Voices in Education Podcast

Episode 30: Fostering a High-Trust, Low-Fear Culture in Your School

October 11, 2023 Securly Season 3 Episode 30
Voices in Education Podcast
Episode 30: Fostering a High-Trust, Low-Fear Culture in Your School
Show Notes Transcript

Leadership, especially within the education sector, isn't something that can be mastered in a single semester. But aiming for perfection and shying away from your missteps can be the greatest mistake of all if you want to find success and create a positive school culture.

As a former principal and current Director of Student Services & Special Education at Uintah School District, Dr Dean Wilson joins Voices in Education to discuss the importance of vulnerability and self-reflection in leadership. For Dr Wilson, clear expectations, frequent feedback, and open communication are not just nice-to-haves, but outright essentials for building and maintaining a successful and supportive culture in schools. For current and aspiring educational leaders, this is one conversation you cannot afford to miss.

This special episode of Voices in Education is brought to you in conjunction with Securly Prepared: a ground-breaking digital student wellness event that offers educators, support staff, and school leaders the tools and know-how they need to make a meaningful difference for students today.

If you'd like to check out Securly Prepared, it is available here right now on demand.

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:

You're 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're 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're invited to fill your cup here with us. 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.

Hello and welcome to a very special episode of the Voices in Education podcast. I'm Adam Smith, your host for Voices in Education, and I can't wait to share these inspiring conversations with you all. But before we 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 the Voices in Education podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts from.

To wrap up our third season of Voices in Education, we're teaming up with Securly as part of their ground-breaking digital student wellness event, Securly Prepared, an event that offers educators, support staff and school leaders the tools and know-how they need to make a meaningful difference for students and for themselves today. If you'd like to check out Securly Prepared, it is available right now on-demand.

Just go to www.bigmarker.com/securly/securly-prepared or just follow the link in our episode description. Joining me today is one of the three inspiring speakers who featured on the Securly Prepared panel of expert educational minds, Dr. Dean Wilson. If that name sounds familiar to you, it may be because Dean has actually already appeared on the Voices in Education podcast previously in an episode titled Connection is The Best Suicide Prevention for Students.

And for anyone who tuned into that incredible conversation, you'll no doubt share in my genuine excitement to have an opportunity to go for round two with Dean and dig a little deeper into some of these really crucial student wellness conversations. Dean, welcome back to the Voices in Education podcast.

Dr Dean Wilson:

Adam, thank you so much. I couldn't be more excited to join and really delve into some of the topics that I know we're going to cover today. So very excited.

Adam Smith:

It's great. You actually are, I believe, the very first person to do the double header on Voices in Education. I can't think of anyone better because we've had conversations in the past both through Securly and on Voices in Education and outside of some of that as well. And I just think every time I speak to you, I learn something incredibly valuable, something insightful.

There's not a day that goes by that I don't feel like you learn something. I want to pass that on. So yeah, I'm just so thrilled to have you here again. Can I have a quick intro just to who you are, what you do for any of our listeners that maybe missed that previous episode? And you should definitely go and check that out, listeners. You should go and find that episode in season three and give it a listen. But Dean, yeah, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Dr Dean Wilson:

You know what Adam? I like to consider myself just a regular guy. I'm a husband, I'm a father. I'm very proud of the fact that I have two of the most amazing young ladies that are now seventh grade students.

Adam Smith:


Dr Dean Wilson:

I'm so very blessed to have an amazing family. Outside of my family, I am a Director of Student Services and Special Education for Uintah school district. I helped co-found a 501(c)(3) called You Got This, which specializes in youth suicide prevention, and I've had a jack of all, master of none life.

I've been an oil field engineer, I've been a beekeeper, I've been a pipe reclamation specialist, I've been a landscape curber, concrete curber. You name it, we've tried it out here. But more importantly, the thing that I'm most passionate about right now is just the ability to interact and interface in education.

Adam Smith:

Amazing. Actually, I don't think you've mentioned to me that you were a beekeeper previously. Is there a name for a beekeeper? I feel like there's a really strange name or a technical term.

Dr Dean Wilson:

Yeah. You could call me an Apiarist or a-

Adam Smith:

That's it.

Dr Dean Wilson:

Apiary, but-

Adam Smith:

That's the one. That's the one.

