Hope. Purpose. Collaboration: Tune in today as Virginia principal, speaker, learner, and author Evan Robb talks about living his why and igniting passion and purpose while he helps people grow.
Hello and thanks for tuning into the corner on character, where character speaks a podcast in partnership with pro signed design to spotlight passionate character champions who are walking the talk. I’m your host, Barbara Gruner. And today we’re visiting with Evan. Rob. Oh, my goodness. A list of things. He is a principle. A speaker, a learner and author. Evan, welcome to the podcast. Thank you very much, Barbara. Really a pleasure to be able to spend some time with you today. I always like the guests to just tell us a little bit about themselves.
So can you share with us? What brought you to today? Sure, the, uh and thanks that that’s a great question. I have been in education, finishing up my 27th year right now. And like many people, I think who go into the field. It was not my intent when I was in college to go into education. It kind of hit me a little bit later in life. In fact, I went through college in hopes of pursuing a business career and actually went to grad school and earned an MBA.
But then I decided that that that wasn’t for me. to my parents disappointment a little bit because there was a lot of money to get me through the grad program. However, no regrets. I decided Teoh pursue a teaching endorsement of their time and took a teaching job teaching civics. That was my first job, my first teaching job and, uh, did that in Culpeper, Virginia. Did that for just about a year because I had a commute that was a horrible commute from where I live. It was about 88 miles from my door to the building and your year.
That was more than enough. After that, I went to Clark County public schools and was a teacher. There, became an administrator in a neighboring district, and now I am principal of the school where I was a teacher and I’ve been principal. Yeah, it’s a little bit unusual, and but it But it’s nice. You have really great memories of the building when I taught there of the I know toe work with a wonderful staff and create new memories for a building right now. And what grades do you work with?
We are middle school and we are just grade 67 and eight and This is a small building about 475 students. When I was in neighboring County prior to coming back to Clark County, of the school’s principal of Was, a junior high school had about 1300 students, and my preference is smaller schools because it’s I have more opportunities to connect with parents and to connect with kids. And, ah, for me, that proves to be the most enjoyable place for me to be. So I’m gonna connect with something I read on your Twitter feed.
When I was in the band, our band director, his motto was Results, not excuses. And so I saw that you said to adopt a no excuses mindset. Can you, um, unpack that a little bit? Yeah, I’d be happy to. I think it gets easy in not just in education but in any profession to come up with an excuse on why something won’t work. And I think it’s a bad. It’s kind of a bad hole to get into, and people get into that mindset, and they use it as a reason to not make Ford progress or did not make change.
One of the things that I’ve learned is a principle is it is really important Teoh model and to communicate a message that if something is important to you, you find a way to get it done. And that oftentimes means pushing excuses aside and focusing on possibilities versus reasons why something won’t happen. You know, one of the things and this is true in education. But it’s true in every field that you if you keep doing the same thing over and over again, you’re gonna get the same result.
And I don’t like to have excuses myself and and certainly don’t encourage that from others to create excuses that allowed things to continue as they once were, over and over again and getting the same result. Although sometimes people believe that they’re going to get a different result, but tends to not be that way. So then how does that complement or align with a redo is not a freebie, that a redo is not a freebie. Yeah, that’s growth mindset, right? Yeah, it is growth mindset, and it also has to do with something that I think is really important in the building which is preserving hope.
You kids. Yeah. Kids will not work hard if they don’t have any hope, and and I And actually you know adults are very much the same way. One of the things that I found is that most of the major tasks or assessments that we take in life, whether it’s the else at the G Ari’s, the S A. T s driver’s license tests, you know, they could be taken multiple times until they are a satisfactory score is earned. And I think the same thing is important for kids in school that they need an opportunity to better themselves.
And, you know, I like the elect. The message that not learning is not an option. And when you don’t allow reduce, you actually allow kids an opportunity to not learn because they can take a zero. Or they can take a low grade and and not learn the material so some people thinks, reduces giving a freebie and making it easier for kids. But I would argue that it actually makes it a lot harder because it if it coincides with the expectation that everyone is gonna learn in this building.
