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Ep23 – Matthew Joseph – The Modern Mentor

Matthew Joseph is an educator who encourages others to believe in themselves, stay authentic, and turn potential into power. He is also the author of “Power of Us", and co-author of “Modern Mentor", a book filled with practical ideas and inspiration for teacher mentors and mentees.

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Laura: Hello everyone and welcome to Teacher Chatter an Australian podcast made by teachers for teachers about teaching. Today’s episode is brought to you by edQuire, AI for teachers. I’m Laura.

Rita:  And I’m Rita. Laura and I are both teachers currently working and living in Sydney. Today we are very excited to be chatting with Matthew Joseph. Welcome Matthew.

Matthew: Hi. Thank you for having me. 

Laura: Thank you for coming and chatting with us. You are the director of the curriculum instruction and assessment in Leicester Public Schools. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Matthew: Sure. So for your listening audience Leicester Public Schools is actually near Boston Massachusetts, and part of my role the curriculum piece of that is looking at what is being taught by teachers, and all the different subject areas from kindergarten up through senior year, so I think for you that would be year 1 through Year 12. And what’s being taught in the classroom is part of my role, to analyse it, look at, if it’s what is in the best interest of students, it matches what our core state frameworks and standards are. The other part is the instruction, so once we have what we’re going to teach how are we teaching it, and really working with all of our teachers in our school district to ensure that they have the best teaching practices and tools needed, and then we have to make sure that our students are learning it. So part of my role is also looking at the assessment and how we’re gathering information about our students to make sure we are learning what is being taught.

Rita: That’s a massive job I can imagine that would, that would have to be involved in a big team, wouldn’t it?

Matthew: Yes well we have curriculum team leaders in all the schools. We have a curriculum team that we look at as well. And we have lead teachers who help with looking at instructional practice. I also work really very closely with the superintendent, and all of the principals to ensure this is happening. But at the end of the day my role is I’m looking at it across the entire district.

Rita:  It’s amazing that you’re doing all that, and somewhere in there you’ve also had time to publish articles, and be guest speaker at multiple state and national events, including the Future of EdTech conference in Miami. What was your speech about?

Matthew:So it’s actually coming up it’s going to be in January of 2020 and it’s one of the largest educational events. And I was fortunate to be one of the key speakers for the administrator track, and it’s really focusing on the instruction part of my role, and a lot of the talk that I do at these events are looking at innovative instruction. What are we using to increase learning that students have dynamic learning experiences? Are we using digital tools or using a RV? Are we using instructional strategies that bring in questioning and bring in thought processes and teaching students how to think? So I actually have eight different sessions that I’d be talking about really, from modelling to the mentoring piece that the book is about, to instructional practices, through coaching, and then really looking at data for analysis to really continue to plan events for students and plan learning opportunities. So a wide variety, but the big core piece of it is how we are creating innovative classrooms and innovative instruction.

Laura: Matthew you’re also the author of “Power of Us: Creating Collaborative School”. There is an increase of adopting these approach in schools. Why do you think it’s important not just for teachers but also for the students?

Matthew: This book came about from the research I did at Boston College. So I did my doctoral research in school culture, and through that trying to enhance job satisfaction of teachers, and one of the big findings from the study was that teachers are more likely to stay past year five if they felt valued in their job. When I dug down deeper, one of the ways that they felt valued is having collaborative opportunities, having different times where you could meet with different teachers, having opportunities to meet with the principal, meet with parents, or meet cross schools, so that it wasn’t feeling like you’re teaching in asilo. And with that, more ideas were coming through, more brainstorming opportunities, more lessons focused on what students really are looking for in classrooms. And I think why it’s important is, the more work of learning about student learning, it’s the voices starting to be a key factor in relevance, and relevant learning, and to get more voice. We also want teacher voice so they have three, four, five, however many people working collaboratively, designing lessons, we’re not just looking at it from one lens. And when we have more teachers, more administrators, and even more students or that collaborative piece, we’re going to deliver a product for students that is high level, it’s relevant, and it’s rigorous 

Rita: Matthew just on that you’re also the co-author of a book called “Modern Mentor”, which is a book on mentoring,  and it’s filled with practical ideas and inspiration for teacher mentors and mentees. What inspired you to write that book?

