Assalamualaikum and welcome to another episode of the doctor will show where I interview Educators and entrepreneurs on levelling up each episode. Is it when someone who's dope? We just sit back and have a conversation of what it means to live your best life. Now. If this is your first time checking out the podcast, this is the mobile University, Village preneurs, and I'm your host. Dr. Weil. Today's guest is Michelle Waters. She is the founder of rethink Ela. We're going to be talking about the company were going to be talking about her journey into extra new Airship and learn more about what she's doing. I saw that. You yourself can gain some gyms that will help you and your journey and becoming a more profitable as foreign or educational consultant or whatever term that you are using. Some of those. Are we listening to a podcast Booka podcast iHeartRadio?
Simple, caskets from Spotify. Will you please introduce yourself, Michelle?
Ela and actually, this is pretty much my third career, now that now that I think about it. And so I work to blend being a writer and being an entrepreneur, it into working with students and helping them become better writers and and better readers. People got to where they are. I mean if you were to have asked me at 25, what I would be doing what I'm doing right now, I will tell you know, I so what did you think you'll be doing when you're growing up? And how did you find yourself in a k through 12 classroom? Some kids. I asked him. You know, what do you want to be? When you grow up in this? I have no idea and I told him don't worry about it. I got plenty of time, but we can work on figuring that out. Like I said though, I as the seven year old.
I love playing School. My sister hate it. Cuz I always wanted to be the teacher but then as I do and I discovered I'd like to draw and I then teachers told me I like to write and I had some teachers and really pushed me to be a writer. And so I thought you know, but let's try that plus I was really shy and quiet as a student as a young person and so I couldn't imagine myself standing in front of a classroom and, you know, talking to people all day long. And so I became a newspaper reporter and I did that for about 6 years or so. And then I had kids and realize that the 2 to 10 shift on the newspaper wasn't going to work with having young children at home. And so my husband was making good money and a job as a Communications technician. And so I was able to stay home with them and during that time. I realize that I love my son who was a-year-old. He wasn't afraid.
Good conversationalist. And so I started a web design and hosting company. Basically taught myself how to write HTML and CSS code and how to build, e-commerce sites. And I had friends online who are starting their own businesses selling baby products, and I thought you know, that's something that I could do I could help them and so I started that company and right and that for about almost 10 years and during that process. I realized that I kind of had two kinds of client that is sort of on a sliding scale went to two different kinds of clients. The one kind really knew how to communicate. Who were, they were until their story and convince other people to buy their products and they knew how they knew what they wanted and knew how to get what they wanted. And then I had other clients who would buy the software and hosting that I was offering and then it would just sit there and not asking you, what is it that you're wanting to do. How, how did you plan to get there? They really had.
Answers to those questions. They just kind of had this idea of I want to make more money and help support my family, but no, really no real story to get to that. And so
Well, I enjoyed running a home-based business, and using the technology gets. If you're kind of spent a lot of time by yourself. My kids were in schools at this time, and I remembered back when I was seven and wanting to be a teacher and really enjoying
Teaching people things and seeing people learn things and I especially enjoyed when you have clients did call or did message me and say, hey, I need help with this and you're teaching them how to do what they were wanting to do. And I thought, will you want? Maybe if I can get ahold of kids or people a little sooner or any help people figure out what they want to do and help people communicate then, they could be more successful. They might have this option, you know, to be an entrepreneur or to, at least communicate what they need to other people. And so, I decided to explore the possibility of becoming a teacher, and I talked to the pastor at my church. At the time, whose daughter was thinking about me, good teacher, and she was going to alternative certification route and I hadn't even heard of that before didn't even know that was an option. And so I started exploring that and took the test and started substitute teaching at my children's school to kind of see what it was like. And I also thought you know, what for
Go to hire me, if I have no classroom experience, whatsoever. And so through that experience. I was able to get some good references from classroom teachers and went and got my certification and my first job and that was 10 years ago. And having been a writer. I just made sense to me to start up a Blog. Got to write about my journey and try to connect with other people. And having been online for almost 10 years. It made sense to go to Twitter to Facebook, the other forms. As I looked for that sort of are those routes to find the other teachers out there and just kind of started building my own Community, figure out what in the world am I doing? Cuz it didn't take me long to figure out. Wow. This is a whole different world. I need help figuring out what I'm doing cuz otherwise it didn't sink or swim. I just took a nose dive in the deep in the deep end and I I need help and I didn't want to just
Destroy all the teachers in my building. So, like I said, I started looking for other people to connect with.
