Interview with National Teacher of the Year

Notes from the Backpack

Episode 20 │Interview with National Teacher of the Year

Tuesday, May 5, 2020



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Show Notes

Rodney Robinson

In this special episode our hosts sat down with National Teacher of the Year, Rodney Robinson, in front of a live audience at National PTA’s Legislative Conference. During this candid conversation, Rodney offered his insights into the teaching profession, issues of equity, school discipline and the importance of recruiting more black educators.


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Like this episode? Share your thoughts with us via social media @National PTA and by using #BackpackNotes. Be sure to visit for more resources from today’s episode.


LaWanda: Hello everyone I am Lawanda Toney, Director of Communications at National PTA, and we are so excited to be here today. We're bringing you a very special episode of Notes From The Backpack. Helen, can you believe that we're here with such a big audience for the podcast?

[00:00:23] Helen: It is super exciting. Hi everyone. I'm Helen Westmoreland. Your Notes From The Backpack cohost and National PTA's Director of Family Engagement. As LaWanda said, tonight is an extra special episode because we are here in Alexandria, Virginia. Recording with a live audience, at National PTA's Legislative Conference

[00:00:46] Today, hundreds of PTA leaders took to the Hill to ask their congressional representatives to take action for our kids, and we are so thrilled to be having you as part of this conversation.

[00:01:01] LaWanda: I know usually it's Helen, me, two mics, headphones in a small room.

[00:01:07] Helen: A tiny room.

[00:01:08] LaWanda: So This is super exciting and so we're super happy to have our special guest sitting with us today. Rodney Robinson.  

[00:01:23] Rodney hails from Richmond, Virginia, and is the 2019 National Teacher of the year. Rodney is a 19 year teaching veteran who currently teaches at Virgie Binford education center, a school inside a Richmond juvenile detention center. As an educator, Rodney uses a whole child approach to education to help students who are most vulnerable.

[00:01:51] His passion about making sure his students, many of whom are both academically and personally struggling, get back on track so that they can graduate.

[00:02:00] Rodney is a proud member of the Richmond Virginia and National Education Association, and is a vocal and dedicated union activist. Outside of the classroom has been published three times by Yale University and has received numerous awards for his accomplishments, most notably the REB Award for Teaching Excellence. He has also worked with the Pulitzer Award winning author James Foreman, on developing curriculum units on race, class and punishment as a part of the Yale's Teachers Institute.

[00:02:38] Please welcome Rodney Robinson.

[00:02:47] Helen: So Rodney, we are so honored to have you here with us today to get an inside look of what it's really like to be a teacher. And what our teachers need to help our kids thrive.

[00:02:59] So let's start off with just a little bit about you. What made you decide to be a teacher and more so what made you decide to teach in probably one of the hardest schools in the country?

[00:03:11] Rodney: Well I became a teacher just to, excuse me, honor my mother. She wanted to become a teacher, but she never got a chance to due to segregation and poverty growing up in rural Virginia. However, she didn't let that stop her. She ran a in home daycare and it was just... She would say that it's the job of the older generation to take care of the young folks. And she would always tell me that, and she would tell everybody in the neighborhood, just if you need childcares drop your kid off, bring something to eat, pick him up at five, five in the evening. And so it was just really weird growing up cause I would go to sleep at night in the bed by myself and I would wake up in the morning and there'd be three more kids in the bed.

[00:03:51] So I'm wondering what happened. But you know, that was just my mom. She just had an open door policy. Anybody in the neighborhood, you know, whether you could afford it or not, just drop your kids off and she would take care of them. Of course, she had five kids of her own, so we were always there. She would always say what's 10 when you have 5 here already, you know, but it was just...

[00:04:11] Just those lessons she taught me, and just watching her handle every kid in the neighborhood, everybody thought they were her favorite, even though I knew I was, you know. But... And then when everybody went home, she taught me those lessons because I had a sister with cerebral palsy and my mother would often say is, I don't love you anymore or less than your sister. She just requires more of my time and so just watching those lessons growing up really, you know, kind of put the spirit of wanting to be a teacher in me. And then when I was in ninth grade, she decided she was going to go back to school and get her GED. And so it was just, I was in the back of the classroom cause I had just finished football, a band practice, and I'm doing my homework. She's in the front of the classroom helping her classmates doing her work and so she just modeled that behavior. And so just seeing that just inspired me to want to become a teacher. And so that's why I decided to become a teacher. And once I started teaching, I always felt I was needed in schools with high needs because, you know, I knew what teachers, how they made a difference in my life. And so I always wanted to work in schools that were, you know, not considered your, you know, best of the best schools.