So I like that I’m going to repeat that not learning is not an option Oh, what do you do with your unmotivated kids? Because I also saw that you said it’s not necessarily about a check mark or a piece of candy to motivate thes learners. No, I think the goal is to get kids to be motivated toe learn versus point accumulation, you know, or or a check mark or or a piece of candy. I think one of the challenges in education today is that our grading system often gets kids very motivated on point accumulation or on a particular grade versus learning.
And you see that it you know, it all ends of the spectrum, but particularly with very, very academic kids who are highly concerned with making sure that they make in a But at times that creates a very safe path for them versus being more daring with their learning, out of fear of not making not making that kind of great right. And then the end goal ends up not being so much about where they’re going, as opposed to how they’re going to be assessed once they get there.
I think that that can happen a times in buildings, and it’s something that educators need to be aware of and be be really careful about. You know, in my experience of work with a lot of teachers honest, I don’t think that people go about grading in a way to necessarily be punishing or detrimental to kids. But sometimes the methods that are used to be that way, because a lot of times in my experience is that a lot of times in educators grade based off of the way that they experienced grading when they were in school or the way that you know a mentor teacher help them along the way.
And sometimes that’s OK. But that’s not always Beth Practice and I was in line with some of the more current research on grading, and so, you know, inadvertently it can have a negative effect. So you’re a leader in a building and you’ve got a lot of people probably serving alongside of you. How can they tell what your why is? Well, that’s a really good question. I I would I would like to say that they could trouble my Why is because there’s a very high congruence between what I talk about, sometimes ad nauseum and what my actions are, and I think that when there is congruence, see between what you believe and that your actions are consistent with what you believe.
It becomes very easy for people to see what your why iss. I think that people have a problem where people have a problem with that is the lack of congruence e. So someone saying something, maybe even saying it quite well. But their actions are not in alignment with what they’re saying. Then it becomes very hard for people to understand what someone’s why is. But I can’t say that when people get into that rut. But people tend to not believe what someone says. They just believe what they dio.
Yeah, and how do you help those teachers find their Why? I think the you know, part of that is is a personal choice. And you know, I can be someone who helps people grow and who helps people learn how to reflect and who helps people think about doing their job differently. But at some point, that decision becomes a personal decision of the educator. One of the things that I’m a really big believer in is having a lot of professional development in my building that helps people reflect on their practice a times and feel affirmed in terms of what they’re doing in the classroom and at times learn to learn new ways to work with kids and whether whether that means working with them in terms of ah, behavior or working with them in terms of how how they’re being instructed.
And I think that when people are willing to be reflective and people are willing to see themselves as a learner, I think that leads people down a path of getting a much better idea of who they are and what they believe in. Can you share us with us? What is one of your favorite recent PDS? Yeah, I can I have. Over the over time, I’ve become less of a fan of kind of what I would call one and done PDS and much more a fan of things that are that are ongoing, and I like to take a really Yeah, you know what I think that’s it’s definitely the best way I believe to do things, and you have to be a little bit creative, cause sometimes that can be expensive.
But there are other ways to kind of coordinate and make it work, so I’ll give you a really a simple example. One of the things that I found with P D. Is that the best way for me to approach that as a principle is through observations and lots of conversations with teachers within my building to make sure that we are charting a path that we believe as a staff is the direction that we need to go? So I think that things can go wrong when it’s one person.
Let’s just say the principal who is inserting and driving everyone to experience a certain type of P e teachers would can in that case, be a lot like kids. They could be compliant, but it doesn’t mean that they’re doing that. They’re going to learn, and it doesn’t mean that it’s going to be impactful. So my building decided. I notice I used the word my It certainly wasn’t me, but our staff decided that we needed work on differentiating to our weakest learners and to our most able learners.