Dr Dean Wilson:

I married into the gig and I have absolutely loved it. There's peace within the bees for sure.

Adam Smith:

I do love bees. Yeah, that's interesting. I say I don't think I could do that. I can't imagine myself being surrounded by quite so many, but that's amazing. And yeah, you're right. I think your journey, as we discussed on the previous episode, every step of the way has really kind of paved this path that you're now on, and that's why I'm just so excited to have you here again because I think you always offer such insight.

And last time you joined us, we really discussed I guess what your day-to-day role looks like as that Director of Student Services. And I don't want to cover that old ground, but at the same time, it's been a few months since we spoke. Have you got anything you'd like to share? Sort of the current goings-on? Not too long ago now, started a sort of a new academic year, any highlights you want to share? Anything like that just for our listeners?

Dr Dean Wilson:

Absolutely. Yeah. One of the most exciting things about our district is we believe in inspecting what we expect. So as a leadership team, our superintendency, we've actually done 70 classroom observations. We've gone through on what we call our academic walkthroughs in every one of our school sites, and we've had our beginning of the year data reviews. So we've really gone through deep dive with principals.

Take a look at what are the incoming students' data, tell us what is the current state of the students that we've retained, and most importantly, what are the plans to move forward. We cover everything from the academics in the school all the way through the positive behavior intervention and supports. This upcoming week I am super, super excited. We actually start our culture walkthroughs.

You can't master anything academically until you really have mastered your cultural approach to school. So we take a look at everything from the building cleanliness, the physical security of the school, student engagement, and really what are we doing to make positive deposits in students and our staff. Again, we don't believe it's good enough just to focus on what are we doing with our students, but what are we doing to be intentional with our staff?

So that's where I'm at in my career. Outside of that, You Got This has a few really big events that we're going to be putting on. We have a regional Hope Squad, a conference that we're going to be presenting at. It's a high energy, it's a really exciting way to approach suicide prevention with students where really we focus on protective assets that they can leave with and teach forward, not only for other students, but actually to their parents.

We leave every one of our trainings with the challenge that they should connect with one positive adult in their life and one positive peer. So I'm just jacked. I cannot wait to get the boots on the ground in terms of our culture walkthroughs, and I absolutely enjoy all of our student facing interactions. So super excited for what's on the road ahead.

Adam Smith:

I need to quickly just dig into that cultural walkthrough a little bit. So that sounds incredible and I think a brilliant sort of addition to I guess what you would traditionally have as the things you have to do, those things that you definitely have to do, you have to put in place, you have to have that data. But how incredible that yeah, you'll go that extra mile. So where did this idea come from and I guess, what will be the aftermath? What will the follow follow-up be?

Dr Dean Wilson:

What's really exciting is we've actually gone through and there are high leverage strategies that great school cultures have in place. So what we did, we worked with our principal teams, we worked with our leadership teams, and we developed a rubric for about five or six different indicators of school culture. When these things are in place, students tend to have a higher sense of safety, feel a greater sense of belonging, and our schools look, feel and sound a lot more positive.

So really what we do is we've developed these standards, we've taught them forward to our principals. Actually they've helped us. They've taught us more than we've helped them. Two weeks prior to the district coming onsite they take their leadership teams and they do a self-reflection. They'll walk around the school, they'll make sure from emergency preparedness guides to how clean and welcoming is the school, do we have relevant information up?

Do we have mechanisms in place to celebrate students? Do we have mechanisms in place to celebrate staff? Like I said, they do that two weeks before we come on site and then we come in as a leadership team really as that third party inspector. We come through, we use the same rubric, evaluate the school the same way, and then we have a one-to-one with the principal.

We really sit down and say, "You know what? Here's a mirror check. Here's what you're presenting. Here's what we're seeing. How can we best support you in meeting these standards?" Because if we meet these standards, we know that kids are going to be more ready to learn. Again, you've got to master culture before you master academics. We know academically where we're at, now that we come back on the culture side, we really will dovetail those two pieces of data together. So our principals have meaning.

Our principals can take this back to their staff and say, "You know what? We want to focus on X, Y, and Z leading into the holiday break. When we come out of the holiday break, we're going to come back in for the second round. We're going to come back at the end of the year for the third round. And what we should see is we should see indicators of belonging, indicators of safety and higher indicators of academic success." Far too often we get pigeonholed into just focusing on academics in schools. This is a great way to really see what is the heart of the school and is the heart of the school healthy.

