Full PreFrontal

Ep. 149: Elizabeth Green - Care to Teach?

May 20, 2021 Sucheta Kamath Season 1 Episode 149
Full PreFrontal
Ep. 149: Elizabeth Green - Care to Teach?
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Full PreFrontal
Ep. 149: Elizabeth Green - Care to Teach?
May 20, 2021 Season 1 Episode 149
Sucheta Kamath

In the 1830s, Rev. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet’s method of teaching reading to deaf children was evolutionary and became inviting enough that  the then secretary of education, Horace Munn, adopted to teaching it to neurotypical children; the logic being, if the teaching strategy works for the deaf it must work wonders for all. It wasn’t until much later that that it was discovered how ill-fitted such an extrapolation was. For far too long the culture has harbored a dreamy notion that gifted teachers are born and not made and they turn naive children into the learned ones with some magical powers and the techniques involved in teaching are a matter of personal will. What if that’s simply a myth?

On this episode, author, journalist, and CEO and co-founder of Chalkbeat, Elizabeth Green, discusses that becoming a great teacher is attainable to all through the mastery of specific learned key skills unique to the profession of teaching. As Thomas Jefferson warned us, “we cannot be a powerful nation and illiterate too”; we must acknowledge the dazzling intellectual challenge teaching poses and prepare accordingly.

About Elizabeth Green
Elizabeth Green is the CEO and co-founder of Chalkbeat, the nonprofit news organization dedicated to improving educational equity through local, independent, high-impact journalism. Since launching in 2014, Chalkbeat’s reporting has spurred changes in education funding, legislation, policy, and practice and is regularly cited or republished in dozens of publications, including The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Vox, and more. Elizabeth also co-founded the American Journalism Project, the first venture philanthropy firm dedicated to local news. Her book Building a Better Teacher was a New York Times bestseller and notable book of 2014. She has also written about education issues for The New York Times Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, and other publications. Elizabeth has been a Spencer Fellow in education journalism at Columbia University and an Abe Journalism Fellow studying education in Japan.

Book:


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

In the 1830s, Rev. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet’s method of teaching reading to deaf children was evolutionary and became inviting enough that  the then secretary of education, Horace Munn, adopted to teaching it to neurotypical children; the logic being, if the teaching strategy works for the deaf it must work wonders for all. It wasn’t until much later that that it was discovered how ill-fitted such an extrapolation was. For far too long the culture has harbored a dreamy notion that gifted teachers are born and not made and they turn naive children into the learned ones with some magical powers and the techniques involved in teaching are a matter of personal will. What if that’s simply a myth?

On this episode, author, journalist, and CEO and co-founder of Chalkbeat, Elizabeth Green, discusses that becoming a great teacher is attainable to all through the mastery of specific learned key skills unique to the profession of teaching. As Thomas Jefferson warned us, “we cannot be a powerful nation and illiterate too”; we must acknowledge the dazzling intellectual challenge teaching poses and prepare accordingly.

About Elizabeth Green
Elizabeth Green is the CEO and co-founder of Chalkbeat, the nonprofit news organization dedicated to improving educational equity through local, independent, high-impact journalism. Since launching in 2014, Chalkbeat’s reporting has spurred changes in education funding, legislation, policy, and practice and is regularly cited or republished in dozens of publications, including The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Vox, and more. Elizabeth also co-founded the American Journalism Project, the first venture philanthropy firm dedicated to local news. Her book Building a Better Teacher was a New York Times bestseller and notable book of 2014. She has also written about education issues for The New York Times Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, and other publications. Elizabeth has been a Spencer Fellow in education journalism at Columbia University and an Abe Journalism Fellow studying education in Japan.

Book:


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 to Full PreFrontal, it's so exciting to be here with you. Once again, we will be talking about executive function, teacher preparedness, and many, many things that make the learning and thinking journey for students more successful. And just to share with you, you know, recently I read this 2018 USA report, which talked about that teachers were worried about many things, and people would think that they were worried about money, but no, they were talking about feeling misunderstood, feeling unheard. They are also feeling disrespected. And one of the things that was striking to me that the disrespect they felt was coming from many, many sources, not just one, which is parents who were either under involved or too involved was creating a lot of stress for them, government mandates that dictated how they do the job that they're supposed to do and how its measured, and then reflected back about onto them as as if they are competent or not, then all this constant story about changing budgets. And lastly, this, all these stresses were leading to inadequately prepared teachers who are feeling incredibly inadequate. So my question to myself was, is this story motivating us to change the way we think and support teachers? Do we understand the teaching profession well enough to see, are we willing to change our ways? And what are some of the barriers, historically looking back, as well as thinking about executive function, which is a total brand new to the seat. So with that in mind, it is such a pleasure and honor to have this amazing guest today. This is Elizabeth Green, she is the CEO and cofounder of Chalkbeat, the nonprofit news organization dedicated to improving educational equity through local, independent, high-impact journalism. Since launching in 2014, Chalkbeat's reporting has spurred changes in education, funding legislation, policy and practice, and is regularly regularly cited or republished in dozens of publications, including New York Times, and Wall Street Journal, and even Atlantic. And she is the author of I would be talking a lot about this amazing book she wrote in 2014-15, Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works. So with great pleasure, welcome to the podcast. Elizabeth, how are you?

Elizabeth Green: Thank you so much. I'm good. How are you? It's so great to be here.

Sucheta Kamath: Well, thank you for being here. I love to since we talk about executive function, and we talk about a guest who brings their expertise. And my goal here to show the intersectionality between many very topics because executive function impact our decision making our self management, our goal directed persistence, I want to ask you, before we dive into your subject matter expertise, how are your executive function skills? And when did you form you they first learned the term in your learning and development context?

Elizabeth Green: Yeah, I, um, I don't remember when I first learned the term executive function. But I do think it was probably in the context of reporting about schools not, I'm not in the context of being a reporter, or I'm thinking about myself or being now a CEO and thinking about myself of a nonprofit. But I think it was about, you know, putting that lens because of your work, putting that lens on children and saying, okay, have they learned, you know, there's actually a bucket of things that that challenge that is a developmental, of developmental importance. And I remember having definitely an aha moment, like, Wow, that's a really important bucket of things. So that's, I'm sure there's a line that we could draw from your work to my aha moment, I just can't remember quite where it was, or when.

Sucheta Kamath: You know, and it's so interesting. The reason I asked even because here we are, executive function skills, I love to explain to teachers that, you know, anytime I bring in the conversation that you need to teach these skills there, say, my plate is full. I'm already teaching so many things. And I said, No, this is the plate. So it's the plate that supports learning of a skills that allow you to learn how to learn. So that makes perfect sense. And it's been consistent with even researchers who study memory and attention. So you're you're right. In it, just tell us a little bit of cultural evolution. We are here to talk about executive function, but none of us have really received any training. So your your interest in education. Do you mind telling us a little bit about what sparked your interest in how teachers teach and how students learn? 

Elizabeth Green: Yeah, well, I so I think I started out as My interest in education started out because of my interest in my own High School. And I, that's when I started being a journalist was a student at my student newspaper and high school. And I was just really, you know, struck by the inequities in my school and the language at the time that was being used all around us of, you know, the achievement gap was becoming a term that was very popular. And our principal went on the loudspeaker and said, You black and Latino students have to get your test scores up. And, you know, and he, in the context of, And, you know, we're all processing this and taking messages from this. And I ended up writing a story for my high school newspaper, it was supposed to be about kids who lie to their parents. And it ended up being about Hispanic students at my school who felt under recognized under acknowledge, mistreated, disrespected by their teachers, and like, less is expected of them. And it was it started for me with those human conversations about what student how students were moving through the world, and the major experience of being in school, and how that affected them developmentally, I decided I wanted to be a journalist and do more kind of reporting like that, that I, you know, that would expose some of what was happening for students that can be so invisible for adults. And that's why is that my path to do, but I really, you know, it took a while for me to return to that core of like, what students are experiencing, and how they're experiencing it. Because it's so easy in education, I think to get, especially in the policy debates that journalists end up covering, we get lost in terms like achievement gap, or, you know, different policy debates and merit pay or charter schools, and we lose sight of that, you know, the central reason we care is because we care about people and their developmental journeys. So but I got back there, because I got an assignment from the New York Times Magazine to write about the newest policy buzzword at the time, which was teacher quality.

