Season 5, Episode 15 of the FocusED School Leadership Podcast with Guest Patrice Bain

Season 5, Episode 15 of the FocusED School Leadership Podcast with Guest Patrice Bain

Powerful Teaching Techniques with Patrice Bain

This is Season 5, Episode 15 of FocusED, and it features our guest, Patrice Bain; we discuss powerful teaching techniques, brain science, action research, classroom instruction, school leadership…and much more.


Patrice Bain Brings a Tons of Experience to FocusED Listeners

Patrice M. Bain, Ed.S., is a veteran K–12 and university educator, speaker, and author. As a finalist for Illinois Teacher of the Year and a Fulbright Scholar in Europe, she has been featured in national and international podcasts, webinars, presentations, and popular press, including NOVA and Scientific American. 

In addition to Powerful Teaching, she also co-authored an essential practice guide for educators: Organizing Instruction and Study to Improve Student Learning, in collaboration with the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). 

Bain’s latest book A Parent’s Guide to Powerful Teaching reinforces the “Teaching Triangle” of student, parent, and teacher collaboration. Patrice was one of two U.S. teachers on the working task group: Neuromyths vs. Neurotruths, sponsored by (IES) and the National Commission of Educational Research (NCER). In addition, she was a contributor to the United Nations UNESCO ISEE (International Science and Evidence-based Education) Assessment, outlining the vision for world education by 2030.

FocusED Show Notes with Patrice Bain

Patrice started with the fact that it’s an exciting time in education because we know more now than ever before about the science of teaching, including the best ways for students to learn.

The four practices that Patrice brings forward from the research are as follows: retrieval practice, spacing, interleaving, and feedback-driven meta-cognition.

Don’t miss what she says about cognitive load—we can only absorb 4 to 7 pieces of information at a time.

She talks about high-stakes tests, the forgetting curve, and what we should do now that we’re armed with the science of teaching and learning.

Retrieval practice should be low-stakes or no-stakes, asking students to simply remember what they learned yesterday, for example.

Patrice says that we learn in three steps: encoding, storage, and retrieval. We miss the third step. Too often we focus on getting information to our students versus pulling information from them. 

Don’t miss what she says about action research. 

Books that Patrice Bain Mentions on FocusED

Make It Stick by Peter Brown, Henry Roediger, and Mark McDaniel

Related Content from TheSchoolHouse302

Our FocusED conversation with Mitch Weathers about executive functioning skills in the classroom.


Thanks for listening to FocusED, an educational leadership podcast brought to you by TheSchoolHouse302 @ where we publish free leadership content. Go to the site and subscribe, and you’ll get all of our content sent directly to your email. 


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. Let us know who you would like to hear from next. 

Season 5, Episode 14 of the FocusED School Leadership Podcast with Guest Shane Saeed

Season 5, Episode 14 of the FocusED School Leadership Podcast with Guest Shane Saeed

Be the Flame with Shane Saeed

This is Season 5, Episode 14 of FocusED, and it features our guest, Shane Saeed. In our wide-ranging conversation, we discuss community building, setting norms, the science of learning, coaching teachers…and much more.


Shane Saeed Brings a Tons of Experience to FocusED Listeners

Shane Saeed is a district instructional coach in Colorado who works with K-12 educators. Prior to coaching, Shane was an elementary teacher. Shane has earned a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus in literacy, a second master’s degree in School Leadership and is currently a doctoral candidate working on her degree in Executive Leadership with a focus on Educational Equity and will defend her research this spring. 

Shane’s passion is sharing instructional practices with educators near and far. She is a keynote speaker and facilitates professional development nationally on topics such as the science of learning, the science of reading, and relationship building using content from her book, Be the Flame, which outlines high-yield tangible strategies to cultivate strong positive relationships with all stakeholders. 

Shane was named one of the 20 Emerging Leaders for ASCD in 2022. Shane continues to work in public education in her Colorado school district and collaborates with teachers across the globe via social media. Follow Shane on X: @saeed_shane.

