About Mark Brown
As a high school administrator, Mark Brown (@heymarkbrown) is passionate about helping educators and students live life as their best selves and challenges everyone to embrace the call of Choose To Be You.
Using his experience as a learner, an educator, and as someone who has spent the majority of his life chasing an image of someone and something other than his true, authentic self, Mark delivers a message of hope and inspiration that is guaranteed to impact your life and your school!
**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. Welcome to season number 2. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. We’re continuing to have this year, amazing conversations with educators all around the world and I’m super excited to introduce you to today’s guest. Today we had the pleasure of interviewing Mark Brown. Mark is a high school administrator and he’s passionate about helping educators and students to live their best lives.
Sam Demma (01:03):
And he challenges everyone to embrace the call of choose to be you, which is actually the title of his own book. It’s a mental health book and it’s, it’s a phenomenal read as I’ve heard from a lot of other educators. Using his experience as a learner and educator, and as someone who has spent the majority of his life chasing an image of someone and something other than his true authentic self, mark delivers a message of hope and inspiration that is guaranteed to impact your life and your school. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I enjoyed chatting with Mark. Welcome to season 2. I will see you on the other side of today’s conversation. Mark, thank you so much for coming on the High Performing Educator podcast, huge pleasure to have you on the show. Can you start by introducing yourself, and maybe explaining how you got into the work you’re doing with young people today?
Mark Brown (01:47):
Yeah. Hey, thanks for having me. Excited to be here and excited to get to share a little bit with you today and your listeners. So my name’s Mark Brown. I am a high school assistant principal down in Newberg, Oregon. So out in the, on the west coast, in the beautiful Northwest down here. I also coach basketball; have a huge passion around coaching and that’s actually a lot of what got me into education was coaching. But I think the main reason why I do the work that I do is because I believe that being an educator truly is the most important job in the world. And even though I am not actively, you know, every day engaging in life saving research like cancer research or you know, doing crazy big jobs that people, you know, often get a lot of recognition for,
Mark Brown (02:36):
I have the opportunity to mentor and impact young people, and I get to work with students when they are truly in the most important, most formal years of their life, where they’re searching for their identity, where they’re trying to figure out what their truth is, where they’re trying to identify, like what is gonna be my future. And I get, have a part in that. And so I really truly believe that’s the most important job in the world. And it gives me energy and excitement every single day. Like there’s a lot of to-dos with education and there’s a lot of, you know, stuff that we get kind of wrapped up in. But when I stay centered on that fact that I get to work with kids who are truly, you know, preparing to make a difference in this world, like the fact that I gotta be a part of that just, I, I get super excited about that.
Sam Demma (03:21):
Ah, I love that. And tell me more about coaching. How did that all start for you and has it been a big, huge part of education? It sounds like it has been,
Mark Brown (03:31):
Oh yeah. I, I, I think a lot of what I do as an educational leader now as an administrator is rooted in what I’ve learned through coaching and, and I’m in a really special situation, blessed that my my principal, my lead principal has still allowed me to coach a lot of times, you know, when you move from teaching into administration, it’s kinda like, all right, you gotta stop any of that extracurricular co-curricular stuff, but I’ve been blessed to have a supportive principal who lets me still coach. And so, yeah, it started back when in college I I’ve always loved sports. I’ve never been that good at competing in sports. I’m not very athletic, you know, I’m, you can’t tell cuz we’re doing audio here, but I’m a pretty small guy about five, five. But my sported choice is basketball. And you know, I, I think a lot of it for me, it kind of started, I’m a real stubborn person.
Mark Brown (04:18):
My mom has always said I’m were stubborn. And so a lot of people were like, you can’t play basketball. You’re only five, five, but I was like, yeah, right, bring it on. I can do whatever I want to do. And so I think that’s kind of what started me down the path of having basketball as my sport of choice. But I got into it. I started as a student assistant coach at Oklahoma Christian university from there was a able to get on here in, at Newberg high school, right outta college about 10 years ago, 11 years ago, and then worked my way up to being a JV coach. And then now the varsity head coach and you know, they’re just, again what we do on the court. That’s fun, that’s exciting. The strategy, getting to game plan, you know, and compete strategically for basketball.