Sucheta Kamath: Yes. 

Elizabeth Green: And so, you know, go read about teacher quality, let's go figure that out. Great, amazing, like an assignment from the New York Times Magazine, you know, that was a dream come true for me. As I, as I began the first layers of this argument, especially through that lens of that, again, very wooden word that's super disconnected from humans. The first pieces of that were all about blunt policy instruments, you know, let's pay teachers more or pay teachers less or give teachers bonuses, if they, their students have higher test scores, or fire 20, the bottom 25% of teachers Never mind, how do we determine who's in the bottom, but the blunt instruments and it's really interesting to think about why is that and, you know, etc. But fortunately, I got, I was able to get out of that world and more into the central dramas of, you know, student development, student learning, and actually what teachers do. And I entered that through, through a different kind of research, research on the practice of teaching that just completely captivated me. And the more I learned about the practice of teaching and the science of learning and how they intersect, the deeper and more profound my appreciation became of how, how, just why this, you know, the work of schools and teachers and young people matters. And then also what we get so wrong about it when we're back in this, like World of policy and inhuman kind of approaches. So all of it. That's my, that was my journey into this and I just, I can't get enough of sitting in the back of a classroom or walking between desks when we, you know, when schools are open, and we look peering over a student's look at their paper or listen to the way they talk about ideas. I can't get enough of that it's some of the most beautiful moments of my life have been spent.

Sucheta Kamath: First of all, I think it's such an endearing story to me because I think, you humanized the policy decisions that might be informed by outcomes, but the outcomes are so tied with the journey. With the preparedness, and I think the preparedness was so under understood or under people, it was not on the radar, let's put it that way. Right. So I want to kind of start us off with this idea of the myths that exist about you know, either and you, you talk about this, and then there's, you know, other people have talked about this journey of how education came into being, even when it became mandatory that we're going to teach everybody this or who can we hire? Ooh, this is a costly affair. Yes, right. Hire women. This was in late, late 19th century, I guess. And so we have a lot of myths about who is a good teacher. And somehow you talk a little bit about this, this magical quality, you know, Michelle Pfeiffer, and, you know, we have this, you know, Marva Collins' story. So somehow, these are people who are unique. Don't mess with it. That was one time thing. And don't ask me to repeat it. So what why does the culture white culture stuck there? Or what? What are some of the myths we carry that are so harmful to our approach to preparing the teachers? 

Elizabeth Green: Yeah, it's such a good question. Um, and, and as you're saying, like, what I concluded was, in this journey for me was that we have so paid so little attention to the intricate and complex work that is both human learning and teaching, because teaching is just the facilitation of human learning. And so if you don't understand just how complex that work is, then you under invest in the infrastructure that's required to support that work. So I mean, I think that, that it really does come down to deep cultural ideas that so many cultures hold about how learning works, that are just too simple, right? And where we don't appreciate the complexity of the way we're all taking in the world. And we start out with ideas, and then we challenge those ideas, and we learn socially we learn by making something, yeah, making meaning, right, that. And, and I think just, in a lot of cultures, we don't put too much consideration into learning, we think you either know, or you don't know. And, you know, I don't, I don't hold our cultures, you know, culpable or I don't judge our cultures for that, for that stance. You know, one of the people that I write abroad about in the book, who recently passed away, David Cohen, one of the great scholars of education, he always talked about how we should keep in mind, just how radical the human experiment of public education in America is, you know, to begin with the idea that we would, in mass educate people to a standard of every single person, you know, engaging in empirical analysis and questioning reality is counter cultural to the mass of human history when we, as humans, you know, really took things so much for granted and didn't create our own knowledge. It's so anyway, sometimes I think about that, that we're holding ourselves to this incredible and laudable standard, that, but also, we should give ourselves a little bit of a pass like, this is gonna be a long journey. Right. And so for our culture's not to understand the complexity of learning, that's okay. But we can get there because so, so much literature exists now, as you know, that helps us see differently, and so we can start to change.

