Episode 54: Leading Others in Times of Disruption

Good morning! This is Jimmy Williams with Live a Life by Design your Monday morning moments of motivation. And boy, do we not need that this time of year. Hope everyone is doing okay with everything going on in the world. As we seem to have placed a stop on all of our lives. We’re now self-isolating toward a pandemic, you know, coming to our homes and communities and our businesses. Just basically changed the way we live. And we only did this, in my opinion, temporarily. 

I want to tell you, the best thing about this life, is I can control my attitudes. I can control my behaviors. Do not allow this pandemic to bring the worst out in us. But allow it to bring out the best. Find some unity in our community. And in that regard, I am excited beyond belief today to bring you another outstanding guest. A premier professional in her profession. This young lady, I’ve known for many, many, many years. Is just outstanding. Now I’m gonna brag on her for just a minute, before I tell you her name. She was the McAlester Public Schools Teacher of the Year. Now let’s let that soak in for just a minute folks. I have a celebrity in the studio today. 

This young lady hails from Empire City, Oklahoma. Now if you’re not familiar where that is, you’re not alone. It’s not a very big city. I was teasing her before we came on air that I actually have two friends that went to undergrad school from Empire City, so it’s a pretty big city, at least I know three people from there. And she has a bachelor of science in Education, and teaches the STEAM, not STEM, we’ve added another A in there, the STEAM courses, for the 1st – 4th grade here in our city. With that I just welcome you to the show today, Jennifer. 

JL: Thank you, I’m excited to be here.

JW: Well, not as excited as we are to have you. So, Jennifer Lewis has been teaching now for many years. Has a wonderful approach to the kids, and now she’s utilizing, during this pandemic, as schools have been closed, she’s utilizing other mediums to teach and to bring excitement to those children she’d normally interact with personally. But before we get started on all that good stuff, Jennifer, hey, let me know, I’m gonna get a little bit nosey here, but can you tell me a little bit about your background as a child?

JL: Sure, like you mentioned, I grew up in Empire City, Oklahoma. I was born in Duncan, and grew up my entire life right here, in Empire. I actually grew up on a little farm. And we had horses and cows and pigs and chickens, and we grew a garden every summer. It was that typical little family farm that you see on TV. I spent my summers riding horses, and playing in the creek or down at the hay barn. Of course, with all that fun, living on the farm, there’s a lot of chores that go along with that. So I learned some good life lessons like how to haul hay and fix fences and bust ice in the winter. And things like that. Overall for me, it was just the perfect way to grow up.

JW: So, you’re saying you were actually born in Duncan, a suburb of Empire City? 

JL: Yes, that’s right. That’s right.

JW: For those of you listening that are not from Oklahoma you won’t get that but, anyway, Duncan’s a pretty good sized community. So, how did you determine in life, raised on this farm, living in a great community, very wholesome community like Elmore City. How did you decide that you wanted to be a profession such as teaching?

JL: Well, so it was actually Empire City. So, on the other, not Elmore City. Even smaller than Elmore City. Just a tiny little dot on the map. We had one little convenience store. It was an itty bitty little place. But, you know, I loved school. I loved everything about it. And I was never one of those kids that dreaded going to school. I have just infinite happy memories of my days at Empire Public Schools. So I think all of that probably laid the groundwork that led me into education. But I would say, probably the pivotal moment for me that really changed things and sort of sent me down the actual pathway to becoming an educator was in high school, my chemistry teacher was also our baseball coach, Coach Pickert, and he recognized something in me. He saw something in me that I had not recognized or seen in myself, and he pushed me so hard. He made me work harder than I thought I could work. And honestly at the time I just thought he was picking on me. I really felt like he didn’t like me. And he was making me do things that others didn’t have to do, but as that year went on I came to realize, because he told me. You know he had that conversation with me, I’m not picking on you, Jennifer. Although he didn’t call me Jennifer, he called me by my last name, he called me Tidwell. 

He said, you know, I’m not picking on you, I just know you’re not pushing yourself. You’re not really trying. And so, realizing that he saw that potential in me. And the way that made me feel about myself was sort of the turning point. And I thought, I have to be this person for others. And so, that really was what led me down the pathway in majoring in education. 

