About Bob Kline
Bob Kline (@klinespeaks) is the Leadership teacher at Huron Heights Secondary School in Kitchener, Ontario. Currently, there are approximately 180 students in his school’s official student leadership program, with over 100 more in connected programs like Husky Pack, our orientation & mentorship crew. His students, known as the Huskies, have been recognized three times as having the ‘most school spirit’ at the Ontario Student Leadership Conference (OSLC)!
These days his cup is full, but he’s living the dream. In 2019, Bob was honoured as the Advisor of the Year. Today, he’s teaching Leadership all day every day and is also part of the coaching squad of the boy’s varsity hockey team. In his spare time, he’s an avid reader, runner, local hockey fan, camper, and proud uncle of two boys.
**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 on the high performing educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker Sam Demma. Today’s special guest, Bob Kline was someone that I met back in 2019 at a conference called the Ontario Student Leadership Conference, OSLC. He was awarded the advisor of the year. That’s when I first met him, started talking with him and having amazing conversations. And I’ve come to realize Bob is a one of a kind type of person. You only meet someone like Bob once a lifetime. He has such a huge heart and does such amazing work with the students at Huron Heights Secondary School, where he teaches Bob is a teacher, a leadership teacher in Kitchener at Huron Heights Secondary School here on Heights. There’s approximately 180 students and his student leadership program. He has over a hundred or more and connected programs like Husky pack, their orientation and mentorship crew, and the students at his school known as the Huskies have been recognized three times, it’s having the most school spirit at the conference.
Sam Demma (01:06):
He didn’t understand or imagine that one day he’d be a leadership teacher. But these days his cup is full he’s in his 17th year of teaching. And he says it’s an absolute dream to teach leadership all day long. He’s also a part of the coaching squad for his boys, varsity hockey team. And he’s been developing a partnership with the Polish academy of Canada that facilitates cultural exchanges between European and Canadian students. Professional life aside, you can find Bob reading, running, watching hockey, playing hockey, camping, and being a proud uncle of two boys. This is an interview packed with actionable advice. Enjoy this with Bob Kline, Bob, thank you so much for coming on the high-performing educators podcast. It’s an absolute pleasure to have you on here. I remember when I was sitting in OSLC back before COVID and you won the award for advisor of the year which was phenomenal back then. I didn’t know you well since then we’ve had dozens of conversations and I thought you’d be someone that needs to be on this interview to spread some optimism with fellow colleagues right now, and just some of your good energy with other educators. Can you please introduce yourself, share with the audience who you are and why you got into the work you do with young people today?
Bob Kline (02:24):
Sure. well, thanks Sam. It’s really great to join you on the podcast. I’m really excited. This is my first podcast ever. So, so yeah, like you said, I teach leadership. I teach in Kitchener, Ontario at an awesome school called Huron Heights. I’ve been teaching for about 18 years now. And the way I got into teaching was honestly like I used to teach swimming lessons to little kids when, when I was a teenager and I just loved working with kids. So I became an English teacher first. I taught English for about 15 years and I loved every day of it. And then I stumbled into this amazing, magical world of leadership. And now every day, all the time, all I do is teach leadership at Huron. And I think it’s every leadership teacher’s dream. So I guess I’m living the leadership life and the leadership dream right now. That’s awesome.
Sam Demma (03:26):
Can you define leadership? What, what is leadership? How do you define leadership on a shot at something you’re passionate about sharing?
Bob Kline (03:35):
Wow, so you’re, you’re starting with the big question a, well, I guess something that I always say to my students at the very start of a semester of leadership is you could go on Amazon and search for leadership books and literally you’ll get thousands upon thousands of possible books that you can read. And there’s different. There’s different angles that you can come at leadership from. And I guess the, the teaching of leadership is, is a really, it’s a personal endeavor for all of us who are in this line of work. So I guess for me, like the foundation of leadership is, is for me just teaching kids, how to be a decent human being everything that we do, whether it’s, whether it’s planning a semi-formal dance or doing bingo at lunchtime, all of our work together comes back to us being decent human beings with each other and creating an environment where, where kids can thrive, kids can be themselves and, and PE kids can enjoy it themselves.
Sam Demma (04:52):
Yeah, I think that’s a beautiful definition. And, you know, I talked to other educators, Jeff Gerber talks about the importance of relationship. There’s no leadership without relationships. Everyone I talked to has a very personal definition, which is why I was curious to know your own. And I think just creating, you know, a holistic humans, great people is such an important way to look at it. And I’m curious to know right now during COVID, it’s tougher than ever to continue to do the activities you want to do. How can you still live out that mission of creating awesome humans during a time like COVID-19?
