Off the Assembly Line

How to Create Schools that Kids Love with Mike Yates, Lead Guide at Alpha

October 12, 2019 Rebecca Reed Episode 2
Off the Assembly Line
How to Create Schools that Kids Love with Mike Yates, Lead Guide at Alpha
Chapters
0:00
Intro to episode
1:02
What makes the Alpha school different?
4:11
How adaptive learning software changes the game for both teachers and students
7:34
Creating authentic learning experiences
10:48
Why Mike decided to do education differently, and how others can too
14:47
How can educators 'find the others' and join the important conversations happening in the education-real world intersection
17:48
Some light riffing on the future of education
22:20
How to create schools that kids love
25:13
What can the traditional school model borrow from the Alpha model right now?
30:03
The most important thing school leaders can do
33:54
Who are you giving an A to Mike?
36:24
How to connect with Mike and Alpha
37:05
Postscript: Mike tells us about Guide
Off the Assembly Line
How to Create Schools that Kids Love with Mike Yates, Lead Guide at Alpha
Oct 12, 2019 Episode 2
Rebecca Reed

When Mike Yates jumped into the world of education as a teacher, he immediately started searching for the school model that would serve students most effectively, and empower them to drive their own learning. His search led him to Alpha, an innovative and non-traditional school that promises students and families three things: 1. Kids will love school, 2. Kids will learn twice as fast, and 3. Kids will learn life-skills. Mike and I talk about the power of authentic learning, pathways for educators who do education differently, with some light riffing on the future of education. 

Connect with Mike and Alpha:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mike-yates-338b5a19/

Twitter: @justmikeyates

Website: https://www.go-alpha.org/

Episode Chapter Guide:
0.00 - Intro to the episode
1:02 - What makes the Alpha school different?
4:11 - How adaptive learning software changes the game for both teachers and students
7:34 - Creating authentic learning experiences
10:48 - Why Mike decided to do education differently, and how others can to
14:47 - How can educators 'find the others' and join the important conversations happening in the education-real world intersection
17:48 - Some light riffing on the future of education
22:20 - How to create schools that kids love
25:13 - What can the traditional school model borrow from the Alpha model right now
30:03 - The most important thing school leaders can do
33:54 - Who are you giving an A to Mike?
36:24 - Get connected with Mike and Alpha
37:05 - Postscript: Mike tells us about Guide

If you liked what you heard, rate and review Off the Assembly Line

You can find more show details and resources at offtheassemblyline.co and connect with Rebecca on LinkedIn or at rebeccaareed.com.

Learn more about the Teacher Mastermind at http://teachermastermind.com

Follow Off the Assembly Line
twitter @offassemblyline
instagram @offtheassemblyline_podcast
facebook @offtheassemblylinepodcast.

Special thanks to Scott Holmes for our intro music. You can check out more from him at https://scottholmesmusic.com/

Thanks for listening to Off the Assembly Line. Share it with someone who needs to hear it and then go make a ruckus!

Support the show (https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=7A6ET6FCSJ86N&source=url)

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

When Mike Yates jumped into the world of education as a teacher, he immediately started searching for the school model that would serve students most effectively, and empower them to drive their own learning. His search led him to Alpha, an innovative and non-traditional school that promises students and families three things: 1. Kids will love school, 2. Kids will learn twice as fast, and 3. Kids will learn life-skills. Mike and I talk about the power of authentic learning, pathways for educators who do education differently, with some light riffing on the future of education. 

Connect with Mike and Alpha:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mike-yates-338b5a19/

Twitter: @justmikeyates

Website: https://www.go-alpha.org/

Episode Chapter Guide:
0.00 - Intro to the episode
1:02 - What makes the Alpha school different?
4:11 - How adaptive learning software changes the game for both teachers and students
7:34 - Creating authentic learning experiences
10:48 - Why Mike decided to do education differently, and how others can to
14:47 - How can educators 'find the others' and join the important conversations happening in the education-real world intersection
17:48 - Some light riffing on the future of education
22:20 - How to create schools that kids love
25:13 - What can the traditional school model borrow from the Alpha model right now
30:03 - The most important thing school leaders can do
33:54 - Who are you giving an A to Mike?
36:24 - Get connected with Mike and Alpha
37:05 - Postscript: Mike tells us about Guide

If you liked what you heard, rate and review Off the Assembly Line

You can find more show details and resources at offtheassemblyline.co and connect with Rebecca on LinkedIn or at rebeccaareed.com.