Mark Brown (05:02):
But every day there’s opportunities to learn life lessons through basketball and through competing and through practice and through the preparation. And so I just love the opportunity to get to not only coach basketball, a game that I love and be involved with that strategically from a sports side of things. But more importantly, like again, I get to work kids, young men who are excited about basketball and I get to help them be excited about life. And one of the missions that I have as a coach is, you know, I want to put a quality product on the court, but more than that, actually in my book, I talk about chasing titles. Yeah. And for me, it used to be about chasing those titles. You know, of the banners that we would hang on the wall of the gym or, you know, chasing those wins that would on the scoreboard.
Mark Brown (05:46):
And I quickly learned that my job is to chase the titles of, for, for my players in the future titles that they are gonna hold. And you know, not many of my players go on to play college basketball. Not many of them are gonna have a future in competing professionally, but they’re all gonna be dads. They’re all gonna be husbands. They’re all gonna be employees. They’re all gonna be leaders within the communities that they establish their selves in. And I gotta be a part of helping to shape and mold and mentor them in, in being prepared for that. So again, I, I love coaching. It’s a great opportunity and I, I just love basketball more than anything.
Sam Demma (06:20):
And at what point in your own career journey, did you know I’m gonna work in education? I know coaching and athletics was a big part of your life, but making the decision to work in a school is a big one. And you have to be a very specific type of person to always want to work with students and young people. And it’s clear that you have that passion, but I’m curious to know when you personally knew that that was your calling or your future career.
Mark Brown (06:45):
So I knew I always wanted to coach. I always, you know, I always had that desire to be a coach. Yep. But I didn’t go into college initially thinking I was gonna be, become an educator. I wanted to initially actually I thought I was gonna do sports medicine. Nice. But I quickly learned if you’re the athletic trainer, if you’re on the sports medicine side of things, your schedule doesn’t really align with being able to coach because you have to be there to support all the sports. And so you really don’t have the freedom to then coach most of the time. And so I quickly realized that and I, I knew I wanted to coach. That was something I, I knew I needed to do. And I had some good mentors in college. My first couple of years who really helped me understand like the best path to being able to coach is through teaching and being an educator.
Mark Brown (07:29):
But more than that, they helped me understand that in order to be a successful coach, I needed to understand teaching. I needed to understand how to educate and how to teach, because I think, you know, one of the things I’ve come to learn is guys who can strategize, who can drop the X and OS of basketball. They’re a dime dozen. Like there, there are a lot of people who are very successful, but the real successful coaches are the ones who understand how to teach and how to connect with kids. And you learn that through becoming an educator. And a lot of us, you know, a lot of educators, we kind to have that innately ingrained into us. It’s kind of part of our DNA. And then we learn some of the strategies, the tips and tricks but really understand teaching and pedagogy and how to connect with kids has really allowed me, I believe to be a much more successful coach.
Sam Demma (08:14):
And you briefly alluded to the fact that there’s so many life lessons that we learned through the sport, and I’m sure you’ve seen so much transformation happen in your own life and your students life due to the game of basketball. I’m curious to know, I’m tempted to call you coach Carter, but we’ll call you coach Bown. I’m curious to know what are some of those life lessons that you drill into your athletes that other educators listening should consider also teaching to their own students, whether they’re on a basketball court or not.
Mark Brown (08:44):
Yeah. So, you know, I think anytime you are competing in sports, you wanna win. Yeah. And I think, you know, I, I, I think that’s a good thing having that competitive drive, that competitive fire and, and wanting to win. I think that’s why we play sports. If that, if, if I didn’t have that drive, I would just go shoot hoops in my, in my backyard by myself, but I want to compete. And so I want to win, but I think if we put all of our value in just the fact that winning is the only way to be successful in sports, I think we limit the opportunity that we have to learn and grow through sports. Mm. And so for me, one of the things I’ve really learned early on in my coaching career, it was all about the wins. And if I lost a game, I, I went home and I didn’t sleep that night.
