It’s Been a While

Welcome back to another year of Roundtable discussions with Erin Madonna and Lori Boll. Today Erin and Lori chat about some professional learning they engaged in over the summer break and invite the SENIA community to share topics they would like to see discussed in future Roundtables. We’d also love to have you join us for a discussion, so reach out to us and let us know if you would be interested in being a guest.

Resources Discussed in Today’s Show

Erin Madonna

Erin Madonna is a Learning Support Teacher at International School Bangkok (ISB) and serves on the Educational Advisory Council for the MARIO Framework. Prior to joining the staff at ISB, Erin worked as part of the team developing the inaugural inclusive learning program at Shekou International School (SIS) in Shenzhen, China, and before that as an intensive needs teacher in US Title 1 schools. 


Connect with Erin

Lori Boll

Lori is SENIA’s Executive Director after teaching for 25 years. When Lori’s son was diagnosed with profound autism in 2003, Lori changed her focus from teaching elementary to special education. Lori worked internationally for 20 years, and now finds herself back in the United States building a program for her now adult son.

Connect with Lori

Transcribed by Kanako Suwa 

Lori: Welcome to SENIA Round Table where Lori Boll and Erin Madonna dive into the topics that our SENIA members are interested in. We are just two special educators who love to talk shop and laugh along the way. 

Erin: Welcome back everyone to another year of roundtable discussions. My name is Erin Madonna and I’m here with Lori Boll. Hey Lori! 

Lori: Hey Erin, great to see you again. It’s been a long time. 

Erin: I mean, it has been! That summer felt extra long this year. 

Lori: Mm-hmm 

Erin: alright, so as you may have noticed, it is just Lori and I. We are missing our third pal Matt, but he has moved on to other adventures and other, you know\, passions. We will miss him, but hey, maybe we’ll get him to pop in every. Now and then…

Lori: A special guest star. 

Erin: Yeah, there you go. So today we’re going to do a little recap of what we have been listening to, reading, and paying attention to over the summer. Some of our own professional development, and then we’re going to talk a little bit about some exciting opportunities with the roundtable discussions this year, where we want your feedback, and then we’ll finish up with a little bit of a chat about the SENIA conference coming up because how exciting is that?!

Lori: That’s so exciting. 

Erin: Lori says, as we realized the amount of work she’s doing to pull this amazing stuff. All right, so Lori, what have you been reading or learning about or diving into this summer? 

Lori: Yeah, well, great question. So I’m kind of working on my own writing project, which I will love, would love to inform you about a little later when I’m ready. So reading wise, I haven’t done as much as I normally do in the summers, but I do listen to a ton of podcasts and I revisited one recently that I had heard, I think back in 2019 when it first came out, and… have you heard of Hidden Brain? 

Erin: Ooh no.

Lori: OK this is a like this is a podcast you have to listen to. It’s on NPR, National Public Radio in the States, and it’s run by a man called Shankar Vedantam and it’s just.. It’s just always fascinating every time I hear it, I learned something new, but this one I was walking along I think the first time we were in Bangkok along the lake in Nichada Thani where I’m sure you’ve walked many thousands of times and and yeah. 

Erin: Many podcasts, my favorite activity. 

Lori: For those of you that don’t know, Nichada Thani is just this nice little community surrounding ISBangkok and it has a lake and a walking path, and you pretty much… that’s all you have to walk and so you end up doing it every single day multiple times. But it is lovely, so I digress. So anyway, I was listening to this podcast and. It was about the hidden things that make us successful, and so they did this study way back in the 1960s of the Perry preschool program. Have you heard of this? 

Erin: Hey, I don’t think so… Get into it and we’ll see, but so far it’s not ringing any bells. 

Lori: OK so they, they worked with disadvantaged youth from low socioeconomic backgrounds and the goal of the program, this preschool program, was to raise IQ scores. And I’ll tell you right now that that didn’t happen and no surprise as we know what we know about IQ scores. But but what was interesting is their whole focus was… so they took two groups and one group, they ran through the preschool program and one group, they did not. 

And their whole curriculum in the preschool program was basically to do a few things. They had tons of field trips where they would go to bakeries and airports and things like that, and and do a lot of dramatic play where they worked on language development, vocabulary and that imagination. Then the rest of their day, they they did this program for two years, they would plan and execute tasks. And then they would review their tasks as a collective. So they might want you know, the kids might decide that they want to build a small wooden boat, and then they would work on it at school, they plan out how they were going to do it. They would make it, and then they would review it with their friends and. 

So anyway, as the program continued on, they discovered that no, it wasn’t raising their IQ scores, and so they were thinking that it was a flop. By the way, this was done through University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan and eventually they studied these students long term. So they started at age 3, 4 and then up into their 40s and now 50s. They’re still studying these people, and what they’ve found is that. By teaching these students these non cognitive skills, is what they called them back then, that the people that participated in the program had higher graduation rates from high school. They were more likely to attend college, earn higher amounts of money later in life, uhm, much less likely to commit crimes or violent crimes and they were healthier. Because they were taking the time to learn about their diet and then if they had questions, they would call the doctor and things like that. 

Now what they’re finding is that their children are benefiting as well, healthier, more apt to continue with education. 

Erin: Like as they’re passed on? 

Lori: Yeah, really interesting. So the reason this just lit up in my brain as as I was listening to it is because I’m so… as you know, into executive functioning skills and learning about those and and when we look about planning and executing tasks. And reviewing the tasks like what are those?  Those are executive functioning skills. And so I was just blown away by this information. But also just thought like why doesn’t everybody know this and and why aren’t we doing this in schools everywhere, right? You know it’s not only going to support this low socioeconomic group with, you know disadvantaged youth. It could benefit everyone. 

Erin: So with what we know about modeling you know everything from pro social behavior, those interpersonal skills you know. If they’re talking about their plan with their peers. If they’re working together, if it’s a task focused Orient, you know goal oriented and it’s a collective collaborative action, like when you think about all of the, even the social emotional skills that are occurring in that, and then you think. About the long term ramifications. Of having learned those foundational skills explicitly at an early age? Well, yeah, like that’s phenomenal. And of course you’d pass those those kinds of things, and that habits of thought on to your children.That’s phenomenal. That’s phenomenal. 

Lori: It is and just to have that long term study of these individuals. 

Erin: Yeah, that’s, It absolutely makes you think too about the research that shows that, like IQ isn’t everything right? Like but it’s. Like they’re all you know. So much out there about. That effort, and you know, persistence and. You know, really great modeling from an expert coach and mentorship and connection with…. There’s so many other factors that can that can equate in long term success that are not IQ dependent, you know. That it’s that’s phenomenal. Do you know who did this program? Was this at all connected then with like Head Start programming or anything? 

Lori: I don’t, I don’t know, I don’t. Know, but I could find yeah. 

Erin: Yeah, that’s a wonder I have right because it seems well, although if they if the results weren’t showing until longitudinally, maybe not, but but that’s fascinating. 

Lori: And yeah, and they did mention Tammy Duckworth’s work on grit quite a bit throughout this podcast and so yeah, it’s amazing stuff. 

Erin: That is awesome. That is awesome. I’ve been reading a lot of going back and rewriting a lot of Dweck’s stuff recently for another project I’m working on. And it’s yeah, all of that kind of persistence through, you know, productive struggle kind of stuff of growth mindset, absolutely. 

Lori: Right, right. Again, Hidden Brain and I’ll put that in the show notes for everybody to to look at.  I’ve got there.  The transcript of the article as well or as of the podcast. So how about you? What did what did you learn recently? 

Erin: Yeah, I’ve been busy at work this summer. I’m working with MARIO and I think the beauty of it is that I’ve been exposed to a lot of great research this summer. I’m on the research team. One of the things, I’m sort of going to go 2 directions with my share today, right? 

The first one is just a quick little snippet, but something that I’m just fascinated by because I’m I’m really passionate about Reading instruction. And you know the debate that is happening in Twitterverse right now about the science of reading and, and you know, and and there a lot of the research isn’t new research, but a lot of it is being newly discovered at the seat, kind of where we are in education. And so there’s all this fervor building, and it’s really interesting because I’ve intentionally tried to follow people on both sides of the argument, just ’cause I kind of want to get a full, well rounded, you know view of of what’s going on in this conversation and and I think what I’m realizing is my own self reflection out of this moment is that as much as Twitter for me becomes a great form of professional development… 

About a week ago there were a bunch of people pointing to some statements that were made by really prominent researchers about, you know, and cautionary statements about. About don’t read everything on Twitter and take it and like do your homework and go back and look at the primary source documents because there’s a lot of misunderstanding when we read digest research, right? So as much as Twitter is a great avenue, it reminded me to go back to the primary source, you know so. Like the national reading panel which that has been, you know, sitting on my desk for you know the past ten, you know 15 years. It’s sort of like a Bible. Right, and but then I listen to this phenomenal podcast and I’ll have to, I’ll have to get the names, I want to say I’m I’m going to butcher the name so I’m not going to say it. I didn’t mean to get down that subgroups, I’m getting further down the route than I planned on but. 

