According to reports from the CDC, 22% of students seriously considered attempting suicide in 2021, with 10% actually attempting suicide - a tragic figure that is seemingly on the rise year on year. With student mental health and wellness now a key focal point for all schools, how we can be more proactive than reactive is a question on many educators' minds.
Dr Dean Wilson, Director of Student Services & Special Education for Uintah School District and Co-Founder of You Got This, a 501(c)(3) organization for suicide prevention in youth, is going to war against youth suicide, believing this is the best time and opportunity educators have ever had to make a meaningful difference.
Join Dr Dean Wilson as he sits down with Voices in Education to offer his passionate and insightful thoughts on the state of student wellness, and how he believes it is the connections and education students receive that can be the gamechanger in their lives. On top of that, Dean shares his personal journey and the heart-breaking reality that led him to supporting young people everywhere, as well as what gives him hope for the future of education.
Voices in Education is powered by Securly
Securly is your school’s all-in-one solution for student safety, wellness, and engagement. Securly's 2023 State of Student Wellness Report is a free-to-download paper that takes a closer look into the data and current trends surrounding student wellness. You'll learn how your school can overcome resource limitations, introduce efficient technologies into the classroom, and ultimately better support the students who need your help the most.
Download your free copy of this illuminating special report today.
Adam Smith: 00:02 You are listening to the Voices in Education Podcast, powered by Securly. In our third season of the podcast, we're fine-tuning our focus and shining a spotlight where we believe it's needed most, on those who've dedicated their careers and lives to education. Whether inside or outside of the classroom, we know that students need to feel seen, safe, and supported to perform at their best, but these aren't just the needs of students. They are basic human needs that apply to our educators, administrators, and school mental health professionals, as well. There's a saying that you can't pour from an empty cup. Well, you are invited to fill your cup here with us.
00:44 I'm Adam Smith, a former teacher, mental health advocate, and your host of the Voices in Education Podcast. It's my great honor and pleasure to get to sit down with educators just like you to discuss why they chose a career in education and how they stay the course in the face of challenges. In hearing their stories, I hope you'll come away feeling refreshed, re-energized, and reconnected to your own reasons for becoming an educator. Let's hear from the Voices in Education.
01:15 Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Voices in Education Podcast. I'm Adam Smith, your host for this brand-new season of Voices in Education, and I can't wait to share these inspiring conversations with you all. But before I get into it, I want to make sure that you don't miss out on a single episode. Be sure to like, follow, and subscribe to Voices in Education on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts from. Today, I am joined by Dr. Dean Wilson, sincerely one of the most engaging and energizing speakers I've ever had the privilege of listening to and also speaking with. He's also a true advocate for student wellness, and I'm just thrilled to have Dean with me today. Dean, how are you?
Dr. Dean Wilson: 01:57 Hey, Adam. I couldn't be doing any better. I hope that your day is blessed, and that you're doing well yourself, my man.
Adam Smith: 02:03 I'm doing very well. All the better for having you here, as well, and I just can't wait to get into this, really, with you. But for anyone who isn't familiar with you yet, can we have a little, short introduction, really, just tell us about yourself, your current role and what that involves?
Dr. Dean Wilson: 02:16 You bet. Well, most importantly, I'm a husband and I'm a father of two amazing twin daughters that are 12 years old, I have a 28-year-old child of choice, and an amazing wife that helps keep our family together. Outside of that, I am a director of student services and the director of special education for Uintah School District. I also am the co-founder of a 501(c)(3) called You Got This (https://ygtofficial.org), which specializes in suicide prevention for youth.
Adam Smith: 02:43 Wonderful. I absolutely need to steal that little first bit where you say that you're a husband first, because I don't often reference that. Maybe I should, but that's good. I love that. What a wonderful combination of things for you to be doing together, and we'll definitely dig into those momentarily. Just with all of that, really, and to kick things off, you're involved, obviously, so much in both education and student wellness as sort of a collaborative and a collective. Can you tell us a little bit more about both of those roles, so obviously, director of student services, and then your foundation, as well?
Dr. Dean Wilson: 03:15 Absolutely. Within my school role, really, I tell people that I am the director of things that don't fit nicely in any box, and I genuinely mean that and I genuinely love that. I deal with everything from safe school hearings, so when students make really poor choices, what restorative practices can we put in place to either keep kids in school and keep them engaged and learning safely, or maybe how do we look at a different setting that keeps all kids safe, but still keeps all kids learning?