Mark Brown (09:26):
And I watched film. I watched the game two, three times before my next practice, you know, stayed up all night and drove my wife crazy. You know, but I, I was, so I had to figure out what was wrong and why we weren’t witty and what I’ve come to learn. And I now try to really coach my players on is the fact that it’s okay to wanna win. And we should all have that desire. We should all have that drive, but that’s not the measure of our success. If we, we step on that court and we give our best effort. And if we do everything with the right attitude and doing things the right way, doing things, you know, in a way that people can respect. And if we make sure that we have good sportsmanship, I believe there’s three things in life that we can control, having a great attitude, even our absolute best effort and making, treat other people the right way. If we do those three things, we cannot fail. The scoreboard might not always be in our favor and we might lose some games, but we can step off that court being confident in knowing that we did things the right way, we gave our absolute best effort and people can respect that out of us, regardless of whether, what the score. And so I think that’s a big life lesson that I’ve really learned over the years in coaching and that I really try to pass on to my, my other coaches and my players.
Sam Demma (10:45):
And even if it’s not on the basketball field, every person is technically playing their own game, which is life. You can look at life like its own field or choose your field. Maybe one field is academics, the field as athletics. And I think what you just explained is such a beautiful analogy because you can define success in each of those areas and make sure you’re showing up and the score takes care of itself. There’s a great book about that. And I think it’s, I think it’s really true in your experience, teaching and coaching, have you in some transformations of students and is there any that you think are worth sharing? And the reason I’m asking is because there might be another educator listening right now, who’s extremely burnt out. Who’s maybe on the edge of even quitting their, this job and this calling. Cause I don’t even wanna call it a job. And a story of transformation might be the thing that, that reminds them, how important the work they’re doing is, and gets them over that hump to, to keep going. And if it’s a yeah, serious one also feel free to change their name for privacy reasons.
Mark Brown (11:46):
Yeah. No, I’ll definitely use other names. So I have, yeah. Oh man. That’s a, that’s a good question. That’s a tough one. Cuz there’s lots of good stories and that’s one thing I think all educators can, can love about this job is every day there’s something new and you know, we could all by the end of our career, write a big long book of all the, the different stories and transformations. But I think the, the, the one that really sticks out to me is I, I had a, it was actually my first year as a head coach and it’s a story of transformation, not just around one student individually, but actually around my team. Hmm. And this, this group of young men, every year of high school, they had had a different coach. Well actually there was one coach. The coach prior to me was there for two years.
Mark Brown (12:36):
But they growing up through the youth programs and everything. I was the, the fifth head coach in six years. So there was no continuity in the program. But this group of young men, even through all the turmoil, E even through all of the changes and the unknowns and the frustrations that came with that for they stuck together. And what happened during their senior year, one of the most, the, the biggest tragedies that I’ve ever experienced in my educational career we, we lost one of our, our students. We lost one of our young men to suicide. Wow. And he was actually a cousin of a couple of the players on my team and best friends with most, all the players on my team. And he was in, in kind of the inner circle, even being on the team himself. And I, it, it AB it, it hits that team incredibly hard, right in the middle of our season.
Mark Brown (13:28):
In fact, we found out about it. We had just had our, our first league game. It was against one of our rivals. It was our first game in a new league. And we had won on the road. We came back and we celebrated, we all went out to pizza. And then later that night we get the call about this student and his, that he had died. And I didn’t know what to do. I was a young coach. I was like 24 years old. I wasn’t sure what my role in all of this was. And what I, I saw in that experience was because this group had already been so close, been so United, stuck together through all of the, the turmoil and all of the, the stuff that they had already been through over the past several years, they were prepared for this.