Adam Smith:

Yeah, what you just said there about the academics being always that focal point, I think a lot of my guests that I've spoken to who are looking to make that change definitely realize that, well, to really get that to where it needs to be, there's actually so much more underneath. But that feels like that should be the foundation. But actually when you consider you're getting in all these young human beings and they're all coming in and they need to, if you get them feeling the right way, if you get [inaudible 00:10:39] say feeling safe or feeling clean, feeling like everything is up-to-date, the results will reflect that.

I can 100% get behind what you're doing there. A little anecdote from when I was a teacher, so I taught a college here in the UK, which is sort of 16 to 18 year olds. And I also went to that college as a student beforehand. And I remember that when I went there as a student, there was this really old notice board with, it was some sort of English language notice board, so it just had a few verb agreements and things on there, and then I obviously went away to university.

I did my training and then I came back as a teacher maybe five years later, something like that, and that board was still there and it had been there sort of pre me getting there. And I came into the English department and I said straight away, "Can we please update that board because I can't believe it's still there." I feel like it was there when my parents were at college.

And you're so right how much of a difference that makes because the building was quite an old building and some of the students that would come along for a taster day would see that and you'd hear some of them say, "It's a bit old. It feels a bit old." And that, it's so much about perception. It's so much about how you feel. So I love that. I look forward to hearing how that goes for you. I think that's a really worthwhile endeavor.

Dr Dean Wilson:

I appreciate that. And to piggyback on what you said right there, what you hang on your walls matter. That's a signal to your students, that's a signal to your staff, that's a signal to anybody that comes into your building, what are we about. When you see exemplars of student work, when you see positive messaging, when you see branding that is vibrant, that is exciting, man, that creates a drive in students, an engagement in students. You cannot beat a great school that is really well branded and really, really has meaningful messaging. So again, I just want to highlight what you've just said, but I couldn't believe in that more. So thank you for saying that, Adam.

Adam Smith:

Yeah. No, definitely. I just think it's so important because it's not just about the lessons that you're teaching verbally or yeah, it's the lessons that the kids will learn on the side because they'll see those things and it'll instill in them a sense of belonging, pride, whatever it might be. And I think they're just as valuable. Right? So as mentioned in the intro of the podcast, we had Securly Prepared, which was an incredible webinar.

We were joined by yourself and Moss Rogers and Dr. Robert Avossa. And personally as an audience member to that webinar, I was blown away by some of the discussion points and just some of the ideas that were kind of thrown around. And my great privilege is to be able to go a little bit more in depth with those discussions now one-on-one. And there was something that you said that really resonated with me, and you said that being vulnerable is valuable.

And again, I've mentioned this a few times on podcasts. I sometimes get these little soundbites from my guests that I love because they're so succinct, but yet they contain such sort of great kind of experience and know-how that you can kind of really start to extract. And we had little discussion before we started recording today where you said you learned so many lessons from failures that you'd had. Now we like to go into the why's behind people's career journeys and sort of their time in education.

And we did that on the previous episode. So we were discussing, okay, what can we discuss here that we didn't there? What didn't we cover? And you were really keen to, I guess, share with our listeners, share with the educators that tune into Voices in Education that so much of how you've become the person you are and the reason you do the things you do are based on actually the missteps as much as they are the successes.

So yeah, I would love to pull on that thread a little bit more today and really go into that sort of, yeah, that vulnerable is valuable kind of element. So yeah, the floor is yours really. I would love to know, if you could kind of maybe, I don't know, get at some point in your story, some point in your journey where a failure really compelled you and sort of to make those changes and why it is so valuable to be okay with that, to be accepting of that. So I'll pass it on to you, Dean, what are your thoughts on that?

Dr Dean Wilson:

Adam, I really appreciate that because too often on these types of podcasts or really any type of presentation, we celebrate all of the good and we highlight all of the great. We don't really take time to acknowledge the grit that it took to get there. Many failures that have led us to greater and deeper levels of understanding. When I look back at my own journey, I have learned far more from my failures than I ever have from my successes.