03:46 My job is really to ensure access and equity in everything that I do, whether that's helping our special ed population, whether that's helping our general ed population, no student can really learn unless they feel safe, and unless students have the right tools to access their education, they're more likely than not going to be successful. Again, my job is really to ensure access and equity for all in our district, and that takes the shape of many roles, but a day in the life is never the same, and that's what brings me a lot of joy in this job, is you never know what's going to pop up. It could be a fire extinguisher day, it could be a firetruck day, or I might need air support, or there might not be any fire at all. But that's my role within the school district.
04:34 Outside of this role, I do do a lot of consulting in the ed tech realm, but I also have co-founded a 501(c)(3) called You Got This, which does specialize in suicide prevention for students. We really focus on wellness, we really focus on proactive behaviors that students can engage in, schools can engage in, communities can engage in, really to help avoid even entering into the realm of ideation. We really want to front-load those kids so that they really do have the tools they need to deal with life as it comes.
Adam Smith: 05:05 How do you find that those two things overlap? Do you find that one informs the other or do you find that they are... As you say, things don't really fit into a box for what you do, necessarily, so do you feel like both of those fit that mold or actually do they, do they kind of overlap?
Dr. Dean Wilson: 05:20 I don't think that either of those necessarily fit into any mold, because when it comes to the Uintah School District, I could have a calendared out day where I'm in meetings from 8:00 until 5:00, and we could have a critical event at the school where I might be tied up dealing with law enforcement, dealing with media, dealing with ever might come with a critical incident within our district, so within that role, things don't necessarily fit neatly.
05:48 Also, when you start to hear the words suicide prevention, that means a lot of things to a lot of different people. Oftentimes, we get calls postvention, once an event has occurred, a community may bring us in to speak, how do we reunify, how do we rally around, and really make meaning and move forward? You don't really move forward, you don't get past it, you get going. How do we help communities get going? There's other communities that are very proactive, hey, let's bring in early, let's develop resources. What are those protective assets that we can develop within kids? Really, there's no judgment and there is no right or wrong way. We're just happy that we get the opportunity to engage when asked. Things don't fit neat or nice in any of those realms, and that's okay. If I can stay agile and iterate to still align out of the lean startup, I am doing well within my job and doing well for those that I serve.
Adam Smith: 06:45 What I love about you and your energy, and I think it's already coming across here today, but so many people, I think, love to find comfort in their role. They find a little space that they can sit and they know exactly what they're doing 9:00 to 5:00 every day, and it's a safety net for themselves and a comfort. I think it's incredible that you are in two roles there that, as you say, will never be the same day-to-day, that will keep you learning, keep you growing. That's so important, in my opinion, for the education sector in general, for wellness, because we are learning every day, things are changing every day, and we need people like yourself, I think, to really spearhead all of the initiatives and things. Thank you very much for settling with that discomfort every day of just I don't know what's coming, but I'm going to tackle it head on, and I love that very much.
07:34 But you haven't been doing [inaudible 00:07:36] roles forever, and I think this, for me, is the absolute crux of your story and your journey and what makes you who you are. Obviously, student wellness, enormous and integral part of everything that you're doing, but I also think what's so great about you is it's so key to your why. We like to talk about why here on Voices in Education, and I would love so much for you to share with our listeners today what led you to where you are and how student wellness became so foundational, not just professionally, but personally. If you could share that story, that would be wonderful.
Dr. Dean Wilson: 08:10 Absolutely, Adam. I tell people I am a born-again educator, because when I first started out in education, I thought that this was going to be the track for me for more or less the rest of my life. I took an amazing job where I'm a football coach, I'm a wrestling coach, I'm a history teacher. Absolutely loved what I was doing. Had the ability to inspire, motivate, really do all the things that I loved. I was going to the school at 6:00 AM, I was leaving the school at 10:00 PM, giving gladly of my Fridays so that we could be ready for game day. Saturdays, Sundays, it didn't matter. As many hours as it took, I was willing to work. Then something really funny happened, I got my first paycheck as an educator. I was excited, Adam, I got $1,600 after taxes. I'm going to have 32 hundo this month. This is awesome. I'm going to pay my house payment, I'm going to be able to get gas, get food. Life is going to be great.