Matthew: So I think looking going off of the first piece first book about collaboration, I really shared some strategies to work together, and shared some strategies to make a more positive culture. But what I really wanted to dive into is taking that collaboration, and take it a step further. In the book the “Modern Mentor” came about, I’m co-author of the book, is we wanted to provide stories or strategies about that: mentoring wasn’t just for first year teachers, but how can we take collaboration essentially, and work for developing first that robust entry for teachers. Yes we wanted to ensure we mentor our new teachers with the most current strategies, and skills, and programs. After the first year it didn’t seem like it was something that people looked at in a positive light, like ‘you’re giving mentoring why am I not performing?’ We wanted to flip that script and said ‘let’s be proactive and create this “Modern Mentor” almost a mindset of support for, you know, really divided up into four sections in the book. The first section is really looking at new teacher orientation and new teachers into the field. But then we get into looking at peer to peer mentoring how we are supporting our colleagues to become better in life; and then another piece we have looked after mentoring is, we’re always looking for new leaders in our profession, but sometimes our leaders get thrown into leadership roles before they’re ready. And we look at how to mentor aspiring leaders, what can building, what can principals do, what can district leaders do, to support those teacher leaders who are looking to take that next step. And then once there are leaders in place, principals, headmasters, whatever the name of that role is, that’s the leader of a school. Are they being mentored and supported? We also talk about how to support sitting leaders, strategies to keep them fresh, and continue to work together to build their own skills to impact student learning.

Laura:  So do you think, obviously you saw the need to write this book because you think that there is a lack there, is something that teachers don’t get, some support they don’t get. So why do you think teachers need to read your book, what will they get out of it?

Matthew: One of the big buzzwords especially lately in our profession is about lifelong work. How we can become lifelong workers, and we do a lot, Twitter chats as you see, and we do a lot with going to events. But sometimes it’s just here, a story in the field. So the book is written with stories and strategies so that you don’t feel like I’m a single person out there going through this myself. So I think it’s important for teachers because no matter where you are in the continuum of education, year 1 through the year before you retire, and whatever role you’re in, a teacher, or a support teacher, a principal, a leader, that we all can learn something. Because at the end of the day, all of our roles in education in schools is of course student learning, and we continue to ask our students to learn and develop each and every day. And I think it’s important for teachers to read this because there’s practical strategies from just mentoring the teacher next door to mentoring a future leader. And if our students are going to continue to learn and grow, we have to model that, as the professionals and the educators, as we move along our path to our own personal growth as well. This book is packed with stories and strategies to do that.

Rita:  You’ve mentioned a lot in our chat here, that what you like to do is inspiring leadership, and that as teachers we’re all lifelong learners. I understand that you believe that empowering others is the foundation of leadership. Can you explain me a little bit more about how that works?

Matthew: I think too often we as adult learners are asked to learn by watching. And yes we have to look at content. We have to read. We have to take in information. But I have found the best way I have learned is through participation in opportunities and diving right in. Trying some ideas, working through some missteps, because as you work your way up to leadership, it’s not going to be successful the first time out. You have to have the opportunities with somebody there to support you in empowering others, allows you both as a mentor in a sense, to give solid opportunity. Let them work through their own ideas and build that confidence really going back to the couple of questions go about why did the book on collaboration come up. Because in the study of post-college it was about people had a higher job satisfaction when they felt valued. One of the things that I have found in leadership, is when we empower other people, they feel that they’re important, they feel their ideas count, and the intrinsic motivation at that point ratchets up. And when you have that intrinsic motivation by empowering somebody else, they’re going to be driven, they’re going to come up with ideas, and they’re going to be really focused on that task because they feel like somebody gave them a chance, and now they’re going to follow through on. And it’s not always going to be 100 percent success but then you build on it. But when you empower somebody else to really light their intrinsic motivation, then you’re going to see if somebody is a leader, or they want the title of a leader. And that really is going to distinguish who the next crop of leaders are.

