About Matt Sanders
Matt Sanders (@mr_sanders78) is currently the Leader of Experiential Learning for the Lambton Kent District School Board. In his role, he creates engaging experiences for students to participate in, reflect upon and then apply insights in meaningful ways.
Matt has been an elementary teacher for 10+ years, passionately searching for ways to incorporate technology and creativity into every lesson! Here are the resources he mentioned:
Chris St. Amman (Another Experiential Lead Learner)
**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 educators podcast. This is your host and youth speaker Sam Demma. Today’s guest is Matt Sanders. Matt is currently the leader of experiential learning for the Lambton Kent district school board. In his role, he creates engaging experiences for students to participate in, reflect upon, and then apply insights in very meaningful ways. He’s been an elementary teacher for 10 plus years, and he passionately searches for ways to incorporate technology and creativity into every single lesson he delivers.
Sam Demma (01:08):
Not only that, but this teacher, Matt, this high performing educator has a Rolodex of resources that you can find in the link of the episode here today, if you check the show notes, you can click on his personal website. He has a ton of free resources and virtual events, virtual activities that you can do with your class. I think you’ll find it very useful without further ado. Let’s jump into the interview, Matt, thank you so much for coming on the high-performing educator podcast. It is a huge pleasure to have you on the show. Why don’t you start by sharing a little bit about yourself and how you got into the work you do with young people today.
Matt Sanders (01:46):
Sam, thanks for having me on, I do appreciate you asking me to come on. I’m again, as you said, my name’s Matt Sanders I’m the experiential experiential learning coordinator for our board. I work with young people. I’ve been an elementary teacher for a long, long time previous to that. And to be honest, like the reason why I got into this gig is because I love working with young people. Like more than anything no offense to the adults I work with today. But to be honest with you, they’re the coolest and awesome as clientele there is. So just like all that for those that maybe don’t know what an experience learning coordinator would be, basically I’m engaging community partners in schools, in planning. So I’m bringing community partners. We have looking at student and school needs and then, then trying to create opportunities for kids. I think you and I have listened to a bunch of your podcasts by the way, absolutely loved your session on homework extension. And actually I had a couple of conversations recently where I was able to kind of like structure the negotiations with perspective, taking at the core because of that podcast. So and I think you and I have similar hearts and I think that in itself is the reason why we’re doing what we’re doing.
Sam Demma (03:00):
Yeah, absolutely love that. And I’m glad you got some takeaways from the negotiation episode. Definitely don’t share it with your, with your kids because they will, they’ll get more out of you than they should. But what point in your journey did you know, I’m going to work in education because you know, having a big heart and being of service and wanting to help others can land you in a job in so many different areas, how did you end up being, you know, an employee and a person working in education?
Matt Sanders (03:32):
No, it’s funny, Sam. I, a lot of my days I spend working with kids on career and pathway planning. So having conversations with kids on what things make you awesome, what things do you love? What things make you excited? What skills do you have and how can we leverage those things into a future career for you so that you wake up every morning? And you’re like, I am just totally geeked up to go to work. I am so excited because I love what I’m doing. I remember when I was, I want to say like grade seven grade eight, my grandma and my grandpa lived next door to me, our house. And we’d walk over there and we visit hang out and play cards and whatever. And I remember going there when I was in grade seven and I said to, I was in their house and I looked at the, the table and there was a reader’s digest magazine.
Matt Sanders (04:18):
And for those who don’t know what that is, I mean, it’s a, it’s an old school. It’s still around town, but it was definitely something that she had in her house regularly. And I remember looking at the cover of it and it said 10 Canadian teachers and the impact that they make on their kids top 10 Canadian teachers or whatever. And I remember looking at my grandma at that point and saying, I want to be in this magazine one day. And I mean, that was, and so coming back to my first part of this answer I knew at that point I wanted to be a teacher and here I am, and I’m always telling my students, like I know a lot of students will say, well, I’m just only 12. Like it’s not going to impact me. I can, I can dream, but like, it’s not gonna actually happen that way. Well, it did happen that way for me. And if you have a goal and you set forth, you know, planning and thinking and reflecting on that and then push yourself towards that, anybody can do anything you want to.
Sam Demma (05:14):
Yeah, I agree. I agree.
Matt Sanders (05:16):
So I should also say Sam that I think that, and I should say that the human aspect of education, I mean, I love curriculum and I love teaching and I love the knowledge piece, but I think the human aspect of education also really driven, drove me into that. It’s like teaching the life skills, it’s inspiring change and growth in young people. It’s having them think about their future and what their pathway might look like going forward. Looking at passions and interests and seeing how that can be a lightning rod to future success and fulfillment. So it’s all that stuff that makes me love my job.
Matt Sanders (05:59):
I have not.
Sam Demma (05:49):
That’s awesome. Have you ever played the yellow car game with your kids when every time you see a yellow car, they punch you on the shoulder when you’re
Sam Demma (05:59):
Okay. It’s similar to, you know, punch buggy, no punch back. When you see a Volkswagen, you know, punched by a young the highway and when you start playing those games and you look for the car, you realize that you start seeing them more often. It’s like when you start looking for something, it shows up more. And I, I started getting curious because I’m a big advocate for what you mentioned about, you know, dreaming and creating a vision for yourself and setting goals. And I came across this research about the reticular activating system, which is a part of your brain that basically filters through your conscious and subconscious thoughts. So you might have 2 million subconscious thoughts a day, but if your RAs system knows that you’re looking specifically for yellow cars, when it notices a yellow car, it makes that a conscious thought and you’re there for aware of it. And so there is a science behind what you just mentioned and why maybe you ended up in teaching because of your vision back when you read the reader’s digest magazine. So I think that’s awesome. You know,
Matt Sanders (07:01):
I never heard that research before either. That’s awesome.
Sam Demma (07:03):
I’ll send it to you afterwards. But when I’m sure when you got in education and you first started things have changed, you’ve learned a lot you’re not working in a different role. You started as an elementary teacher. What are some of the learnings you have, you know, in this industry that you could share with other educators and maybe it’s things that have worked very well for you or things that have been challenges and you’re still working on figuring them out.
Matt Sanders (07:33):
Yeah. Yeah. I’ll just, I just want to say this, cause I just thought of this and I, it is something that I think is worth mentioning to all young people or did educators that are listening. My dad’s a pretty like wise dude. And I listened carefully when he talks because he’s got valuable things to say. And I remember him saying one day to me about, you know, there are not many people that are lucky enough to go to work and are able to change the world. And I think that’s one of those things where, you know, getting an education, that’s something I feel like I’m able to do. And that’s, I mean, that’s pretty cool challenges as far as COVID are interesting. Cause I think as an experiential learning coordinator, we really do want kids to manipulate with their surroundings and fix things and move things and be creative in their thinking.
Matt Sanders (08:17):
And as well as to reflect on their learning from that, that process of experiencing whatever it is they’re experiencing. I think the absence of experiential learning in schools today is what is making school so challenging. So it’s, it’s missing that togetherness and that collaboration and kids are bottled up kind of working independently and it just doesn’t make for a good learning environment, I guess. It’s so it’s, it’s that challenge that teachers have kind of had to grab hold of and, and work towards making it a positive change. You know, one thing as far as COVID goes, cause I guess I’m going down that pathway right now. There are obviously no silver linings around a worldwide pandemic, but as far as education goes this process of coming back to school through a pandemic has really made educators at least to myself.