Sucheta Kamath: And you know, what, so Oh, interesting thing about that initial exposit that you talk about that we think teachers have some magical qualities, they're, they're all have this ability to kind of mesmerize children into learning, you know, some you have it or you don't have it? No, it doesn't work, like more training, you have better you will, you can be at it. And, and the other thing that I also was thinking about as we talk about teaching is, it's to me, you know, teaching button learning by default means not knowing, so we shouldn't be really be so harsh about not knowing. I mean, then not knowing only after knowing leads to knowing. Yeah, so so that exploration almost somehow that there's some Much burden on teachers to not allow somebody being in the state of not knowing that I feel that there's a big pressure of you make that knowing happen for that person. And another thing, as you said, this idea that, you know, even the older school system where you will have entire one teacher, an entire class made from children who are six years old to 16, about one classroom, right? So we are making these knowing happen for all of it. Yes, there are some parts that knowing can be facilitated. But after that, the level of interest motivation, all those change. So, so let's kind of think about this, this idea that the, then, you know, the perception that the teachers knowing how to teach you, yourself underwent some transformation that, wow, this is a skill and and some preparation, yeah. into building skills, your teacher. So can you talk a talk about what skills? Yes, into surface for you, that you realize that these skills need to be taught to the teacher? 

Elizabeth Green: Yes. And I call it the myth of the natural born teacher. So if you believe that learning is something that you either have, or you don't knowledge, you either have it or you don't, and you don't think about the work that goes into creating it, then it follows that it's easy to assume that teachers, their work is magical, it's to make learning happen, right. And so when a example is this idea that teachers are really good performers, like if they can make it so captivating, and tell it in a really clear way, then they're doing this performance, and then kids will just Ooh, they got it right or another is that teachers just are really good with children. And that's, you know, they just have their actors or they have make connections with children. And all these things actually are grounded in practices that teachers do need to have. But what I came to realize is that the work of teaching is so hard that you can't just bring, you know, a captivating personality to bear. And actually, you can be quite a quiet personality and a soft personality and be wildly successful. And you can't just bring relationship skills to bear, there's so much more that you have to do. One of the things that and one of the early lessons I had and seeing what exactly teaching requires had to do with the math problem that I was given by somebody else I write about in the book, Deborah Ball, and she asked me not to solve the math problem, but instead to explain how a child would get the following wrong answer. And she showed me the wrong answer. And I was just, it was a simple multiplication problem, but I could not figure out how the child would get that wrong answer. And she, you know, then when she showed me how the child would get the wrong answer. That was the kind of magic actually because I thought, wow, you know, how did you know that? How did you know that? And what she helped me see on the journey that followed is that, you know, she did this research project through the work of her own teaching, looking at her own knowledge as it formed as she became a better teacher of the course of many years. And she realized that she was learning a kind of math that isn't taught in school, it's not about right answers only, it's also about understanding how students misunderstand, and stakes, reverse engineering, the source of these mistakes, surfacing them, so that they can she can understand where the student is on their developmental journey, and then devising a way to on earth unseat that misunderstanding. And so if I thought about that, and, um, you know, not just that one problem on that one day that one student would present her and say, what, you know, this is what I think and then she's doing this thinking, but all the other students in her classroom, and that's just one set of students, many teachers teach multiple classes of students and that's just one day in one year, right? Like, how much do teachers have to know it was, I was so awestruck by clearly what teachers are doing this all this To work to learn this, and it's you know, it looks different in different disciplines. But in every discipline, there's these challenges in. In a group, one of the things I think we all know it when we see it about a great teacher or note, when we experience it as a student, is that feeling of a great class, whole group discussion, you just, oh my gosh, like one idea is building on another. And I'm just like, really thinking a lot. And I'm changing my mind. And I'm compelled by what someone else is saying. And I'm gripped. And it you know, there's drama. And we start with a question and we end with different answers. You know, we come out a different person that we came in those, I've, I've now looked at studies where, over the course of my reporting, I looked at studies where researchers looked at hundreds of 1000s of classrooms across the country, and hours of videotape of classroom discussions and the confirmed what are all of our also I think personal experience can confirm, which is that those moments are so rare, so rare, and that's because they're so difficult to construct. And but it doesn't mean that it's impossible, it doesn't mean that the people who do that are magic, it's because they have learned something over time about how to facilitate learning, and how to get a conversation going and discussion happening, that and actually one of the other scholars I write about in the book, Pam Grossman, she breaks down the different moves that teachers can make in the art of facilitating whole group discussion. And as soon as she started to break it down, I could see, you know, again, just like that moment with Deborah Bond, the math problem, this is hard work. This is work like conducting an orchestra or learning to, you know, climb a mountain, it has multiple facets, it's uncertain work, you never know exactly what's gonna come next very improvisational, you can't predict what students will say you have to be in the moment listening for it. And so you know, all of this, like, again, hooked me on, because it's just fun to be in the presence of masterful teaching. But it's also inspiring to watch people build infrastructure that helps any teacher reach, climb the ladder toward mastery. And it's sad, and infuriating how rare that infrastructure is. 

Sucheta Kamath: You know, so many thoughts come to my mind. So those people who haven't read Elizabeth's book yet, please do, because a lot of these things will become much clearer. But the example you were talking about was this child or this math problem, where if the car is traveling at 54 miles an hour, at in 15 minutes, how far it would have gone, which requires you to chunk the time into four quarters, and then half point of 54 is 27. Half point 27 is what kind of what that was the mathematical thinking, but the student came up with the answer 18, then the teacher has many choices. But a teacher in a rush, who doesn't understand the big, self evident parts of learning through discovery is to say, really should be inquisitive of why did you land on 18? Where does this equation fit? I found that such an empowering exercise. And one thing that is very clear from your work and my my own work in teaching people individually versus in a group setting, and training the teachers, that somehow we are asking teachers to do teaching, that will make sense to all. And if you know who in a group setting, if you bring prior knowledge, then you can make meaning faster. But if you don't have prior knowledge, which is what children don't, that their children, then making meaning it's context, void, and then that's what delays the learning for children. And and so the teacher has to be on the lookout to see where the part of the context the child has missed. But that requires so much time and we are not affording time to the teachers.

Elizabeth Green: Fine, and I just want to give credit that the teacher who did the 27 and a half problem that I write about is Magdalen Lampert that, yes, incredible teacher Yes. And that moment is just incredible that she takes, she takes us into her mind as she is thinking in the moment how to respond. And every single moment had a catch what one student is thinking, while the rest of the students may all understand, as you say, it's very challenging to teach groups. But what I Another thing I learned, though, to that point of the challenge of teaching groups is that there is an affordance, also, to a group context, right, because there's some things that have learning is often social. And so having multiple people in a room with different views actually can be incredibly productive for every student, every person's learning. And I think that's why we feel magic in the moment of whole group discussions that we can't possibly feel like if we're discussing a novel, we are reading the novel alone, even if we underline the points, we're having a very special precious experience with the book. But there's something completely different experience that can be had in a really well taught class discussion. Similarly, you know, in Japan, a lot of my book draws on reporting I was lucky to do in Japan and Japanese elementary schools, and their approach to math teaching is completely and utterly dependent on the existence of any kids in the class, because they're counting on humans making different kinds of meaning. And they know they can predict, we can also predict what kinds of meaning different students will make kinds of mistakes are repeatedly going to happen, and when, and what kinds of ideas are repeatedly going to be generated. And so when, as a teacher, when you can know that a certain problem is likely to generate a certain set of solutions, and in different types, that and you have a whole group, that's a beautiful way to show to open the minds of all the students about solution pathways that they never would have thought of. And then when in that class, kind of routines of the Japanese math classroom, they will routinely then on the blackboard posts, the different types of solution sets, and look for patterns across them. And that's another beautiful opportunity that we can have to learn that isn't possible with just one student. So I think, yes, there's some settings when there's nothing compares to one on one work that teachers do with with learners. But there's also some kinds of learning and ways of learning that are impossible to do without a group.

Sucheta Kamath: Yeah, and I think if I can talk about the many things that you brought to the surface, one is, you know, what makes the rather good teaching process should have modeling opportunity for individual practice, you know, practice, and then some place where group discussion happens so that you can even see the modeling done by different people or encounter different ways of approaching the same problem. And then the second part that you were talking about, you you mentioned, even the the teacher preparedness and Japanese perspective, the Japanese lesson planning I guess, jugyokenkyu. That's the a bucket of practices that the, as you say, a bucket of practices that Japanese teachers use to hone their craft, from observing each other at work to, to discussing the lesson afterwards to studying curricular material with colleagues. And I was I was showing this to my husband last night, I said, and he's a math if math fan, and, you know, we as a family, we are big fans of math, math, puzzles, math, you know, joking with math kind of thing. And, and this idea that even the teachers will talk about that 12 minus seven, versus a minus six. Which mathematical equation is a good sample news that the student up with for first time learning subtraction? Yeah. And just the thought was such a brilliant example that you captured there. Can you tell us a little bit about these, this? The teachers experience particularly in America, their journey as a teacher is very lonely. And and this data that that you presented with, like American teachers are in front of the students for 1000 hours in a given year, versus Japanese teachers out? Maybe 600? Yes, but the remaining time, everything they do impacts the way they teach. Yes, the job. powerful way to make an impact, but we underestimate, we somehow have captured this this imagination that you can only teach if you're in front of the student.

Elizabeth Green: Right? I think that maybe an analogy that will help people who are spending the last year in zoom meetings understand is sometimes we feel frustrated in a work setting. It's not the classroom about you know, I'm all I do is sit in meetings, I never get any work done. And that the end for American teachers and students, the balance is similarly off. Like we there's too much time on stage, and not enough time, sort of preparing, thinking and making that stage time its maximally best use, right? And so we everyone loses because of that. And that. And if you think about it, it all goes back to that, that foundational misunderstanding. Because if you think the teaching is just presenting and performing, yes, then why would you need to do anything off stage.

Sucheta Kamath: But even if I can ask you this, even the theater performers, we get recognized and acknowledge that they need rehearsals, they need practice. And we recognize that the stage performance is only three hours, but there was 30 hours of practice. Why are we missing out on that? Like, why? It's not part of the psychology? And are you seeing any movement since you wrote the book, I know, pockets of American schools and cultures of different regions of America, American educational practices, are able to individualize but this is not a federal mandate. This is not a state policy. Are you seeing any movement in those directions?

Elizabeth Green: Yeah, I think, um, there's kind of two stories of American education that are both true at the same time, I think one is that is the sadder story, which is that we, we the, we often try to pour new wine, but it goes into the same bottle or an old bottle, but new, again, getting that wrong...

Sucheta Kamath: I'm getting it though.

Elizabeth Green: It's very challenging to change. And so there will be an initiative that says, We must now have more group work, or we must now have less time in lectures, and, and these are come from well intentioned places, but they, without the development of that full infrastructure, investing in teachers knowledge, giving teachers real time to plan, creating better resources that are also standard and common, so that what you learn in graduate school of education and teacher education program actually maps to what you're really going to be doing when you're a teacher in the classroom, there's a tremendous lack of coherence there. All these factors, just really, if you couldn't design a system to make it more challenging to do this extremely complex work. And so I think that the most the other story of American education, though, is that, you know, that that story of remember here, what we're doing is a radical experiment in our country, and so many others, where we've committed to a really ambitious task that every single person gets access to a kind of learning that most of human history no humans engaged in. And so we're doing this in like no time at all. And you know, we do make steady progress, it's fumbling, that has three steps forward, four steps back, but it is I think it is directionally positive. And some of the I think most inspiring changes have to be structural, they have to be thinking about that basic foundation of what is a teacher's experience? And what is the student's experience of learning? And what are the different materials, infrastructures time elements that are touching them. And so I, you know, it's before my, as I was writing my book, I was very fascinated by the emergence of networks of charter schools, some of which are, you know, doing terrible things, but some of which are truly learning and adapting. And because they have the freedom from traditional school bureaucracy, they have been able to build adaptive school systems where so often larger systems have struggled, and then also school systems themselves taking on within the traditional bureaucracy, real change efforts that invest in common infrastructure, at least in a single place, and really make that experience for students and teachers better and better. So I do absolutely think you know, the Ark is still we have to, we have to hope right and one of my Favorite. I think this is the David Cohen quote, again, I hope I don't have this right. But I hope I have this right. But I believe he was the one who told me, you know, teaching is itself a profession of hope, both a profession of hope, but also a proclamation of hope. Because why teach if you don't believe in growth, there's, you know, it's embedded in it as a faith and a belief in, in growth. So, you know, I think all of us in the education world should hold on to that.

Sucheta Kamath: And, you know, you say something very hopeful to you said, you know, while the average adult needs to have a working knowledge of many subjects, a teacher doesn't just need to know the right answer to the question, she also needs to know why students are going to get the answers wrong. And, and so in that way that I love what you're capturing there is it's like, it's becoming a chess teacher. So you have to kind of not only know chess, but you also need to know in what many moves people will try to guide them, you know.

Elizabeth Green: Yes. And and what's it first, I described to you in the start of our conversation, a feeling of overwhelm that I had, oh, my goodness, how could a teacher possibly know of these things? The good news is, kids are super individual, but they're not unique. You know, we caught we all of us humans, we seem to follow the same tripwires, right. We have patterns. And so there's that an endless and never ending number of mistakes that kids will make when they're trying to do subtraction. With regrouping, there's a very discrete set of mistakes that kids will make. And and so you know, you can learn to anticipate those. And you can design as the Japanese teachers do, as you're saying earlier, you can learn collectively over time, oh, you know, what 13 minus nine is a really good problem to start with when you're teaching subtraction with regrouping, because it's most likely to generate, you know, the the most common forms of misunderstanding so that we can surface them and get past them. But also the most common solutions to how to attack a subtraction with regrouping problems that we have, you know, the widest toolkit of ways to think about taking a you know, that number nine from that number three, it's like, still, it's hard for me to do. Right. How do you think about that? Um, so I see progress. I do. And and yeah, I mean,

Sucheta Kamath: I think the, and I like to remind myself that the profession of teaching is young. Yes, we have been learning on our own much longer than people have been teaching us intentionally.

Elizabeth Green: That's so smart, I totally agree. So true.

Sucheta Kamath: We should be a little bit forgiving. But one thing, I think if I can just list a few ingredients that you talk about is one teachers need training, which does, but they need training, not in the content they should be teaching. But what methodology actually yields success in the learning to take roots. I think that's where the mistake I see that there's a lot of emphasis on I see a chemistry PhD in chemistry, teaching chemistry in high school, she knows a lot about chemistry, which he doesn't know the science of learning. That can be a big disconnect. The second thing you say that there's training, this training should be based on activities and structure that has some universal lingo or acceptance that we all know, common language, for example, you know, when I am a speech language pathologist, and if I say the, you know, acronym, MLU, that's minimum length utterance, it's going to be universally understood by every speech language pathologist, of course, it's a very unique and quirky and has no value outside my field. But I know how, what it is, I know how to calculate it. I know how to embed therapy based on the number that use that what the result is, right? So you can determine delay of language. That is a very powerful content knowledge that informs my, my my craft. Yeah, and but there's nothing in education that universally teachers will say, I gotcha, my kid, blah, blah, blah. That means blah, blah, blah. There's nothing you have to describe the whole narrative. You're wasting a lot of time 

Elizabeth Green: Not in the English language. 