Learn more about the Teacher Mastermind at http://teachermastermind.com

Follow Off the Assembly Line
twitter @offassemblyline
instagram @offtheassemblyline_podcast
facebook @offtheassemblylinepodcast.

Special thanks to Scott Holmes for our intro music. You can check out more from him at https://scottholmesmusic.com/

Thanks for listening to Off the Assembly Line. Share it with someone who needs to hear it and then go make a ruckus!

Support the show (https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=7A6ET6FCSJ86N&source=url)

Speaker 1:

Welcome to this week's episode of off the assembly line. I'm your host, Rebecca Reed, and every week I sit down for possibility sparking conversation with innovative educators and entrepreneurs who are bringing the future to education. One beautiful disruption at a time.

Speaker 2:

[inaudible] .

Speaker 1:

What's up guys? On today's episode I'm talking with Mike Yates, the lead guide, an academic coach at alpha, a K-12 private school in Austin, Texas that operates a little differently to say the least. The team at alpha makes three promises to students in their families. Students will love school, they'll learn twice as fast and they'll learn life skills. Mike and I talk about the power of authentic learning pathways for educators who do education differently and a little light riffing on the future of education. So welcome to the show. Mike. Really glad to have you here. So glad to be here. Thank you for having me. Absolutely. I'm just going to go ahead and dive right into the work that you're doing with alpha. I know you've said that the work that your team is doing represents one of the most important school-based innovations of the last 100 years, which is kind of a wild and exciting statement. I mean, I get excited when I hear that. So could you share a little bit about what you guys are doing at alpha and the kind of disruption that you see this being capable of? I'm kind of from a broader perspective.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, sorry. I really believe that what we're doing is special and, and I think that , um, I , I stand by that, that statement, you know , um, if, if you look at the classroom, the American school system, there's not been major innovation in about a hundred years. You know, I, I wrote a post about this recently on LinkedIn, but if you look at the typical classroom of, you know, 19, 19, 19, 20 and then you look at the typical classroom today, the mode is still the same and it's still a human being in front of disseminating information, requiring kids to memorize and regurgitate. Um, and there are special teachers who are within the system that are doing amazing things. I do not want to discount that. But in general, in overall, the school system is the same. And so the thing that we've done in alpha that I think is super special is we have made one of the most important innovations, which I think is time. So at alpha we make three promises to every parent and every kid. And the first is that your kid's gonna love school. You know, when you, when you become an adult, everybody wants you to love what you do, love your job and love your career. But we expect kids to go through this crucible that is school until they hit, you know, 22 , 24 and then they're supposed to all of a sudden love what they do. Um, when , you know, it's, it's been compulsory , uh , before they became, you know, of working age. So we want kids to love school. The second thing is that we promise that parents, and we promise the students that kids will learn two times as fast. And when I say two times as fast, I don't mean that we're graduating kids early. I mean that in the school day, the same amount of content that everyone else gets. Our kids get in half the time because we use adaptive learning software, which for your math, science, reading and writing means that they can cover those subjects in a shorter amount of time. And then the last thing that we do is that we actually teach life skills. Most schools, and most people that you talk to will agree that schools are not teaching life skills. There's a life skills gap. Kids don't know how to communicate. Kids don't know how to make eye contact. Kids don't know financial literacy. And um, and so we , we promise the kids are gonna learn life skills here. And because we've shortened the academic portion of the day, we have time in our school schedule to teach life skills. So like ultimately the innovation is time and we're doing all these sorts of really cool things with time.

Speaker 1:

I mean, it sounds amazing. So you're taking, I mean the same amount of content, the same standards that students would be learning in a traditional model school and you're basically condensing that down into half the time that they would be spending on it in a traditional school day. So you mentioned adaptive learning software for those who are not familiar with that term, talk a little bit about what that looks like, what that means in the classroom.

Speaker 3:

Everybody is familiar with Netflix. Um, there is the same tool that is, that is running the algorithm in on Netflix and, and in the Amazon that suggest new products or that suggest new content is one of the very familiar tools to adaptive learning software. So essentially like on Netflix, you watch a movie, you watch a show and then the app looks at the movie or show that you watch and it applies it with other movies, other shows that are very similar and it suggest like, Hey, if you like Don girl or if you like, you know, this movie, you know , you might like the set of movies with these sort of shows. But adaptive learning software is doing it in a little different way. So you know academically. So take a math. If you're in fifth grade math, you'd answer a question and the algorithm would then say, Oh, since you've got this question right, you're ready for more difficult fifth grade concept and then a more difficult sixth grade concept and in seventh grade and you can actually keep going until you have hit the highest level of math that the app offers. Now when you start to struggle or when you get questions wrong, the app can recognize that as well and move you backwards to help you master what you're missing before it moves you forward again. So that process we believe and we've seen is so valuable because even the best teachers cannot do that for every kid, just by virtue of there being so many kids in the classroom. Right? But the app is focused on one kid at a time. The app never has a bad day, never has a bad life it , right? Like the app is always there. So that's how we're cutting the school day in .