Mark Brown (14:13):
And I didn’t have to have the right thing to say. And that’s what a lot of educators feel. A lot of pressure we feel is we don’t have the answers. And especially right now with COVID right, we don’t necessarily have the answers. We don’t have to have the answers. We just have to be there. We just have to be there to listen. We just have to be there to hug. ’em When they need a hug, we just have to be there to provide what they need. And they will tell us, even without directly telling us, these are the things I need. They will tell us through their behaviors. They will tell us through their emotions. They will tell us they will show us what they need. And as long as we are there, as long as we show up, and again, we give our best effort and we, we love on them and we support them.
Mark Brown (14:51):
Like there there’s been absolutely nothing better for me in my career than that experience. Although it was absolute tragedy and still to this day impacts me. It was a great reminder to me on the fact that our kids are resilient and I have an opportunity to help support them through whatever they’re going through. And just that transformation of this, you know, maybe that wasn’t the transformation story you were thinking of, but that transformation of this group of kids who had so many things go against them in life, the fact they stuck together, they supported one another, like what a great example to me and what a great lesson for me to learn and has helped me then, and focus that much more on helping my students, helping my players find ways to stay connected and grow together as, as, as a community, because that community is so important.
Sam Demma (15:41):
Wow. What a story that is such a great story. There’s there’s a movie about a baseball team and the coaches piano Reeves, and it’s a very similar story. That’s team comes together and they’re not doing well. And midway through as they start improving, one of the players actually passes away and it’s, it’s funny. Something very similar happens in the movie and all the kids come together and they end up winning. Not that it’s about winning or losing, but you’re the real life story of the movie. So that’s a really, that’s a really touching story. And I hope everyone listening is thinking about how they can help their students also feel more connected to each other, you know, right now is a challenging time, like you mentioned, and I’m curious to know how do you ensure your students and teams and anyone in the school is, is feeling appreciated, valued, heard, and connected despite the, the challenges of the pandemic.
Mark Brown (16:29):
Yeah, I think that’s definitely one of the challenges we’re facing as educators in a school rules right now is how do we connect with kids? How do we reach them? How do we make sure they have what they need? Because it’s kinda, it, it’s easy when, well, it’s, it’s not easy, but it’s easier when we’re in the building and they’re walking the halls and we can, you can tell when they’re having an off day, you can tell when they’re having a bad day and a lot of times when we’ve built those relationships, kids will stop by your room. And just, you know, you can, you just kind of know when they need a little bit of extra time, a little bit of extra love, a little bit of extra attention, but right now we don’t have that opportunity. And so what we’re doing, we’re watching obviously the big things of grades and attendance in the virtual classrooms.
Mark Brown (17:06):
And those are a lot of times our identifiers to us that maybe something’s going on, if grades start dropping or attendance start dropping, but we’re reaching out. We at our school this year, I’m super excited. We several years ago, got rid of, kind of that homeroom advisory where there’s kind of that one, you know, that core group of students that is with an educator all year long, we got rid of that. We brought it back this year because we knew that we needed everyone to kind of have a home, a home base, a spot to check in. And we, we started the year, went through the first couple of months. And then what we started doing a couple weeks ago is during that time, instead of like the group of 15 students meeting with that educator, we actually scheduled one-on-one individual meetings. So all 1400 kids in our high school got a one on one individual meeting with an educator that they already have a relationship built with just to check in. And we had kind of a we used a Google form, a standard set of questions that we asked everyone, cuz we wanted to get some data kind of like how, you know, distance learning going, what can we as a school do to improve of what’s your experience like, but then educated, you know, and I did it with my students. I have a group of students that I gotta meet with. It led into like a long conversation of just checking in with each other. And it was so cool that even in this virtual
Mark Brown (18:22):
Setting, we were still able to find that connection point and still able to build those relationships. And so, you know, one of the things I encourage is whatever you can do you to again, look for ways to build that community. We did that in our homeroom. We call it tiger time cuz we’re the Newberg tigers. So we call it our tiger time and everyone knows that there’s nothing academic there. There’s no great associated with that class. It’s just a time to check in. We do a lot of, you know, character development, social, emotional learning. We do some fun things. We do some like virtual pep rallies. We have ’em coming up on Monday that we do nice. But then we also created those opportunities for that more intimate one-on-one checkin. And so that’s something we’re trying to do is still find ways to have that, that, that more informal check in that we often get in the classroom setting, just kind of by happenstance. We’re looking for ways to create those opportunities.
