Scott Schimmel 0:19
Hey, Josh, thanks for being on The YouSchool podcast. First time we've had a guest actually in a while, but I just want to welcome you. We're new friends. I'm not a stranger to Sage Creek, but you kind of are. So first I want to get into your thoughts on building relationships with students, kind of your journey. But first, tell me a little bit about how you got here.
Josh Way 0:41
To Sage Creek?
Scott Schimmel 0:42
Josh Way 0:44
Well, I so I started as a high school teacher, high school teacher by trade, taught government, AP government and, and moved my way through the ranks become assistant principal, and then became a principal at the middle school level, where I was for eight years. And then just recently, just this summer, came back to high school to become a principal of Sage Creek High School. How did I get here? I think I would say that, you know, I got into teaching very, very excited about the content of history, like it was something that was new to me in terms of college and exploration. So I kind of came into this career thinking I'm going to be that high school teacher that's going to get kids ignite that fire and passion for history and, and real quick on being on a high school campus and being involved in coaching. I coached the surf team, the baseball team. I realized quickly that the relationships I was building outside of the classroom was really helping what I was doing into the, in the inside the classroom, and I kind of had this, this train of thought that, you know, it was all about the content and the instructional strategies. It's truly about building the relationships and how important that is to overall learning.
Scott Schimmel 1:53
I'm always fascinated by how people like find their way into what they do. And that's a, that's a really cool snapshot of what got you into, into teaching. What got you into admin work? Was, did you see like a huge gap like, man, these fools don't know how to do things. Or what, what got you...
Speaker 2 2:14
I had recognized I wouldn't say necessarily like, like, I thought I could do it better, but, at all. I mean, I there was, you know, I was I came in at a really crazy time. And I felt like I had something to offer to what was already existing. Okay. You know, I came into a high school where I grew up at the high school that I went to the high school where my little brother went to high school where I lived, my parents lived across the street, I knew all the kids. The kids all knew me. And as much as I'd remind them that I'm Mr. Way and not Josh. It's like, Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Josh, I mean, Mr. Way, it was almost like this formality that they had to put on, was really that the core of what matters is that, hey, they trusted me, they respected me, regardless of what my label or my title was, right, because of that relationship. And they saw that I was there to support that. So those are the experiences and you know, if we could, if we could make learning and living, more integrated, rather than learning being one thing, and who I am outside of the classroom and being something completely separate, completely different. Yeah. And really showing up in our true authentic selves, then, that I want to be a part of trying that. And so that's kind of been the core vision I've had is that, as I've gotten into administration is yeah, we still do all the practical things that we need to do and create systems of accountability. Yeah, you know, but at the end of the day, I'm still a person, I'm still a human, I love what I do. And I want to make those connections with kids. And so that's kind of been the core.
Scott Schimmel 3:44
How? I'm just curious, I'm not trying to put you on the spot, but you putting relationships first- What do you, what do you do now as an administrator? Because not everyone thinks that way. You're at a campus now that is known for relationships first, and, and yet, I'm sure, I'm sure not everybody's like that. Even as you shared, like, instruction kind of came first or the subject matter came first. That's, that's a traditional critique, maybe of high school teachers in general, like, elementary school teachers are there for the kids and high school teachers are there for the subject to like, so how do you encourage or try to, like, reshape how someone approaches teaching for high school kids?
Speaker 2 4:28
Well, it's a great question. And it is a challenge, I think, because it is so counterintuitive. You know, they say that, you know, Dr. Lord, he said back in the 70s, that there's no other profession, where you actually have an apprenticeship since you were six years old. That educational teaching is so much of what we do is baked into our own experiences as children growing up every single day seeing what teaching and learning has traditionally looked like. And it hasn't always looked like that. Right? So you're right, that is part of the work is finding out how do we deconstruct that and break it down. So I kind of do it two ways. I think if I were to approach it really like the head and the heart. Right? I think the heart piece first is, is in the work that we do making space for personal reflection. Right? Making space for, you know, debriefing situations, or even briefing before that, and allowing educators and administrators and teachers the space to reflect on what they want to do and what they feel is right. And providing that space, that's part of learning. Right? Like tapping into those preconceptions. That metacognition piece is huge. So that that's like the structural part. And through that, you know, allowing that space to have those discussions. The second thing is kind of the head, right. And that is, it is is offering educators who want to look at- just tell me the best way to deliver this. Well, let's actually look at the science of learning. Right? That's a big topic right now, the science of learning how people learn, right. We know, through science that we learn with and through others. And there are, I mean, there's deep research on learning, that shows that that how much identity, how much a person's culture, a person's real life experience is part of learning. And so there's a lot of resources there. So we ourselves need to be learners. But let's also tap into all the research and the studies that are out there that exist. And it might have just been put to the side as like a periphery. But really seeing that as core to learning.
