The Character Movement

The Teacher’s Lounge Podcast – Beth Hawkins

The Teachers’ Lounge, a Youth Frontiers podcast hosted by Sally Koering, explores important questions and conversations relevant to teachers, educators and parents. The 12th episode features a conversation with Beth Hawkins, a reporter who has served her community covering issues relevant to education for roughly 30 years.

Beth currently writes Education Post. Previously, she wrote for MinnPost’s Learning Curve, while also reporting on a variety of other public policy topics. She has received numerous national and regional awards including several first-place Society of Professional Journalists Page One awards. Her work appears in MinnPost, More, Mother Jones and many other publications.

The following are some highlights from our conversation. Beth’s responses are paraphrased with direct quotations in quotation marks.

On writing about education:
When I started reporting, education was a part of so many other topics that I would frequently write about – like civil rights issues, government reforms or community controversies. I started to write a great deal about desegregation in schools across the Twin Cities in the late 90s. Shortly thereafter, my oldest son started school. As a parent, things began to hit me on a more visceral level – things that I hadn’t really absorbed as a reporter. One of those things was really how a school creates community and how that community coalesces into a climate that supports and values every kid in the building.

On diversity within our schools:
Schools are teaching their students countless skills beyond academics — we often refer to these as soft-skills, but I hope we can view them as much more than just that. I believe that climate and equity live right by each other in the school genome. I also believe that kids do better when all the kids do better. School is a place to learn how to interact with others. The more diverse our classrooms are, the more rich and interesting the interactions between our students can be. It creates a healthy school ecosystem.

On what drives her ongoing commitment to education:
First, I have had the tremendous privilege of visiting schools that are phenomenally successful – where children who face enormous challenges are soaring, schools where there shouldn’t be positive cultures but there are and those experiences transform students. Second, I have two boys and seeing how a teacher viewed them changed the way I parented. Instead of describing them as a handful or undisciplined, they told me you must work very hard to support them. Bringing a positive outlook on the way we lead our children and students can change the entire atmosphere of a school.

On the role of positivity:
What if instead of saying ‘Don’t run in the hall,’ we said ‘Do we walk quietly in this school?’ To take the blame out and to remove the punitive framing out of basic communications can transform our schools. Removing the blame from our communications reinforces the idea that students know what to do, we just need to help them remember to do it.

Listen to Beth share more stories on the full podcast episode. You can also subscribe to our podcast on iTunes. Thanks for listening!

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