Sam Demma (19:07):
I love that the Google form is such a simple tool to use. And if any educators listening, if you’re listening, give it a try, maybe try scheduling those one-on-one meetings. I’m curious to know in your own personal experience, you said they led to much longer conversations and lots of dialogue, but overall, how did the students, how do students feel about those one-on-ones with you?
Mark Brown (19:27):
Oh, I think they love it. You know, I, I think they, they, they feel like we care. Yeah. That I think as, especially a lot of the time when we’re in the virtual classroom, it’s easy to get lost. And even though our class numbers are actually smaller, we were able to set it up. So in all of our, you know, classes, we have no more than about 15, 16 students per class, which is a great class size. But it’s really easy to not say anything and to turn your camera off and just kind of get lost in the crowd. Yeah. But when you’re one on one, like you can’t be silent, you gotta talk. Right. And so I think it’s, it’s forcing some of them to come outta their share a little shell a little bit, but more than that, you know, I, I know students, they showed up on time for that meeting.
Mark Brown (20:09):
Like they were eager to get, to have a conversation and know that someone was there to listen. One of my good friends and mentors, Philip Campbell, PC, his big thing is, you know, all students want to, they want to feel seen. They want to be heard and they want to feel loved. Yeah. And you know, I think by us setting up those one-on-one meetings, like students felt seen, they felt like we were listening to them. They felt heard and they felt loved because we just sat there and listened and got to, got to connect. And so I think they loved it.
Sam Demma (20:38):
I love that. And you’ve written a book, you’ve been a coach. You’ve been an assistant. You’ve been a teacher. If you have, you have so much to share with other educators, but I’m curious to know if you could go back to when you first started teaching, what advice knowing what, you know now would you give your younger self?
Mark Brown (20:57):
Be you? And you know, the title of my book is choose to be you. My, I, I have a, I have a battle that I fight against anorexia I’m anorexic and you know, that’s something that even I’ve written a book about it, I share publicly about it. I speak about it. It, it’s still hard to say that. And honestly, you know, as I I’m, I’m getting to see you cuz we’re doing a video here through the screen, that’s still hard to say. Yeah. because the, anytime I make myself vulnerable, it, it sometimes feels embarrassing and it, and it challenging to get to that level. But as a young educator, I ne I didn’t embrace vulnerability and I didn’t embrace my true identity and who I really am. I tried to create this, this, this picture of who I wanted people to see Mark Brown is.
Mark Brown (21:42):
Mm. And I, I became very successful in education. I’m, I’m a very young educator. I was a very young head coach. I climbed the ladder very quickly and I was really proud of that. And really like, I, I put a lot of value in, in those accomplishments. Yeah. And I, I put my value really in the wrong places for a long time. And I put my value in creating this fake identity to kind of try the, try to hide the real me. And what I’ve really learned is it doesn’t matter what Sam, what you see of Mark Brown, what matters is what I see in my reflection in the mirror. And, you know, I can, I can create all these lies. I can create all these, you know, win all these awards that I hang in my office. I can get all these titles added to my resume of things that, that I’ve done.