Scott Schimmel 6:35
I love that. And I'll be cynical for a sec, you're in some ways, you're saying, hey, if I can woo you with your heart, and convince you that way, it's good to put relationships first, awesome. If I can't, I'll try to get you with data. And even if you don't care about kids, I mean, don't you care about your own job? Don't you care about being effective? Like. I saw in I think it was a newspaper article, maybe a student newspaper article about you, I just was googling you. And it had a real emphasis on meditation. And I was curious one, maybe that was like a total hit job, hit piece and it's not true. That's not who you are. But if you are in a meditation, like, what, what is that for you? And why? Why is that a part of education? Because some people in the old days would say, Whoa, dude, that doesn't belong here. So what's, just tell me about that.
Speaker 2 7:26
Yeah, no, it's a big part of my life. It's been a big part of my life. Since I was a kid, my mother was a yoga instructor. And I remember in high school, she would sneak us in or we would sneak into her yoga studio, the football team, the quarterbacks and receivers would sneak in at night, and we'd do yoga, and we would learn these modalities, these ancient modalities of, of, of relaxation, focus, and listening. And so that's always been a part of my life. And so when I became a teacher, right around that same time, I got my yoga certification, and I taught yoga for a long time, in my teaching days, yeah. And so it's always been a part of my life. And, and I'd say, since I became an administrator, you know, the contemplative meditative part of yoga is always been a part of what I've done. And it's been this, this kind of other tool that I've used. And so I want to say about 12 years ago, I kind of went more on the meditation journey, looking through different modalities, and different, different lineages and meditation. And, you know, there's so much good stuff in the secular world that has come out of the University of Wisconsin, Stanford, UCLA, Columbia. So you know, with particularly MBSR, and all the different Eastern, you know, lineages, so it's been a big part of my life. And I was, I would say, when I became a principal, I realized that I kind of had this secret, like this, this secret tool that I wasn't sharing with any of my friends. And, and so I started being more proactive and just kind of on the side, like, you know, inviting people to come in and sit and teaching them a real simple, simple and basic as in, you know, simple steps to mindfulness. And I felt like my colleagues, really, were grateful for it and found it to be useful. Because to answer your question, where's its place, I think, for us as leaders and and I feel much more comfortable in that space with other adults, like it's not something I've, I've rolled out, you know, campus wide, there's some great programs out there, my work has been more with adults. And so creating that space for us to slow down, to create a little bit of space, a little bit of gap between stimulus and reaction, so that we can really come up with a skillful way to address our problems. Now, we might address it the same way we did before, but at least we've done so with a little more clarity, and a little more space to make sure that we're doing it in the best ways that we can. And so you know, one of, one of the things about meditation is is really to explore what's going on. Like what's happening right now. What's happening in my body? What's happening in my mind? And sitting in that space, and an education and administration, you know, when you're investigating an incident or you're trying to connect to somebody to really sit there and go, hold on. Am I jumping to conclusions? Am I prejudging or am I actually really taking in the information, no matter how uncomfortable it might be? Yeah. So it's really helped us create a little bit space between stimulus and response.
Scott Schimmel 10:29
I mean, it's fascinating. I think a few years ago, there was a teacher that I had been friends with down at Canyon Crest Academy. And he had told and I think I'd heard that he was leading students in his class at the start of every class through a mindfulness exercise. And I kind of did a quick like, wait, what? Because I remember it wasn't that long ago, maybe you remember this to where they had some pushback around Encinitas, so maybe you San Dieguito, maybe it was Encinita Union school district, somewhere on the coast, where parents were like how, you know, almost like how dare you try to teach mindfulness and meditation to our kids in the classroom. And so anyways, I heard about this teacher, Mr. Sevia, shout out to him. And I went and watched. And I watched him for the first few minutes guide is his class, through a couple of breathing exercises. And it was, it was palpable, the difference of energy and vibe, from the start of like the bell ringing and three or four minutes later. And I just turned to him like, "Dude.", and he's like, "I know." He's like, I can't imagine not doing this. And I then talk to a few the students like, what do you think about this? And they were not shy to say, "Yeah, at first, I didn't, you know, we didn't want to do this, this seemed like a waste of time." And it's a very driven campus. But they said the same thing. They're like, now, we can't wait to get here. Because there's just so much stuff going on all throughout the day, and just know that we're going to come here and have a few minutes of quiet. They said that they loved it. And so I think since then, I was like, there's a huge insight there. And obviously, you can do it, maybe well, and more contrived, and people can tell the difference. But I just anyways, I'm, I'm so fascinated by how you have prioritized reflection, and getting some distance from life, because I, I couldn't agree more with what adults need, and certainly, certainly what kids need.
Speaker 2 12:19
Absolutely. No, there, there were some. You know, in the past, I think COVID really changed a lot of our mindset about taking care of ourselves.
Scott Schimmel 12:29
Josh Way 12:30
And so we really saw a huge shift in a lot of people's, hey, we got we have to do something. Right. And, and so that that really, I think, helped accelerate a lot of these little practices that were happening. But, you know, if you just give people space, to just sit, breathe, and listen. Why wouldn't we want kids to sit and listen? What parent wouldn't want their students to learn how to sit and listen? And then create a space where they could focus.
