Full PreFrontal

Ep. 123: Dr. John E. Deasy - Lessons in Leadership

September 10, 2020 Sucheta Kamath Season 1 Episode 123
Full PreFrontal
Ep. 123: Dr. John E. Deasy - Lessons in Leadership
Chapters
Full PreFrontal
Ep. 123: Dr. John E. Deasy - Lessons in Leadership
Sep 10, 2020 Season 1 Episode 123
Sucheta Kamath

Solving BIG problems requires big thinking. John Wooden once said, “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” Even though preparing children to take charge of their learning and their future happens in the classrooms, in actuality, it is set in motion through the mission and vision of personal and institutional leadership; without which, classrooms will simply be ships without sails. With skills to master, personal and situational setbacks to overcome, and trying to make a difference in the world, a lot rides on how we innovate systems that promote student learning, teacher preparedness, and community collaboration.

On this episode, our guest Dr. John E. Deasy, recently retired superintendent of Stockton Unified School District in Los Angeles, former State superintendent of the year, former high school principal, and former teacher talks about leading the way in shaping education through principles and practice. Schools and educational institutions as whole can cast a seismic shift through introspective culture, deliberate decisions to bring everyone on the same page, and inspirational practices in everyday learning – essential ingredients of successful schooling.

About Dr. John E. Deasy
Dr. John E. Deasy is the recently retired superintendent of Stockton Unified School District in California. During his tenure he oversaw a massive upgrade of new curriculum, technology for all youth, counselors and mental health clinicians in all schools, championed homeless issues and saw strong improvement in all youth indicators of success.

He was the Board Chair and former CEO of Reset: New Day, New Year, which is an alternative prison for young men 18-25 in the Bay Area of California. He was the founding Editor-In-Chief of The Line. The Line is a magazine dedicated to civil discourse in dealing with the most pressing matters for those on the front lines of social justice, entrepreneurship, and education. John also serves at a Superintendent In Residence for the Broad Center and facilitates work in the Broad Academy while coaching a number of current and emerging national education leaders. John also maintains a management consulting practice. John is also an Aspen Fellow from the inaugural cohort of the Aspen Institute’s fellowship of entrepreneurs in education and is a senior moderator for the Institute.

John led dramatic improvements in each school district that he served as superintendent which propelled student achievement, high school graduation rates, and access rates to high quality courses and schools to historic levels, while simultaneously reducing suspension and drop out rates in each district he served as the leader. Dr. Deasy was superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, where he championed a “youth first” agenda credited with reversing the district’s school-to-prison pipeline, raising achievement and helping more students graduate ready for college and the workplace than at anytime in the District’s history.  

About Host, Sucheta Kamath
Sucheta Kamath, is an award-winning speech-language pathologist, a TEDx speaker, a celebrated community leader, and the founder and CEO of ExQ®. As an EdTech entrepreneur, Sucheta has designed ExQ's personalized digital learning curriculum/tool that empowers middle and high school students to develop self-awareness and strategic thinking skills through the mastery of Executive Function and social-emotional competence.

Support the show (https://mailchi.mp/7c848462e96f/full-prefrontal-sign-up)

Show Notes Transcript

Solving BIG problems requires big thinking. John Wooden once said, “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” Even though preparing children to take charge of their learning and their future happens in the classrooms, in actuality, it is set in motion through the mission and vision of personal and institutional leadership; without which, classrooms will simply be ships without sails. With skills to master, personal and situational setbacks to overcome, and trying to make a difference in the world, a lot rides on how we innovate systems that promote student learning, teacher preparedness, and community collaboration.

On this episode, our guest Dr. John E. Deasy, recently retired superintendent of Stockton Unified School District in Los Angeles, former State superintendent of the year, former high school principal, and former teacher talks about leading the way in shaping education through principles and practice. Schools and educational institutions as whole can cast a seismic shift through introspective culture, deliberate decisions to bring everyone on the same page, and inspirational practices in everyday learning – essential ingredients of successful schooling.

About Dr. John E. Deasy
Dr. John E. Deasy is the recently retired superintendent of Stockton Unified School District in California. During his tenure he oversaw a massive upgrade of new curriculum, technology for all youth, counselors and mental health clinicians in all schools, championed homeless issues and saw strong improvement in all youth indicators of success.

