Great Work in the Name of Equity with Dr. Gess LeBlanc | UYGW14

What happens when you feel unseen, unheard, and left out of most of the decisions about your education? Well, if you are Dr. Gess LeBlanc you spend your career raising up the voices of marginalized, diverse students.

Gess’s book “Who’s in my classroom” is a guide for educators (and all people) to understand the experiences of students of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, primary languages, and learning abilities. With stories written by the students themselves (through a collaboration with Youth Communication), Gess’s work is absolutely Great Work.

Join us as we discuss:

  • Why Gess’s commitment and approach to Great Work deepened and changed when he became a father and husband.
  • How he is able to his Great Work while maintaining a happy and healthy home life and marriage
  • Why his work has always sought to find silenced voices and bring those perspectives back into the conversation.

About the Guest:

Gess LeBlanc, Ph.D. is Associate Professor and former Chair of the Department of Educational Foundations and Counseling Programs within Hunter College’s School of Education and is a co-founder of Hunter College’s Urban Center for Assessment, Research, and Evaluation (UCARE). For over 20 years, he has worked in the fields of teacher and leadership preparation. A developmental psychologist, Dr. LeBlanc’s research investigates the impact of developmentally and culturally responsive teaching on school climate. This research has been published in both psychological and educational journals and has garnered awards from the Spencer Foundation and the American Psychological Association. Dr. LeBlanc is a sought after speaker on the topic of developmentally and culturally responsive teaching and is the author of Who’s In My Classroom?: Building Developmentally and Culturally Responsive School Communities published by John Wiley & Sons.

As an expert in the field of child and adolescent development, he has served as an educational consultant to various school districts, state agencies, and non-profit organizations including the New York State Department of Education, the New York City Department of Education, the Highland Falls-Fort Montgomery Central School District, the Lakeland Central School District, the Valley Central School District, the Highland Central School District, the Dutchess County Board of Cooperative Educational Services, the Orange-Ulster Board of Cooperative Educational Services, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Studies, the Boys Club of America, Harlem Center for Education, Inc., Prep for Prep, City Year, Inc., Roundabout Theatre Company, and the Arthur Miller Foundation.

In addition to being recognized for his research, Dr. LeBlanc has been recognized for his teaching and service in the field of teacher and leadership education. He is a past recipient of Hunter College’s Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching, the Hunter College School of Education’s Harold Ladas Award for Excellence in Teaching, and was awarded the 2013 Distinguished Service Award from the Association for Equality and Excellence in Education, Inc. Dr. LeBlanc currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Roundabout Theatre Company, City Year New York, Inc. and the Harlem Center for Education, Inc.

https://www.amazon.com/Whos-Classroom-Developmentally-Culturally-Communities/dp/1119824133

For more information about the Unleashing YOUR Great Work podcast or to learn more about Dr. Amanda Crowell, check out my website: amandacrowell.com

Thanks for listening!

Thanks so much for listening to the Unleash Your Great Work Podcast! If you enjoyed this edit and think that others could benefit from listening, please share it using the social media buttons on this page.

Do you have some feedback or questions about this edit? Leave a comment in the section below!

Follow the podcast

If you would like to get automatic updates of new podcast edits, you can subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts or in your favorite podcast app.

Leave us an Apple Podcasts review

Ratings and reviews mean everything to us. They help our podcast rank higher on Apple Podcasts, which brings these important stories to more awesome listeners like you. Your time to leave a review on Apple Podcasts is greatly appreciated! If you aren’t sure how to write an apple review, check out this 24-second video!

Transcript
Dr Amanda Crowell:

Welcome to unleashing your great work, a

Dr Amanda Crowell:

podcast about doing the work that matters the most to you.

Dr Amanda Crowell:

I'm your host, Dr. Amanda Crowell, a cognitive

Dr Amanda Crowell:

psychologist, speaker, coach, and the creator of the aligned

Dr Amanda Crowell:

time journals. Every week on this podcast, we are asking the

Dr Amanda Crowell:

big questions. What is great work? And why does it matter so

Dr Amanda Crowell:

much to us? What does it take to do more of your great work

Dr Amanda Crowell:

without sacrificing everything else? And how does the world

Dr Amanda Crowell:

change when more people are doing more of the work that

Dr Amanda Crowell:

matters the most to them? Whether you're great work is

Dr Amanda Crowell:

building your own small business, or managing a remote

Dr Amanda Crowell:

team at a multinational company. You'll find insight and answers

Dr Amanda Crowell:

here. Today on the unleashing your great work podcast, I have

Dr Amanda Crowell:

my very good friend and colleague, Jeff Lovelock. He is

Dr Amanda Crowell:

an associate professor in the former chair of the Department

Dr Amanda Crowell:

of Education at Hunter College's School of Education. He's the

Dr Amanda Crowell:

founder of Hunter College's urban center for assessment,

Dr Amanda Crowell:

research and evaluation. And for more than 20 years, he has

Dr Amanda Crowell:

worked in the field of teacher and leadership preparation. As a

Dr Amanda Crowell:

developmental psychologist, Dr. Long's research is investigating

Dr Amanda Crowell:

the impact of developmentally and culturally responsive

Dr Amanda Crowell:

teaching on school climate. He is a sought after speaker on the

Dr Amanda Crowell:

topic of developmentally and culturally responsive teaching,

Dr Amanda Crowell:

and is the author of the recently published, who's in my

Dr Amanda Crowell:

classroom, building developmentally and culturally

Dr Amanda Crowell:

responsive school communities, which I have to say I used in my

Dr Amanda Crowell:

class, and it was an amazing textbook. Welcome to the

Dr Amanda Crowell:

podcast.

Gess LeBlanc:

Thank you very much. I really appreciate the

Gess LeBlanc:

opportunity to be here. Thanks.

Dr Amanda Crowell:

Yeah, I can't wait to hear all about your

Dr Amanda Crowell:

great work. So why don't we just start right there. Tell me a

Dr Amanda Crowell:

little bit about your great work?

Gess LeBlanc:

That's it? That's a really interesting question.

Gess LeBlanc:

Because when I think about great work, my first question really

Gess LeBlanc:

starts with like, what does it mean to be great? You know, so

Gess LeBlanc:

I've been kind of thinking through that a little bit to

Gess LeBlanc:

really think about, like, is it a, like a personal investment,

Gess LeBlanc:

or the time that I've allocated something? Is it the quality of

Gess LeBlanc:

the work, or even the recognition of the work. And so

Gess LeBlanc:

in thinking about what it means to be great, it also makes me

Gess LeBlanc:

think about the things that I value. And as I kind of think

Gess LeBlanc:

about that, it kind of leads me down this path of identifying

Gess LeBlanc:

the aspects of my life in which I want to be great in the first

Gess LeBlanc:

place. And so, you know, and so as I kind of think about it in

Gess LeBlanc:

that way, I kind of put myself into different categories. And

Gess LeBlanc:

one is, as a husband and father first, I really think about what

Gess LeBlanc:

does it mean to currently be great in that area. And one of

Gess LeBlanc:

the things that I pride myself on, I can't take full credit for

Gess LeBlanc:

my wife, and I've always kind of thought about the raising of our

Gess LeBlanc:

two boys. In this way, we've already thought about the fact

Gess LeBlanc:

that we're raising someone else's husband and someone

Gess LeBlanc:

else's father. And so really, like, what is that? What are the

Gess LeBlanc:

things that we want to make sure that we instill in them, so that

Gess LeBlanc:

way, we make them the best husband and father, they can be,

Gess LeBlanc:

you know, in the future, you know, and so we've, we've

Gess LeBlanc:

thought a lot about that. And so for me, I take a lot of pride in

Gess LeBlanc:

in that level of relationship, you know, that I have with my

Gess LeBlanc:

sons, and my ability to kind of model the things that I really

Gess LeBlanc:

want them to see as evidence of what it means to be a good

Gess LeBlanc:

husband on good father. And

Dr Amanda Crowell:

what's an example of that, but what are

Dr Amanda Crowell:

some of the things that you wanted to model for them.

