the SEL, because what we sort of, we call them, you know, learning opportunities, and in some of the middle school kids used to joke Well, if it’s an opportunity, do I have to do it? Yeah, I think that, you know, it’s these learning, you know, and I almost like to think of it as learning expeditions where, you know, we’re inviting you to have this experience that’s going to test you on a variety of different levels. You know, it’s going to test your resourcefulness, your creativity, you know, your analytic abilities, your ability to analyze your ability to create something that is in your mind and bring it to fruition.

Maureen 13:59
Yes. Wow. I’m loving. I’m just thinking every kid deserves this kind of an education. So tell me, the kids that are no diverse or that struggle, or they have dyslexia or something? How do these kids get a rich experience and get their special needs addressed?

Luthern Williams 14:21
Well, it’s interesting, because I think the foundation of our teaching methodology really, is embedded in the notion of secure attachment, where every child is seen and heard and valued. And the teacher needs to be attuned to each of the students. So I think that’s the foundation for everything. And I we have at our school at each of the divisions of director of learning, the director of learning this job is constructed very differently than most schools. It’s not about her or him taking, you know, all of the students to their office who are struggling. It’s about helping To increase the tools that our teachers have, in order to be able to reach different learners and meet them where they are socially, emotionally, intellectually. And I think we also have a program, which is pretty revolutionary in the country, which is called spectrum. And if, you know, most of the kids, you know, are on the autism spectrum, and they do exceptionally well, you know, they go to, you know, I think it’s 100% College rate, they are the slice of the kids that we have are incredibly bright, a lot of them need support socially, emotionally. So we have a social skills program that is developed through the arts, which helps them to be able to read social cues to feel more comfortable in social contacts to an increasingly have a sense of independence from the program as they go along. So I think that it’s just a part of who we are, I think the school is very responsive to the individual student. It’s not, it’s a very human centered model of education rather than a factory model.

Maureen 16:15
I love that. Yes, we aspire to that, to that seen, heard valued, we think leads to the thriving. Yes, absolutely. So talk to me, one of the other things I read in your bio, in the new new road school bio, his bio is radical inclusion. What does that mean?

Luthern Williams 16:38
Well, it’s interesting, um, I was I went to independent school, in high school. And I really resonate with what Frederick Douglass settled more than a century ago about his experience at Harvard, he says, I was of Harvard, not in Harvard. And so I think this notion of radical inclusion, is has to do with belonging, you know, and people feeling like they can show up as who they are without a mask without armor, and that they’re valued. And they are invited to be a vital member of the process. If it is intellectual inquiry. They’re important, they have something to say. They’re just not there as a token, they are. There’s an assumption that we all have something that we bring to the table, and that we’re better together.

Maureen 17:34
Yes. When people visit your school or hear about your school, are there ways that they can find out more or be mentored? Or do you have any I know, some schools that are doing things differently, have summer programs that are teacher training programs? Is there a way that your brilliant model is trickling out or rippling out?

Luthern Williams 17:56
Well, it’s interesting, I, I’ve been very fortunate to really be a spokesperson for the school on, you know, many, many, many interviews, and, and we do professional development presentations at various conferences on the national and international level. So we have involved ourselves in the conversation around education. I think the other piece is that we have a lot of visitors who come to the school. And they come and observe for a day. And we have a very interesting program that we set up for them to do their visit to do reflection, to think about some of the strategies that they might want to take away and use at their own school. So yeah, we have a lot of visitors.

Maureen 18:42
I can imagine. Yes. So new road school, I’m wondering, I know you mirror the socio economic, cultural and racial diversity of Los Angeles, and I was looking on your LinkedIn profile. And you were talking about an article diversity makes you brighter. So talk about how you reflect the diversity of LA, and why you think that is a positive? Of course, it’s a public positive, but I’d like to hear your ideas.

Luthern Williams 19:09
Well, I think that in going back to the assumption of the founders, I think they started out and it was a clear moral imperative for them. I think the research has finally caught up, you know, to basically be able to verify that all children benefit from diversity, if it’s leveraged. I’m not just having it, but it has to be leveraged. And if it’s leveraged the outcomes, whether you’re looking at college, whether you’re looking at academic achievement, or whether you’re looking at how well they do in their careers, all of it is now starting to be correlated with that experience and encounter with diversity and the benefits that that come from it, you know, and so I think, you know, it’s I don’t think we need research to tell That is pretty common sense that if you have a bunch of different people in the room have different experiences in different backgrounds, they’re going to bring different expected perspectives. And in that encounter, assumptions are going to come to the floor, people are going to have to re frame their assumptions and have some intellectual and cultural humility. And that as a result of their encounters, they are more sophisticated thinkers who have a clearer and more accurate view of reality.

Maureen 20:31
Wow, our country, our planet, we need this. Boy, do you have a story of perhaps somebody that came in locked into one identity, or one community that was able to kind of reframe or regroup?

Luthern Williams 20:48
Yeah, I think that that happens for every constituency here. Like it’s interesting. I think the founders understood from the very beginning that this school would be not only transformational for the children, but for the adults who were a part of it in our parents say that they have changed over and over again, we hear our parents saying that they’ve changed and grown as parents as a result of their time at new roads, because it’s taught them how to relate to their own child in a very different way.

Maureen 21:20
And their assumptions about them. Absolutely, yeah, I feel like our parents, and my generation overall, we’re playing a lot of catch up right now is our kids come to us with so many different definitions and whole our definitions of gender and identity, that we’re scrambling to make sure that we’re we’re understanding and responsive. So liberated. Yeah, liberal.

Luthern Williams 21:44
Interesting. I think a child, I was just, you know, one of my favorite books in the world is great expectations. And I remember there’s a slime that PYP says that I just love where he said they tried to make a gentleman on me. And I think that unfortunately, that’s sometimes what parents and schools do. They tried to make someone on the child Rather than inviting the child to show up authentically as who they are, because this is their journey. And we’re just supportive guides.

Maureen 22:18
Absolutely. Yeah. And I think parents are super well intending but their definition of what’s best, and what’s going to get my kid ahead, maybe a prestigious college or a prestigious major in college, and it may not have anything to do with that child’s strengths, interests direction. So I think there is a disconnect there. And and it can be pretty tragic when we do things on our students.

Luthern Williams 22:45
Well, I think that that’s part of what contributes to what we’re seeing globally, in terms of the mental health issues of children. With depression, the suicide ideation, the, you know, anxiety, and I think, because we’re telling them on some level, that you as who you are authentically, are unworthy. And unless you achieve x, y and z, then you’re also not lovable.

Maureen 23:16
Ouch. Ah, but you know, it is it’s saying how you are who you are, is not good is not right is not enough. And I want to do this on you to make you into somebody lovable, worthy, good enough,

Luthern Williams 23:32
right? And think about if that is the message that you’re taking away? How can you build a foundation of happiness and security?

Maureen 23:42
Yeah, you can’t? How can I feel happy? If I feel like I’m not right, not enough.

Luthern Williams 23:48
And then I’m always going to have to be trying to get something, something more than or and then I will feel Hold on a wild goose chase. Ouch.

Maureen 24:02
What have been some of your biggest struggles or roadblocks in really getting this model rock solid and getting buy in? And in keeping it sustained since 95? That’s no easy task?

Luthern Williams 24:16
Well, I think it’s the you know, I think it’s it’s a difficult financial model that, you know, I think you have to make very tough decisions and stay focused on your goal, and not allow yourself to drift away from what the core priorities are, because I always say, if there’s a hard way to do it, Nero’s is gonna do it.

Luthern Williams 24:49
So I think there’s an acceptance that that we’ve chosen a different path, one that’s more challenging and more complicated and At times, it’s enough to drive you insane. And, but when you see what it cultivates, and people and in children, it’s just amazing. I mean, we had an employee who worked here. And she said, you know, she was on the staff, and she said, she became so inspired at the school that she’s decided to pursue her own Higher Education, which she hadn’t, you know, she had sort of moved away from that. Wow. And so it’s wonderful. I think those are the moments that you hold on to during the difficulties.

Maureen 25:40
Absolutely, yes. Luthern, why are you why are you at new road school? Why are you passionate about making sure that there’s authentic connection and authentic learning? And, I mean, you have a great educational background, it could be doing a lot of things. How did you get drawn into being an educational activist?

Luthern Williams 26:00
Well, because I was a misfit in school, you know, I really didn’t fit. You know, I was the kid who, you know, really was, my dad taught me how to read very early. And so when I got to kindergarten, I already knew how to do those things. And, and so I was just bored. And, you know, I get up and start, you know, doing different things. And, you know, and my teachers think, I think some of them thought I belonged in special ed, in one actually called my mom and told her your child is very special. And he belongs with other very special children. Oh, no, not us. And, and it was if suddenly, my mom’s advocacy for me, that allowed me not to be put in classes that weren’t appropriate for me. And I was completely disengaged. And I hated school until I got into college. I played the game was a super overachiever because my dad demanded it. But school was not where I learned. You know, I learned outside of school. I played the game in school.

Maureen 27:12
And sadly, that’s what so many kids do. They’re checking off the box, and they do school well, and it has no connection to their life for their future. That’s Wow. So how did you turn it around from being that misfit to being somebody making sure other kids weren’t?

Luthern Williams 27:28
When I was in college, what was really interesting is I was 3000 miles away from my parents for the first time. So I think that helped a lot. I got to make some of my own decisions. I was living independently, and I got to choose my own classes and, and I fell in love with learning again there. And I think in the course of it, I discovered myself because I, I had my parents, my dad had already decided I was going to become an attorney. I was going to go into bush and I was going to run for office. I mean, my life had been planned. The danger of having, you know, been named it after your parents, you know. But I think in my senior year of college, I was all set to go to law school, and I started dreaming about teaching. And what was really interesting because I didn’t really like kids when I was growing up. It was a very odd, you know, thing that came up. And then I started remembering that my favorite toy was my chalkboard. And then I used to force my cousin’s to play school and I used to tutor all I told my parents, I’m going to try teaching for one year, and I promise you, I will go to law school. And bam, there you go.

Maureen 28:47
No law school. Oh, I love that. Let’s pivot and talk more just about you because I think it’s really interesting to know the person behind the wonderful educational evolution. So I have some turbo time questions for you. Are you ready?

Luthern Williams 29:06

Maureen 29:07
Okay, what’s the last book you read?

Unknown Speaker 29:11
Oh, the last book I read while I’m reading a couple simultaneously. But culturally responsive teaching is probably the last one I completely finished. I have a few open right now.

Maureen 29:28
Love it. Who are two inspirational folks or characters that you’d love to meet?

Unknown Speaker 29:37
Frederick Douglass is my absolute hero. I just have such admiration for him. And Nelson Mandela.

Maureen 29:47
Yes. What is one TED Talk that inspires you?

Luthern Williams 29:52
Oh, there is I can’t remember her name, but it’s like everybody has a champion, and

Maureen 29:58
Rita Pearson. Every child deserves a champion. Every

Luthern Williams 30:02
child needs a child. Every child

Maureen 30:06
is God. Amen. Yeah, no kids really off dangling. Everybody should feel like they have one person in their corner that’s gonna go Yeah, support them fully. Love it. Um, what what’s the biggest thing you wish folks knew about true academic rigor?

Luthern Williams 30:25
I wish they knew it was about, not about how much you’re able to accomplish, under what time limits, but it is about really going deeply into inquiry with an open mind. And hopefully, taking some insights away from that, that you can apply in the world. Wow,

Maureen 30:51
deeply. Inquiry, open mind, takeaway, very different from memorizing everything I need to know for an AP test.

Luthern Williams 31:03
We can, you know, it’s interesting, our you know, our upper school director, he has a PhD from Stanford in chemistry, and he was teaching at one point, our advanced chemistry class, and he basically told the kids, you know, I don’t know everything about chemistry, let’s start there data what I was saying, because that’s impossible.

Maureen 31:23
Mm hmm. Yay, and how freeing if your teacher doctor is saying this, it’s like, okay, maybe I have permission to be a learner and inquiring is allowable, good for him. What is a pet peeve of yours, this can be professional or just in your personal life?

Luthern Williams 31:43
I think the expression, you know, speak my truth. And because I think it’s the way that it’s conceived as almost as if it’s objective church truth. And I think, you know, I am more interested in people speaking their perspective. And we can all speak our perspective. But I think there’s something that happens when people assume that their truth is the truth. And

Maureen 32:13
that word truth tends to be loaded with that, that this is the true false. It’s binary. Yeah, perspective. Yeah, definitely. What is it passion that you bring to new roads.

Luthern Williams 32:30
Um, I love to learn, I think I’m a true nirodh student in that sense that I’m curious about everything. And I can get lost and go down the rabbit hole in any topic, and, you know, end up reading for hours and hours. And I’m like, now I’m gonna have to stay up all night to answer those emails.

Luthern Williams 32:56
So I could probably work on that one a little bit. I’m a little digressive. But

Maureen 33:02
I think that also helps you foster that in students because you value and liberate yourself. Nice. So

Luthern Williams 33:09
I think I think and I think that’s part of why I’m devoted to the school is that I think I would have benefited from this kind of school.

Maureen 33:16
Yeah, yeah. How can others be activists to rethink diversity and rigor, and student agency and transform our schools? If somebody’s like, Yeah, well, you guys, your founders, you Yeah, you can do this, but I can’t, how can others I’m going that direction.

Luthern Williams 33:36
Because I think we see things. You know, I think the way that schools do change, whether it’s large school systems, or it’s smaller, you know, private schools or site based schools, I think quite often, the way that change happens is top down, which I don’t think is always particularly effective. I’m a big believer in seeding ideas one at a time and watching them grow and, and creating the conditions in which they will grow. So I think, you know, one teacher doing something differently that the kids experience differently, creates a shift in the in the kids and like, I’ve seen this happen in schools where the kids have a different experience of what education can be, and they want more of it. And more of their friends want more of it. So change can actually I think the most effective change is actually see that from experiments going on in schools and testimonies that are given either their teachers or their students, because I think people have to know the value of something before they go along with it.

Maureen 34:44
I agree. Yes. And top down, rarely works. And what is something that most people don’t know about you?

Luthern Williams 34:56
I think that they don’t know that I was a football player in college. Hmm.

Maureen 35:03
I mean, you sound like a really bright person to have had your head banged around multiple times.

Luthern Williams 35:09
Oh, well, I always sounded like I hit my head bang. Okay, so no, I don’t think you know the difference

Maureen 35:22
for you well, and that brings, I mean, sometimes we again have that dichotomy a scholar or an athlete, it’s

Luthern Williams 35:27
like, says who? Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s interesting. Um, I am, and I don’t know that people know, I am kind of an education nerd. Like I. I am constantly reading about education.

Maureen 35:45
Yes, I love it. That’s a pretty good thing to be a nerd about.

Luthern Williams 35:50
I think I’m a little cooler than that. Like.

Maureen 35:54
Okay, okay, I wrote tell you a secret. Oh, I’d like to end the podcast with a magic wand moment. So Lutheran, if you had this proverbial magic wand, and could transform our K 12 schools, what would you wish for?

Unknown Speaker 36:15
I would wish for all administrators and teachers to have two assumptions. One is to assume that all children are worthy. And number two, is to assume that all children have an essential gift. And it’s our job to help them discover it.

Maureen 36:46
Yes, that that is so amazing. And it takes the onus off of kids memorizing and producing on written tests to how are we honoring that duty, to discover, to unpack, to nurture to bring forth Wow Luthern I love what you’re about. I love that you’re an education nerd. And everything that’s going on at New roads School. Thank you so much for being our guest today.

Luthern Williams 37:16
Well, thank you for this wonderful trip.

Maureen 37:30
Wow, 35 Middle School electives 65 High School electives. With working artists and experts as the instructors. Imagine how much a student could explore and learn about their strengths and interests, and areas that they never want to pursue again, who they are, before they head out to make life and career decisions. This is astounding way to flip education and make it about exploration. I also like the creative links project through their humanities program to intentionally ask students to express their understanding through varied media. Boy, the metaphor in the example Lutheran gave was powerful and profound, and rippled through the students continued education. How often our schools stopped with research and writing, when they could employ Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences and empower youth to use their own particular language to demonstrate knowledge. We all know it takes secure attachment to make sure that students are seen, heard and valued. And this is vitally important so that students feel safe and are ready to learn. Neuroscience absolutely supports this vital foundation.

Maureen 39:02
Recently, we had Dr. Kristin Miller on talking about how important this aspect is to make sure our learners are connected before we dive in. And then new road school moves forward into radical inclusion so that every student feels like a vital member of the learning community. And that being together is better than anything. I also love that parents get to change and grow right along with their children. When Luthern mentioned the Great Expectations, quote, it was definitely sad. We know that best intentions guide us as parents and educators, but we often try to make on a child. And this breeds the idea that a child has to change or be different to be loved or acceptable. It definitely contributes to our growing mental health crisis. Maybe we each could look at it. How we can do a better job of seeing and valuing the unique contributions of each youth.

Maureen 40:06
And it was definitely a mic drop listening to Luthern share his magic wand wish. What if we all could begin to assume that all children are worthy, and that all children have an essential gift, and as parents and educators is our duty to discover these gifts, it sounds like something each of us can be doing immediately. Let’s make the education evolution happen now. Our children can’t wait. Many of the education evolution podcast guests are joining me as members of the act of collective in providing a free summit on April 28 and 29th. Come listen and ask questions and learn with us. Go to The links in the show notes and register today, parents, you’re going to come away with many powerful ideas and educators. This will be a place to affirm the innovations you believe in, and you’ll even get continuing ed units for this time. What a fantastic way to end the month of April. We hope to see all of you at the ED active collective Summit. Thank you for being a part of the education evolution.

Maureen 41:29
I know how challenging it is to make changes inside your own school or community. I’ve spent years working with schools around the world on creating learner centered programs. And it always struck me how much schools were able to get done with the right tools and guidance. If you’re ready to make changes like this in your own school, let’s talk and put together an action plan. Visit for a free 15 minute call. And let’s see if we’re a good fit for more work together. Thanks again for listening. To support the education evolution. Subscribe so it lands in your podcast app and gets out to more decision makers. Then rate and review it. For more information in shownotes go to education education evolution listeners. You are the ones to ensure we create classrooms where each student is seen heard, valued and thriving. We are in this together and we need you. Let’s go out and reach every student today. Thank you for listening, signing off. I am Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your partner in boldly reimagining education

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