He was the Board Chair and former CEO of Reset: New Day, New Year, which is an alternative prison for young men 18-25 in the Bay Area of California. He was the founding Editor-In-Chief of The Line. The Line is a magazine dedicated to civil discourse in dealing with the most pressing matters for those on the front lines of social justice, entrepreneurship, and education. John also serves at a Superintendent In Residence for the Broad Center and facilitates work in the Broad Academy while coaching a number of current and emerging national education leaders. John also maintains a management consulting practice. John is also an Aspen Fellow from the inaugural cohort of the Aspen Institute’s fellowship of entrepreneurs in education and is a senior moderator for the Institute.

John led dramatic improvements in each school district that he served as superintendent which propelled student achievement, high school graduation rates, and access rates to high quality courses and schools to historic levels, while simultaneously reducing suspension and drop out rates in each district he served as the leader. Dr. Deasy was superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, where he championed a “youth first” agenda credited with reversing the district’s school-to-prison pipeline, raising achievement and helping more students graduate ready for college and the workplace than at anytime in the District’s history.  

About Host, Sucheta Kamath
Sucheta Kamath, is an award-winning speech-language pathologist, a TEDx speaker, a celebrated community leader, and the founder and CEO of ExQ®. As an EdTech entrepreneur, Sucheta has designed ExQ's personalized digital learning curriculum/tool that empowers middle and high school students to develop self-awareness and strategic thinking skills through the mastery of Executive Function and social-emotional competence.

Support the show (https://mailchi.mp/7c848462e96f/full-prefrontal-sign-up)

Sucheta Kamath: Welcome back to Full PreFrontal where we tackle all issues related to executive function, self-efficacy, and learning how to learn. And today we have a very special guest who is going to give us a bird's eye view or maybe satellite view on the earth when it comes to education. He is my first superintendent, who will be talking to us about education learning, teacher trainings, student preparation, and philosophy and principle of developing independent future generation, I guess. So, it's a great pleasure to welcome you, John. Dr. John E. Deasy is the recently retired Superintendent of Stockton Unified School District in Los Angeles, California, who happens to be also a celebrated state superintendent of the year, high school principal, and somebody who began his career as a teacher and a science teacher. He was the board chair and former CEO of Reset and which is an alternative prison for young men, 18 to 25 in the Bay Area, California and we share an interest there because I have a program that I run for recently released from prison homeless population in Atlanta. Adults who are trying to get back on their feet. And John has served in many capacities many schools he has more than 30 years of experience in the field of education, but what he's known for his creativity and innovation in that space. He is also an Aspen fellow, one of my favorite Institute's to learn to become creative and gather information. I've been to several Aspen Institute organized events, and he has also served as the superintendent in residence for the board center and facilitates work in the board Academy while coaching a number of current and emerging national educational leaders. Welcome. Sorry to put you through that long introduction there. 

Dr. John E. Deasy: It's a pleasure to spend some time with you. 

Sucheta Kamath: Yes. So, let's start with this. So, all my guests, I begin to ask them a little bit about their own childhood, as a learner and a thinker. So, what can I, what can you tell us about yourself as a student? How self-regulated you were? When did you become aware of your strengths and challenges? And when did you actually come into this idea of taking charge of your learning? 

Dr. John E. Deasy: Yeah. So um, thank you. I, if I was a little boy, today, I would have been absolutely diagnosed with ADHD, without a doubt. And so, I would view myself as brought up in a very, very traditional, pretty strict Irish Catholic family.  

Sucheta Kamath: You're from Boston, right? 

Dr. John E. Deasy: Yep. And so, I think that was interesting because my parents, particularly my father was a very devout Catholic in the, for Catholics listening, in the pre-Vatican two days, so Latin was and must was had to be learned in the household. You said your present Latin you were an altar boy in church in Latin first before English. So, and my we were always offered another language as well. So, from an early age, don't ask me why French emerged, but you know it's not exactly the language, but I can speak it and read it and converse. And so, I think this exposure to language at the very beginning was an important part of that. In schooling, I was primarily interested in things like sports and recess, um, and I think God blessed me with a lot of ability, but I didn't apply that diligently. And so, the notion of figuring out how to get things done was a struggle at the beginning and were in sport and play. I figured that out very, very quickly. And it was a lifeline for me. Academics not so much. And I think for me, it was a real turning point was high school. Without a doubt, I loved learning loved it didn't always appreciate the rigor it took to be and scaffold your own learning. But I was surrounded by great friends and particularly an individual who was an amazing young girl at the time and we have just celebrated 36 years of marriage and met my wife on the first day of high school. And yeah, and she was completely opposite. So, when you think about executive functions, Like there's a little photo of her in the dictionary. And I think she just really insisted on being a coach, if there was such a word today, so where are those lessons took hold was after high school in college and university. And that's when I truly began to understand that this is a 70-30 proposition. 70% is my responsibility and 30% of the opportunities I'm given to apply them. 