Gess LeBlanc:

So time, so So one of the big things that I've

Gess LeBlanc:

really thought about, because a lot of that is investment in

Gess LeBlanc:

quality time. And I know it sounds cliche, but I recognize

Gess LeBlanc:

more and more how easy it is to be physically together, but

Gess LeBlanc:

still be not present. Physically, they'll be absent.

Gess LeBlanc:

And so really investing the time and connection. And as they've

Gess LeBlanc:

grown from young boys into men right now, really feeling as

Gess LeBlanc:

though I have an awareness of just their journey, taking the

Gess LeBlanc:

time to talk with them, connect with them, spending time and

Gess LeBlanc:

activities together. But really taking that time of investment.

Gess LeBlanc:

And it's been challenging, sometimes, with all the

Gess LeBlanc:

different things that I'm involved in, I've made sure that

Gess LeBlanc:

I've essentially kind of scheduled time I know, it sounds

Gess LeBlanc:

weird, but scheduling time with family first, and then planning

Gess LeBlanc:

everything else around it, you know, so prioritizing and that

Gess LeBlanc:

way, I've also been very proud of the fact that I've always

Gess LeBlanc:

been kind of real with them. I've been very truthful with

Gess LeBlanc:

them in terms of what my challenges or my struggles have

Gess LeBlanc:

been, what my journey has been like, and trying to give them

Gess LeBlanc:

that level of insight into my world, but also helping them to

Gess LeBlanc:

see that they're creating their own path. They're trying their

Gess LeBlanc:

own path, you know, and so, helping them also to recognize

Gess LeBlanc:

that whenever, whenever, wherever, that they know that

Gess LeBlanc:

I'm there, that they're gonna listen not always to solve the

Gess LeBlanc:

problems, but at least help them to think them through. That

Gess LeBlanc:

gives me a lot of pride. And so to be able to hear that from

Gess LeBlanc:

them through their own mouth, that they appreciate that has

Gess LeBlanc:

been really helpful for me. And so that, in a sense is kind of

Gess LeBlanc:

helped me to kind of recognize my impact in that way. And it's

Gess LeBlanc:

something that I really hold dear. Something that I really,

Gess LeBlanc:

really valued.

Dr Amanda Crowell:

Yeah. Well, and you mentioned that you're

Dr Amanda Crowell:

involved in a lot of things, which I know to be the case. So

Dr Amanda Crowell:

how do you like what, what have you realized? or what have you,

Dr Amanda Crowell:

you know, come to understand that helps you actually balance

Dr Amanda Crowell:

that, because that is a that is, I think, a universal struggle

Dr Amanda Crowell:

for people who especially want to do important work, which I

Dr Amanda Crowell:

know you do, and yet want to be the best possible father and

Dr Amanda Crowell:

husband as well.

Gess LeBlanc:

It's really interesting that you say that,

Gess LeBlanc:

because I was, I was not always good at that, I think I'm

Gess LeBlanc:

getting better at it. And I really attribute a lot of that

Gess LeBlanc:

growth in meeting my dad, I remember one time just really

Gess LeBlanc:

trying to juggle a lot of different things, and trying to

Gess LeBlanc:

do all of those things really well. And I remember just

Gess LeBlanc:

talking with him, and just kind of telling him that I wasn't as

Gess LeBlanc:

happy with my progress with some of my writing and some projects

Gess LeBlanc:

I was working on. And then I was also concerned with my son. And

Gess LeBlanc:

he just basically just stopped me in my tracks and told me that

Gess LeBlanc:

I need to really think about the difference between good and

Gess LeBlanc:

great. And sometimes I have to be accepting of good. So

Gess LeBlanc:

essentially, it's like, you can't be great at everything. So

Gess LeBlanc:

kind of pick what you want to be great at, except that you're

Gess LeBlanc:

only going to be good and other things. So this whole journey

Gess LeBlanc:

towards great for me has been prioritizing certain things that

Gess LeBlanc:

I want to be great in at certain times. And that's really kind of

Gess LeBlanc:

helped me to kind of wrap my head around this thing. Because

Gess LeBlanc:

I recognize that when this this move towards wanting to be great

Gess LeBlanc:

always comes out of cost. And so we have to be willing to accept

Gess LeBlanc:

that cost, while at the same time celebrating our successes.

Dr Amanda Crowell:

Wow. Yeah, you know, what I love about that

Dr Amanda Crowell:

is the idea of like, I mean, we've heard people say, there

Dr Amanda Crowell:

are seasons in your life, and it always feels really big, like

Dr Amanda Crowell:

this is the season of motherhood, but like your kids

Dr Amanda Crowell:

or your heat, or humans for decades, you know, it's like, Am

Dr Amanda Crowell:

I done with my season of motherhood. And I like the way

Dr Amanda Crowell:

that you're sort of talking about, like, right now, in this

Dr Amanda Crowell:

moment, or in this month, or under these circumstances, like

Dr Amanda Crowell:

I'm choosing to be great at this. And I'm allowing myself to

Dr Amanda Crowell:

be good at the rest of these things. And that that can shift

Dr Amanda Crowell:

and change as your priorities free up and change as well. But

Dr Amanda Crowell:

it feels like it would be actually something you're often

Dr Amanda Crowell:

thinking about how to pick and choose which ones to be good at

Dr Amanda Crowell:

which ones to be great at.

Gess LeBlanc:

Yeah, exactly. And I recognize that with my sons

Gess LeBlanc:

and where they are now. So I have one in early 20s, one who's

Gess LeBlanc:

a late teens, and I see the they need you, but they need you in

Gess LeBlanc:

different ways at different times. And so they might not be

Gess LeBlanc:

as needy, quote, unquote, or need me as much as they did when

Gess LeBlanc:

they were younger. But when they need me, they really need me.

Gess LeBlanc:

And they need all of me. And so it's important to kind of

Gess LeBlanc:

recognize and balance that out. Because those are the critical

Gess LeBlanc:

junctures sometimes in their lives, so they're trying to make

Gess LeBlanc:

key decisions. And the fact that they would turn to me means that

Gess LeBlanc:

I'm a resource that they rely upon. And it's important for me

Gess LeBlanc:

to recognize that and to really honor that by being all in all

Gess LeBlanc:

in with my attention, or with my support all in with my

Gess LeBlanc:

listening, you know, and one of the things that I've kind of

Gess LeBlanc:

really had to remind myself of a lot is, the same practices that

Gess LeBlanc:

I found impactful in the work that I do outside of my home,

Gess LeBlanc:

are the same skills and practices that I have to employ

Gess LeBlanc:

when I'm at home, you know, and

Dr Amanda Crowell:

my skills and practices are those.

Gess LeBlanc:

So patients listening, you know, these are

Gess LeBlanc:

things and so sometimes, you know, I recognize that I can

Gess LeBlanc:

sometimes kind of put my best face outside of the house and

Gess LeBlanc:

needing to recognize I need to turn that inward as well. And

Gess LeBlanc:

so, I've really tried to practice the same kind of, quote

Gess LeBlanc:

unquote, good practices, that have really helped me in my

Gess LeBlanc:

consultative work and other research work that I do. And

Gess LeBlanc:

really turns back home. It's the same amount of detail and care

Gess LeBlanc:

that I've that I take outside to take that insight to, I think

Gess LeBlanc:

relationally that becomes critically important. And I also

Gess LeBlanc:

realized that if I, if home is good, and other things are good,

Gess LeBlanc:

too, right? That's the foundation for everything else.