Matt Sanders (09:17):
And I would think most educators reflect on every aspect of education and drill down to the core of everything about school and critically think about best practices. So it’s like saying goodbye to that like mindset of we’ve always done it that way, and this is why we’re going to do it. And actually saying like, is this best? I’ll give you a really quick example of my own reflections and my own learnings through this process. I used to send, you know, 40 kids to an event on a bus and I’d get a $600 bill for that bus and I’d go, okay, that was an awesome day for those 40, well, we can’t do that now because of COVID. And so now I’m realizing that the 600 I could have spent on the bus, I can have a community partner come in and work with all 600 kids at that school for the exact same price. So it’s just like stuff like that where we like, no, there’s no silver lining because of this pandemic, but we are probably going to grow and change for the better on the other side in education, at least I think
Sam Demma (10:23):
That’s so true. And not to mention the amount of unique ideas that will come out of this time period, that will be used far after the pandemic ends. You’re someone who actually has a fricking Rolodex of ideas, the website you sent me, can you shed a little bit of light on the bank of resources and what inspired you to create that and where are there educators can get access to it?
Matt Sanders (10:49):
Yeah. So it’s interesting. I mean, we’ve presented that. So a colleague of mine from a different board and I his name is Chris St. Amman. He’s an amazing dude like the best. And he’s also an experiential learning coordinator in Ontario. And we were getting a lot of questions from teachers as far as ref. So we were really pushing reflection and I think all of your, anybody that’s listening to this right now, like make reflection a part of your everyday look at don’t dwell on your mistakes. Like that’s not what we’re looking for, but really like that reflection piece and developing our reflective mindset can help us decide to be optimistic in certain situations. It can help us control all the situations we come through because we’ve been there before and remember thinking through it, it’s that process of like setting goals, taking action and reflecting on those actions and then like doing it again and just everyday growing, I listened to your podcast the other day, Sam, about pain and like bringing on the, and I’m like, that’s in a way that like mistakes are that right?
Matt Sanders (11:57):
The mistakes we make, we can grow from as long as we think through those mistakes. So anyways, back to that, so people were reaching out, we were pushing reflection and people reaching out asking about strategies to get kids reflecting. So not just saying like, yo go reflect, but like legit, like what can we do? What can that look like? So Chris and I started developing basically a bank of strategies and that turned into like essentially a labor of love for helping people digitally. And so we developed this enormous kind of resource it’s called the suite of reflective strategies. Maybe I can send you the link later, but it’s a Bitly it’s bit, bit dot a bit dot L Y backslash reflection strategies. And it’s like, it’s got so many things in it. I was thinking though, Sam, about your audience, if it was young people listening, what could they get from that?
Matt Sanders (12:55):
I do tweet every day, what I call, I call them like five days of reflection or something. And I tweet out a question every day through my Twitter it’s Mr. Underscore Sanders seven, eight. And so I tweet out every day at reflection question and those are in there as well. I call that chatterbox, but it’s basically a box of resources for people to think. So reflection, questions for discussion thought and growth. So I’ll give you a real quick example of what one of those might look like. Yesterday I just pulled it up three things I’d like to change immediately. And three things I’d keep exactly the same as they are now. So just like it could be dinner table conversation with mom and dad. It could be like, I’m going to think about this before I go to bed. For teachers that could be like, throw it up on a screen and have a conversation as a class or like journal about it. Whatever. So anyways, so that reflection resource is, you know, it’s gotten really big. My favorite moment of the summer was I logged on and there was like 45 people on it all at once in August at one time. And I was like my, like my happiest part of school-related summer. So it was pretty cool.
Sam Demma (14:08):
That’s awesome. So cool. That’s amazing. And I’ve dug through those resources a little bit, so I can assure any teacher listening or student it’s worth the time to check them out. If you’re a student, share it with your educators. If you’re an educator, share it with each other. There’s a lot of great information in there, you know, without, without experimentation, there’s no failure without failure. There is no pain without no failure and pain. There’s no reflection and learning. I think all learning is experiential. Meaning you try something, you fail, you learn, you iterate, you try again. A lot of educators have been telling me the state of education is like, you know, thinking and then throw spaghetti against the wall and seeing if it sticks. And I’m curious to know what have you, what have you thrown on the wall? What have you tried that has stuck so far and on the other end, what has not worked out and what have you learned from it that might be valuable for other educators?