What was your journey like?
Becoming an edge for newer, right? As as the founder of rethink Ela. A house, all of that transpire.
Starting in 2012.
I was after my first year teaching and I felt like I really need to just try to Chronicle my journey, and I noticed that there were some sites were teachers were you know, selling lesson plans. So I was looking for ideas for my own classroom and looking for ideas to bring into my classroom. And then like I said, I like the right and I like riding so I started my website and started out as missing Waters English cuz there's pretty much about my journey. And so, I guess I learned more and figured out what I was doing and start developing my lesson plans and kind of
Synthesizing. All the information that I was speaking to try to become a good teacher, to figure out how to keep the kids in front of me, and figure out how to be the teacher that they needed. Then I started, you know, I started Teachers Pay Teachers account, and just started putting some things there. And again, still writing about it on my blog. And then I realized I wanted to do kind of what I did as a web designer and web host and that was partner with other teachers and I realize that it didn't need to be just about me and needed me about your what the kids needed it needed to be about the Partnerships. And so I didn't date mrs. Waters, English really would work and so as I partnered with other people putting Young Riders and I realized I needed to change the focus. And so that's why I changed it to rethink Ela because
I realize there's kind of
she sorts of teachers in an English teacher, who is more of a gatekeeper, their teaching curriculum. They
Are deciding your rich. Kids know what they're doing with the kids can pass the test, which can
Meet the standards and then there's teachers were like, okay. I'm going to meet you where you're at, and I'm going to pull you up. I'm going to nurture you. I'm going to guide you in your journey, wherever you're at and this teacher start with the kids. And that I know lots of English teachers that fall into both camps, but I also know that it's kind of easier and I know I started out the first Camp. I'm like, okay, I'm teaching English. I am an English teacher. Yeah. These are the standards and how can I make these kids to do what I think they need to do. And
So I had to start rethinking e l a r e thinking how I was teaching to be more students enter to start with them and what they need and what they're interested in you instead of bringing in while these are the books. I read, when I was in high school or these are the types of the Simon's I did, when I was in school, who were the kids in front of me. What did they want to read? What do they want to write about? And how can I make this about them? And so that's why I switched the name that was in about 2018 as a very beginning in 2018 and 2017 that I readjusted the focus change the name and started my own podcast, which kind of fell by the wayside little bit this last year, but I and a few hours, I actually have another interview with one of my writing Partners who,
Creative. He created his own Media company here in Oklahoma. And so I, he has given me or license rethink Ela to use some of the media that he created on our site and sell it as part of a unit. And so I made a profit sharing with him in order to kind of help support him, but also to help put him out there in front of your other teachers and help and other kids and in particular.
The Planeswalkers through your process, for teaching, students how to be better readers in and better writers.
One of the first things I do is survey them. And yeah, I do this using Google, Google forms, find out, you know, what their interests are. What, who are they as just human beings? As people. I know last year was a really rough year for me because I had a completely different group of kids who are. Very, they are very energetic and they know who they are, and they know they don't like to read it. They don't like the right. They're very outdoorsy athletic, people who, you know, they love going and fishing and they love riding their dirt bikes. And, you know, it's kind of a
Their interests are vastly diversion from mine. And so I had to figure out okay, who are these kids? What are they interested in? You know what? Yeah, I kind of just told you and what is available out there that they would enjoy reading. And so I found a couple of short stories that I thought they would like and put those in front of them and try to put them into some groups and discovered that they were in there. They were reading out loud to each other. They were talking about what they were reading. They were opinionated. They had things to say, they taught me some things about what they were reading that. I would have never known being not an outdoorsy person that I that I am and they got mean I've got them again this year and they still don't like reading. They're still like writing but they'll do it. And I know that they can and I had I had to build up their confidence and show them that yes, you can do this. I think part of their problem is that they have been raised in educational environment, which was
Very test focused. And so, you know, you're giving these tests you're told that there's a best answer and if you, you know, if you weren't
It doesn't your aunt your interest and you don't know anything about the passage that you read and you you're trying to figure out the answers and you're constantly told. No, that's not the right one and you don't get it and
Then you're just going to think me a, why why am I interested? Why am I doing this? And so I wanted to show them that they are and, you know, they've got what it takes to be good readers and it be good writers. We just need it. Like I said, put something in front of them that they enjoy, and that to show them that reading and writing is relevant to them right now. Because otherwise, what happens as we have students to grow up and being a literate, you know, you have people who are literate, they can read and write and people are illiterate who can't, but then you have those kids who are a literate and they'll sit there and tell you, I, I can read and write but I don't want to and I don't see any purpose in doing this, and that's where we need to start is seeing it for them to see the purpose in reading and writing right now in their lives for us in the future.