Gess LeBlanc:

And vice versa. And so to me, it's important to recognize

Gess LeBlanc:

that, and I think during these past, you know, during the

Gess LeBlanc:

pandemic and the legacy of that, you know, time spent together

Gess LeBlanc:

and really creating those bonds and reconnections were really

Gess LeBlanc:

important during this time and so I'm so those are some of the

Gess LeBlanc:

some of the specific things that I've really recognized and

Gess LeBlanc:

leaned on that have helped me outside of the house.

Dr Amanda Crowell:

Yeah. So one quick question. And then I want

Dr Amanda Crowell:

to hear about the work outside of the house. But I wonder, as

Dr Amanda Crowell:

you talk about being really mindful and listening and very

Dr Amanda Crowell:

patient with your work and with your family. I wonder like, how

Dr Amanda Crowell:

do you make it so that you can be that patient all the time?

Dr Amanda Crowell:

Like, are you are you getting time alone? Like how do you make

Dr Amanda Crowell:

it so that you've got the resources to be so patient on

Dr Amanda Crowell:

every front?

Gess LeBlanc:

So So one of the good things that I have is that

Gess LeBlanc:

I because of my relationships with both my wife and my kids,

Gess LeBlanc:

they are very real with me too. So not always patient sometimes

Gess LeBlanc:

I'm really annoying. All right. And so they essentially are able

Gess LeBlanc:

to tell me in the most loving, kind, caring way possible. And

Gess LeBlanc:

you're kind of being in this, you know, and that's been very

Gess LeBlanc:

helpful. Feedback is important, right? Because that's what you

Gess LeBlanc:

need. Sometimes it's kind of cold water to kind of stop and

Gess LeBlanc:

say, you know, this is, um, it isn't about my intent, but about

Gess LeBlanc:

my impact. Or I might not intend to be a certain way. But it's

Gess LeBlanc:

not about what I intend. And so if others are feeling it in a

Gess LeBlanc:

certain way, and being impacted in a certain way, that's what

Gess LeBlanc:

really matters. And so I can say that I'm listening. But if

Gess LeBlanc:

people don't feel like they're heard that am I really say that

Gess LeBlanc:

I'm President, but if I'm not really fully present, and really

Gess LeBlanc:

am I. And so that's been that distinction between intent and

Gess LeBlanc:

impact, and has been an important one that I think

Gess LeBlanc:

through a lot, I definitely also recognize that by building my

Gess LeBlanc:

relationships, I think for all of us, we see that it's

Gess LeBlanc:

reciprocal. So it isn't about just me being a psychologist in

Gess LeBlanc:

the house and just listening to everybody. But it's more about

Gess LeBlanc:

my relationship, particularly with my wife and my kids, where

Gess LeBlanc:

I can talk through things as well. So it isn't just a one way

Gess LeBlanc:

by any means. And I think what's happened over time, is also

Gess LeBlanc:

being able to model some of that. So modeling that patients

Gess LeBlanc:

and listening is also skills that I think my sons have both

Gess LeBlanc:

also developed. And so I think that a piece as well is that

Gess LeBlanc:

we're able to be supportive of each other. And it isn't a one

Gess LeBlanc:

way by any means. But the ways that I've recognized also is

Gess LeBlanc:

that I've had to become much more aware of my own social

Gess LeBlanc:

emotional needs. And in order to be more self reflective, so I've

Gess LeBlanc:

recognized that self care isn't being selfish, and that it's

Gess LeBlanc:

really important to kind of establish the self care routine

Gess LeBlanc:

for everything that I do. And so I make sure that there still is

Gess LeBlanc:

physical activity, which is a kind of a classic aspect of self

Gess LeBlanc:

care. But also, I've also thought about just connecting to

Gess LeBlanc:

nature kind of at the spiritual kind of in a broad way, right,

Gess LeBlanc:

like spiritual needs, addressing emotional needs as well. So

Gess LeBlanc:

thinking about really who I turn to when I need to be uplifted,

Gess LeBlanc:

you know, and making sure to maintain and nurture those

Gess LeBlanc:

relationships, but also, cognitive needs, which is really

Gess LeBlanc:

more about like, how do I measure my own success? Like,

Gess LeBlanc:

what do I value? What are the things that I'm really looking

Gess LeBlanc:

forward to tell me that I'm doing the right thing, and

Gess LeBlanc:

really thought through a lot of that. So I think it's a

Gess LeBlanc:

combination of God's and recognizing the importance of my

Gess LeBlanc:

kind of self care needs, but also the kind of framework that

Gess LeBlanc:

I use for myself, which looks at my, my cognitive needs, my

Gess LeBlanc:

emotional social needs, my physical needs, but also my

Gess LeBlanc:

spiritual needs. I think that combination has really helped

Gess LeBlanc:

me.

Dr Amanda Crowell:

Yeah. Wow, that's, that feels that feels

Dr Amanda Crowell:

right. So I feel like the point that you made, which I wrote

Dr Amanda Crowell:

down, was like, wow, it's not about my intention, it's about

Dr Amanda Crowell:

my impact, that feels to me like a crux, like something you have

Dr Amanda Crowell:

learned and learned, again, in your professional work as well.

Gess LeBlanc:

It sounds so simple, but it's, it's taking a

Gess LeBlanc:

really long time to kind of recognize that that difference

Gess LeBlanc:

between those two things. And for me, the impact piece also

Gess LeBlanc:

leads me to kind of think about, like, what is my impact? Impact?

Gess LeBlanc:

Right? And, and what do I want my impact to be, you know,

Gess LeBlanc:

ongoing things. I mean, if I think about my, my research and

Gess LeBlanc:

my scholarship, you know, for a long time, I've been teaching

Gess LeBlanc:

people who are going to become teachers, you know, school

Gess LeBlanc:

leaders, counselors. And oftentimes, I found myself

Gess LeBlanc:

struggling to fill the gaps in the in the literature. So

Gess LeBlanc:

filling the gaps in the textbooks we were using, with so

Gess LeBlanc:

many different articles, and always kind of finding the big

Gess LeBlanc:

gap of really not hearing the voice of students in the work

Gess LeBlanc:

that I was kind of teaching. And I kind of thought a lot about,

Gess LeBlanc:

like, what is my impact on my students, like if all of my

Gess LeBlanc:

students are in a school someday teaching, and others in the

Gess LeBlanc:

school had been taught by other faculty? Like, how can I pick

Gess LeBlanc:

mine out? You know, like, what's the mark that I leave on them?

Gess LeBlanc:

And so that's where a lot of my kind of struggle around like

Gess LeBlanc:

impact really started to focus much more on what can I do

Gess LeBlanc:

better to kind of fill the gaps that I've been shot of

Gess LeBlanc:

struggling to fill for a long time. And I was I was in a

Gess LeBlanc:

school one day, I was doing some some work in a school, had been

Gess LeBlanc:

doing some work in art school, particularly theater arts, I was

Gess LeBlanc:

in a classroom as a theater teacher, in a school setting in

Gess LeBlanc:

the classroom. And I just had like a morning where I was

Gess LeBlanc:

working on a class I was teaching for Hunter. And again,

Gess LeBlanc:

just kind of like trying to find the most updated stuff to fill

Gess LeBlanc:

some gaps. And I was sitting in the back of a classroom like

Gess LeBlanc:

squeezed into his elementary classroom and I looked on the

Gess LeBlanc:

shelf, and there's this little Tony Morrison quote, and it

Gess LeBlanc:

says, if you've, you know, if you find a book you really want

Gess LeBlanc:

to read, but it hasn't been written yet. Then you must write

Gess LeBlanc:

it. That was like the impetus right there, right, which was

Gess LeBlanc:

kind of like stop complaining and do something about it. That

Gess LeBlanc:

was the point. And that's really what led me to start writing the

Gess LeBlanc:

book

Dr Amanda Crowell:

was, Tony Morrison told you to write your

Dr Amanda Crowell:

book. I love it. Well just tell us give us the give us the broad

Dr Amanda Crowell:

strokes, I'd mentioned it in your bio, but just tell us what

Dr Amanda Crowell:

you do tell us like your you wrote this book, but what's the

Dr Amanda Crowell:

real thrust of your work the umbrella of your work.

