by Heather M. F. Lyke and the Third Eye Education team
As Third Eye Education, our main focus is to be a network of learners that shares their own learning as a way to propel learning in others. Additionally, we aim to keep our resources free of fiscal barriers—and we do this as a nonprofit run by volunteers with no budget.
One learning we've been leaning into lately is an individual's need to find balance.
A commonality between those of us who make up the core team of Third Eye Education: we thrive on new challenges. While new challenges open doors to new learnings, create new conenctions, and allow for new collaborations—they can also lead imbalance.
Brené Brown's newest book, Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience, states:
"When we don’t understand how our emotions shape our thoughts and decisions, we become disembodied from our own experiences and disconnected from each other."
Wishing to not become disconnected—we value our readers, our listeners, our collaborators in learning far too much—it's high time we share something with you: our team is stressed. Stressed, and wanting to ensure we don't dip into the world of overwhelm.
To differentiate between stress and overwhelm, Brown shares stories from her time as a waitress, breaking down two common terms used in the service industry. At risk of oversimplifying, Brown explains:
"Stressed is being in the weeds. Overwhelmed is being blown."
We are in the weeds. No doubt, without question, 100%: the weeds are surrounding us.
In Atlas of the Heart, readers learn that,
"We feel stressed when we evaluate environmental demand as beyond our ability to cope successfully. This includes elements of unpredictablity, uncontollability, and feeling overloaded."
Here at Third Eye Education, we are no strangers to environmental demands, but lately they have been piling up more than ususal. For perspective, here is a glimpse:
All of this in addition to the stressors bought to all of us by 2022—the ongoing Covid pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the increase of mass shootings in the United States, and so on...
Of course, these are no different from what many have been juggling. Increasingly, many are tiptoping on the edge of overwhelm. Teacher strikes are on the rise,cost of living has been steadily climbing, and the ability to leave work at work has been deminishing. The great resignation—or what Ranjay Gulati is calling "The Great Rethink"—exists for a reason.
"Overwhelmed," Brown explains, is "an extreme level of stress;" one where the "emotional and/or cognitive intensity [gets] to the point of feeling unable to function." We here at Third Eye Education don't want to reach this tipping point. While we may be in the weeds, we stand tall: we maintain sight of the horizon.
For this reason, we are making some adjustments for the foreseeable future:
These are temporary adjustments. Thank you for your compassion as we as we cut a new path through our shifting realities.
We always want to be honest with our community, even when it means admiting something hard, like stuggle. It brings us back to Atlas of the Heart, where Brown shares that:
"Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage."
We hope you agree.
by Read Karsell
If you haven’t had to come out, you likely don’t know how overwhelming and all-consuming it is. From early middle school when I began to realize I wasn’t interested in women, being gay was all I was thinking about. It's paranoia. Every second you talk, you worry you don’t sound straight enough.
I didn’t say gay throughout high school; yet, a day didn’t go by when it was not on my mind. Throughout my education, I had to insist I was straight whenever I was asked if I was gay (which began in forth grade when I didn’t even know what gay was). In high school:
I’d arrive home, struggling daily, because I had this secret I was keeping from my family. I knew they'd be accepting of me, but every day until my coming out was riddled with guilt because I felt I owed it to them. To combat this, I started setting goals:
What ended up forcing my hand was a combination of my mom asking me directly and my self-made rule that I wouldn’t come out to my dad by bringing a boy home--and I held myself to it.
And, one more thing: my experience is privileged.
My Story is a Success Story
I am privileged to have been born into a family that, for whatever reason, is accepting of me. Having met a lot of queer people after coming out, my story is a lesser known one--one of total acceptance. Most people don’t get that. Many have family they have yet to tell, and/or have family that doesn’t acknowledge them. The family of a person very close to me “accepts and loves them unconditionally, will never accept that part of them.”
So, to sit and write this, know my story is true, but I share it sitting unscathed in the rose garden while so many in my community are being pricked by thorns.
My Character Helps Students Sketch their Own Character
I am was not the first closeted kid in that high school and I won’t be the last. This is and will always be true about every school in every town across every state in the U.S. no matter the laws that are in place. Every day I get to be the teacher I never had: the openly gay teacher
When I told my students I am gay at the start of the school year, I promise you, not one student was fazed. Each class had multiple faces light up, each class had one or two students who gasped with happiness, and one class had two students who exhaled a “YESSSSSSSS” and then turned to high fived each other.
In the immediate days following, those students talked to me more, they brought their significant others to class and hugged or kissed goodbye at my door, and they all showed a relaxedness in the space we had created. It confirmed to me that there are students who are looking for queer educators and it makes a difference to have them.
Help Students Draft Authentic Stories
No matter who you are as an educator, there are ways to support LGBTQIA+ students.
Support Character Interaction
Start by going to GSA (Gender and Sexuality Alliance) meetings.
This was a hurdle for me because I had actively avoided my own high school’s GSA (out of fear of being seen there and being outed), so doing so as an adult in the school I teach was still strangely difficult for me. I found it’s because I still have to come out to myself in different daily moments. The cause of that: internalized homophobia mashed with toxic masculinity. A horrendous cocktail that has a hold over the gay community and could be a doctoral thesis in and of itself.
My first GSA meeting was magical. It is a group of students in many different stages of their journey--some already aware of their sexuality and/or gender, some still trying to figure it out, and some trying to have a place where they can live as their true self for an hour a week.
This group of students--so special and unique--are the students you see in the halls every day, the students you have in the front seat of your class, and the students who just need an adult to say, I see you. I hear you. I am here for you.
Having attended regularly, I have been able to make connections with students who now stop by my room to check in with me. I can share my lived experiences with them, and they teach me about their lives and what they are discovering as they go along--so impressive and so empowering.
A GSA meeting from just a few weeks ago brings me to my next “here’s what you can do” point. A speaker came at one point and talked about a “Day of Silence'' as a day that the GSA could host at school. They explained it could be one of two things: (1) a day of silence for participating students to not talk as an act of solidarity with LGBTQIA+ people who live in silence everyday about who they are, or (2) a day to celebrate not being silent anymore and getting the word out through conversation and advocacy.
It was when the presenter referenced “people living in silence everyday about who they are and out of fear for their safety” that the student sitting next to me, a student I have in class, mumbled, “Relatable. That’s me everyday. Living in silence.”
Hearing that from my student, I was shocked; yet, not all. Living in silence wasn’t a new concept to my personal life, but it hurt that the student I teach everyday felt the need to be silent.
Add Some Dialogue
This student is in one of your classes too. You’ve walked by them in the hall many times, you teach their best friend currently, you’ve smiled at them as you chat with another teacher in their room. They are there: silent.
Consider writing a note.
I wrote that student a note the next morning. And it simply said,
Student, I heard what you said yesterday during GSA and I want you to know that I see you. I hear you. And when you do talk, know that I am listening and you are heard. When you’re ready and if you need, you can always talk to me or I can help you connect with someone you feel comfortable talking with.
Super simple. No pressure. But assuring. Then, at the end of class, in a tone and confidence that I never saw coming, the student came to me and assured me that if they ever needed, they would talk to me. Then I walked out just as casually as I had dropped the folded note on their desk at the start of class.
You can do that too! You don’t have to be queer or attend GSA, but you do have to listen. You have to pay attention to your students, and you’ll be able to find what to say. You also have to say gay--because gay ain’t going away.
Word Choice Matters
I want to touch on the other side of “Don’t say Gay”--straight isn’t going away either, and neither is being cisgender. The idea of “Don’t say Gay” enrages me because wedding rings won’t leave the ring fingers of all the people in man/woman relationships. The family photos won’t be taken off desks. The stories of my husband/wife, kids, and I went to the water park last weekend won’t go away. The straight and cisgender world will continue.
Meanwhile “Don’t say Gay,” as it is solely meant to, will eliminate a school community where students who aren’t checking the straight and cisgender, 1950’s expectations can be seen and heard.
Please, do say gay. Please, say they/them. Please, say Tanner even though the student roster says their name is Emma. Please, talk about what a healthy relationship looks like and how to get through the rough patches. Please, talk about sex instead of pretending abstenance works. Please, do say gay.
"Don't Say Gay" is a Fictional Tale
The “Don’t say Gay” bill is, at its core, impossible.
Even though it was hard to get the word out of my mouth, it was in my head every second of every day, from my bus rides home to conversations during math class. And, it’s on repeat in the minds of students today too.
Let’s acknowledge these silenced students, and the students who have made their voice heard too:
And, if none of this sits well with you, start with reading a book or watching a movie/tv show about the LGBTQIA+ experience: acquaint yourself with what your students are going through currently. If you’re feeling ready to take bigger steps forward, hang up a pride sign on your door and put an “I accept and support all” paragraph in your syllabi, write that student a note when you hear they need it, go attend a GSA meeting or start your own club.
And, of course, make sure to use the word gay.
by Julie Brock
I do not protest to understand the stock market. Even though Bloomberg runs in the background while my partner in this life checks Robinhood, I am happily ill equipped to invest your money. However, I do like metaphors. Lately I have found myself saying two phrases ad nauseum as they pertain to education:
University of YouTube
Is there an actual YouTube University? No. There is a channel named YouTube University, but no, there is not an actual YouTube University. However, think about how many times you have used YouTube to figure out how to change a headlight, remove a stripped screw, or build a retaining wall.
There is valuable information on social media platforms that people are using and gaining knowledge for free and it isn’t just for hobbies. As a college first-year, my son found his way into a physics class that was harder than any class he had previously experienced. He went to office hours, met with the graduate assistants, asked for resources, and at the end of the day, he found an educator on YouTube that explained the material in a way that worked with his learning style. In addition, he learned how to build a chicken coop to code, how to replace his graphics card, and numerous other helpful learnings that he continues to build up in his learning portfolio.
And I ask my higher ed colleagues:
This matters because students are opting out of higher education. According to the Minnesota Student Longitudinal Data Set (SLEDS), roughly 70% of Minnesota high school graduates who enroll in college settings persist in earning a Bachelor’s degree. The number drops for 2017 high school graduates, which makes sense: their 3rd year is the 2019-2020 academic year.
A disruption as large as a global pandemic will have serious consequences on college persistence, however, the trend was holding prior to COVID-19.
There are many variables playing into this scenario that were barriers to higher education well before COVID-19:
Internet learning is disrupting traditional education, and unless higher education institutions find a way to compete, their relevance is waning for rising generations. According to NPR, more students are opting to stay out of higher education because of rising costs of tuition and life. Without a clear return on investment, it is hard for people to see the value of attending college when, perhaps, they can learn the skills on the job or online.
Corner Market, no longer
Offering credit for prior learning is one way higher education can stay relevant in this ever-changing education market, in addition to helping students understand the importance of accredited programs as a solid investment of time and money. And both these are good return on investment arguments. Thinking that higher education has the corner market on knowledge and information is no longer relevant or real.
Crowdsourcing is not just for restaurant recommendations. People have eye witnesses across the globe at their fingertips. There is no need to rely on an educational institution for information or knowledge. Operating as such only perpetuates an antiquated system of learning. What higher education institutions do have to offer, if accredited, is the verification of learning for employers. However, with a 3% unemployment rate and more employers offering livable wages, it is tough to compete with going straight into the workforce.
Instead, how can higher education institutions create experiences that pull in the technological advances that students cannot get elsewhere? How about simulators, AI, and accredited degrees that can transfer and pay-off over time? How do we transform higher education as a conduit of information and knowledge that accentuates and builds on the skills students are learning elsewhere?
What can higher education do?
Overall, if higher education promotes themselves as a collaborative partner in the success and growth of individuals and the community, then higher education can find their place in this open and free education market.
by Phil Olson
The school year has been long and full of challenges. Sisyphean, even. Still, the fact that third quarter is almost over is genuinely surprising. How can an interminable year slip away so quickly? Part of the answer, at least for me, is the approach I’ve employed: I am planning as I go.
In the before times, I meticulously organized detailed units; I even published calendars that included daily plans for a month or two at a time. This year, my practice has been to sketch and communicate a broad overview at the beginning of the week, then plan specific experiences on a day-by-day basis. This is definitely more time consuming and fraught, and I don’t want to work in this mode forever, but--darn it!—it is effective. I remain close to the action, at the students’ level, and I can speed up and slowdown in response to their needs.
This practice has led to some important, much needed wins, and it has proven an especially powerful way to tackle the most challenging works I do with students. One example--Romeo and Juliet—(which I have been teaching since only men were allowed on stage), felt both meaningful and fresh.
I took a break from the Bard last year, as the idea of grappling with a challenging, middle-English play in distance-learning mode seemed too heavy. Teaching Shakespeare again this year has been part of the slow return to normalcy. A challenge, but a worthy, achievable one, and on our day-by-day journey, I made lots of adjustments.
Here’s what worked and why:
Act I: Two "Texts"
My freshpeople and I launched our Romeo and Juliet experience using minimally-annotated, paperback copies of the play. I knew I’d need to combine readings with various resources from my files (summaries, contextual pieces, vocabulary lists, and the like), but in doing so I discovered that the supplements became replacements. Not what I had wanted.
After doing some hunting I landed on an amazing alternative: the website myShakespeare. It offers an unabridged, “glossed” text (see below), as well as a host of useful tools linked in the margins, including modernizations of tough passages, explanations of allusions, identifications of literary techniques employed, and deep dives into “weird words.”
Additionally, and perhaps most awesomely, the site offers two different types of videos. In the first, actors perform important passages with minimal trappings; this foregrounds the actors’ talents, as they lean all the way into their characters and express Shakespeare’s lines in more than words. The second set of videos feature character interviews, in modern English, that weave in important aspects of scenes, explore the characters’ psychologies, and play up the humor.
For most of the play, students did their reading on screens using myShakespeare, while using the paperbacks to do things that screens make cumbersome, like revisiting passages during in-class discussions, citing lines within papers, and practicing dialogue.
Act II: Multiple Films
I remember studying Romeo and Juliet in my ninth-grade English class, and I can still picture my teacher stealthily making her way toward the TV (relatively tiny, and on a mobile cart, of course) to slide her folder in front of the screen at an especially interesting moment in Zeffirelli’s film version of Act 3, Scene 5 (the morning after the young lovers’ wedding night). Mayhem avoided. Master teacher!
Back then, watching the film was the “reward” for having endured the play, but today, I find it much more impactful to use several film versions and to weave them into the reading process. Films reinforce understanding, amplify interpretive possibilities, and invite critical thinking about all facets of a production. For contrast, I like to use three very different versions: The traditional Zeffirelli from 1968, the modern Luhrman from 1996, and a recording of a live, Broadway production directed by David Leveaux in 2014.
The “original” is corny, but retains its charm; the modernization is bold and over-the-top dramatic; and the Broadway version showcases the powers of live drama. In class, we had many passionate discussions about which production did things best, and most conversations led us back to the text.
Act III: Assessments
In addition to reading, discussing, journaling about, and watching the play, my students also engaged with several formal assessments, and my goal this year was to make them meaningful without being so heavy that they weighed down the experience (i.e. a paper about the history of iambic pentameter--here is a fun one—or a multiple choice test about who said what and when). Instead, my students made the most out of discussions; wrote short essays; did some not-so-serious sonneteering; and performed some passages in “table reading” fashion.
So, we made it through a Shakespearean play, despite the wintry-gray cloud that always hangs over quarter 3. Of course, along the way, we had some less-than-great days, several strategies fell flat, and not all students bought the notion of Shakespeare’s genius. The unit was messy and hard; teaching Shakespeare always is, it’s part of the experience. So, I’m taking the mess as a sign that we did it right, and concluding that, sometimes, improv beats a script.
by Stefanie Whitney
I am one of them.
And, the list goes on...
I’m only getting started, but for the sake of time and my increasing anxiety, I will stop for now.
If this list is all you know about me, then you have likely formed judgments, perhaps even drawn conclusions that all point to: I am or I am not “your kind of people”. Yet, I hope curiosity will encourage you to learn more.
As one of “them”, I have also found myself hustling to find my “us.”
In so many ways and to so many people, I am one of “them.”
And for the longest time, I have hustled to show the “us’s” that I’m one of the good “them’s.”
I am hustling to be one of the good ones.
Focusing on the hustle.
Martha Beck believes that “Integrity is the cure for unhappiness.” I’m currently reading The Way of Integrity by Beck, and she explores the concept of hustling. Brene Brown deserves credit as the first to help me reflect on my own hustle, and Beck manages to take my self-reflection to another level.
“Humans create elaborate cultures because we are intensely social beings, dependent on the goodwill of others from the moment we’re born. We also have an enormous capacity to absorb and replicate the behavior of people around us. From childhood, often without even noticing it, we learn exactly how to win approval and belonging in our particular cultural context…. In this rush to conform, we often end up overruling our genuine feelings–even intense ones…to please our cultures. The extent to which people will defy nature to serve culture can be truly horrifying.”
Literal and figurative battle lines are drawn because of people serving a culture–and, as Beck uncovers, often battle lines built not on our integrity but on our desire to fit in, to belong.
This quest to belong can be as catastrophic as a world war or as seemingly innocuous as cheering for your favorite hockey team. Seemingly is appropriate here because I cannot be the only one who has observed cheering turn into leering, then smearing, and finally–something much more sinister.
So–about our personal hustles. My personal understanding of both Brown’s and Beck’s explanations of the “hustle” is to do whatever it takes to be accepted into a culture of people, often at the expense of our own internal nature, or value systems. The definition is easy to accept. However, the extent to which we can get lost in the hustle is much harder to actualize, which is why Beck’s request of readers at the end of chapter two “admit–just to yourself–that some of your actions are designed to impress or fit in with other people” shriveled up my soul like a raisin.
"Us" vs. "Them": a living history
As a former member of the “not a math person” team, I feel a bit proud of my observation that division seems to be the most popular of the mathematical operations (I also feel flummoxed, sometimes defeated, and always overwhelmed by this reality). I’m not sure if test scores or climate surveys quantify this, but observational data suggests we have been and continue to be really good at division in this profession, in this state, in this country, in this world.
Continue ad nauseam.
Choosing to be an outsider
I know I am most motivated by curiosity and compassion for humans, animals, and the occasional inanimate object. Because of curiosity and compassion, I believe that crossing over to hang with “thems”, while initially unsettling, almost always ends in a feeling of warmth in my insides and a smile that is hard to wipe from my face.
There are rare moments when this type of rendezvous doesn’t result in blossoming warmth and shared smiles. Upon reflection, I realize in many of these failed moments that I was/am hustling–trying to cajole, convince, fit in, or defend myself–often through evasive jokes, ducking and weaving, and the occasional speed talking. I leave these conversations frustrated, short of breath, and filled with the sinking dread that my position as a “them” has been solidified.
In the spirit of selective attention, I’m struck by just how often even those with the best of intentions manage to divide us. Take this recent quote by Adam Grant:
“In cultures of arrogance, people get rewarded for expressing certainty and conviction. The most confident speaker claims the most status. In cultures of humility, people are applauded for admitting ignorance and asking questions. The most complex thinker earns the most respect.”
My initial reaction: “Yeah. See? It is them, not us.”
But I have been an active member of both cultures. I know where I feel most myself and how I show up among folk who inspire me rather than how I show up when inclined to bring my hustle. I prefer a culture of humility, but I need to frequently pause and consider how I am contributing and upholding this culture rather than perpetuating a culture where hustle and arrogance are the play calls.
Grant brings up an example that does not have to be about division. If I accept my role in the situation and choose to avoid deflection and blame, then I understand he is talking about being human—choosing arrogance or humility. We have choices. Timshel.
And while both of these things can be simultaneously true, what is more important is that I stop trying to convince anyone else of this reality and simply know my own truth.
Going forward, I am reminded that at the first sign of battle lines being drawn an opportunity exists to calmly step over the divide and ask questions. Listen and seek to understand. Fight the instinct to grab my ruler and Sharpie (it’s taking everything in me to not make a hurricane path reference here).
When we are in places where lines of division are being drawn, rather than choosing sides, I strive to be an outsider who starts asking more questions. (In this regard: I have been known, on rare occasions, to weaponize questions--sorry Socrates—so I find it helpful to check my tone of voice and know my authentic intent of asking before boldly striving for that outsider status.)
“Us vs. Them” only exists if we let it. We are the perpetrators of division and discord. We can either pick up the golden apple, pull out a sharp knife, and argue over who gets rewarded, or we can peel the superficial skin off to reveal the parts underneath where common ground exists. (Too much? Did that allusion get out of hand? Probably. Some will like it; some won’t. Oops, I did it again. Gah. Free Britney. Opportunities for division are everywhere.)
ideas by Tan Huynh and Katie Miller, compiled by Third Eye Education
In our recent podcast interview with Tan Huynh and local Minnesota expert on Multilingual Learners, Katie Miller, our conversation quickly cut to the core of education.
Throughout the conversation, Huynh and Miller share some strategies and resources that help them access that educational core quickly and effectively. Their ideas tended to fall into two categories: (1) leveraging what motivates and engages students and (2) modeling what it means to be a lifelong learner.
They come to school for each other
Huynh shares a realization he had early on in his instruction: students “do not come to school for you, they come to school for each other. So why don’t we use that as the framework for instruction?”
This takeaway inspired a sharing of ideas: a few favorite strategies and resources from Miller and Huynh that help all students, multilingual learners as well as all classroom learners. They both agree that by upping the amount of talk in our classrooms, and by teaching students structures and protocols for quality conversations, we give them a greater access to success.
Talk - Read - Talk - Write
A strategy coined by Nancy Motley, Huynh shares a favorite tool of his: the Talk-Read-Talk-Write protocal.
Learn about this tool here:
"Question, Signal, Stem, Share, Assess" was another tool shared by Huynh. This stratgy might be used in this way:
Katie Miller, along with the Third Eye Education podcasts hosts, share a love of visuals for enhancing understanding. Pairing words with pictures is a simple way to increase comprehension and language acquisition.
For each of these three strategies, students “can do this in their heritage community language too,” Huynh points out.
Learn beyond what you were taught
In our conversation, Huynh also highlights the importance of being continuous learners: we must set aside outdated practices to “Learn beyond what you were taught.”
A few resources Miller and Huynh shared, which may help you push outside of what you areadly know, are:
The book Cultivating Genious: An Equity Framework for Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy by Gholdy Muhammad is a resource Miller loves, and Huynh just interviewed Muhammad on his podcast last month. Find out more here:
Carol Salva's work was brought up by Huynh: specifically her book Boosting Achievement. Dig into Salva's resources here:
For more strategies and resources from Huynh and Miller, considering exploring some more of their works.
“When teachers approach students with a Can-do mindset, everything is possible.” 〰 Tan Huynh
Third Eye Education posts weekly articles focusing on education and innovation.