That's something you can't escape. Even when I speak to students on occasion. You not tell them that you're
usage of math.
Will be determined by your job, basically.
However, reading-writing you will never Escape, you could be the manager of KFC, you will be writing reports. You'll be reading reports. There was no, you'll be communicating with general managers owners excetera. So those are skills that as long as you live and are working, you will never Escape.
And you know, it is just a coming up on them, too.
Embrace it and I know sometimes it's easier for me to say say it than it is done. And I'm you know, I'm I'm just I'm an older dude.
On the outside, you know, but is one of those things to wear when I want I hear students who say things like that. I'm like, come on man. Come on, like, we got to do better. We got to do better when
You look at K through 12, or even your own classroom. And you see
This whole riding. Peace and I intend riding to me is it is it is impacted by what platform or you are going to be delivering your writing?
Much of what we have seen, you know, you said you started out as a reporter and a lot of things shifting online.
do you think K through 12 teachers, when they're teaching students, how to write, you know, beyond the
The essay format that they always teach people how to do which is important. But they they teach students how to actually write in a digital age where you are writing 18 on it on a platform that's different where you can have video in your peace. You can have links to other sites that to take readers of the places.
I'm sorry. Could you repeat the question again?
In terms of where we see writing has gone now, right? Not to say that newspapers aren't there, but things have changed dramatically because of online space, right? So do you think that
K through 12 teachers, cuz we're seeing it. And we're seeing this play out in a lot of journalism programs at the college level. Where
They're not teaching them how to write in the traditional way. In terms of your stuff is going to appear in print and they're teaching them of yourself is going to appear online and it has to
You have to communicate in this way because you will be online and the fact that video can be put in put into your riding that you can link your riding to another site or to another story that has changed journalism. Right? When you are looking at teaching, students, how to write. Do you think 8 through 12 teacher? Should take that into consideration? Absolutely, cuz I guarantee you, they're kids are already writing online right now. I mean, they're on Snapchat. They're on Instagram there on. Some of them are on Twitter and I'm sure there are other platforms. I'm not even aware of them that they are on and they're writing and they're putting content out there. So we need to be teaching them how to be good digital citizens to really manage what they're putting out there. We need to teach them how to leverage what they're putting out there, too.
Come support themselves or help promote me, do whatever I know content or whatever ideas that they are trying to put in front of other people or you know, figure out exactly what they are putting out there so they can make sure that they are putting what something good out there. So make sure that they're using the platforms for a good purpose. That's beneficial to society and beneficial to them as well. I know a lot of
I think a lot of kids really aren't paying attention to what messaging they're putting out there. They're just kind of retweeting or reposting things that they see that look interesting in there. Not really sitting down thinking, who am I and what image in my wanting to Project online and read stories about students that you know, had college offers rescinded stories about kids that have we all become famous and really bad way because of what they put online and I don't want to see that happen to any of my kids. And so like I said, they need to really think about who they are and who they are presenting themselves as I mean, they've got a lot of power in their hands up phone that they have right there, can do amazing things. Some I think a lot of kids do use it. Just as consumers. They don't realize that they can necessarily create as well. And so, I think we need to teach them. Not only had to be conscientious consumers, but also creators and how they can.
Use the tools that they have in their hand in order to do that. And so, I know when my class, when we were writing essays, I work to try to build and writing community. And so we use our high school uses Google Apps for Education. And so we use Google Docs and they write in Google Docs every day. They share with each other. You didn't commenting system is kind of hard when you're actually sitting in class. And they're sort of the jelly there, riding partner across the room, like you got to come into existence, write it in there, please so that you can learn to respond to that way. And then also we do if we end up going virtual suddenly like we probably are next week does we've got this major snow storm come in then they can still do their assignments and they can still talk to each other and then I tell them you I run a business and I right and so alright things and have my Beta readers or my riding partner is read over them and then they make comments in the and make suggestions in Google Docs.