Speaker 1:

It's like differentiation on steroids almost. You know, some questions that I think might come to our listeners minds then is, okay, so you know, we're using adaptive learning software. It's, you know, providing differentiation for students, is providing accelerated learning for students. What then does it do for the role of the teacher and what does that look like? You know, in an alpha classroom.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, yeah. So I've been writing about this a lot and you know, one of the comments that is one of the common questions that we get is like, and sometimes it's actually a common statement where they're , when people say, Hey, you're trying to get rid of teachers. And we say, Oh no, no, actually we are trying to empower teachers and we're changing the role of the teacher. And I believe that in 2030 and 2040 this will be the role of the teacher you . So we at alpha don't need to hire content experts. We don't need anybody that knows math super well because generally speaking, every adult knows more math than a sixth grader or fifth grader or even an 11th grader in like cases. So we trust that the app can teach that the role of the teacher an alpha is now that you motivate that you coach, that you figure out how to move kids in and out of the right apps that you communicate with students you engage in like SEL practices like check on kids like how they're doing. Um, and the most important role I think is that we like outside of building relationship with kids, our most important role is that we are developing life skills projects, life-skills workshops that kids are gonna love and that create experiences that they can't get anywhere else.

Speaker 1:

You're really building the learning experience around project based learning. Would that be, is that accurate?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I mean sure. Project based learning problems based learning as well. Like one of the things we want to make sure that these projects are real, right? So that for example, I, I am running a workshop right now and the goal of the workshop is to teach kids at a very grassroots level about entrepreneurship and the way that money moves through the economy. And the way that I'm doing that is by teaching kids. To flip things on eBay so kids are making real money in today. One of our kids came to me and he was like, man , try like so excited. I just sold my Nintendo DS. I put it on eBay and sold within 30 minutes. And I was like, great. And then he looks at me and he's like, you know, I could make more money if I sell the game separately. And so he's a mass like $350 in a week and now he's coming to me and asking me what am I going to do with this? He doesn't know. But step two of the project is that he's going to use that capital to create his own business outside of eBay, whether it be eliminate Stan or whether it be a sneaker shop or something on Etsy. Right. Um, and , and so he's learning, like truly learning with money and he may lose money on a teal and that's okay because that's the process. That's real. Right? So it's problems based in any of that , that project based learning.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. And it's really giving real world application and a real world environment for those academic skills to kind of come alive in and to have meaning within.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, absolutely. It has to be real. You know, when I was a , when I was a kid and I hated school because I knew from a very young age that what I was learning was not strongly connected to the real world. And , uh , my teachers didn't do a great job of connecting my learning to what was happening in my life. So yeah, that's really important to me.

Speaker 1:

One of the questions that has just kind of stood the test of time and education is the question of when will I ever use this? Or why am I learning this? And yeah. Yeah. You know, innovation in education really in a lot of ways should seek to make that question Nolan void. You know, my hope is that for students in this upcoming generation that that won't be a question at the top of any students' minds. I mean, wouldn't that be incredible?

Speaker 3:

I know, me too. I mean, yeah. Like I , I totally agree with that. I mean that, that was the question I kept asking in school and I was, I'd get in trouble for it a lot, but I asked that in every class and my mom was a teacher as well, so, so I knew full well how to navigate that world that, you know, I will never forget the day the iPhone came out. I was in high school in 2007 and I had listened to teachers my whole life. Tell me you won't have a calculator with you when you grow up, so you should learn how to show your work when you do math. And then the iPhone came out and there's a calculator in my pocket and a media company and apps and iPod like is , I was like, Oh, like they lied to.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I mean I remember having the exact same experience and I mean, bottom line learning has to have meaning for it to be able to take root for students. So yeah, I love that you guys are really , um, you're building your learning journey. You're learning progressions around these meaningful experiences. Curious, you know, on kind of a personal note for you, what was the gap that kind of forced this innovation forward? What was the pain point that you could no longer ignore that kind of forced you into this next step?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I mean for , for me it was becoming a teacher when I stood behind the veil, so to speak. And I sort of saw firsthand , um, as a teacher I taught, I taught in public schools, I taught in private schools, I taught in charter schools. I went searching for the right model, the best model, the most effective where I could do the most good. And I remember I , um , I was teaching in Fort worth at the time and I came home and I sat on the couch and I looked at my wife and I said, I want to teach or work at a school that does what I believe is best for kids. I'm going to have to start the school myself. And so I started, I've always been a very futuristic, forward thinking person. I enjoy thinking about the future and trying to predict those, you know, themes and patterns in like trying to figure out how to respond and be there first. So I doing that. Um, and in that , that research in that place, I've found that there were people already thinking what I was thinking and already doing what I was thinking at alpha and I, you know, I applied for this job through LinkedIn and I am so happy to be here because it's the innovation I've been dreaming.