Bob Kline (05:29):
Oh yeah. Ah that’s. That is, that is the, that’s the hot topic right now? Well, in my school, we’re in a unique position, Sam like we, we just had our fifth case of the virus in our school and, and it’s a, it’s a very, very challenging day to day environment. There’s, there’s a lot of stress and so on. The nature of what we do in leadership at high schools has really changed. I’ve been, I’ve been telling people that it’s a, it’s a paradigm shift in education, but it’s also a paradigm shift in student activities across north America and across the world. And it seems like all of us are trying to, to make our way through this situation and figure out what works and what doesn’t work. So for, for us, we, we haven’t been able to do events what, what we’ve done, our approaches we’ve, we’ve started off by just focusing on getting all the students into the building and getting everybody comfortable being in that place.
Bob Kline (06:43):
Again we’re starting to enroll some things this week, like we’re, we’re going back to a very traditional thing at my school. We’re doing, we’re doing door holding and we’re going to do greeters at the door and creating energy in a welcoming environment at the, at the door, which is kind of a, a back to basics thing for us. We’re doing a food drive so that we can give back to the communities. So, so those things are, I guess, things that we can do that, that bring us back to the basics in terms of kind of doing leadership and, and getting the student body through it. I think just talking to kids is, is critical. It seems like the most basic thing. But just having conversations with them and figuring out where they’re at what their hopes and dreams are and, and what they want to do. I think young people also have a lot of ideas for, for what we can do right now, and we really have to tap into that. So, so yeah, it’s a complex beast that we’re, we’re dealing with right now. Isn’t it?
Sam Demma (07:51):
Yeah. I was going to ask, tell me a story where maybe the school or yourself has tried something, you know, the saying, throw spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks have you experimented with anything just yet, or do you know if someone who’s given something a shot and it could have totally failed. But we can all learn from the mistake. I’m curious to know if any story comes to mind?
Bob Kline (08:17):
Well, I guess something specific to our school is I really feel right now, like, like we’re starting a little bit too late. I was, I was thinking about this and I’ve had a lot of conversations with staff in my building and this, the same conversation keeps happening. It’s nothing fun is happening right now. And what is leadership doing to create fun in the building? And I think a mistake that our, our, our leadership team made is that we, we waited a little bit too long to start doing. And I, I think it would have been okay to start some of our, some of our stuff a little sooner. So, so that’s one thing because what we’ve experienced is we, we’ve completely focused on safety and we’ve completely focused on procedure from the beginning, but the cases are still rising within our school.
Bob Kline (09:18):
So we, we probably could have, and should have done some, some fun stuff to build that community a little bit sooner. And I, I think it’s okay to look critically and think critically about, about yourself and what you’re doing. So, so that’s okay. It’s, it’s never too late to start. But just where we’re a little behind and starting in terms of like ideas and cool stuff that people are doing, there’s, there’s lots of stuff that is going on across Canada, where, where people are doing digital stuff. Something interesting though right now is that students are really craving the human stuff. They want to do the human stuff, and that’s where we have to find our way.
Sam Demma (10:06):
That’s awesome. What is the human stuff? Is, is this like giving back is it, is it just talking to people? What is the human stuff and how like, yeah, I want to know more.
Bob Kline (10:21):
Well first of all, like at a really basic level, we know that students want to be together physically and the ones who are in our building right now the ones who opted to do in-person classes, they opted to do that because they want to see their friends and they want to be with their friends. So that’s the big challenge is, is finding stuff that they can do where they can be together. So one thing that a really awesome teacher at my school did was for Terry Fox throughout September, she created this school-wide spreadsheet and you could take your class out for a walk. She, she mapped out a one kilometer loop on campus, and that ended up being the highlight of the day. Often with my leadership class was when we would take a break from our discussion and our reading and our watching Ted talks, and actually just went outside and just went for a one loop or, or a couple of loops on campus. And the kids could just talk and connect and have that free time. And what we started to see was a lot of classes caught on, and a lot of classes started to do that. And not only did it kind of benefit us in mind and body, but it also gave us a chance to learn a little bit about Terry Fox and participate in the spirit of Terry Fox. So, you know, simple human stuff like that, where it’s a safer environment outside is it is a really great, important thing to do.