Sucheta Kamath: Oh, not in English language. Yeah.

Elizabeth Green: But in but I and in Japan, there is a whole rich language about instruction and learning that doesn't exist in our country, although I think some people are working hard and succeeding at developing common language. But um, you know, we had, that the infrastructure I mentioned before is a necessary ingredient of developing such a language too.

Sucheta Kamath: You know, the thing that what struck me that teaching profession it's like imagine I was talking. My husband is a doctor and I was talking to him about this, that imagine an ER physician is also asked to take care of the scrubs other doctors wore? No, we don't keep him in charge of any of that. Right? Yeah. So here we have teachers who are not only in charge of teaching. But now if there is a fight amongst students, she is now in charge of discipline. She's also in charge of talking to the janitorial staff to make sure that the desk, go back and whatever, like so the teacher, unfortunately, is in charge of so many things that are not being of her teaching existence or her his teaching existence. And we don't even bat an eyelid and saying that that's taking away the freedom and the brain power.

Elizabeth Green: Talk about executive function requirements.

Sucheta Kamath: Well, then you are not overtaxing the executive system for sure. But last thing, I think maybe you can end us with this, that you talk about teachers need support in learning how to teach, through mentors and guidance, you know, guidance, through mentorship, observing and critiquing, and, you know, quote, many other countries doing that. Were one, why are we? Why is this not part of the teaching? This teachers do when we train the teachers? Why is this not embedded? And secondly, how can this be done? Well, if you can share some examples of that, that'd be really helpful. 

Elizabeth Green: Um,I feel like we don't have enough time for 100 examples, but I'm the I'm trying to think how to put in 30 seconds or less, but we have a tradition and teacher education, of undervaluing teaching, even in teacher education. So we even in teacher education, there's a higher cultural value put on the history of education, the psychology of education, the sociology of education, then now the neuroscience of education, but not the practice of teaching itself. That is very undervalued, those are the least paid least well resourced people, even in schools of education themselves. So this is like a deeply endemic challenge. And it's our priorities are just wrong. And so rewriting those priorities is happening in institutions, as people try to committed to reform, like Deborah Ball, tried to reform them. But it's a challenging enterprise.

Sucheta Kamath: Yes. Well, well, thank you for being with us. Before I let you go. You are an author, and I bet you're prolific reader. Do you mind sharing with us two books? 

Elizabeth Green: Yes, I write them down. Yes. 

Sucheta Kamath: Yeah. No, you planned ahead. Great executive function.

Elizabeth Green: Okay. So um, I'm pulling up and I don't want to get the names wrong. So I mentioned Magdalen Lambert, is a character in my book, and I absolutely love her book, Teaching Problems and the Problems of Teaching, which is just a amazing inhabitants of her the mind of a teacher, and a masterful teacher at that, as she and it's just brilliant. And then I also absolutely was riveted by and return regularly to Carol Lee's book, Culture, Literacy and Learning: Taking Bloom in the Midst of the Whirlwind. And similar to Magdalen Lambert, she recounts her own cases of her own teaching in an urban area. And I believe I actually don't know if she names the area, but I believe it was Chicago, and describes the the cultural language of teaching literacy to black children from a black teacher. And it is also a just an absolute master class and in the science of teaching, so those are two books that I relied on tremendously to write mine. So I thought I'd pick those for today.

Sucheta Kamath: Oh, thank you so much. And once again, we are so grateful to have you, you have enriched my understanding a question that would have not occurred to me until I actually read your book. So I thank you I take for granted. And lastly, I think, thank you for starting this amazing nonprofit that's tackling the issues of equity in education, and I track your work. I'm subscribed so I had We will be listing all that in our show notes. So once again, thank you for being here and listeners. If you love what you're listening, please share the wealth. And we always welcome for any comments. So have fun, be bold, be brave. And remember, learning is intentional. Right.

Elizabeth Green: Thank you so much for having me.

Sucheta Kamath: Thank you so much. Bye