There’s a phenomenal podcast I will share it in the notes for the for the conversation. You know, just kind of about like reading instruction and what does this all mean on this whole science of reading? You know what does all of this mean? And it was talking about how the national reading panel, as phenomenal as it was, and as much of it is good research and really good information. What ended up happening as a result, as a misunderstanding of the national reading panel? Is this concept of silo-ing the big 5 into separate areas. This idea that like phonemic Awareness is different from phonics and I should be doing all auditory skills pre putting in those graphenes. And it was really a fascinating conversation. In this podcast I’m going to share out because they had a like a linguistics expert and what she was saying is that the phonemes are actually abstractions of sounds. They’re not really a real thing, so until we connect them with a graphing representation that we use in our language, they kind of are meaningless. So we should be teaching all of these things in tandem, right? We shouldn’t, it’s not this developmental continuum that should be segmented so. 

It’s I don’t know it was just it’s been a really fun summer of like yes, looking at everything on Twitter and then, going back to the to the source and the people I trust and going OK, wait a minute, let’s go back and reread. And make sure. So I think that’s something I’m keeping an eye on. 

The another thing I want to share though is uh, a major a-ha moment for me as an American educator. You know now that I’m in this international sphere and interacting with teachers who were trained in different countries than I was. And being exposed to researchers that I had never heard of, which is shocking to me. 

Lori: Shocking to you that you hadn’t heard of researchers?! 

Erin: Yes, because if you don’t know me, I am obsessive right? I am absolutely obsessed with research. No, not not at all… there are millions of people I don’t know, I’m not that egotistical. However, this Barack Rosenshine is who I was introduced to over the summer and like Marzano, like Hattie, like all those names. That everyone you hear the name and everybody, goes Oh yeah you that’s liminal researcher, right, he is. It’s phenomenal, and so I was speaking with someone who was trained in Europe and she was like this is our guy like we go through his 17 principles of effective instruction is what we are raised on as teachers and I went… “Oh my gosh, I’m so embarrassed. I’ve never heard of him and he’s an American researcher”. So I’ve also been trying to stretch myself to other areas that researchers from all over the world. But he is an American. Researcher and I had never heard of him and his. 

Lori: I haven’t heard of him. 

Erin: Right?! So his work is phenomenal. Shame on the US, you know teacher training programs. We’re missing out. But so we will share a PDF out of his principles of effective instruction. But really, what he’s done is he’s synthesized, you know, years of educational research. What do we really kind of know about effective education? And then he’s put them into seven. Really easy to digest, really easy to understand, like these are must haves in a classroom. And it’s things like, you know, guide students as they begin to practice. Give clear and detailed instructions and explanations. 

It’s nothing revolutionary, you know, but it provides more than explanations. Ask deep questions and keep asking questions and you know like he rings true with Hattie when he talks about feedback. Providing high quality feedback to students so It’s funny reading through his stuff his his work felt really comfortable to me because it’s all you know, information I had been exposed to but he just does such a beautiful job of putting it all together. It it should. Be at the start of everybody’s teacher training program. So, so we’re going to share it. 

Lori: And you’re saying it’s at the start of, Uhm, people like in the UK and such. It’s in their teacher training program. 

Erin: Yeah, up in Europe. Yes, we had we had a lot of, you know, Marzano. I think was so you know when I was coming through it was, you know he was big and I was already teaching when all of Hattie stuff came out and things but like at the beginning of my, you know, was Piaget, Vygotsky, And then Marzano, right? Like it’s those were the names we sort of heard, you know were told about in my training program at least. Uhm, so yeah. Wildly different and you know. And these people are all working side by side in the same time periods, but we only get the sound so I don’t. 

Lori: That’s really fascinating. Well, let’s shout out to International School teaching ’cause it just it opens up our world literally. 

Erin: And talk to your colleagues, right? Don’t assume that the American perspective is the dominating or the correct phrase. 

Lori: That, right? 