JW: Well, I don’t want to embarrass you, but I’ve actually been to Elmore City, and that was a slip of the tongue, instead of saying Empire City. So there is an Elmore City, by the way, near Paul’s Valley. I’m gonna tell you some small towns, right? So, my apologies. So you had this one teacher that really saw potential, is what you’re really saying, and wanted to realize that potential in you as a child. That is the motivation for you now, seeking out the potential of the children you teach, grades 1 – 4, and at the end of the day, isn’t that really what gives teachers the most satisfaction?

JL: Oh, absolutely. Every single day is an opportunity for me to impact a life. Not every profession can say that. So, I think with those opportunities there’s also a burden that falls on us. We have to figure out how to really empower our students and instill confidence in them. And teach them to be thinkers and try to help them learn to persevere through those tough times.

JW: You know one thing I want to say to you. Is that you already know this, but many of our listeners may or may not recall from their elementary class. I’m quite a bit older than Jennifer, and I will tell you, my first grade teacher, Mrs. Smith, I recall in my speaking across the country, this story that she gave me the motivation and the positive attitude I have today, from the 1st grade Jennifer. So you are impacting those 1st graders more than what you know, cause Mrs. Smith never heard this from me. She died way before I ever told this story, you know. So my point to this is, she told me, of all things Jennifer, here it goes. She said, I could be President of our country someday if I just wanted to work hard enough. Could you believe that?

JL: I think there were gifts, are gifts that teachers have, and so…you recognize things in people and not only is it a gift that we have that we can recognize that with the gifts that we give to our students when we can acknowledge their strengths and bring those to light for them. You know, to be able to say I see this in you and I value this and I encourage you to move forward with that. So I believe it. I believe it, Jimmy.

JW: Well, say, I’m saying this not that I want to in any way solicit a contribution from you today for my campaign, but you know. I may in the future. Just hold your wallet til I call you back. So 

JL: I would campaign for you, you’ve got my vote.

JW: You’re a good lady, I like you already, girl. But hey, let’s talk about some mentors. You know, I just told you Mrs. Smith. I grew up really with that echoing. Now, I came from a very lower income family. Six of us children. Just hardworking, farming. You know, kind of family. Didn’t have a lot of excess money. Had a tremendous amount of love and support. Never had a bad day, typically as a child. Well, I could mention some where I caught the barn on fire. But other than that, most days were good. And so, who are some of your mentors that you recall. And if you don’t feel comfortable mentioning names, give me what they did to be a mentor to you. Like what occupations, or what role did they play.

JL: I have two people that always pop to mind when someone asks me about my mentors. One is definitely in my past professional life and the other would be my personal life. The person who has impacted me the most of anyone, and is my greatest mentor in that regard, is a lady named Twanna Pratt. She used to be a teacher here in McAlester, and she taught my son the second semester of pre-K and she taught Brinlee her whole year in pre-K, and she retired now, but she had this incredible way of making every person feel like they were the most important person to her. You’re the most important person in the room, you’re the most valuable person in the room. You’re the most gifted person in the room, and it came from a place deep within her. She truly believed it, and she caused me to believe it. She caused me to believe it about my children, and about myself as an educator. And those lessons that she taught me are things that I’ve strived to take forward into my career with my own students. I would say probably the first five years of my teaching career, I bet I asked myself a million times, what would Twanna do? How would she handle this? What would her approach be? Sometimes I got it right, sometimes I probably didn’t, but that was and continued to be my gauge for decision making for all things education related. 

In my personal life, my personal mentor would have to be my grandma Tidwell. So my paternal grandmother. She lived until she was 94, and she was as tough as nails, but just the most loving person at the same time. Growing up, in my life, I felt like she had it all figured out. She ran a tight ship, but we could have so much fun together. She could cook, oh my goodness, her fried chicken and chocolate cake were the things of legends. I mean, she was just a phenomenal cook. So, she was just always someone that I look up to and admired in so many ways and still although she’s been gone for many years, I still worry that I might disappoint her. You know, when I encounter a predicament, I think, ok now, I have to be really careful about how I handle this because I wouldn’t want my Grandma Tidwell to be mad at me or to think less of me. And so I think that those are, I mean, definitely the two people in my life that I gauge my decisions by, my reactions by, Twanna Pratt and Grandma Tidwell. 

JW: You know, everyone of us has a grandmother, Tidwell, for example. Boy I just had a great bond with both of my grandmothers. And you know, you’re gonna laugh, as a young boy that was raised on a farm and a ranch. And I did have some exposure to a very small community of Cameron, Oklahoma and I will tell you, those grandmothers had a way straight to my heart through my stomach, Jennifer. 

