About Lara Spiers
Lara (@MrsLSpiers) is a secondary school educator and administrator. She is the secondary vice-principal at Durham Catholic District School Board. She taught me (Sam) when I was in high school! She has her Master of Education – MEd focused in Educational Leadership and Policy Development from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto.
Her passions include Analytical Skills, E-Learning, Student Counseling, Critical Thinking, and Social Justice Pedagogy.
Connect with Lara: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter
Listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favourite podcast platform.
Durham Catholic District School Board
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto
George Couros’ “Innovator’s Mindest”
Kristin Souers and Pete Hall’s “Fostering Resilient Learners”
**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):
Do you want access to all the past guests on this show? Do you want a network with like-minded individuals and meet other high performing educators from around the world? If so, go to www.highperformingeducator.com. Sign up to join the exclusive network and you’ll get access to live virtual networking events and other special opportunities that will come out throughout 2021. I promise you I will not fill your inbox. You might get one email a month. If that sounds interesting, go to www.highperformingeducator.com. Welcome back to another episode of the High Performing Educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. I’m super excited to bring you today’s interview Lara Spiers. Our guest today was one of my high school teachers. We haven’t stayed in touch as much, although it was a breath of fresh air to have a conversation with her on the podcast. She is now a vice principal at a Secondary School Catholic school out in Whitby, Ontario.
Sam Demma (01:04):
And she’s in the midst of completing her masters of education, which is focused in educational leadership and policy development from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. She is super passionate about e-learning student counseling, critical thinking, social justice and philosophy slash religion. And I’m super excited to dive into a bunch of different topics on today’s conversation. I hope you enjoy this as much as I enjoyed the conversation and I will see you on the other side, Lara, thank you so much for coming on the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show. You know, it started from sitting in your religion class or English class religion, religion.
Lara Spiers (01:48):
It was religion. I’ll never forget it.
Sam Demma (01:50):
I’m already outdating myself already forgetting about high school.
Lara Spiers (01:53):
I’ll ever forget you. No, not really. I, I remember that you had brought in cake, I think your mom had made banana bread or, or something along those lines for my birthday. No. And I just thought that that was so classy and delicious. So that’s my favorite things.
Sam Demma (02:06):
No, I love that. Well, why don’t you start by introducing yourself, just sharing a little bit about, you know, how you got into the role you’re in education right now. And where that, where that spark or desire came from to be a teacher?
Lara Spiers (02:19):
It’s a loaded question, but I’ll try. So this I’ve been in education for about 15 years or 16 years and it wasn’t really something that I always wanted to do to, you know, to be Frank. I always saw myself in law, I really enjoyed thinking about, you know, ethics and morality and right and wrong. And I thought that I would be kind of one of those crusaders always in defense. Right. Never impressed. But as I got closer to the actual, I even applied to, I took the LSATs and I applied to law schools. And, and as I was going through the application process is when I actually started thinking about the type of life that I wanted to lead. So Le less about the ideas and more about the actual results, right? The fruit of the labor.
Lara Spiers (03:06):
And I realized, and I was holding both acceptances in my hand, right? One for Osgood, one for U of T or OISE. And I realized that the one path was, you know, what I had always wanted, but it wasn’t the actual life that I wanted to lead. It was what I wanted as a child. And I realized as I was aging, that, you know, it wouldn’t be as meaningful as a life dedicated to the service of others. So that’s why I chose teaching cuz that’s exactly what I consider teaching to be. You know, I’m not strong enough to to start a nonprofit. I’m not going to green peace or I’m probably not saving any whales, you know, or, or golfing. I won’t intentionally hurt them, but I, this is, this is my contribution to the world. I, I firmly believe it right through education.
Lara Spiers (03:52):
So that, that is what drives me. And and now this year I’m in a different role, I’m vice principal at a, a high school. And I see that as an extension, that’s the reason I wanted to move out of the classroom and into, you know, this sphere was really to exert that influence whatever positive kind of change or that I could possibly bring to as many kids as possible. Right. So onwards and upwards. I mean to, if you’ve got it, you gotta give it. Yeah, no it’s talent, everyone. It’s so true. That’s, that’s the name of the game?
Sam Demma (04:27):
What, what sparked the desire to teach though when you were in that moment, holding both acceptance letters, bring back, you know, if it wasn’t, if it wasn’t law, how come it wasn’t something totally outside of teaching? Like why a teacher specifically?
Lara Spiers (04:43):
Well, because that’s the best way to change the world. Mm. The best way to change the world is to, is to educate the youth. And the best way to enact positive social change is to make sure that those values are transmitted through the next generation. So parenting is one of the most important jobs that they is one of the hardest and one of the most important. Yeah. And and you’ll know that one day, you know, I hope and and then teaching teaching is the next year in local parentis. You’re, you’re the parent substitute for those children. And even if you’re a teenager, you’re still a child, right. Sorry, sorry. I left true. And you know, it’s a huge responsibility, but with great, you know, work with great effort comes great reward. And the reward for me is like, even the fact that I’m sitting here today, having this chat with you, right. I didn’t I’m not taking, you know, credit for your goodness and your, you know, greatness, but I was a part of your story. And I think that that’s quite something, you know.
Sam Demma (05:44):
True story. Yeah. It’s and, and you’re a part of student stories who you might even never hear from again. And they could have had a hu you know, you could have had a huge impact on them. I find it really funny, but I find it makes sense that when I reach out to educators and I ask them to come on the show, I always get a couple of responses, you know, first being, no, why do you wanna talk to me? And, and second, usually being, I don’t wanna talk about myself. And, and I realize that like every educator says it, but it’s because the work that they do day in and day out to them becomes so natural, so normal. And they almost get this curse of knowledge where the things that they might have and possess that might be beneficial to others. They just think are normal things that everyone knows.
Lara Spiers (06:30):
That’s very astute, you know, that’s, that’s a, I, I think you’re absolutely right. The curse of knowledge well is being for sure. I mean, as Socrates said, right, the, the truly educated man knows that he knows nothing, nothing. Right? Like it, the more, you know, the more you become aware of how little, you know, right. And that’s also true that that comes from lifelong learning. That’s not, I don’t think that’s just for educators, but I personally am a strong advocate for you know, self improvement and betterment and learning and knowledge and all that good stuff. Right. Because that’s how that shapes your perspective of the world and other people. And that lets you kind of see the path that lays before you. Right. I think that’s the only way. Also why history is so important too, because you have to check out the trails that other people have left before you.
Lara Spiers (07:16):
Right. I think all, it all comes down to really humility. If you have the virtue of humility, then you have a sense that you’re just like a little bit, like you’re a piece you’re a grain of sand and it’s really mind blowing to think about it that way. Like, if you think about your experience in your life as being just a, you know, a, like such a small part of, of kind of the universe and you know, that’s the sort of thing I think about all the time. It’s like, and that’s probably why for me anyway, I don’t wanna talk about myself and well, I’m so great. You know, I’m a great teacher because you know, again, who that question, who am I right? Who am I? And I struggled with that a lot, actually the first few years of teaching, especially you know, this impart of knowledge, decider of grades, you know, like you’re, you know, you pass, you fail, you know, it’s like a gladiator, you know, like yeah.
Lara Spiers (08:11):
Thumbs up, thumbs down. But I’ve come to terms with that. Like I got the more you become familiar or accustomed to kind of being that helper. You stop seeing yourself as less of like a Sage, you know, Sage on the Sage and then your guide on the side. Yeah. That we can all be that we can all be a guide on the side. Right. And I’m not gonna have all the answers for you, certainly not today and not in the classroom either. Right. But that’s because the answers are all always, there are always more questions than answers and that’s part of the fun.
