Episode 40 - Ashoka U on Teaching Change with Molly Ware
Today we continue with our 3rd episode in our special series Ashoka U on Teaching Change by learning from Molly Ware, Professor of Education at Western Washington University. Molly shares her own journey to change-making through the classroom, her work as an educator of educators, and her chapter in the upcoming Ashoka U publication
How can we accomplish more together than is possible alone? It’s the question that’s driven my work since I left my science teaching gig in GA public, middle schools. Since then, I’ve worked as a teacher educator in partnership with public school teachers in WA state – supporting the growth of new changemaker teachers. In addition, I’ve worked to support organizational innovation & evolution at Western Washington University & beyond through a variety of leadership roles including Faculty Senate President, Director of Western Reads, and organizational change & innovation consulting work. I currently teach classes focused on leading systemic change and am finishing a memoir on adventures in system change.
In addition to her work at Western Washington University, Molly is founder & lead consultant at We Evolve where she supports organizational change & innovation in higher education & the social impact sector. https://www.we-evolve.org
She is also finishing a memoir on her adventures in learning to create transformative change that will be completed this summer.
Jerrid Kalakay 0:09
Welcome to the teaching change podcast where we explore she's social entrepreneurship, education, and innovation. I'm your host Jerrid Kalakay. On today's episode, we have the third installment of our show KU on teaching chain special series. Today we're speaking with Molly were a professor of education at Western Washington University. Welcome, Mark. How, how are you doing today? Welcome to teaching change.
Molly Ware 0:32
Awesome. I'm excited to be here. Thanks, Jerrid.
Jerrid Kalakay 0:35
Yeah, so Molly, why don't you go ahead and introduce yourself to our audience. Okay,
Molly Ware 0:41
so my name is Molly aware. And I have a lot of different hats. But currently, I'm faculty at Western Washington University, where I work with beginning teachers and the secondary education program there. And my real interest in love in that world is how to support beginning teachers who want to be interpreters in the system, who want to work for change, but also don't want to, you know, struggle and die in the process, because it's hard work. So that's kind of my secondary Ed world. And I've been there for about 12 years. But then I also, I have been in some leadership roles on campus where I've gotten to do some, like broader systems, change work, which I'm really interested in. And I'm also directing a program for first-year students that I see as sort of a curricular and faculty and student innovation hub to improve the first-year experience at Western. So that's,
Unknown Speaker 1:39
that's very cool. Yeah, that sounds like a lot of stuff you're doing. Absolutely. One of the really interesting things is that you I believe might be the very first professor of education that we've had on the show. Haha. So you have that distinction? Being is the first professor of Ed. No, I, I obviously, understand that many of our listeners understand that the extreme value of education, especially in terms of bringing about change, and bringing about forward progress in the movement. But what has kind of as a professor of education, what has kind of drawn you to change-making and working within that sphere?
Molly Ware 2:23
Yeah, it's a good question. Huh? Well, I mean, I guess first and foremost, my own. Well, I guess I'll do a little bit of a story. But so I was a middle school teacher before I became a professor of education, and I loved it. And like, I loved taking my kids out and just, you know, doing real work in the world and getting them thinking critically together. And, and all of that. But it was also interesting, because early in my, my teaching career, I took over for somebody partway through the year, and the person who I took over for you, he had a really different approach than I did pretty much, you know, put some notes on it overhead and have students copy them. And once they're done, then students can do whatever they wanted. And, and it was super fascinating, because I never, it never occurred to me that students might actually want that. And I had a student, you know, a couple of months into my time there be like, well, we want that person to come back. And I was like, you do, like, stand why, and, you know, but it really, it was just this idea that like, you know, while students are kids, they want to socialize, you know, and so the work of really getting people to be able to solve complex problems together and know who they are and what they want. Like, that's, that's not familiar to a lot of students in schools. And so I think what you made change-making work is I always was working for that. And at some point realized that it's not the norm, you know, because you can kind of forget, that's not the norm in your classroom for a little while. And, and so I knew I wanted to support beginning teachers and doing what it was they were passionate about to bring public education to life, you know, hopefully in service of something bigger for our country and world.
Unknown Speaker 4:07
Yeah, wow. Well, especially in the age of standardized testing. Yeah. Imagine, imagine. Yeah.
Molly Ware 4:15
Yeah. Because of sense of imagination. And what's possible is so externally driven. And, yeah, which is absolutely true of the beginning teachers I work with as well. They're very used to performing for an external set of standards, which means it's really hard if you want to do something that isn't an external standard, like how do you? How do you not just give up feeling effective? Happy Yeah, how do you find your way if you don't know how to navigate from the inside out? Somewhat? And so I think that's a big part of what's drawn me to the work as well.
