About Joshua Sable
Joshua Sable is a veteran educator, speaker and memory maker. His personal teaching philosophy is to: “give students a reason to come to school tomorrow.” Joshua is also the Student Activity Director at TanebaumCHAT.
The way he fulfills this philosophy is through the memory-making machine of student activities and school culture. In this episode, Josh shares actionable strategies to help you students make memories, right now!
Connect with Joshua: Email | Linkedin
Listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favourite podcast platform.
Theater and Performing Arts at York University
**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.
Sam Demma (00:00):
Welcome back to another episode of the high performing educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker Sam Demma. Today we have on a very purpose driven and passionate educator. His name is Joshua Sable. He is a veteran teacher, speaker, and memory maker. As you’ll hear about on this show, his personal teaching philosophy is to give students a reason to come to school tomorrow. And the way he fulfills this philosophy is through something he calls the memory making machine of student activities and school culture. In this episode, Josh shares actionable strategies to help your students make more memories right now. I’ll see you on the other side, Josh, thank you so much for coming onto the high-performing educators podcast. It’s a pleasure to have you. I want you to first introduce yourself to the audience, tell everyone who you are, what you’ve done in education up until this point and why you initially got started in the work that you’re doing today with young people.
Joshua Sable (01:03):
Thanks so much for having me here today Sam. Its a real, real pleasure. My name is Josh Sable. This is my, let me do the math. This is my 26th year teaching. So I’ve been teaching for 26 years. I’ve spent the last 23 years at a school called chats or TanenbaumChat in Toronto, which is a high school in Toronto. And I’ve spent most of those years as a teacher of dramatic arts in English, but mainly as the director of student activities, which I’ve been doing there for the last 22 of my 23 years.
Sam Demma (01:42):
Nice. That’s so cool. What initially got you into education. Was there a teacher in your life that heavily impacted you and swayed you in that direction? Is it something you knew you wanted to do since you were a little kid? Everyone’s story is totally different. I’m just curious what yours is.
Joshua Sable (02:00):
It’s a great question. I was really into performing theater drama entertainments as a teenager. And a young person was very involved in student leadership, sports arts at my high school and outside of the high school. And then when I went to university, I knew I wanted to study theater. I wanted to study performance. I wanted to develop my craft, but when I finished my four-year degree in theater and performing arts at York university, I knew that there was something else I still wanted to do. I was working at summer camps at the time and I loved working with young people. And the idea of working in the arts exclusively was exciting. But at the same time, I knew that there were other things that I wanted to accomplish and other things that I wanted to do. And all of those seem to surround working with young people.
Joshua Sable (02:51):
So I got my teaching degree, started teaching right away at the age of 22 and I’ve been teaching ever since. That’s awesome. That’s great. And then my first year asking about teaching philosophy and what got me started or what got me energized. Can I tell you a quick story about my first year teaching? Absolutely. That’s why we’re here. My first year teaching, I was teaching grade seven. So my first three years I taught at a school called Mentor College in Mississauga, which is a great school. And I was teaching a homeroom. I was teaching grade seven and I was, I wasn’t feeling that inspired. I knew why I got into teaching. I didn’t know if I was making a difference. I didn’t know what sort of impact I was having on the young people in my classroom. And I was, I was struggling a little bit going through a little bit of a down period in my first year teaching.
Joshua Sable (03:43):
And one of the things we had to do on a regular basis at this private school was called parents once a month, just to check in, give them an update about how their students, how their children were doing. So I called one student in particular, not on our regular day and not as part of our regular monthly call because he had been missing a number of days. And I introduced myself. Mum recognized me. We had met before and I said, is everything okay with Chris? I haven’t, haven’t seen him as frequently as we normally see him is everything okay? And mum then starts to tell me how Chris Chris’s parents, mom and dad were, were going through a really bad divorce. And I didn’t know. And Chris was really, really struggling with it. So I said to mom, I said, look, tell Chris to take as much time as he needs.
Joshua Sable (04:38):
You know, we’ll be here for him whenever he comes back to school, how can I help? What can I do to help? I am happy to do anything that you need me to do. I can call him over the phone. We can, we can work on his math, his English on the phone. What can I do to help? And she said, well, she said, no, you don’t understand. She said, the only reason that he wants to come back to school is to see you and to hear your jokes and to be part of your classroom experience. She said, thank you for giving Chris a reason to come back to school. And I got those goosebumps like we do sometimes. And I had no idea that I had been part had played any role in having such an impact on him. And it hit me, hit me pretty hard.