Then I respond, we have conversations about what I've written and how I should change it or if it was really good or bad or whatever. And you know, I'll pull some of those things up and show them. This is how I use this as a grown-up and a part of my business. And yeah, I know some of you right now, don't think you want to write but you never know.
And then of course, I have kids who are interested in writing and I want them to have that process so that they can call it a lot. You know, last week. I had a student who had an essay for her history class that she wrote and sings like, hey, Miss Waters. Can you review this for me, please today? I've run it through grammarly, but I just need you to look at it. So she sent it to me. And I made some suggestions and made some comments to help her kind of state through a little further on what she had written and she got it back and send me a direct message on Instagram. Saying I got a 100, she was so excited. So, that's what I want. The kids to be able to do is use those digital tools that they have in their hands everywhere. They go know to leave a pencil in my class and I'll never see that kid again, but I guarantee you they leave their phone in there, back in 5 minutes. I forgot my phones.
And I mean, that's what they've got. That's the, that's the world. I live in. We need to teach them how to be good, digital citizens, and productive digital citizens with these tools. So let's get back to resync Ela when parents or teachers go to your side. What type of units are they going to bond?
I've busted my units, really focus on writing. I've got some grammar units that I've produced with a another teacher. She has several different levels. Everything for a peace, offering the vegetation and see her developed some ways to converse about Grandma and Grandpa and so it's a way to get them to see, you know, how even just a little, can cause the issues, you know, there's a new story out there from a few years ago, the Oxford, in particular resulted in
A different pain.
Results in a court case, you know, because that, wasn't put there or because it was that I can't remember off the top of my head. But because of it it changed the outcome of that court case. And so having those conversations with students and having them, see on this is how grammar is used in the real world. It's not just, you know, something that we used to torture kids.
It isn't, it's important and you need, you need to understand this. And so we have that unit. I have a explode, the moment, personal narrative, writing unit. The kids really get into these United. I use it at the beginning of the year because
Again, you have to start with where the kids are. So we should I start with. Let's write something about you. Let's pick that moment where something has happened and
And explode that really dig into and find all those details. All those sensory details to really help the person that's reading this, experience it with you and that unit was built around the writing of a former student. He sat in my classroom back, when he was a student wrote this essay about the best day ever. And I guess I was right about it a day. You'll never forget her a moment. You'll never forget. And so he wrote this one and what I noticed is that he started out with just them emotionally relevant details about this setting the classroom. He was then, and then he took us through the rest of the day, but not in a boring. You know, I'm going to write 1000 words that includes the carpet, was that what was going on in the most create contain characterization?
Yeah, this is amazing that he used this whole format in and just sitting in my classroom and probably about 5-10 minutes. And so I'm after he left my glasses after he was had turned eighteen. I asked her again. Anyway, I forgot online and so and don't the unit around it so that that piece of writing serves as a mentor text and then I include several lessons that kids can go through to help them explode, the moments of what they're writing about Android share that. So that somebody else reading at 10.
experience it with them, both on account of a imaginative level mentally, but emotionally
so all of us who work in education and Hell,
Been doing this pandemic teaching myself, as as an instructional technologist, had me working with teachers to sort of makes sense of what they're doing, where you look at your company and the work you're doing, how have you been able to address riding in a virtual environment?
Like I said, most of my writing and what I've done before being a teacher. It was all done virtually. I I, I was a home-based business. And so a lot of the people that I work with my clients, my independent contractors, all of those people. I most of them have never met in my life. I know people from online and so we were on message boards together. We were on Twitter together, Facebook etcetera. And you know, there's people in Michigan, people in California, people in Florida, people in Australia, and so I was already doing everything virtually before. It's actually kind of rare for me to be able to meet at a client because their local. I mean, that's not true. Now that I'm a teacher and I have a lot of colleagues but before that it was very rare for me to actually meet somebody locally. So I
I was there, it was pretty easy for me to try to Pivot and start putting everything in Google classroom, and using Camtasia to create videos. And I just using those tools that I already had to, just got to take everything that I was doing.