Unknown Speaker 4:48
Yeah, absolutely. It's a kind of a square peg in a round hole. Yeah. Yeah. Right. Trying to try to be creative within a system that
Jerrid Kalakay 4:58
rises and eliminates creates.
Molly Ware 5:00
Yes, yeah. I was just gonna say there's this book called orbiting the giant hairball. I don't know if you know it,
Jerrid Kalakay 5:06
Molly Ware 5:07
Yes. But you're just your square peg round hole, trying to do something creative and alive and adaptive and dynamic within the system, that, you know, system systems tend towards efficiency and you know, wanting to understandably, you know, kind of 10 things down. And so yeah, how do you continue to stay alive and not just become another hair?
Unknown Speaker 5:28
Yeah, absolutely. Why take my hat off to you? Because not only will your K through 12? Teacher, which I can't imagine the difficulties. But then you were a middle school teacher, which I
Molly Ware 5:40
know it was so much fun. There. The thing about middle school kids is amazing is they are there. They're not pinned down yet. They're not completely convinced that society's expectations of who they are real. And they're trying out, like, Who am I? What do I want to become? They're very experimental. And, you know, if you, if you like, a little bit of chaos, like an unpredictability is
Unknown Speaker 6:06
awesome. So we're getting a little insight into Molly's personality, chaos, and totally, so. So you were Middle School, fell in love with the idea of trying to change systems, and you were doing some work around that. And then what made you make the leap to higher ed?
Molly Ware 6:29
Good question. Well, it was certainly not planned. I was not drawn to higher ed, because you know, the Ph.D. or, you know, fame and glory, but I think it was that I really, really like steep learning curves. And so I had taught Middle School for about five years, loved it started to feel like I was getting, like, fairly effective at what I was doing. And, and I was in a district that was actually a very kind of privileged, I will say it was a very privileged district. And so the narrative there was we put we produce the best-educated students in the state, which was not true. But it was true in the sense that, you know, their kids came in with the most, you know, background in education, and so they perform best on the test. And so that environment, also sort of like not my really chosen environment, I guess I'll say. And so I was in a doc program at the time because I liked learning. And I had the option of quitting my job to work with beginning teachers and thought, well, I should just see if I like it. And so I experimented with that. And I did really like it. And so at the end of completing the doc program, I thought, well, it's now or never, I'm going to try higher it out, see how it feels. Just an experiment. I don't have to stay there forever. Yeah, that's what drew me and then I was drawn to the, I'm in a secondary ed program, but my background in science education. And so I was really drawn to secondary because I like the idea of interdisciplinary work and working with folks from all different disciplines. And yeah.
Unknown Speaker 8:08
So and you are Washington, Western Washington University now?
Molly Ware 8:12
Yep, I am.
Jerrid Kalakay 8:14
And for how long? How long have you been there?
Molly Ware 8:17
Ah, 12 years. That's a long time.
Jerrid Kalakay 8:22
experiment. Like it like it. Good deal. And so
Unknown Speaker 8:30
obviously, written into your position description is not work with the show PU, what we're learning outcomes, what would change-making? Right? How'd you get involved in that work at your institution? And how's that process gone? so far?
Molly Ware 8:46
Yeah, haha. Okay, well, I'm just laughing, because I'm going to tell you the short version of the story. But I am going to include my dissertation in it because it's sort of ironic. So my dissertation was really on how beginning teachers who wanted to do things too differently, like negotiated their identity within the system. So like, how did they not, you know, get kicked to the curb? Because what they were doing was to two different and the system, this was like, This isn't even what we do. So I did that work. And I didn't really know why I was drawn to that question. And then I showed up at Western. And like, 12 years later, hindsight, I'm like, Oh, I was doing that work, so that I would better understand what it was going to be like. You know, what I needed to be thinking about which, by the way, of course, I didn't think about anything I've learned, you know, and made a lot of mistakes. But when I got to Western, the thing that got me into this work was, so I entered a program that was primarily, like, sitting on a university campus learning to teach learning about teaching while on a university campus. And I was always really drawn to this idea of like, how can we teach education and public schools do more together than we can on our own? Because in the classroom, like, there are certain limits that like, we're going to be insurmountable and never change time. Like, I never had enough time with 150 Kids times five, you know, it's like, know, too much. And resources, you know, and it was like, there is one teacher 30 kids, like, what could we do something, we have a whole group of amazing people here who want to learn so. So I kind of had that as the backdrop. And then I showed up in this program that was very campus-based, and where our beginning teachers didn't really do anything really other than observing in schools until the end of the program. And so just the nature of who I am, and what I love, I'm pretty entrepreneurial. I like jumping in and doing real things. So it really bugged me, quite honestly, that I had a bunch of students I was working with who didn't have any of their own questions, you know, and they didn't understand the complexity of the work. And they weren't in a relationship with students having to like do some of the heart identity work, you know, of, Oh, I really want to serve these kids yet, how is who I am and my privilege and whatever getting in the way of that, what do I need to learn? And so it was like, there wasn't enough of a transformative element in our program in my eyes. And so, initially, like, I kind of, I wasn't, I wasn't very wise about how this work best happens. And so I did a lot of like, kind of going straight at the system, you know, like, Well, why are we having them in the field, a lot of just sort of critiquing what was going on. But to a group of people who weren't, you know, entrepreneurs or innovators, or, you know, they were, they didn't see the problems that I could see. And because they had a different orientation. And so eventually, a colleague came named Rosalie, who was a dear mentor. And she had already done a lot of work in schools. And she was like, pretty savvy with systems change. And she knew, like, just focus on the work like and so she took her class out to a public school classroom and designed her class around that teaching experience. So small groups of kids to beginning teachers like six or eight different lessons, they're going to teach kind of a focused unit that the teacher wants, and, but it gets them in relationship with the kids. So she did that. And then wanted somebody to come research it. And I was like, I'll do it. And then once I saw what she was doing, and kind of heard the tensions and the complexity of what they were working with, then I was like, all right, I want to try that. So that's kind of what got me started down the road of, I'm going to figure out how to teach my classes in the field so that we are making a difference in the lives of us, hopefully,
Unknown Speaker 12:32
while we're talking. Yeah, I can imagine the, you know, when we talk about systems change, you know, you're, you're the newcomer, you've got all these ideas, asking all these kinds of questions that I'd imagine the system I put to bed long ago.
Jerrid Kalakay 12:49
Yeah, like it's exactly the one on one of what not to do. Right.
Molly Ware 12:53
Right. Except that you know, the funny thing is now I'm, I've been there 12 years you pointed out, right? So now I'm on the receiving end of that.
Jerrid Kalakay 13:01
Molly Ware 13:03
Very interesting. Yeah.
Jerrid Kalakay 13:06
I become the system, right.
Molly Ware 13:08
I guess I become the system. And so now I'm having to learn to stay open and how to Yeah, not do what my colleagues did to me. Hopefully.
Unknown Speaker 13:16
Yeah. Well, I'm in and I guess that's the ultimately that's, that's all of our, you know, all of our could be all of our faults, right? Because, eventually, you know, we as my students often refer to me as uncool now. I've only been to Valencia going on for four years. Okay. But I've been in education. Almost 1500. So, yeah, yeah. So I'm to the point now, where all of my pop culture references are all. I mentioned a really famous movie, they have no idea what the movie is. And I just kind of had a settled into the fact that I am no longer cool. In terms of my students' eyes. But right. We've talked about on this program before how age is really relevant. Right? So yeah, the 40 is the new 20 or
Jerrid Kalakay 14:17
Molly Ware 14:18
Say it. On the show? Yes. Yeah. Yeah.
Unknown Speaker 14:23
So coming from a K through 12, background learning outcomes probably was something that was almost like second nature. On the program. Just the other episode, we talked to Hattie. From the show, PU, as you talked a lot about how her K through 12 experience influenced her understanding and working with learning outcomes. And so in your journey, how have you found learning outcomes, specifically, effective or useful in change-making education?
Molly Ware 14:55
Yeah, well, I should probably say that, even though that was Yes, from failure, and I did see value in learning outcomes. I also have a little bit of like a fear, push back on them in the sense that like, they can become very technocratic, and they can become the new external set of standards that we're asking students to conform to and comply with. And so I actually, I have a bit of an edge around like, how, how do I pin something down in a way that, then doesn't lead to that?
So yeah, yeah.
So but going back to that teaching experience that I was telling you about, we're taking my beginning teachers out in the schools, this is kind of what inspired me to create a set of learning outcomes. And I guess the story behind that is, so this experience of like beginning teachers, they'd want to be teaching in public schools, wouldn't they want to be working with real kids? Like, yeah, well, not. I mean, they maybe they weren't, they weren't automatically convinced that this is what they should be doing. And it took a while to figure out how to design that experience so that they didn't just Mutiny on me. And so literally, for the first couple of times through the course, where we were out in schools working with kids, the class would be all right for about the first four or five weeks. And then this like, death, complaining spiral trap thing would happen, and as the whole group would like, flush itself down the toilet, and like just kind of spiral into, like, can't learn and frustration. And I didn't know what was going on. And its mutiny. Yes. It felt that way. But I didn't quite understand why, you know, they were having so much trouble with this. And but I had this student named William Enriquez, who I loved and he was this guy who, like, while we're having this teaching experience, he's like, getting on to the class website, like sending out videos that are like really aligned with what I'm trying to do. And so I'm like, he gets it. Yes, he gets it. And, and so at the end of the quarter, and he also was doing fantastic work with his students and his co-teaching partner and but at the end of the quarter, William told me, he's like, Molly, I was so mad at you all quarter of like, you were like, I had an I had no idea and be you have to tell me why, like, help me understand. And, and so he just said, like, Well, basically, you took away everything I knew. You took away grades as being the driving force, you took away tests and quizzes you took away you have you the answers to all the question, you took it all away. And in my head, I was like, Yeah, but I put a whole bunch of other things back in place. Like, he wasn't seeing that. And it helped me realize that you know, he needed a cultural liaison. Like, it's like when you step into like you a foreign country, and you think you know what's going on, until the cultural liaison explains to you, oh, here's what's really happening. And, and so, basically, that conversation with William, and the fact that I needed to get better teaching evaluations, like there was like, I gotta figure out how to make this experience work. that inspired me to create this set of learning outcomes, which is basically like a matrix. And what it includes are kind of like a set of practices, that if you're going to be a change-maker teacher, which is basically somebody who is able to adapt and stay responsive to their students, you know, and who's going to work with or complexity and critical thinking and, you know, disrupting sort of some of the social, you know, inequities and patterns. Like, if you're going to do that work, what are the practices that you, you need to work with, and, and watching my students and seeing where they were struggling, helped me kind of define, like, okay, when you begin, here's what it looks like, you know, as you get a little better, here's what it looks like. And so things like, what do you do with your stress? You know, like, because stress is a huge part of being a Changemaker, like, how do you not turn it on other people and blame them? You know, how do you not turn it on your kids? How do you not turn it on yourself? But how do you instead, like, figure out how to manage it like and, you know, put systems in place that mean, you can stabilize yourself because you're, you're, you're trying to do something that's not normal. So you've got to be able to do that. So I guess, the value of the learning outcomes is for me, they became like the cultural liaison, they became the tool at the beginning of the quarter that I could hand the students and say, all right, check this out, like this might feel totally foreign to you, like, which of these are you excited to play with, to try on to have be a learning edge for you? Which of these are you like, Nat? Like, you know, and, and so I use that as a tool, and we go back to it, and then, they look at their growth over time. But I also want to say I keep it pretty process-focused, you know, I'm not saying, you know, the outcomes aren't things like, you know, six times during the quarter, you need to do X, Y, or Z. There, there are things like, work to become comfortable with ambiguity.
Like, see my responsibility and not and what's not working, and like, figure out how to, you know, how to do something about it. So they're very, they're the very processed focus. They're sort of mindsets and practices. And that doing that not only was a fantastic way to make it, so students could remember Oh, yeah, but we're also supposed to be feeling this way. Like, oh, yeah, I'm practicing with this. But it was also a really good tool for me because I am a change maker, and I forget this stuff and struggle with it all the time. And be like, how do I then design my classroom experience? So that this is like, the integral to it? You know, and so it's helpful in that way as well.
Jerrid Kalakay 21:11
So yeah, I could I mean, I could imagine that, you know, for your students that paradigm shift in changing everything that they know about, kind of what it's like to be a student. Right, right. Absolutely. And I mean, that's a pretty scary, top scary situation.
Molly Ware 21:29
terrifying. Well, and I don't know, like, I can remember for myself going through the transition from looking to the outside for how I decide what I'm going to do to start to decide that internally for myself, it's it is it not only terrifying, you feel very gray fuse and meaningless and what? Like a hatch, it's going to fall on your head.
Jerrid Kalakay 21:55
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. No, I mean, it is a very destroying
experience. Yeah. You know, and, and when you go through that it can be, it can be quite, quite scary indeed.
Molly Ware 22:09
Well, you're just making me think of a, like. So the reason that I think I probably was drawn to this work, is because I also had to do this work. So I started as the person who was very externally focused, you know, I was the high achiever, you know, my way of coping with my own background, was to look to the outside, figure out how to become really good at it really fast, and do it so that it crosses the shit out of everybody, you know, and,
Jerrid Kalakay 22:39
and, yeah, learn the rules. And yeah, and win the game,
Molly Ware 22:42
win the game, win, Oh, God, which is expensive, but it also is safe. And, but I remember the same student, William coming back a couple of years later, because we work together over multiple quarters. And I remember him then describing how like, lost and confused and like, he was in the middle of it, but like, my students are the ones who helped me kind of come to the other side as well through their learning and my own learning. And so it's just been a really cool journey, because I couldn't do this at first, either. And they're the ones who helped me learn to do it through their own struggle. Yeah. And my own. So
Jerrid Kalakay 23:18
yeah, it reminds me very similarly to my doctoral program, when I was in, and I was suffering from by, you know, the,
the imposter syndrome.
My professor, talking about what that is, and why we're experiencing it, and you know, all these kinds of things. And the impact, you know, as you probably know, is where you feel like you don't deserve to be wherever you are now. And so I was very much in my doctor, my doc program, especially early on feeling like, any minute now, they're going to realize,
right? This is the guy we rejected, Why is he here?
You know, obviously, I had my acceptance letter and everything. But, you know, I remember feeling that way. And my professor, very early on, sort of brought it up and said, who are experiencing these feelings? And it was, it was like this amazing weight was lifted off my shoulders. Not that it went away, per se, but just knowing that other people were feeling it. Yeah, was really helpful.
Molly Ware 24:24
Absolutely. And it normalizes like, Oh, yeah, this might not actually be what I should make my decision based on?
Jerrid Kalakay 24:32
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Well, and I love the idea
in which that you realized very early on, probably through some painful interaction. Yes, with William and others, that you needed a liaison or a vehicle to get them over that, that chasm between what's new? And what was new? And what and what was different.
Molly Ware 25:01
Yeah, you know, I tried several earlier renditions of this that weren't like the learning outcomes that we used over time. And I remember student and like, because on the first day of class, I used to this thing about like, okay, so who's participated in, like, an inquiry learning environment before, you know, and like, we did this whole thing where it was like, what's the teacher role look like? What's the student role? Like? How do you know you're learning? You know, like, we broke it all down, like a traditional environment versus this other thing? But then they would say, like, three weeks in like, or no, they told me at the end of the quarter, you know, that thing that we did at the beginning, you needed to, like, tell us that over and over and over and over and over again, you know, and I was like, I didn't quite see how big of a transformation I was asking them to embark on with me.
Jerrid Kalakay 25:47
You know, it's, it's, it's, you know, it's theoretical, and then it's applied. In theory. In theory, we understand, you know, whatever it's going to look like, right, whatever it's going to be, but then when we actually try to apply it, yeah, it becomes much more difficult. Right, like, so, in theory, I know, I should drive the speed limit. is dangerous. I can get caught. I could pay a lot of money. Right. But when I try to apply that and I'm running late in Central Florida roads, I don't always obey the speed limit. Right. Right.
Molly Ware 26:22
And that's not even like, really transformative. That's just kind of a Jerrid be Jerrid.
Right. There's not like full-on terror accompany the decision to not or to drive the speed, let you know, like, there's full-on terror company. Yeah.
Jerrid Kalakay 26:43
Absolutely. I mean, you not only pushing them outside of their comfort zone, and putting them into classes with students and so forth. But then you're kind of taking away all of the safety net, and the security blanket that they've developed over the 80s 1314 plus years of education and schooling. Right,
Molly Ware 27:03
right. I feel like the language I overtime was like, Oh, yeah, this is what I'm doing to them was like, okay, the good students, like is transitioning to the adaptive dynamic teacher, and change-making teacher, right. And that is a big transition. It's a huge transition. And, and yet, I'm still doing that in a formal educational environment where I get him. And I, you know, I'm the authority formal authority figure. So how do I get them to go there with me when they're still in the old, you know, old environments? Sort of
Jerrid Kalakay 27:40
what and I love that you, you've kind of landed on learning outcomes as the vehicle for that. Yeah. Well, I love that, because so often, learning outcomes becomes, especially in higher ed least in my experience, it's almost sometimes an afterthought, right? We, the anecdotally know, that we're, that we're achieving this, this, this and this goal, but now we've got to quantify it for reports, we've got to quantify it for a survey or in some way to tell the story. And then we go back, and we try to figure out what the learning outcomes might be. Right? Or we go the other way, as we should we create the learning outcomes, and then we create the learning environments for those outcomes to be realized. But very rarely other to really connected, and meaningful learning outcomes will guide the development of everything we're doing, and then an assessment of that, whatever we did, then influences future learning outcomes and so forth. Right, right.
Molly Ware 28:46
Yeah, they came, like the backbone of the experience, or like, the thing that meant, you know, they've really shaped my instructional design. Like, as I've gotten clear on this, like, now, I've built-in, like, really specific ways that we work with these during the quarter that is simple and small, but like, you know, we do these consultancy groups, and that people bring problems of practice, you know, which totally aligns with this idea of like, staying in the ambiguity and like, you know, what's not working? And how do you, you know, find an opening to move that forward? And so things like that are simple things like, all right, like, becoming okay with failure, you know, like, and having that be an opening for learning and like, like, all these hard emotions, like frustration, irritation, so like, we normalize that, you know, it's like, Okay, everybody on sticky notes, I want you to, like, list a thing right now that you're totally stuck, frustrated, and feel like you fail that. And at the same time, I want you to take a second one and like, find a tiny success, something that you're like, Yes, I can hang my hat on this, that, you know, and we put those up on the board, people see him publicly, like we're in it together. But it's like, we're practicing some of these, like, in our work together as well. But I think, yeah, they have helped me shape the learning environment so that we are actually, you know, moving somewhere with these together, not just you know, okay, now you've seen it, self assess, and do it on your own.
Jerrid Kalakay 30:21
Yeah, absolutely. I also really like the way that you focused it on the process.
Molly Ware 30:27
Yeah, how calm and how that's important to me, too. But yeah.
Jerrid Kalakay 30:32
So frequently with students, and I think with even young professionals, or professionals in general,, we get into the trap of not allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. And I limit, we limit our ability to really grow. Yeah, we don't ask for help. We don't ask for guidance. We don't really analyze why something may not be going well, because we don't even want to admit it to ourselves. Right. Right. mobility, their total, you know, and our and our environment. Many times our environments are competitive, or we feel competitive. Yeah. Right. And so,
Molly Ware 31:11
when you have a teacher who's holding a grade, and like, you know, typically, like asks you almost not to be vulnerable and to know,
Jerrid Kalakay 31:19
you. Absolutely, yeah, exactly. So by focusing on the process, I think you, you've allowed them, and also obviously, creating a safe space in your classroom, you know, and having conversations on what you fail at, you know that, and talking about that, I think goes a long way to allowing them to really be authentic, right, in order to
Molly Ware 31:42
the goal. You know, you're making me think too, so I've also since creating this, I am now teaching some different courses that are not like teacher ed courses, I'm teaching one for first-year students at the University called designing your college experience. And, and I'm doing something similar because like, okay, we're not actually all going out into public school classrooms, but they are in the midst of this, again, giant transition and transformation. And, and so the same, like you were saying, like, how do we stay open to and vulnerable so that we can, like claim our education and, you know, not just consume it and like, take an active role in shaping and figuring out what's working for me, what's not, where do I have energy, where don't, you know, like, this is sort of become this process has become the backbone for those experiences as well. And I have students do this thing. So you know, even if they're not in a shared experience, it creates a shared experience, but they do this log, like weekly, and simple things that are short sentence stems, like, irritations and frustrations that it can turn into openings for learning. moments, like, either in my work with students or my first year, like, where I may a decision that I'm like, there, that's how my experience I want it to be, you know, oh, knee jerk judgments, or reactions that I'm finding myself having in a certain context. And, you know, why I think why I'm reacting that way. And you know, how that's influencing my ability to, you know, do something great in the space and how else I might, you know, things like that, so that they're really taking almost a metacognitive lens on like, like, I'm a designer of my experience, you know, and like, yeah, yeah, like, here's what goes into that. And so, and then I also do the same thing with them, you know, like, I'm learning with them. And yeah, and I guess the other piece, I feel like I should add, and I don't know why. But I also have my grading system and my feedback system, it feels really important to figure out how you deal with that as an instructor so that you don't shut down students willing to do what you're talking about. And
an intimate environment, I think, has a different set of what's needed to keep people in the experimentation and the playfulness and the openness and the learning when it gets hard. And, and so two things that I've learned to do overtime, one of which is I actually have students identify what they believe their grades should be at the end of the quarter. And they do some self-assessment on this, you know, Rubric or whatever, but, but really, like, what was it in this experience that outside of all the, you know, formal, professional expectations, which those count to like, like, outside of all, the good student, like, I just showed up the class on time. And, you know, I read all the readings, like, what should your grade be, and why? And, and then I come with the same thing, you know, what I believe their grades should be and why. And we, like, I've had times where students will do that, and we'll have really different suggestions. And like, sometimes, like, depending on what were the student is, and what they're after, I'm, I might default to the student, because I want them to, like, feel, feel the weight of what they've chosen. That doesn't mean I at least throw out you know, the professional expectations, but like, I've had a student before who, you know, round one was like, I totally deserve an A, A or A-minus, I think the person said, and I was in my head, like, No, I think it's more like a see which I told them. And, and so but I defaulted in that case, because it was like, well, this is where he is, and he still was in the like, I gotta prove it to your mode. And I was like, No, I don't really want to reinforce that. And then, but I had that student again, two quarters later. And then the student was like, he could see the struggle and was more able to be open to it and was like, now I think I deserve a see. And I was like, I'm actually seeing progress this quarter. Like I wouldn't know anymore. So that feels really important. And it also gets them thinking about what's meaningful, like, What counts is learning, like, like, have I created a meaningful experience for myself, you know, or I just consumed. And then the other thing that I've learned to do is, with my feedback, like, I don't want students, I don't want to, like hold the rubric in their face and be like, are you doing this? Oh, no, you're not, you know, like, which, by the way, I kind of started out there. And, right, but, but now it's like, Okay, first of all, what are you trying to accomplish? So in that teaching experience, like, what are you really hoping for? And then when I am watching their teaching, I am observing to try and help them name success from their frame of reference, but also so that it's translatable to the professional expectations. And, and then I have them do the same thing. Like, what are you seeing? You know, and what are you hearing from your students, that counts as success in what you're after, but also that you can kind of point to these standards with. And so I'm kind of, you know, helping them. One student described it as, like, didn't even know anything was happening, because it just feels like you're so lost. And so he's like, that kind of feedback helped me at least be like, okay, maybe something's happening. I just can't see it. So those feel important and keeping students open to me.
Jerrid Kalakay 37:15
Yeah, no, I yeah, I could imagine it. So one of the courses I teach at Valencia College here is a course on purpose. It all first-year students, at least the way that I teach it, it's all about purpose. And it's new, it's a new student experience course, similar to the course. And he just mentioned the providing experience. And I teach it from what could be your life's purpose. And obviously, you know, in 16 weeks, or eight weeks, or even how long we have in the semester them teaching, and then we're not going to find what
I tell them
Molly Ware 37:49
Jerrid Kalakay 37:50
Yeah. And I tell him that if I couldn't do that, I would be some kind of great guru on the side of a mountain, you know, that would be spotted wisdom. But what I do tell them is that we can begin a process or a dialogue with themselves that don't continue their entire life tone around, will give them purpose and will give them meaning. And so I'll talk about, you know, good life versus bad life. And my students often will ask, Well, what do you define as a bad life? And the way that I define a bad life is, is it what the students have designed for themselves? Is it where they wanted to end up? Right. And that's it, periodical? Yeah. There are plenty of people that are working at Starbucks, who are living a good life. Yep, exactly. And there's plenty of people that are working in the corner, the corner office, at a Fortune 500 company, who are living in a box, you know, and they don't
Molly Ware 38:55
totally want to like geek out and like, share resources sometime, by the way. I don't RTJ for that, but sometime that would be fun.
Jerrid Kalakay 39:02
I certainly would. Yeah, absolutely. So.
So yeah, that just reminds me of that. And that idea of getting students to a place where they start to really experiment with their own path.
Molly Ware 39:16
Right. It makes me think about why we as teachers are so driven to this to write like, like, what about that is like, actually our own journey.
Jerrid Kalakay 39:27
About how your dissertation was kind of self-serving, I think all dissertations are self-serving.
Molly Ware 39:31
Jerrid Kalakay 39:34
Exactly. I know, mine was,
Molly Ware 39:36
yeah, what was your song?
Jerrid Kalakay 39:38
It was on the critical incidents, social entrepreneurs identify and running their enterprises. So the best and the worst of incidents to the past that happened. And it was structured. I mean, and the way the reason why I was self-serving is when I teach social entrepreneurship around through guiding social entrepreneurship at the college. All of that, all of the research and all the work I did guides that work, guys, that development, and that work, I
thought was a really cool question.
Molly Ware 40:12
Magical that way, though. I mean, my major professor at the end of our time together, he writes everybody a letter and gives them a book. And, and in his letter, he was like talking all about this, like, you know, figuring out who you are, and like how you do that in the world. And I remember being like, he doesn't even understand my dissertation. Yeah, it was all this talk about, like, you know, who do you want to be? And, you know, I had no idea I was completely unable to see the connection between my study of beginning teachers who want to do things differently, and my own quest to understand how do I bring myself And who am I? You know, but he could see it?
Jerrid Kalakay 40:57
Yes. Oh, yeah. Now I can see it. Yeah, it does. I mean, it takes a little, it takes a little perspective. So I'm really excited about the learning outcomes document with the show. KUU, you are one of the spotlights. authors of Yeah. Can you talk a little bit about what your chapter is about? And, and kind of how you got involved with the docu with the publication?
Molly Ware 41:25
Yeah, well, um, so my chapter, we've talked a lot about what my chapter is about, but a couple of other things. So I mean, my chapter is kind of about the story of why the learning outcomes? And then what the specific mindsets are, that support students on this quest that you and I have been kind of exploring around, you know, who am I? What can I bring to this space? What's needed here? You know, how do I sustain myself and thrive, you know, when the system's probably going to be giving me feedback that I should be doing it a different way. So those are some of the questions that kind of, are behind the tool that's included in that chapter. And then the actual tool that's in that chapter is that matrix that I was talking to you about, and all those process indicators that we practice with. And so they're the ones like, staying engaged in the midst of ambiguity and, you know, like, looking at what's not working and, and one's role in that, and not just looking at problems out there, you know, starting to embrace failure as a mechanism for learning. Really looking below the surface of what's going on, you know, and looking at assumptions and root causes. So things like that are, and then what I did is, like I said, I, I learned from my students basically, like they were the ones that gave me perspective, right? I couldn't get it for myself, in my own experience, but through watching their struggle and working with them in the struggle, then I could say, Oh, well, when I get super stressed, one of the things I do is I blame the world around me instead of figuring out okay, what do I need? You know, how do I need to take some space right now, this is too much. So what I've done as a result of that is kind of developed, you know, levels. So mastering it solidly practicing it becoming comfortable with new practices, beginning the journey, and kind of flesh out, you know, so like the staying engaged in the midst of ambiguity. The lowest level, just beginning is my own need for certainty made it difficult for others to stay in the gray. You know, becoming comfortable is, well, I blamed others when I was stressed and got caught trying to make the classroom more predictable. Like, please, kids, can't you just do what I know, we cannot have a pep rally today. Because that's going to screw up my lesson, you know, like, yeah, solidly practicing it is sometimes I stayed in uncertainty and ambiguity times I wanted answers right away. I didn't blame others too much. And I practiced reducing my stress. And then mastering is it I could stay in the uncertainty. And I have a pretty good Bank of strategies for reducing my stress. And I don't blame others or external circumstances for what's going on. Which, by the way, like, really, like I just have to say that like, personally, like, it's a hard environment right now, like in our world, like one, the Hadley challenging me right now, you know, and so, so anyhow, that's like an example there. Every single one of those process indicators, I kind of did the same thing.
Jerrid Kalakay 44:40
What do you hope you'll gain from the publication? What do you hope, from the work that you put into it? What do you want? What ripple effect? Would you like to see?
Molly Ware 44:48
Yeah, well, I guess I a couple of things. But the first thing that came to mind is, gosh, I just really hope that this publication not only, like, fortifies people's work with their own, you know, students and in their own context, but I hope it's also their own work as change-makers in the world. Because I just think it's an ongoing journey to figure out like, how, how we continue to do this work and, like what we need to sort out so it's, you know, not, not painful and hard and, you know, a struggle, but like, joyous and like, something that like gives life and energy to every place we are. And so I guess my hope is that this is not only seen as a tool of practice, to apply and, you know, classroom environment, but really, as a set of practices that I hope we as a nation and world are, are working with, they almost feel like they're kind of built on Buddhist principles a little bit, you know, there's a way in which it's like, like, what does it mean to live a good life and be able to, like, thrive in the face of the only constant is change? Do you know? I feel like these are sort of our we're a response to that in some way. So, basically, have these be an animating force in human development and growth, our own and that of our students. And so I think there are a lot of pedagogical implications and decisions that we make as teachers that can either make this value system come to life and really hold a container for innovation and experimentation and purpose and being responsive to you know, others in a context, or this can be the new you know, checklist and if it becomes that, well then we just lost everything that it's about which is the scary part of pinning it down.
Jerrid Kalakay 46:39
Today we've been speaking with Molly were a professor of education at Western Washington University. Till next time, be nice and change some stuff.