Sam Demma (12:01):
That’s awesome. I love that. I know some schools are doing staggered, staggered, Terry Fox runs or walks, which sounds pretty similar, but that’s awesome. And anyone who’s listening, you know, I think it’s a matter of going back to the basics. Walking is basic opening the door and greeting people is basic. What are the basic things we can do to, to greet these kids and make them feel welcomed on the same topic of helping students feel more human and do human things. Do you have a story, Bob, maybe over the past 15, 10, 15 years that you’ve been teaching? I might be even low-balling it. I don’t know how long you’ve been a teacher for now. You look certainly good for if you have been doing it longer than that.
Bob Kline (12:47):
Oh my gosh.
Sam Demma (12:49):
Do you have a story that you can share of a student who’s been just deeply touched and impacted by leadership? And if it’s a story that’s very serious and private and you can change the student’s name to share it, but I want something that’s hardy and vulnerable because when we share a story like this, it reminds our fellow educators, why it’s so important to do the work we do, despite the challenges we’re faced with. It gives other educators hope and inspiration. And do you know of any stories? Does any story come to mind when I asked that question?
Bob Kline (13:22):
Oh, so many, so many, like, you know, Sam, like I know that after you speak kids come up to you and they come up to you and they say, I just have to tell you this. I just have to tell you what happened. And sometimes it’s like this big deep thing. And other times it’s this simple, awesome story. Right? And all of those things that can tell you are, are truly amazing and truly valuable. So same thing, like we’re blessed stay in this line of work. We’re blessed to, to have kids sharing, sharing back with us, how leadership’s impacted them. But one thing that that often comes to mind is, is a story about this student. I, I taught a few times and I coached him on the track team and cross country. His name is Noah and Noah. When, when he was going for his license, he told me that the only thing that he wanted to do, like the first thing he wanted to do when he got his license was drive to McDonald’s and he wanted to go by himself for a meal.
Bob Kline (14:29):
And he wanted to go in and sit in, McDonald’s have the meal and then drive home. Like that was his thing. It’s it sounds silly and fun, but that was his thing. So Noah, a few days after he got his license, he came up to me and he said, I have to tell you about what happened at McDonald’s. I said, okay, great. So Noah went, he drove by himself and went in and had his meal. And as he was coming out of McDonald’s, he passed a homeless guy and the homeless guy said, do you have any change? And Noah said, the thing that most of us say is, sorry, man, I use debit. I don’t have any cash. So Noah told me that he got to his car and he just felt like garbage for just passing this guy by. So he went back and he invited the man into McDonald’s and said, how about, how about I buy you a meal?
Bob Kline (15:27):
So they ended up sitting together in the McDonald’s for about an hour and just having a conversation about life and the man shared with Noah, where he had been and how he ended up homeless, how his life ended up that way. And Noah learned tremendous human lessons from, from just that snap decision that, that simple snap decision that he made and Noah really, really was a changed person. After that. He, he got into global development work. He, he, he joined a class at our school called outreach and traveled to South America to, to actually do some youth development on the ground internationally. And you know, Noah was just, he talked differently. He thought differently has his worldview changed from that situation? And all of that was from a simple act of what I call personal leadership. So you know, like that, that’s one of the biggest stories that stands out to me that I love to tell.
Sam Demma (16:36):
That’s an awesome, awesome story. What prompted that thinking in Noah? Do you think it was from leadership class or the years of teachers that he had? Was it a characteristic that was driven into him by the school? What prompted that selfless act in Noah?
Bob Kline (16:54):
Oh, man. I, I don’t know. It’s hard to know kind of what drives people to do what they do. And you know, I think like in leadership, it’s, it’s funny because it, it, it seems like sometimes leadership and school spirit is all about wearing your colors and doing the rah rah stuff. And, you know, Noah came to OSLC with us, the Ontario Student Leadership Conference, and he heard, he heard all the great speakers and maybe it was just the, the accumulation of all those positive messages that was just inside him that, you know, prompted him to do something good himself. I think I don’t know, Sam, like knowing, knowing about your story and, and how you guys founded PickWaste. I mean, it’s almost a very similar thing. It’s like this, this simple act of, of picking up garbage and just going about that ends up looking and feeling amazing when more and more people do it and, and it feels amazing for yourself. Right. I think that’s maybe what was going on inside Noah’s mind.
Sam Demma (18:11):
Oh, that’s awesome. I love that. I, I want to talk to Noah now.
Bob Kline (18:17):
I can connect you. We’re still connected. He’s finishing university and he’s applying for the police. He wants to be a police officer.
Sam Demma (18:26):
Very cool. That’s awesome. Well, Bob, if you could travel back in time to the first year you were a teacher and give yourself advice based off the wisdom you’ve gained teaching over the past, however many years you’ve been teaching. What advice would you give yourself? Because there might be an educator listening who is in their first year of education right now, and they’re kind of scrambling, they’re lacking hope. They’re not sure what to do or what they signed up for. What pieces of advice could you share from an educator’s perspective?