And so I was in touch with a former college professor who is retired, and that person was willing to dedicate time are building for a year, and we had seven deferred PD sessions with her throughout the year that were based off of our needs, where staff had wonderful collaborative opportunities during the PD and had things that they were gonna work on after one particular PD session and then bring that back to the next and said, Suddenly it becomes ongoing and focus to meet people’s people’s needs. I find that to be really, really effective, and that has had a really excellent impact in helping teachers in my building be even more effective than they already have been.
So when it’s that effective and meaningful, it’ll follow that it’s sustainable. Yeah, I think that, you know, we’re still going working with this consultant will probably do another year, but differentiating is a term just there, and they’re certainly other ones that we kind of brainstorm about an education that get tossed around a lot now, um, in terms of the verb ege of pedagogy going on in schools. But it’s given us on opportunity to look at lots of different strategies and different methods to differentiate curriculum and make sure that teachers are meeting the needs of learners in their classroom you.
One of the classic problems with education of that that I feel and certainly I experienced is a one size fits all sort of approach where, you know, I mean and that you may relate to this also, Barbara. But, you know, I know when I was in school history class, for example, my teachers would lecture and everyone would take notes. And every Friday, everyone would take a test and attended to work pretty well for your kids who were strong auditory learners. But other kids, it didn’t necessarily work well for them.
And so I like to see education moving more towards more personalization of learning to meet the needs of kids based off of where they are in terms of their ability to access the curriculum and also looking at their learning style and in different ways for them to interact with material. So do you get much pushback because you’re talking now about things like what? Portfolios and genius, our and P S A’s. You know those sorts of things like your flip grids and your seesaws? Are you getting pushback or our teachers on board?
In my building, teachers air are absolutely on board but that’s been a process. You know. One of the advantages that I’ve had in my school is I’ve been a prince with my building for 14 years, so over time some people have retired, and we’ve been able to make sure that we’re replacing people with people who are very a lot with the mission and the vision of the building. And that’s important because that minimizes people being either overtly resistant or what kind of resistant on the down low within the school.
The other thing that I found is that most people that I’ve come into contact with in education want to do a good job. They want to feel good about what they do, and they want to make sure that they’re being impactful with their teaching. And so I think there’s a process of raising awareness that sometimes what what someone may hold near and dear or what someone may have really fond memories on in terms of their reflection on their experience when they were in education, it may not necessarily be what the kids in front of them need, right, So you don’t want to be teaching to yesterday?
No, I think we need to teach kids for for their future. You know when that something that’s been said for a long time and John Dewey made those statements. But the world is changing very, very quick. It’s very hard for anyone to figure what the world will look like for middle school students when they’re 20 or 25 years old. But I think they’re They’re interesting conversations about some of the skills that we think kids need to have. You know what they have to do with again. Something that gets categorized a lot Now is 21st century skills, but they’re really important.
So focusing on developing collaboration with kids, communication, creativity, problems, self those for skills are gonna come very, very important. They are typically not just for myself, but burning. This was not found in the type of teaching that I experienced when I when I was in middle school. Yes, No, us either. Yeah, so I think it Yeah, I know, but I think it’s important to get people focused on okay, what kids need as they move into the future. And how does your dynamic need to be different and we’re help kids get ready for that.
So you said you like to help people grow. And I know one way you’ve done that is being an author. You’ve got what, two books help us out with what’s going on in your journey as a writer to help share what you know. Well, I really have come to really enjoy riding and interesting enough, and you talked a little bit about growth mindset at the beginning of our chat here today. I was not a good writer when I was in school, and writing is something that I needed to work on well into my adult years, to get to the point that I felt like I could be reasonably competent at it.
And by no means do I expert do I consider myself a great writer. You know, I am not a threat to anyone who is writing the next the next great American novel, but I do feel like I’ve gotten to a place that that have things that I need to say, and I’m getting reasonably good at putting those words down in writing for people. So I have a book coming out with Corwin at the end of May, called the 10 minute principle and in collaboration with my mother, Laura Rob.
We actually have two books that are coming out with Day Burgess Publishing. We have a book coming out in June called Making Star Putting and with benchmark publishing. Laura and I tackle something that were extremely passionate about, which is reading, reading, instruction and independent reading in schools. And we’re writing a book called School Full of Readers and that should be published in the fall of 2000 and 19. So three things coming out. I’m really excited. Well, congratulations. That’s so amazing. Let’s go back to that middle title. Did you say making star putting?
Yeah, I did. Can you explain, or is that just a tease? And we can’t know yet? No, no, no, it’s It’s not a tease, You know, the book is born out of learning to think differently and incorporating a dream, escaping and wonder into looking at the dynamic of education today and what needs to happen as we better prepare our kids for the future. You lower and I are big believers that things need to become different if we’re going to get kids ready for a world that’s radically different and changing very, very fast.
So the book looks at communication and how people communicate, how people collaborate and how people think and dream about what education can look like and what it can be. So that might speak to the question at the top of your Twitter page. What is your plan to do with your one wild and precious life? Oh, you noticed that? Thank you. Is that Is that an Evan Rob original? No, no, no. The pressure from a poet named Mary Oliver. Um, and you know, it’s and it’s an important It’s an important message.
And I put it up there for a reason because I am very into and I want I certainly want to surround myself with people who want to live their lives with purpose. And, you know, part of getting older and for me, you know, has been the death of my father and people that I’ve known as I’ve been growing up, and it makes you reflect and realize that life is precious and time is limited. And, uh, and I think it’s important for me to reflect, and I think it’s important for other people to reflect on you know, what do you want to dio?
One of the things that that I like to share with my staff is there are three teachers that all of us can reflect on as we look back on our schooling. When when we were kids and they eat, sit in a particular chair. One group of teachers are teachers that we hated, and we all have some people, unfortunately that that sit in that chairs, we reflect back on our lives. People who didn’t believe in us, people who saw us is less than and people who we do not have good memories about.
Then there are other people who fade away as we get older times separates us more more from elementary, middle and high school. And some people who didn’t impact this one way or another don’t even remember the names anymore. But there always some people who had an incredible impact on your life, and those were the teachers that you remember because they saw something in you that others might not have seen. And they had a role in changing your pathway to change your trajectory. And so the quote resonates with me and reminds me that you know, I want to be the person in that third seat, and I want to inspire other people to want to be the same.
Oh, my gosh. The three chairs. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard it put like that, but I totally want to be in that chair with you. Totally. Yes, because we’re hope dealers. And we’re talking about purpose and collaboration and affirmation and and all that is good in this world. And and if the positive doesn’t drown out the negative than we’re doomed, Well, yeah, we we are. And that brings up an interesting point also, which is, you know, I’m a big believer that, you know, you choose your mindset and being positive and positivity is a choice.
The opposite, I believe, is a choice also. And, uh, I’m certainly committed to making sure that every day I’m being positive and I’m seeing the positive. And I think it’s a really important responsibility with leadership because no one wants to be around a principal who’s miserable and negative. People want to be around someone in a leadership position who’s excited and passionate and and sees possibilities in things now and into the future. What do you think about the mindset that everybody is replaceable? I think you know, that’s a really good question.
I think people who are average tend to be highly replaceable, But people who are really, really good at what they dio are not that replaceable at all. And, ah, you know. And that’s a big challenge in education. You had an interesting conversation with my mother today, and it was it was kind of the scenario of, you know, if you have a school that’s really, really struggling and you put two principles into that building, one who’s, you know, just really struggling with the job. But the other principle is one of the best principles in America.