Speaker 1:

What about educators who are right now kind of in the shoes that you were in prior to coming into alpha? For the ones that are just feeling, you know, I'm going to have to step out on my own and, and do this in a different way if I want to do it in the way that's best for kids. For educators who are dreaming of that, you know, starting their own school or, or bringing in a different sort of model, where do they start? What are some first steps that they can take to make this tangible?

Speaker 3:

I think it's, I think it's about reaching out and talking to other people. One of the things that I have come to find out in the last year or two is that there are so many different voices in, in different places and small pockets that are sort of saying the same thing. And like everybody agrees that school needs to be different, but like you're saying, like nobody's taken the leap, right? Like you have like in my opinion, like some of the most talented minds in the world that are sitting in a U S history classroom, like fighting the man, right? Like getting in trouble with their administrators because they're doing amazing projects and amazing and like creating amazing experience for students. And they're saying to themselves like, Oh, if I had the money or if I had the time, or if somebody would listen, they would get out there and do it. My advice is just to go find the people first. Right. Um, I, as a teacher, it is so different, which is why I'm glad that you have this podcast because it's different than everyone else . You know, all the other entrepreneurship, podcasts and voices, you know, Gary V who I love, by the way. And you know, John Hinton and everybody, they're like, just take the leap. Just quit your job. Just go at it. Well, a lot of teachers don't have money and we don't have savings, right? And we don't have loan forgiveness as we've just found out. So you may have to stay there and do what you can in your school while you build social capital on the side. It may mean that you don't go to happy hour or you don't play on the softball team. It may mean that from nine to midnight, nine to 1:00 AM you're putting in work on this project because you feel that passionate passion net Lee about it. But I would just say find the other people that can work with you that can innovate with you because there are other voices, there are people who are looking to do this work. Um, and, and I think, I think we'll have a lot of success that way if we have people like a critical mass of teachers that are stepping out and trying to create different options no matter what they are, I think students will win.

Speaker 1:

[inaudible] yeah. I mean you hit on so many things there and everything that you just said is exactly why this podcast is an existence because there are so many people doing innovative, disruptive things and moving the needle in their respective spaces, but there's not a whole lot of strategic coordinated efforts, you know, among that group. And something that's really interesting is, you know, when you start to Wade out into this intersection of education and the real world or education and innovation or education , um, you know, in the future of work and things like that, there's a lot of really phenomenal conversations happening. You don't necessarily have current educators at the center of those conversations. And I mean, I really feel like that's the most important voice in the conversation, right? You talk about finding some of , you know, finding these conversations and, and adding your voice to the mix where, let's even break it down a little further than that. I mean, where, where do people start? Are we, are we talking about LinkedIn? Are we talking about, you know, within your own building? Are we talking about combing Twitter, social media, looking for the people that are speaking your language? I mean, where did you find your people?

Speaker 3:

