About Seth Goldsweig
Dr. Seth Goldsweig(@SGoldsweig) is the vice principal at The Leo Baeck Day School in Toronto. He has been in formal education for 17 years. His PhD is in educational leadership and believes that education is a tool to help students find their voice and change the world.
**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 to 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. Today’s guest is Dr. Seth Goldsweig. He is the vice principal of the Leo Baeck day school in Toronto. I had the pleasure of speaking in front of his entire student body last year before COVID 19. And it is my absolute pleasure to bring him back on the show here for you today.
Sam Demma (00:59):
He has been in formal education for 17 years, has a PhD in education leadership, and thinks that education is a tool, a very strong tool to help help students find their voice and change the world. The other day, he sent me an email telling me that one of his students at his school is working on building the reactor that’s in the middle of iron man’s chest, and he’s supporting this kid on his venture to learn about technology and bring this project together. And I’m sure in this interview, you will hear Dr. Seth’s energy just shine through in his responses. I hope you enjoy this, I’ll see you on the other side. Seth, thank you so much for coming on the high performing educators podcast. It’s a, it’s a pleasure to have you.
Dr.Seth Goldsweig (01:42):
You it’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you.
Sam Demma (01:45):
Can you share with the audience who you are and what got you into the work you do with young people today?
Dr.Seth Goldsweig (01:52):
Sure. My name is Seth gold. So I’m the vice principal at the Leo Baeck day school in Toronto. And I’ve been, this is my, I think 11th year as a vice principal. I started a school before, now is my eighth year at this school. And I’ve been in education for I think, 17 or 18 years. What got me into it. I mean, many things. Certainly, I love that feeling when when you see a kid starting to feel really good about him or herself and know you played a part in that, it’s just, it, it, it makes you feel warm all over. It’s just a really special feeling. You know, you had a part in, in someone’s success. There’s a selfish reason. I think kids are our future and and I’m only gonna be in this business until, until I retire and I wanna make sure we’re in, we’re in good shape for the future.
Dr.Seth Goldsweig (02:44):
So I, you know, I wanna make sure that they’re set up to succeed and then I think the most important one though Sam, is that kids are amazing. Can I tell you a short story about something that happened to me today? Absolutely. I hear that a student we’ll call him Ben. Ben is looking for me, right? Dr. G Dr. Goldsweig. Ben needs you. Okay. So I like, he’s not in my waiting for me in my office. I go, finally, I find him outside Ben, you know, what’s going on? Oh, I had to ask you something. I made a pinata for my friend; it’s her birthday. And I wanted to know if I could hang up my pinata and so she could hit it. So here I’m worried, like there’s some big, like major thing going on. He had a fight or he’s upset about something stress, but no it’s cuz he had made a pinata for his friend and they wanted to to set it up. It was her birthday, I think, hours making the pinata. It was, you know, it’s things like that, that happened every day that you’re surprised by their creativity and what they do. And it just, it makes it really special.
Sam Demma (03:44):
How do you cultivate a school culture where kids decide to make pinatas and ask you to help them and hang it up? I think that’s a very unique culture you’ve built. And I’m curious to know if you think there’s any specific traits of students that you’ve encouraged in them to have them doing things like that.
Dr.Seth Goldsweig (04:05):
I think it, listen, it all starts with the teachers. You know, if it’s happening in the classroom, that’s happening elsewhere to try to, you have to cultivate a, a love of experimentation and learning and, and inquiry. And, and if you are interested in what the kids have to share, then I think they’re gonna keep sharing. There, there’s a study that shows about creativity and the most creative people are kids in SK and then every year we get less and less and less creative. And and they did this by asking about paper clips, how many different things can you do with a paper clip? Mm. And adults will come up with a few things, you know, I can put paper in it. Maybe I can use it to like, hang my keys or something. Kids start asking, well, what color can it be?
Dr.Seth Goldsweig (04:51):
What’s it made out of, can it be different sizes? Can it, and so, so if you, if you use the kids imagination as a model and you just keep keep encouraging it, then I think you end up with a, a school culture that does that the other day, a kid comes up to me that Mr. Gold or Dr. Goldstein, I’m trying to figure out how to build an arc reactor from Ironman. And so he showed me, had this this whole diagram and he’s trying to figure out the technology for reactor every day. He says he gets a little closer. He shows me the updates and my job’s simple. I just have to listen and say, that’s amazing. Keep going. I can’t wait to hear the updates. So I think if you just show an interest in the kids, they’re gonna, they’re gonna thrive.
Sam Demma (05:35):
That’s awesome. And times are different right now with COVID we’ve been presented with unique challenges. What are some challenges that you’ve been faced with as a school that you’ve overcome and maybe even a mistake or two that you’ve made that you’ve learned from that you think is valuable to share?
Dr.Seth Goldsweig (05:52):
The the challenges are numerous. The mistakes are numerous and learning is numerous. You know, one of the, one of the challenges community is really big at my school. And we, we were very lucky for, for many, many years that you could physically come into contact with people and community physically, whether it’s having a school barbecue or, or having a new parent breakfast all of these things that, that make community possible. And so now we find ourselves in a situation where we still wanna build community, but everyone has to be physically separate. And so we’ve had to get creative in how we do that. So some of it is doing things online. Some of it is, you know, for our new parent breakfast, we had a as online zoom, but we still, we, we wanted the breakfast to be part of it.
Dr.Seth Goldsweig (06:38):
So when they dropped their kids off at school, we gave them boxed breakfast as a way of saying, you know, sit down, eat when we have our, our our orientation. Let’s try it, let’s try and make it special. You know buddies, we have a whole buddy program where big, our older kids are with our younger kids, which is really, I think, an important part of our school, that kids, when they go into grade four and they they suddenly become up till grade three, they’re the little buddies. And then at grade four, they become the big buddies. It’s a big, important moment for them. And how do you do that when you can’t have kids come into contact with each other? So we’re trying new things, we’re trying a pen pal system, or we might do an introduction over zoom, and then they start perhaps creating a, a Padlet together, which is an online program.
Dr.Seth Goldsweig (07:22):
So we have to look at it at new ways. You know, I think another challenge is we have some kids who are learning in class and some kids who are learning at home and how do you meet the needs of everyone at the same time the teacher are finding it very it’s time. It’s really hard to be there for, for so many different people. And I think so part of it is trying things and as I said, failing miserably, and I think that’s an important part of the learning process. Part of it is just getting used to the routine. And part of it is sort of giving teachers the space to, to know that I support them and that , you know, I can only ask you to try as hard as you can. I can’t ask more than that. And so if if they’re trying things and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, you know, hopefully they know that that that I, I, I support them.
Dr.Seth Goldsweig (08:12):
And as long as we just keep trying to, to meet everyone’s needs the best of our ability, then we’ll, we’ll get there. It’s not the same as being in person. But, but there’s a, a certain understanding the times are different. So there’s a flexibility that, that comes on, you know, and I think the, the other piece is, is the things that make school amazing outside of the classroom mm. Where it’s clubs, sports teams, field trips and, and those rethinking how we’re doing them. So we, we thought figured out a way to do student council. So that’s gonna come back. Some of our field trips now are virtual field trips. There’s a definite loss. You know, we have kids in grade eight who are, you know, ready to be the stars of the basketball team or the hockey team. And, and it’s a loss for them that, that they’re not able to do that. And, and so some things we don’t have answers for, we’ve not yet figured out how to create a basketball team to compete against other schools. But we’ll, we’ll keep working at it.
Sam Demma (09:04):
I had a conversation with another educator who said, maybe this year, we just do e-sport tournaments and play against other schools on PlayStation or Xbox. And I thought it was a pretty unique idea, but it, it takes out the physical aspect of it. And a kid who may have been dedicated to basketball’s whole life. Maybe I didn’t play video games, and isn’t a good online eSports gamer, but so many unique ideas. You have kids hanging pinatas and building iron man suits. What, what can you share in terms of a story? I’m sure you have dozens over the years. What, what can you share of a story where a student has been impacted by something you’ve done in the school? And maybe it’s totally changed their life and education. Oftentimes we don’t even know the impact we’re having until 10, 15 years down the line. And they write us this letter that we keep in a folder on our desk. Have you had a story like that of a student and you can change their name for the purpose of this podcast? The reason I’m asking you to share is because an educator might be listening, who’s a little burnt out and lacking hope. And I think it’s those stories that remind us why education is so important.
Dr.Seth Goldsweig (10:14):
So I had a unique opportunity. I’ve been out of the classroom for 10 years mm-hmm and last year we had a need for for some, for some teachers. So I went back into the classroom and I was speaking specifically when we went online. So from April, till the end of the year, I was teaching grade four classroom. So on top of it being the highlight of my day I got to connect with the students in, in in a different way that you don’t get to as an administrator, as an administrator, you’re sort of over, you know, you’re trying to oversee the whole school and making sure everyone’s safe and happy, but you don’t develop those personal relationships that you do if you’re the classroom teacher. So along the way we read, you know, I’ll share sort of a general thing, I think about the class, but then some feedback a student even gave to me that, that I think I didn’t even realize it had an impact.
Dr.Seth Goldsweig (11:02):
Hmm. So in terms of the overall students, you know, I, I, I want my kids to be creative and, and explore, and we had read a story and they had to show the ups and downs of the main character in a way that, that worked for them. So one of them is into baking and he created, created a sheet of brownies and then showed the ups and downs to the icing that he did on, on the brownies that he took pictures and presented. It was amazing. Another one we, we, we played around with a program called Flipgrid. And so she made a video where she did like spoken monologue. I, I gave 10 minutes as the time limit for the video and that wasn’t enough time. So she had to do two videos where she went through the whole story just spoken model.
Dr.Seth Goldsweig (11:45):
It was incredible. Other students, you know, created posters and, and other students like created these Lego cities to show what they did and they spent hours and hours on it. And so, you know, I hope that for all of my students, you know, I was able to help them find a love and education and, and finding their own voice in these projects and, and feeling that they put in their time and express themselves in the way that that that sort of meant to them. Now, I also had a policy where you, if students didn’t do great on the first try, I would give feedback and say, you know, here’s, here’s what I think you need to do to make it better. If you wanna do that, I’ll, I’ll take a look and give you a new grade. And I had one student who kept on doing that and she would say, you know, thanks.
Dr.Seth Goldsweig (12:27):
I really appreciate that. And, and this and that, and, and she would always take the work and the feedback and then send it back to me. And at the end of the year, she wrote me a letter and just said, you know I really appreciated the fact that you gave me a chance to do stuff second time and, and make it better. Mm. I felt like I learned and grew. And and that made, I don’t know, it made school better for me. So it’s not like an amazing life changing story, Sam, but, you know, I think that little thing kind of made my day. I didn’t even realize that that had an impact on her. And here she’s telling me that that one little policy I had was, was a very impactful experience for at.
Sam Demma (13:02):
School, small, consistent actions make the biggest changes. Right.
Dr.Seth Goldsweig (13:07):
Oh, I heard you say that. Absolutely.
Sam Demma (13:10):
That’s, that’s awesome. And when it comes to you know, bringing people in, you’ve been teaching now at the vice principal level for 11 years, how do you decide what specific types of messages to bring into your school, whether it’s in person or virtually you, you’re obviously very specific with the, the, the messages that you put in front of a young mind. So I’m curious to know there might be an educator listening who wants to understand that a little bit better, and maybe you have some insight to share?
Dr.Seth Goldsweig (13:39):
Well, in terms of messages that we bring. I guess, you know, we, it’s never something I decide on my own. We, we haven’t seen I would say one message that keeps coming back in terms of this current COVID time is we’ve been so overwhelmed by the resilience of the kids, the the commitment of the teachers and the appreciation of the parents. Mm. And so, you know, that that is a message that I want out there, you know, loud and, and clear like it, you know, there’s always, there’s always some issue here and there that we have to work through, but all in all, like the kids are just so happy to be back. They like every kid I’ve asked, do you like it better here with all the protocol for COVID or do you prefer to be at home, online learning every kid I speak to says that I’d rather be here wearing a mask so much better.
Dr.Seth Goldsweig (14:27):
Teachers come to me every day and say, can I try this? Can I try that this didn’t work. So let you know, maybe this will be better. They want it to be a good experience for the kids. They really wanna do everything they can to help make the, the experience better for the kids and, and the parents. I get emails on a daily basis that, that say we are beyond impressed with how hard you guys are working to try and make this possible. And so, you know, the appreciation also goes a long way. They’re in a way they’re sort of our clients, right. We’re trying to make them happy and give ’em a program that I am at a private school. So we’re trying to make a program that they feel good about that they’re happy about. So I, I guess that’s the main COVID message, again, the resilience of the kids, the commitment of the teachers and the appreciation of the parents.
Dr.Seth Goldsweig (15:14):
But then other messages, it has, it’s the same, whether it’s COVID or not, I mean, be a good person, be kind explore the world learn from differences. Have an open mind, have a growth mindset. Like the, these are all things that are common. Like we just want our kids in many, I, I, I say to teachers often, we’re trying to teach ourselves out of a job, right. We know we’ve done well. If we can set the stage where kids are, have the tools to learn on their own and that we’re on their side, maybe to guide them, but that really they’re driving the learning. And that takes a long to get there, but that that’s really our goal is to give kids the tools to, to learn.
Sam Demma (15:55):
Awesome. And if you could go back in time to your first year in education, but still know everything that you know now what pieces of advice would you share with yourself? There’s a bunch of educators listening who may just be getting into education, and this is their, or first year teaching. And they’re thinking to themselves, what the heck did I sign up for? what can you share with them through the years of, of, of accumulated wisdom through teaching?
Dr.Seth Goldsweig (16:24):
So if if you’re, if you see this as a job, you’re not in the right profession, mm-hmm, , it’s more than a job teaching the, the commitment you, you don’t go home, leave it behind you. And I’ve been reminded of that every day of my career. Mm-Hmm so that’s something that I, I would keep in mind and just, it would reinforce in me saying, well, you know, you’re doing the right thing, cuz you, you feel good about what you’re doing. Relationships, relationships, relationships, relationships, that is the most important thing in teaching have a in good curriculum is great. Having a cool technology that you use is great, but if you don’t have a relationship with the students, then it’s gonna be really hard to teach. And so that, that, that, that is sort of the, the main thing that, that drives everything else that I do.
Dr.Seth Goldsweig (17:09):
So how do you do that? You gotta get to know the kids, you gotta ask and learn new things about them. And I keep asking them questions about it. So that is certainly something I would, I would remind myself as a, as a new year teacher who has the wisdom of someone who’s been teaching for a long time. And then, you know, the final thing is every day is different. Mm. Every day is different. And that sometimes the different is great and sometimes the different is, is brutal. But you know, if one day’s bad then, well, probably the next day is gonna be great. And so just a, a reminder that you never, if you feel stuck, you know, you’re not gonna be stuck forever.
Sam Demma (17:45):
Yeah. You went as an educator, you’re the main character in that story that you shared in grade four and you’re gonna have ups and downs. Right. And that’s a good thing to remind yourself of often, Seth, this has been awesome. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat. If another educator is listening, wants to reach out to you, bounce some ideas around what is the best way for them to do so.
Dr.Seth Goldsweig (18:08):
What I, what do I do? Do I give you my email? Do I tell you the school that I’m at? Whatever, whatever works. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org I’d have be, you know, more than joy to bounce ideas. That’s that that’s education, right? We keep, we keep learning from one another. And so the more ideas we have, the, the more positive we can do. Awesome.
Sam Demma (18:39):
I look forward to hearing about the finished iron man suit and more birthday parties in your school. Keep up the great work and we’ll talk soon.
Dr.Seth Goldsweig (18:46):
Okay. Thanks, Sam, take care.
Sam Demma (18:48):
Awesome. 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. 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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