And I failed a lot. I tend to be this guy that projects confidence and is very well put together and we've done all these great things, but man, when I look back, if people really want to get to know me, they're going to know that when I came into education, when I came into leadership in education, I was a 25-year-old principal. I was a know-it-all. I was a autocratic leader.

I thought everything that flowed through my school had to run through these hands because I wanted to keep such tight control on what was going to happen within my schools. The first school that I was able to lead, man, we went from a school that didn't make adequate yearly progress to a school in the 79th percentile in two years. What an exciting school, what a high performing academic school. We had positive behavior supports.

We had all of these great things. So I thought. Because as I left the very next year, my very best friend lost his son to suicide at this city upon a hill that we built that really was on shaky foundation. I had stayed around to dig the footers and to lay the first bricks, but I didn't stick around to build the house. And really as I look back, there were so many systems in those schools that were contingent upon either my perception, my perspective, my connections that in the absence of leader, it wasn't sustainable.

And that's not a reflection of that school. That's not to say that they weren't doing great things, but if it only made sense to me and we hadn't created mutual meaning, really that's a failure of my own leadership. I think that the first school that I was able to lead really taught me that it can't be a me thing, it has to be a we thing. I look back at the second school I was able to lead, okay, I know I've got to create a sense of belonging.

I know I've got to get people on board. Well, what happens when people are hesitant to change? Well, in my mind, I'm going to lead with the cross. I'm going to show you the light, the research, the evidence. We've already turned one school around. We know we can turn another school around, we can do these great things. But you want to know what? I wasn't as patient with people as I wanted to be.

I wasn't intentional with my relationships that I needed to be. Because when the cross didn't work, I was pretty quick to pull out a sword. And when you create a convert under stress, you have somebody that's operating under compliance as opposed to belief. And really it took two schools for me to lead to really get a sense of understanding of what is it that I really want in schools.

And it begins and it ends with a staff that has high trust, low fear. Psychological safety has to be in place because coming in with a track record of success can be highly intimidating. Coming in with a track record of maybe being short, maybe being forceful, maybe being an autocratic styled leader in some cases, that's something that I have to be very intentional and self-aware of in order to change.

As I look at the last school I was fortunate to lead, we didn't push hard and fast at first. I asked more questions. I had the Mickey Mouse philosophy. I had big ears. I had big eyes and a little tiny mouth. I tried to listen more than I could speak. And really it was through understanding of where people are at. We could better define where we're actually able to go and where we're actually able to sustain efforts if I was able to transition to a different job or transition out of that role.

So as I look back at my own growth and leadership, you know what? Man, we're all work in progress. I wish more leaders would celebrate the fact that, you know what? I've screwed up financially in life, personally in life. I've screwed up with my relationships in life. And when you can project that sense of it's okay to not be okay, I'm still here. I may have failed forward in a couple of instances, but I still get the opportunity to lead.

I really do believe that sharing your failures with your staff, sharing your failures with your students. Believe it or not, Adam, at 16 years old, I had five tattoos and a bunch of bad habits. I will never forget my wrestling coach look me dead in the eyes and says, "Dean, you're going to be super successful or end up in a SuperMax." And he wasn't wrong. I really had struggled as a youth to make good choices. As I share that with my staff, as I share some of those failures with my students, man, it creates a leveled playing field.

This picture perfect ideal, it's okay to have some cracks in the photo. It's okay to have some smudge marks. You know what? At the end of the day, scars build stronger tissue both physically and emotionally. And I really think that that's one thing that I can say as a leader, I've been very intentional as I move forward, is to celebrate the fact that I failed, celebrate the fact that you know what? I'm still far from perfect. There are still leadership traits and habits that I have to develop if I'm going to better serve others.

And I really think that that's what changed in my mind is I was focused on creating great schools. Now, I'm highly focused on how can I help others become the best versions of themselves. Because if I can train few and deploy many, that's far more effective than me being the man behind the curtain. So I would say, you know what? Leadership is a journey. It's not a linear path.

It takes a lot of turns, it takes a lot of fails, but in life, when you get knocked down, you really have two options. You can look up or you can get up. And it's okay to reach up for a hand and say, "You know what? Man, I need some help getting up." So I encourage every leader to share with their staffs, share with their students opportunities in life that have given them the ability to really develop that grit and resiliency that we all need when tough times hit.