So for me, and what I recommend, one of my big, big goals is to encourage teachers to get on LinkedIn. I had a blast, I'm on LinkedIn, but have also found people who are both in and out of education who are listening and who are paying attention to this problem. And just like on Twitter, there are people with giant followings , uh, education educators are big. They're all the Twitter chats. But if I really like, I don't want to offend anybody, but when I think about Twitter, I think about a lot of teachers who they love to innovate from within. They love the system that exist . And that is okay . But I, I'm, I'm , I'm interested in the different problems . I'm interested in disruption. I'm interested in a different option and those people are on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the greatest organic growth you can have on social media. And I think moreK through 12 educators need to be on LinkedIn creating a collective voice. I mean, legitimately like i f we want to be real about it, if you want to create an innovative option, you cannot be a charter school because you cannot accept federal and state dollars because essentially y ou w ill, you charter schools a re public schools. They have to comply with state standards. And the beautiful thing about alpha is that we don't accept any federal or state funds. So we c an literally do what is best for children. We can do what we believe is most innovative and cutting edge best. So that takes a lot of private funding. And so if you are trying to do something innovative, that private funding and those connections are on LinkedIn.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I mean you think about , um, the benefits of being at a conference, right? And getting to rub shoulders with people from potentially different industries depending on what kind of conference it is. Definitely , uh , you know, people from, from different companies and people who are innovating in different ways. And LinkedIn, in my experience, has really been, you know, the virtual version of the best cross industry , um, conference. You know, where you get to really strike up conversations with people that are thinking differently and have different perspectives, you know, an access to ways of thinking that, that you would never have otherwise. So yeah, let's talk about future of education just a little bit here. Um, the future of education's become a little bit of a buzz phrase, which I'm not mad at because I think it's a phenomenal phrase. It's something we need to be talking about and thinking about more and more. But usually when people bring that phrase up, they're talking about it within the context of emerging technologies or things like artificial intelligence, augmented reality and things like that, which definitely plays a huge part in the future of education. Right? But when I look at it , the landscape of the future of ed, my hope, my, my driving hope is really that the future of the system will look in a lot of ways like it should look right now. Right? And provide learning that actually meets the needs of students in the ways that they learn, you know, and matches their cognitive and emotional development. But having said that and kind of looking out toward the future, what do you think are the most urgently needed changes for the future of education that we really need to kind of take on right now?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I mean, I , I love the way you put that. I think the best way to conceptualize the future of education is actually to look ahead, figure out where things are going and make them happen now. So I love that and I think that's, that's the core of what I'm trying to do as an educator. So right now I think one of the things that we can figure out , um, is how to get kids to love school. And I know that that seems a little bit simple. And to some it may seem underwhelming. But the reason why I say that is because when you focus on the child loving school, this doesn't necessarily mean that everything has to be fun. Uh , it means that several decisions, lots of curriculum decisions, scheduling decisions, staffing decisions will be made differently because now the kids have a stronger voice. Um, but they will commit when, when kids love school, you can push really hard. When they love school, you can do crazy projects. When they are committed and bought into the vision and the mission of your school, then you can not only push the kids forward, but the education community forward as a whole because now you're young people that are doing amazing things. And so I think the thing that I would like to see more schools start now that I believe will be essential in the future of education. It's figuring out ways for kids to love school. And I think like, like of course I don't think Alpha's the only school that's doing this, but I think we do a really good job with this. I think that Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta probably does the best job of getting kids to love the environment where they learn . I don't think anybody in the world does it better. Have you seen Ron Clark before?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I am familiar with RA , with Ron Clark. Um, what do you think that they're doing that is causing that love of learning to come out in their students?

Speaker 3:

So I think one, it is a trickle down from Brian himself, right ? Ron Clark is, he is a cartoon character. I have never met him person, but I feel like I know him. He is, you know, he's loud. He's Butch . He dances with the kids. He makes, he , he fits himself into their world. But I think from a , like an organizational perspective, they're just intentional about it. They are intentional about attentional, about sparing no di to convince kids that they are worth it. [inaudible] the giant blue slide in the middle of the school and you got to get slides certified. If you're a teacher and you come get trained by them and when you get into the school, you , you know, you slide down the slide and the whole community is waiting for you. Right. So they're very community . Um, they're , they , they hire the best talent and everybody in that school from top to bottom is bought in to the mission. Um, and then they do the little things. I think, you know, doing, doing the organizational things is great. They're doing the little things is also really, really cool. Uh, some of their classrooms have like , uh , like you come in the door and the door has like a pass code and the kids are , it looks like to be from the videos, the kids have to come to the door and say things like, I am a champion. And then the door opens. Like people think things like that are cliche and maybe they are. But if I keep saying I'm a champion every day to get into class, I'm going to feel a lot better. Hey , like, you know, like one of the things we do at alpha is a lot of the passwords to stuff is I love school, so I always read it again , then pull you , they'll internalize it.

Speaker 1:

Uh huh . That's a great brain hack. No, I , I, yeah, I love what you said there. You know, you're talking about teachers beings slide certified and um, you know, these, these smaller things that they're doing, like the pass codes and you know, the magic is not necessarily in those particular tactics. Right. But it's, it's what you said before that where you said they're being intentional about convincing kids that they're worth it. And I mean, to me that's like a big ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. That I think a lot of the rest of, of what they're doing is really built on. And so I'm curious with alpha , uh , you know, I love kind of the brain hack that you mentioned there about passwords being a little school. What are some, what are some other things that you guys are doing that are intentionally convincing kids that they're worth it? You know, intentionally creating opportunities where students will organically love coming to school?