Scott Schimmel 13:01
Josh Way 13:02
Listen and focus and leave it at that, like, you don't need to get into what it could become. But that right then, and there is there's some real value to that. And I think, yeah, I'm grateful for teachers who are who are integrating it into their classroom in just a really simple way. Let's just stop for a minute, and just sit in a quiet space together.
Scott Schimmel 13:21
Josh Way 13:21
And it's real interesting what comes up.
Scott Schimmel 13:24
One of the last goes, I was just curious about for you, you're you're on this campus, that to me, maybe it's others is known for this thing called the genius project. And for those who don't know about it, please check it out. Especially there's some fantastic videos on their website, and YouTube, and I'll link to it here. And we've had the teachers who founded that on this podcast in years past. So I just love the idea of the commitment that you all have made at your school to helping kids identify their passions, and then not just be passionate about something, but to try to do something about it. What, given that, now you're here, what what do you... Are you trying to just further that and say, keep going, or are there other things that you see from your perspective of what you think students might need in order to find that clarity that we all hope that they have by the time they're done with this place?
Speaker 2 14:17
Great, great question. I, you know, the genius project is something that is really special. You it's truly as a model having been in multiple districts in multiple parts of San Diego, this is really a model for something that I think a lot of schools need to look at and explore. Because what it does is it's not just some add on to your high school experience to motivate or to add, put something on a college resume. Yeah, this is the work that kids are going to do in college and career. Right. Like we're preparing them for jobs that don't currently exist. But find something, find a way to fix to create to add purpose, right, innovate. Find something that's a challenge. It's going to stretch you it's something that you passionate about. So the skill, so when we talk about, you know, how are we preparing students for college and career? Yes, we're giving them the content knowledge. And then we're also teaching them the skills that they need. But things like the projects that the genius project are actually allowing them to apply what they're what, what their passions are, which is gonna be exactly what they're gonna need to do in their career. And I think one of the interesting things is what it's done to this learning institution. So much of the programs that we have in place are student run, student created and student run, you know, our eighth grade visit, that was a genius project now run by It's a legacy project that's now passed down. And students I meet with students, just like as I would meet with any adult, we'd set timelines, we put it on the calendar, we collaborate, we go off with your things. we come together. But truly, students are integrated into the fabric of the school, which is not just good for them, but it's beneficial for us as a learning institution. So and those are the things that I think we need to do more in education to go to your quiet. Your second question about clarity, is we need to allow more space for students to perform. And there's so much brilliance and creativity and, and talent among the students right now. I mean, this generation is that we have so much to learn from this generation, there's tons of research on Gen Z and the millennial millennials in terms of what, you know, what they can offer to this world and what they're doing to change this world. And really helps us dial in to be close to what is it that they want? And what is it that they need? And how can they help be a part of this change?
Scott Schimmel 16:33
Yeah, that's awesome. Let's imagine we're back together in June, what do you hope you will have said, and what do you hope you'll say about the end of your first year as a principal at Sage Creek?
Josh Way 16:50
I'm sorry, the announcements. Can you hear that?
Scott Schimmel 16:52
Josh Way 16:53
I hope that by June, I will have, I will have found our focus and our vision for where we go in the next 10 years, right. Sage Creek has been, our school has been doing some amazing things in this first 10 years. And just like any great organization/institution what's 2.0? Right, like, where's that next step? How are we going to stay out in front of this changing world, and provide our students really an exceptional experience? I think we have the foundation, we have the mindset and the vision for it. That's great. It's like, what are we going to do next? How are we going to evolve with this next generation in a post-pandemic world? And really having clarity with that. And have a team of collaborators, right, like have have have a good, strong team that we know where we're going in the future. There's a lot of ideas we have right now. We have data that's driving, but I think, in the end, finding that coalition, and that clear purpose of what the next 10 years look like is something that I hopefully will have in June.
Scott Schimmel 18:00
That's awesome. Well, Josh, thanks for being here. Thanks for the I'm gonna call it new friendship. And whether you like it or not. I appreciate you and what you're doing. And if if I die tomorrow, you can take over, you can take over YouSchool. I give you the keys.
Speaker 1 18:17
Thank you. Scott is so nice to meet you. I love all the work that YouSchool does. I appreciate you and just your time and allowing the space for me to share some of these thoughts. So thank you very much.
Scott Schimmel 18:28
Hey, thanks for joining in on The YouSchool podcast we'd love to share with you the resources available on our website at theyouschool.com. Not just articles, ebooks, worksheets and other podcast episodes. But specifically you should know about a free course we have available called The Real Me course. It's digital, it's interactive, and it will guide you to get clear about who you are in a great store you could tell with your life. So go register for a free account and get started on The Real Me course today at theyouschool.com. That's the you school dot com.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai