Amplifying Student Voice with Paul Bloomberg – Leading Better and Growing Faster with Joe and T.J.

Amplifying Student Voice with Paul Bloomberg – Leading Better and Growing Faster with Joe and T.J.

Our job is to make the learner’s thinking visible. ~ Paul Bloomberg 

About Paul Bloomberg

Dr. Paul Bloomberg is the Founder and CEO of The Core Collaborative Learning Network based in San Diego, CA, and New York City. The mission of the Core Collaborative Learning Network is to expand learner ownership and agency by building a culture of belonging and efficacy through collaborative inquiry. The Core Collaborative defines “learner” as ALL the people in a system who partner with students. The Core Collaborative strives to cultivate learners who embody empathy, open-mindedness, patience, and perseverance and who use their energy and expertise to make a positive impact in the world we share with others.

Dr. Bloomberg is the co-author of the best-selling book, Leading Impact Teams: Building a Culture of Efficacy, and a lead author of Peer Power! Unite, Learn and Prosper: Activate an Assessment Revolution through Mimi and Todd Press and a lead author on The EmpowerED Learner eToolkit. Paul has led multiple, successful school turn-around efforts and believes that public education must play a major role in deconstructing systems of oppression.

His new book, which we talk about in this episode, is called Amplify Learner Voice through Culturally Responsive and Sustaining Assessment

Paul served on the National Parents Union Board of Directors. The National Parents Union is a network of highly effective parent organizations and grassroots activists across the country that is united behind a set of common goals and principles to channel the power of parents.

Paul lives with his husband, Tony, in California. Alex and Taylor, Tony and Paul’s sons, are the inspiration for launching the Core Collaborative in 2014.

Paul starts with the concept of systems. He talks about how some schools are thriving more than others and what we need to do to re-think formative assessment through a cultural lens. 

What You’ll Find in this Podcast Episode with Paul Bloomberg 

Paul starts with a vital aspect of how all educators can effectively engage students, Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education (CRSE). This is about changing what we do to meet students’ needs through culturally responsive formative assessments. 

We dive into the conversation about assessments and the cross-section between traditional grading and equity. None of us can answer the question about why more schools aren’t moving to more culturally responsive grading? 

There is power in interviewing students. Listen to what can shock teachers into creating a different type of learner-focused environment. 

Don’t miss what Paul says about the textbook industry: “I can’t do it anymore” applied to cover all the concepts that we’re giving in our content areas. 

Paul mentions Dr. Allen Daly as his mentor. The social justice focus of his doctoral program left a mark that he uses in all of his work today. 

Paul talks about “active listening” and reflecting back on what people are saying and feeling as a super-tool for leadership, teaching, and for learning. 

Paul talked about wanting to learn how to be a restorative practitioner. His answer is heartfelt

  1. Reframe negative thinking 
  2. Wake up and be optimistic 
  3. Treat people with dignity

T.J. mentions the wisdom from Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg that links to #1 above. 

He talks about The Science of Happiness Podcast as a learning and growth strategy for himself. 

Paul answered the last question with something he learned from Omar Mercado: a trigger is your own responsibility, not that of others, even the people who trigger you. 

Let us know if there’s a guest who you want us to have on the show by leaving a comment below or by contacting us at And don’t miss our leadership content updates every week by subscribing to the site. 

We can’t wait to hear from you. 

Joe & T.J.

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FocusED is your educational leadership podcast where our mission is to dissect a particular focus for teachers and school leaders so that you can learn to lead better and grow faster in your school or district with more knowledge, better understanding, and clear direction on what to do next.

What Every School Leader Should Know About Public Relations with Dan Shortridge

What Every School Leader Should Know About Public Relations with Dan Shortridge

“Everywhere, all the time” is a misconception. Pick one or two channels and use them consistently. ~ Dan Shortridge 

What You Should Know About Dan

Dan Shortridge, author of DIY Public Relations, is a communications and marketing consultant and author with more than 20 years of experience in the trenches of local public relations and daily journalism. He’s led communications for a school district and state government agencies and has helped support small businesses and nonprofits. 

He holds a master’s of education in instructional design and a bachelor’s in business administration–marketing. Before moving into public service, he worked for 11 years as a reporter, editor, and designer at newspapers in Delaware, Maryland, and Ohio. 

A national award-winning reporter, he was part of a team that won a Sigma Delta Chi Award for Public Service Journalism from the Society of Professional Journalists, and was an Ochberg Fellow with the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. 

He’s also the co-author of three local-interest books about Delaware and Delmarva. He can be reached at

What You’ll Find in This Episode About Public Relations with Dan Shortridge 

Dan makes it clear that marketing is both a business function and a leadership function. It’s not a “nice-to-have thing” but rather a must-have. 

He talked about the many benefits of good marketing. He kicks us off with gems right from the start. 

Joe asked about how school leaders can get started, and Dan talks about your core story–what are the three top impressions that you want your audience to know about? 

Dan talks about the broad themes that leaders can think about as takeaways that they want for their audience and then the stories that go with those themes. 

Don’t miss what he says about knowing your audience and the wide variety of audiences that we have, including parents, students, community members, voters, politicians, union members, etc. He also reminds us that how we target each is vital since we can’t be everything to everybody.

Don’t get overwhelmed! Dan tells us that your communication plan only needs to start as a couple of pages. 

Want to know which platforms to use and which strategies help with public perception? Don’t miss the answer to this one. 

Dan’s Mantra is classic marketing: the most amount of people for the least amount of effort. 

What’s the plot and compelling narrative? Think about obstacles and challenges, characters, and resolutions.

Dan points us to Jesse Cole from the Savannah Bananas as someone to follow. Creative, unique, and different!

Don’t miss what he says about reading novels!

Dan wants to learn more about photography. Listen to what he says about the value of a photo and the gift his wife possesses.

Check out How I Built This, a podcast that Dan recommends. 

Dan used to think that a story needs a nice neat ending, but he realizes now that stories can be messy and unfinished. 


Let us know if there’s a guest who you want us to have on the show by leaving a comment below or by contacting us at And don’t miss our leadership content updates every week by subscribing on the site. 

We can’t wait to hear from you. 

Joe & T.J.

Disrupt the Status Quo: EmbraceYour Inner Rebel Educator for Greater Student Success with Tanya Sheckley

Disrupt the Status Quo: EmbraceYour Inner Rebel Educator for Greater Student Success with Tanya Sheckley

About Tanya Sheckley

Tanya Sheckley is the Founder and President of UP Academy, an elementary lab school that values innovation, empathy, and strength and incorporates a unique neuro-development program for children with physical disabilities. Tanya’s vision and mission show it’s possible to celebrate differences, challenge what’s broken in the American education system and that all children can receive a rigorous, well-rounded education. 

She is an edupreneur, author of Rebel Educator: Create Classrooms of Imagination and Impact, and host of the Rebel Educator podcast. She speaks frequently on the future of education and entrepreneurship. She is a rebel educator who works with new and existing schools to question the status quo and develop innovative student experiences through inclusion and project-based learning.

What You’ll Find in this Podcast Episode with Tanya Sheckley

From selling beer to educating children. Don’t miss Tanya’s journey to creating UP Academy. 

She opens up about her daughter’s education and her search for “other ways” of educating students with disabilities. 

We all have the one lesson that stands out in our own education, her diorama project sounds amazing!

Her journey in the creation of a school is inspiring. Tanya knew they had to forego many of the policies and procedures and focus on the family and child. A strictly student-centered experience. 

Tanya talks about shifts that schools need to make to revolutionize how we deliver education, especially to students with disabilities. 

A “rebel educator” pushes the status quo and asks questions like, why are we doing this? Who is getting the advantage, and is there a better way?

Don’t miss her juxtaposition of homework and creative play. 

Leading change is never easy and she tells us to start small with “activators.” And then others will become interested. 


Tanya looks to a women’s founders group on Facebook that has great questions for entrepreneurs. T.J. recalls the foundational stories that we curated for 7 Mindshifts for School Leaders

She recommends walking and running in the morning as a way to make sure that our minds don’t get sluggish. Move! 

Tanya wants to learn how to play the piano. So many of our guests care about the arts. 

Looking for a coach? She jokes that TheSchoolHouse302 is a great place to go! We appreciate that and you’ll want to hear what she says about coaching and how to find one. 

Listen to her change of heart about children, especially working with them. 


Books We Recommend Based on this Podcast with Tanya Sheckley 

Rebel Educator: Create Classrooms Where Impact and Imagination Meet by Tanya Sheckley

Let us know if there’s a guest who you want us to have on the show by leaving a comment below or by contacting us at And don’t miss our leadership content updates every week by subscribing on the site. 

We can’t wait to hear from you. 


Joe & T.J.

Amanda Holdsworth: Telling Your School’s Story #OneThingSeries

Amanda Holdsworth: Telling Your School’s Story #OneThingSeries

Stop trying to be everything to everyone. Know your area of expertise and stick to it. ~ Dr. Holdsworth 

About Amanda Holdsworth

Dr. Amanda Holdsworth, APR, is the founder of Holdsworth Communications, a PR and enrollment marketing agency in the education sector; the School Comms Lab, a membership community for school communicators; and Comms Mom, a global community for moms working in communications.

A former collegiate tennis and soccer player, Amanda earned a B.S.B.A. in Communications Management and Honors International Studies from Robert Morris University, and both a Master of Arts in Strategic Public Relations and a Doctor of Education in Organizational Change and Leadership from the University of Southern California.

Amanda’s work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, CNN Money, Fast Company, Forbes, Inc., and Parents Magazine, but her pride and joy is her family: her husband, Doug, a successful entrepreneur, and two daughters, Avery and Shelby.

What You’ll Find in this Podcast Episode with Amanda Holdsworth

Amanda has done PR work in higher education, private schools, and public schools. Her insight into marketing and branding your school is invaluable. Learn how “to cut through the noise.”

It’s all about telling the story of the people who work in the organization. Create connections by telling their story to the community. Don’t miss the Curt Schilling example. 

Too many PR agencies, schools, and districts still think that public relations are about sending out press releases…not true. 

She gives sage advice regarding how stories should tie the school to the community so that it matters to the interests of the local people. 

T.J. gravitated toward the concept of an “ideal customer avatar” and how the ICA drives the narrative. The people, the vision and mission, and the impact the school is making are all ICA drivers.

To develop your ideal customer avatar, we need to enumerate our audiences. Schools and districts have multiple audiences, all with different interests. 

  1. Who are we communicating to? 
  2. What are their interests? 
  3. Who can help us get the word out? 

Schools can’t have a one-sided relationship with local journalists. You’ll want to hear what Amanda says about supporting relationships with the press so that they know how to help when the time comes. 

Amanda talks about the trend in the ability to get a hold of the national press versus local organizations. 

Amanda tells us about a two-prong approach that she learned at USC–have a strategic PR plan and “brand ambassadors.”

Amanda connected us to Jeremy Tiers to study how higher education is attracting students. Check out @coachtiers.  

She talks about practicing gratitude as something that all leaders can do daily. Use this sentence stem: “I’m so lucky to be in a position to…”

She acknowledges that she has never seen this degree of negative reporting about schools, making gratitude even more important. 

Listen to why she wants to play the bass guitar.

Amanda has learned to stay in her lane. Schools and districts can learn to focus on what they do best and how we can communicate that. 

Don’t miss what she says about being afraid to be an entrepreneur and what she realized when she went out on her own. 

Amanda ends by saying that we should tell the stories of our teachers and staff. Who is the school nurse? What can we share about the bus driver? It’s a people business. Let’s tell their stories. 

Let us know if there’s a guest who you want us to have on the show by leaving a comment below or by contacting us at And don’t miss our leadership content updates every week by subscribing on the site. 

We can’t wait to hear from you. 

Joe & T.J.

Jonathan Alsheimer: Don’t Leave Supporting Your Teachers to Chance #OneThingSeries

Jonathan Alsheimer: Don’t Leave Supporting Your Teachers to Chance #OneThingSeries

Why can’t school be more like Disney World? ~ Jonathan Alsheimer 

About Jonathan Alsheimer

Jonathan Alsheimer is an unorthodox, energetic, and entertaining middle school teacher who refuses to live a life of limitations. Jonathan is often referred to as “my favorite teacher” by his students, and he’s the author of NEXT LEVEL TEACHING.

As a passionate educator and National Keynote Speaker, Jonathan Alsheimer presents limitless possibilities for teachers and the impact of an infectious classroom and school culture. NEXT LEVEL TEACHING is about every teacher bringing their unique flair to better their school every single day, always reaching for the NEXT LEVEL.

Jonathan taught at the world-renowned Fred Lynn Middle School, which was featured in two documentaries “Relentless” and “Relentless: Chasing Accreditation.” He has been featured as the teacher who forged a partnership with UFC Fighter and light-weight contender Paul Felder to bring the message that students should never give up, fighting for their education, and empowering them to believe in themselves, all principles that Jonathan promotes in his classroom.

As Jonathan always says, “Game-changing is not a cliche motto; it is a way of life…some talk about it while others live by it!”

What You’ll Find in this Podcast Episode with Jonathan Alsheimer

Jonathan starts out of the gate on fire! His energy is almost a superpower.

Listen to him dispel the misunderstanding about what it means to be a “next level teacher.” It’s not about perfection. 

Jonathan opened up about the stress that teachers feel and what school leaders can do about it. These are things leaders can do right away. 

When asked about protecting teachers from minutiae, Alsheimer talked about meaningless meetings that “kill the heart of the staff.” 

Don’t miss what Jonathan says about teachers’ time and what it takes to plan an awesome lesson. 

Jonathan talks about working together so we don’t all have to work harder. Let’s pool our resources and share more. Think about what this would mean for new teachers!

Jonathan gives administrators advice:

  1. Develop “lesson plans” for staff meetings.
  2. Reflect on the agenda items–are they critical?
  3. Does the meeting focus on learning, teacher development, and relationships?

Jonathan throws out a number of ideas to gamify the classroom and make it more fun for students. How can you use this in your classroom? 

Alsheimer mentions Dave Burgess (@burgessdave), Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy), Hamish Brewer (@brewerhm). Bottom line, go on Twitter. 

Teachers and leaders should see us smiling and having fun. If we want kids to be motivated to learn, we have to be motivated to teach and lead. 

You have to hear what Jonathan says about turning a worksheet into an activity. He literally cut it up and put it into paper bags to make it more fun and exciting for kids. 

Oh, Boy! Wait till you hear what he says about diving with sharks and our response as Delaware beach-goers. 

Jonathan talks about being tough on himself in a competitive way to get 1% better each day. He reflects on his “why” often, and that reflection makes a difference in his growth and perseverance.  

He thinks about what kids deserve, including his own, and that fuels his drive each day. 

He used to think that test grades matter; now he believes that growth is the bigger deal. 

Let us know if there’s a guest who you want us to have on the show by leaving a comment below or by contacting us at And don’t miss our leadership content updates every week by subscribing on the site. 

We can’t wait to hear from you. 

Joe & T.J.

Frederick White: The Labyrinth of Leadership #OneThingSeries

Frederick White: The Labyrinth of Leadership #OneThingSeries

Success is not established by winning all the time. ~ Frederick White 

About Frederick White

Dr. Frederick White is the COO of Digital PD 4 You, LLC and the author of

the book, The Skin You Are In: Colorism in the Black Community, the First (2020) and Second (2021) Edition. Frederick has served as a leader in the educational field for twenty-four years.

Dr. White has also spent the past fourteen years serving as an AVID staff development instructor. Dr. White obtained a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Trevecca University and currently serves as a principal of a middle school in Memphis-Shelby County Schools in Tennessee.

His newest book is The Labyrinth of Leadership: Navigating Your Way Through the Maze, which we talk about on the show along with so much more leadership insight for school leaders who are looking to lead better and grow faster. 

Follow Frederick on Twitter @fdwhite02 to get his bi-weekly Labyrinth of Leadership tips for school leaders.


What You’ll Find in this Podcast Episode with Frederick White

The Labyrinth of Leadership, as Fredrick explains it, is a solicitation of ideas from leaders around the country–folks with “skin in the game.” 

Don’t miss what Dr. White says about his personal take-away from the Labyrinth project. 

Listen to the language he uses, so important and grossly undervalued. 

Frederick talks about self-reflection as a universal need for leaders. It’s all about finding the time. 

Dr. White tells us about the importance of defining the “end product.” This part is profound. 

He says that the greatest leaders are the ones who are willing to continue to grow, regardless of how much they have achieved. 

Joe asks Frederick to explain one of his recent tweets about celebrating small wins. Every school leader needs to hear this. 

Dr. White talks about the difference between goal setting and dream chasing. This alone is worth the listen. Be a dream chaser!

You want to hear the part about failure being the struggle that we often need to grow. Frederick’s butterfly story is awesome. 

Frederick mentions both Principal Kafele and Todd Whitaker as inspiration. 

Check out The Principal Project

Advice from Dr. White: pause and go for a walk. Just taking the time to walk and observe is powerful for peace, self-reflection, and a solid reminder of what we want and need. 

Frederick is striving for the most perfect environment he can provide. His reflection about this is great. 

To continue to grow, Frederick starts by never settling. He looks to be present with his teachers to learn from them. He mentions writing and researching as things that force him to continue to grow. 

Books We Recommend Based on this Podcast with Frederick White 

What Great Principals Do Differently by Todd Whitaker 

Is My School Better Because oI Lead It by Baruti Kafele 

Let us know if there’s a guest who you want us to have on the show by leaving a comment below or by contacting us at And don’t miss our leadership content updates every week by subscribing on the site. 

We can’t wait to hear from you. 

Joe & T.J.

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