Gess LeBlanc:

So So my big work is really trying to support

Gess LeBlanc:

diversity, equity inclusion in schools. And that's really my

Gess LeBlanc:

big goal is, and so for me, my practice has always been to

Gess LeBlanc:

center, youth voice, and everything. And so at the

Gess LeBlanc:

foundation of my work is youth voice. And that's really been at

Gess LeBlanc:

the crux of everything that I do. Imagine if you walked into a

Gess LeBlanc:

doctor, and before you even said anything to the doctor, the

Gess LeBlanc:

doctor would prescribe some medication for you, you'd like

Gess LeBlanc:

you'd never go back again. But so many times, we're all these

Gess LeBlanc:

decisions are getting made about children, all these decisions

Gess LeBlanc:

about policy and instruction, and all these different

Gess LeBlanc:

curricular things. And nobody ever asked the students like

Gess LeBlanc:

they don't even talk. And so all these decisions that get made by

Gess LeBlanc:

adults who kind of presume assume, you know all these

Gess LeBlanc:

different things about students, but really never take the time.

Gess LeBlanc:

So me that was compounded by the fact that for a number of

Gess LeBlanc:

schools that I'm in, I'm thinking about the lack of voice

Gess LeBlanc:

that bipoc students have the lack of that not that gender non

Gess LeBlanc:

conforming kids have within their schools, and really trying

Gess LeBlanc:

to think of, well, if all these districts want kids to feel a

Gess LeBlanc:

sense of belonging feel a sense of connectedness to feel a sense

Gess LeBlanc:

of caring? How do you do that without soliciting their voice?

Gess LeBlanc:

Like, it just didn't make sense to me the other night, I mean,

Gess LeBlanc:

and the other part that I was really thinking a lot about,

Gess LeBlanc:

too, was, what kinds of knowledge bases do teachers do

Gess LeBlanc:

staff, administrators really need to have in order to be able

Gess LeBlanc:

to move the needle in this way. And so my work, I've been really

Gess LeBlanc:

interested in the work of cultural responsive teaching for

Gess LeBlanc:

a really long time. But I've always felt that I've always

Gess LeBlanc:

been the sort that I've been reading to meet didn't do enough

Gess LeBlanc:

to really address the development of students, and

Gess LeBlanc:

really thinking about their development, from the

Gess LeBlanc:

perspective of developmental needs. And so I look at this

Gess LeBlanc:

work in terms of what all of our students have developmental

Gess LeBlanc:

needs. So for example, the need to be intellectually engaged,

Gess LeBlanc:

you know, a need to feel connected and need to have

Gess LeBlanc:

movement within the classrooms, and need to develop emotional

Gess LeBlanc:

competence, awareness of what their emotions are regulating

Gess LeBlanc:

those emotions, I think all those things are foundational

Gess LeBlanc:

needs. And so for me, if I start with that assumption, and the

Gess LeBlanc:

question is how do I support those needs, in ways that are

Gess LeBlanc:

responsive to who children are in ways that are responsive to

Gess LeBlanc:

the lived experiences. So that was really the thrust of my

Gess LeBlanc:

research. And the thrust of the book was really to blend the

Gess LeBlanc:

fields of developmental psychology and cultural

Gess LeBlanc:

responsive teaching into what I call developmentally and

Gess LeBlanc:

cultural responsive teaching it really, the big goal was not

Gess LeBlanc:

strictly about classroom instruction, but really building

Gess LeBlanc:

communities that employ these practices. So I've used that

Gess LeBlanc:

same approach, not just in terms of teacher and leader

Gess LeBlanc:

development, but also as I work with school districts to address

Gess LeBlanc:

their broader diversity, equity and inclusivity goals, where

Gess LeBlanc:

we're really soliciting stakeholder voice throughout the

Gess LeBlanc:

entire process. So over the last several years, I've been working

Gess LeBlanc:

with a number of different school districts in the New York

Gess LeBlanc:

City metropolitan area, as they tried to kind of come to grips

Gess LeBlanc:

with a new reality that the community that they thought they

Gess LeBlanc:

had really isn't that community. And so things that they thought

Gess LeBlanc:

were wonderful and great and fine, aren't really that way.

Gess LeBlanc:

It's haven't been that way for a really long time. And so, a lot

Gess LeBlanc:

of this work was really spurred after, you know, the summer of

Gess LeBlanc:

reckoning. And after the killing of George Floyd, it really just

Gess LeBlanc:

revealed a lot of things that were simmering for a long time,

Gess LeBlanc:

a lot of school districts, which had to do with how bipoc

Gess LeBlanc:

children and their families, how gender non conforming children

Gess LeBlanc:

and families have, to a certain degree had to endure, right and

Gess LeBlanc:

tolerate intolerance for far too long. Can you give

Dr Amanda Crowell:

us you know, not naming any names, or any

Dr Amanda Crowell:

school names or anything, but can you give us an example of

Dr Amanda Crowell:

what was something that seemed like it was totally fine and

Dr Amanda Crowell:

good, that was revealed to be not what they thought it

Gess LeBlanc:

was through this process. So one big thing was

Gess LeBlanc:

about language use. And so many students have come forward,

Gess LeBlanc:

writing narratives, bringing attention to school boards,

Gess LeBlanc:

about the use of racial slurs, the rate the use of homophobic

Gess LeBlanc:

language, in classrooms, the way in which certain key topics were

Gess LeBlanc:

being taught. So for example, slavery being taught without the

Gess LeBlanc:

humanity. So rather than talking about slaves, talking about

Gess LeBlanc:

enslaved people, talking about slaves at a cat as a category,

Gess LeBlanc:

talking about enslaved people as moms and dads as children,

Gess LeBlanc:

because doctors as lawyers who were then enslaved, right, so

Gess LeBlanc:

how that approach has been taken, it became critical and so

Gess LeBlanc:

people recognize that essentially, like we've reached

Gess LeBlanc:

the point we're not going to take it anymore, where parents

Gess LeBlanc:

who have been educated in certain school district says it

Gess LeBlanc:

has to be different for My children, and it still seems to

Gess LeBlanc:

be the same. And so we need to move the needle. And so that's

Gess LeBlanc:

where I have been asked to help support a lot of these local

Gess LeBlanc:

areas to really rethink how they address these goals. Because of

Gess LeBlanc:

course, we know that things are trending. And then it's easy to

Gess LeBlanc:

just kind of check the box as we try to address diversity, equity

Gess LeBlanc:

inclusion. And so what I've been doing is working with school

Gess LeBlanc:

districts to really establish structures, district level

Gess LeBlanc:

equity committees that involved district level administrators,

Gess LeBlanc:

building level administrators, parents, teachers, students, all

Gess LeBlanc:

coming together to really talk through around what are our

Gess LeBlanc:

goals and identifying the goals and then establishing systems

Gess LeBlanc:

for addressing them. And so the work is really centered on four

Gess LeBlanc:

areas. One is broadly about the culture and climate of a

Gess LeBlanc:

district. And it's important to gather baseline data on the

Gess LeBlanc:

culture and climate because people see culture and climate

Gess LeBlanc:

based on where they live in a community and what their

Gess LeBlanc:

personal experiences have been like. And oftentimes, what that

Gess LeBlanc:

means is that the experiences of underrepresented groups tend to

Gess LeBlanc:

go unnoticed. Or people tend to kind of say, well, what are you

Gess LeBlanc:

complaining about you making a big deal out of nothing, right.