Joshua Sable (05:29):
And at the time I was taking some courses at Boise for personal education and development and they kept asking us, what’s your personal teaching philosophy? I don’t know, be nice. You know, so don’t, don’t get hit by the chalk. You know, I, I didn’t know what my teaching philosophy was. And it was at that moment, not to sound too cheesy, but I really had an aha moment there where I said, that’s it? What Chris, what Chris’s mom said to me was, was my PR became my personal teaching philosophy, which was give someone a reason to come back tomorrow. And I started to think, how, how cool would it be? If everyone in our schools, student leaders, staff, custodian, support staff, if each of us just gave one person a reason to come back to school tomorrow, how much better what our school environment be. And, and you can have that impact in so many different ways, small, medium, or large, but that became a personal teaching philosophy for me.
Sam Demma (06:32):
I love that. And sometimes teachers and educators don’t see the impact they’re having until decades down the road. So I think it’s so cool that you highlighted that was in your first year that’s, that’s phenomenal. And I’m sure you’ve had dozens upon dozens of more stories, just like that one. And I was actually going to ask you that later in the podcast, if you want to hold on to one or two more stories that you have, that you think would be really impactful, and we’ll share them a little bit down this down, this journey that we’re going on with this podcast right now, a lot of teachers are faced with challenges. One of the challenges being to give students like the student, you just mentioned those opportunities to want to come back to school during COVID. How do we create those scenarios? How do we make a student feel appreciated and cared for when sometimes you can’t do it in person and the virtual stuff is kind of different and difficult?
Joshua Sable (07:23):
Well, first of all, it’s not easy. None of us have a magic wand or a genie in a bottle where we’re all trying. And there’s so many amazing educators across the province, across the country who are doing whatever they can to create a sense of comfort, a sense of peace, a sense of fun in their classroom and in their schools. We’re all trying, everyone’s trying their best. I start by trying to smile with my eyes because we are now limited in terms of our smile, our smiles now go from about the bridge of your nose up to the top of your forehead. So I, I honestly try to smile with my eyes when I walked down the halls, when I’m in the classroom, when we’re engaging with students and student activities I really try to do that. I, I’m trying to learn as many names as I can, which we should all do as educators.
Joshua Sable (08:16):
People, people need to know that other people know your name. And it’s so hard in a time when once again, you’re only limited with the top party or face to face threat face recognition is even more difficult. So I’m trying to learn as many names as I can. We’re giving out as much free food as we can, even with the limitations due to COVID. So, first day of school, we gave our students a wrapped fortune cookies, and they were personalized fortune cookies, not personalized, but they were personalized for our school. So we had our student council come up with 25 specific fortunes that would be heard for our school environment. And we handed them out to the students on the way. And normally we’d be handing out free food, like cookies or chips or things that we putting our hands into. And obviously we can’t do that right now.
Joshua Sable (09:03):
So we’re trying to find rap snacks that still have a sense of fun in the sense of a culture we did pajama day, the other day, we usually do cookies and milk. So we found some packaged cookies that we got donated, and we were given out free packaged cookies for anyone who was wearing their, their PJ’s. A couple of other COVID ideas just before the summer, we were looking to do some, like everyone’s doing a lot of videos of social media during COVID for sure. The mass singer was big. So we came up with our own version of the mass singer, where we got as many teachers as possible to record themselves singing, wearing masks of any kind they could be wearing their they could be wearing a Darth Vader mask. They could be wearing their kid’s sweatshirt over their head COVID mask, whatever they prefer.
Joshua Sable (09:54):
And I had them record themselves, singing twice one with the mask and then a big reveal where they take off their mask. So we edited it together. We sent it out to the student body. Students had to guess whose voice belong to whom. And then we had a second episode of the mass singer where we revealed the identity of the mass. So we’re just trying to keep things moving, keep them light, look, students, they’re smart. They know we’re in the middle of the pandemic. They’re not expecting us to move mountains and perform miracles, but what they appreciate is any student leader or staff member who is trying to make a difference to connect with them, to learn their name and to give them a reason to come back tomorrow night.
Sam Demma (10:36):
I love it. The philosophy rings through even in all those principles. And it’s evident, you’ve practiced this for a long time and people would argue smiling with your eyes. How do you do that? Well, the first thing is with an intention, if you have the intention to do so, it comes across that you’re caring that you’re happy. You know, maybe we get some see-through mask or some magic material that allows you to see the mouth. But without that again, it’s just the intention behind it. And you have all the right ones, which is awesome. What are some of the challenges that you’ve seen in your school so far? I know virtual engagements, definitely one common one among all the educators I’ve spoke to. But what are some of the challenges you’ve been presented with or have faced?