FocusED Show Notes with Shane Saeed

It takes a community to create a safe space for students to air their grievances. Only then can teachers change behaviors, working toward an even stronger community. ~ Shane Saeed

Shane talked about connecting with acclaimed author Jimmy Casas, our friend and author of Culturize. Jimmy encouraged Shane to write her book, and Be the Flame was born.

Shane says that we often think of community building as a beginning of the year activity, but the truth is that community building should be ongoing.

Dr. Saeed talked about modeling activity for team building at a staff meeting so that teachers know how to use that same strategy with students. The difference is that the staff should also discuss the benefits and outcomes of the strategy so that they understand the WHY.

Don’t miss what she says about team building and “first drafts” that can reinforce learning foundations and mindsets for both students and staff.

Shane emphasizes the use of community meetings. Here’s a stem to try with students: “This week I did well at…and next week I would like to do a better job with…”

Shane talked about setting norms (for classrooms and adult meetings); she referenced Learning By Doing by the DuFours.

We asked Shane to talk about the structure of her book, which is focused on takeaways. The book includes stories, reflection questions, and things to use for immediate implementation.

As always, we geeked about a bit on the science of learning, including Shane’s description of prior knowledge.

Joe asks Shane to talk about how she organizes her learning. Don’t miss what she says about going deep into multiple authors and works. She calls these “suites” for her learning intentions.

Shane calls for more belonging in schools; one way to do this is to ensure a knowledgeable teacher versus one who can implement a program. This reminded us of a Delaware professional learning experience called DTI. Check it out.

Dr. Saeed uses cognitive coaching as an instructional coach. The thinking has to be the responsibility of the educator, not just a coach or administrator dictating what to do in every case.

She talks about how exhausted teachers are, and the fact that they make more decisions than a brain surgeon, which means we need to streamline and structure.

Books/Resources that Shane Saeed Mentions on FocusED

Radical Candor by Kim Ball Scott

Mindset by Carol Dweck

Hidden Brain Podcast

Dare to Lead by Brene Brown

Good to Great by Jim Collins

Start with WHY by Simon Sinek

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram Kendi

Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain by Zarretta Hammond

Harnessing Technology for Deeper Learning by Scott McCloud 

Related Content from TheSchoolHouse302

Our interview with Meghan Lawson


Thanks for listening to FocusED, an educational leadership podcast brought to you by TheSchoolHouse302 @ where we publish free leadership content. Go to the site and subscribe, and you’ll get all of our content sent directly to your email. 


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. Let us know who you would like to hear from next. 

Season 5, Episode 13 of the FocusED School Leadership Podcast with Guest Kim Strobel

Season 5, Episode 13 of the FocusED School Leadership Podcast with Guest Kim Strobel

Teach Happy with Kim Strobel

This is Season 5, Episode 13 of FocusED, and it features our guest, Kim Strobel. Don’t miss our wide-ranging discussion about teaching happier, taking steps toward joy, brain science, positivity…and so much more.


Kim Strobel Brings a Tons of Experience to FocusED Listeners

Kim Strobel is a renowned motivational speaker and author of the forthcoming Teach Happy: Small Steps to Big Joy, sought after by schools, businesses, and organizations worldwide. With her powerful message about the impact of happiness on well-being and the pursuit of fulfillment, she traverses the globe, sharing her insights. 

Kim specializes in empowering educators and professionals, equipping them with the necessary tools and strategies to shift their mindsets, reclaim their happiness, reignite their passion, and lead with purpose.

Drawing from her extensive background as a teacher and curriculum director, Kim’s ultimate aim is to inspire her audience. Through her engaging talks, she presents captivating research, heartwarming anecdotes, and practical steps for achieving life-altering results.

In addition to her professional pursuits, Kim is a devoted animal rescuer, having rescued 187 dogs. She is also an avid runner and has an unwavering love for life.

FocusED Show Notes with Guest Kim Strobel

A positive brain is 30% more productive than a brain that is neutral or stressed. ~ Kim Strobel

Kim starts with the fact that happiness is scientifically based, regardless of what some people may think about the skill of developing happiness. 

