509 tom loud unleashing potential of every child

How to Unleash the Potential of Every Child

Tom Loud dropped out of high school because he didn’t connect with his teachers. Somehow, he connected with books though and became a high school and college graduate. Now, Tom is a 10-year classroom veteran who is working to make his classroom (and help others) connect with kids in new ways. Today we’ll talk about unleashing the potential in every child. And yes, you’ll hear birds chirping, but that is ok!

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Listen Now

Below is an enhanced transcript, modified for your reading pleasure. All comments in the shaded green box are my own. For guests and hyperlinks to resources, scroll down.


From the 10-Minute Teacher Vault

This is another one of the all-time-top shows of the 10 Minute Teacher. This show with Tom Loud aired in September 2017 but because iTunes only keeps 297 of the most recent shows, we wanted to take the summer opportunity to share the most inspirational shows from the 10 Minute Teacher podcast. I hope you enjoy!


Enhanced Transcript

Unleashing the Potential of Every Child

Vicki: Today we’re talking to Tom Loud @loudlearning about unleashing the potential of students.

What Tom Learned when he quit high school his junior year

Vicki: So Tom, let’s start with the story about why you got into teaching in the first place.

Tom: In high school, I think I failed more classes than I passed, and I had a terrible experience. By the end of my junior year, I had reached a GPA of a 1.8, and at the end of that year, I just knew it would be my last year in public school.

And in fact, it was.

But through a series of circumstances, I became a college graduate seven years after that. And I’ve been in the classroom now for ten years.

I went into education for two reasons.

The first reason was that I could be the teacher that I never felt I had.

And the second reason is that I could ensure that no child would ever experience the educational journey and experience that I did.

How do we unleash the potential in every child?

Vicki: So Tom, with that being your story, what is your advice to us to help unleash the potential of every child?

Tom: I think, number one, it starts with relationships. We have to build that relationship with kids first. I heard the quote that,

“No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.” (James Comer, 1995)

I really think that’s true.

But the second thing that we can do as teachers is we can put on the mindset that we are never going to quit on kids. I think it goes back to where the pacing of our teaching has to be determined by the learning of our kids, not by a calendar.

Third, I think that we have to be super patient with kids. Don’t give easier work or fail kids when they’re not understanding, when they’re not learning at the pace that we hope they are. As a teacher, I do think we have to show grit and perseverance with kids and present learning in multiple ways. Failing kids is a direct indicator more of the quality of our teaching, I think than the ability of our kids.

Vicki: Oh, but you know, Tom… Teaching’s hard!

And it’s exhausting to reach the kids who struggle.

Tom: (agrees)

What were the biggest mistakes Tom teachers made?

Vicki: What do you think the biggest mistake is that some of your teachers made when you were that kid who struggled in your junior year?

Tom: I think it goes back to what I was saying about the relationships. I think that I just didn’t have that connection with the teachers. I felt like I was more of a test score, and learning was on the back burner. The test was more of the focus of the teachers, instead of my potential.

What did Tom learn from that now that he's a teacher?

Vicki: Do you feel like you have a different relationship with your students? Can you give me an example of where you tried to be that teacher that you never had, and it did make a difference?

Tom: I think the biggest thing with me is the patience thing – to where we just don’t quit. And I don’t quit. But the funny thing about it is that every day, even though I know it’s worth it with these kids… some days, like everybody, I don’t necessarily “feel it.”  And when I don’t feel it, I have to continually remind myself that staying motivated and keeping that passion burning is a choice that I have to make.

Yeah, I think the biggest thing with me, with my students now, based on my experience as a student, is the patience that I show. I just don’t give up on kids.

How does Tom motivate himself when he has a down day?

Vicki: So, take me inside your brain when you’re having that down day, and you’re like, “I’m exhausted.” What does the self-talk say to yourself when you just don’t know how you’re going to do it?

Tom: You know, I read a really good book lately by a professor at UT at Knoxville, from Dr. Amy Broemmel. And the book is called Learning to be Teacher Leaders. In the book, she identified three characteristics of the really great teachers.

Those three characteristics are:

  1. Great teachers are unorthodox.
  2. They go against the organizational grain.
  3. They always pose a threat to the status quo.

So, when I’m having those down days, and I don’t necessarily “feel” it? I have to keep that mindset of the great teachers in mind and just “put on” those characteristics.

Vicki: You know, it frustrates me though. Why can’t the status quo just be AWESOME, for everybody?