Joshua Sable (11:18):
Well, like most high schools, we, we have limited our attendance on a daily basis. So at our school, we’ve got 50% of the student body attending each day and they’re only attending to lunch afternoons or virtual learning, which is similar to what other schools across Ontario are doing. But the biggest challenge, look, we all, we’re, we’re human beings. We crave social interaction, human interaction. We need to get close to people. We need to sense that they care about us. We need to interact. Sometimes we need a high five, a hug, a handshake, whatever way we’re comfortable communicating. And I think that’s, that’s difficult. It’s been really difficult for people to not be able to gather together as a community in the ways that they are used to gathering together at our school. Especially we have a great sense of community sense of traditions and at lunchtime or during break times, we gathered the students together or as many as we can in common spaces to do fun things.
Joshua Sable (12:24):
And it’s been really challenging, not being able to congregate as a group. So especially once again, we’re only half the student body as attending on day one and half the other half is at home. So that’s been really, really challenging. But as I said before, everyone’s frying, whether it’s synchronous, learning, asynchronous learning reaching out to the students, I have noticed an increased level of kindness and tolerance amongst people in educational settings, getting less frustrated in front of students or at students, because I think most people do realize that yes, we’re all in this together. Be this too shall pass. But see, the biggest thing we all need right now is human kindness, a little bit of tolerance, support and understanding, and, and not, not to be short with people or a short tempered person.
Sam Demma (13:20):
Showing us what really matters. And it’s about the relationships with our students and our fellow educators or student leaders. What keeps you going? What keeps you hopeful? You have this positive aura, this enthusiasm, this energy, even when things are difficult, I would imagine you’re the teacher lifting everyone else up. What, what keeps you hopeful and motivated?
Joshua Sable (13:40):
Well, I, you know, I mentioned before this, you know, part, one of the teaching philosophy, this idea of, of giving people a reason to come back tomorrow, when we meet with student leadership at our school at the beginning of the year, I often ask them, what’s, what’s, what’s your role this year? And they’ll say, oh, I’m, I’m the VP or I’m the treasurer I’m in charge of communications. And they usually don’t guess the next question, which is, well, that’s, that’s your title, but what’s, what’s your role within the school? What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to do? What sort of difference do you want to make in other people’s lives? And one of the things we talk about is this amazing opportunity that we have to make memories for other people. And I call student activities and student leadership, the memory making machine, you know, we’re in our school and yeah, as a teacher, it’s great.
Joshua Sable (14:32):
If you teach French, you can teach them how to conjugate a verb. If you teach math how to do algebra, if you teach science, you know, how to dissect a pig. But we all have this other amazing opportunity to actually create memories for other people. And yes, the memory can take different shapes and forms. The memory can be doing this great program at lunchtime and a kid got to wear a funny hat or get five more face or pay money to his teacher in the face with a sponge. And that’s part of the memory making machine. But part of the memory making machine is also opening the door for someone or, you know, smiling thumb when they’re having a bad day or asking them how their test was last period, or talking to them about the leaf game, because, you know, that’ll be a good distraction from whatever else is going on in their life.
Joshua Sable (15:25):
So making memories is not limited to being the most creative dynamic person who grabs the mic and talks in a big, you know, game show book. It’s about who’s overstayed checks, you know, which some of us can do, but that’s, that’s only a small piece of the memory making machine. So I encourage our student leaders to make memories and so own this idea of the memory making machine as much as possible. And, and that’s what keeps me going. This is challenge to make a difference in young people’s lives and to give them a reason to come back tomorrow through the memory making machine. That’s all
Sam Demma (16:01):
Awesome. And I want you to recall those stories now where you have helped other students make their own memories for themselves. Maybe they wrote, you wrote you a letter, 10 years down the road. Maybe they told you right when it had an impact on them, but recall a couple more of those stories that you think would be worth sharing to remind some fellow educators why it’s so important, the work they’re doing.
Joshua Sable (16:20):
Sure. And, and, you know, educators don’t do these things for the letters. We do everything just for the money. No. we don’t do things for the paycheck. We don’t do things for the, for the nice letters we do it because, you know, generally we, we care about young people and we were trying to give them an experience that’s maybe a little bit better than the experience of the students the year before or better than our experience. And we’re just trying to leave this school, this world a little bit better than, than how we found it. So. Sure. Yeah. I’ve got a bunch of stories. I’ll share a few and you can cut me off or tell me to keep going your, your, your call. Th the, the other thing I challenged student leaders to do when we come into meetings, I tell them my, my five favorite words to hear at the beginning of a student council meeting are, wouldn’t it be cool?