Matt Sanders (15:09):
So I, I think it’s interesting. So this whole process as, as really we’ve tried a lot of things there’s I mean, there are things that you try and education or you want to have happen and then they just can’t work out whether it’s, you know, funding or whatever. But I will say you know, one thing I’ve really learned is that best practices in education, whether you’re teaching face to face or virtual are absolutely the same. It’s, it’s building relationships. It’s encouraging students to use their voice. It’s providing engaging content for kids. It’s connecting content to real life and showing students why it’s meaningful to them. It’s honestly, my favorite thing in the world is allowing students to be experts, finding situations where students can be the experts and lead like every day. So it’s stuff like that. Like I know you try stuff and you like, oh, this, this is, I hope this really works out and it doesn’t, but I always come back to those like that, that idea of give kids a voice, allow them to see themselves in their own learning, allow them to be experts and take, you know, positive, make positive change.
Matt Sanders (16:22):
You know, I will say I was reflecting on this the other day. Cause I, you know, I love young people and I think they’re all amazing. And one thing that gives me a lot of hope going forward about our world in general is our young people. It’s such an, it’s so inspiring. Like when you turn on the news and you look at, you know, people protesting injustices in our time, it’s typically not 60 year olds that you see standing outside, you know, it’s, it’s our young people, it’s their drive to make a difference in the world and be a catalyst for worldwide change. It’s them pushing equity and inclusion and acceptance. I have a five-year-old at home and she has autism and I couldn’t be happier that she’s growing up in this time when we are just so we’re getting better at being inclusive as a society. I want to say, at least from my own experience within our schools. So you know that, I mean, that’s in general, that’s, that’s where I’m at right now with, with all of that.
Sam Demma (17:30):
That’s awesome. I love it, man. I absolutely love it. And in fact, I had a teacher Mike loud foot who inspired me to try and be the change I want to see in the world by teaching this simple lesson that a small, consistent action can make a massive change. And that led to a whole thing about picking up garbage, but it’s so true. It’s, it’s the wisdom of people like yourself who pass it on to youth who then go out there and want to make a difference. And I think that’s just like, it’s such a beautiful process to witness and to watch a young person make an impact and then stand in their belief in themselves after saying, wow, I did do something that I thought maybe before wouldn’t have been possible that has a huge impact on others. So I think that’s amazing in your experience as an educator, you know, teaching young people, mentoring young people because a teacher is not just a content facilitator.
Sam Demma (18:22):
Sometimes you take on the role of a second parent or a guidance counselor or a coach or a mentor. Have you had any experiences where you’ve seen a student transform and maybe you had a huge change in their self-esteem in their life, in their direction and you can change their name if it’s a very serious story. And the reason I’m asking you to share this is because another educator might be listening, forgetting why they actually got into education. That’d be burnt out listening to this and a story about transformation might remind them why they actually started.
Matt Sanders (18:57):
Yeah, I think, you know, I’ve got, you know, dozens and dozens of situations where I’ve seen enormous change. You know, I, I mean most educators, if they’re building relationships and really deeply diving into those relationships and showing kids that they care, you’re going to see positive change, no matter what, you know, it’s the, it’s the teachers and I am sorry. It’s, it’s my own teachers. What I was a kid I’m not going to, I don’t want to critique teachers in the world today, but it was my own teachers that thought the way to get through to others, other students was to punish them or to yell at them or tell them to put their head down on the table, like kids today, students today, adults today don’t want to do what they’re told. If they’re being told it in a negative or rude or disrespectful way.
Matt Sanders (19:48):
Like we all want to just get along. And sometimes kids reach out in a negative way and behave in a negative way because of just wanting attention, wanting love, wanting to be respected. And so, you know, I, as, as far as you know, situations right now you know, in my role right now, I’m not teaching all the time with kids, but I say that I always really pushed. Like we talked about already in this conversation today, we’re always really pushed students to think about their mistakes, to have a growth mindset, to reflect, to make decisions based on those reflections. And I, and I also, you know, always gave every bit of myself to my students. And I think I always, I mean, I shouldn’t say I sound like I’m bragging a little bit, but I definitely always saw positive change in my students because of the relationships that I built.
Matt Sanders (20:44):
And I think for any educator that’s out there today, you know, I’ve heard a couple of times and not educators on my board. I remember when I was in teacher’s college, I remember a teacher saying to me, don’t smile until December and that’s the way you get through to your kids. And I was like, that is still not the way it goes, man. And because of the relationships and you know, I’ll stay in at recess and help you with this and I’ll stay after school. If you need support and I’ll coach basketball and I will give you love every day. And I will tell you that I care deeply for you and I want what’s best for you. And that’s the way I’m going to teach every day. That’s the process that I’ve always had success, even with the kid. That’s like, you know, we’re that kids are gonna have a real struggle. It’s going to, he’s going to be taking people off task and it’s going to be a challenge every day. I was like, no, just, just show them. You love them and that you care and that you want what’s best for them. And they’ll be your best friend. Yeah.
Sam Demma (21:39):
So true. Everyone’s human needs are the same, whether it’s an adult, an 80 year old man or a 10 year old kid in a classroom. So that’s a great philosophy to live by and teach by. If, if another educator has been inspired by anything we’ve talked about today and wants to reach out bounce ideas around, have a conversation with you, what would be the best way for them to do so?
Matt Sanders (22:01):
Great. I would love, love, love, love to connect with any other educator. That’s interested probably either through Twitter, Twitter’s easiest. Mr_Sanders78. Check the reflective resource. I’m not making a dime off of it. It’s all a labor of love and it’s all a drive to make a change in the world. And that’s bit.ly/Reflectionstrategies check it out. I mean, my emails on that as well. If somebody is looking to connect with me or have questions about that resource itself, happy to have a conversation and students that you, if you’re listening right now, you know, don’t give up on yourself ever, you know, be the best you can be reflect the great overachieve smile. Think positively. Here’s a story for you, Sam, before we sign off. Totally. This is a perfect example of me saying to myself, I will think about things in a positive light.
Matt Sanders (23:02):
Two weeks ago I dropped my phone at a gas station, brand new iPhone fell out of my car. I think that’s what happened to it. I spent like three hours trying to find it. Couldn’t find it. It was gone. I called, I used the like find my app, all the things. And I was like, I left it for the night. I’m like, well, I probably won’t ever see it again. Like I’m just going to have to move on. And by the next day I had actually got myself to realize that maybe it was a sign that I needed to put down my phone more often. And I was going to get out of my old iPhone seven. I had a crack in it and I was going to be just fine. And I had completely moved on and it was just me saying to myself, you know, it’s, it is what it is.
Matt Sanders (23:43):
You gotta be more careful. I learned from that. I need to be more careful with my stuff and that maybe it was a sign I needed to just like, not be so technol, technologically inclined. And and then five days later somebody had found it on the road and called me and said, I’ve been looking for you for four days. We tried everything and they messaged my wife through Facebook to get it back to goodness lady inside them. She found on the side of the road. So like I had completely moved on. I had changed over my, until my old iPhone seven and I was totally good with it. But it’s an example of like that like mindset, like just it’ll be okay. Just push. So anyways, that’s just a funny story.
Sam Demma (24:26):
On the other side, seeing the good in people, right? Like that lady looks for you for five days. That is less.
Matt Sanders (24:33):
And then she ended up, she just found somebody had texted me and sorry, my wife had texted me and then her, she saw the name and then looked up my wife’s name on Facebook to find to message her, to see if she knew me. So. Cool. Incredible. Yeah.
Sam Demma (24:52):
Yeah. Selfless, selfless lady. That’s awesome. All right. Perfect. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show, Matt, it’s been a huge, huge pleasure. We’ll definitely stay in touch and I look forward to continuing watching your labor of love and all the positive impact your work has and all your teachers from your school have in your board on all the students you guys would like that look after. Thank you. So, and there you have it. Another amazing guest and amazing interview on the high-performing educator podcast. As always, if you enjoyed 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. If you want to meet the guest on today’s episode, if you want to meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider going to www dot high-performing educator.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 feel your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.
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