Sucheta Kamath: Well, so sounds like if nothing worked, and because of your ADHD, your self awareness kicked in and you're very probably very amiable boyfriend or influence, you allowed her influence to take root. So that's pretty remarkable. Great maturity on your part, because that's exactly what I see like ropes kids in if they found somebody who they trust or love or find that relationship nurturing. That's great. So, let me talk to you about education. So, since you began your journey as a teacher what educational principles speaks the most to you? Not that many, but maybe you can share one, 

Dr. John E. Deasy: Really the top one or two. I'm by far and away is that I come to see the terrible consequences of making judgments about young people's ability and capacity based on anything but their ability and capacity. And I think that whether it is a primary language, whether it's a skin color, whether it's a circumstance of, of means a wealth in a household, whether it's a neighborhood, those that the thing I've learned is just how detrimental that is. The second is that overwhelmingly, when a young scholar didn't get something that was my responsibility as a teacher, and not theirs as the student, and so, it every misstep a student had was my opportunity to recorrect I think those are the two principles that have guided me pretty much throughout my life. 

Sucheta Kamath: I love that because this reminds me a conversation I had with the neuroscientist, Daniel Willingham is learning a responsibility of the teacher or the learner, you know, yes. You want the student to learn how to learn eventually. But by definition, learning is something you teach and is acquired. So, if there's any failure or breakdown, that is because somebody has it, the teachers’ responsible ways to think about it is maybe I didn't teach you well enough. 

Dr. John E. Deasy: Again, though, if we think about the great theorists and kind of the researchers in our field over the centuries, I would say that is the most affected by Lev Vygotsky. And by John Dewey, like without a doubt, those who have had a huge impact on my life trying to deeply understand that. 

Sucheta Kamath: So, what made you sounds like you're very passionate teacher? So yes, and you continue to be what to however transition from direct one to one or group interaction with students to leading those who teach. So that's a big commitment to make or give up the joy that comes by being with students. Right. So, what were your motivations to switch to becoming a principal or eventually a superintendent? 

Dr. John E. Deasy: Truthfully? 

Sucheta Kamath: Yes, money? No just kidding. 

Dr. John E. Deasy: Really incompetent people in the shoes of the principal, and saying, Oh my goodness, this, this can definitely be done better. 

Sucheta Kamath: Really? Yeah. Give us examples, what did you see? 

Dr. John E. Deasy: Principals who wouldn't know that faculty members names, let alone student names. Principals and leaders who just seemingly did not make decisions deeply centered on what is best for young people. Either what advances themselves or politic or, or just working to cover up ignorance. Failing, I think to stand in a moral center, no matter what the consequence those things really bothered me. 

Sucheta Kamath: I really liked that, and I thought it kind of saddens me that they became principles without that particular aspect of their belief system was ever questioned or challenged. So that's really bad. 

Dr. John E. Deasy: I'm going to make a gigantic and probably gross assumption by just looking at you. I'm probably considerably older than you. And we're talking about a time where it was rare to see a woman as principal. It was rarer still to see anybody of color as a principal, and it kind of was you were a teacher, you were a coach, you then became an assistant principal, and then you became a principal. Where this kind of true testing of beliefs about how you lead wasn't part of the conversation. And I didn't want to be any part of that. 

Sucheta Kamath: So, what are we? What are what are the principles that have held true even to the change of time going from, you know, 20th century to 21st century digital, I mean, in person to digital curriculum, and what are what principles people should let go, but they're still hanging tight. Do you kind of have alluded to that, but because that's what I want to get the next get our conversation in that direction that how do we identify challenges in bringing innovation in education? So, what do you see we are getting it right and not getting it right? 

Dr. John E. Deasy: They're easy for me to speak about because I don't think that we have completely been able to I'm not see this completely removed from education. So, your zip code is not destiny. Your parent or guardian or caregiver’s checkbook is not a sign of your intelligence. Your Language Proficiency has got nothing to do with your capacity. Speaking English as a first language is not dominance or said another way, probably less sensitive, not speaking English as a first language is actually not a deficit and it is not a disability. It's actually a gift. And then the last of course, is, your skin color does not determine your capacity. And so those things still haunt us. They haunt us structurally, philosophically, belief wise. And until we get to a point where those things have no place in our construct of what a young person is capable of, it doesn't matter whether we have digital natives or nine, it doesn't matter whether we have, you know, quote, universal enrollment or open schooling or not those forms of bias are deeply corrosive to a young person's abilities. 

Sucheta Kamath: You know, it's such a wonderful topic. I was on a webinar a few hours ago, called schooling for critical consciousness, and a conversation between Scott Cider and Darren Graves. These are two researchers from Boston College, and they were talking about fostering young people's ability to analyze and navigate and challenging injustice through education. And can you imagine that now? I mean, people are now bringing that into the curriculum, which, again, the you know, there's so many barriers to knowing what kind of challenges people are experiencing those who are discriminated against, and what kind of role educators play, which is what I want to come to. But I'm glad that you kind of set the stage for that. So, as a superintendent, you gained a national recognition for your educational leadership, particularly because of the success in significantly narrowing the achievement gap in low income and minority students and they appear as compared to their peers. So talk to us about what are some of the struggles of a minority and low income, low SES students that they go through in K to 12 public education, and what are some of the insidious causes that an average educator may not be able to imagine if they don't serve in this population? 

Dr. John E. Deasy: Now, that's a that we could talk about that for hours. I certainly think that a good part of the, the struggle that young people see is maybe in three or four buckets. One is they do not, with the frequency needed, see themselves in their teachers or their leadership. And it's very difficult to think about opportunity if you can't visualize that. So, if you think of yourself as an athlete, you have to see the play before it's done. Like we understand how that works. The same, the principle is no different. I can't see teachers who look like me and I can't see leaders who look like me, how can I ever consider myself to be like that? Number two, I think is otherness is, is probably a disease, more horrible than the current pandemic that we're in. Otherness is associated with you know, I'm less than because of traits. You know, there is structural inequality, there is policy inequality. There is bias that is built into this. Okay, so yes, those things exist, what are we going to do about those and there's not nearly enough, both raising student voice about the experiences they have in that, and then actually doing something like about that around those pieces. And we could give a ton of examples if you want to do. 

Sucheta Kamath: Yes, I would love that. I think one of 

Dr. John E. Deasy: The most, um, one of the most painful and yet seemingly incomprehensible examples, having been the privilege of being the superintendent for a very large district like Los Angeles Unified. One of the things that completely confounded me was when I first got there, there was huge disparities in suspensions and expulsions. And if you just looked at the data, you would think, Oh my god, these schools are completely out of control. Like just I was visualizing something violent and terrible. Then you go visit 96 high schools, and you go from classroom to classroom to classroom. And you're like, it's another planet like these young people are not active at all. Like, it was actually the complete opposite, like you wish they would act up, then you would know that they were alive in the classroom. But it didn't seem to make sense. And so, what we began to realize was, okay, let's take a look at suspensions. And let's just take a look at the reasons because you have to code those things. And overwhelmingly like I mean, 98% of suspensions... Let me do the other way. A minority of suspensions were very serious problems. Young people do make very serious mistakes rarely, but they make them, they will act in a violent way they'll harm someone, they'll use or distribute illegal substances or drugs, God forbid they'll use a weapon. Those are very bad things. And there are consequences for those. We can talk later about redemption. But there are consequences. If you bring a gun to school, you can't stay in school. And we got to figure that piece out. If you just looked at it without understanding, the specific reason for suspension, you would say, Oh, my God, all kids are doing this. And it was a tiny fraction. And the 10s of thousands of other suspensions were very much lumped into category of willful defiance. And so, I'm saying to myself, okay, so is a kid standing on a desk with a baseball bat saying, Hell no, I'm not going to do my homework? I mean, that's being willfully defiant. So, I remember very vividly the day we took over 900 of the suspension points and read them. Failure to turn in homework, would not open book, would not pick paper up off a floor, would not stop talking. And then it began to dawn on me, this isn't willful defiance. This is adolescence. Like we're there to help.  

Sucheta Kamath: And executive dysfunction. 

Dr. John E. Deasy: I was going to say that's exactly what it is. You have to build the structures of executive function side by side with young people. It took us a long time, but eventually, to say that no one could be suspended for willful defiance anymore. Like that is just not okay. That's an example. And that's not like 50 years ago, it's like less than 10 years ago. 

Sucheta Kamath: Yeah, and you know, this, this reminds me of this. The Morphett in group that did research on, they followed this particular town and I forget now, for 30 years, the number of students I think there were 1400 students. There were babies and that they followed for the next 30 years. And they found that one of the determinant of success was these executive function skills, you know, they those who have better self-control, or were taught to have better self-control, had better jobs, they had higher income, better health, successful relationships, fewer run ins with law, and all of them had this common problems. I think 1000 kids and what they, the problem was they the kids at the time of high school graduation, with stronger impulse control and executive function, we're less likely to make risky choices, have unplanned pregnancies or drop out of high school. Now that research I mean, 30 years they follow these kids and I what I find is that research has not still taken roots in in the way we educate kids. We are not making teaching skills or self-control a priority and I see that I think one thing that was clear from for me even though when I came across your work, is you kind of made that a priority to understand why kids do the way they behave or what they do. And what is the role of their what is the motivation? Is it the complete defiance to take on society? Or just and I didn't think much about it kind of attitude. 

Dr. John E. Deasy: Yeah, I think you're so spot on. So, the first thing I would say is A. I'm not an expert in this field like you are or are neuro cognitive scientists. What I am is I'm learned and intelligent and then have tried to lead with that knowledge. So, that being said, I believe a couple of things. One is, I believe, we as human beings, and particularly as we are developing young human beings, we want to be seen, we want significance, we want to matter, we want belonging. Those things are deeply important and moving. So, I'll take them. Like to be seen, like visually visibly to be seen, you know, I matter. To be heard, my voice matters, I actually have the same weight in the conversation that you do, to be cared for and have regard. I don't think that needs much explanation at all. And when we feel that those things are not the experience I'm having, we react, you're going to see me I want you to know. Now whether you're going to see me because I'm going to scream and yell or whether you're going to see me because I'm going to stand up and refuse to do something, or you can go down the line. And one of the things to do is A. regard and decency are a bottom line, you don't earn those things. Those are the Fundamental platform for which we acknowledge all humans have, especially young people in school, what we teach is how to bring to bear things like voice, written or spoken, presence, visual or otherwise, challenge and acceptance in ways those have to be taught and they can be taught, but they're first modeled. I don't believe that they can be taught without being modeled. 

Sucheta Kamath: Love that. So, a how, as a superintendent, one conceptualizes this, this being delivered, do you? So, for example, I think if I understand correctly, you were kind of in charge of 21 schools or close to more than 20 schools, I guess. So how do you inspire 

Dr. John E. Deasy: Los Angeles was 1000 schools.  

Sucheta Kamath: Oh, 1000 schools. Okay, my number was completely off. Okay. Right. I don't even know how one does that, but salute to you. 

Dr. John E. Deasy: You do it with an amazing team who shares the exact same belief system. 

Sucheta Kamath: So, tell me what is it that that process of confirming that people are sharing your belief? Or how do you make your belief transparent? And how do you train the leadership to have the same vision of elevating the spirit and bringing this belief in your capacity that is yet to be tapped into as a top priority? For me, that's what I'm committing to. How do you transpire that?  

Dr. John E. Deasy: So, I think in in large systems where I've had the privilege of working most of my life, you just can't write an announcement or a memo or a poster. It doesn't work that way. And then secondly, is you have 100,000 employees, you're not going to have an intimate relationship with them all. So 

Sucheta Kamath: Like running a fortune 500 company. 

Dr. John E. Deasy: Exactly. Always 8.5-billion-dollar budget you always, I've always believed that the power of the principalship is incredible. They translate what senior leadership is trying to do into the home, to the school, to the teachers, to the students. And so, you invest deeply in the principalship. You invest in their development, you invest in who they are, you invest if they stay in that role. Like there is tremendous importance in that investment. And as I've said many times, that young people don't show up on campus. And contrary to what we may hope, they're not checking out our latest Common Core aligned lesson. And they are not checking out our latest homework assignment, or they're not actually examining deeply the consequences on the rule sheet on the board. What they do however, is show up every day and stare you straight in the face and look you in the eye and what they are checking out is not how you look or how you dress, they want to know do you actually think that I could be you one day, that I could have a position where I earn beyond a basic income, or I'll have a roof over my head, where I will have health benefits. And I will have regard and matter. And then no matter what we say, and whatever posters are up on the wall, what they that and what we that is your behavior and your actions. Yes, what we do is very, very important, and how we are and so the idea of does actual student voice matter? Does teacher voice matter? Do we not shy away from very difficult conversations? Do we have a guardrail to have those conversations where people who might have incomplete language on something but know that they care deeply about it, have the same seat at the table? Someone who might have one masterful language about something. And then just a few non negotiables. And that that's, I think that's how we've done it. 