09:11 And then I realized something, $1,600 is my take-home for the month. It was at that moment I knew something, I knew something had to give because my house payment was $1,200, my take-home was $1,600. I could only buy a Costco bag of chicken and cook it for the entire week ever... I didn't want to live that life forever. I could only maintain that for so long. It was out of a desire to provide a different lifestyle for my family that I really took the initiative to take the next step, which was identify where I could fulfill my why, which was my family at that time, where was I going to be able to provide a better opportunity?
09:55 That opportunity was in the oil fields of eastern Utah. I walked into a job where I could make six figures on day one. I was dealing with highly explosive materials. We would go down with a density tool, figure out where the hydrocarbons were at in the well, develop a plan to where we wanted to attack those hydrocarbons to bring them to surface, figure out the explosive device, and then perforate the well to bring the oil to surface, and I loved it. It was exciting, it was invigorating. I was working in 32-degree-below weather. It was colder than the North Pole, and we were real rough-necking it.
10:31 Well, at the end of the day, I'll never forget, I was on the deck of a workover rig, and we were just breaking the pipe coming out of the well, and we broke a big joint of pipe and water sprays everywhere. I got sprayed with water and I couldn't open my eyes, and so they walked me into the doghouse, and get warmed up and my face dries off, and the rig hand looks at me and says, "Dean, you've got icicles for eyelashes." I'm like, "I do, and you want to know what? I want to make a difference again, because right now all I'm doing is making oil, making a product. That is an admirable task and it's something that I very much appreciate, is anybody willing to do that, but for me, I have a different set of skills."
11:18 I had a different tool belt, if you will, and for me it was negligent if I didn't try to use that tool belt, because if what really drives me for human success or personal fulfillment is helping others, I need to be in a position to do that, so I took the six figures and I traded it in for another $1,600 paycheck. It might have been $1,700, they paid a little better, but I lovingly went back to the realm of education. I worked for two years as a classroom teacher at a middle school, 6 through 8 configuration, absolutely loved it. I got to teach character education, which is basically how to avoid drugs, how to avoid high-risk behavior, and how do we engage for pro-social attributes? How do we get students doing the right thing for the right reasons?
12:10 It was after two years of that experience that my superintendent came to me and said, "Dean, congratulations." I said, "What's that?" He says, "I heard you got your administrative endorsement." I said, "That I did." He says, "Well, there's going to be some opportunities," and I had the opportunity to become the assistant principal of the middle school that I was teaching at, which is great. Then, at the ripe age of 25, I got the opportunity to be the principal of the same school that I was just the assistant principal at for a few months and previously, a teacher for two. I was also the youngest person on the staff. That was little-
Adam Smith: 12:48 [inaudible 00:12:49] a bit of accolade.
Dr. Dean Wilson: 12:51 Yeah, absolutely. There's nothing like going to somebody that literally could be your parent or grandparent and helping them be successful in education. But what was really cool about that school is age didn't matter, it was all about proficiency, and we had a unique moral imperative to improve. We were a school that didn't make adequate yearly progress. They named me the principal of this school because the district had nothing to lose. Essentially, at the time in Utah, if you enter into school improvement for three years, at the end of three years, if you failed to show improvement, they came in as the state and brought in a new principal, so it was win or learn.
13:31 I either had the opportunity to win as a principal or learn what I needed to do better if I got the chance to do it a second time, and I told the staff that, "If we lose, it's my fault, if we win, it's yours, but we need to rally around really three key concepts. How do we be better at positive behavior intervention and supports, how do we ensure that we have high-trust, low-fear relationships, and how do we really ensure that our PLC process focuses on intervention in a really meaningful way?" Well, wouldn't you know it, when you focus on the right things and you have a highly engaged staff, you can do some pretty incredible things.
14:04 We went from a school that didn't make adequate yearly progress to a school that scored in the 79th percentile in the state, with a commendation visit from the governor because our data was so obscure. Schools don't usually do what we did. And with success comes opportunities. The same superintendent comes in and says, "Dean, I love what you're doing here. I hope you enjoy your last year here." What do you mean my last year? "There's going to be some other opportunities come up." Sure enough, there was. There was an opportunity to come to the district level and be the student services director in the district that is adjacent to the one I work now. Absolutely love that opportunity, love that realm. Really, at 27 years old, I didn't want to be a district-level staff. I wanted the opportunity to run a high school.
14:51 Luck would have it that we had a D-high school that was at the tipping point of needing improvement. We come in with the same mantra and mindset, how do we create a we is greater than me mentality, how do we rally the herd and really get support for school-wide initiatives? Well, two years later, we move from a school that was a D-status to a school that was a B-status in the state. We're actually the 16th highest performing school in the state of Utah for all of our high schools. Again, what a great testament, not to me, but to the staff that's willing to engage, that's willing to do the hard things, that's willing to make relationships possible.
15:28 Well, in my personal case, then, with success comes opportunity, I get tapped to be the vice president of a technical college, so I enter into a competency-based realm where I absolutely love the fact that I get to help people get careers, I get to work within a realm that has immediate results for people, because if you get your certificate at a technical college, you typically get higher pay, you can skill up and wage up. A super fulfilling job, and then something happens, and it happened to all of us, and I'm not going to belabor the point, we all know the pandemic happened. You want to know what? The pandemic taught me one thing, when you're right, you're rot, when you're green, you're grow.
16:10 For me, I took a look at the gifts that I'd been given, the tools that I had worked to obtain, and I felt it was negligent for me to maintain my current role, not because I didn't find value as the vice president of a technical college, but because we were returning to K-12 normal, and that's an opportunity to define what normal is. We had an opportunity to redefine what meaningful relationships mean. We had the opportunity to understand how to better connect with kids.
16:40 I took the role of as executive director of a charter school, a D-school that moved to an A-school in one year's time and had the highest [inaudible 00:16:51] growth percentile in all tested areas for schools of our type. Again, the right people engaged in the right tasks for the right work, which brought this opportunity, where I currently work as the director of student services and special education for Uintah School District. I love Terra Academy, I loved where I was previously at, but I had the opportunity to impact 650 kids every day in that role. Here, I have the opportunity to impact 7,000. My station in life is determined by need. This district needed my skillset in a different way, and so I took this opportunity.
17:28 All along the way, there were different things that kept me, and will continue to keep me tied to K-12 education, specifically. I mentioned earlier I was the co-founder of You Got This, a 501(c)(3) dedicated to student wellness and suicide prevention. That foundation was born out of grief. My best friend and neighbor lost his son, Ray, at the age of 12 years old to suicide. We could do one of two things, we could let pain engulf us or we could turn pain into passion. It was a moment where both Chris and I looked at each other and said, "Chris, unfortunately, you're the dad that has the story that no parent ever has to or should have to tell, and I'm the guy with all the educational know-how, if you will, to help schools do better, so how can we take a really human experience and translate that into actionable results within schools?"
18:25 Really, that's where I find the most joy in my current role, is every single day I get the opportunity to come to work and help more kindergartners be alive at graduation. I get to figure out strategies and ways to bring tools on, like Securly, that give us early indicators, early reads of wellness, of risk. How do we create safe schools? How do we create students that are ready to learn? How do we create environments where adults feel very empowered in their role because they have the right data at the right time for the right kid for the right reason? That is now my job. That is now my life's purpose, is how do I find the best tools because we have the best people engaged in the right work.
19:11 Really, that has become my calling. That has become really my passion project. I've learned that my reach is fairly limited, but my reach can be expanded through the efforts of others, but I've got to empower those people to have a wellness mindset. I've got to ensure that those people feel engaged and feel appreciated, validated, celebrated, in everything that we're asking them to do, because these are big asks. When you enter the realm of wellness, you cross the threshold of we choose to do this work. We make a decision that this work is worth doing, and if we do this work wrong, the consequences are dire, and if we do this work right, the consequences can literally be lifesaving or life-changing.
19:59 Me, I look at every day as an opportunity. I've been given the 24 hours to use as I will. I can waste it, I can use it for good. A good wrestling coach told me what I choose to do with this is important, because I am exchanging a day of my life for it. As I take that mindset and mantra into my personal life, I really do try to help translate that for others. How can we make value of the time we have? The time we have in education is finite. We have seen with the pandemic, we may actually get less time with students than we currently anticipate, so do we make meaning of our days? Are we really engaged with our coworkers, with our students, with ourselves? Are we at a point where each and every day, we're using that day as an opportunity to serve others?
20:50 For me, it really is an honor and a pleasure to be able to be in a district that values wellness, that values student safety. Tonight, I'm going to be going to the school board looking for other initiatives to bring different safety measures to our school. I am so excited about the opportunity that this role provides, I can't even see straight. I know this podcast is a lot about stories in education, but how do we author the next chapter? It's only through the acquisition and understanding of those next-gen tools that are currently available, but maybe not well understood, and for me, that's where this has nothing to do... I get no payment from Securly. I just need to pay back what Securly has given us.
21:40 As a district, we've already had critical saves because of this tool. We have kids that are alive today that wouldn't be without this tool, and that is the greatest gift that a tool can give a district, and that is the greatest obligation we can fulfill to a parent or to a community, is that we're actively engaged in not only your student's academics, your student wellness and your student's opportunity to come back tomorrow. We need more kids to have more tomorrows, and these tools that we're engaged with genuinely give our kids more tomorrows. They give the gift of time, which is the greatest gift we can give our students, because if we have time with our kids, we have time to fix anything. We can do anything in education with the right people, the right process, the right products, we really can transform lives.
22:34 That's what I get to do every day. I get the opportunity to be an influencer of what happens next for 7,000 students, and so for me, I'm not apologetic about my emotions. Being vulnerable is valuable. I am empowered by the fact that I don't fear my job. There's a lot of people that sit in my role that worry about the boogeyman. The boogeyman is there, he'll always be there. How do we keep the boogeyman at bay? We equip ourselves, we equip our staff, and we never back down in the face of adversity, in the face of challenges of implementation. We do the right work for the right reasons, because there is no right way to do the wrong things. I am so blessed to be able to be in a position where I get to do that every day.
23:28 I know that's a long why, I know that's a long journey, but that is my journey. That is my story. The next chapters, they're blank, but I've got the pen in my hand and I am unapologetically scribbling, crossing things out, going across the lines. This beautiful mess that I get to work with every day will become a masterpiece, because again, we're engaged in the right work for the right reasons.
Securly: 23:57 The Voices in Education Podcast is brought to you by Securly. Since 2013, Securly's sole mission has been to support student safety and wellness. With more than 15,000 schools worldwide already choosing to bring Securly into their school communities, we are creating a clearer picture of what young people are struggling with each and every day. With this data, we are able to more effectively target and implement support, and we want to share that information with as many educators like you as possible. The 2023 State of Student Wellness Report is a free to download paper that takes a closer look into the data and current trends surrounding student wellness. You'll learn how your school can overcome resource limitations, introduce efficient technologies into the classroom, and ultimately better support the students who need your help the most. Download your free copy of this illuminating special report by visiting https://hs.securly.com/report, that's https://hs.securly.com/report, today.
Adam Smith: 24:59 You say it's a long story, but I think I could listen for another hour or more, Dean. First of all, thank you. If I could applaud on a podcast without it ruining the audio, I absolutely would. I always feel empowered after I speak to you, or I always feel energized. I love my role, too. I also worked in education as a teacher prior to trying a few different things and then ending up at Securly, which kind of bridged the gap between the two. I was able to get back and help education, while still using my other skills and passions and things. I think to hear that your journey has been quite a winding one and one that has taken, as you say, unexpected turns and changes in your purpose and your reason for getting up in the morning.
25:46 It's wonderful, because I know we had a webinar hosted towards the end of last year where we were talking about teacher burnout, for example, and what we can do to help fix that, and why it's so just integral moving forwards that we do something about that and what we can do to help one another, because this isn't an easy role. As you say, this is not a straightforward job. It's not always a rewarding job financially, and it is tiring, but you're so right that what we're doing matters. If there's one thing I'd love our listeners to take away from this, it really does matter what we're doing. You might have a day where you think, oh, what did I really achieve? But if you made one difference to one student or if you made one change or one piece of progress in the right direction, it's just so important.