She takes a step back and says that there are heavy feelings. She doesn’t promote toxic positivity, but we ought not to get stuck in the gutter, either. 

Don’t miss what she says about the power of happiness in helping us to become more engaged and creative. 

Kim isn’t shy about what we’re typically taught–put your head down and work hard, more hours, etc. That just doesn’t work if we want to be effective. 

Joe is candid about how stress can create rumination, and then we enter autopilot. He asks Kim to help with the mindset shift that many of us need. 

Kim describes parts of the brain, how they work, and the subconscious mind that’s driving thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors. 

She tells us that too many people are on cognitive overload. We have 70,000 thoughts a day, and 60% are negative. 

Our negative brains are what keep us safe as humans, but that’s mostly not necessary anymore. 

Kim reminds us that our minds and our thoughts are within our control. The number one strategy to rewire our neurofeedback is to use gratitude. Writing down 3 thoughts of gratitude per day can literally change your mind about yourself and the world. 

In our gratitude practice, which is a happiness habit, we must be specific–not just that we’re able to exercise but that we can run 30 miles per week. Be specific! 

Don’t miss what she says about habit stacking. 

She gives granular advice to teachers about how to build happiness habits with students in the classroom. 

Joe asks Kim to dive deeper into her meditation chair. The need for tradition and habit is critical to building success and mitigating decision fatigue. 

Kim opens up about her own trials with panic disorder and the suffering that she went through as she helped herself out of a dark state. 

We can blame anyone for anything, but at the end of the day, our happiness is our own responsibility. 

Kim describes the work ethic that many of us have as being gratifying because we’re drained after giving our all to something, but that’s not the best strategy for real happiness. 

She tells us that 50 hours of work leads to about 37 hours of productive time; and, 55 hours leads to 35 hours of productive time. Five more hours and we lose 3 that were potentially productive. 

Don’t miss what she says about putting our energy into the things that fuel us rather than the things that deplete us. 

Check out the gratitude tracker that Kim mentions during the show. 

Find Kim at

Books We Recommend Based on this Podcast with Kim Strobel

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

Before Happiness by Shawn Achor 

The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky 

Atomic Habits by James Clear 


Related Content from TheSchoolHouse302

Wendy Turner talks about adult SEL

Lainie Rowell talks about the power of gratitude.


Thanks for listening to FocusED, an educational leadership podcast brought to you by TheSchoolHouse302 @ where we publish free leadership content. Go to the site and subscribe, and you’ll get all of our content sent directly to your email. 


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. Let us know who you would like to hear from next. 

Season 5, Episode 12 of the FocusED School Leadership Podcast with Guest Wendy Turner

Season 5, Episode 12 of the FocusED School Leadership Podcast with Guest Wendy Turner

Social and Emotional Learning for Adults with Wendy Turner

This is Season 5, Episode 12 of FocusED, and it features our guest, Wendy Turner. Wendy talks to us about adult burn-out, SEL strategies to use on yourself, what leaders can do differently to support teachers…and much more.


Wendy Turner Brings a Tons of Experience to FocusED Listeners

Wendy Turner is an educator, author, and teacher-leader who is passionate about social-emotional learning. Wendy currently teaches third grade in Wilmington, DE, and works to build capacity in others around social-emotional learning practices in schools. 

She was the 2017 Delaware Teacher of the Year, a Presidential Excellence in Teaching Science awardee, an NEA Global Learning Fellow, an Outstanding STEM Educator in Delaware, a Delaware Compassion Champion, and served as the teacher leader on the Delaware State Board of Education for two years. 

Wendy now facilitates professional learning on social emotional learning both locally and nationally and regularly contributes to education blogs, articles, and podcasts. She is the author of Embracing Adult SEL, published by Routledge in 2023. You can follow Wendy on X: @mrswendymturner.

FocusED Show Notes with Wendy Turner

Judgment is an insufficient use of resources for living your life. ~ Wendy Turner

Wendy talks about her time in the classroom and how she needed a break before coming back to the classroom. When she left, she felt burnt out, which led her to write her book about adult SEL. One thing that matters about this book is that it’s a self-help book for us to implement SEL for ourselves as well as others. 

She tells us that she shares a lot of her personal life in the book to relate to readers who want to learn more about implementing SEL for themselves. 

Joe asks Wendy if she thinks she could not have burnt out so fast if she had SEL when she left education before coming back to her current position. Don’t miss what she says about having some pieces of the practices but not all. 

Don’t miss what Wendy says about having a “box of energy.” 

Wendy talks about using empathy to take action–she calls this Curious, Connected, and Active. You have to check this framework out in the book.

T.J. points out Chapter 3 from the book and the foundation of SEL being self-awareness. You have to hear how Wendy responds to this using information from that chapter on page 49. 

Wendy addresses the shame that we often feel and how to let it go, including our own pessimism about things that we can’t control. 

Don’t miss what she says about her core values and how she uses them to make quality decisions. 

Joe asks about barriers, roadblocks, etc, to do this work well. Wendy advises that it takes time–1 to 3 months. Try five new things in that time period. 

 Wendy talks about positively present as a place that she goes for inspiration. 

 She mentions a case study on SEL that she finds fascinating because it says that we need to start with adult SEL if we’re going to implement it successfully with our students. 

 Explicit, sustained, and embedded–these are the principles of implementing any professional learning that we want to stick, including SEL. 

 Wendy calls for SEL coaches in every school. 

 Joe asks Wendy to unpack SEL circles, which she does using CASEL practices. 

 Wendy says that teachers need practical, useful strategies that they can use right away. She talks about her next book, which is going to be an SEL playbook. Teachers know the what, but they need help with the how

 Preparing teachers to support social and emotional learning

 We are the only ones who can inform ourselves about ourselves. ~ Wendy Turner

 Even on our worst day, we can close with something positive. ~ Wendy Turner 

Books that Wendy Turner Mentions on FocusED

Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain by Zaretta Hammond


Related Content from TheSchoolHouse302

Our interview with Jeffrey Benson

Our interview with Tom Hoerr

Our interview with Lorea Martinez

Our interview with Morgane Michael 


Thanks for listening to FocusED, an educational leadership podcast brought to you by TheSchoolHouse302 @ where we publish free leadership content. Go to the site and subscribe, and you’ll get all of our content sent directly to your email. 


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. Let us know who you would like to hear from next. 

Riptides and School Leadership: Parallels in Power and Peril

Riptides and School Leadership: Parallels in Power and Peril

In this episode of the Leading Better and Growing Faster podcast for school leaders, Joe and T.J. discuss how school leaders can effectively manage the riptides found in everyday school leadership.

Imagine a calm beach day, preferably Savage Ditch, Delaware, where you can drive onto the beach and enjoy an incredible experience of sun and sand. Imagine this, though: you’re swimming close to shore in the refreshing water when, suddenly, a powerful current pulls you out to sea. This is the unnerving reality of an ocean riptide, and you can’t see them coming, and you can’t fight your way out of them. But did you know these hidden currents have a surprising parallel in the world of education? 

Educational leaders, much like beachgoers, can find themselves caught in unexpected challenges – swirling currents of change, budget constraints, or evolving student needs. Just like fighting a riptide is futile, these challenges demand a different strategy. 

In this podcast, you’ll learn about the following 3 Strategies to navigate the current seas of leadership: 

  1. Develop a culture of open communication
  2. Develop a culture of continuous improvement 
  3. Develop a culture of self-development

Don’t get swept away! Tune in and learn the secrets to leading through educational riptides.

This podcast offers actionable strategies for:

  • Building trust and a unified school community
  • Moving beyond the common notion that  “we’ve always done it this way”
  • Creating systems that reinforce a culture of continuous learning and growth
  • Leading by example through self-development

Our goal is to be able to help school leaders discover how to effectively navigate the educational riptides and chart a course for success in your school.

