In this final episode drop in our Parent Teacher Conference season, we feature a conversation about the oh-so-fraught topic of academic performance, facilitated by Rachel Scott, our new Lower School Technology Integration Specialist.  Tune in to get some perspective-shifting wisdom from Rachel Rice (mom of five young saints spanning Foundations to fifth grade), real talk from Dalton Howard (third grade teacher and mom of two herself), and honest sharing from Abigail Shannon, third grader who (if she does say so herself) has some pretty great handwriting skills, even if she didn’t totally ace the last timed math test.

See timestamps below:

  • How academic performance is a fluid concept (3:03-3:55)
  • One parent’s changing definition of academic performance; the importance of meeting children where they are; and why what matters most is “mental health, love of learning, and not squashing that” (4:14-5:40)
  • Abigail’s academic performance goals: “I’m trying to be that kid, the kind of kid who knows how to get her stuff done, maybe not on time but she always gets it done.” (6:00-6:43)
  • Why high performers have a harder time dealing with mistakes and feedback than kids were more experience of struggle (7:10-9:05) 
  • Growing from mistakes and how to best advocate for your children by partnering with their teachers (9:07-11:45)  
  • Why the word “bored” isn’t a thing in Dalton Howard’s classroom, and the importance of demonstrating and modeling intellectual curiosity (12:25-13:51)
  • How a mom of five moved from “you need an A” to a focus on instilling good work habits; and a reminder that what your kids learn or what mistakes they make isn’t a reflection on you as a parent (15:00-18:15) 
  • Those dreaded timed math tests: from the perspective of a third grader and a third grade teacher (18:50-21:00)
  • Tips from a very astute third grader on studying (21:20-22:11)
  • Dalton’s plea to parents: “Let kids mess up, let them take responsibility, let them take ownership, let them remember their own library books.  They are old enough; they are ready.” (22:32-24:38)

Fostering independence in three, four, and five year olds may sound like a paradox, but in this episode of Parent Teacher Conference, Kim Sewell (PK4 faculty member and mom of three not-so-tiny young adults) and Leslie Hambrick (parent to Jimbo, kindergarten, and Charlie, PK4) discuss the successes and challenges they have had both at home and school toward these ends.  In other words, we explore the conundrum that parents and teachers share, well-articulated by Kim: “if we do our job well, we work ourselves out of the job.” Enjoy the entire conversation, or skip to the themes that interest you using the timestamps below:


  • Why the most convenient moves aren’t always the best “long view” approaches: parenting and teaching children that will grow into well rounded, independent adults (1:35-4:25)
  • How involving all young children in cooking (and other challenges) sets the stage for vital resilience in the face of life’s inevitable messes (5:02-6:27; 9:26-10:50)
  • What Montessori isn’t and what Montessori is: the centrality of modeling, works, safe structure, and giving children tools they can manage (6:50-8:45)
  • Real talk on the difficulties of following youth’s interest and fostering independence . . . and why they are still worth it (11:08-12:30; 15:25-16:00)
  • The history of Maria Montessori and how she came upon her methods to ultimately build a more peaceful world (12:48-15:00)
  • It’s not a free-for-all; how to avoid chaos by slowly easing your way into choice for youth (16:43-19:38)
  • PK4 classroom footage brought to us by Seesaw along with a description of jobs and routines that Kim uses to foster independence (20:12-22:57)
  • Promoting motor skill development at home and in the classroom (23:05-26:20)
  • How preparing snacks and gardening can build foundational mathematical thinking; “using the materials and the child you have in front of you” to build on (27:10-30:25)
  • “What happened at school today?” and the home/school connection (31:08-32:27)
  • Celebrating cultural identities at home and at school (33:09-35:20) 
  • Parenting as a roller coaster and the reminder to stay calm because “you have years with these kids” (36:40-37:37)
  •  “If you do parenting well you work yourself out of the job”; why fostering independence is “a gift of love over and over”, a series of “slow deaths” (37:50-39:14)
  • Final words of wisdom from both guests: trusting children and regulating your own emotions as an adult (40:55-41:32)

This episode of “Parent Teacher Conference” takes us to the Upper School, where Emmi Sprayberry (chair of our arts department) facilitates a conversation with Raymond Huang, current senior; Tangela Chambers, mother to two upper school students (a senior and sophomore); and Dawn Denham, senior seminar English teacher. 

High school is full of challenges...and for many students it is where they start to figure out who they are and grapple with the idea of identity and belonging. In the past 19 months, our students have had their worlds deeply changed by a pandemic that redefined what was our new normal as well as the murder of George Floyd that sparked a movement. In this podcast, we feature a meaningful conversation about what diversity, equity, and inclusion look like in a high school setting and how we can create spaces that build deeper connections and community:

  • What diversity, equity, and inclusion mean to our guests (3:00-7:00)
  • Bringing people together in a positive way (7:00-13:09)
  • Encouragement for listening and fighting against fear and the “what if’s" (13:15-17:00)
  • How educators can help communicate to students where the safe places are that students can go to have conversations (17:30 - 21:30)
  • The power of a story (21:35-23:35)
  • Personal experiences in relation to DEI (23:45-31:30)
  • The need for more educators of color and systems that impact who end up teaching (33:00-36:15)
  • Self reflection; where it all begins(36:30-42:00)
  • Being comfortable with being uncomfortable (42:00-45:00)
  • Suggestions from each guest for one small change in a classroom environment that would help promote more diversity and inclusion (46:10-51:30)

Thanks for stopping by to check out the first episode of Parent Teacher Conference! This episode features a thoughtful conversation with 5th Grade History Teacherand St. Andrew’s parentMeriwether Truckner, Haydenne Archie, a current 8th grader at St. Andrew’s, and Katie Hathcock, a parent of two St. Andrew’s students, Stella and Carter. We chat about classroom management styles and student behavior, centered around an article in Edutopia by Ben Johnson. It was such a privilege to sit and chat with these three ladies. Mrs. Truckner has been a colleague I’ve looked up to since I started at St. Andrew’s because her organizational skills and her classroom management are among her many talents, and I loved hearing Katie and Haydenne’s perspectives on parent involvement in student success in the class as well as what students can do to be more successful stewards of the classroom. Hope you enjoy the episode!

Our conversation is time stamped below: 

  • What makes for the best classroom environment (1:45 - 7:00)
  • Self-care & its impact on behavior/teaching  (7:20 - 14:00)
  • Parent & Teacher communication (14:05 - 19:20)
  • What do you do when things go amuk? (19:30 - 24:00)
  • COVID’s impact on management & behavior (24:05 - end)


We end our mini-series, “Living it: Stories from the Teaching Life” with a laughter and truth-packed episode featuring two of my favorite humans (not to mention educators) in the Jackson Metro Area: Shamia Hopper & Lucy Kaplan.  I had the pleasure of working with both of them while at Millsaps College, and I can quite honestly say that both Lucy and Shamia feature the killer combo of being simultaneously (1) real (2) brilliant (3) 100% committed to more equitable spaces for teaching/learning for all youth (4) super fun to be around. 

Shamia Hopper is a founding fourth grade teacher and grade team leader at Smilow Collegiate.  Her passion is teaching black and brown kids that live in low-income areas in our state.  After school she runs a vegan meal prep business called Shamia’s Food Diaries (Find her on Instagram).  Lucy Kaplan is entering her third year teaching middle school ELA in Jackson, MS.  She is passionate about teaching writing, creating an accessible and inclusive classroom, and education policy.  After school, she self-publishes her own writing and sings in a punk band.  Both have taught for three years which puts them squarely in that sweet spot of “knowing stuff” and “still discovering stuff.”  

During our conversation, we discussed:

3:31-5:15:  How Lucy’s experience with challenges in her own schooling led her to a career situated in the classroom.

8:32- 10:50: Why the best teacher education is steeped in community engagement; Shamia’s story of becoming inspired to educate.

11:20- 14:17: Why Shamia loves math, and when it comes to math instruction, multiple strategies beat out one-size-fits-all recipes.

15:19-18:32: Real talk about what it was like teaching kindergarteners at-home and in-person concurrently during a global pandemic.

18:32-20:03: That oh-so-recognizable-teacher-feeling of “I KNOW THIS COULD BE BETTER!” 

22:25-26:33: Stories from Lucy’s first year of teaching seventh grade English: on the feeling of being “coached” and the vital importance of just being yourself as an educator.

28:10-32:04: The most valuable lessons Shamia learned with her five and six year olds first experiencing school in the midst of a pandemic; “it wasn’t me versus them; it was us together.”

33:50-36:55:  The time Lucy raced one of her students during recess.

37:05-41:10: Two reflective teaching practices you have to try, courtesy of Lucy: (1) keep a list of something good you observe each day when teaching in tweet form and (2) ask your students for “one piece of advice you’d give youth taking this class next year.”

44:58- 45:33 : Shamia’s final tip, bound to inspire us all: “Do it anyway.”


This week's podcast features Tonja Murphy, Community Engagement Coordinator for the Mississippi Book Fest. Tonja is an amazingly passionate and talented woman who uses her skills as author, consultant, and motivational speaker to give back and invest in the community of Jackson, MS. I first met Tonja at a banquet for Red Door Jackson, an after school tutoring program for kids in JPS. I was serving as a coordinator and she had come as a community member and JPS parent to support the work that Red Door was doing within the community. From the moment we met, I was blown away by her heart to empower others to be their best selves. This theme is at the heart of anything she does, whether it is helping kids navigate what books they need to get and how to do online schooling in the middle of a pandemic, mentoring young teens, or promoting a love for reading. I could go on and on with her list of accomplishments and why you should know her if you don’t, but I’ll let the podcast speak for itself. I always come away from my time with Tonja inspired and challenged. I hope you too are able to come away with some strong nuggets of wisdom.  

During our conversation we discussed 

  • The wonder of teaching middle school  (2:00) 
  • Guidance for middle school students vs. telling them what to do (3:00-4:00)
  • Expectations vs. rules (4:00-5:00)
  • Mentoring and tutoring in the middle of a pandemic, using the platforms that students already used to connect with them , and the power of meeting students where they are (6:20-11:00)
  • Using Tik Tok as a means to get students to analyze music, apply critical thinking, and engage in textual analysis  (11:00-13:15)
  • How Tonja came to do working in community, where passion met vocation (14:00-16:25)
  • The importance of having something outside of you to inform your work (17:00-17:30)
  • What do you wish educators knew? (17:45-20:)
  • What advice would you give teachers coming back into the classroom this year?(21:00-21:25)
  • Grace (21:25-22:40)
  • The importance of community engagement  (23:00- 25:50)
  • Instances that have stuck with Tonja (28:20-30:08)
  •  Was there an interaction that was a pivot moment that moved you to turn outward vs inward? (31:30-32:47)
  • Avoiding the scenario of “when helping hurts” and cultivating mental health (33:05-38:08)
  • Living what you preach and teach; fostering the skill of reflection. (38:08-44:10)
  • Socio-emotional-learning and the loss during a pandemic -- getting to know the students and where they are at now (46:15-50:00)
  • Fostering community within a classroom and knowing who is in the room  (50:01- 52:05)
  • What book should every educator read? (52:20-53:25)
  • Don’t let your experience frame how you help them navigate theirs (53:45) 
  • Organizations to connect your students with (54:50-56:25)


This week we’re pumped to release our second episode of "Living it: Stories from the Teaching Life" featuring Josh Brister, a great human and an even better Spanish teacher at St. Andrew’s. Josh Brister came to St. Andrew’s in perhaps one of the most challenging years for educators in a century. In the episode we discuss being a new teacher, being a new teacher in the time of COVID-19, the joys of teaching middle school, and developing meaningful relationships with kids. Personally, I’m honored to be able to call Josh a friend, I’m even more fortunate to call him a colleague, and I had the pleasure of being his mentor last year during his maiden voyage at St. Andrew’s. Hope you enjoy the episode!

During our conversation, we discussed: 

  • Being a teacher, especially a new teacher, in the time of COVID, Imposter Syndrome, and working at a place like St. Andrew’s (1:30 - 12:00) 
  • The educational value of YouTube for Teachers (13:00 - 16:00)
  • “Show me you’re a middle school teacher without telling me you’re a middle school teacher” + Why Josh hates baseball (16:00 - 25:00)
  • Building relationships with kids and dealing with setbacks/conflict (26:00 - 36:00)
  • Burnout & managing other interests/hobbies while teaching full time (36:30 - End)

This week we are proud to kick off our second series (Living It: Stories from the Teaching Life) with our release of “Leading with Love,” featuring Anita DeRouen, Ph.D., an English teacher at Murrah High School in Jackson, MS.  A former professor at Millsaps College, DeRouen has published on race and media representation, digital literacy, and most recently Richard Wright and modernism (with Anne MacMaster). DeRouen also serves as Community Liaison for the Millsaps College Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Center and is an independent racial dialogue consultant.  I’ve been lucky enough to count Anita a colleague and a friend, and her ability to crystallize truth into words has shifted my own thinking in powerful ways. 

During this conversation, we discussed:

  • (5:45-6:35) - Poetry as a vehicle transporting youth to  literary love.
  • (9:45-13:17)- How Anita “winnowed her way” into teaching (and why every single person should work in retail or food service at some point for at least a year).
  • (13:35-18:00 )- The role of empathy, bounded choice, and addressing perfectionism for teachers working with “high achieving kids not living up to their potential.” 
  • (18:28-19:37 )How particular school contexts produce particular expectations around “what learning looks like” which then trickle down to assessments.
  • (20:19 -23:55 ) Why the next time a student misbehaves in your classroom,  you need to internalize the phrase “it’s not you; it’s the chair.”
  • (24:23-25:50) What a gift it is to see the humans in our classrooms, not as a homogenous group, but as a collective of unique individuals, including our own “geeky . . . nerdy sel[ves].”
  • (31:29-33:30 ) Keys to growing and working with colleagues: brought to you by a compliment from her grandmother and “listening with a healthy, not a sick, ear.”
  • (33:31- 35:10 ) What it requires to work as a Black academic in predominantly white institutions.
  • (35:27-39:37) Pitfalls of white institutions seeking to become “more diverse”: on labor and the importance of discomfort in the process.
  • (40:28-44:21 ) How “leading with love” could open up an entirely different set of questions, positively transforming our education system (and our world).


Last but certainly not least in Season 1 of Inspire & Innovate: A Podcast for Educators, we feature NAIS Chief Innovation Officer: Tim Fish.  He started his career as a 4th-grade teacher and has served as a founder, board member, and consultant for a variety of education and technology-related schools, organizations, and companies. His Magnetic Mountain metaphor has been formative for school leaders across the country, and we found that speaking with Tim about it really brought it home for classroom teachers as well.  We found Tim warm, honest, and thought-provoking, and we hope you do too.


During our conversation, we explore:


  • How fourth graders gave Tim his first orientation to the world of teaching and why playing football with the kids at recess can have unintended consequences (4:02-7:15)
  • How Tim conceptualizes innovation.  Spoiler alert- it has nothing to do with chasing the shiny and new! (11:07- 12:39)
  • Why it’s important to differentiate between the what and the how of innovation . . . and why doing “retrospectives” can reframe failure as learning (16:10-18:04)
  • Why deep empathy and vision-led innovation are a powerful combination in this particular historical moment (18:05-19:25)
  • How Tim’s interest in “nose down to nose up” NAIS schools led him to first conceptualize the Magnetic Mountain (20:05-25:27)
  • What this journey metaphor has to do with the micro everyday choices that classroom teachers make (26:45-32:28)
  • What Tim doesn’t mean by “not returning to now-town” (teachers- you are going to applaud!)  . . . and a reminder that innovation is a disposition.  (33:30-35:55)
  • What now-town has to do with bias, privilege, and inequity (37:57-38:59)
  • The difference between reactive and proactive innovation . . . and why the reactive innovation we’ve all been doing in response to the pandemic  is much more draining (39:13-40:25)
  • Why agency is a big deal for both faculty and students now more than ever and one trend Tim’s noticed among teachers that have maintained energy during this difficult season (41:25-42:38)
  • How one high school faculty member managed to maintain high academic standards in this difficult past year while recentering the student experience (43:45-48:19)
  • How Tim’s favorite teacher when he was a young reaffirms the importance of  “really climbing into kids’ lives, being present with them, and helping them take the next step, whatever that might be”  (53:26-55:15)
  • Must-reads from Tim! (57:44-58:50)


This week’s Inspire & Innovate Podcast features guest, Michael Nachbar, the Executive Director of Global Online Academy, a pioneering network of schools and educators reimagining learning to empower students and educators to thrive in a globally networked society.  If you’ve ever wanted to get inside the brain of a teacher planning learning experiences, you are going to seriously enjoy this episode.


During our conversation, we discussed: 


  • How Michael’s background and experiences in curriculum led him to the work he does now…and how incredible teachers re-thinking their craft helped GOA get its start ( 2:30-12:04)
  • GOA’s “northstar” mission and approach to coaching educators, helping leaders in the Design Lab,  and providing deep learning of the skills students need to be successful in college, career, and life ( 14:00-18:51)
  • The mindshift of being deliberate in the outcomes you want to see and designing intentional learning experiences for students (18:52-22:00)
  • Teacher wellness and how it applies to having a varied approach to providing student feedback (22:10-25:10)
  • Keeping relationships and communication at the center of student experiences during asynchronous learning (25:12-29:49)
  • Challenges teachers faced this last school year due to constraints they had to navigate and how “necessity can drive innovation in a big way” (29:50-33:25)
  • Articulating your northstar and designing learning experiences to match that (33:26-35:00)
  • Focusing on equity and justice, and as teachers, being aware of students’ unique experiences with empathy and compassion...and rethinking what we teach and how we assess to be more culturally relevant (36:15-39:18)
  • Helping parents and guardians understand the how and the why behind what we do (39:20-40:30)
  • Michael’s predictions he made a year and a half ago about educator competencies and the need to continue “upscaling”...and a focus on supporting teachers’ health and wellbeing (40:30-45:30)
  • Aspects of teachers’ work that are rejuvenating and reenergizing and lowering the cognitive load (45:30-49:50)
  • What “getting back to normal” looks like and how we will navigate the return to “normal” with virtual components moving forward (50:25-55:08)
  • Michael discusses his favorite teacher (55:18-57:20)
  • The book that Michael Nachbar thinks all educators should read (57:25-58:35)

Don’t forget to also tune in to our Teacher Talks companion podcast...this week, Julie Rust interviews three amazing upper school educators….Wesley Saylor, Nancy Rivas, Gracie Bellnap

OurTeacher Talks companion podcast...this week, Julie Rust interviews three amazing upper school educators….Wesley Saylor, Nancy Rivas, Gracie Bellnap.

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