In person and putting it online. I do know that students kind of struggle, even with it being online, cuz they, they really sometimes just need somebody to Medical metaphorically. Hold their hand in order to coerce handle that, I've seen of been able to email with them. I have been in some Google meets with, in my call, the student, or two to talk to them, or walked in through the process. And there's been some times. I've had to create some videos to just sell them. Okay. This is what you need to do or this is the process that you use cuz a lot of what I'm teaching is just figuring out the a process that can be reused over and over again. Your kind of our project management process that works whether you're you're writing an essay or a poem or creating a like a book poster or a trailer or you doing something in a multimedia fashion.
Not about student agency and releasing the work of the students, giving them.
That that ownership. But what you will find a lot of times when you do that.
They they freeze up. They don't know what to do because they're used to the city and get worksheets.
And that's it. Yes. Yes. My very first year teaching I came in and I'm like, we're going to read and we're going to rides. And what do you want to read and write about? And we were writing your doing quick rides every single day and I think it was about February when one of my classes, just I think they just kind of revolted have to write and read so much and I mean they were just freaking out and then I got everybody settle down. And yeah, I was trying to figure out why in the world. Would they know?
Reacting this way. Yeah, I'm thinking back to when I was in school. And now I was in honors English classes and on the newspaper staff. And so I was writing all the time and, you know, I loved it but, you know, course not everybody's like that. And so I'm trying to figure out, you know, where in the world are they coming from? And finally, I was able to sit down with a student and asked that I actually have a group of students at some of my Riders. We had gone to a writing conference and I asked him know what's going on Wyatt. Why do people just freak out? When I ask them to read and write It's Not Unusual and they said well, you know when we are used to just doing worksheet grammar worksheets in the teacher would read to us and you know that they do once they got the questions at the end of the chapter or whatever answers than they were just kind of free to do whatever on their phones for the rest of the hour and I realize. So when I'm asking them to come up with their own ideas and to write their own words and hey, we're going to read the book even though, you know, I give them several options. I can read independently, they can read with a group.
Prayer partner, or they can listen to it because listening to the story counts as well. They just were completely floored and thought I was being unreasonable and who tried to torture them or something. And so, I really had to kind of work with them to help build their confidence. I know that there are teachers who look at students who just shut down when they're asked to do work. And they they think those students are lazy and I'm thinking of it. There's a lot of students out there that are actually just scared and it's easier to shut down and easier to take the F. Now, then you probably in some cases, have you failed before and it's like, okay. I'm just gonna have to live here because I can't do any better, but I discovered if I go to the students and say, Hey, you can, you know, what questions you have. What are you confused about? Yes, you were headed in the right direction. You're doing exactly what you need to do. And those are really good ideas. Write that down. Now, there's one kid in particular. I spent a lot of time saying that sounds great right that down.
What you do that and build them up and help them see that they are capable and when it start where there are and then just kind of push them then they do great and it's something that we kind of have got no gotten away from some of the feedback you have received from other teachers who have purchased your units. Let me pull that up.
Atlas get my new window over.
I've got some of it actually put on the website. So let's see here.
So on the social justice writing project that's kind of encouraging kids. They start out writing about how they've been single story based on the endangered single-story by no Mana DJ. So they start with that, they write about that. Encourage the, you know, either write about how they've been single Sport and confirm that into like an essay or a video or were they can write about how they see other people to travel and social justice interest and they can you see and whatever whatever interest them in. So I I built that around and Mentor, check written by again and former student who wrote about the different ways in which he had been single story in his life and it was a really good essay and it helped several of my other students see things that were happening right under their noses that they didn't even realize. I had one student. Say, why was Waters? I didn't even know that racism still happened. Like
There it is in, this is a kid that you know, and so that was able to try to open some eyes. And so I wanted to encourage this particular student to rights in to see that writing is valuable isn't something that he said that he wanted to do and so I wanted to believe him. So I built this unit and one teacher, Lisa Overby. Wrote after she taught this with her kids, incarcerated their middle and high school. Students aren't the boys are sharing personal stories and being much more mindful about how they interact with each other. The writing is a bit of a struggle for them. So they're doing it and doing the opportunity to share their thoughts.
Another lady named Susan.