Tom: (laughs) Yeah! It should be! But you know, we’re creatures of feeling and emotion. And so we can’t always necessarily stay on that high, but we just have to stay as motivated as we can and keep the needs of kids first.

Vicki: You know, Tom, I do find that the self-talk – you know, what you say to yourself when you’re down?

Tom: Yep.

Vicki: We’re our own best motivational speaker, aren’t we?

Tom: We are. You’re right.

Why did Tom's life turn around?

Vicki: And you’ve got that experience when you were a kid… to kind of think back, and relate, and understand yours, don’t you?

Tom: I do. Yeah, and you know for me, the big turnaround for me was – number one —  maturity. I had reached 18 years by the end of my junior year. So maturity was a big turnaround for me, but also there was all this frustration that I’d built up. I knew I was better than what my test scores were showing and I knew that I wasn’t only worthy of success, but I was able, too.

So, I heard a quote at the end of my junior year of high school, right on the verge of when I was quitting school. The quote was by Charles “Tremendous” Jones, and the quote said,

“The difference between who we are as a person today, and who we will be in five years is determined by the books we read and the people we meet.”

So it was really at that time, that self-talk really kicked up a notch. I really became a student of success.

One of the first books I read on success was by a guy named Jack Canfield, who started the Chicken Soup for Soul book series. But he wrote a book called The Success Principles, and one of the first pages in the book had a quote by Thomas Edison that said,

“If we really knew what we were capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.”

Ever since that day, I’ve really been trying to find out what I’m capable of.

Vicki: You know, I also love what you do… My pastor, Michael Catt, says that

“Leaders are readers, and readers are leaders.”

Tom: (agrees, laughs)

Vicki: You have quoted several books. This is Motivation Monday. One big way to motivate ourselves is to really have that self-talk but to also get quotes that resonate with us.

I mean, I’m looking at my office wall, and it has quotes all over it. You know, what do we say to ourselves? And what kind of books do we pour into our mind to help us stay motivated to do this job?

Tom: You know, I think one of the best ways in 2017 is to meet new people, and to really have good access to quality of text in front of us… is Twitter.

Vicki: (agrees)

Tom: I don’t think enough teachers are on Twitter. But just something simple and easy as that can really provide us with exposure to great minds.

Vicki: Speaking of Twitter, we have cute little birds tweeting in the background that may or may not get edited out.

Tom: (laughs)

Vicki: I just think that’s kind of ironic to me.

Tom: Right?

Look at the Motive behind our Motivation

Vicki: But Tom, as we finish up, give us a 30-second pep talk about how to stay motivated this week in our classrooms.

Tom: I think we have to look at the root word of “motivation.” That root word is “motive” … We have to stay focused even when we don’t feel like it, about why we do what we do. The main reason we do what we do is because:

1.  Kids deserve it.

  1. Kids are capable… and able… of far more than we can ever imagine or think.

But the main reason? They deserve it. They deserve our best. And they’re worth it.

Vicki: They are!

So teachers, get out there. Be remarkable this week.

And I love, in particular, what Tom said. I’m going to hang onto this – that the root word of “motivation” is “motive” …

Remember your motive. Why are you doing this?

Right now, if you’ve lost your noble motive, try to get that back. Try to remember that we’re in the life-changing business.

We’re not just teachers. We teach people how to live lives. We unleash human potential. We have got an incredible profession, full of meaning. It may be not full of earthly riches, but definitely full of meaning and full of legacy.

So get out there and be remarkable this week!

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford

Biography as Submitted

Tom Loud is a first-grade teacher at Middlesettlements Elementary in Tennessee. He also serves as a Technology Teacher Leader at Middlesettlements and was recently recognized as Technology Teacher of the year along with Innovative Teacher of the Year by his district.

In addition, Loud was one of 50 Teachers in Tennessee selected to participate in an Educator Fellowship through SCORE, (The State Collaborative on Reforming Education), an independent, nonprofit, and nonpartisan advocacy and research institution that drives collaboration on policy and practice to ensure student success across Tennessee. Loud's passions are technology integration in the elementary grades, along with teacher motivation.

Twitter: @loudlearning

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.)

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Christine Davol June 17, 2019 - 11:10 pm

This is a very expensive book with only two reviews. Is it really worth the $$$?
Thanks, for any feedback!

Vicki Davis June 27, 2019 - 6:27 pm

Which book? Many are mentioned on the show!


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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere