The Heart of Learning is Intentional Teaching with Miriam Plotinsky
October 18, 2022
The Heart of Learning is Intentional Teaching with Miriam Plotinsky

Teachers are taught to differentiate their instruction to meet the needs of all students. But what does that even mean? It’s not about lowering standards and expectations so one person’s mastery is different from another’s. Instead it’s about adding more supports for students who need it while keeping targets the same.

The only way to do this is to be more intentional about teaching, more learner-centered. We need to talk to our students more and truly listen to the feedback we receive from them. And then act on that feedback.

This week on the podcast I’m talking to author and instructional specialist Miriam Plotinsky about the challenges that exist in classrooms today and how we can navigate this new high-tech, post-Covid world our youth are coming of age in.

Listen in as we discuss the importance of leading schools from a teacher’s perspective, how to make student interactions more valuable, what’s going on with youth mental health, how to give students voice, and so much more.

About Miriam Plotinsky:

Miriam Plotinsky is an author and instructional specialist who addresses challenges in both teaching and leading across schools with a wide range of differentiated needs. A strong advocate for student-centered learning, she provides coaching and professional development for teachers and administrators. She has written Teach More, Hover Less: How to Stop Micromanaging Your Secondary Classroom and Lead Like a Teacher: How to Elevate Expertise in Your School (W.W. Norton, 2022 & 2023). Miriam is widely published in education publications such as Education Week, Edutopia, ASCD Express, Middleweb, The Teaching Channel, EdSurge, K-12 Talk and Education World and is a frequent guest on education podcasts internationally. She is also a National Board-Certified Teacher with additional certification in administration and supervision. She can be found on her website or on Twitter: @MirPloMCPS.

Jump in the Conversation:

[1:40] – Evolving school transformation for Miriam
[3:04] – Where in the world can you start with differentiating learning and teaching
[4:49] – It’s not about lowering expectations; it’s about giving students the supports they need
[5:30] – How to let learning be more learner-centered
[7:15] – Where do we have structure to offer more choice
[8:46] – Why student voice is more than choice
[9:30] – Student voice is something we need to empower them to express by building a level of trust that goes beyond personal relationships
[11:20] – What to focus on to help kids develop a sense of identity
[14:55] – Youth mental health: what’s going on and what can we do about it in our schools
[18:35] – Student learning and voice are important tools in supporting well being of youth
[19:01] – Safe classroom space is even more important
[20:07] – Grades should be based on how they are in relation to a learning outcome
[22:40] – Lead schools from a teacher perspective
[24:08] – Turbo Time
[26:32] – What people need to know about how teens learn
[27:38] – Something positive that’s come out of Covid
[29:34] – Miriam’s Magic Wand
[31:01] – Maureen’s Takeaways

Links & Resources



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 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 1:00
Hi Miriam it is so good to have you on education evolution today.

Miriam Plotinsky 1:12
It’s so great to be here. Thanks for having me. Yes.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 1:16
And listeners. today I’m chatting with Miriam Plotinsky author of many articles and books, including teach more, hover less how to stop micromanaging your secondary classroom. She is also an instructional specialist with montgomery county public schools in Maryland. And Miriam, you and I are both about our schools evolving. Where did this story of school transformation begin for you?

Miriam Plotinsky 1:45
It began with one class that I was teaching. And it was a class in creative writing. And I didn’t know how to teach it. It didn’t come with guidance or curriculum or anything like that. And it just evolved in such a way that I realized that I had a group of kids with me, and all they wanted to do was spend that hour every day expressing themselves through writing, and what a gift, you know what a gift it was for me to have them in that space. And so when they came up to me and said things like, well, I know that we’re working on this project, but can I really write this instead? I started to wonder why am I saying no to a child who wants to write and write more? And and he’s driven by that. And then I started to think, Okay, this class is working really well. And kids want to be here? How can we extend this to classes that are a little bit more, for lack of a better term, rigid in their curriculum expectations? So how can we take this approach and apply it everywhere? Thanks for a really begin,

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 2:46
I love that. And I know that you’ve applied that in your consulting and in your work with with teachers and school leaders, and extended that into looking at differentiated needs. Talk to us about that, because we get it none of us are identical. But how have I have a class of 30/10 Grade English students? Where in the world do I begin to differentiate with them?

Miriam Plotinsky 3:10
It’s such a tricky thing, because people think that differentiation means you change what you teach. And it’s not bad. It’s how you teach. And so that’s a really important distinction. So if I have 30 kids in my classroom, if I start to modify my instruction, instead of scaffolding it or supporting it, so the difference is that will be modified. Suppose I assign, you know, a three paragraph essay, and the student is struggling, if I modify it, I say, okay, just give me one. That’s okay. And I’ve lowered the expectation. And that’s why I expect students to stop. Whereas if I keep the expectation the same, you will get to these three paragraphs, and I’m going to provide scaffolds to help you get there, we’re going to sit and we’re going to have some small group rotations, I’m going to have one rotation for instruction, where we sit together and work on this so that we can get get past whatever obstacles you’re facing in this moment. And for now, maybe we start with one but you will get to three paragraphs, it’s a different approach. Sometimes it’s looking at things in just a progression. Right now, here’s the base model of what we’re doing. And this is standards aligned to what we need to do. And then here’s the spicy version. Or here’s, here’s just a different and you know, you keep embellishing it embellished, embellished, right, but it’s not, we’re going to expect less of you in the long run. That’s not what it is. And it is it’s not simple, but it’s doable.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 4:32
Absolutely. And I love that distinction. It’s not less, it’s saying, Hey, we’re going to add in more supports, but we’re heading to the same target with different tools, different timelines, but the same target. It’s a very different

Miriam Plotinsky 4:46
Yes. Well, because we have the standard, right, the standard is what we expect him to do if I’m baking a cake, and the standard is you know, smooth frosting and even layers as that listing to one side. And I have a culinary student who gives May something that’s not quite that standard. Am I lowering expectations saying, Okay, you’re gonna give me cricket cakes now on? Or this is a place where we’re starting and then we’re going to get there. So my expectations are going to remain high. Yes,

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 5:14
that makes so much sense that I think sometimes people slide into differentiation means lowering the bar. Yeah. Yeah. Good clarification. Thank you. Thank you. So then how do we, we’ve got the differentiation going on, how do we let learning be more learner centered, and not? This is my mandate, as teachers go forth and produce students.

Miriam Plotinsky 5:38
I really think that there’s this misunderstanding out there that when we let students make more choices, that we’re somehow handing everything over to them. And that’s not what it is at all. It’s just recognizing that students like adults, kids are just like adults, they learn certain ways better. And so when and where we can, we’re giving them that opportunity to make some choices. So if I have a certain number of activities, or projects that are happening in a week, I take a day or two out of my week and say, Alright, on these two days, we have three different things going on in the room, and you pick which one you do first, because I recognize that as a learner, you might prefer, you might be tired. And if we have an independent reading portion of class today, maybe that’s where you want to start. Or maybe the sort of person would like to get certain things over with. And so you’re going to write this first. So when we talk about a learner centered space for recognizing that, while we can’t always meet students exactly what they want to do on that given day or time, we can do it sometimes. And we can also listen to them more and not consider that our job is to fill them up with anything your children are not, they’re not empty, they come with so much. And I get so frustrated and up people who think that our job is to somehow transfer whatever’s in our heads over to them. That’s not the goal. We’re not creating students in our in which

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 7:01
absolutely, we all want choice. I I still remember way back when I took parenting with love and logic, it was never about your kid will not wear socks. It’s like, Hey, do you want to wear the red socks? With the green socks? You know, it doesn’t have to be put the socks on right now? Where do we have within our structure room for kids to have more choice? Yeah.

Miriam Plotinsky 7:23
And then even when there isn’t a choice, pretending that it’s a choice so that if a student comes up to you, or you’re you’re noticing a student in their class who’s not doing what they’re supposed to be doing, and you walk over to them and say what’s happening, and they say, I’m not doing this, you can also say, well, there is a choice, you can continue to not do your work, or you can do your work with not doing your work, I’m really worried about what’s going to happen with your grade, and what’s your success? So is there something I can do to help you make a different choice, and that was a power stroke.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 7:51
That’s so important. And they know, you’re telling them I care, I don’t want this consequence. And I’m here, how can I help is very different from you have to or I have the power to punish you or to give you a zero or to keep you after class, which is a very different message. And I think sometimes we default when we feel trapped. But if we’re aware that, you know, in practicing, hey, I can offer this instead of getting defensive or letting my ego get involved. I think we can all be guilty of that in especially adolescence, boy, oh, boy, do they know how to find my buttons?

Miriam Plotinsky 8:27
Really easy. I made my own at home know how to do that more than the ones that I work with outside of my home. But yeah, they know how to do that. And if you don’t give them anything to push back against they let up.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 8:36
Right, right. Yeah, that’s their default. I’ll push back if I have to. But yeah.

Miriam Plotinsky 8:43
Love it.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 8:44
Talk more about student voice. People talk about agency voice choice. But that whole voice piece, I think, is more than choice. What how would you define it?

Miriam Plotinsky 8:57
So interesting that you asked that question because I just started writing my third book all about how we build student identity. So that by the time they leave our classrooms, they have a sense of self that truly guiding them into life and in a long lasting way. And one thing, and I addressed this in the second stage of teach more hover less when I talk about reframing relationships. But student voice is something that we need to empower them to express by building a level of trust that goes beyond personal relationships. So essentially, I might know a lot about a kid personally, they might be my next door neighbor. All sorts of things happen with kids, or we know a lot about them because we want to find out more about who they are. Wow. And that’s that’s great. But what gives a student that confidence to speak up in a class and know that they will be shot down or disregarded or dismissed or ignored or just sort of shrugged off? It happens so much more than we think it does. So I like to distinguish between a relationship that builds academic identity and sense of self and that kind of voice, versus the sort of banter you have in the hallways or before class or after class. It’s a much richer experience when you empower students to have voice about the learning. And then you don’t have these stereotypes like, Oh, these are the quiet kids. I don’t think the quiet kid for the most part really exists. That’s just a theory I have. It’s just someone who doesn’t feel comfortable in your space.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 10:26
Yes. Because you know, they have ideas spinning, they’re not sharing them. And why have we created that place where they really can say, I don’t get this or this makes no sense. Why are we wasting our time doing this? Just because we’re not hearing it doesn’t mean they’re not thinking being read,

Miriam Plotinsky 10:44
or they’re not going home and being pretty loud.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 10:47
Exactly. Yeah, we’re even out into the hallway or the lunchtime.

Miriam Plotinsky 10:51
It’s, you know, I was the quiet because sometimes a class and I’m not a quiet person, but it was when I felt unsafe. I’m not saying that in a in a very dramatic kind of way. I’m say, for whatever reason, I didn’t feel like the teacher would have my back. Now, if I said something and took a risk. So we it’s our job to create a space for kids don’t feel that way.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 11:12
Have my back. If I’m taking a risk. Yeah, I agree. Boy. So what, which is held teachers, Hey, guys, you want your kids to have to develop that sense of identity, and be willing to take risks, here are two or three things you really need to focus on making sure are part of how you’re doing your job, what would you suggest?

Miriam Plotinsky 11:37
The first thing is how we respond to students when they do speak in our classes. So when a student makes a contribution, never just move on? Never say, okay, all right, great, who’s next? These are common things we do, usually because of time, and we want to make sure we get a breadth of response. But instead, I really like to stick with a response. And even if it’s not, the one that we want, is sort of uncover the student thinking behind it and say, Well, tell me a little bit more about what you just add. Let’s talk about how this uncovers our learning for today. So the first thing is really validating every response we get from students that that’s the first thing I would do. Another thing I would do is that when we asked for student voice to use it, so we’d like our surveys and our Google Forms, and they’re really convenient, but what do we do with them? So at the end of every class I teach, I get feedback. And it might be one question, or it might be a series of questions. And then the next class, I’m showing what I called feedback on feedback, which is, you told me that you wanted to have more group discussions. So today, here’s what we’re going to do. Or today, here’s what we’re not going to do. But here’s why. And there’s a reason. So you’re showing students that what they say really matters, and that you care about their opinions and their ideas, and that it changes the class. And then And then the third thing that I would do to support that voice and make it a risk free environment is to wherever you can say, say yes. When you’re doing a project, and it’s designed a certain way, and a student comes up to you and says, Can I do it this way? Instead? Sometimes the answer is no. And there’s a good reason for it. You know, if you’re testing a certain skill or standard, you can’t change what you’re doing. But if they’re saying it, and you can make a change, then encourage them and say, Alright, well, this is our learning goal, and you can meet it this way. And that will help build that sense of I can ask this teacher to do things, and they will sometimes let me do it. But all the time, they will listen to me and tell me why it is or is impossible. And respect my thoughts.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 13:33
Nice. Yes. And that second one feedback on feedback boy, and our microscope, we do exit ticket, sometimes it’s just doing formative assessment. But sometimes it is gathering information, and we use it. But how often do we go back and say, Hey, because you said this, this is I think we’re missing that step. We want their feedback. But we’re not connecting the dots. And I know I’m guilty of assuming, and also sometimes with my teachers, assuming they know Oh, yeah, this is because I got your feedback. But connecting that dye is really important, right.

Miriam Plotinsky 14:12
And we all were, we’re all guilty of making assumptions, we all use our intuition. And then something that happens is that when we do enough of this, we realize that our intuition is not as on point as we think. So was circling back to students and I also do it with adult learners. I taught a group of adults last night, and I do it and training sessions as well. We’re holding ourselves accountable. And say, you know, you said you want to move around work tonight, we are going to move around more. We’re gonna get up we’re gonna find our learning partners. And when I say stand up, if you’re not standing up, I’m gonna push a little bit because you said you want this, that kind of thing. And so you’re, again, you’re making those connections very explicitly with your students.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 14:50
Very important. Yeah. I am really worried Miriam about teen mental health. I was worried For the pandemic, my daughters are in their 20s. And I see their cohort, more anxiety, more depression, more discontent. And I see it all the way down to elementary with what’s going on and what, what can we be doing about it in our schools.

Unknown Speaker 15:19
So what’s going on it and it’s just a theory because, you know, my area of expertise is, is mainly in the instructional realm and not as much in the SEL around. But if I had to, to share a theory about and I would say that the stability of our educational structures is so uncertain. And that’s been uncovered for kids over the past three years, in a way it never was before. It is one thing I noticed, pre versus mid pandemic, for the pandemic, you have students who are in very difficult home situations, and school is a safe space to go. And not only a school safe space, but teachers aren’t there. They’re reliable, they’re, they’re going to help you. You fast forward a couple of years, even at this point in the pandemic, but definitely a year ago, which was a year that nobody really wants to look back on because it was unpleasant everywhere and unpleasant is a mild word, yes. And not the school is not the same place anymore. You know, all the masking and distancing all that aside, teachers kept disappearing, and they’re sick. I mean, what was happening, they were crying waves come through. And I remember January in February, last year was insane. And so we’re used to having student absenteeism be something that we’re concerned about, but all of a sudden, we’re concerned about teacher absenteeism. And kids realized, wait a minute, the people I thought I could rely on were here, either. And so that might be one thing that was happening. And another all sorts of other things. Like you said it was it was a problem before the pandemic and I have teenagers in the house, and I see what they’re dealing with that my generation did not have to deal with just the constant visibility because to pressure those phones. I’m telling you, I held off on the phones as long as I could, because I saw what it was doing to my students.

Miriam Plotinsky 17:02
Yes. And what it does to me too, I’m not gonna I’m not I’m not immune. So I had better coping, you know, but it’s not. It’s not good. It’s, it’s not and just,

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 17:15
I read a book on girls a, you know, I want to just stay current on what’s the research out there for girls, and that we’ve gone back generations to where the body awareness was, like, dis diminished, and now it’s back into selfie at this angle, and that, and the phones and all of this social media have actually made our young, empowered young women more into worried about appearances. And they had been for years and years.

Miriam Plotinsky 17:44
I was like, No, I know what I know. It’s, it’s, I can’t even conceptualize what it’s like, and then also to have so much of the, what’s coming at you be invisible to adults. Yes. So that’s the other thing is we don’t see, you know, anything from mild to major forms of bullying, we don’t see how kids are interacting. And it’s, it’s just frightening. It’s incredibly frightening. And I was I was just scrolling through my newsfeed earlier. And there’s a girl who has family sued, essentially social media for her demise, you know that she became suicidal? And they’re blaming all of that. And yes, that is pervasive.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 18:27
Yes, absolutely. So what would you suggest teachers knowing what you know about student learner centered learning, student voice identity. To me, it doesn’t just sound like good learning, it sounds like these tools are really going to be important for us supporting the overall well being of our youth.

Miriam Plotinsky 18:52
Right. So within our scope of practice, which is for teachers, and we’re in our, for instructors, the whole safe classroom space becomes even more important, because when students are with us, you know, we’re my backgrounds in second secondary, so you see students for, you know, 45 minutes to an hour ish, once a day or every other day, when they’re in that space, you need to be doing everything you can to know who they are, to know what they need. And to be very careful about the messages you send. For example, if you have a student who is frequently tardy to class just late or who’s absent when they do walk into your classroom. You don’t get sarcastic you don’t say hello, great to see you. Yes, you thank them for being with you. You’re grateful for their presence and you you make the interaction a valuable one. Also, you mentioned ego earlier how our ego gets in the way. We have to get rid of that. It’s not personal. If a child doesn’t do homework for me, if they can succeed on my assessments without being in my class, that’s not a personal thing. And I should actually be happy that they can meet the learning outcomes. It means that they’re doing some thing well, and I shouldn’t be offended that it didn’t need my instruction to get no, that’s my thing in the way. So we really have to think about how we assign grades and consequences and the messages we send I’m very against behavior based grading. I don’t think it has a place in in classrooms, even even again, disregarded the SEL component. Why would we continue as a student by grading them for things like attendance and participation, when a grade should be based on how they are in relation to a learning outcome. And when we do that, sadly, we’re muddying the waters for them. And then they think the grades are meaningless. And they also think that grades are personal, which they shouldn’t be, they should be objective. So then that’s just good practice. And then if we’re thinking about keeping kids stable and unstable time, don’t add to it by having everything be laced with these threats. Because they are threats. They might be applied, but they’re there. And so as teachers, what we can do to support kids, is to take that component away, and to support their learning and be happy that they’re there when they’re there to learn with us.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 21:06
Yes, yes. And I know that grades can be used as a stick a carrot. But truly, yes, I early on, I had a lot of training on we grades have to be a reflection of what the kids can demonstrate his knowledge not? Did they do 500 math problems, but what, you know, what’s there mastery and wood? That’s a tricky one, because it’s hard to get kids to mastery a lot of times without rehearsal. And so we confuse the two, a

Miriam Plotinsky 21:41
tough one, and then well, and also holds him accountable as a teacher for knowing what that means. You know, what, what does a student have to be able to do to reach a standard in sixth grade versus in seventh grade versus an eighth grade? And if we know those, those distinctions, then we can more accurately assess students and we don’t feel as much pressure to grade other things. And we also don’t have your the fresh list sometimes comes up as well. If I don’t know assign a consequence to this than kids, Walt’s no attention they weren’t. Well done. That’s a classroom management concern. Yeah. That can be addressed, but it shouldn’t be addressed in the assessment realm.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 22:18
Exactly. And we do confuse those two. Is it some area and what’s next? I heard you talking about another book. I did one and it was totally one and done. Thank you. I didn’t chapter in another book. And it’s like, thank you. That’s like, yeah, so I’m impressed that you’re going at it again, talk to us about this?

Miriam Plotinsky 22:40
Well, I have I have to in authentic pipeline. So what is what is coming out in March of 2023. It’s called the like a teacher ads all about how to lead schools with a teacher perspective. Because too often administrators and teachers are at odds. And it’s the it’s what I call the empathy gap. As soon as you leave teaching, you leave the classroom, you’re not as clearly understanding what teachers are going through. And the longer you’re removed from the classroom, the more things change. So the book has some very practical suggestions for how to how to close that gap. And then I just signed the contract for number three. And that’s the book about as yet to be titled, about, about building student academic identity. And then No, I’m using writing, because that’s my area of specialty am secondary literacy and English, in English language arts, and then moving that beyond it to all the other content areas. And in I’m hoping beyond schools so that when kids get older, they still have that sense of Providence and what they can do, because I know that’s something that would have been really great for me when I was a student. And I just want more kids to be able to experience that.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 23:51
Wonderful. Wow, I can’t wait to read them. So I’m gonna have to stay posted.

Miriam Plotinsky 23:57
Yes. I’d love to chat about them. It’s always fun to talk about this stuff.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 24:01
Yep. Yep, we’ll have to have you back on. Definitely. I want to pivot and just get to know you a little bit. So are you game for a couple of turbo time questions?

Miriam Plotinsky 24:12
Let’s do turbo time. That sounds like fun. Some.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 24:14
What is the last book you read?

Unknown Speaker 24:18
So what I do is because I spend a lot of time with literature, I’d like to have fun books on weekends. So I just read I don’t know if you’ve heard of Emily Henry. She writes popular fiction. And she wrote a book called book lovers, and I just finished it. And it’s really cute. It’s about a literary agent and editor who meet cute and work on a book together in a small town. It’s all that it’s all about all those fun tropes, and she makes fun of those tropes, too. And so I really like that.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 24:44
Hello, yes. How the two inspirational folks you’d love to meet.

Unknown Speaker 24:49
I live in the DC area and one of my heroes is Jose Andreas. He’s a chef and restaurant Sure, but he also does a lot of humanitarian work. Like for example, um, after hurricanes in Puerto Rico, he’s there her, and he went to Ukraine, and he’s been helping out there as well. So I’d love to have a conversation with him. Am I allowed to pick people who aren’t alive anymore? Of course. Okay. So, George Eliot, she was a writer. She wrote a lot of famous literature, Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda. And she went by George Eliot because she wanted to be published at the time. So she broke a lot of barriers. And she saw things in this very progressive way. And I just wish I can have a conversation with her about what made her different than everyone else at the time.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 25:31
Oh, yeah. How about your favorite place to travel.

Miriam Plotinsky 25:35
So very, very cliche. I love beaches and warm weather, I will say I always want to see Prince Edward Island in Canada, because I loved the LM Montgomery books growing up and Green Gables and a really obscure one called the Blue castle that I loved. So I just want to see it, because the way she describes it, I could tell that she had this deep love for her whole. And when someone feels that way, I’m gonna see why.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 26:01
Yeah, document they have that attend talk that inspires you.

Miriam Plotinsky 26:06
So there was one called the power of the lease mindset and success. Eduardo. I’m trying to remember his last name. But it is explained growth mindset so beautifully. So if if you’re just sort of trying to growth mindset one on one, and you’re not sure what it is, watch the power of belief mindset. It’s it’s so powerful, and it really explains it so well.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 26:28
Nice. And what’s the biggest thing you wish folks knew about how teens learn?

Miriam Plotinsky 26:36
They learn like us that, you know, there’s a parts of their brains are still developing now the prefrontal cortex and all that. Absolutely. But they’re more like adults than you think.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 26:46
That’s wise. I love it.

Miriam Plotinsky 26:50
They’re more like us than they’re not like us, if that makes sense.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 26:53
Yeah. What’s the passion that you bring to secondary education?

Miriam Plotinsky 26:58
I really want to help the kids who aren’t seen. And it’s just something that happens all the time you have kids, and you think, Oh, they’re quieter, or they’re trying to be invisible, or oh, they’re, I don’t really think other kids fine. But you know, I’ve never really developed much of an opinion. Those are people. And so I want to have those people out. Because they’re awesome. We just don’t have enough emphasis on how to figure out them.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 27:25
Exactly. And chances are they are causing problems there. Right. It’s sad that it’s unseen. Exactly. Yeah.

Miriam Plotinsky 27:35

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 27:37
And what do you think is something positive that has come out of this insane COVID time?

Miriam Plotinsky 27:43
First of all, we’re having difficult conversations a lot more, which is a good thing. You know, even if we’re not having, personally, I wish the reward change. But we’re being more analytical about what we do. And I was so heartened to see how quickly teachers changed their practice and adapted it constantly. I know, it was exhausting and difficult. And there’s all sorts of negatives to it. But I saw so much good instruction during the pandemic. Yes. And yeah. It’s just incredible. Teachers are incredible. And I’d love seeing evidence of that in a variety of ways, all the time. And, you know, one thing I personally started doing in the pandemic was keeping a gratitude journal. And that’s really helped, as well just frame the good stuff. And I’m not saying be toxic with positivity, because that’s a horrible thing to do. But yes, do take a few minutes every day and think about what’s working. But teaching and with life.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 28:40
Yes. Agreed. And what’s something most folks don’t know about you?

Miriam Plotinsky 28:46
Um, so I like to I used to bake a lot more than I do now. Things have gotten busy but every week I bake it’s called Salah it’s a it’s a bread, that is in my culture and religion that we have every every Friday night and I bake it in different shapes and flavors. So our new year was last year and I baked apple shaped follows cinnamon roll kala. at Thanksgiving I’m doing Turkey shaped pumpkin. Yeah, I like to get creative. So it’s it’s fun because during the pandemic, I got really good. And the bread baking because I wasn’t going to the store much and and so now there’s just carrying over.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 29:23
Oh my gosh, how fun is that? Slab?

Miriam Plotinsky 29:26
It’s relaxing.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 29:27
Yeah, relaxing?

Miriam Plotinsky 29:28

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 29:30
No question. If you had a magic wand, and could transform the secondary education experience, where would you start?

Miriam Plotinsky 29:40
I think the place I would start would be beliefs and mindsets, because that’s the hardest thing to change. You know, we’re talking about this in my classes that I teach teachers and you know, the whole idea of you can change skill. It’s it’s much harder to change will and so You know, when I’m in a position to hire a teacher, I’m always looking for that belief that students can learn and also belief that things are, are moving and changing all the time that we can get better that we can get smarter that we can grow. I just would like everyone to have that. And to live it not just not just talk about what it is, but to do it to teach kids how to achieve through effective effort.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 30:24
Wow. Thank you, Miriam. I really appreciate all that you are doing to help the invisible learner to help differentiation truly be different ways to get that same goal. And just the awarenesses and writing more books. Kudos. So thank you for being our guest today.

Miriam Plotinsky 30:45
Well, thank you for having me. It’s been wonderful talking to you. And I love the work that you do as well. So I’m a big fan. Thank you.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 31:01
In the midst of her country struggling to address complex dynamics in school systems, Miriam takes us right back to the heart of learning, intentional teaching, we have to listen closely to Miriam. Because her powerful recommendations are nuanced. Differentiation is clarified from what I teach to how I teach. When do I unconsciously lower the bar as teacher or school leader to get to the endpoint are those times where I could have broken things down and provided more scaffolding so that everybody could reach the higher goal. I have to become extra aware of my patterns to make sure I keep the bar high with supports for all to reach the goal, which also means allowing for crossing the finish line at different times. Expecting lockstep results for individual learners won’t get us this differentiation to success result at my micro school forging safe relationships, and working so that each child feels seen, heard, valued and thriving, drive our work. Miriam has nuances to take safety and expression even deeper than we usually think about. Do our students have a sense of safety to speak up about what they’re learning and to offer opposing perspectives? Do we respond in a way that validates deep thinking and differing ideas, lots to think about right? Kids know when we are really listening. When that happens, interactions become a valued engagement, and not something a student gets through, so that the teacher moves on to another student magic wand. In this time of increased anxiety and depression. We owe it to our learners to help them access their growth mindset and know they can achieve and that there are effective efforts that can move them forward. hope and faith in oneself wonderful gifts each of our learners deserves. I can’t wait to read Miriam’s books, and continue to look at the nuances that can make such a huge difference in education. As always, thank you for being a part of the education evolution.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 33:35
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 education backslash consult 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 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

Transcribed by

Latest Episodes

Unlocking the World of Literacy with Marnie Ginsburg

Reading is simple, right? Not for everyone, and it’s especially challenging for those who don’t have access to all the tools and resources they need to be successful. This week we hear from Marnie Ginsburg, founder of Reading Simplified, who has dedicated her career...

Leading Like a Teacher with Miriam Plotinsky

The further away administrators get from their roots as teachers, the more they forget what it’s like to be in the trenches. The result is often either a real or perceived lack of empathy for teachers. Both teachers and administrators have vital roles in the school,...

Following the Evidence for Effective Policy with Darleen Opfer

We all want what’s best for our learners, but oftentimes biases get in the way of having productive conversations about what learning should look like in the classroom. Instead, we need to have evidence- and research-based conversations that support what truly works...

Latest Blog Posts

Why Isn’t Educational Change Happening?

School change is so much harder than I thought! When I did my doctoral research on school innovation and created a hands-on learning school-within-a-school in the 90s, I had no idea that I’d spend the next few decades making tiny changes. Changes that often...

Instilling a Practice of Gratitude in Uncertain Times

Thanksgiving looks different this year. Traditions are being shattered in 2020 and new realities are emerging. Thanksgiving is no exception. After Canada’s Thanksgiving in October, COVID statistics jumped, reminding us that, sadly, the pandemic isn’t taking a break...

Building Interdisciplinary Learning into Traditional Classrooms

A traditional classroom setting is just that...traditional. Teachers must teach specific subjects for a required amount of time, often using prescribed curriculum materials that may be a decade old. There’s little consideration for the individual learner--their...

Coming Soon!
Listen to Education Evolution on Apple Podcasts
Listen to Education Evolution on Spotify
Listen to Education Evolution on Stitcher
Listen on Google Play Music

Related Posts

Leading Like a Teacher with Miriam Plotinsky

Leading Like a Teacher with Miriam Plotinsky

This week on the podcast, we’re welcoming back author and educator Miriam Plotinsky. She’s sharing about her latest book, Lead Like a Teacher, and talking about what school leaders can do to build more trust and a more collaborative school environment.

Sign Up for Podcast & Blog Announcements
and Get our Free Guide:
Five Interdependent Hacks to Lead the Creation of a Learner-Centered Culture!

By providing your email address you are agreeing to receive email communications from Education Evolution.
You can unsubscribe at any time.