Sam Demma (08:44):
Tell me more about what helped you shift your mindset. Now I can tell you a crazy story right now. Like when I first started speaking in schools, I used to post a picture at every school saying, look at me how great I am speaking at a school. And you know, I turned 21 and I sat myself down and had like an honest reflection on my social, social media usage and the way I was putting myself out there. And I just decided, like, I don’t think this is helpful to the young people that I’m speaking to. Like they’re looking at these pictures, probably thinking, I don’t know if I can ever speak on a stage in front of 500 people that makes to me nervous. And, and so I stopped posting all that stuff. And in fact, I’ve been taking a social media break aside from Twitter, which a girl named Rachel helps me manage. And I haven’t posted anything in the past like five months. And I’m trying to make that shift from Sage on a stage to a guide. Right. The helpful guide. And I’m curious to know kind of what helped you make that shift when you were of starting your teaching journey?
Lara Spiers (09:37):
Well, it wasn’t, I think a lot of, a lot of it really came down to this board I had from other teachers, like the teachers have been there longer than me. I know you’ve spoken about Mr. Loud foot quite a lot in the past, right? Yeah. He was, I worked with him at St. Mary. He, we were in the same department, Mr. Eck. Miss Menardi, who’s still there Mr. Val Aaron shadow. Mr. V shadow. Mr. V. Well, these are the people that you know, I maybe it’s like this for other careers. I don’t know, but certainly in education it can be a lonely job, you know, you think you’re always kind of surrounded by by people or by kids, but it’s isolating, it’s very isolating. And I think a lot of people are struggling with that very much so now. But if you’re lucky, like I was you’ll have, excuse me, you’ll have the support of people that not only maybe have a lot more wisdom than you do, but are willing to share it. So that was what got me through definitely those first few years, like, you know, I’m thinking back now and it feels a lifetime ago to be honest, but I, I am constantly every step I take. I, I know that I’m doing so because of the support I had of those colleagues of mine.
Sam Demma (10:47):
Oh, that’s awesome. And for an educator who might be just starting to teach now, it might be a little, it’s scary. It might be a little different, but do you have any P of wisdom that you could share with someone who’s just starting now?
Lara Spiers (11:01):
No. No. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Like, it’s, it’s the ones that it’s those individuals and I think this is translatable across profession. If you act like, you know, everything or you’re, you’re kind of in that frame of mind where you have perfected your in ever you know, it’s, you’re the furthest thing from it. Yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s like an oxymoron right. Of sorts. It’s a, it’s that humility piece, but it’s also just reality that, you know, we are not going to be able to you know, invent fire alone. Right? Yeah. We’re not going to be able to move mountains alone. They can be moved even though it’s these tasks seem Herculean and impossible, but but they’re not in community, in you know, a consortium of individuals working together, figuring out best practices. Like the only thing I actually just wrote for our yearbook, I don’t wanna give too much away cuz you know, the kids are gonna read it in the fall. But I, I had to write like a message of support and kind of words of wisdom. And I, they probably were only asking for like a line.
Lara Spiers (12:10):
Yeah. I did actually wrote an essay about how the heck I’m gonna tell you about how you want to embrace failure, how to, you know, lower your expectations because the root of all disappointment in life comes from high expectations. And if you are constantly expecting perfection of yourself, of others, of the world, then you are inevitably invariably disappointed. And sometimes that disappointment is like a, a small word. Like sometimes you are traumatized, you’re, you’re torn, you’re you’re done. Right. Because you think, oh my gosh, things are not the way I thought they would be. My life is over my life is ruined. I stink, you know, I’ll never get it. Yeah. And it’s, it’s Ugh, awful. Like it’s a very normal human feeling it’s natural and it takes effort to really get yourself out of that mindset. But that’s something that I’ve been, I’ve strive driven to do you know, over the years.
Lara Spiers (13:05):
And I think when you teach religion and you know, I have a background in philosophy that helps, right. And a lot philosophy, you know, some people are, you’re feel philosophical or you’re not right. So I guess I am. But it, it really is about kind of reframing your expectations of, of who you are and what you want and how you’re gonna get there. And it doesn’t mean settling for less. It, it doesn’t mean like accepting that you’ll, you’ll be a failure. It means seeing that failure as actually just in the road. Right. And I, and I think, you know what I mean? Right. In terms of having a path and then the path changes. And does that mean because I’ve taken a different road, does that mean I’m never gonna get to my destination? Well, maybe you’ll get to a different destination, but I mean the car doesn’t stop moving. Yep. We don’t stop living and we don’t stop growing if we, if we choose to keep our mind open and we choose to keep learning.