Erin: Yeah, exactly. There’s still out there, and different ways of looking at things so. So that was a great. Kind of to knock me over the head moments this summer that stuck with me and that. I think could you know be helpful passing on, 

Lori: Well, good so you’ve been knocked over the head but you know we should just mention real quick that you know this is our first time back since since this summer and I think we all kind of thought the pandemic would be over, naively, right… and and just to recognize that we, we know teachers are really going through difficult times right now with hybrid learning or fully online. Or you know, summer back in person. But and I’ve heard from others that like. The difference this year is, you’re back, you might be hybrid. But now, whereas before maybe administrators were kind of giving some the grace and like OK, just get used to it now it’s like OK, you’re used to it so now here’s all the other work on top of that we used to do. And would you agree? I’m not in the classroom anymore. So…

Erin: yeah, I think so. I think they’re to varying degrees, you know. I think where it’s coming from, at least in in my context and context that I’ve talked to, you know, with other colleagues is. That like there’s this. Sense of we’ve been doing this hybrid virtual thing for so long that like now we’re starting to get that worry. I think, as educators of like. How is this long term impacting our kid? So I think a lot of it like at the same time that like we still want to give grace and recognize that there is like stress that people are just living with continually. They also like OK. We don’t want to fall to far you know behind or We don’t want to not be trying to do. What we know is best practice for kids. How can we make it work, but I think what’s happening is we’re starting to squeeze that in in a place where people the emotional breathing room and the emotional space we’re just not there yet. It’s it’s such. 

I cannot wait to look back. So you know, serve as we look at historical periods you know, that came before us. And with that kind of, you know, reflective vision. Being able to say like oh man, yeah, look at how we handle that and how did. Oh man. We you know because. It’s I think everyone is just trying. To do their best. But yeah, people are pretty brittle and fried and and I think. Another message we’ve been getting a lot that I’ve appreciated is like take care of the social emotional stuff, right let’s centere that, and I think you know, thinking of back to what you shared about the the preschool program and and the work that they did like. That should be the start of it all right? Our sensory systems. Do they have all that sensory needs met, social emotional needs, are those met? OK? After that? Let’s work on executive functioning and then academic. 

Lori: Yes, yes. 

Erin: We gotta keep those priorities straight, so I’m grateful for that message. When we get it because that feels like the right message. 

Lori: Good well again I said I’m not teaching in a classroom now. And of course I miss it but just want to give you guys all that shout out. What a great job you’re all doing and I know teachers don’t hear it enough so, everyone, you’re doing an amazing job. 

Erin: Yeah, sending up a collective thanks from all the teachers out there. But you know what, can I say one thing that and I feel like we might have talked about this at the end of last year, but one of the most beautiful parts of this whole experience has been that like where you know pre COVID, our connection with families. You know, we all obviously communicated with. Like now we have to work with families just to survive, right? Like and I think the beautiful thing of that is like parents voices and teacher voices. You know, obviously there can be tension, and when people are stressed you know there are situations where it’s not going well, but the vast majority of my interactions with families this year have just been so. It’s just beautiful. It’s just we’re in the ship together. We’ve got to figure this out and and that’s what the kids really need, so I think. 

Lori: Love that and you know what? 

Erin: Looking for this little bright spots. 

Lori: You know what I forgot to mention that was part of the preschool. Program is that connection with families, so yeah so. 

Erin: Oh, I see. That is huge I I feel that is obviously things. It is the best You can do as an educator, I think right. There that’s personal bias but… 

All right, so thinking ahead, we want to think about, you, know the round tables and the structure for the round tables this year and one of the thoughts that Lori and I wanted to reach out to you about the listeners is that we would like to invite guests onto the show this year, people that you would love to hear from topics you would love for us to talk about, so the. This is so we wanted to just take a second to reach out and ask for you to share with us. Who is making an impact in your world, who would you love for us to interview and talk with? What resources do you want us to share out or what topics are burning questions or areas of difficulty for you? That you would like to see us address, Lori, do you want… do you have have anything else to add? 

Lori: Yeah, well I I think I just want to say this, you know, Erin and I do do not prescribe to be experts in any field. So you know, we’re we’re a roundtable discussion and and we just want to interview people that are. I don’t know as interested in in learning about this stuff as we are. So you know, think locally. And you know, is it someone in your school that yeah, yeah, or do you guys want to hear about different International School programs? And how they’re running their learning support program, or their intensive needs program? I mean, we can go anywhere that with this, so we really want to follow your lead and what you want. So yeah, give us a shout out please and we’ll put our email addresses in the show notes so you can email us your suggestions. 

Erin: Awesome, so I hope we get some good ones out there and we have some. Ideas if if we’re feeling a little shy, but. Please send that. And that info out that would help. 

Alright, I want to pivot again. You have, in December, coming up our amazing wonderful SENIA conference and we’re virtually this year again, I know, so let’s let’s take a minute to sort of talk about. You know what it is, You know what’s coming down the Pike with that and then maybe a little bit about which speakers were super excited to hear.

Lori: Sure, yeah, you know this. This conference, the planning has been really just. Interesting and fun and scary,if I’m quite honest. But we’ve got some like phenomenal speakers coming, and not only that, so we have the three keynotes. And then I think it’s 10 or 11 invited speakers in in our strands and and so, of course, we’re really excited about. Every single one of those speakers, but what’s more exciting this time that we didn’t do last time is we put out a call for speakers and so we have 40, no. I don’t know 37 or 40 other presentations that we’re doing this year and they are. International School teachers or counselors or admin. You know OT speech, so they’re they’re coming in and they’re providing us what we would normally get at an in person conference. So pretty exciting. There’s a lot of experts out there in their fields that are going to share their knowledge with us and I’m just so. Excited to hear from everyone. 

Erin: That is awesome. That’s awesome, I know looking at the list of presenters every time I scrolled down, I’m just like, oh, I’m excited about that. Like Michelle Garcia Winners on there, Leah Cooppers is on there, you know we. Have Steve…Oh God, I’m blanking, Steve..??? You know, but I just it is phenomenal. You were telling me about a group who is coming who trained adults, can you speak a little bit about that? The speaker who’s coming with. 

Lori: Yeah yeah Brooklyn, rainy and Kim. I’m going to butcher her last name, Sywick? I think is how you pronounce it, but I’ll probably that she’ll prove me wrong. I’m sure how do adults know how to work with kids if they come to them with their issues or or problems? And so they started a program called 1 Trusted Adult that teaches adults. What, how to respond when kids come to them with with some issue of or something. And So what I’m really excited about. I mean, that’s really all I know about it right now, but I’m just really excited to hear their whole presentation and hear their ideas on how adults can better support. The kids in their building. 

Erin: That’s phenomenal because oftentimes, right? Why do we not handle situations like that well, it’s not for lack of wanting to. It’s just like. You don’t, you don’t… you’re worried about not doing the right thing. 

And and we often go running to, you know, the professional, the counselor or whoever in our school like help me help me, but they’re overwhelmed with their own jobs. So it’s it’s nice that there’s this whole training program out there for teachers. 

Yeah, and if you think about it from the kid perspective as well, like you know, for someone who has social anxiety needs or somebody with communication you know needs where it’s hard to approach someone and ask for help. If you know you have an adult who is your safe adult, how much easier does that become right? Not that it’s not still a challenge, but to have a safe. Harbor a safe home that is phenomenal. They’re going to be on my agenda for sure. 

All right, so definitely take a look at the SENIA website. Check out the conference information if you haven’t registered already, please do as a you know I have not been involved in setting up the conference at all.  I’m just someone who has participated for a number of years and it every year has been one of the most rewarding experiences for me. Not only because I learned so. Much but also. Because I get to network with people who are in like-positions. You know Job-Alike sessions and things like that. So definitely definitely take a. Look, see look at me, yeah? 

Lori: And I I should tell you I. I’m sure you know, but we are going to have an in person conference this spring. 

Erin: Oh, I saw that and is it in Europe? 

Lori: Did you see? Yes, it’s in person of course, in Bonn, Germany. So we’re going to have a big announcement coming up soon about the the title there. The theme and then the strands that are involved and then how you can sign up and register and all that. So that will be coming. Soon, maybe even before this podcast is broadcasted, I’m not sure, but yeah, so I’m really excited about it’s going to be a good one and it’ll be so fun. You know, for those of you who can travel and and aren’t, you know subject to quarantines When you get back to your home country, this will be a really good opportunity for People to gather again and you know, 

Ernu: I bet it’s going to be full because how many people have? I know my own family. Tonight we were sitting around the table just like making up our like dream travel list of like, OK, where are your. Top two places. Let’s get those strips plan. Oh, that’s phenomenal what? Uh, that’s an awesome sign of, you know we’re inching. 

Lori: Inching yes, and if if for some crazy reason it were to be, you know cancelled or whatever due this stuff, we’ve got a backup plan so. 

Erin: Awesome, awesome awesome. Very cool, well thank you for joining us for our return from summer. It was a shorter session today. We just wanted to check in but remember please send us any information that you would love for us to talk about or connections with people you would love for us to interview or talk to. We’re looking forward to a really great year of roundtable discussions. Thanks so much Lori. 

Lori: Thank you Erin, and we’ll see you next month! 

Erin: awesome sounds good.