12 Sep Meet Our Team: Richard Frank
In this new blog series, we are interviewing members of the CT3 team about their background in education as well as the expertise that they each bring to their work with educators across the country.
Why did you want to become an educator and what is your background?
I became an educator to empower youth to live productive and fulfilling lives. I received my Bachelor of Arts in Political Economy from Tulane University, and went on to get my Masters in Elementary Education and Doctorate in Educational Leadership, Policy, and Organizations both from Vanderbilt University.
What was your first teaching experience like?
When I first tried to become a teacher, I couldn’t get a job due to a hiring freeze. I had to sub for months and almost gave up. One day, I walked into a classroom with no lesson plans where I was expected to just keep things together for an entire day – somewhere between baby- sitter and enforcer. Right when I was about to give up on teaching altogether, I got a position in a K-6 school as an ISS “teacher”. I was concerned, but this turned out to be an incredible learning experience where I was able to learn more about myself and what I needed to do to most effectively reach those students that teachers were finding were most challenging. I made so many mistakes, but I learned from them. Eventually, students were asking to come back to ISS, which was confusing to me at first. I was very firm with them while they were with me in ISS, but I realized it was how I treated them (which I now know as No-Nonsense Nurturer). I would remain firm while they were in the room, but would always talk to them and try to build relationships when we went on bathroom breaks and when I’d see them in the hallway, etc. I showed genuine interest in my students and they knew that I really was invested in them and my work as a member of staff in that school.
Do you have any regrets from your first few years of teaching that you wish you could do over?
My expectations were not high enough for the students I was serving. I was young, and my understanding of relationships was limited. I didn’t fully understand the type of relationship that was necessary to support both bringing out and demanding the best of students; the type of relationship founded in high academic expectations, critical care and unwavering expectations for all students. I don’t necessarily wish I could go back and do anything over again because all of my experiences are a part of my never-ending journey to grow my effectiveness as an educator.
What is your unique perspective when working with teachers, coaches, or principals?
My unique perspective comes from my experiences as a disengaged youth (I hated school as a K-12 student), parent and career educator.
What are you an ‘expert’ in besides CT3’s work?
My expertise lies in research and scholarship on effective schools; for example, what culturally responsive practices, elements of productive schools and instructional practices work in classrooms. I’m also obsessed with collecting records and honing my DJ skills.
What in your opinion is the most important aspect of school in order to best serve students?
First and foremost, the belief in student and self. When you look into the eyes of any student, you see brilliance. You see someone destined for greatness as a direct result of your unwavering belief in him or her and your capacity to create an environment where they can be successful.
What is your best advice for a first-year educator?
Find time for reflection and keep the mirror on yourself. It is critical to find time to recognize those behaviors and beliefs that support or get in the way of responding to students in a positive and constructive way. Without reflecting on your practices and acting on those reflections you are doomed to make the same mistakes over and over and will find that growth is slow to stagnant.
If you could only tell educators ONE thing about No-Nonsense Nurturer, what would it be?
Every student needs a champion; someone who not only nurtures the best in them but demands the best from them, and while No-Nonsense Nurturer is a way of being and not doing, it does provide a simple framework for building the type of life altering relationships all scholars deserve.
What’s been your proudest moment working with educators?
There was a teacher that I was coaching last year who was not bought in to Real Time Teacher Coaching. She was highly argumentative and I found myself struggling with her more than I have with others to influence her to adopt practices that I was highly confident would benefit her and her scholars greatly. Well, I saw her at an inservice earlier this year and she made a point to approach me, called over her principal and shared how resistant she had been but that the Real Time Teacher Coaching had “saved her life”. She went on to share how she was stuck in a place and had no idea that there was so much more she and her students could accomplish. We all need some type of affirmation from time to time and this was a great boost for me starting the new year.
Click here to read more about Richard and here to read his blog post Asking the Right Questions where he urges teachers to ask questions of their students that will provide them with greater insight into the types of answers their students are looking for.
Click here to read more about No-Nonsense Nurturer.