Sam Demma (13:58):
No, it’s so true. And I think you’re right. Our, our expectations either make us happy or disappointed dependent on the result that occurs. I think what’s really cool. Is that in any specific scenario or situation, we get to choose what we perceive as real. Like we get to, we get to choose our perception, which, you know, Mike, Latford always used to say your perception is your reality. And we would, we all, didn’t get it back when we were in high school. And that can be dangerous though.
Lara Spiers (14:24):
Yeah. You have to, you have to watch with that. Right. Because what you’re talking about.
Sam Demma (14:28):
Oh, I totally, I totally agree.
Lara Spiers (14:31):
Right. Right. Cause certain, sometimes that can be used to twist in bad ways.
Sam Demma (14:34):
Lara Spiers (14:36):
Right. Just look to our neighbors in the south. Yep. And you know, we’ll say no more, cuz this is not a political podcast. Yeah. We’ll talk about another time. Very true perception, reality. Right. I can choose to see this 75 as, you know, a great mark or I can choose to see it as a disaster. Yeah. And I mean, there are students I talk to and, you know, always have as a teacher, but maybe even more so now as an admin students and parents who are devastated by receiving like an eight, like an 80, 85, you know, this is this won’t do, you know, and, and looking outward, looking like who to blame, what, what, how can I fix this? And that’s the sort of thing that you can’t really fix. Like, well, you can’t fix it. I can’t fix it for you them because it requires that shift from within.
Sam Demma (15:26):
Yeah. They have to change what they believe is success or yeah. You mean, yeah. So it’s so, so true. How do you manage to differentiate between expecting a lot out of a student that, you know, has a ton of potential and not being disappointed if they don’t fulfill it or if they, you know, over exceed? Like I know that there’s a difference there talking?
Lara Spiers (15:46):
About like my own children now at home, because I totally could translate there and even of ourselves, yeah. Right. That’s, that’s towing the line. It’s it’s a daily adjustment. It’s a minute by minute adjustment, to be honest, it’s not like you can find the formula of expectation versus reality and say, oh, there it is. I’m done. You know, I will live in bliss forever more. Days I think anyone, one who’s trying to do anything. Like I’ve never really been into sports, let’s say, but I, but I played the piano for many years. Like I took lessons for about 15 years and the musical, like I’ve never been as nervous as I had to be when I had to play the piano. Like if I had a concert or I had a competition, oh my goodness. Like still to this day, like that was just the, the height of nerves.
Lara Spiers (16:34):
And I imagine that that’s the case even for the most seasoned of professionals. Right. And and athletes and what have you, because those performances, you can practice a million times, right? Yeah. And you get better of course. Right. And you do become more seasoned, however, game time, never know, right. Like that it’s you win or you lose or you fall or you make it like it’s it’s not in our control. So I don’t think I have, I don’t think I, I manage my expectations perfectly all the time. Right. I think I’m constantly reevaluating. Like I tend to spend a lot of time reflecting and I think most teachers good teachers, they do are, they’re constantly reflecting on their practice, on their lessons. How did that go? The way I expected it to go, what will I adjust for next time?
Lara Spiers (17:24):
And the good thing about teaching is that you do to like, in a way you do kind of get to relive the experiences, right? Like yeah. Each master each year, you, you get kind of fresh starts, you know? And, and we get used to a new new school year and new classes, new kids. Right. And the good teachers, I think there are not just living the same year over and over and over. Like, I read a good quote one time and don’t ask me who it was. I don’t remember. But it was like, you could have 20 years of experience, but you could be reliving the same year, 20 times. Right. Are you really improving or are you recycling? Mm. Recycling is good, but not in this case. Right. Like, you know it’s important. It’s important to be reflective. And I tend to do that every single day. Whether I’m conscious of it or not, you know, I don’t necessarily journal. I know people journal and they love it. I think I would love it. But even if you just do it informally with yourself, right. How did that work out? Was that what I expected to happen? What could I change for next time and just honing your, your practice, right. Teaching practice, but like life practice, so true. And that’s, you know, that’s what we’re all doing. We’re all figuring it out. We’ve never lived this day before.