Adam Smith:

When you put it like that, that it's, again, it's bringing out the human part of being a leader. Because I think some people when they are in those leadership roles feel they need to be quite commanding, they need to be quite just, I guess, impenetrable to kind of show this strength. "I'm going to be able to lead you. Don't worry, I've got this. Nothing hits me. Absolutely fine." And I think, as you said, that can be so intimidating.

Because you're so right, no one is perfect. And actually, I think sometimes the pursuit of perfection can stop you achieving incredible things because incredible isn't perfect either. But when you're trying to aim for it, you're more likely to miss, especially when there's so much pressure to be that way. And I've always, as both a student and then as a teacher, I've always respected when my teachers or my managers have been real.

There is an earnest delivery to both their lessons and just the way they would communicate with you in general because then you feel like you can also be yourself and you can be upfront and you can be honest. And I think when we look at say, student wellness and you want these students to open up and to let you know when they're struggling, rather than hide that, if you've set an expectation of everyone needs to be prim and proper and perfect every time they come and sit in my classroom, they're not going to feel okay to let you know they're not having a great day or that sort of thing.

One of my other guests, Julie Norman mentioned about this sense of, she always teaches sense of self, sense of others and sense of the world around you that being so important to everything we do, no matter what you're learning, and that it's okay to come into a classroom as a teacher or come into a school as a leader and tell whoever it is, your students, your staff, "I'm not having the best day today, or I'm not feeling my best right now.

And if I am off with you today, if I'm quick to anger or any of those sorts of things, I want you to know it isn't you, it's me." And again, just that being upfront, being honest is just incredibly valuable. And I think a question for you who, as you say, you've been on both sides of this, where you have been that person who, "I've got this, there's nothing I can improve," whatever, what advice can you give if people want to become, I guess, more self-aware and how do you make that transition? Because I think that is not the natural mindset for someone who wants to be a leader. You don't want to show weakness. So how do you make that leap?

Dr Dean Wilson:

There's two things I'm going to say. Leaders are readers. When I look at the amount of self-help books, when I look at the amount of culture building books, there's no shortage of opportunities for us to continuously be learning as leaders. There will always be a book on the coffee table in my office that is a deficit that I've seen in myself or somebody has seen in me. The other thing is find a mentor that has been there before.

The gift of mentorship is probably one of the greatest gifts that I've been able to receive. As I look back at some of the people that have intentionally made investments in me, they're people that can be honest with me. They're people that can look at me and say, "Dean, I see what you're trying to do." Maybe I've been there before. Maybe I've had this experience before.

My experience has been if you do this, you might fail. Are you headstrong enough to push forward in the face of this or is your heart soften enough to really get that third party feedback and not just give it a false ear, but really internalize that? The other thing is self-reflection on a daily basis. Every single day I have my six things to do because research will show you've got about six quality tasks you can improve in a day.

There's also a plus delta at the bottom of my page. I write down every positive interaction I've had with a student or a staff member. And on my Deltas, I write down what are some of the opportunities where maybe I could improve? And as I start to track my pluses, as I start to track my deltas, it's really self-reflective and self-evident of what I need to do to better serve others. So creating systems, a daily check in and checkout for yourself.

It's good for students, it's good for adults. I think that constant mindset that you know what? Every day, every way, just a little better. How can I best serve my staff? How can I best serve my students? And like you said, it's not perfect. There's days that there's no pluses. There's days that there's only deltas, but in the cup of life, it's neither half empty nor half full.

It's completely refillable, and each day we get that opportunity. So I think that those are some of the tips and tricks that I found to be effective for me. Like I said, read, find a mentor and self-reflect on your actions. If you can do those three things and do those three things consistently, I believe you'll find yourself to be able to be better serving those that are in your care.

Adam Smith:

The self-reflection part for me is, you put it into a great perspective there when you said, if it's good for students, then it's good for the staff. And you're so right that we impart this knowledge or this idea to students that you should do that. You should self-reflect whether that's academically or personally or emotionally or whatever it might be. But you're so right that we don't often find time to do that for ourselves.

I certainly have done it in the past, but then not because as you say, you might get to a point where you're just so busy, you think, "I don't have time," but actually it's probably more valuable to do it than not. And I think the results that it'll glean over time, it's not a short window of, "I'll do it for a week and then I'll nail it" kind of thing.