Speaker 3:

Yeah. Well , uh, one of the things that we do is we have this very open line of communication with students and , and students. When I say open, I mean like after a workshop ends, you can go ask a student like, Hey, did you like that workshop? They will a lot of like, because they know that's the culture here. They don't pull punches. They will tell you, you know, it was boring today. They'll tell you. That was awesome. It was super fun. I want to do it again. Um, we involve students in lots of decisions. A lot of people would say that kids shouldn't be involved in, we did, we did some rebranding, we changed the name of the school and the name. We kept a secret from the kids, but we asked them questions about like, Hey, like what colors do you want to see? Like , uh , one , we released the name. We were like, Hey, how do you like them ? How do you like the logo? How do you like the , you know, and those little things make kids feel like this is their school. One of the other things that I, that I love that we do is it does not matter where you're going meeting phone call. If a kid wants to talk to you or show you something, if there is a moment that you can spend with a kid, we almost very aggressively require the adults in the building to have that FaceTime. If it makes you 10 minutes late to a meeting, fine, you were 10 minutes late to that meeting. But you do not dismiss a kid to go do an adult duty because we're here for them. And the more we build those things into the program, we see that kids, I mean every kid loves coming to school.

Speaker 1:

You know, you , you've mentioned several times really the voice of the student and kinda as you're sharing some of this Mike, you know, talking about bring intentionally bringing the voices of student into the shape of the school and into decisions and into the school day and you know, doing things that intentionally communicate to kids that they're worth this effort day in and day out. A lot of these things, I think maybe what I'm really excited about these things is that you don't necessarily need to be in not in an alternative school model to be able to bring these kinds of strategies, you know, these powerful strategies into the classroom. And that might bring up another question for me. You know, understanding that the vast majority of educators are going to remain within the mainstream system, whatever that looks like at any given time. So knowing that and knowing that most won't be able to step out and start their own school , um, or, or maybe even, you know, do what you did and join , um, an alternate. Are Tom an alternative school model for those educators that want to do education differently? What are some of the strategies, some of the tools, some of the tactics that they could borrow from what you're doing at alpha and bring it into their space right now?

Speaker 3:

Yeah. Yeah. So one thing that I uh , really, really believe that that people can do is, and , and some sometimes my friends telling me that sounds like a joke, but I am not joking. I'm being very serious. I think that teachers should start treating schools like LeBron James treats the NBA like he treats his teams. So here's what I mean by that. LeBron James is obviously the most talented player on earth right now. He may be the greatest ever. So I think talented teacher should, number one, should not be afraid to move on to another school. If the environment does not allow you to do what you want to do, there is nothing wrong with going to a, that will allow you to do that even if it's another traditional school. Second thing I think is that teachers should start to recruit their friends who are great teachers as well. Every year I am trying to pull one of my friends who is a phenomenal teacher away from their school to come work with me. And the reason why is because if you are in a traditional school environment and you want to be innovative and doing things differently, it helps to have your whole department on your side or it helps to have another, a person, another person in that building who understands. So I think that teaches you to do that. The third thing I think is like you shouldn't be afraid to be you. Like you think about LeBron James, he's, he's big, he's fast, he's strong. But people say like, Oh, he shouldn't be playing point guard. He shouldn't, you know , he , he shouldn't be saying this in the media, he shouldn't be commenting on the president, but he does. Right . Be you . Because you're talented, you have something to offer, right? And you are important to your organization . So you should know that. So I think that there is, there is a way to exist as an innovative teacher in a traditional school model. And I think it's actually needed because one thing that I know is that we will not destroy the public school system. What we're doing at alpha. That system's not going anywhere . And so I would actually rather just have talented teachers and innovative, everybody working together. There should be so many options that kids should be able to choose. And families should be able to choose what works best for their kids. Right? Not everybody thrives it off , but they might thrive at a tree in a traditional public school. What's a phenomenal teacher who's willing to go the extra mile for them? So I think like in a regular school there's, there's a lot of things I think you can do. But , uh, I've been using that LeBron James analogy.