26:40 I think your story absolutely epitomizes that. You took a terrible situation with your neighbor and your neighbor's child, and rather than letting that, like you say, letting that grief defeat you, you let it sort of motivate you, and you realized, well, let's not let this happen to others. Let's never see this occur again, and I applaud your strength and your resolve in that. Just incredible, and I'm sure everyone listening will feel the same level of inspiration from this. I have so many questions, but I think I will hold back, I will restrain myself, but I would like to ask, I think you made a reference to the fact you've got a meeting later where you'll be looking at what else you can put in place and how else you can progress. What do you think the biggest challenge educators are facing at the moment, when it comes to student wellness?
Dr. Dean Wilson: 27:31 I think that we need a two-prong approach for student wellness in every school, we need a hardening of schools and a softening of schools. What I mean by that, when you look at the physical security of schools, we are investing heavily in technologies that keep our kids safe, as far as the physical features. How do we ensure proper check-in and check-out of our students? How do we ensure timely attendance so that we know where our students are at? How do we ensure that our emergency procedures, our guides, those things, are easily accessible on our mobile devices, because we don't necessarily live in a day and age where we can run and grab the folder? We might need to have that more readily available. Those are some of the hardening of school things that we do in order to ensure that students feel safe coming in, we have proper procedure, policy, and really physical facilities that are secure.
28:23 Once we've secured the house, what are the things within it that soften schools to the point where kids feel safe enough to have really authentic connections, because connection really is the best prevention for students? If we can create high-trust, low-fear environments within our schools, whether that's the incorporation of licensed counselors, social workers, bringing in personnel that specialize in mental health and wellness, that's amazing. The other thing that we can do, we can bring in tools like Securly (https://securly.com) that really help us to identify what's happening on the backside when students aren't necessarily being asked face-to-face, "How do you feel? How are you doing?" We've said it time and time again, kids will lie to their friends, they'll lie to adults. They typically don't lie to Google. How can we softly scrub the backside of that and figure out when kids need responsive resources, when kids need supportive resources, and when kids are absolutely in crisis and need emergency resources? That's part of the softening process.
29:26 The other process is authentically checking-in with kids. We can't wait to really get (Securly) Rhithm rolling with our students so that we can have a daily check-in and figure out are kids just having an instance of anger, an instance of hunger, or is this kid genuinely going through something that may need additional resources? Is this kid maybe experiencing food insecurity and we can get them access to our principal's pantry? We're going to use data to have soft insertion points for students so that they don't even know that the resources they need are going to be provided for them. For me, that really is what is next for schools, how do we secure the physical facilities, ensure everyone knows the policies and procedures, and then how do we really get to the point where authentic relationships create a high-trust, low-fear environment?
Adam Smith: 30:17 I think they're such important points, and I think for a long time, that physical safety of the school was the thing that I think most people thought was the the answer. Oh, if we can create a perfect environment here, then it will all be good. But I think you're so right that nowadays, there is a virtual environment, a digital environment, that we didn't know we had to control previously, or not necessarily control, but just temper a little bit so that it is a safer place so that we are more aware of what's happening.
30:43 Just to your point, you mentioned Securly Rhithm (https://www.securly.com/rhithm) there, which it is a tool that allows the students to check-in. It gives them a chance within that digital space to say how they're doing and to feedback, so that we do have actionable insights. I think you're right, it's just so key for us to be able to know a broader picture, to see it in a bigger ratio than we could previously. Awesome stuff. Just going back to what we were talking about with teacher burnout and those kinds of things, there are many of our listeners working in education that are struggling, they're feeling lost or burnt out or whatever it might be. What's one thing you'd like to say to them? Anyone that's in that scenario, what sort of advice can you give?
Dr. Dean Wilson: 31:25 Well, first of all, I've got nothing but love and respect for anybody that dedicates their life in the service of others, and so to every educator out there that's struggling, it's okay to not be okay. It's okay to be in a situation where you feel like, "You know what? This fight might seem unattainable," but wow, we've got to stick to the fight when we're the hardest hit. Every single contender needs a champion in their life, because every champion once started out as that contender. I would encourage anyone to find a positive connection, that's struggling with teacher burnout, find that one good thing. What is one thing that you can do to make yourself feel better today? Because it's not about a work-life balance, it's about a life-work balance. We've read that wrong for years. If we're not centered and balanced in our own life, we're probably not going to be very productive or passionate in our work life because it's something we have to get through, not something we get to do.