Wright's. I'm happy to share my positive, experience with the social dresses, unit, during our online, learning practice. And what really resonated with my students with that was that there were so many things that help them forget about being sheltered in place and stead reminded them of the larger issues that they will have to recognize an opera Solutions as part of our society.
She also said some of the things that my 7th and 8th grade students as Parker Montessori practice. Have we have Blended age groups, specifically responded to as it's Jacqueline, Johnson video cuz he's black the respect as great as people who had seen or been exposed to similar situations to students who read books that connected the concept of racism, as well as the students who made political connections. I was surprised at their maturity and making connections and how they felt regarding our government leadership using slurs and getting away with it. She also wrote the students also related to the essay by George Womack. If you think racism doesn't exist, I think they were shocked by the reality of Jordans. Says, as well as the experiences of some of their classmates. My students respond with such compassion in a sense of Duty to ensure that discrimination due to any Factor needed to be stopped. Most of my feedback to the reminder than they were our agents and change and they were truly our feature. And she said, I can't say enough about how this unit brought us all together at a time when we are far apart, physically. I definitely planning on you.
And it again next year. That's just one of the units we find.
The other one, this is a more recent one. So it doesn't have quite as much feedback yet, but I'm working on that. I
What I love best about this narrative unit is that it includes the Essential Elements of Effective writing pedagogy quick. Rides Mentor, text writing in the process. As soon as everyone has a story to tell you and your kids to be in writing years. Now. What are you waiting for? And she's a she's a doctoral student at the University of Oklahoma. Somebody actually not one person and it worked with and for a few years. Now, since I asked frequently, no, for teachers, to provide feedback and I've gotten lots of good feedback on these units. In particular, had basically helping his sees value in writing and seeing how they can connect with each other and with other people through riding. And that's pretty much where it all comes down to me, is getting them to see the value in writing and reading right now before we go. What is your
advice to those Educators, who are
Thinking about taking what they're doing in the classroom and turning that into a business.
I would say.
I'm going to start out with the part of the Peace of just being a teacher being a classroom, teacher, whatever you're doing in your class and teacher, you need to. And this is coming from my nap of the process of things. I learned was to listen to the students, get to know your students. And so if you're thinking about heading in this direction, you need to examine your classroom practice and make sure that you are using pedagogical choices that Center the students. And then if you figure out how to do that and how to work with your students, in your golfing processes, the routines and materials.
Get them here. I'll get them beta-tested. You don't have to use that revision process. Use that review process and have other teachers. Look at it. And then
And it just get started. I know one thing that stopped a lot of students in a lot of teachers and other people as we will Perfection, like I'll just have to be exactly right. It doesn't have to be exactly right. Just get it out there. Get the word press.com get to log started and start writing about your journey. Take the materials that you created that of work. So well with your students, and just need to start getting them ready to go and formats that can be usable for other teachers. You have some other teachers, take a look at it. I recently discovered the value and having a teacher who's not in your area, you know, I got the math teacher for me, look at your stuff because they can often see things that you need to change from a medical perspective that anyone would notice of another English speaker looks at it, and you're kind of on the same page. So you have that done that process in place.
And then just make it happen because the nice thing about working virtually and doing everything digitally is if there's a mistake somewhere you can go back and change it. If it didn't work out quite like you wanted to the first time you can go back and do version 1.1 version 2.0 and send that out. And people will see that you're willing to respond to their feedback and they're more likely to trust you more and know you more and be more willing to work with you and you spend their money with you. If they know that you're responsible and that you provide excellent support. And so, you know, it's also about providing relief materials, that will help teachers be more successful in their classroom, but also being responsible to them just like I am responsible to my students.
Awesome. Awesome. Thank you for Michelle for coming on the show.
Patient. Thank you. You are welcome now people.
You know, I do this this podcast episode 1, Apple podcast, Google podcast. IHeartRadio simplecast District Spotify. I need you to subscribe and share with everyone. You know. Yes, I like the stars. I like the one in, checking them out. But can I get some reviews? Can I get some comments? Because I'm trying to be found, and I'm also trying to get Oprah on the show and I want to know that I'm doing big things around here again. I like they might guess, Michelle water still coming on and dropping so many jams. I like to thank you again for checking out. Another episode of the doctor will show the mobile University freshman, oars, as always people invest in uatu piece.