I’m you know what’s gonna happen. And I would argue that if you if you have someone who’s that good, they’re probably going to have lots of strategies to help change the dynamic. That person is not that replaceable. The other person ISS and I think one of the things that I encourage teachers and people involved in education is, you know, make yourself irreplaceable by making yourself really, really good at what you dio who I like that make yourself. You’re replaceable. Earn that Seton at their chair, right? Absolutely. You know, that’s a choice that everyone can make everyday When they get out of bed and they come into work.
That spot is available if someone wants it. I love that. Okay, self care. It’s time for self care because you’re doing a lot for others. And, um, how are you taking care of you? Yeah. This has been an incredibly busy year for May. Between speaking and doing, ah, lot of writing, You know, when it’s hard, you know, I don’t have any great formula for that. I mean, I certainly do the best that I can to make sure that I’m keeping healthy, eating healthy and exercising. You know, I’m not good to the kids in my building, to my community and to the teachers in my building.
If I’m not able to be at work, if I’m not able to be at work in a positive way, that helps influence things, you know, for for the better. So I guess what I would say is, I am aware that self care is very important. It probably is something that I need to continue to work on because balance is tough and one of the things that’s challenging with leadership positions is you give, you know, not just physically, but metaphorically. You know, you’re always giving to other people, and sometimes you gotta understand that you need to give to yourself also on that could be time.
Or that could be time with family. Or it could be time to exercise toe, work on your health and well being also. So it’s very important. But that’s an area that I work on doing a little bit better this coming year, so that might be your area of self improvement. I think I could set a good goal there. So how can besides getting your book, people connect with you, follow you grow alongside of you. You can connect with me on Twitter. I met Iraq principle and I really enjoyed my my PLN that I’m connected with on Twitter.
It’s been absolutely life changing for me to meet so many really wonderful educators and have an opportunity to interact and share ideas. I’m also on Facebook at Iraq principle and ah, try to put some good information up on Facebook and I also encourage people to check out my blawg, which is the Rob review blogger dot com. My mother and I each right submissions to the Rob review, and we also have lots of guest authors who contribute to our blawg also. And if you go to the block, you can sign up for it and get some free e mails about things that are coming up.
And things of that nature would try to share information that way. Yeah, I think that’s incredible that you have an opportunity to work a side by side with your mom like that. Yeah, it’s really unusual, and and and it’s actually wonderful. I’m fortunate that she lives right around the block for my wife and I. So we get to collaborate a lot and spend a lot of time working together. And it’s been a good experience, I will add. Is my funny aside this afternoon that my mother was also my fifth grade teacher when I was Yeah, it was not a real positive experience as I reflect back on it.
It was very challenging. I had a hard time making to be in that class but me. But I am really lucky now to have such a wonder for mother, but also such a great professional partner to work with them to collaborate with. My boys actually went through the school where I was the school counselor. And sometimes that was tough, too, because they’d get in a scrap, and then they send them to me. And I didn’t always have the same strategies and skills. I don’t know, Grace, I don’t know what it is, but I didn’t.
You know, you hold your kids to a different standard, and so tell your mom I get it. I will absolutely do that. Have we missed anything before we sign off? Evan? Um, no, I think I love the questions that you’ve asked me today. And, you know, I have really appreciated the opportunity toe share some things that that are important to me and, uh, and any opportunity that I can have to share a very simple message that, you know, education needs to change because the world that we’re getting kids ready for it needs to change.
But that doesn’t need to be something that is fearful. It could be something that’s really exciting, invigorating and wonderful. All of that depends on the choices of the mindsets of us as individuals. Well, I want to thank you for your passion, for your purpose and for your piece. I also want to thank you. Because today we did have some techno challenges and your flexibility and your Grace through all of that. Those were gifts to me. Well, I thank you very much. I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to have a conversation with you.
I appreciate you coming out. Time to meet me at the corner on character podcast that supported by Prosign Design. Ah, family-owned business dedicated to character, safety and organization. If you’re looking to spiff up your character building, they’ve got some beautiful banners. Check him out it pro signed design co dot com and then join us again next week for more about character, education, connections and life. Until then, remember that character speaks