Sam Demma (18:42):
Yeah, no, it’s, it’s so true. When I first started speaking one of the, one of the first mentors I made his name’s Chris and he’s in his fifties and he’s been for 20 years, he told me, get yourself a notebook. And after every presentation you give, make three columns, the first one says add, if you, if you said something that you didn’t expect, you were gonna say, and the students loved it. And it was a really great point. You write it down to make sure you include it next time. Third second column said change. Maybe you worded something really poorly. And it was taken outta context. You have to, you know, readjust what you’re gonna say next time. And then the third column is remove if you, you know, crack a terrible joke and nobody laughs and you’re gonna take that out of the presentation. Yeah. And after doing the work a hundred times to a hundred different schools, by being proactive in reflecting and giving all feedback, the presentation looks totally different. And I would say it’s probably the same with, with teaching. I’m missing like every year or after each lesson, a teacher would sit down and kind of go through a similar exercise again.
Lara Spiers (19:41):
I would hope like this is what a good teacher would do. This is what a good practitioner would do. Just like a doctor, like the things, think of things that they call practice. Like that’s why I mentioned like earlier, right. Cuz you’re practicing and performing teachers are performing right. And practicing medicine. You’re practicing medicine. Yeah. Because there is no definitive static answer that will be a one size fits all or one, one cure. All right. It’s a constant re reimagining reinvigoration. You’re constantly learning. You’re going to seminars. You’re adapting based on demographics. You’re adapting based on economics. You’re adapting based on COVID. Yeah. You know, and who knew who thought we would have to adapt in the way that we have, like we’re all Gumby. Right. We’re all in.
Lara Spiers (20:30):
And that’s and that’s what we do. Like that’s called survival of the fittest, so to speak, it’s very Darwinian. Yeah. You know, but it’s, it’s, we’re evolving as we speak. I honestly do feel that way. Like it’s, it’s imperceptible of course. Right. But, but we have evolved as a society. And we only track that, you know, by looking back of course. Right. But I think in the last year we’ve had a huge leap in our advancement, in our evolution, in our technological advancement because of our our situation and our challenges. So that’s, that’s the bright side of of having, for having yourself kind of be in a situation that you didn’t really want. You know, like the like COVID and et cetera, but also working together with the people around you and, and finding your way through and seeing the, seeing the silver lining and the, the hope and the love of others. Yeah. And really the rise in solidarity.
Sam Demma (21:27):
Yeah. I think honestly there was a couple months where I felt super isolated and alone when COVID first hit, but I have to agree with you as it progressed, things have like totally changed. And again, if I was always looking at the negative sides of the, the issue, I would’ve always felt those emotions, but I started looking at the great things that were happening because of it. And I, I changed how I felt about it as well. Don’t get me wrong. It’s still crazy. And there’s so many, yeah. There’s so many struggles, you know.
Lara Spiers (21:57):
But just from, from a teacher’s perspective, like, you know, we we’ve advanced cuz cuz people are generally slow to change. Right. Institutions especially are slow to change. Right. Like look at the churches for instance. Right. And that’s what we like about them. Right. If institutions change too rapidly, then we would lose our grounding you know, in society. Right. We’d kind of fly off the, the planet. But this has forced, like I said, you know, that that evolution in thinking we’ve, we’ve been forced to reimagine our practices and it’s been like, like PD, do you know what PD like professional development? Yeah. It’s been like a year of PD for every day. All day. Everyone. Yeah. Like even those. So like I’m a nerd, right. I always like to learn and read and yeah. You know, kind of, oh, look what they’re doing over here, you know?