Laura: Yeah. You also collaborate with human service agencies such as the YMCA to coach leaders to enhance culture in the workplace and leadership capacity. What changes have you seen within these agencies, thanks to your coaching and your input?

Matthew: I definitely have been fortunate to work with them. So the undergraduate college I went to Springfield College and they are human service school and do a lot of work with the YMCA. And one of the things that I started to work with, is how to create a positive culture. So yes this is not a school, but it’s still working with leaders, it’s working with department chairs, it’s working with CEOs of the YMCA in our state, and then in multiple states. The biggest shift I’ve seen is what we just talk about empowering their people that they supervise, empowering up and coming leaders in the field being having communication skills, sometimes in business in the private sector you tell someone to do it, they do it. In education it’s more really talking through having that vision. So I think some of the biggest shifts I’ve seen in the human service agencies that I’ve been working with, is really telling them to not only have a vision of where you’re going to go, but communicate it to all the people within your department, within your building, so that they can see where you’re going, build their own skills, and then move forward. So I’d say communication increase, the collaboration within schools, and agencies. And creating a culture within that has that intrinsic motivation that we are doing this together.

Laura:  Okay Matthew we’re going to have a short break now and hear from our sponsor. We’ll be back soon.

Rita:  Welcome back everyone. Before we continue, Matthew would you tell us a little bit more about where we could find the “Modern Mentor”?

Matthew: Sure, so if you go to Amazon, and you put in the search “Modern Mentor”, it should be one of the first hits that come up, as many, many people have been visiting, and we are fortunate to do that, if it’s not one of the first ones you can put in “Modern Mentor”, and that my name Matthew Joseph and that one definitely will come up, and I know it’s searchable in Australia because one of my friends, who is also in the book searched it, he’s from Sydney as well, and it came up for him. So I know it works but you can find it on Amazon. If you go and follow me on Twitter @MatthewXJoseph right on my profile page is another link to the book and you can see it, see the reviews, and you can order for yourself.

Rita:  Excellent. Thank you. Speaking of Twitter, you stay active on social media, and you encourage others to believe in themselves, stay authentic, and turn potential into power. Do you have any strong advice on how people can turn potential into power?

Matthew: Yes. Social media has been something that I’ve been able to connect with people, I don’t even say across the country, across the world we’re talking from Boston to Australia. And you know I’ve had a lot of opportunities to meet people electronically essentially in Australia and participate, and reach out, in China, again of course within the United States. Having that opportunity to reach other people and learn from others, it has really built my own intrinsic motivation, in really talking about turning potential into powers that we all have our potential, we all have ideas and goals. And the question is about what is the strong advice? I would say just keep trying. And too often we build up to one thing, one idea, one initiative, and we try it, and it doesn’t work. And we initially think we’re not a leader or we’re not a whatever, if you fill in the blank are more of a flood the market kind of person. What I mean by that is if I want to get an article published, I’m going to send 10; if I want to get to do a great speech, I’m going to prepare three or four and practice them all, see which one fits the best, because the more that we try and the more that we really look at a STEM mentality and let’s say for prototyping try something build off of it try something build up or try something different get feedback from somebody else. The more that we work on our craft, we’re going to see our potential grow, and then really give into our own personal belief in ourselves and be the best at it. In that kind of cycle of practice growth and intrinsic motivation just build our own confidence to keep trying. So turning that potential is you just have to keep trying and working, and you know we talk about failure like I’m not a big like Oh it’s okay to fail. I don’t feel I think that’s fine. But I think it’s okay to have a misstep like if we have an idea and it doesn’t work, run it by somebody else and see what they think. Hopefully add onto a where we’re can I build on this. What can I read more about and that’s turning that potential into power, it is empowering yourself to get better and continue to move forward.