I do love that, and I think I might have to pick that back up because it's something that yeah, I think it's so valuable. So with all of that in mind, so you've been through that yourself, you've been through those failures, and you said you created these high trust, low fear environments. Again, how do you instill that in the people that you lead? How do you kind of create that? What do you find are the best tactics for that?

Dr Dean Wilson:

There's really three things people crave when it comes to being in a workplace. They want crystal clear expectations. So part of my role in leadership is really helping to define what does good look like within every role that I oversee. And with special ed and with student services, it's everything from student safety to a student that's on an IEP to a student that may need responsive services.

So for our occupational therapists, for our physical therapists, for our speech language pathologists, for, man, our interventionists, what does good look like within our role? What are the metrics that matter? Really helping define what those are. The second thing is frequent formative feedback with our staff. That is one thing that I can say that we are very, very intentional with is, you know what?

When we see doing good, you doing good, we're going to call out the things that you're doing good, and we might call them up publicly or privately because I'm going to learn what your praise preference is. I'm going to spend time and really build a relationship before I start to evaluate. The third key factor in that is what does the filter up feedback look like? It's pretty intimidating to be able to have your staff give you a grade.

When we sit down with our monthly touchpoints with our teams, it's a really, really good opportunity for them to say, "This is what we need and this is what we need from you." Just two days ago, I had one of the best speech language pathologists in our district come in and say, "You know what, Dean? Our head's underwater on this subject. We're actually drinking water on this subject, and I really think if you were to do X, Y, or Z, we'd be able to overcome that." Now that's my duty to serve that person to alleviate those concerns.

So again, it comes back to are we really crystal clear in our expectations? Do we have filter down feedback and do we have filter up feedback? And again, you have to have a relationship with the person before that even begins. We're going to identify what your praise preferences are. We're going to identify, "Hey, what makes you feel good outside of school? What makes you feel good within school?"

Previously, we've talked about that whole work life balance. It's got to be a life work balance. And when people know that you care far more about them and their family success than you do about their work performance, that's a really great way to create really genuine and real relationships with people. So I think that those are some of the mechanisms that we're working on. Again, they're not perfect, but at least they're in place in order to help guide the decisions that we make as we move forward.

Speaker 3:

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 hs.securly.com/report. That's hs.securly.com/report today.

Adam Smith:

As we often do on Voice in Education to wrap up, I would love to ask you our three questions that we like to end on a bit of a positive, let's give our listeners something to take away. Now, some of your answers on the previous episode that you were on were incredible, but some time has passed, and I would love to see how those things might have changed. So obviously, we really care about student wellness at Securly and in Voices in Education. So what do you think is the biggest challenge you're seeing at the moment that educators face when it comes to supporting student wellness?

Dr Dean Wilson:

It's under-resourced communities right now. We need to do a really good job of marketing education and the opportunity that really does provide. We're in a very rural place in our state. We have three times the highest or three times the national suicide rate in the state of Utah. We have some factors that are really pitted against us right now. As I look at what we can do, we have got to be focused not on the problems, but on the potential solutions that we can provide.

Most people that come into education, they don't do it for the paycheck, they don't do it for the lifestyle, they do it for the student. So we've got to do a really good job of really getting the best people to want to come and stick in education. Staff retention, staff recruitment, those are two areas that we're highly focused on because frankly, our kids deserve world-class services, and that's only going to be provided through world-class people. So we've got to have a call to arms to get the best and the brightest to reengage and reconnect with education.

Adam Smith:

Community and creating teams like that. Again, and not just teams of the best people, but people that feel together, they feel like they belong, there is no replacement from that. [inaudible 00:33:10] when your team are working in sync and they all know each other. And again, that only comes with time. You have to have, you mentioned about sort of the retention side of things. And our second question is about teacher burn out and those sorts of things.

That's so real and cannot be ignored. You cannot just expect, "Okay, I'll just keep replacing those teachers when they burn out," as if they are replaceable because they're not. They bring something so unique. And once you are part of that team, invaluable. It cannot be replaced just by expertise or even by sort of experience or longevity. It's all about being in that team and growing together really. So for anyone that is feeling burnt out right now in education, do you have any advice for them? Anything you'd like to say?