Sucheta Kamath: You know, so can you share what is non-negotiable? Do you? Do you get a report on a principal’s behavior or teachers’ behavior? Do you have a personal talk? Or is there like a policy? And I'm sorry, I'm asking these like, questions that I have not prior to meeting you or interacting with you, I have not thought about because I thought somehow this infiltrates to the system, right. It's like adding a blue drop into the water and the entire water starts carrying the blue draw. 

Dr. John E. Deasy: Right. Yeah. I love that. I am a big believer. The way you do that is just side by side with principles. You're in schools as many days as possible. And if you're in senior leadership, the majority of your time is in schools’ side by side. I want to see how you interact with students and parents and faculty and Your community and want to see how and how you challenge and how you support. And so, you don't wait for reports. And you do just in time coaching. And you ask people to reflect on the experiences that they're having. Because you're also investing in growth at the same time, a big believer that, you know, beyond overwhelmingly, very, very few people who don't fall in this category. If we know how to do something better, we'll do it. We know what to do that is better, we will do it. And so, people are generally doing the best they know how. So, the obligation comes is to, let's consider this and try that. 

Sucheta Kamath: So sorry, do what is just in time coaching? 

Dr. John E. Deasy: So just in time coaching would be an example, side by side with the principal in the school. And I witness I'm just going to put two things. One is an extraordinary interaction. Where I say to myself, boy, that is that is really incredibly insightful. This principal saw a teacher, misusing language, struggling in the classroom. And the principal says let's stop the class right now. Let's retry this. Let's try this. Right in the time teachers are experiencing it. I think that is a remarkable gift.  

Sucheta Kamath: Oh, I love that.  

Dr. John E. Deasy: If I walk away and a week later write the principal and note for that and thank them and mention it. I don't believe that helps. Just in time coaching is side by side and saying Sucheta that was an extraordinary example of leadership for the following three reasons. How often do you do that? Make me smart on how that happens. Do your peers get to see you doing that? The same is true for a misstep. A Principal either engages in way where language was insufficient, emotion governed intellect. And you wait a week and you said, Boy, I wish that had gone better. That's not helpful. Like, stop right there. We're not going to go to another classroom. I'd like to reflect on what happened. Why do you think this happened this way? What could have changed that? That's just in time coaching. 

Sucheta Kamath: It's like active, compassionate feedback. It's calling out what could be better or celebrating what was done well, so that it can be reinforced. 

Dr. John E. Deasy: So, the great Boston Red Sox teams do not wait for the end of season to review the great plays or the missed play. I had to say that since is the first day of the season. 

Sucheta Kamath: You're such a Bostonian. You know, I lived in Boston for eight years. So, and that was my first city that I lived after coming back from India. So, I consider Boston as my home but Red Sox I'm not sure that should have been 

Dr. John E. Deasy: That's a different podcast. 

Sucheta Kamath: "Pak your cah", then we'll talk. So, my question is, sounds like you're asking a lot and I don't mean it. So, let me help phase this because asking people to bring their A game for some feels like a lot of work. They want to pass fail just they just want to go through life. And this is a this is a calling to become reflective self-corrective and intensely responsible for your actions every day. Did you receive do you get? Did you get any pushback was this hard for some people versus easy for some? 

Dr. John E. Deasy: I just may come across as cold I don't mean it to. That's life. If you don't bring your A game every day or don't get better every day, I don't want you near the most vulnerable children in America. You can do something else, that's fine. But for this work, you need that. Secondly is I don't pay you. We take money off of people's kitchen tables every day in the form of tax dollars to pay you, most of whom can't afford to give it to us. And we convert that into salary and benefits. And the quid pro quo is every single youth will graduate college career and community ready. That requires an A-game or working towards an A-game. So, I don't want to be apologetic. I want to be super clear about that. Maybe there's another place like, God bless, no judgment, just not here. Not with these kids.  

Sucheta Kamath: Yeah, I mean, I think honestly, that kind of calling people to perform, bring their excellence is so critical. As you said, the timing, we cannot waste any single moment. Give them give us an example of one of your most favorite principal behavior or teachers behavior that you said, Ah, this is exactly how everybody should be doing it. 