Bob Kline (19:04):
Well honestly, Sam, I would pass on the best piece of advice that was ever passed on to me. I heard this from a teacher who retired. He was a math teacher and just an awesome guy. And in his retirement speech, he said in this line of work, you have to have fun every day to survive and on so many levels, that means so many different things. But you know, in your first year, you’re, you’re worried about the details. You’re worried about doing, doing things properly. You want the students to like you let alone teaching them the content. But honestly, a lot of times we can just let go and have fun. Some of the best lessons happen when you let go of what you had planned that day. And you’re just with the students. So, you know, like I’m in my 18th year now and you know, 18 years ago, my very first job was, was in Brampton at a really big school called Turner Fenton Secondary School. And I had hard time in that job. I was an English teacher and I was teaching basic English to grade nine. I was in grade 12, so it was tough. I couldn’t even relate to my students. And I wish, I guess that’s what I would have told myself is just have fun with those kids. I would definitely redo that if I could.
Sam Demma (20:45):
Tell me a story where you had fun, I want to amplify the feeling right now for you and hopefully in the minds of other educators that are listening, just to bring some hope back about this school situation.
Bob Kline (20:58):
Holy cow, I’m having fun right now. Ooh man. I like a lot of the fun comes from discussion and we have big life, life chats. Cool. And I mean, that is a form of fun, but it’s also a way of getting, getting to know students deeper or more deeply and, and them getting to know you, their future.
Sam Demma (21:27):
How do you start like a, a life chat? Do you just open up a discussion? What does that look like in your class?
Bob Kline (21:35):
So, so one thing that I did was I created a Google form and put question categories almost like a, a trivia game or a board game. So I just had cut glories, like friendship, family, relationships, sports fun and random pandemic. So I had a list of kind of the questions on the Google form, where we’re just basically topics and the students generated random questions that they came up with that they think would be fun to talk about. So one of the questions yesterday was what’s a food that you always crave. And so what I did was I, the Google forms is awesome because it populates a spreadsheet. So I would sit there with a spreadsheet and then the kids would pick a category almost like you’re playing a board game. And then you’d pick a random question to just toss out there.
Bob Kline (22:40):
And there’s ways that you could go into the discussion. You can have them turn and talk first to someone around them. And then everybody has a chance to say something and then kind of discuss as a whole class and say, well, what were the fun things or what was, what were the big things that you heard? You could even have them like use them as writing prompts and have students write down their thoughts again, so that everybody is thinking about the question and then have them share. So you know, it’s, it’s one of those tested in true teaching strategies to get kids to share and talk, I guess.
Sam Demma (23:17):
That’s awesome. No, thanks for sharing. I kept digging cause I knew there’d be some great information coming out and I think that’s a really cool, unique way to engage your class in a conversation right now. And Google forms is free for anyone listening. And if anyone wants to reach out to you, Bob and bounce, some more ideas around, maybe even pick your brain on that specific idea, how can they reach out to you and let you know, one that this episode inspired them and two, to get some advice from you?
Bob Kline (23:45):
Yeah. I love connecting actually. One thing Sam that I think you’re noticing about leadership teachers across Canada, as you connect with us, we all follow each other and we all like we look at each other’s Instagram and Twitter feed to get ideas, which is the best way to become a better teacher. So I particularly love Instagram. My Instagram and Twitter handle is @klinespeaks. Yeah, I have a website with the same name, www.klinespeaks.ca, which I use for just a couple of different things. I always love connecting with, with anyone really to talk about leadership and life and so on.
Sam Demma (24:11):
Awesome. Cool, Bob, thanks so much for taking some time to chat. It’s been a pleasure and I really appreciate all the energy you brought on the show.
Bob Kline (24:43):
Thanks Sam. It’s great to be with you. And I wish you all the best.
Sam Demma (24:48):
Talk to him though. You have it full interview with my good friend and colleague Bob Kline. He’s packed with ideas, packed with information and just has the biggest heart. So if you’re on the edge about reaching out, stopping on the edge, make the jump. I promise you, Bob will be someone who will impress you and turn into a lifelong friend. Anyways, hope you enjoyed this episode. If you did consider leaving a rating and review on the podcast to more educators like yourself can find it. And if you have ideas, if you have actionable inspirational stories that you’d like to share, please shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, so we can get you on the podcast as well. Talk soon, all the best.
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