Lara Spiers (22:42):
But not everybody is, is that way. And I understand, but this has kind of thrusted upon us where I think across the board we’ve seen the, the highest kind of rates of, I, I don’t wanna, I’m hesitant to use the word improvement, but of change we’ll say change. Right. Innovation, innovation. Yeah, that’s right. That’s one of my favorite books for teachers is called the innovators mindset and it’s and it’s great. It’s by George Couros. Oh cool. And he’s got he’s got wonderful ideas about how to change cultures in the school and, and how to like adopt best practices and, and use the word out there. And that’s probably one of my greatest sources of inspiration of inspiration for my current job. Yeah.
Sam Demma (23:27):
Oh, that’s awesome. Yeah. Shout out. Maybe we get, we post the episode and maybe he’ll he’ll listen to it.
Lara Spiers (23:34):
Go. He has a podcast as well.
Sam Demma (23:36):
Oh, very cool. That’s awesome. On the topic of books and being a nerd, what are some other books or resources that you’ve read that have reshaped some of your thinking about how you’ve done your work or that you’ve pulled inspiration from?
Lara Spiers (23:50):
Okay, well just recently, I mean, I’ve read a few books over the summer. I read a book called fostering resilient learners, which was very inspiring in the sense of, you know, kind of seeing seeing people through the lens of trauma informed approach. And and that’s something I don’t think we all always think about as teachers, we tend to kind of, some of us can focus too much maybe on the curriculum itself, which is very important, however, not as important as the per the human being in front of you. So that’s my own, that’s my personal philosophy, which is backed up by, you know, science and and definitely, you know, from a mental wellness perspective. So trauma informed thinking I, I was reading a lot of information about culturally relevant pedo pedagogy. Geez, I’m getting tongue tied here.
Lara Spiers (24:38):
There’s a lot of words. Yes. Culturally relevant pedagogy, which is a relatively new field with critical race theory. And it’s again, reframing the narrative that we have been telling ourselves as, you know, me a, a white individual for, you know, an entire lifetime. Right. And it’s again, perspective taking right. It’s one of the, one of the most difficult things to do is to not have sympathy for others, but yet to actually have true empathy. And we use that word, like it gets used so much, right. Empathy empathize, but what it really means is, is quite difficult. Right. It’s quite difficult to actually see, you know, a scenario from another person’s perspective. And even when we try, we’re not actually going to do it, like there’s no way we will never match or mirror another person’s experience and history and feelings and sentiments. Right.
Lara Spiers (25:30):
Doesn’t mean that we don’t, that the endeavor is not necessary. Right. So the last book, the book that I read most recently over the summer that was along those lines was called white fragility. And it was like, it was so good. It was, have you read that book? I just started it. Oh, wonderful. Yeah. Well, there is a part cuz Sam, you know, we share the the Italian background, right? Yeah. There was one part there, especially that I found so actually practically useful because I’ve had you know, I grew up kind of sharing my my learning with my parents and I’m an only child. So, you know, I had nobody, I told my friend and what have you, but my parents were the prime depots for whatever I was learning in school that week. And so, you know, in university it’s like, don’t stop talking about philosophy all the time.
Lara Spiers (26:19):
We think you’re a psychologist, you know, because I would take psychology. Yeah. And then I became a teacher stop talking to me like, I’m one of your students you know, over the years and older Italian people, you know, generally have particular particular ideas and I don’t wanna stereotype them all. But you know, the older generation in general is, is not as attuned to 21st century social politics, right. Like, you know, as we are, that’s just the fact. So I’ve been, it’s been my mission to kind of move them along in the spectrum. Right. And yeah. Even use words like spectrum with, with regarding like, you know, sexuality and human experience and yeah. And racism. And my mother for years has insisted that you know, Italians faced a lot of racism, a lot of discrimination in the fifties and which they did. Right. But there’s a, there’s a part in the book that really frames that experience in the, in the, and compares it to anti-black racism of today in such a where it’s like, you know what guys? No, it’s not the same.
Sam Demma (27:26):
Yeah. It’s not, it’s not the same apples and oranges.
Lara Spiers (27:29):
Exactly. I mean, they’re both fruits, you know, let’s steal from my big fat Greek wedding now. Right. We’re both, but which I showed you in grade 10 religion, by the way. Yeah. I remember. But yeah, it’s not the same, so it’s, that’s okay. And it’s okay. Not to be sure. And it’s okay not to understand and it’s okay to ask for help and it’s okay to say, you know, I’m learning and it’s okay to make mistakes and it’s okay to, you know, move on from them. So yeah.
Sam Demma (27:55):
All those so good. So such a good, such a good lessons to take home.
Lara Spiers (28:01):
I’m cooling you. No, no, it’s, it’s not, not like that. It’s just it’s I think we should be always helping each other. Like, it doesn’t matter that, you know, the fact that I’m a teacher or the fact that I’m, whoever, you know, is, is helpful, I guess. Right. Because at least you can, you know, you know, to trust what the person is saying, right. If it’s like, they’re a P they have a PhD and, or they’re an expert in their field, but they don’t have all the answers.
Sam Demma (28:24):
No one does. No one does. I think it’s just important. I think it’s important that we all be like aunt. And this is an interesting analogy I heard, but there’s you probably know him, Jim Rowan. He’s like a he’s passed away now. He was one of the early mentors of like Tony Robbins. Who’s like all into like self-help and personal development. And he said, this analogy, Jen, one of his tapes, you know, he had tapes back in the day. This just outdates me a lot. But one of his young, I dunno.
Lara Spiers (28:54):
What are these tapes you speak of?
Sam Demma (28:55):
Yeah. In one of, in one of his tapes, he was talking about being like an aunt and he said, you know, and when an aunt is carrying a piece of food or doing a job, it doesn’t it. And stop. If you step in its way, it’ll just go around your shoe or it’ll find a new path. And I think like that’s important for anyone, whether you’re a teacher or any, any person working any job, it’s like, you know, you might, you might hit a brick wall and then you’re gonna have to find a different way around it, but don’t drop the food and just call it a day, you know, figure it out, find, find a different answer, ask somebody or help read another book, gain a different perspective.
Lara Spiers (29:30):
That’s one of the single most important pieces of advice. I think you can give people, read a book. Mm. Read, read, read, and make sure that you read a variety of sources. Yeah. Right. If you don’t wanna read a physical book, get a knee reader, I don’t care, but I need a book. You need, you need that knowledge. Right. That that’s the only way that’s literally the only way it’s like expecting to be a chef, but you don’t wanna touch food. Mm it’s not gonna happen. Yeah. Right. You need, you need the raw dough to make the pizza pie. You know, you, you need the information so that you know how to feel about certain things, what, what to adopt, what practices to adopt, what, what ideas to dismiss. Right. And we, we’re so quick, you know, ideas to teach world religions for a long time.
Lara Spiers (30:12):
And and also just, you know ethics, but we’re so quick to rely on our gut feeling and, and our gut can be useful, especially in an ethical sense. It can alert us if we have had the right experiences. And if we have had you know, the proper socialization, we’ll say it can alert us to dangerous situations and, you know, maybe wrong situations, but the only way to really know why or how, or to even sometimes know if what you’re feeling is correct, is, is that knowledge yes. You know? And I think it’s, I think we’re to, of like, we’re too quick to judge a lot of times, like that sounds trite, but, you know, and I don’t wanna start saying I blame social media, you know, but I kinda do. I, I blame, I blame a lot of our conveniences. I blame my cell phone for the reason why I don’t seem to be able to remember anyone’s phone number anymore. Right. My AI is getting a lot smarter than me and and then the robots are gonna win Sammy. And then what are you gonna do? Like we have to hold on to our humanness. Yeah. As long as, you know, as long as we can. And ultimately that just comes down to relationships and taking care of others and learning for of mothers.
Sam Demma (31:24):
I love it. If you could, if you could create a time that’s, if you could create a time machine, you know, using AI and travel back in time and speak to yourself the first year you started teaching, what would you say? Like, what would you tell your younger self based on what you know now? And I, you know, I know you have the mindset of you. I know, I know very little, but with.
Lara Spiers (31:46):
Or something, you know, why do I have to go back to Jesus? Right after I met with Jesus and said, what’s up, I would I’d go back to myself. And I would, I would warn myself that I was gonna get sick a lot cuz you know, jurors. But also I think just to trust myself and trust trust people and, and just really reiterate the, the fact that, you know, just because we don’t have the answers now doesn’t mean we’re not on the right path. And even if I didn’t know what the path was gonna be just to kind of follow, follow what I know is right. Make sure to treat other people well and and cultivate those relationships with the, with those that I had around me, you know, it took me a long time actually. Like when I, when I started, I was very hesitant, like I said to, to reach out right away.
Lara Spiers (32:34):
And I remember, you know, I, I was so focused on work, work work, and I had a VI, there was a vice principal at the time and his name is and he still is, he was a principal in our board. He is retired. His name is mark Lacey. And he conducted one of my first inter evaluations. Right. My teacher evaluation. And he was, he was impressed by my plan and he was impressed by what I did. And you know, here, I’m in my first year thinking that it’s garbage, you know, like, I don’t know, you know, I wasn’t always fold itself down and, and he said to me, he said, well, you know, you’re gonna be a, a leader in a school one day. And I think I giggled, you know, nervously like, oh, what do you mean? You know, I thought he was kind of putting up airs and but he was dead serious.
Lara Spiers (33:16):
And, and, and then I don’t remember the rest, but that line and his feedback that day has always stuck with me. And he’s also the one that when I the next year had to come and talk to me because I had been spending too much time in my portable, I had a portable. Right. And I would like have lunch in the portable and teach in the portable. And I was getting notes, like tunnel vision, right. About like, oh, I gotta do at the work time, et cetera, et cetera. And he said, you know, there’s more to teaching than teaching. I’m like, I don’t understand what do you mean? And I’m like, I’m just trying to do a good job. He’s like, no, no, that’s right. You are. But you have to also remember to, to step outta here, step out of this, like little Shelly and and head into this school and look around.
Lara Spiers (34:01):
Right. And to have a conversation with with other people and, and you know, get involved. And cause at that point, I don’t think I had even been involved in extracurriculars. And what have you, cause I’m naturally, I’m quite introverted, you know, as a general rule. And it was that conversation that really at first, like, no, no, no, I’m just, I’m gonna focus. I, you know, he doesn’t, I dunno, he’s got me mistaken with someone else, you know, and years later, oh my gosh, was he right? Like totally right. Yeah. Cause he knew he had the wisdom. Right. And he dropped it on me and it took me a bit to really appreciate it. And then it took Mr. Val, Karen, you know, to, to tap me and say, Hey, you know, there’s the group here that could use some help. You know, would you like to help?
Lara Spiers (34:46):
And you know, of course me saying, yes, cuz I was so flattered that he asked me, you know, and, and that group was the Alliance for compassion at St. Mary and and the rest was history. Right. And then it, it just became naturally it became my favorite part of work. That’s part of also the reason why I’m, I’m not in the classroom and why I’m here because that’s all I get to do that all the time. Now I get to work with, you know, other teachers and student groups and board level initiatives and like the equity steering committee and, you know, during the parent involvement committee and, and just trying to get our community as a whole to feel United, to feel connected and especially now, right. Have a little bit of grounding right. In, in some semblance of hope and love and you know, just spread the word.
Sam Demma (35:34):
Yeah. That that’s awesome. I love it. I love it. And if someone’s listening to this and at all inspired by the conversation or thought something, one of us said was interesting or something that you said was intriguing and they wanna learn more, what would be the best way for a fellow educator to reach out to you and maybe just have a conversation?
Lara Spiers (35:54):
That would be great. I personally, I love everything that you said Sammy. So why wouldn’t someone reach out? It’s firstname.lastname@example.org and that’s my email.
Sam Demma (36:11):
Lara, thank you so much for taking the time to come on the show. I appreciate it.
Lara Spiers (36:17):
It’s cool to see you again. Thanks for asking.
Sam Demma (36:17):
Yeah, I know this has been awesome. I’ll stay in touch and keep up with the great work.
Lara Spiers (36:21):
For sure. Good luck to you. You too. We’re very proud.
Sam Demma (36:23):
Thank you. 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 your self 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 wanna 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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