JL: Mine too. Her fried potatoes and sweet tea.

JW: Ok, enough of that, you’re making me hungry, ok, and we just got this started. So you can’t be talking about some fried potatoes, maybe some onions cut in those. Oh, my goodness, what a day. Matter of fact, if you want to replicate one of her meals, I’d be honored to come over and enjoy it with you. That’s just my kind of food right there, that is good stuff. 

JL: That’s the best.

JW: So, what’s important to you about leaving a legacy to those, 1st – 4th grade children in STEAM. What’s so important to you about leaving a legacy of Jennifer Lewis? 

JL: Well, I think back on those two educators that I’ve just mentioned in this broadcast already, Coach Pickard and Twanna Pratt. And the legacy that they left for me, you know, they were those of being an overcomer, of being creative. A legacy that they left for me was, you know, empowerment. And I do teach STEAM right now, and that’s the field that’s so progressive at this time. It’s kind of the skills that…the discipline that leads to all the fields. Science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics are so overlapping and just sort of integrated into everything that our students are learning to become. And the legacy I want to leave with them is, even though it may be hard. Even though this may not be your strong suit. Keep trying. Don’t expect that there’s just one right answer, there’s many right answers. There’s many ways to solve a problem. And so I hope that what I leave behind is the spirit of ingenuity, a spirit of perseverance, and the spirit of curiosity in my students.

JW: You know, that’s one of the things that I really think STEAM or the predecessor STEM really did for a lot of people. We didn’t call it that back in our day. But I love the sciences, Jennifer, you know the chemistry lab. And who doesn’t want to make one of those nice sulfide stink bombs where they have to empty out the whole room? I mean, right? So do you face some of this with your kids?

JL: Say that one more time?

JW: Do you face some of these kinds of challenges, you know people like me in your class that create these stink bombs or create problems from an environmental perspective and you have to empty the room, you ever have that problem?

JL: Well, not yet. They’re limited in what they can get their hands on in my classroom right now. And so, some of the kids that I have right now, I am absolutely certain will be those students. I see a little bit of that in some of them right now. They push the envelope a little bit. They, you know, they’re the students that are thinking way outside of the box, thinking around the box. And they’re a lot more creative thinkers, so they don’t have the means to get into those things in my classroom right now. But I’m sure that I’ll hear stories of them doing those types of things as they get older. 

JW: You know, I’ve got to be honest with you. Those are the people that turn out to be the Bill Gates of the world or the Mark Zuckerburgs. You know they think so far outside the box, we all look at them and go, wait a minute,that kid’s not even close to where the rest of the class is, and what he’s trying to do. But, you know, there’s something unique about him. And that’s the thing I love about teaching now, you don’t try to put everyone in the same box. It’s just that everyone may be in the box, but learning at a different rate, different level, different approach. Whatever. That’s the difficulty, isn’t it? 

JL: It’s difficult in, especially in the traditional classroom, to sort of embrace that. And let it play itself out. In the STEAM classroom, it’s the easiest thing in the world. A lot of what I do is just, I give them just some crumbs and see what you can do with this. You know, here’s sort of the idea, now run with it. And, last year, this is, this would have been my project at the end of this year. It was something that was called Makers Space. And just literally dumped a bunch of junk out on the table. Trash to most people and said, what can you do with this. I need you to build a structure. Just go for it. And the things that the students created were mind boggling. From the little 1st grade babies all the way to my 4th graders. Giving them the freedom to let their imagination run wild. To let their creativity go, it’s phenomenal to see what they’ll come up with. They made, some of them made castles, and things like that, but somewhere just all kinds of things that they created. One particular student, I remember she made this beach thing. And her structure was a lifeguard tower. That was the main structure that she created. But all of these details that she was able to use trash to create was mind blowing. Luckily, she let me keep that. I have it up in my classroom. But she made an umbrella out of a straw and a cupcake liner. 

JW: Right.

JL: And it was just amazing. And so that’s the beauty of STEAM, is those free thinkers, they can really find their niche, and they’re not held back. Like many times, you kinda have to be in the traditional classrooms.

JW: Well, Jennifer, boy you’re just opening my mind up for historic events for me, and I’m going to say this, in a very non-serious way. But I think my first apartment in undergrad school, based on your trash dumping being the science world, I think I had my own science lab in that first apartment. You know, if that’s the criteria. 

JL: You’re on to something. You probably have some prototypes there that you probably didn’t realize you had. 

JW: You know.

JL: You could have been a millionaire by now. 

JW: I bet I set down and let go of a lot of patented items I could have taken and patented. But anyway, I digress. Let’s say, Jennifer, you’re speaking with such great passion on your field, but let me ask you this, what if you weren’t a teacher. What other career in this world would you be?

JL: When I was growing up, I was just certain that I was going to be a veterinarian. You know, like you, I spent a … I grew up on a farm, so I had seen it all. My cousin was a veterinarian. I thought that I could handle it all. But my senior year, I can remember my dad waking me up in the middle of the night. We had a little prized pig, she was having her first litter of babies and she was struggling, and dad woke me up and he said, you’re going to have to come help her or she’s gonna die, if you don’t come and help her. And I, oh my goodness, I realized in that moment that was not my career path. That was not where I wanted to go. 

JW: So, delivering pigs was not in your future. 

JL: It was not. Veterinary science, veterinary medicine was not where I was going to go. But as I have gone on through my life and become an adult, I really think that if I could pick any other job, any other field to work in, I think that I would choose to be a writer. I think that I was, I would love to author children’s books. And so, and I think that maybe someday. And I’ve got a few ideas, some things that I’ve played around with for years. So, I don’t know, that might, when I retire and have free time on my hands, maybe I’ll pursue that as my second career. 

JW: You know, that is an awesome idea. And I will tell you, you may or may not know. I’m writing a book. It’s down to the finishing touches. It’s going to the editor and I have really experienced Jennifer, and I can tell you, you’re gonna have the same approach and feeling. A certain amount of release, pride, accomplishment. And I don’t know if it’s just a way that I can release some of these thoughts I have, put them on paper and see if they appeal to anyone. If they appeal to no one but me it still feels like the right thing to do, you know what I’m saying?

JL: Un huh, I do. 

JW: So, at the end of the day, veterinarian, I do have a cat out here that’s about to have a litter. Is there chance you’d make a home, you know, visit?

JL: I think I can help with kitties being delivered. I don’t know, that’s a little bit different than the momma pig trying to have her babies. 

JW: Yea, no, understood. No, we do not have a cat having babies. I’m just making this up. But I will tell you, one of the things that convinced me to go into the profession I’m in, the speaking and wealth management, CPA, and all this stuff was the same reason you chose not to be a veterinarian. So I’ve pulled pigs, I’ve pulled calves, and I’ve pulled baby foals. And I’ve got to be honest with you, did not find a passion in any of it. Matter of fact, I’d tell ya, I got to the point after I left home. You know, that’s it for me. I’m gonna do a real job somewhere where I don’t have to do this in the middle of the night. The ponds frozen, I had to get the cattle out of the pond. It’s just really hard work. And I admire those people that do it. You know? I think it’s fantastic. 

JL: I do too. Cause it was not for me.

JW: No, no! Agreed. And so, what to you, though, Jennifer, has been the most fulfilling event, maybe in your lifetime. And it’s a very short year, folks she’s only like 18. I mean, this young lady is very, very young. 

JL: I think that, well, for thinking professionally being elected as McAlester’s Teacher of the Year was certainly something that was very fulfilling to me. But, you know, probably even more than that, would being chosen by my school site as their Teacher of the Year. I’ve actually, I was actually chosen 4 years by my peers for that honor. And that to me was the most humbling, and probably the most fulfilling thing. Just knowing that the people that work with me, day in and day out, they see the passion that I have for children, and for my job. And that, on four different occasions, they chose me to represent them. And that was just mind boggling to me. It definitely has given me a filling of being fulfilled, validation, now that my peers see what I do and appreciate it. 

On a personal level, I’d say that my children are the things that have brought me the most fulfillment. I remember when my son was little saying to someone, you know, ok, this is the measure that I’m going to know whether or not I’m raising a good person. And that was always my goal. Wasn’t to raise them a great athlete, it wasn’t to raise, you know, the most political person, or whatever. My goal with my children was to raise good people. And so I can remember saying that, parents want my child at their house. It’s when he’s invited to their house. They say, oh absolutely. He can, he’s always welcome here. You know, without hesitation. Then I know I’m doing the right thing. I know I’m raising a good person. Seeing my two children on their journey to becoming productive, valuable, contributing members of society, I think it’s what all parents really hope for. Even better, someone recognizes that brilliance in them. You know, they recognize that they’ve, they’re the kind of people, they’re pushing our world forward into a better place, and they take the time to tell me that. That’s a very fulfilling feeling.

JW: Oh my goodness, and I’ll be honest with you. I know you’ve done 99% of it, we’ll give your husband 1% of input on those two kids, because they are outstanding young people. 

JL: Oh, thank you. Thank you. 

JW: So, Brian did have a hand, at least 1%?

JL: Oh, you know. I’ll give him a little credit. No, he definitely, I’ve been blessed in the spouse department. He is 100% equal partner in this, where I am weak, he is strong. And more time than I can count, we’ve had to have each others back. When one of us, the words fail, or our approach was wrong, the other one just seamlessly stepped in and took over and kept it going and so it’s been a pretty blessed partnership that we’ve had with raising our kids. 

JW: Well, like I said, you’ve got two wonderful kids. I will say this, though, that at the end of the day, I was welcome in a lot of homes when I was a child. I tried to time it around dinner time. That will explain itself. And you know, they’d look at me, and I’d say, oh I didn’t know you were eating. Of course it’s 6-6:30, right, you know, well, come in. Well, I don’t want to impose. Oh, come in. Ok, I’ll be alright, here we go. That’s how you do it when you’re raised on a farm. You just eat when they’ve got food out. So.

JL: That’s right. You might not get another chance for a while. 

JW: So, let me ask you a tougher question. You know, I don’t know how you do this. There’s a misunderstanding between teachers and ministers that, you know, teachers only work from 8 to 3, they get off all summer, they don’t do anything after that. I’ve got to tell ya, that is the most absurd description of a teacher, of all that I know, and my sister was a teacher for 30 years as well. And she taught learning disabled students. I mean, this is lots and lots of work. Tell me, how do you efficiently keep your day, you know, efficient. You get things done, stay on top of lesson plans, taking care of the children and designing. How do you do all of that?

JL: Well, I think that a routine is for sure essential. When I was first teaching, I didn’t have a good routine. I didn’t have my days structured, as my career has progressed that’s something that has become more and more important to me. I think that starting my morning off right, you know, I have a morning routine. My alarm goes off at 5:15. And I get up and I go downstairs and make my coffee, and have my morning devotional time. And I go to work at 7:00 everyday. I pull into the parking lot at school at 7 am. And I leave at 4:30, and every basically, especially when I was in the regular classroom. Every minute of my day was pretty much mapped out. You know, we did a short 40 minute planning time each day, and that’s our time to make phone calls to parents, it’s our time to grade papers. It’s our time to prepare for the next day. All that in 40 minutes, and go to the restroom, you know. It’s a, it sounds like, well, you get 40 minutes a day, but there’s a lot that you have to get done with in that time. And so, I know it’s not so much that way for me. My day looks very different then the typical classroom teacher. But now, on Monday’s that might be my day to make phone calls. On Tuesdays during my planning time was the day that I started pulling the work for the next week I was going to need copied. Wednesdays I graded, you know, papers that I used for the first half of the week. And that led me to plan for the second half of my week. And so, each day was very structured like that. And I think that being intentional about the work that I gave my students helped with that. You know, a lot of the work that I did in my traditional classroom, especially towards the last few years of teaching that wasn’t worksheets. It wasn’t busy work, it was very purposeful, strategic work that I gave my kids.

And so, in that regard I was able to spend Wednesdays on my terms grading everything that I needed for the first half of the week. And I think that it’s impossible even with the best routine and the best schedule, it’s impossible to get everything in within the confines of the school day. And so, a lot of evenings, they’re spent researching. Things are changing so quickly. Things change so fast in education. Especially now, it seems I have to take time outside of school, planning and researching and trying things. I have to do activities at home before I ever take them to school. Because you know, I can’t take them to school and have them fail. And so you’re right, the sad misconception that teachers don’t work more than 8:30, but I think that good things. I really think that most people know that, I think that a lot of people like to say that, they like to you know rib us a little bit, and tease us a little bit. But I think that more and more people are getting, I feel like at least, in my circle. People are beginning to understand that it’s a very time consuming occupation.