Joe & T.J. Are Now Booking Summer and Fall Events!

Space is limited, but dates are still available. If you’re ready to take your leadership skills to the next level or you want to build the capacity of the folks on your team, we have the solutions that you need. Our engaging keynotes and interactive leadership workshops are designed to equip you and your leaders with the tools and strategies you need to thrive in today’s complex and ever-changing educational environment. Contact us to learn more about our offerings and book a session for your organization today! 

A few ideas: 

  • Join one of our Mastermind groups
  • Book us for a keynote to kick off the year with your teachers
  • Allow us to train your school leaders on any number of our proven models 
  • Have us join your retreat to kick things up a notch with practical takeaways 
  • Bring us in virtually or in-person to talk about one of our books
  • Call us for something unique

We can’t wait to hear from you. 

Joe & T.J.

Navigating Educational Riptides: 3 Strategies for School Leaders

Navigating Educational Riptides: 3 Strategies for School Leaders

Effectively navigating the high seas of leadership requires a seasoned leader who can manage high-pressure situations where quick and decisive decision-making is necessary for the well-being of their schools. The savvy and wise leader is attuned to the school and navigates the waters like a seasoned captain. As we introduced Brian in a previous post, we indicated that he was in his third year; he was learning and feeling his impact and the undercurrents of his decisions. A critical first step in becoming a great leader is knowing how big the waves are that you’re making, good or bad. Yet, not all rough seas that we experience are generated or even within the control of the leader. Worse yet, many decisions cannot even be avoided, and if you struggle against them, the situation is likely to only get worse. 

The ocean has wicked currents that are essentially channels of water that can pull a person completely into deeper, dangerous conditions. In fact, the United States Lifesaving Association estimates that the annual number of deaths due to rip currents on our nation’s beaches exceeds 100. What’s fascinating about riptides is that they are commonly found near the shoreline, where people feel safe; yet, an unknowing or unassuming beachgoer can quickly find themselves getting pulled way out into the ocean. Rip currents account for over 80% of rescues performed by surf beach lifeguards and are referred to as “drowning machines.” And interestingly, you can’t fight your way out of a riptide; you have to swim with the current until you can find an exit. Tell that to someone who feels like they’re being pulled into shark-infested waters. Yikes! 

Our goal isn’t to be overly dramatic or suggest that leaders need to walk around with life rafts. First, that would be weird, and second, a liferaft isn’t a very useful item to have in a school. But, similar to the perils of ocean riptides, the educational challenges that we encounter have the potential to be detrimental, significantly diverting a leader and a school from their intended course.

Thinking back to Brian, as he becomes more perceptive and mindful of his decisions, he must also be aware of the riptides that seemingly come out of nowhere and can completely pull him and the school in the wrong direction. Consider for a moment the narrow definitions and measures used to account for student achievement and school success that are used by most communities. Very often, it is a one-sided equation–over-emphasis on standardized testing that casually overlooks many of the successes that a school is achieving. Not only does this taint the public’s perception of the school, but with enough pressure, it can force a school to abandon certain initiatives to double down on raising test scores.  

Principal Brian was, in fact, impacted by this very scenario. He initiated a robust student-centered activity period that emphasized social and cultural awareness, which included club meetings and student government to hold various student-led events. Unfortunately, this effort was viewed as nonessential and unimpactful toward student growth, causing the school to change course. The following semester, the activity periods were turned into study periods and test-prep sessions to improve student performance on standardized assessments.

Please don’t think we’re opposed to strong performance on assessments or efforts to ensure that our students are learning each and every day. Rather, it’s the single, convenient measures used to drive agendas and over-politicized change that fail to account for some of the incredible work being done by phenomenal educators. Phew! We said it. 

The problem with Brian’s scenario is that the riptide of test score accountability pulled the school away from something that had major benefits for young people. The riptide itself was probably unavoidable, but fighting against it was. As you’ll see in the following piece, Brian should have leaned into the riptide, held onto the activity period, and stayed the course for calmer waters. 