Gess LeBlanc:

And so it's important to gather as much information as possible

Gess LeBlanc:

about the current state of the culture and climate of

Gess LeBlanc:

districts. So utilize certain certain tools to be able to do

Gess LeBlanc:

that. I also have been very proud of the fact that I've been

Gess LeBlanc:

able to conduct state polls in districts. So I get a real sense

Gess LeBlanc:

of how students are experiencing schools, how their parents view

Gess LeBlanc:

things, how teachers, administrators, right to all

Gess LeBlanc:

different stakeholders. And that becomes a really important

Gess LeBlanc:

starting point, to start to center on what accommodate what

Gess LeBlanc:

are some of the areas that districts need to address in

Gess LeBlanc:

order to advance their their broader dei goals. And so

Gess LeBlanc:

assessing climate becomes one key piece, but then we start to

Gess LeBlanc:

center the work on other areas. And so one of the areas, of

Gess LeBlanc:

course, is going to be around the curriculum itself. And so a

Gess LeBlanc:

lot of work is being done now to really look at curriculum. But

Gess LeBlanc:

in order to look at the curriculum, you have to change

Gess LeBlanc:

the lens through which you're looking. And so a lot of the

Gess LeBlanc:

work that I've been doing is really working with educators to

Gess LeBlanc:

really help them to create a difference, right? When you

Gess LeBlanc:

start to look at the curriculum through a DDI lens, it's kind of

Gess LeBlanc:

a different approach. And so thinking of, can you give us can

Dr Amanda Crowell:

you just give us an example of that, like,

Dr Amanda Crowell:

what what lens? Were they looking for looking through?

Dr Amanda Crowell:

What did they see and think it was fine? And then when you

Dr Amanda Crowell:

switch the lens, how does it changes what they see? Oh,

Dr Amanda Crowell:

great,

Gess LeBlanc:

that's fantastic. So I'll think about it in this

Gess LeBlanc:

way, maybe this might help to clarify, when I work with

Gess LeBlanc:

educators, and this is not my language, but it's something

Gess LeBlanc:

that I lean on a lot. I tell all of the teachers that I work with

Gess LeBlanc:

that their curriculum needs to be both a mirror and a window.

Gess LeBlanc:

And so students need to see themselves in the curriculum,

Gess LeBlanc:

but the curriculum also has to be a way for them to see the

Gess LeBlanc:

rest of the world, right to be able to see beyond their

Gess LeBlanc:

community they see outside of themselves. And oftentimes, what

Gess LeBlanc:

I noticed is that the curriculum is oftentimes a window in some

Gess LeBlanc:

settings, where there are very few kids of color in the

Gess LeBlanc:

classroom. So it's really reflecting just the particular

Gess LeBlanc:

standards within the classroom. And in other cases, it's a

Gess LeBlanc:

mirror, but it's not sufficient mirror. I mean, that's the

Gess LeBlanc:

window. And so it's limiting in terms of what they're showing.

Gess LeBlanc:

And so part of it then becomes whose voices are getting

Gess LeBlanc:

elevated, what stories are being told about people different from

Gess LeBlanc:

themselves? How's the representation happening? And so

Gess LeBlanc:

we start to interrogate books, we start to interrogate lessons,

Gess LeBlanc:

we start to interrogate practices within school. So it

Gess LeBlanc:

isn't just about classroom instruction, we think about the

Gess LeBlanc:

curriculum, because it's also about the assessment practices.

Gess LeBlanc:

And so really thinking more broadly about what are some of

Gess LeBlanc:

the practices that are currently employed? And are those

Gess LeBlanc:

practices impediments to children's ability to really

Gess LeBlanc:

reveal their strengths to able to be at their best. And so if

Gess LeBlanc:

we have more flexible assessment options, right, more varied

Gess LeBlanc:

assessment tools, well, that actually helped to reveal

Gess LeBlanc:

student strengths more, then by limiting in the tools that we

Gess LeBlanc:

employ, if we lean heavy on certain graded things. So for

Gess LeBlanc:

example, homework is highly weighted in some of the schools

Gess LeBlanc:

that have been homework has been a really big thing. And so we're

Gess LeBlanc:

saying homework means getting zeros. Getting zeros ultimately

Gess LeBlanc:

means failing classes. What are the assumptions that we make

Gess LeBlanc:

about assigning homework? Well, one of those assumptions is that

Gess LeBlanc:

children have a quiet place to go home and do homework, that

Gess LeBlanc:

they have sources available to them. So one of the pivots that

Gess LeBlanc:

we've been making is away from homework as a concept and moving

Gess LeBlanc:

towards independent practice. And so if the goal of homework

Gess LeBlanc:

is to establish that a child can do something independently, then

Gess LeBlanc:

why not build that into the class day? Why not build that

Gess LeBlanc:

into the class period? Where if you find out that they can't,

Gess LeBlanc:

there's an opportunity to help some to do some correcting?

Dr Amanda Crowell:

I know so I really sorry to interrupt you. I

Dr Amanda Crowell:

just really liked that because I find that when you try to have

Dr Amanda Crowell:

conversations with people about diversity, equity and inclusion,

Dr Amanda Crowell:

it often becomes this argument about what is whereas you know,

Dr Amanda Crowell:

like, are you actually putting practices in place that that

Dr Amanda Crowell:

actually disadvantaged this group or not? And what does it

Dr Amanda Crowell:

mean that you're saying that and what would it mean to admit that

Dr Amanda Crowell:

you are doing that and it becomes so tangled so quickly?

Dr Amanda Crowell:

Whereas if you say, Well, why don't we just broaden or like

Dr Amanda Crowell:

more specify what it actually we're looking for? We want them

Dr Amanda Crowell:

to have independent practice, nobody has to admit to have

Dr Amanda Crowell:

wrongdoing. We don't have to agree on big, massive concepts

Dr Amanda Crowell:

around race and equity. But instead, we can agree well, we

Dr Amanda Crowell:

do want them to have independent practice. And now from a user

Dr Amanda Crowell:

centered perspective, what's the best way to get that out of the

Dr Amanda Crowell:

students sitting in this classroom? So it feels like it

Dr Amanda Crowell:

really centers the conversation out of the political milieu, and

Dr Amanda Crowell:

into what's best for kids?

Gess LeBlanc:

Yeah, I really appreciate you saying, seeing,

Gess LeBlanc:

because one of the things that I've also been really proud of

Gess LeBlanc:

is that all of the work that I do in buildings is really

Gess LeBlanc:

grounded in student voice. So I spend a lot of time doing focus

Gess LeBlanc:

groups with kids a lot of times. And so I talk with the students,

Gess LeBlanc:

I ask them some basic questions, right. So everything from what's

Gess LeBlanc:

your favorite part of the day? You know, what's what's, what's

Gess LeBlanc:

your favorite part of school? Two questions like? What are

Gess LeBlanc:

some things that your teachers do that help you to learn? And

Gess LeBlanc:

also, what are some of the challenges that you have? Right?

Gess LeBlanc:

What are some of the struggles? What are some of the challenges

Gess LeBlanc:

that make it harder to learn in school, and utilizing that

Gess LeBlanc:

information, I can then feed into the professional

Gess LeBlanc:

development work that I do, one of the things that I've been

Gess LeBlanc:

doing, particularly most recently, is really trying to

Gess LeBlanc:

help and this is where the DEI stuff comes in as well. Because

Gess LeBlanc:

oftentimes, when we think about diversity, equity inclusion,

Gess LeBlanc:

it's really easy sometimes to just center on race. And, and so

Gess LeBlanc:

it's important for me to really talk more broadly about

Gess LeBlanc:

diversity, you know, because there's so much there's within

Gess LeBlanc:

group diversity that people sometimes miss. So, so I'm in

Gess LeBlanc:

schools, where we might be predominantly bipoc Children,

Gess LeBlanc:

predominantly African American kids. And they may say, like, I

Gess LeBlanc:

don't feel connected here, because of my religiosity, or

Gess LeBlanc:

not feel connected because of my sexual orientation, or my about

Gess LeBlanc:

the fact that I may have a disability, it's important to

Gess LeBlanc:

really think about diversity, and also include neuro

Gess LeBlanc:

diversity, you know, I might learn, like all these. So I've

Gess LeBlanc:

been really working hard to kind of expand a lens of when we

Gess LeBlanc:

think about diversity, because if we fall into the racial, and

Gess LeBlanc:

I understand the importance, I recognize why the focus is on

Gess LeBlanc:

racial equity, I get it. But it sometimes leads us to fall into

Gess LeBlanc:

a trap of thinking that we've developed a system to address

Gess LeBlanc:

let's say, black people without recognizing the diversity within

Gess LeBlanc:

that group. And so for me, I want it to be messy on purpose,

Gess LeBlanc:

I want it much more layered on purpose, a little bit more

Gess LeBlanc:

complex on purpose. And so, because of that, that's the

Gess LeBlanc:

reason why I rely so much on student voice to really hear

Gess LeBlanc:

from them of what's going on, particularly right now, in this

Gess LeBlanc:

kind of quasi post pandemic, but still kind of pandemic time.

Gess LeBlanc:

We're kind of in school, right, and we're noticing, like

Gess LeBlanc:

releasing, reducing some of the distancing requirements and

Gess LeBlanc:

releasing some of the mask mandates, but the legacy

Gess LeBlanc:

continues. And so a lot about the stressors. And we know, the

Gess LeBlanc:

disproportionate impact that stress has had, particularly on

Gess LeBlanc:

children living in poverty, bipoc children and their

Gess LeBlanc:

families, why we understand that. And so, for me, it's

Gess LeBlanc:

important for teachers to also have, as a developmental

Gess LeBlanc:

psychologist, understand the impact that stress has on

Gess LeBlanc:

children developmentally, and one of the big things that I've

Gess LeBlanc:

been leaning on is focusing on executive functioning, and

Gess LeBlanc:

really looking at the impact of stress on executive dysfunction.

Gess LeBlanc:

So one of the things that I've been doing with schools, I just

Gess LeBlanc:

did this a few days ago in a school is I temporarily will

Gess LeBlanc:

meet periodically, I should say, meet with large groups of

Gess LeBlanc:orting large rooms, you know,:Gess LeBlanc:

we just do a noticing activity, essentially, let's talk a little

Gess LeBlanc:

bit about what we're noticing in our students academically,

Gess LeBlanc:

behaviorally, socially, emotionally. What I want to do

Gess LeBlanc:

is listen to the language that they use as they talk about what

Gess LeBlanc:

they're noticing. And so you know, you'll hear, and it's not

Gess LeBlanc:

always deficit based. So I can't say that, but oftentimes, it's

Gess LeBlanc:

like they're behind. They're needy, they're, you know, it's

Gess LeBlanc:

these kinds of things that happen. And so I really tried to

Gess LeBlanc:

unpack that language to try to help them understand well, this

Gess LeBlanc:

is how these times have impacted on the child in front of you.

Gess LeBlanc:

And that we can reframe the things that we're seeing. So

Gess LeBlanc:

rather than that they're needy, what they're really presenting

Gess LeBlanc:

as the child who needs a lot more assurance that they're

Gess LeBlanc:

doing the right thing, assurance that they're on the right track

Gess LeBlanc:

assurance that if they follow these steps, they can expect to

Gess LeBlanc:

be successful, because some of the behavioral things that

Gess LeBlanc:

people are noticing, from my perspective is much more

Gess LeBlanc:

avoidance. And so if we can really help kids to feel

Gess LeBlanc:

engaged, feel connected to the material, feel visible in the

Gess LeBlanc:

material feel valued by the material that they're learning,

Gess LeBlanc:

they're much more likely to be engaged and therefore less

Gess LeBlanc:

likely to be avoidant. And so these are the kinds of

Gess LeBlanc:

conversations that I'm having to really try to kind of craft that

Gess LeBlanc:

lens. So that way people are kind of interpreting the things

Gess LeBlanc:

that they're seeing in front of them in a different way.

Dr Amanda Crowell:

Yeah, that's so interesting. You One of the

Dr Amanda Crowell:

things that you know, you mentioned and actually, it's a,

Dr Amanda Crowell:

it's a major part of your book that I loved the most actually,

Dr Amanda Crowell:

it was such a small, was like a tiny little it was like what

Dr Amanda Crowell:

teachers can do. And one of the chapters, and it was it was

Dr Amanda Crowell:

basically it was talking about the notion of always being,

Dr Amanda Crowell:

always being open to being surprised by your students like

Dr Amanda Crowell:

i For me, it was it was related to Piaget, I'm trying to

Dr Amanda Crowell:

remember exactly how you related it to him. Maybe it was

Dr Amanda Crowell:

accommodation, and so always being ready to accommodate new

Dr Amanda Crowell:

information, perhaps. But I remember thinking like this is

Dr Amanda Crowell:

everything for these teacher candidates and for teachers in

Dr Amanda Crowell:

schools, because if you it's messy on purpose, it's exactly

Dr Amanda Crowell:

what you said. Because if you are always trying to keep

Dr Amanda Crowell:

yourself open to new information, then you can't, you

Dr Amanda Crowell:

can't get locked in on thinking you understand something based

Dr Amanda Crowell:

on your cursory review of it. And that seems to come down.

Dr Amanda Crowell:

Right, like the messiness comes the the surprise comes out of a

Dr Amanda Crowell:

habit, actually of listening to your students voice. Yeah. So

Dr Amanda Crowell:

I'm wondering if you're talking to the teachers, and trying to

Dr Amanda Crowell:

help them develop their ability to really check in with student

Dr Amanda Crowell:

voice as well.

Gess LeBlanc:

Yes. It's interesting that you say that,

Gess LeBlanc:

because right now, and I think context matters so much, right.

Gess LeBlanc:

So we're now at a time of year where teachers are now

Gess LeBlanc:

concerned, and rightly so about end of year assessments. So

Gess LeBlanc:

whether standardized tests all those things, at the same time,

Gess LeBlanc:

recognizing that there were there was, there were learning

Gess LeBlanc:

gaps, there was interrupted instruction. And so there's

Gess LeBlanc:

always that pressure to kind of backfill, so almost teach two

Gess LeBlanc:

years of content in one year, because of gaps that are

Gess LeBlanc:

present, right. And so what happens, then, as a result of

Gess LeBlanc:

that, is there's a kind of a heavy lien on the kind of

Gess LeBlanc:

transmission of academic information point that

Gess LeBlanc:

conversations around connecting with students, right and

Gess LeBlanc:

supporting the social emotional needs, is almost viewed as

Gess LeBlanc:

coming at the expense of instruction, rather than as

Gess LeBlanc:

foundational to learning. Oh, wow. And so that's where some of

Gess LeBlanc:

that pushback has been, is essentially, like, I don't have

Gess LeBlanc:

the time to do blah, blah, blah. And often, in my responses,

Gess LeBlanc:

sometimes, like, you don't have the time to connect with the

Gess LeBlanc:

kids in front of you, like, how can you teach? Right. And so

Gess LeBlanc:

it's really that pivot. And a lot of teachers are doing

Gess LeBlanc:

fantastic jobs are really integrating that into their

Gess LeBlanc:

practice. But I still face some of those struggles, where people

Gess LeBlanc:

are really looking at it as at the expense or at the cost of

Gess LeBlanc:

instruction, rather than supporting instruction. And so

Gess LeBlanc:

that whole of what I have to do is kind of like that mindset

Gess LeBlanc:

shift is helping people to really recognize like how

Gess LeBlanc:

important that is right now, when I asked students to talk to

Gess LeBlanc:

me about their teachers and their teachers caring, because I

Gess LeBlanc:

really want them to kind of unpack what that word care

Gess LeBlanc:

means, like, what does care look like. And sometimes they talk

Gess LeBlanc:

about the flexibility, like teachers understand that they

Gess LeBlanc:

have things going on outside of school, or they have things

Gess LeBlanc:

going on on the weekend. So they're flexible with them, you

Gess LeBlanc:

know, they're connecting, you know, those those kinds of

Gess LeBlanc:

things become really important indicators for children, that

Gess LeBlanc:

they matter that it isn't about the chemistry, you're trying to

Gess LeBlanc:

teach me, but it's about me first. And so you have that

Gess LeBlanc:

flexibility. More and more, I'm working with teams of teachers

Gess LeBlanc:

who I'm working with them to have shared calendars, so they

Gess LeBlanc:

can identify when they're going to have things to do because one

Gess LeBlanc:

of the things that you get is that you kind of teach from in

Gess LeBlanc:

your own kind of bubble, and you forget that the children have

Gess LeBlanc:

like, eight of you or seven of you, right? And so I want them

Gess LeBlanc:

as teachers what was a realistic amount of homework every night?

Gess LeBlanc:

And you know, some of the answers like, oh, 45 minutes and

Gess LeBlanc:

hours like, well, they've probably had about six hours of

Gess LeBlanc:

homework every night, you know? So if we start to think

Gess LeBlanc:

collectively about like, what's realistic? How do we plan out

Gess LeBlanc:

things collaboratively? So that way we can. So I have certain

Gess LeBlanc:

schools where teachers might do like, we're going to do math,

Gess LeBlanc:

every math is only on Wednesday, it's like you're going to get it

Gess LeBlanc:

in and everybody else plans around other things. So yeah,

Gess LeBlanc:

yeah, I'm done with stuff like on a Friday when you have five

Gess LeBlanc:

tests in a row, in terms of even taking some of those good

Gess LeBlanc:

practices that people were kind of forced to employ during the

Gess LeBlanc:

pandemic and not throwing them all away. And so example, having

Gess LeBlanc:

Sometimes faculty will post assignments for the week on a

Gess LeBlanc:

Sunday night, and everything is due the following Friday by 11

Gess LeBlanc:

o'clock, let's say. And then kids have the opportunity to

Gess LeBlanc:

pick what works best for them in order for them to be able to be

Gess LeBlanc:

at their best to do their assignments throughout the week.

Dr Amanda Crowell:

Well, and they're developing the ability

Dr Amanda Crowell:

to manage their own workflow, which is especially difficult.

Dr Amanda Crowell:

This is such important work and I'm, I'm just curious about you.

Dr Amanda Crowell:

Are you? Is this personally relevant to you? Do you did you

Dr Amanda Crowell:

have a life experience of feeling like your voice wasn't

Dr Amanda Crowell:

heard in your education or that your kids voices weren't heard?

Dr Amanda Crowell:

Like, how does this resonate with your own experience?

Gess LeBlanc:

So my answer is yes. And yes, and so as as as a

Gess LeBlanc:

black male, educated in New York, so it's an interesting

Gess LeBlanc:

journey because my dad was In the military until I start, I

Gess LeBlanc:

was born in the Bronx, I was in elementary school, a Catholic

Gess LeBlanc:

elementary school, I think it's important to grounded in that

Gess LeBlanc:

way first, when when I was in, so that's a whole different kind

Gess LeBlanc:

of experience. Until I was like second grade, roughly, but in

Gess LeBlanc:

the second grade, and then my family moved to the Virgin

Gess LeBlanc:

Islands. So there I was educated in the Virgin Islands, all the

Gess LeBlanc:

way up until is going to high school. The things that I didn't

Gess LeBlanc:

see, when I was in the States, I saw it firsthand, when I was on

Gess LeBlanc:

the island of St. Croix. What I mean by that was teachers who

Gess LeBlanc:

look like me who look like my parents, I had an elementary

Gess LeBlanc:

school, I had four black male teachers and elementaries.

Dr Amanda Crowell:

Wow, that's rare. It's unusual. Exactly.

Gess LeBlanc:

So had these kinds of interesting experiences where

Gess LeBlanc:

I expected to be able to be successful, because I saw it all

Gess LeBlanc:

around me, you know, that. I went to look like my dad, and my

Gess LeBlanc:

mom, the lawyers, everybody, the politicians, our Governor and

Gess LeBlanc:

Senators, all, there was never any time when I was in that

Gess LeBlanc:

period of my life, where I didn't think anything was

Gess LeBlanc:

possible, because like the old content expression, the actual

Gess LeBlanc:

represents the possible. That's, that's what I saw and lived. And

Gess LeBlanc:

then when I came back up here, when we, because of the

Gess LeBlanc:

military, my dad's positions, we move back up to the states, then

Gess LeBlanc:

I became, you know, one of very few kids of color in my classes

Gess LeBlanc:

when I was in high school. And so I just shifted automatically

Gess LeBlanc:

from being in a space where kind of I didn't, where race wasn't

Gess LeBlanc:

sailing it into being in a space where was really sailing all

Gess LeBlanc:

over again. And I started to really recognize the gaps in my

Gess LeBlanc:

instruction, or I got to see how my race served a certain purpose

Gess LeBlanc:

in the classroom. So for example, it was not uncommon

Gess LeBlanc:

when conversations around black people came up, it was kind of

Gess LeBlanc:

like, what do black people think just, you know, we're needing to

Gess LeBlanc:

kind of buy time I got to like my junior in high school, I

Gess LeBlanc:

actually stopped one time sarcastically so Oh, we just had

Gess LeBlanc:

a meeting. And this is what happened so many times. And that

Gess LeBlanc:

kind of stuck with me. And then when I went away to college, I

Gess LeBlanc:

went to Cornell. And when I went to Cornell, I remember

Gess LeBlanc:

purposefully really trying to seek out, you know, people look

Gess LeBlanc:

like me and connecting I, you know, I stayed in a dorm, you

Gess LeBlanc:

know, all those things to ensure that that community was much

Gess LeBlanc:

more like the community that had kind of given me comfort, in my

Gess LeBlanc:

earlier formative years. But I've always had this kind of

Gess LeBlanc:

sensitivity to not feeling visible or valued by the things

Gess LeBlanc:

that I was taught. So even throughout my graduate

Gess LeBlanc:

education, as a psychologist, it was always about, like, what are

Gess LeBlanc:

the voices being silenced? What are the norms that we're using

Gess LeBlanc:

to establish these theories, all of those things have kind of

Gess LeBlanc:

always kind of stuck with me. And I kind of took that into the

Gess LeBlanc:

work, the practice that I do, you know, within schools is just

Gess LeBlanc:

like valuing the voice of the people in front of you. And

Gess LeBlanc:

that's really been the through line all the time, all the way

Gess LeBlanc:

through, also to recognize and value people as experts in

Gess LeBlanc:

themselves as parents, as experts in their children, you

Gess LeBlanc:

know, really listening those like, like Louis MO says,

Gess LeBlanc:

talking about funds of knowledge, you know, really

Gess LeBlanc:

thinking about how much you miss by not asking those kinds of

Gess LeBlanc:

questions, you know, and so we were able to improve my

Gess LeBlanc:

practice, it was much more about really recognizing, like, what

Gess LeBlanc:

would just happen if I just closed my mouth and listened?

Gess LeBlanc:

You know, what, what's the value? You know, and that kind

Gess LeBlanc:

of that quiet contemplation and listening has been very, very

Gess LeBlanc:

helpful for me, in terms of thinking about myself as a

Gess LeBlanc:

parent, as a husband, myself as a, as a scholar, myself as a

Gess LeBlanc:

practitioner, you know, all those things have been very,

Gess LeBlanc:

very helpful for me, but it's been such a learning journey.