Joshua Sable (17:10):
If so, I want them to start a phrase with, wouldn’t it be cool if, and they finish that sentence. So oftentimes they’ll come into a meeting and they’ll say, and we had a student council president about 15 years ago, who said, wouldn’t it be cool if we slept at the school? And he was a bit of a, I don’t know, he was a bit of a showman. And he had all these crazy ideas. And sometimes the ideas didn’t necessarily come to fruition, but we all sort of laughed. And he said, no, no, no, I’m serious. Wouldn’t it be cool if we have a sleepover at the school? And we talked about it at first, everyone thought he was joking. And I said, well, you know what, Adam, we run a United way fundraiser single year. We don’t have a kickoff event for it. What if we had students pay money or raise money through their neighbors, friends, family, to sleep at school and we can run, you know a sleep over in the gym.
Joshua Sable (18:04):
We could have all these activities, we can play sports, play games. We can also decorate the school for United way. And then in the morning when people get up in the morning we’ll give everyone shirts that say, I slept at school for United way, and they’ll be wearing these big red shirts. And throughout the day, yeah, their eyes will be closed. They’ll be sleepy. There’ll be yawning and flat because they didn’t get much sleep, but that will be our big kickoff. Sure enough, the event came to fruition. Adam had the biggest smile on his face. He felt so good that this program was his idea. Sure. It’s our job as educators to help deal with logistics, to make sure the custodians know where to be, to make sure, you know, no one gets hurt, but we need to develop our ideas or to be energized by student ideas.
Joshua Sable (18:50):
And that was a classic example of that, you know a couple of years ago during the winter Olympics, students said, wouldn’t it be cool if we gave out some gold medals to to students for being great leaders at the school. So we brainstormed this at a student council meeting, we talked about it and they said, oh yeah. So how many would we do? Well, let’s do one per grade. We’ll give it to one student per grade. And another student said, well, wouldn’t it be cool if every student in the grade got a gold medal and that they, the kids said, yeah, that would be great. That would be amazing. And then other ones said, well, wouldn’t it be cool if each gold metal was actually personalized for the individual student? And they said, yeah, yeah, yeah. And then they said, well, wouldn’t it be cool if it were not only personalized, but referenced a specific skill or traits or characteristic that the person had and the kids say, yeah, let’s do it. So we’ve got a thousand kids in our school. We took these student council members from each grade. They’ve divided themselves up. They took old CDs, which if you have a young audience members there, I don’t know. How would you describe it, Sam? What’s, what’s a CD.
Sam Demma (20:02):
It looks like a disk, the hole in the middle.
Joshua Sable (20:08):
Oh, we got our computer. Some departments that donate all these old CDs that they weren’t using anymore. We took a grade list. We had the students write down something specific about every single student in their grade. So it said, let’s say your name was John Smith says John Smith, great smile, right. Or Toby Toby Rosen is you know, great at dance or whatever it is, you know, has a great slapshot, nice hair, whatever it is. Then we had the student council come and set up all the classes all at the same time. And they handed out these specific metals on strings, put them around the kids. And every single kid in the school had their moment, their gold metal with these personalized metals around their neck. And I remember a moment where I was peeking into a class, taking some pictures during this. And one of the kids looked at his metal and he looked at someone else’s and he said, Hey, my mine’s different from yours. And he said, do you think that they wrote a specific trait or manual for every single student in the grade? And the kids said, yeah. And then said, how cool is that? So it was a great moment for the student leadership because they got to see a program start from the ground up and come to fruition. But it was a great moment for the students who received the metals, which was really, really, really awesome. Really great.
Sam Demma (21:31):
No, that’s amazing. I love that story. And I was just on the cusp of being too old to know what a CD was, but I did use them in my former earlier years for sure. That’s awesome. Now you’re also somebody who’s been responsible for bringing in external presenters, bringing in organizations from the community to come and work with students. Do projects, fundraise, someone that we both know you brought in was Blake fly. I remember I was there watching him when he presented over your 26 years of education, you’ve probably worked with dozens of speakers. How do you bring someone in, or what are your grounds for deciding, you know, this is a message that I want my students to hear. And I want to put her in front of them.
Joshua Sable (22:13):
There’s so many events, six speakers out there, and we know the impact that a great speaker like yourself or someone who has a message and idea that they want to share. How, how, how impactful that can be. So we just look for someone that we think is going to connect with young people, someone that has a message and idea, something that’s going to make a difference in a young person’s life. Sometimes they can inspire a hundred percent of the audience. Sometimes they’re only inspiring 5% of the audience to make change, but if they can help just a few people in the audience make their day a little bit better, switch their perspective, switch their focus, give them a new angle, a new, take, a new taste. We’re excited about it. So, yeah, I, I, you know, every once in a while we try to bring in someone and whether it’s to work with a specific grade or leadership group or with the entire student body we’re happy to bring that in because it can make a huge difference.