Dr. John E. Deasy: Oh, I only wish I was as good when I first taught some of the most amazing teaching. I see regularly. When you see a teacher in a classroom of 30 young people, I'm going to use like two extremes: second grade and I'm going to use 11th grade. You are able to the teacher is, is generally whole group presenting a concept. And Ria and Gustavo, are just simply clearly not getting it all. The ability for the teacher to see a miscue that this teacher instantly understood why this young person did not get it and how he or she presented it, and then repackages it and presents it again because a young person got a miscue. That is amazing. When you see that take place, as opposed to saying you didn't get it. I'm going to go back and do the exact same way again. And then your problem if you don't get it the second time. It is astonishing how frequently young people simply do not understand what I am trying to present. And that is my responsibility to represent it in a way that to me is awesome. I think at the other end of the age spectrum, when I see teachers who are willing and put the incredible time in to make instruction both culturally responsible and relevant to young people, you are you are providing simultaneously an affirmation of that person's experience and total regard for that young person. They are appear in that they're both human beings on this planet. And they're in the coaching learner mode on because they haven't mastered it yet. It is awesome to see those things take place on a regular basis. 

Sucheta Kamath: Wow. Yeah, that does sound very, to me simple, but like showing up and being extremely vigilant to  

Dr. John E. Deasy: Tt's hard to do this, 

Sucheta Kamath: it is really very hard. And you have to it's like incredible care you have to put into that responsive teaching, you know, it's responding to the learner’s reaction to the teaching, not the teaching itself.  

Dr. John E. Deasy: So, another way to think about this is the we go into classrooms and the teacher is asking questions all the time. And there is a discernible difference in classrooms, where an adult is asking a question to see if you've got what I said or what I know, versus a question which elicits the ability for the young person described how they are learning it and what they have gotten from that. And it's additive and reductionist, and those are very powerful nuances in the way we ask questions. I'm asking a question for you to use your prior knowledge to come to a piece of new application knowledge, which you don't currently have. Versus I want to ask you a question to see if you got the answer. They just took the two different worlds. 

Sucheta Kamath: Totally. So how does all this translate for a superintendent in when one we don't know if we are returning in person? Yeah, good to be a hybrid versus virtual e learning for the whole year. We don't know. How do we how do you think what are some of the suggestions you have for leadership to track the teacher’s ability to reach their children? When there's so many levels this can break down and you know, you could just tap on Jimmy's shoulder in the hallway and say, Come and see me now. Right, and what's the version of untucked shirt or just, you know, morose attitude that something wrong has happened or something is not going? Well. None of those cues are available to us as a community of teachers and educators. 

Dr. John E. Deasy: Um, this is such an important question. I really appreciate you asking this question a lot. It is we're learning how to do it like just in time, because we have not had this experience before. Ever. So, to at least guidelines for me, one has been your principles and your teachers. You just can't assume that it's going okay, I'm that my focus has to be how they're doing with the students. My focus has to be how am I doing with you first, as an adult and part of my community and then how you're doing with your students. It is incredibly isolating. It's actually very frustrating. It is challenging us in ways that we can't imagine. And then lay on top of that, everybody wants to do a good job, but we know we want to do a good job. We don't stay in this most of difficult professions, most honorable, but most difficult. You just spend time letting people know that you care about them and that they're part of community. Now, whether that's a weekly Town Hall, whether it's a Friday video postcard, whether it is random call, it is making sure that they know that they can hear your voice and that they can see and talk to you. If that takes place with some degree of persistent and consistent, it will provide support so that the other part of your question can get attention. How do I work with young people in a way where I can't see them? Same thing. If this is once a week, I send home to every single home to every, parent, guardian, or caregiver, a small video postcard. Hey, no, this is really tough. No, we can't be outside. No, I can't see you, you are very much on my mind. I was thinking of this memory from last year, I think constantly anchoring people into what was normality for young people, and that eventually it will return is really important. And then there's the, you know, the concrete steps and that is like, are you making one on one contact with every student you have? If you have like, elementary, once a day? Is it take place once every other day for high school? Are you having small group connection that are checking on how you're navigating instruction in this method, as opposed to just how you engage in the instruction? Do young people have the support they need that are beyond my ability? I'm not a clinical social worker, find out how to get you a clinical social worker. If your mom has passed and your dad is sick from COVID. And you are a driver trying to bring money to the table as a junior I, you need to talk with someone. And like we can do that piece too. And yes, we do have chemistry, we have to learn. They're just never going to be separate. 

Sucheta Kamath: You just sound to me are really talking about that social emotional needs of the person, the parent, teacher pair and the community who has who's very, very cognizant of this happening to all of us. So, there's no lip, let's do something to you so that you get through learning. It is just we are all trying to survive. And I really appreciate that kind of thought process. Because I think it's like a you remember, this may not matter to anybody, but I was thinking The two significant events that I have deep carved memory for is the 9/11. Yes. I remember where I was, I remember what I was doing. And Princess Di dying for some reason. That's another that's why I said, I'm warning people. This is not like very, you know, sensational. 

Dr. John E. Deasy: There was memories of the latter but very clear memories of the former. 

Sucheta Kamath: I just the reason I'm mentioning that, I think young people who are in K to 12 education are going to remember what happened to them during COVID.  

Dr. John E. Deasy: Oh, people. Yeah, most people California. I remember March 11. They're going to remember that was last day I was in school. Like I get, and there's loss every day, and then there's actual loss every day. And so, this is you're absolutely right. The difference was if I could just be so cold for a second. Princess Diana died and she died on one day like she didn't die every single day. 9/11 happened. And it was horrific. And the whole family the family live in New York City, awful. It didn't happen every single day. It happened once. We, young people are experiencing a sense of catastrophic loss every single day. Every single day. I don't play a sport every single day. I know someone who's gone to the hospital every single day. I don't someone who is dying. Every day I don't get lunch like these are like it is it is unlike almost anything else I could ever remember. 

Sucheta Kamath: It's so heartbreaking. And as we come to the end of our conversation, I do not want to let you go without talking to us about homelessness and homeless high school children. I think people In middle class of America or anybody, slightly above whatever the lowest social economic class that American can define, has no idea because it's not in their face. And maybe COVID has made people aware, I think, I don't know if you saw the conversation, or there's somebody opened a Twitter account called Rate My Bookshelf.com, which is silliest thing. But people, once you got on the Zoom calls based on what's in your background, you could tell how "read" this person is. But imagine that also was one of the places people became aware of their economic disparity and based on how people were living. So, we don't know how people live, we don't visit people in their houses. And then there are students who are don't even have a home, don't even have internet don't even have access to them. A personal tablet or personal computer, how does just paint a picture for us? What does that homelessness in in school communities look like? And what does that mean to educate these children and these families who are putting their children, and this is the only source of their relationship to the world where they there's a possibility of change that can come 

Dr. John E. Deasy: It's devastating, is absolutely devastating. And it's incredibly compounded at the moment, because it's very difficult to get people to routinely visit young people where they're homeless, or their parents. It is such an understandable risk of disease and contracting this and then second of all, is people feel tremendously isolated. No one is going to Zoom in from a tent. Like it's really frightening. And when you have very, very high numbers of individuals who experience home insecurity, shelter insecurity and outright homelessness, like this is, it is a time to rethink policies around that piece like this is not left with just like some organization and government to deal with. We have to deal with this in education as well. But what I can tell you is, kids are simultaneously scared and ashamed. Students are simultaneously worried and isolated. And know that while lots of kids have great experiences at school, and many have bad days, when I talk with youth who are who are in conditions of homelessness, no matter how bad life is, there is a sense of safety and routine that takes place when I go to school. And now that last thing is removed. It's just dead serious. And so, it is organizing individuals, organizing groups of us professionals to go visit homeless encampments, to visit shelters. The power of being proximate even with social distancing is cannot be can't be explained as powerful as it is. 

Sucheta Kamath: So, makes me really depressed. I think I'm working with a community here. A nonprofit that's helping children who are in low SES and trying to provide support to baseball, personal development opportunity from middle school till 13th grade, just precollege or college, whatever that looks like. And just take simple example of summer. Most you know, economically secure families were able to accommodate their children being home or something in the neighborhood. And these children, the only source of their come to their community and food was through this summer activity that was planned for them. That completely shut down. Yeah, and these kids, the baseball fields, in our state, we're closed public, gyms were, school gyms were not available. So, they were meeting in open spaces with no trees. So again, that that I mean, that day in and day out, they had they would have to this organization would have to wait, if the troopers came, they had to relocate because that was not allowed to congregate, which obviously for safety reasons. But that I mean, that's the closest I would say I have come on such a in my face that awareness of what kind of challenges these are. I really appreciate you talking to us about all these complex matters and I I salute you for having the courage and direction or creating direction for many who rely on you to find that mission that comes from passion and conviction. I thank you for being on this podcast Full PreFrontal: exposing the mysteries of executive function. And this conversation again has once again sealed my belief that we must teach executive function intentionally and empower the teachers to develop their own executive function, particularly the emotional regulation. To get people to manage students who come various levels of preparedness. So, thank you so much for joining me today. 

Dr. John E. Deasy: My pleasure. Thank you for being a voice for this incredibly important work. 

Sucheta Kamath: Thank you. And thank you for listening again, tuning in everybody and please follow us on social media. If you like what you heard, please recommend this episode to your friends. And once again, be well be safe and take charge of that brain of yours is very important. Have fun.