32:24 I would encourage everyone to take time for you. Be selfish. You give, give, give. You know what? Sometimes you need to have your own oil refilled. I often reference educators as lamplighters. They walk around the streets giving their oil to others. If at the end of the road, you have no more oil to give, you're no longer lighting lamps, so how do you ensure that you refill your oil? That would be the challenge I would give everyone, because we don't need to shine brightly by burning out. We need to help others shine just as bright as they can. That's going to require us to have the right internal capacity to support those in those efforts. Find a way to make yourself okay, and it's okay to take time for yourself.
Adam Smith: 33:17 I'm going to crop that piece of audio there, because my wife is a teacher and she will absolutely, as you say, she'll run out of her own oil, but continue to want to light the lamps of her students. That's her drive. She loves those kids, but she'll be at a point where she's got no energy left and she'll come home, and I'll say, "You've got to find that time for yourself." You absolutely need to, because with all the best intention in the world, you're going to go to school the next day and not have as much to give, even though you're going to try, and it's detrimental. I think it's about keeping that balance, making sure that we are able to still give, and it is very difficult. I think in the same way we're learning about student wellness now in a way that we never have before, just wellness in general, human wellness. We're not an infinite resource. We are a finite resource.
34:11 Incredible. I love that so much. Thank you. One last question. I don't want to wrap up, but I think we are coming to the end here. We've talked a lot about these challenges that we face in education, but on a positive note, what is giving you hope about the future of education? Because I think it isn't as bleak as maybe if you read the headlines every day and that's all you consume, you think maybe we are in a pit here, but we're not. There is light at the end of the tunnel. What's that one thing that's giving you hope about the future?
Dr. Dean Wilson: 34:38 Man, the one thing that's giving me hope is conversations just like this, just like this one today. How do we ensure the wellness of our staff, the wellness of our students? I'm going to tell you right now, winning schools, which is all I've ever been a part of, winning schools have well kids, have well staffs, they have people that are functioning at high levels. That's what gives me hope, is we have tools that we can check-in on the wellness of others. It's okay to have conversations like this. I am so excited to be able to bring things like this to a community and say, "We can do better. It isn't hopeless. We have the ability to author the next chapters, we've just got to be willing to pick up the pen."
35:23 For me, the future is bright. The future for me is a different future, where we spend less time in funeral lines, more time at graduation lines. We spend more times on sidelines than at the side of hospital beds. We have the opportunity. That's what gives me hope, is we have the opportunity and we have the right people, processes, and products to quite literally change the world. Nelson Mandela says it best, education is the most powerful weapon we have to change the world, so let's go to war. Let's go get it.
Adam Smith: 36:02 I never thought the final message of the podcast would be let's go to war, but I totally agree with you. I'm on the front line with you there, 100%. Dean, I love talking to you. I could talk to you all day. Hopefully, we'll get you on again at some point on Voices in Education, because this has been an out-and-out pleasure. What a wonderful job we get to do, and I hope this does inspire our listeners to get out there themselves and to pick themselves back up if they are feeling down, because what we're all doing, it's the right cause, the right reasons, I love it so much. Dean, if any of our listeners do want to find you, where can they find you?
Dr. Dean Wilson: 36:35 The best place to find me is just Dean Wilson Ed.D. at LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/dean-wilson-ed-d-483688b9/). Just find me on LinkedIn. I'm happy to engage, happy to respond. It is an opportunity to connect and continue the conversation.
Adam Smith: 36:50 It's just been a pleasure. I hope people do reach out to you. Just for those of you listening, that's how I first started speaking to Dean on LinkedIn. Just an incredible human being. Thank you for all you do, and thank you for sharing your story with us today. That does bring us to the end of today's episode of Voices in Education, but now we'd like to hear from you. If you enjoyed this episode, don't forget to leave a rating and review to help other listeners like you find the podcast. We'd also love for you to continue this conversation over on our social channels. You can follow us on Twitter @securly, over on Instagram and Facebook @securlyinc, and on LinkedIn at https://linkedin.com/company/securly. I look forward to hearing from you all there.
37:32 Until next time, stay safe. Remember, as Dean said, to find some time for yourself, and never forget that the job you do makes a genuine difference to young people everywhere every single day. Never lose sight of that. Thanks for tuning in to the Voices in Education Podcast, powered by Securly. For more episodes and additional details about the podcast, visit https://securly.com/podcast.