[00:05:24] But to me, they're the best schools I've ever been at. And so, I started off my first year in Brown middle school in Richmond, Virginia. And if anybody in here works in the middle schoolers, there's a special place in heaven for you. And then, I moved on to George Whitman for two... Georgia... George Wythe High School, and then for 12 years I taught at Armstrong High School.

[00:05:50] Armstrong High School is one of those schools that's been racially, economically segregated from the rest of the city for a hundred plus years. All the issues you think of when you think of an inner city school. However, it was the best 12 years of my life. You know working in that community and diving in and getting to know the people. You know teaching entire families, you know I taught fam... Like literally five siblings would come through my classroom. And so I really got ingrained in that community and there was really, you know, just the, the best time.

[00:06:22] You know, people often say that school is so terrible. To me it was the best school in the, in the nation because of the love in that school. When you come from such a harsh tradition, everything is hard. But also, if you're a part of that community, the love is hard. And so they really love you. They really embrace you. But, after 12 years of working in that environment, you know, starting to suffer, you know, symptoms of burnout. And I didn't want to leave education, you know, and I didn't want to leave, you know, a high needs school. And so 2015 I got a call from, you know, my current principal, she's a friend of mine we've known each other for almost 20 years. And she called me and said, 'hey, do you know a teacher who wants to come down and work at the detention center?' And I was like, well, I don't know... They say, I, I'm, I'm, I'm playing. I just want you. I'm calling cause I want you to come down here to the detention center. And so I was like, mm, I'm not sure. Especially cause I'm claustrophobic.

[00:07:18] So the idea of going behind in a jail with locked doors did just did not sit well with me. But then of course, in 2015, that's when, the US Department of Education, they released the, excuse me, they released, report. And that report said that Virginia led the nation in referring students to the juvenile detention center. And so to me that was sort of a sign, you know, that was like, I could read books, I could, you know, talk about it, read reports. But what's better than field experience and so I moved down to the detention center to work with the students. So that I could see their stories and start to develop programs that will keep students out of jail. And so that's how I ended up at the juvenile detention center. And is, you know, clearly the best decision I've ever made because it's given me a platform to advocate for my students and what they need on a national level.

[00:08:10] LaWanda: That's so wonderful. you remind me... In season one of our podcast, we interviewed the former Secretary of Education, John King. And he talked a lot about the value of second chances and that where he was... He, he wouldn't be where he was today if it wasn't for a teacher who gave him a second chance.

[00:08:29] How important is that for you in your role, especially teaching at a juvenile detention center?

[00:08:35] Rodney: Well, we are America. America is really a country of second chances, and so I'll often tell my kids, you have a second chance. The best way to take advantage of that is a quality education, and it's my job to put you on a path to developing that second chance, because... I mean...

[00:08:53] Just everybody do me a favor on this mo- for a moment. I just want you to close your eyes for a second. All right?

[00:08:58] Think back to the worst thing you did when you were a teenager. I'll give a little more time for some y'all gotta think a little further than others.

[00:09:08] Now think about it. Imagine if everyone knew what you did. Imagine, you know, if your parents, guardians, your teachers, everybody knew what you did judged you for it. Would you still be where you are today? And so that's w- that's my kid's reality. They made mistakes and they're paying for them. But, I tell them something, you know, not to get too religious, but I tell them, God, don't make no mistakes. And so you're here for a reason. And so sometimes you have to sit yourself down in order to move forward. So this is your time to sit down, reset, refocus, and rededicate your life to doing the positive things. And so that's really my whole approach to the kids. And when they showed, when I showed them that I care about them and that I want them to succeed, it really, you know, encourage them to do their best.

[00:09:57] Helen: Could you talk more about that? Cause I think something every parent can relate to. Well now every person in this room who's closed their eyes personally too is, you know, sometimes you make some bad decisions or you see your child or a child struggling. And you are like you need to make some better decisions.