Sam Demma (23:10):
Cool. Yeah. It’s helpful for people who maybe just be getting into a role or into education to hear that kind of stuff. And in relation to the messages that you’ve seen that have had the biggest impact, is it the message itself, the delivery, is it how they interact with the students? What leaves the greatest impact on the audience?
Joshua Sable (23:28):
Look, it’s it’s, you know, as, as the audience may guess who are listening today, it’s, it’s oftentimes a combination of those things, combination of the contents and the delivery. But young people are smart. They know when they’re being talked down to, they know they want to be respected in the same way that you were, I want to be respected and they want that sense of trust and that sense of community we all want to be liked. So I think if they feel like there are parts of the speaker’s worlds and that they are not being talked down to that they’re being respected as an interesting young adult with ideas and plans and hopes and dreams for the future. There’s a good shot that we’re going to, we’re going to have a connection along the way. Cool.
Sam Demma (24:13):
Awesome. And there’s an educator listening right now. Who’s been enjoying the entire conversation. We’ve almost been talking for 30 minutes now, but I want you to imagine they were your age when you just started there 22 years old listening, just start in education. And this is their first year teaching, very different from your first year, very different from so many other educators. First year of teaching. What would you tell your younger self, if this was your first year, what words of advice would you have?
Joshua Sable (24:41):
Three words, take a nap. You got to rest up, you know and I’m not joking. What I mean by that is we, we all want every lesson, every program, every game, every show, anything we do in school to be perfect, to be 100% and it won’t always work out. So yeah, you can prepare for your English class or your math class or your history class or the game you’re about to coach or the kids. You’re about to direct in a play. You can do all that, but there are going to be curve balls along the way that you’re going to have to adjust to. So you need to be in it for the long haul. You need to have patients, you need to be able to have the resilience to bounce back on a daily basis. And if, and if you can do that, if you can stick with it for the long haul, the rewards are, are unbelievable.
Joshua Sable (25:40):
And, and many of them fall in that memory making machine worlds, because you get to hold onto this unbelievable collection of memories from your career, and you get to make a difference in the life of a young person and perhaps be ingrained in their memory as a person who made a difference or a program who made that made a difference or an idea that inspired them to get into politics or teaching or mathematics or construction or whatever they want to get into. We have this amazing responsibility as educators to pass these people on to the next stage in their life. And it’s, and it’s an amazing opportunity to make a difference and to ultimately make the world a better place.
Sam Demma (26:25):
Some of them wants to reach out to you and hear a little bit more about anything that we talked to today. That could be from a different province, different country, want to bounce some ideas around what’s the best way to reach out to you and have that conversation.
Joshua Sable (26:36):
Yeah. I, you know, I’m slightly embarrassed to say that you can’t find me on Facebook. You can find me on my wife’s Facebook. I do have an Instagram account, but it’s not public it’s private. Email is the number one best way to do that right now. I probably will have a website coming out a little bit later on this year for student leadership and training and workshops and all that fun stuff, but that’s not out yet. So the best way is through email I’ll it’s a long one. So I’ll say it a bit slowly. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org, and hopefully no one falls asleep or takes a nap now. So it’s great. S as in Sam, a B as in Bob, L as in Larry E that’s my name email@example.com, which is my school. She hasn’t Tom a N as in Nancy, E N as in Nancy, B as in Bob eight U M as in Mary, C as in Charles, H as in hello, a T as in tom.org.
Sam Demma (27:37):
Awesome. Josh, thank you so much for taking the time to chat. This has been phenomenal, and you’ve definitely done many interviews before, and I can’t wait to see your website.
Joshua Sable (27:46):
Thanks so much for having me, Sam and good luck with everything. You’re you’re an inspiration for many people. So thanks for, thanks for doing this.
Sam Demma (27:54):
Another action packed interview with veteran teacher and memory maker, Joshua Sable. So many actionable ideas that you can take away from this episode. If you want more, definitely reach out to Josh and please consider if you enjoyed this taking a minute out of your day to leave a rating and review some more educators. Like you can find these episodes of this podcast and benefit from the conversations we’re having right now with all these educators. And if you are someone who has ideas to share an inspiring stories about the impact of education on young people, please reach out, you know, email us, firstname.lastname@example.org. So we can get your stories and actionable ideas out on the show ASAP. I’ll see you on the next episode. Talk soon.
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