JW: It’s an all in careers, what I call it. There is no secondary things you can be doing during the school year. It’s an all in career, you know. And let me ask you this, though. Have you ever used your own, say, kitchen or dining room for some of these experiments and maybe, I don’t know, had to re wallpaper or repaint afterwards, you have any of that problem?

JL: No, nothing ever exploded, really. But I have had a lot of stairwells that I’ve had to clean up. You know, messes that I’ve made like that. But nothing that really had me have to call the contractor and really get busy on remodeling.

JW: Well, you’re fortunate. So when I was a younger gentleman. My largest, I should say my highest ACT score was in sciences. And I always loved science, and I always loved anything that you could do to create something from raw materials and make it into a different product, for example, or further process it. So, you wouldn’t be shocked, I’m sure you know, that my parents had a home that was very small home for the number of people we had in it. And they just came out these 2 liter bottles of pop in this plastic. Now don’t laugh, that’s how long ago this has been. Long time ago. And I did an experiment, Jennifer, and I think you’ll appreciate this being a science and technology teacher, all that and STEAM, is I applied energy to carbonated, pressurized liquids. Now, when your brother, just older than you that’s always picking on you, comes in and you know he’s going to go for that soda, and you apply the pressure to this liquid carbonated drink, basically, when he opens the lid, what happens Jennifer, do you think?

JL: Gosh, I would imagine he would get a face full of that carbonated beverage.

JW: Yeah, about a half a liter of it. And so, there he is soaked in Dr. Pepper. I’ll go ahead and mention it, although they’re not a sponsor of this podcast. But I’ll mention, Dr. Pepper is all over him, it’s all over mom’s curtains near the sink. It’s all over the floor. All over the counter. And don’t laugh, I was the only in the other room laughing, because it was hilarious. But I didn’t laugh too well when I had to clean it up. But I digress again. I just tell you, I had a great childhood, is what I’m trying to say. Very much ahead of my time on STEAM, Jennifer, again very much. 

JL: I love it.

JW: Now, so, let me ask you a couple of other things and we’re gonna conclude this. I’m just so excited about what is coming up in the future of education, so we’re under a challenge now. We are actually having you teach using Youtube, or Facebook Live, or having to use some means. OETA TV, our public TV station is now trying to come up with some things. Our school systems have literally closed, Jennifer, for the remainder of the school year. As a teacher what do you do, how do you reach the kids and how do we teach?

JL: Well, I think that fortunately for us, educators are well versed in adapting at a moments notice. It happens daily in our classrooms. Something isn’t working and we have to on the fly, on the spot, we have to revamp our lessons. We have to figure out what works for our students. So it’s not a completely novel idea for us to scrap everything that we’ve been doing and start over. But that’s literally what we’re having to do. This concept of remote learning is what we’re calling it, where we are creating lessons and trying to find a way to get those out to our students, and there’s a lot of challenges associated with that. For example, not all of our students have access to technology. They can’t all go to a computer. They don’t all have access to wifi. And so, it’s something that caught us off guard in a lot of respects, but it’s also something that we’re willing to take the challenge on and figure out how to make it work. Like you said, you know, Youtube, I’m filming things. I have one ready to upload today where I did an art project today. And so it could be backed off of what we were learning about that before we got out of school for spring break. One of the challenges associated with that is that a lot of my students, a lot of students in McAlester, and all across the world, they have limited resources. So, I’m trying to think of what items they could have at home that I could use for them to do this project. So they don’t have to leave the house, so they’re not out any expenses. And so it’s definitely a time where teachers are having to really dig deep and find that creativity that we all have. Fortunately, this crisis hit us at a time where we were nearing the end of the content that we’re required to cover for the year. So I sort of say that, sort of a double sided sword because we taught all the content that they’re about to be tested on, and we’re always relieved when that happens because at this point we get to have fun. You know, we really get to sort of do the things we all enjoy so much. And so we’re not able to do those things at school, but we’re trying to figure out how to bring a little bit of that into their home. So, Youtube is great. We’re gonna be using a lot of Google Classrooms. Google has been a lifesaver for teachers. Everything is so easy to enter grades. You know, we record a video, put it right onto what is called our Google Classroom and if any students with access to the internet, to wifi, they can go right there. We can screen record lessons, and put those out to the kids. There’s a lot of tools at our disposal right now, to try and help us with this. And all of the companies have just been absolutely so gracious at this time. They’re offering free memberships throughout this COVID 19 crisis. They’re giving us tools that we need to kind of immediately serve our students. So it’s definitely evolving, quickly, and constantly with what we think is going to work. We get word from state departments that we can’t do that, it breaks some sort of, it’s a violation of some sort, some confidentiality, and so there’s been a lot of start and stop over the last week and a half, but I think we’re finally getting to a place where we can get to really push forward and get materials out to students. Some are going to be digital, some are going to be online. And some are going to be old school paper and pencil. Whatever we have to do. 