[00:10:13] Can you talk about how you do that in the classroom?

[00:10:22] Rodney: Well, the reality is my kids, the decisions they- they make are survival decisions. Society has often failed them in a number of ways, and so the decisions that they make are decisions that they need to survive in that immediate moment.

[00:10:36] So what we do is, number one, we try to alleviate whatever situation led to the problem and then try to teach them more conflict resolution skills, teach them how to better advocate for themselves. That's one of my big components of education, is to teach students how to advocate for what they need. How to go about the proper way of getting what you need and something as simple as you know, our kids...

[00:10:58] First of all who has teenagers in this room?

[00:11:01] Exactly how many times a day the kids eat, teenagers eat?

[00:11:06] All, all day, right? Well something... Is something like so imagine if you're a teenager and you only eat at 5:30, 12 o'clock and 5:10. So you're trying to have class at about nine o'clock kids aren't focused cause they're hungry. They, they're not paying attention and so they want a snack. So we said, 'you can get the snacks.' And so they had to write letters, they had to meet with the Mayor, city officials, state officials, federal officials. It's a six month process, but in the end they got the snacks.

[00:11:35] But more importantly, it taught them a lesson on self advocacy, advocacy. And that was really the point of it, to teach them how to say, 'Hey, I need help. Hey, this is the process in which to go about getting that help.' So that's really a big core component of our school, is to teach the students how to be better advocates for themselves and what they need so they don't resort to bad decisions to get what they need.

[00:11:58] LaWanda: PTA can definitely get behind that. All these advocates in this room.

[00:12:02] Helen: Great.

[00:12:02] LaWanda: That's awesome.

[00:12:04] Let's transition a little bit and talk about, families.

[00:12:08] How do families... What can they do to help the education situation?

[00:12:14] Rodney: Well, the families are the education system. One thing I often say is not the job of the teacher to educate the child. It's the job of the teachers along with the parents, the family, business, community leaders, state, local government officials. It's, everybody has to come to the table and make decisions that's best for the child. And so it's often, it's really important for schools to have that open relationship with parents, with families. And, and that's one reason I often attribute our success at our school is because we have an open door policy for families. You know, and it's weird that a child has to come to jail before the first time they get a principal or administrator or teacher who calls with good news or positive things about their child. And so it's really important that you keep that open door. And you view the parents as partners and not adversaries in educating their child because we don't know the kids. We just know a part of the kids. The parents and the families you're the one who truly, truly knows that kid. You're the one who can advocate for what's best for those for your child. And so don't let any school or any teacher intimidate you out of what you know is best for your child. And so that's really important to have that, for schools to embrace that and have that open relationship with families.

[00:13:30] Helen: What do you think, Rodney is...

[00:13:34] What are some of the things that you feel like over the years having worked with families to advocate for their kids that you either repeat over again or that you wish families knew from your perspective as a teacher?

[00:13:47] What... If they could peel back and look in the system, what would you say? Like, here's what you really need to know is going on.

[00:13:55] Rodney: Know that you have the power. Don't be intimidated by the system. See, the problem is a lot of parents, especially the parents in the schools i've taught at, they've had bad experiences in school themselves. And so when they walk into that environment, that anxiety, that intimidation, that everything that they built with now comes out. So a lot of them tend to not come to that environment. We see parents all the time, they're so active in kids' lives in elementary and middle, but then when they get to high school, they tend to fall back.

[00:14:24] No, we need you there just as much in high school as you where they're in elementary school because like I said, you know your child. You know, I could talk all day about what's best for the... How I'm going to figure out what's, how does this kid learn? But why do I need to do that when you're the parent and you're there. I can just call and ask you, 'hey, what works with this kid?' You know? Cause you know as a parent and as long as you have that open relationship, it works. And the key to building that relationship is community. You know, as a teacher, you can't just come to school, teach then go home. You have to ingrain yourself in the community. You have to have those relationships so that when you see a parent, the parent knows. You know, your first communication with the parents should not be a negative communication. It should always be a positive open door so that when you come to them with something negative, that wall of defense isn't up because they know you. There like, okay, I know that you care about this community. I've seen you out and about. So therefore I know that you're making a responsible decision for my child and I'm going to help you get my child on track and we can correct what's going on, or I'm going to advocate for what my child needs.

[00:15:31] Helen: Yeah.

[00:15:32] LaWanda: Both my parents were teachers in South Carolina. Middle school science teacher and a high school English teacher. And when I grew up, they were pillars of the community, like you said. They were ingrained in the community, kids came to our house. They were there all the time either asking for recommendations or getting extra help.

[00:15:54] Has that changed?

[00:15:56] Do you still consider yourself a pillar in the community?

[00:15:59] Rodney: I would like to say I am you know? I'm really, you know, I'm really ingrained into my community.

[00:16:05] One thing I often do when the students come to the detention center, I immediately ask them, what neighborhood are you from? You know, and by getting to that neighborhood, I'm going to find out within six questions, someone that you and I both know. So like the...  What's the six degrees is Kevin bacon, that game. And so I play that with my kids and we're going to find somebody that we both know. And so I tell the kids all the time, check my street cred. You know? I mean, I've, I've been in this neighborhood for a while working with people. If I haven't taught your brother. I'll guarantee I've taught a cousin, aunt, uncle or someone. And that's because I've been ingrained in that Richmond community, most specifically Eastern Richmond community for the past 20 years.

[00:16:45] LaWanda: That's Great.

[00:16:46] Helen: I want to hear a little bit about some of the difference you're making in your kids' lives. Cause I think for many folks in the general public, obviously not in this room or the folks listening, it's easy to say 'those kids', right? Those kids are in trouble. And that second chance is still hard to come by.

[00:17:03] Could you give us a few stories of a couple of your kids that have really touched you and where you feel like you've been able to make a difference?

[00:17:11] Rodney: Well, I don't believe in the, those kids philosophies. It's Our kids, my kids, you know?

[00:17:17] It's kinda funny is before I got married, you know, some years ago I was dating, I was on a date and the lady asked me, how many kids do you have? I said, about 1500. And shes like, 'What?'

[00:17:31] But I'm like im a teacher. Every, every student in that building is my kid. There's no such thing... Even if you're not in my class, you're my kid and I'm going to take care of you. And so we've had quite a few, you know, kids go on to do some, you know, some amazing things. We have kids who have left us and gone on to join like youth advocacy networks. They've given Ted talks. They've, pretty much have caused the State of Virginia to shut down a facility. They caused the State of Virginia to not build a new facility and then reinvest that money into diversion programs. You know, one of the things we really want to do is we want to create an experience at, a civic experience.

[00:18:12] You know, treat our children as Americans and show them what Americans really can do. And so we have a really good, you know, civics program and community outreach program. We have several kids that have left us and have joined the military because they, you know, we stress that type of civic engagement. And sometimes I tell them, sometimes you need a little different type of discipline or a new environment if you want to actually change, you know, it's hard to change when you're around the same people you've been around your entire life. Sometimes you need to try something different. So we have several kids who are in the military. We have kids that have left it... Cause one thing we do at our school is we have a jobs program. You know, if we have a kid that graduates and we know they're getting a release date, we try to get them as much industry certification as we can. And we even go as far as to place them in a job so that when they leave us, they actually are employed and they can make responsible living. Cause I remember a couple of weeks ago I was, I was talking to a former student. He worked at, you know, he worked in a grocery store now and you know, I hadn't seen him in the jail, you know, come back. And I said, Hey man, you good man. How you doing? You know? I was like, well, what made a difference? Why didn't you? You got, you know, so many other people come back. Why didn't you come back? He's like, I got a job. You know, I learned how to make legal money, you know, for the first time in my life. You know? But something that simple, that's, that goes back to that point where I was saying a lot of our kids crimes are crimes of survival.

[00:19:36] You know, I stole this because I was hungry and I needed to eat. I carried a gun because I needed protection for the situations I were in, I was in. So if we can help them alleviate those situations, we can really reduce the recidivism rate on a lot of our kids, or more importantly, we can put them on a path to productivity in life. And so we've had a lot of...

[00:20:00] And I mean, we've had a lot of success, but the reality is the recidivism rate is still too high. Yeah, you know, it's still, you know, 50% you know, so we really have a lot more work to do. And so, you know, even though we boast in Virginia, we have the lowest recidivism rate is to me, is not low enough. Our recidivism rate should be zero. And so I, we're not going to keep, stop working until we get that number closer to zero.

[00:20:29] Okay.

[00:20:30] LaWanda: Let's talk a little bit about students being able to see representation, in their schools. Black males being black males as teachers and other figures.

[00:20:41] We know that the majority of kids in public schools are children of color. However, only 18% of teachers are teachers of color, and only 2% are African American men. Have you witnessed how important your presence as a teacher is to other African American male students? And can you share your story.

[00:21:00] Rodney: It's, it's weird in America because we look at all these reports about the achievement gap, graduation gap, all these gaps. But to me, the report, that's the most important one was that report by Dr. Lindsey and her colleagues at John Hopkins that says, 'whenever the students get a teacher of color in elementary and middle school, they're 39% less likely to drop out at 19% more likely to go to college. To me, that should be the number one report. You know, we can talk about all the things we can do to achieve, to close the achievement gap and all these special programs. But reality is, it's right there in your face. If you get teachers of color in the classroom to help students of color, you will close that gap.

[00:21:43] And it's not just, you know, teachers of color to benefit students of color. You know white kids benefit from it as well. You know, because imagine how less racist our society would be if every child had a teacher of color in front of them. You know, you can see the humanity, you can get to know that person. And so, it makes you a better person because you've had that opportunity. And it's weird because I remember, we had our class reunion, you know, a couple of years ago. And my senior year, I remember our school hired a black Assistant Principal because they lost the discrimination suit, let's be honest. But that was their fix. 'Let's get a black assistant principal.' So, as we all were sitting around at the reunion, and we were talking about the reunion and all that... Nobody knew the name of, of our white principal.

[00:22:36] We literally had to look it up in a yearbook, but everybody knew Dr. Lewis. You know, black and white, because Dr. Lewis, you know, he was that person, that figure, for every student and that building. And so, I can't, you know, that's been my platform the entire year, is that we need more teachers of color in the classroom, specifically male teachers of color. Because it makes a difference, especially, you know, with young black boys because society...

[00:23:04] You know, with young black and brown boys and girl’s society tells them and media tells them all the negative things they're supposed to be. Shows them all the negative stereotypes of who they are. Well. I can counteract that. I'm in front of you every day as a college graduate with two degrees who's in a professional career, who's showing you all the people who look like you, who've done it as well. And so, we're, we're trying to counter that narrative and we're trying to, you know, just push them to be whatever they want. We need to get them out of that box of thinking that they're only supposed to be what the media tells them to be. You can have dreams. I mean, we had one student, and I forget... Students in jail for stealing dogs. You know, that's what he did. Dogs. He stole dogs and I mean dogs big businesses if you really know, you know. And so, I remember he got connected with the SPCA and so he's, cause he, he got joked by the other kids, like, you want to be a dog whisperer. You know, they was just making fun of him and all that. But the reality is that kid got out. You know, he started his own dog care, dog grooming dog walking business. Thanks to gentrification he makes more money than I do as a teacher. You know?

[00:24:17] And so, and that's what it's all about. If a kid comes to you, has a dream, we're not going to let your skin color dictate your dream. You know, we're going to let you be whatever you want to be.

[00:24:31] Helen: I want to pick up on this thread around equity and what does that really mean when we play it out in our school system? Because many folks here today, and I know you have also advocated not just for more school funding, but for more equitable school funding.

[00:24:48] Could you tell our listeners and folks in the room, what does that mean to you and why is that important?

[00:24:54] Rodney: Well, it's really important because we know not all kids start at the same point in life. You know, some kids need more, some kids need less. And the reality is if everybody's getting the same amount, well that kid who needs more is still being short changed. And so, it's really important to understand that. I remember when I won National Teacher of the Year, Dr. James Lane, who's our stump... State Superintendent in the State of Virginia, he took me on a tour of Virginia, you know, and there wasn't a... And he just wanted to show me some of the inequities of Virginia, you know, and it wasn't... It wasn't the Virginia you all know about it. It wasn't Northern Virginia, Alexandria, this area, or the beach, or Richmond.

[00:25:30] We're talking Southwest Virginia, you know, going down the side of a mountain on a one lane road, Virginia. And so it was really unique to see that and see the disparities in our, in our state. And so there was one County where the kids were... Brand new school. They were using STEM boss to plant agriculture. Then we go to the next County over and they don't even have textbooks or high speed internet. How do we expect those kids to compete against each other when these kids in this one County has been given such an advantage? And so we really need to understand, that we need to give the resources where it's needed and we can't give everybody an equal share. And one of the things that frustrates me about, as I talk about equity as I go around the nation and a lot of these people say, 'oh, we have this great equity program. We can introduce this new equity pro...' Equity is not a program!

[00:26:22] Equity is seeing a decision that needs to be made to give a student a fair shot and making that decision. No program is going to dictate that because programs are supposed to be universal. Equity is a word, does not universal. Equity means I see what needs to be done and I'm going to make that decision right here right now. Regardless of the consequences and so a lot of our politicians need to understand that.

[00:26:55] LaWanda: One of your other passions is mental health, right?

[00:26:58] Rodney: Yeah.

[00:26:59] LaWanda: Talk to us a little bit about the challenges that you see in mental health and education.

[00:27:04] Rodney: If one thing, it starts with the students. You know, our students are coming to us with all kinds of trauma and mental health. And I'm really glad to see that the foundation is starting a new thing to tackle suicide awareness and to bring life to suicide awareness. But we really need a trauma informed approach to, to our schools.

[00:27:23] You know, because I tell people I talk, it is so much harder being a kid today than it was when we were younger. You know?

[00:27:30] When you're a kid today, you're just slammed with information 24/7 before you're old enough to even understand it. Before even old enough to process it, you know? And then also you're getting bullied 24/7. You know, when we were growing up and we were, you know, let's say if there was a bullying case at school, well, we went home. You know?

[00:27:49] I didn't get bullied at home, but not, if you don't count my older brothers, I didn't get bullied at home. But you know, our kids don't have that luxury today. They is still constantly going on online, social media. And so it's really hard in our kids come to us with a number of mental health issue and schools aren't doing a good job of dealing with it. You know one of my big things is we need to eliminate school resource officers and put mental health workers in our school.

[00:28:20] Because, you know, if you have a school resource officer and the kid comes to school and gets into a fight well he breaks up the fight. But he didn't get to the root cause of that anger and the issue that was, that led to the fight. And so you've only delayed another fight in that situation.

[00:28:35] Whereas, if you have a mental health worker. They can pull the kids together and get to the root cause of what is going on and teach them some conflict resolution skills. Teach them how to deal with their anger, their emotions. And so it's really important that schools get more mental health workers and to the school. Not just for the students, but let's be honest, for the teachers, you're taking a lot of secondary trauma with us. Because we're taking on so many of our kids' problems that we're dealing with so many situations in addition to having to teach a classroom full of kids. And so a lot of the burnout that teachers are experiencing right now is strictly due to the fact that they don't have an outlet for their mental health and that is really time that we take a look at that. I know my friend, Sydney Clark Jensen, she has a Ted talk about teachers and mental health that... I mean, they blew up. It got like 10 million views in like a month because it resonated with so many teachers. The fact that we need to start taking care of ourselves and I remember when, I realized I needed to do something for myself. I was talking to my wife and she was telling me about a story on news she's like, 'Hey, did you see about that four year old kid that got shot on South side?' And my response was, 'yeah, that happens.' That's not a normal response. You know, that response made me question what I was going through because I had been absorbing so much of my kid's trauma that I become jaded toward the world. And so that was my moment where I said, 'okay, I need to go talk to somebody because I can't help anybody.' That is my view of the world. That it's okay that four year olds get shot, and that's just the world we live in.

[00:30:11] LaWanda: Right.

[00:30:11]Rodney:  And so it really made me reevaluate myself. And so I tell kids now, especially those in college. When you look in that, you know, jobs, cause let's be honest, there's teacher shortage, you should have your pick of jobs. Make sure you pick a job that has a good mental health plan, because you're going to need it. You're going to have to take care of yourself. You can't be there for the students if you're less than 25% yourself.