Rita:  I think it’s such an important message particularly for the young people today just to keep on trying. If you’re not successful on the first go, don’t give up, keep on trying.

Laura: It is part of learning, you have to make mistakes before you actually get it right. You gave us some very good piece of advice. Now, if you could go back in time and tell your younger educator self a piece of advice, what would it be?

Matthew: One of the things that I would tell myself and I would tell anybody listening is to be real, really be who you are. I think early on in my career – I’m somebody who likes to have fun. I’m a loud person, I like to do projects, I like to have a lot of hands on learning, I like to joke around and have a lot of real deep connections and sometimes I looked at that as like is that different? Is that the norm? You know I see a neighboring teacher playing music and then I say ‘Oh that’s so great’, and they look at me and say ‘Oh no nobody else is doing it’. My advice to my younger educator self or to anyone getting professional: know what you believe in in this field, and what you feel will support students and be the best of that. I always want a success. I always want to succeed or you know not be as successful as me. If I have a great idea I want to try it as me. I don’t want to look at somebody else see how they do it and model myself after them exactly. I want to take other people, people’s great ideas or strategies and go to conferences and learning, and then say ‘how does that fit my personality, in my style, in my strengths?’ and then do it as me and that would be my advice is to trust in yourself because I work with a lot of teachers who some are introverts, some are very outgoing, some are very quiet, some are very loud, and when I work with them and this is another strategy in the Modern Mentor book, be the best you that you can be. And when you have that belief, it’s going to be authentic, and when it’s authentic, then the true educator in you comes out.

Rita: I love that. I think a lot of the times we try to be someone else, we see their success, so we try to emulate what they’ve got or what they do, that is just not as yourself. That’s why you’ll never succeed at being someone else. Anyway if you could take on the persona of any superhero, or if you could have just one superpower, what would it be and why?

Matthew:  Oh God this is there’s so many possible answers there. Aquaman is my favorite superhero obviously. Maybe I’d love to be able to fly, or do some of these things, but if I did take on a persona I would say maybe a lesser known superhero, like Nick Fury, who he is essentially the – I’m a huge Marvel fan so I could talk about this for hours – but he’s essentially the leader of the shield agents of the shield who oversees Captain America and oversees all of the Avengers. So he doesn’t necessarily have one single superpower, but all of the different Marvel superheroes look to him on how to save the world. And for me I wouldn’t say had any superhero powers myself but to get to the position that I’m at. I’ve worked with other people. I’ve had a vision of where to go and it’s inspiring to me to see other people succeed. So I’m thinking about the persona of another superhero. I think that would be Nick Fury’s role and in the Marvel comics and the Avengers as the leader of the shield.

Laura: Excellent! Well that brings us to the end of today’s podcast. Matthew’s been a real pleasure chatting with you.

Matthew: Laura and Rita, it’s been great. I hope to continue to promote you over here in the United States and in the Boston area, and I look forward to continuing to connect and collaborate with many different countries. If people are listening have other questions or ideas about the book, feel free to shoot me an email. You know you can follow me on Twitter and DME I’m proud of the work that Suzy Brooks and I did and I believe in the strategies in there so I’m happy to help out your audience in any way possible.

Rita: And we would love to have you come back on at any time to talk to us.

Matthew: Yes definitely. Yeah sure. All right. I’m going to take you up on that. 

Laura:  Definitely. So thank you again and thanks to edQuire for sponsoring. Ciao for now.

Teacher Chatter is proudly sponsored by edQuire. AI for teachers.

Matthew Joseph
Dr. Matthew X. Joseph has collected incredible insights on how best to support teaching and learning.

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Ep23 – Matthew Joseph – The Modern Mentor