Dr Dean Wilson:

I know last time we talked a lot about that life work balance. I still believe, what are the activities that you have outside that refill your cup? Where are those positive connections that you need as an adult in order to feel ready at school? The other reality is if people are feeling burned out before you check out, check in. Check in with your supervisor, check in with those that are around you, because oftentimes leaders maybe have blinders on.

They don't see what's going on. So I would encourage you to be brave enough, vulnerable enough to share where we're really at with those people that really have the ability to make decisions, to make change. Filter up that feedback. If you're already thinking that you're going to burn out, what have you got to lose? Please, please, please check in before you check out of education. We need the best to maintain and retain in education right now.

Adam Smith:

I love the check in before you check out. That's a great message. One of my other guests, Adam Parkes, his episode is called Reach Out Before You Burn Out, and he was a very successful school leader in the UK on paper, outwardly looked like the absolute success story, everything you'd want to be, but his life was crumbling and it got to the point where, yeah, he wanted to end it all and was very close to doing so.

And his story is one that really moved me. But the message is the same, it's reach out before you burn out, check in, before you check out, all those sorts of things. It's so important. And again, going back to what we were just discussing previously, once you create that environment where people feel they can be honest, they can be upfront and they can reach out, that becomes easier. And we are having more and more of these conversations.

It's more in the public eye than it's ever been, and in our mindsets. Absolutely, anyone listening, if you are feeling that way, please do reach out. Whether it's to a colleague, to a professional, to your manager, whoever it might be, you should absolutely do that before things get too bad. Right. Let's end on a positive.

I like to make sure we check out of the podcast feeling uplifted. So you've already given us some great examples of how you can improve the education setting and all those sorts of things. But when you're looking even further than that, when you're looking beyond that, what is giving you hope about education as you look to the future?

Dr Dean Wilson:

As I look to the future, one, we have better tools. I look even just five years ago and 10 years ago, we have some of the best tools available to really help streamline and make our jobs efficient. The other thing that I really see is in our own district, a rising tide will float all boats. We have a groundswell of support with our staff, with our communities, with our students right now. We're able to do some really incredible things because we are focused on some of those positive things.

I'm super excited. In the state of Utah, we're really intentionally looking at how do we tackle the issue of under-resourced communities, how do we provide more mental health professionals? It used to be even five, 10 years ago, we don't talk about suicide, we don't talk about these issues. Now we are forced to talk about these issues, and that's a really, really good thing. It is so empowering to see the discussions that are happening on the state, local, and national level.

I look at even something as simple as the 1800 number for suicide prevention changing to the 988 number. Over five million people have sought out resources because of that quick change, the ability to checks, the ability to communicate differently. So I do see the tide turning. I do see a lot of hope for the future. That's what gives me hope, is we have better tools, we have better systems, and right now we have some of the best people in the world that I'm fortunate enough to work for and work with. So those are the things that give me hope right now.

Adam Smith:

Great list. And if one thing gives me hope, it's people like you working within education who are just so inspiring, full of energy, full of these incredible ideas that you are so willing to pass on and to try and spread to others. So Dean, thank you so much again for being here today. It's incredible to have you for a second time, and maybe we'll get you back for a third time in the next season, who knows.

But until then, I hope you continue to, as you say, create these incredible environments of vulnerability and that, yeah, that more people who are listening in will realize how valuable that can be. That brings us to the end of today's special episode of the Voices in Education podcast in partnership with Securly Prepared. If you enjoyed this episode, don't forget to leave a rating and a review to help other listeners like you find the podcast.

And be sure to check out the on-demand replay of Securly Prepared where you can see Dean over at www.bigmarket.com/securly/securly-prepared, or just click the link in our episode description. We'd also love you to continue the conversation over on our social channels. You can follow us on Twitter at Securly, over on Instagram at Securly Inc, and on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/company/securly. I look forward to seeing you there. Dean, where can our listeners find you?

Dr Dean Wilson:

You know what? You can find me on LinkedIn. That's probably the best way to find me. Dean Wilson, Ed.D. And I'm going to leave you with three things that I think everyone needs to hear every single day. I love you. I care about you. I want you to do well in life. Much love, love much.

Adam Smith:

Thanks for tuning in to the Voices in Education podcast, powered by Securly. For more episodes and additional details about the podcast, visit www.securly.com/podcast.