[00:30:31] LaWanda: Yeah, that makes sense.

[00:30:33] Helen: Before I turned to LaWanda to help us close out. I think parents and teachers are such natural allies and what can parents do more of to appreciate teachers like you, Rodney?

 [00:31:00] Rodney: It's weird cause I'm, I'm not one to talk about, you know, talk about myself. Im kind of a, I'm a humble guy and it's like I'm good. But I see a lot, a lot of teachers, especially young teachers, they're overwhelmed and they're overburdened. And so a lot of times, you know, if there's an issue. With parents, they come to the school guns a blazing wanting to solve this issue immediately. Not understanding that, wait a minute, it's not that the teacher made it bad... Well, you know, doesn't know what they're doing. They just need help. They're a little in experienced and just point out, 'hey, this is the right way to do it.'

[00:31:32] Now I understand why you got guns a blazing because nobody's going to bother your little baby boy, your little baby girl. And I get that and I truly understand that. But really it takes a little more understanding. A little more patience, and we really need that, you know, if with our students, with our teachers, you know, you know, even teachers, with parents, we need a little more understanding, a little more patience because that's their baby, you know what I mean?

[00:31:54] Regardless, they're going to go all in for their baby. And so we have to understand when we make decisions, you know, that affect kids. We're going to have to deal with the consequences of those if they're not the right decisions. So really the whole thing is about having open lines of communications. You know, sometimes, you know, invite a... invite a teacher over to dinner, you know, invite a teacher out to dinner.

[00:32:15] You know, just get to know them. Where it's not in a school setting, maybe it's not in a home setting, but in the neutral environment where you can just relax and get to know the teacher and actually talk about things. You will find that it's, once you remove the power dynamic in most relationships, you will have an open conversation. And you can, you know, get a lot of things done. So just invite them, say, 'hey, fam is going out to dinner. Would you mind doing this for dinner?' You know.

[00:32:40] LaWanda: I'm going to try that...

[00:32:42] Rodney: I mean, cause one thing teachers, I mean we broke, we need free meals. you know? And even if it's not one teacher, invite two teachers so that they feel more confident. But just getting that neutral environment and just started talking and getting to know each other and building that relationship. And then know, things can only go up from there. Once you establish a ground level relationship.

[00:33:05] LaWanda: Yeah. Rodney, we could sit here and talk to you all night.

 [00:33:14] Rodney: By the way that was a great name. My wife would love that name cause she comes home every day fussing about kids not giving notes in their backpack to their... to their parents. She teaches elementary. And so that was a great name for a podcast by the way.

[00:33:28] LaWanda: That's exactly where it came from. We thought about it. We're like, everyone gets notes. Sometimes they get them, sometimes they don't.

[00:33:34] Rodney: They don’t usually get them.

[00:33:36] LaWanda: So the podcast is supposed to give you those notes. So, I'm glad you like it great!

[00:33:43] I know we talked about a lot. What are your social media handles and where can listeners and our audience go to learn more about you and your work?

[00:33:52] Rodney: Clearly, you know, RodRobinsonRVA. I'm on Twitter and Instagram, I try to keep it simple, you know?

[00:34:00] Then there's that's my website where, you know, I got a couple of articles, a couple of speeches, different things. There's also links to reach out to me as well. And so it's just really about having those open lines of communication. And so if you're getting, you know, want to know more about me, you can just read that...

[00:34:16] Or you can contact. Council of Chief State School Officers got that right on the first time or and they have a bunch of information about me, about my passions, And so, you know, just reach out right.

[00:34:34] LaWanda: Great!

[00:34:35] Helen: Rodney, we are thankful to you. We are also thankful for our live audience here tonight.

[00:34:40] Thank you guys for participating.

[00:34:47] So be sure to stay in the know by subscribing to our podcast and by visiting Notes From The Backpack. Also use the hashtag #backpacknotes to continue the conversation.

[00:34:59] For those of you in the audience live today and those listening we hope you will share and review today's episode on your favorite listening platform.

[00:35:08] Thanks for listening and please tune in next time.

[00:35:40] (Applause from audience and more thank yous)


Notes from the Backpack: A PTA Podcast is made possible by funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.