JW: So.

JL: To make sure that every kid, every child in our school has what they need to be successful is what we’re doing.

JW: So I’m wanna give you, you said it. I’m going to shorten it a little bit. I always tell people, it’s that old saying that it’s not so many times that you get stopped or knocked down, it’s that fact that you’ve got to just keep getting up. And teaching, now, you’re having to do that. Like you said there’s certain guidelines or statutes you can’t violate. There’s privacy issues you can’t violate. So you gotta find your spot or your niche in that and you’ve got to say, ok, I’m gonna push this envelope to this point and see if they say no, and if not, then we found a valid means to communicate, right? You know, so…

JL: That’s right.

JW: So at the end of the day, I do want to ask this, cause all of our listeners always enjoy  these guests when they come on, and so much wisdom in what you’ve said today in taking a passion that you have and bringing it to this forefront and being a legacy leader for your children that you teach so that they can look back 25, 30 years later and go, you know I remember Mrs. Lewis doing this and I can remember how it impacted my life. So, what is one statement of advice that you might leave about influence, leadership, legacy, whatever that our listeners can take to heart today?

JL: Oh, I’m kinda of a quote person. I really enjoy quotes from people because I think that they can say things better than I can sometimes, but John Quincy Adams said one time, “that if your actions inspire others to dream more, do more, become more then you’re a leader”. And I really feel like your life, more often than not, if you’re doing things for the right reason, and you trust your gut, you make the right decision. And I think that that’s how to do it. Assess while we’re doing what we’re doing. If we’re doing it for the right reason, then others are going to get on board. They’re going to recognize that and that’s part of being a leader. Another person that I love is John C. Maxwell, he’s written a lot of books on leadership.

JW: I bet I own 10 or 12 of them. There’s a way more than that. Yea, they’re great books. 

JL: So many, one of the things that he said, and I’m kinda gonna paraphrase here, but it’s something that has always stuck with me since I’ve read it, and he said, and it’s so perfect for this season that we’re in with education especially. He said something to the effect of a pessimist will complain about how the wind is blowing, and optimist feels sure that the wind is going to stop blowing that way, or it’s going to change directions and everything is going to be fine, but a leader adjusts the sail. So adjust the sail on the ship and make the wind work to their advantage. And so that’s what we’re all trying to do right now, we’re trying to adjust the sail, and right the ship, so to speak. And keep our kids going in the direction that they need to go. 

JW: That is an awesome way to end this interview. Jennifer, thank you so much, it has been an honor and privilege to have you hear on Live a Life by Design today. 

JL: Well, thank you for having me. I completely enjoyed it.

JW: Well, we’ll have you back soon, I’m sure cause as many accolades as you’re gonna earn over your career, I know there’s something else we’re gonna want to listen too and hear from you that’s impactful. So go out, enjoy your day, enjoy your week, the remainder of your school year knowing that you are being impactful in the young lives of the kids in our community. And that’s what teaching, folks, is all about to me. It’s that Mrs. Smith, that Mrs. Lewis. It’s those people that sees something in that kid that’s just a block of clay now, that he could be a Michelangelo later in life.That we can just take some of those rough edges off. Point them in the right direction, and they have such great talent in those brains and such creativity they are going to figure it out and they are going to be better for it, because of people just like you.

Thank you for joining us today, Jennifer.

JL: Thank you, very much for having me.

JW: Special thanks today to Jennifer Lewis, 1st through 4th grade STEAM teacher at McAlester Public Schools. It has truly been an honor to share this time with you Jennifer. And thank you for joining us today, on Live a Life by Design, please join us next week as we’re gonna talk about my five strategies for helping you accomplish more with less energy. I don’t know about you, but I never have the endless energy I like, course I get up early and I go to bed late, but I want to get the most out of each day that I can. So join us next week, here on Live a Life by Design  and go out and make yourself a bigger, better, and bolder you. 

We’ll see you next week.

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