Speaker 1:

I'm a fan. I'm a, I'm a season ticket holder for the Orlando magic. I mean, you know, not, not quite LeBron caliber, but I can appreciate,

Speaker 3:

but it's okay . I loved Obama, Obama [inaudible]

Speaker 1:

he's coming along. He is coming along. No , I love that analogy. And , um, yeah, I mean you , you hit on team and goodness gracious if that's not really the special sauce when it comes to innovation, right? Is having people around you that, that get what you're trying to do and can champion you and push you forward. So yeah, I think just another kind of another hit on that, which is, you know, find, find your people, find those conversations and get into them one way or another. We're going to take a real quick break back in just a sec. Hey guys, it's Rebecca. Over the last several years I've worked with educators across the U S who are truly doing education differently and changing the game for students. The problem I've bumped into is that truly innovative educators often feel like they're building their vision alone. They're the only ones they know who are doing things this way. But the truth is there are thousands of dynamic educators like this across the country and across the globe. I'm privileged to know an awful lot of them. What if these educators had a place to connect, really connect and step into each other's goals? Imagine finding a like-minded where inspiration coaching, an actual collaboration or regular byproducts of every meeting. This tribe exists and it's called the teacher mastermind. If you want to know more, go to teacher mastermind.com or send me a message. When you do education differently, you often go alone. We think we're better together and we're back. For the school leaders who are listening and for the superintendents who are listening, what are the things that you've seen, you know, culturally, you know , or instructionally at at alpha , have the greatest impact that you would, you know, really want to evangelize and champion to whoever might be listening?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, so for school leaders, and so I'll go down down the chain really quickly. So for superintendents, my, my, my biggest criticism of superintendents is that they're too policy focused . I remember having a group of students email over and over to get a meeting with the superintendent. I emailed, I called, I showed up unannounced at the office and for a full school year I could not get FaceTime with the superintendent of this district. And that was one of the things that was almost the last straw for me. And I realized like if the head of this, like the top of this district will not talk to me as a teacher, I don't feel like I am important. I don't feel like they care about what I'm doing. So the best thing that a superintendent can do is over index on FaceTime with teachers and students. Like not like the, Oh, I go to a couple of schools a year. Like you should break your back to get to every single school you can in a school year so that every kid and every teacher can see your face. You should have an open door policy. Teachers should be able to walk in to your office and talk to you. I know it doesn't sound practical. It's not practical. It's crazy. But to fix education, it's going to be crazy for administrators. I think one of the things that we do really well at alphas , we have two phenomenal campus leaders. They happen to be married so , so they get to plan things at home and all kinds of things. But , uh, we have two extremely bright, phenomenal leaders who care about people and they care. They really care about children. You know, one of them had never, he had never worked at a school. He had never worked with children before, but loves people so much and loves children so much and loves innovation so much that he goes the extra mile to make everybody feel heard and to make sure that everything works. Right. Um, and so I think it's, I think it's just trust, trust the teachers upfront, give more trust than you think you should , um, to educators. And then in turn, do the same with students. Um, I think there's a lot organizationally , um, that can be said for the, for , for trust, right? Like, let , let people do their thing and , and if it doesn't work, then you can pull back and put whatever restrictions you need to put. But I think in , in the traditional system, there's walls and , and , and traditions and best practices that are thrown at you as a teacher and they put you in a box. So take the box away and see what the teachers do.

Speaker 1:

Hmm . Yeah, the word trust that that's a big one. I think that's a , it might be the one when it comes to school leadership and leading teachers. Well , um, and I, I come from the classroom myself so that, that word really resonates for me. And, and just to kind of go back to what you said for superintendents , um, you know, boots on the ground, being physically present and really spending time in the presence of an in conversation with students and teachers. And I think that's really powerful for teachers. It's powerful for students, but I think it's also powerful for district administrators to be able to, to really get a sense and a feel for what is taking place throughout an entire district. And um, you know, that's, that's tougher in some places than others for sure. Um, yeah, but definitely, definitely a powerful target to shoot for. So Mike, as we start to kind of wrap things up a little bit here, I am curious, who are you giving an a too these days?

Speaker 3:

So by a you being like, who do I think is doing like really great like school or person?

Speaker 1:

Exactly. Any and all who, who is doing a great job, who would you say they deserve? An a?