Mark Brown (22:29):
But at the end of the day, I’ve gotta be able to look in the mirror and be honest and truthful, cuz it’s really, if you’ve ever tried to lie to your reflection of the mirror, it’s hard. Yeah. And you know, there’s a lot of people who I’ve learned through counseling and going through therapy. There’s a lot of people who actually don’t look in the mirror. They don’t, they very unintentionally, they avoid mirrors that in the cost, because if we are not being honest and true to who we are at our core, it’s hard to face that reflection. And so I wish as an early admin, as an early educator, younger educator, I wish I would’ve been able to embrace my reflection. And you know, I still struggle with that even though, you know, I’m a champion for it now, and I’m an advocate for it. And mental health awareness is a big part of my message and who I am. It’s still hard. It’s not like it becomes easy. I’ve just learned tools and strategies with how
Mark Brown (23:23):
And how to make it a part of my, my daily life, my daily routine. But getting to that point where I can look myself in the mirror and say, you know what, mark, you’ve got some challenges. You’ve got some struggles you’re not perfect. And there’s some things you’ve made some mistakes. I’m a failure. Guess what I have failed time and time again. But what’s important is if I can look in that mirror and I can look at my reflection and I can choose that my next action is going to be done with the right intent. And my next action is gonna be done, giving my best effort and doing it with the right attitude and making sure that while I do it, I treat those around me the right way. And I bring people into my life who are gonna be able to support me as long as I can do that. I know I’m gonna be successful. And so that, that’s something I wish I would’ve done. A better job of earlier on in my career is embracing my true reflection rather than trying to create this image of who I really am not, or just who I wanted people to see.
Sam Demma (24:16):
You’re speaking to my soul man. I was, I was trying to be a professional soccer player, my entire life. And at the age of 17, I had three major knee injury, Reese, two surgeries, and a torn labrum in my right hip. And my identity was based on the fact that Sam was the soccer player. My whole family saw me as the soccer player. Sam’s gonna be the prodigy soccer player. I lost a full ride scholarship to a division one school in the states. I had to stop playing sports and it became hard for me to look in the mirror and I’m sure you’re, if you’re listening, you know, you have your own battles and struggles and challenges as well. And it’s so true. You always have to, at the end of the day, look at yourself in the mirror and decide who you are.
Sam Demma (24:56):
And even if you lie to yourself you know, that conversation is gonna come up personally at some point in your future and you’re gonna have to face it. David Goggin’s, who is actually an ultra marathon runner and ex Navy seal talks about this all the time and by the smirk on your face, it sounds like you know who he is. And he says the most, you know, the most important conversation you have is the one you have with yourself. And he has it every night for 15 minutes while he shaves his head so all I wanna say is thank you for being vulnerable and sharing because it’s gonna give everyone else listening the opportunity to do as well, and I really appreciated this. If someone wants to reach out, hear more about yourself, your book, your coaching tactics, or just wants to connect and have a conversation, what would be the best way for someone to do so?
Mark Brown (25:40):
Yeah, reach out. I do have a, a website www.heymarkbrown.com where there’s ways you can contact me there. You can learn a little bit more about me. There’s also links on there to my book, it’s available on Amazon; both amazon.com and Amazon Canada. Actually fun fact, my publisher is Canadian; Codebreaker, they’re a Canadian group. And so I love my Canadian friends. But yeah, if you wanna check that out, it’s on Amazon; Choose to be You. And then I’m on social media, and I’ve really learned that social media is a great way to connect. I’ve, I’ve met some of my best friends actually through social media, some educator friends. And so I’m on Twitter @heymarkbrown. I’m on Instagram @heymarkbrown, or you can look me up on Facebook, Mark Brown.
Sam Demma (26:25):
Awesome. Mark, thank you so much, Coach Brown. I really appreciate it and I, I look forward to staying in touch and seeing all the great work you’re doing.
Mark Brown (26:33):
I appreciate what you’re doing and yeah. Thanks. Thanks for the opportunity.
Sam Demma (26:37):
And there you have it. Another amazing guest, an amazing interview on the High Performing Educator podcast. As always, if you enjoy these episodes, please consider leaving a rating and review so other educators like yourself can find this content and benefit from it. And here’s an exclusive opportunity that I mentioned at the start of the show; f you want meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider going to www.highperformingeducator.com and signing up to join the exclusive network, you’ll have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities. And I promise I will not fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.
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