3 Strategies for Working Through the Riptide

We’ve already said it, but it’s worth repeating: you can’t fight rip currents. In a recent blog, we mentioned the game, Name that Riptide, as a means of pinpointing the factors that pose a threat to our success this year. We identified a few that are common:

  • budget constraints
  • external community pressures
  • policy changes
  • staff shortages 
  • lack of resources

We could list more, but you get the point and could probably add a few of your own. It’s vital to understand that these issues act as riptides; we need strategies to navigate them effectively rather than trying to avoid them and allow them to take us out to sea. This is crucial because leaders can survive any given rip as long as they have tools. That said, let’s look at the best 3 ways to navigate riptides as an educational leader. 

#1 — Open Communication

We know what you’re thinking: open communication is a very common recommendation that’s become trite. That said, it’s still true and unfortunately, many leaders still get it wrong. Don’t confuse more communication with better communication. We stress effective, open communication because misinformation or, worse yet, a lack of communication are two powerful riptides that can pull people in the wrong direction. 

How to build a culture of open communication:

  • Be transparent. Transparency is about sharing relevant information with key stakeholders. This sounds easy, but many school leaders struggle with transparency because it requires vulnerability and a willingness to share challenges, mistakes, and uncertainties. The last thing a leader wants to do is reveal information that could make them appear incompetent, undermining their authority. Done skillfully, though, the leader will build trust and unite the community. Brian could have been more transparent about the activity period’s benefits, working on adding the study sessions rather than replacing the school’s initiative. 

#2 — Continuous Improvement

Too often, the negative “we’ve done that before” mentality can create serious riptides within any organization, literally dividing a staff. If we’re being totally fair, the sentiment is not completely wrong, but that’s because the problems and challenges remain the same. They’re constant. We will be the first to admit that we cannot lilypad our way out of problems by jumping from solution to solution, hoping that one will work eventually. Rather than being so focused on solving problems, what we need is a culture that reinforces expectations for better performance and goal attainment. The key to successfully navigating riptides is to make incremental gains. We should be looking for progress, not a quick escape. 

How to build a culture of continuous improvement:

  • Establish clear feedback mechanisms. This strategy also supports and reinforces open communication because it requires transparency with things like updates on progress toward established goals. If you survey a bunch of staff members, they’ll likely reveal that they are in the dark on a number of issues. We know this is not intentional from school leaders, but in order for people to consistently support efforts, they have to be in the know. Clear feedback on progress will help everyone understand and accept necessary changes and small steps toward success. Imagine the difference had Brian been clear on what the activity period was doing for kids; no one would have argued that it wasn’t helpful. 

#3 — Self-Development

This is an often overlooked strategy because so much of professional learning is geared toward the system and not the individual. Although that’s important, a self-development mindset positions you to navigate the complexities of education more effectively. The relentless dedication to self-development can become the cornerstone of transformative leadership, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and success. We ought to be strong before the riptide hits, diminishing its natural strength against our own understanding of it and the power we have to navigate it. 

How to build a culture of self-development:

  • Lead by example. It’s imperative for leaders to showcase their commitment to self-improvement through visible actions. Share success stories of your own personal growth to inspire others. Let them know what you’re reading, the webinars you’re attending, the professional learning you’re embarking on, and, most importantly, why! Human connection is powerful and no more powerful than in education. Be a connector through vulnerability and a willingness to share your journey. Brian was probably steeped in the research about student connection with school beyond academics, even what that can do for test scores. He should have been open and adamant about it. 

You can’t avoid riptides, but you can navigate them effectively. Fight against them, and you’re doomed. Understand them, provide feedback as you experience them, communicate transparently about their impact, and you’re bound to find your way back to the safety of calmer waters in no time. 


As always, we want to hear from you. Please hit us with a like, a follow, a comment, or a share. It helps us, and it helps other readers, like you, to find our work so that more school leaders can lead better and grow faster. 

We can’t wait to hear from you. 

Joe & T.J.