Gess LeBlanc:

And that's been the piece that's been the most motivating,

Gess LeBlanc:

because I've recognized that

Gess LeBlanc:

no problem. Sure, yeah. And one of the things that I've

Gess LeBlanc:

recognized is that I learned a lot by listening. That that's

Gess LeBlanc:

been very, very helpful for me. So learning about as a

Gess LeBlanc:

developmental psychologist, you know, we've read all the books,

Gess LeBlanc:

we've got all the you know, we've got that level of

Gess LeBlanc:

knowledge. But then really understanding youth

Gess LeBlanc:

understanding their experiences, their lived experiences. And I

Gess LeBlanc:

can't say that I have like full knowledge, but it's really the

Gess LeBlanc:

process of seeking to understand that's been the most valuable.

Gess LeBlanc:

It's really that time. It's helped me to build relationships

Gess LeBlanc:

with the students in the schools where I work, because they

Gess LeBlanc:

recognize that here's an adult taking the time to really listen

Gess LeBlanc:

to actively listen, I take tons of notes, you know, and I

Gess LeBlanc:

provide a lot of feedback to the schools. One of the practices

Gess LeBlanc:

that I'm really proud of, too, is that the, the leaders of the

Gess LeBlanc:

buildings where I work, we usually will launch the school

Gess LeBlanc:

year by talking about the things that the students have raised in

Gess LeBlanc:

the prior year and say, Come based on student feedback. Here

Gess LeBlanc:

are some changes that we're making. And so it's been really

Gess LeBlanc:

helpful for me because I also want students to feel that it's

Gess LeBlanc:

just not about that you're talking but that there's action

Gess LeBlanc:

As a result of it, and so I really want to reinforce the

Gess LeBlanc:

importance of that advocacy. You know, and it's been great, you

Gess LeBlanc:

know, a byproduct of me working in the schools is unfortunately,

Gess LeBlanc:

oftentimes I am the only black male in the school, ma'am. It's

Gess LeBlanc:

not uncommon. And so I've also found that particularly for

Gess LeBlanc:

children of color, they tend to kind of we spend a lot of time

Gess LeBlanc:

talking, we have a chance to really talk and connect. And my

Gess LeBlanc:

work with a broader district equity teams as well, with

Gess LeBlanc:

students on those committees, we've had a chance to connect.

Gess LeBlanc:

So it's been very, very helpful for me to really have a real

Gess LeBlanc:

kind of on the ground understanding of, of how

Gess LeBlanc:

children kind of dig living these times, and how important

Gess LeBlanc:

it is to have that information, inform instructional practices,

Gess LeBlanc:

informed decision making at the leadership level. Because

Gess LeBlanc:

ultimately, I think about education, kind of like if I was

Gess LeBlanc:

running a business, if I want to have a business be successful, I

Gess LeBlanc:

kind of want to know my customers think. And so right

Gess LeBlanc:

now, it's a similar thing, I think it's important that we

Gess LeBlanc:

know how students are experiencing school because

Gess LeBlanc:

that's really the only way that we can advance any of our dei

Gess LeBlanc:

goals.

Dr Amanda Crowell:

I think it's just a beautiful and rare skill

Dr Amanda Crowell:

that you have centering the voice of other people at the

Dr Amanda Crowell:

center of your work. So I just really appreciate that. And I

Dr Amanda Crowell:

really appreciate you. And I bet that there are people who are

Dr Amanda Crowell:

hoping that you might be able to help them in their school with

Dr Amanda Crowell:

some of this. So if somebody wanted to get to know a little

Dr Amanda Crowell:

bit more about you, or see what it's like to work with you, how

Dr Amanda Crowell:

would they go about doing that?

Gess LeBlanc:

The best way to learn about me and my approach,

Gess LeBlanc:

I think is through my book, I think my book gives a good

Gess LeBlanc:

indication of my approach, and also my philosophy of how I go

Gess LeBlanc:

about centering the voice of students. I think in the book, I

Gess LeBlanc:

also provide some insight into the ways in which we can think

Gess LeBlanc:

about the implications not just at the classroom level, but also

Gess LeBlanc:

at the building level. And in my book, I also do make a

Gess LeBlanc:

connection between my work and the broader work that I do to

Gess LeBlanc:

address issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion,

Gess LeBlanc:

with some lessons learned baked in there, so So I would

Gess LeBlanc:

recommend if you're interested in learning a little bit more

Gess LeBlanc:

about my approach in my work, I think the book is a great place

Gess LeBlanc:

to start. I'm also available to suggest the blanc@gmail.com is a

Gess LeBlanc:

way that people have been reaching out to me. So I've been

Gess LeBlanc:

hearing from people utilizing the book, we've already been

Gess LeBlanc:

connecting with some of them about possible professional

Gess LeBlanc:

development opportunities. The book is also a collaboration

Gess LeBlanc:

with an organization called Youth Communication and Youth

Gess LeBlanc:

Communication. And I have also been providing professional

Gess LeBlanc:

development services in the past. And we've been presenting

Gess LeBlanc:

at conferences as well utilizing components of the book. And so

Gess LeBlanc:

working with youth communications, and Youth

Gess LeBlanc:

Communication has a long history of providing professional

Gess LeBlanc:

development support. And so sometimes I can connect

Gess LeBlanc:

individuals with Youth Communication, if it's specific

Gess LeBlanc:

things that that they're pretty good at, or we work

Gess LeBlanc:

collaboratively together. And I'm also available via LinkedIn.

Gess LeBlanc:

And so people have been reaching out that way as well just to

Gess LeBlanc:

stay connected. And so I'm happy to reach out or be connected to

Gess LeBlanc:

anybody who's interested in the book or learning more about my

Gess LeBlanc:

work, or if I can provide any support, either at the classroom

Gess LeBlanc:

level or at the building level. So I look forward to being

Gess LeBlanc:

connected with people who are interested in connecting with me

Gess LeBlanc:

in the future. That's great.

Dr Amanda Crowell:

So I will put a link to the book in the show

Dr Amanda Crowell:

notes, and to your email address and to your LinkedIn. And I just

Dr Amanda Crowell:

really, you know, I really appreciate the time that you've

Dr Amanda Crowell:

taken, we've had a few technical issues. So if your patience has

Dr Amanda Crowell:

been, I'm sure taxed a little bit. So I really appreciate it.

Dr Amanda Crowell:

And I just want to add my own personal recommendation that

Dr Amanda Crowell:

anybody who's thinking about schools and or even if you have

Dr Amanda Crowell:

children in schools, just as book is is just a really great

Dr Amanda Crowell:

way to understand the broader context of urban schools and the

Dr Amanda Crowell:

lived experiences of students in schools where their needs are

Dr Amanda Crowell:

sometimes met well and sometimes met less well. So it's a truly

Dr Amanda Crowell:

remarkable book. You did a great job. Thank you so much for

Dr Amanda Crowell:

taking the time to be on the podcast.

Gess LeBlanc:

Oh, you're very welcome. Thank you so much for

Gess LeBlanc:

the opportunity. You know, I'm passionate about this work. I

Gess LeBlanc:

hope that passion came through. George is talking about the

Gess LeBlanc:

works. And so thank you again. Thank you, man for the

Gess LeBlanc:

opportunity. Really appreciate it.

Dr Amanda Crowell:

Thank you. Thank you for joining me today

Dr Amanda Crowell:

on the unleashing your great work podcast. If you liked what

Dr Amanda Crowell:

you heard, please subscribe and leave a five star review. And

Dr Amanda Crowell:

hey, don't forget to check out the Allied tank journal. You

Dr Amanda Crowell:

need support to get started, stay at it and unleash your

Dr Amanda Crowell:

great work out into the world. See you next time.


Tags


You may also like

Sign Up To Get Notified of New Episodes!

Unleashing Your Great Work is a weekly podcast supporting you to do the work that matters the most to you. Sign up to get notified each week of new episodes and get invited to exclusive events!