Speaker 3:

Yeah. So I, I, there's a couple of people , um, both inside and outside of education. So I think , um, uh , in terms of , uh , people like individual people, I am definitely giving an a to , um, a person that is like brash and out there, but everybody loves him. I'm giving an a to Gary Vaynerchuk. I think that the, the model that he is , uh, laying the foundation that he's Lang for both content creators but also people who are interested in learning new skills is incredible. I mean, this, this is a guy who is worth hundreds of millions of dollars who's giving away business advice for free. So if you want to learn how to start a business, just listen to a [inaudible] podcast, email him, contact him, you know, whatever. Uh, the other person, I'll give you an a too, is another guy that's kind of in the same vein is John Henry. So much education coming from John Henry , um , on entrepreneurship hustle business. Um, he has a show that you should check out on vice called the hustle is really good. Um, but in , in the education realm, I'm going to give you an a for this podcast because I think it is incredible that there was a place for these things to be discussed, especially in education community where it's not. I am going to give Robin showman an a. Robin Schulman is a, she's a LinkedIn top voice in education. If you are not following her and you are an educator, you should follow her on LinkedIn. I'm more than being a voice, which means that the things that she writes , um , she also writes for Forbes. They're super valuable, super thought provoking. Um, she herself is just an amazing person and if you contact her and reach out to her, she will make time to speak to you and to help. And then she truly wants to help. Uh, so definitely Robin and the last person is Jennifer Gonzalez from the cult of pedagogy. Uh , her content is next level on Twitter. She does a really, really great, great job of even like her recycled stuff from like 2015 is like really relevant. Um, she also does a good job of being available to people. So I'm giving those people day .

Speaker 1:

Oh , that's awesome. And, and thanks Mike for saying that. I'm really honored to be a part of that list of incredible folks you just mentioned. Appreciate that. So how can people get connected with you and what you're doing?

Speaker 3:

Yeah. Um, so for me personally , um, I love having the conversation. I love working on side projects and you know, I have an incredibly supportive family that , uh, lends my time out to lots of people. Um, so if it's within reason I can make it happen , um, reach out to me on LinkedIn, just search Mikey AIDS . I'll, I'll be one of the first , uh, links. Um , you can find me on Twitter at just Mikey AIDS the justice in the handle as well. So, yeah. And , and, and that's that. I'm excited. I'm , I'm working on a couple of other projects and I'm really, really excited about, so

Speaker 1:

I'll make sure that we have all those links in the show notes so there'll be really easy for people to find you and get connected with you, Mike. But yeah, before we wrap up, talk a little bit about guide.

Speaker 3:

Oh , right. Yeah. Um, so guide is a, a social e-learning app that I am, I'm , I'm building with some great friends of mine that actually, so remember we talked about the power of LinkedIn. Our team was assembled fully on LinkedIn. Most of us had never met face to face before. And for the first three months of building the app, we had never been in the same room. Huh. And so we were all on LinkedIn talking about the same thing, future education, life skills, future of work, and decided to come together. And we have created guide, which is an app that teaches life skills through micro video content , um, and targets high school students. So essentially my, the impetus behind me working on the project was that I recognized that alpha right now only exist in Austin. And even in Austin, it's not exactly accessible to every kid. Um, there, there are reasons for that cause we're kind of experimental. But even though that's the case, I want to make a way for every student to engage with life skills content. More than that. We want kids to be able to create life skills , content for other students. So we've created an app where you can both um, learn, engage and , and create life skills, content so that people can, you know, give and learn and all sorts of things in that app. So we're really excited about what's happening with guided. We are launching in just a few weeks.

Speaker 1:

Nice. Do you have an official launch date for it or is it, is that still moving a little bit?

Speaker 3:

It's still kind of moving with the app,

Speaker 1:

basically done. We're like roughly two weeks out, so. Oh , that's exciting. Well congratulations. Thank you. Thank you . Yeah, excited to check that out. All right Mike . Well , thanks so much for being on the show today and given us some of the inside scoop on your work at alpha and you know, sharing your thoughts about the future of learning and, and making a ruckus , uh, in this intersection. Really appreciate having you on. Thank you so much. I was , I really enjoyed it. Yeah , it was a lot of fun. Thanks for listening to this episode of off the assembly line. I hope you're able to take away a few things that'll help you make a ruckus in education or see new possibilities. Mike's information and the resources we mentioned will all be linked in the show notes and you can find all of [email protected] if you liked what you heard, by all means, rate and review and hit that subscribe button to keep them coming. You can connect with [email protected] or find me on LinkedIn. Now go and make a ruckus.

Speaker 2:

[inaudible] .

Intro to episode
What makes the Alpha school different?
How adaptive learning software changes the game for both teachers and students
Creating authentic learning experiences
Why Mike decided to do education differently, and how others can too
How can educators 'find the others' and join the important conversations happening in the education-real world intersection
Some light riffing on the future of education
How to create schools that kids love
What can the traditional school model borrow from the Alpha model right now?
The most important thing school leaders can do
Who are you giving an A to Mike?
How to connect with Mike and Alpha
Postscript: Mike tells us about Guide