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  • Writer's pictureGeorgia O'Keefe

Thinking Like a Teacher: A Conversation with Former Principal Matt

Updated: May 4

Georgia & Christine are coming at you from Florida today in a really candid conversation with former principal turned learning and development consultant, Matt. It’s clear why Matt was an effective educator & principal - his story feels like listening to a really motivating TED Talk!

Matt shares how leaving the classroom allowed him the ability to care for himself - he found time to get back into swimming, baking, & even lost 50 pounds in the process.

This episode brings up topics ranging from taking care of yourself “there’s only ONE you!”, how our soft skills as educators are our biggest assets, & some favorite memories from his classroom days. If you are curious about curriculum design & wanting to learn more about the impressive clients Matt has worked with (hint: 1 institution is older than our country & NOT related to education), make sure to tune in!

Matt’s consulting business:

Christine (00:03):

Welcome to Making the Grade An Education podcast for current and former teachers to share notes, define success, and assess their own happiness in the classroom and beyond where your hosts, Christine, in Georgia.

Georgia (00:16):

The problems in education may seem endless, but so are the possibilities. Listen, laugh, and leave our episodes empowered to define your own success as an educator and an individual cast.

Georgia (00:32):

We are your host, Christine and Georgia, and we are so excited you're tuning in to share your teacher voice. Today we'll be talking with our guest Matt Foster, about his journey and how important it has been to still think like a teacher even after leaving the classroom. A little about Matt. Matt is currently a learning and development consultant. Previously, he was a social studies marine science and special education teacher. He became a principal to advocate for teachers and moved out of schools in 2013. Since then, he has done contract work as an instructional designer, curriculum lead trainer and learning and development program manager. When he's not working, Matt loves to cook and bake swim competitively, and he's an advocate for beagle ambassador Hound rescue organizations

Christine (01:20):

Teachers. Matt clearly has a very cool resume and we love that he's expressed the importance of thinking like a teacher in all of these really impressive roles. As teachers, we so often think, if you weren't teaching, what else would we be doing? Um, stick around to learn more about his journey and how confident he is that you can take your teaching superpowers out of the classroom too. If you want to.

Georgia (01:47):

Thank you so much for being here today, Matt.

Matt (01:49):

Thank you for having me. I'm looking forward to this. Thank you.

Georgia (01:53):

We're really excited. And as we just went over, you have a pretty impressive resume and we're getting to all of it. But before we do that, we love about our guests on a more personal level, and if you've listened to the show before, you might have noticed, we like to do some, would you rathers? Some people call them this or that. It's pretty fun. Um, but you also expressed to us earlier that you're passionate about dessert and dogs and swimming, and we find all that very relatable and we thought maybe you'd wanna say a little bit more about that.

Matt (02:27):

Yeah. So, um, I don't know. I don't wanna go too far down the rabbit hole, but, um, desserts and baking is just kind of a thing. I, it kind of started, I'm not really that good with my hands. I never really had, like, maybe when I was a kid, you know, it helped me later as a teacher, but didn't necessarily have a penant for hand-eye coordination as an athlete or, uh, for carpentry or for anything like that. But at a certain point in life I like, you know, kind of the cultural aspect of like finding an old cookbook and making recipes. Um, so yeah, um, that's kind of where I came for that and I just like to tinker with it. So, um, you know, that and the swimming. My father was a, um, he passed away when I was really young, but, um, he was a competitive swimmer, um, on the collegiate level.

Matt (03:14):

And, um, it's kind of something I've gotten back into is I've, you know, kind of my quality life, like work life balance and everything I've gotten back to into in this stage in life. Um, but I've just always loved the water. When I used to, I'm not originally from Florida, but when I used to live up north, I can remember as a kid I'd climb at the top of the really tall trees and see if I could see the ocean, you know, and just always had that fascination with that. And as far as the dogs, um, I had, he's, he's passed away now, but I had a, um, I had a rescue beagle, um, probably we got him back in 2014. He was a little bit older, but I just had the, a heart and I've had beagles and bass hells my whole life, and I've always just had a heart for dogs and I just love dogs. But really, um, for, for rescue organizations, the breed specific rescue organizations, I'm sure where you, um, where you guys live, um, or where you're from, there's rescue specific organizations. They do such a good job of advocating for dogs and finding homes. So, um, we just encourage any of the listeners, if you're thinking about getting a dog, uh, check into that. Um, and it's just, yeah, it's just such a really cool thing that you can do in being involved with. So, so, yeah.

Christine (04:25):

Yeah. No, I love that. Um, I don't even know where to start, but I guess, uh, the things that I was thinking about when you were talking, what is your favorite thing to bake?


What's my favorite thing to bake, um, is if I can take a recipe and simplify it. One of the things I did yesterday was, um, I used to think this was so complicated. Souffle, crepes,

Christine (04:47):

That sounds, comp souffle is complicated. I, I like to bake too. <laugh>.

Matt (04:52):

No, I, I thought the same thing. But here, here's the thing. Simplified, take your custard. If you just wanted it to be pudding, you, if you just wanted to see the process, take pudding, for example, but I made like a pastry cream. Take egg whites, whip 'em to stiff peaks, take two, mix them into that, put it in the oven, bake it for 10 minutes, it poofs up. That's the souffle. And eat it. Don't let, don't wait on it. <laugh>.

Matt (05:18):

Um, yeah, it gets, so that's Probably the thing that I'm baking lately, that, that is just fascinating. But it's kind of simple once you kind of figure it out, you know,

Georgia (05:26):

You make it sound so simple, I guarantee I would mess it up, but maybe I'll try it at some point when I'm not living in a van. I think that would complicate things even more <laugh>.

Matt (05:35):

Yeah, that would be a really cool thing. Like how simple can you complete the process? That would be a cool thing for you, for you to maybe try while you're out traveling. So Yeah, true, true.

Christine (05:44):

Yeah. Taking really complex dishes and trying to do it in the van with Kona <laugh>. It could be like a new, a new show. All right. Um, okay then let's do some, let's do some this or that really quickly. Are you, let's see, I keep coming back to weather. I think it's just cuz you're in Florida. Um, are you a rain or snow kind of a person? Do you like the cold at all? <laugh>?

Matt (06:12):

I do, but I live in Florida. I like it more that I live in Florida now. I initially moved from, um, up north. I said as we, um, were coming in, I'm originally from Georgia where it gets cold, not as maybe Massachusetts or something like that, but it, we have these snaps and I left. Uh, that was part of one of the reasons I left. But now that I'm here, um, I travel, I love to travel to the cold, so, um, yeah, snow.

Christine (06:38):

Awesome. Yeah, no, it makes sense. You kind of want what you can't have nearby all the time. Um, all right. And then what about movie or a show?

Matt (06:49):

Show. Yeah, I would say I, there's not too many movies that I, I mean there's been, I don't know, maybe it was Star Wars a few years ago, but, um, one of the coolest shows I went to in probably the last few years, the Sound of Music came to town here. And, um, the, are you guys familiar with the Sound of music?

Christine (07:09):

Mm-hmm. Vermont? Yeah.

Matt (07:11):

Okay. So the actor who played the Mother Avis, I believe she was like, it was like she was a star of the show rather than the far line Maria character. And when she sang and they go to the intermission, cuz you know what's so long? I was just like, it blew me away. It was so good. It was so good. Nice.

Christine (07:34):


Georgia (07:35):

I love that. I wish her listeners could see the face you just made. He just looked like he was like,

Christine (07:39):

<laugh>. I

Matt (07:40):

Thought I was gonna cry. Seriously. I thought I was gonna cry. My daughter, my daughter is, uh, 14. She was about nine at the time. She knew I liked that show, but she was like, what is it, daddy? I'm like, it was that good. You don't,

Christine (07:50):

Oh, <laugh>. We'll have to check it out. Oh

Georgia (07:54):

No. Um, all right, well as we transition into our teaching conversation, I'll give you a this or that related to school. So if you had to go back to the classroom tomorrow, would you rather take a position teaching social studies again or teaching marine science?

Matt (08:15):

Oh, that's a good question. That's a, that's a very good dilemma.

Christine (08:19):


Matt (08:20):

I probably, I would probably say marine science for the experiential aspect. When I used to teach marine science down here, I taught at a school that was, it's gone now, but it was near the beach. So the thing I liked about marine science the most is I could go outside, we could find some shells, we crustaceans, fish, whatever. And I could teach that way. And I think I had a better, I could capture more, I could capture more learners that way. When I taught marine science versus when I taught, I originally got into teaching many years ago. This will probably come up later on when we're talking. I just love history. I love the storytelling. I can just kinda like the cookbook thing, there's that little related part of that I can just get and read history and I'm just talk and lecture all day. And we know that's probably not the thing that you need to do with students all the time, but I'm just endlessly fascinated with it. So, yeah.

Christine (09:11):

Awesome. That's so cool. That makes me think of, um, my, uh, seventh grade science teacher, uh, took us to, to wild in retrospect, but she took the entire seventh grade class to her house cuz she lived on the beach, um, in a lot of places, uh, around Boston or really close to the water, but she lived right by the airport, um, in Winthrop. So we would see the planes come in and we just had our field day there and she showed us all the stuff like, you know, the things that we had studied. And I just, I'll never forget it, you know? Um, yeah, I'm still thinking of it decades later, but yeah, you're right. Something about the, could you

Matt (09:49):

Have that experience

Christine (09:49):

Yeah, the experience aspect that you, we hope our students remember for decades to come. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Very cool. So yeah, then let's go backwards a little bit. Um, what led you into teaching and your role as a principal? And then c can you fast forward to what led you out of the classroom, your journey?

Matt (10:07):

Yeah, so mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So what got me into teaching initially, I, I said a little bit about the history, um, the aspect. But when I finished undergrad, I didn't, I didn't initially go to school for, for education curriculum or anything like that. I went back and, um, transitioned. But what really got me, um, moving into the classroom as nine 11 happened, and I just had this, um, kind of existential thing. I was working a, uh, I was working a corporate job and I just had this existential thing that I didn't really feel like I was helping anybody. So, um, it was at that point that I, I, whenever I had like, um, whenever I had like time or spare time in afternoon or something like that, I would go volunteer and substitute teach and that kind of thing, just to kind of be like, um, kinda like we talked about a minute ago.

Matt (11:00):

This is something I may want to do at some point. But after nine 11 happened and I really just kind of had that, that thing that I need to be helping people more, that's when I started saying, all right, I'm gonna go into being a teacher, I'm gonna find, and I, I'm gonna angle to be a social studies teacher. And, um, that's how I got in. And initially, um, probably maybe like this where you, where you guys have taught too, but just getting a social studies job is pretty hard to get. So, um, someone had told me, get your special education certification, um, and you'll be, you'll be more marketable. So I hadn't even thought about that. I mean, I was just, if I thought teaching history at that point, I was like, I'm just gonna tell stories and just get really excited and animated about teaching history.

Matt (11:47):

Um, I didn't differentiated instruction, all this kind of stuff. I mean, all the stuff that's our dna, you know, that was before those days. So I got this special education certification and sure enough, my first job that I got was teaching social studies and I was an E S C case manager. So I was in charge of doing all that. Um, had no plan period and had to do all the pullouts for that. And it was, it was a lot of work. It was a lot of work. It was really stressful. But I'll tell you here I am, 2023, all the stuff I learned being a special education teacher, you know, how modalities, how you, you know, the way you do an I E P and you just have to think, okay, regular theory, regular methods, regular experience is not working with this learner. However, we've gotta figure out a way for hammerer to learn. Um, and uh, that was when I taught, I mentioned about, uh, teaching marine science because I taught a lot, several different subjects, um, that was a kind of a hands-on thing that I could do where we could really, you know, you know, facilitate that transfer of learning, which is kind of the goal that we look for gold, uh, that we look for in the classroom. So, um, what was, you had asked me, and then did you ask me about getting into being a principal? Yeah,

Christine (13:06):

So in principal and outta the classroom? Yeah.

Matt (13:09):

Yeah. So, so I was, yeah. So at the time, uh, I had made the decision I was gonna go, uh, I had started grad school and I wanted to go for history. Um, I was still interested in doing that. Um, but at the time I had a, there was a professor where I was going, she's like, you'd be good in to do ed leadership and you know, you have to do that to get your principal certification. She's like, no, I, you should really think about this. Come in. She was the head of the program at, um, where I, where I, um, went to grad school. So I said, you know what, I, there's some trajectory here with the work that I was doing, and, um, they needed principles where I was and, and you know, there was a demand for it. So I jumped into that and started doing it.

Matt (13:52):

And at the time, and, and this is one of those things, I don't know that, you know, what the automatic demand, what the, um, I guess what the demands are requirements are to be a principal, but at that time there were a lot of people, and this is no knock, but maybe it is, I don't know. Um, but there wasn't a lot of leadership that I was seeing that had, that brought that classroom experience. And I really felt like if you're gonna be that even a lead teacher, if you're gonna be a, you know, run a school, you really need to be able to relate to what your teachers, the, the, the, you know, the stress that you go through, the planning that you need to go through to think like a learning institution. And rather than I'm just managing these, these individuals, you've gotta get that organizational cohesiveness together to run, to really run a school and really get people thinking about data and, and going through that.

Matt (14:48):

So that just really, after I kind of put all that together, I'm like, okay, this is for me. So I went for it and, um, did the thing, became a principal and, um, did that for several years and, um, you know, worked in several different schools and, you know, would get their education curriculum turned around. Um, I, I'll mention I worked in a title one school and it was also like a department of ju juvenile justice school. So depending on the district that I was working in, I always, you know, one of those things about, you know, is, you know, you have that instructional core, you have the content, you have the student, um, you have the school, whatever, but you also have, you gotta have the relationship with the parents. So, um, you know, it's not one of these things that, I mean, as we know, not just drop your kids off, we all have to be on the same page with communication and everything.

Matt (15:38):

So, um, one of the, this was the, actually the last school I was at, I had a G E D program. There was a G E D program that I had set up for students who had finished my program, which in, at the time it was sixth grade through 12th grade. So I'd have 'em all the way through. That was good. And in a lot of cases, um, well actually a lot of the parents, uh, needed A G E D. So, um, we set up a program I had actually secured funding and said, well, you know what, if you want to come and do this here, I got an online program, um, you can do it and it doesn't cost you anything show up. So it really kind of made that school more, like, more of a community center, which I know, I don't know if it's a big thing now, probably is, uh, just with that relationship with parents and, and, and the community, but you know, how you are able to, you know, serve the community, whether it's through volunteering, having those good relationships that you need with government, you need with businesses and all that.

Matt (16:33):

So, um, yeah, I did a lot of that when I was a principal. And, um, around 2013, um, I had been, you know, a principal for, for that amount of time and I had the opportunity, um, I actually got recruited to go do a lot of work for, uh, department of Defense. I'm not prior military. Um, not, didn't have any kind of experience like that, but what they needed was someone who could think like a curriculum developer rather than maybe the training, um, planning, like you maybe see in a lot of like, tackle levels of the military. They needed someone to come in and really professionalize the curriculum and really, you know, write good learning objectives, um, do that kind of thing. So I got a job doing that and it was like, okay, this is a good opportunity. This is different. Um, and you know, a lot of the stuff that I was, you know, it, we know, I mean, it's, as your listeners know, um, it's a tough, it's tough work.

Matt (17:31):

Um, but I wanted to keep moving. I wanted to keep, you know, improving myself and, and, and, you know, seeing what I could contribute. So that's when I made the move. Uh, so I did that in, I think it was, um, like November or December of 2013. And that was really my springboard into doing like this kind of contracting consulting work. So I've, I went from there doing the work with special operations into Department of Defense. Um, did that for several years. Um, from there I moved into the energy sector. I did it a lot of training for them. Again, these are all organizations that are not related, I have no expertise in. Um, and I really figured out it was probably as I'm probably after I had been in, um, working in the curriculum developer job in the Department of Defense that I really started to, uh, and this is probably worth talking about a bit for the listeners that I really started to realize after several years, you know, if I really just approached this job like a teacher and really think learning how do you really think about learning in this, this is the value add that I bring.

Matt (18:43):

And I didn't initially think like that. I see this in a lot of the, uh, a lot of the posts that I see and a lot of just talking with other teachers who are in the classroom now they think, okay, how do I become the job? How do I become this job in this organization? And that's very familiar to me because I was the same way. In fact, I went into my job as to research. I had a hard time learning things as I was younger. You know, I'd get in and be like, okay, I would learn all the content and then say, okay, well this is what we need to do. And that wasn't really my job so much. My job was to bring my skillset and this is still what I do into the organization, which is thinking like a teacher and how do we create efficient learning and facilitate that transfer of knowledge.

Matt (19:28):

Um, so yeah, did that and have worked with several different organizations. Uh, since then, I've worked with the un, done some work with Harvard University, uh, up up in Massachusetts, had a team working with, uh, part of that, uh, UN project. Uh, I've done some work with Microsoft, but they're all different organizations. But really it's taken me several years to really realize, you know, it, it takes having that, I don't know if I wanna say confidence, because there is some humility that comes with that as well. But really thinking like a teacher has been probably the thing that has served me, uh, the most through that. So, yeah.

Georgia (20:07):

Wow. I love everything you just said. One of the things that really stood out to me a lot was when you originally transitioned out of the, out of being a principal to this new job, the reason for that kind of was cuz they were looking for someone like you. They were looking for someone who thought like an educator who knew how to create curriculum, develop curriculum, target it towards a specific type of quote unquote student. Um, and I think that that's pretty great cuz I think what we're hearing a lot in talking to teachers is sort of feeling undervalued in the classroom and underappreciated. And it's cool to see these organizations like the un, Harvard University, Microsoft, you know, these really well known, important organizations, valuing bringing a teacher onto their team. Um, and yeah, that's, you know, inspirational for teachers out there feeling like, oh, all I can do is be in a classroom.

Georgia (21:17):

Um, and if, if that's where you wanna be, like, that's amazing. And if not, it's really great to hear a story like yours, um, of all these important places you've then that have really valued your work as a teacher. And also how you intrinsically have figured out how important it is to think like a teacher, even more so than when you were in the classroom, which is, um, interesting. But I was speak the same thing, <laugh>, like I, I'm not in the classroom now either. And, um, I definitely find that my innate teacher abilities help me so much in everything that I do now. Um, so it's true perspective. Yeah,

Matt (22:01):

Just put my bias out there if I really could have it my way as far as, you know, I work in, you know, bigger projects now and, um, I would work with all teachers. I wish I could just bring teachers in just for that, that, I mean, and that's, you know, as I think as we were initially talking teachers or my tribe, but you know, that way of thinking, that way of wrestling with, okay, the conventional's not working, let's do the unconventional, let's think through this. It really, it goes quite well for, uh, design sessions when you're norming what you want to learn. So, um, yeah, it takes, you know, one of the things looking back for me, it took me, and this was my own journey, you know, I didn't have mentor. This was like, okay, this is happening as I go. But I think that it takes a little bit of understanding of, and I wasn't aware at the time of, okay, I'm in another large organization that doesn't have the same necessarily structure as a school district.

Matt (22:56):

There was a little bit of that, that mental shift that had to be made. And I noticed that too when I worked in another large organization and I saw, which in this case would be the military. And you see people who the same way spend most of their career there being successful doing whatever, and then they transitioned out. I did a lot of work with like transitioning veterans when I was there too. So, um, yeah. So, um, yeah, that was, it was quite interesting. But yeah, the teachers can get to that point and really have that reflection of, you know, leaning on their skillset and really saying, I, I, people have asked me, so what do you, what do you mean by that? And I think that, I don't know that this is, this is probably just the description that I would use for, it's that consultative approach.

Matt (23:39):

And it's still that listening ear as you go in to meet with a client as you go to sit down. Because sometimes, uh, you, you may have a client or a project that they may know what they don't want, uh, but they don't know quite what they want, but they recognize it when they see it. So it really takes that listening much like in IEP meetings or whatever to see really tease out the subtleties and really then see the nuances and say, okay, maybe this is a path that we can get on. So, so, yeah.

Christine (24:09):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, when you were talking about how, um, you brought your teacher skills into your current role, um, it, it kind of got me thinking about how I think when a lot of teachers transition out of the classroom, what we're hearing a lot is that they're, they feel like they need to kind of shift to mold into, oh, I'm not a teacher, I am a professional, or I work in this business now. Um, and to kind of forget that piece of them. But, um, kind of bringing that you were, you were talking about humility and confidence. It's like this duality almost at the same time. Like, okay, I know I have things to learn, but I I also bring this value. I have these soft skills that you can't really get anywhere except for working in a classroom and having to get used to 20 something new students every year and their parents and dealing with, you know, these really personal and educational issues every day. You know, it's so much more than just, uh, writing skills and curriculum and teaching. It's all of the, those soft skills, the listening, the mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, empathizing or, and, you know, understanding their perspective and all that stuff. So I, I love that you, uh, didn't forget those pieces and that's what's making you, you know, successful in what you're doing now. It's really cool.

Matt (25:25):

Yeah, it, one of the things I'll mention is, is, as you were saying that too, is it's, it's an iterative thing. So you, you think about, like, I'll just give a simple example, teaching a history lesson. Maybe you teach it three times a day or whatever, you know, the third one's prep. Well, maybe after lunch it's kind of tough because the kids are a certain way, but you get better, successively better as as you, as you walk through and you do it. Um, so you take that journey from being, okay, I'm doing this, I'm doing this well, how do I become highly effective or, or, or increase that, you know, so that's kind of at a point that I'm at right now. How do I become more of a highly effective consultant? You know, you look at the people in, in this field, in the consulting field and say, okay, what are they really doing right? And this is just kind of part of my professional development now. And say, okay, how are they, you know, functioning, working and, and, and that type of thing. So, you know, it's, it's a journey. You, you, you stay on. It's never a destination, you know.

Matt (26:27):

Um, so really quickly, when you started doing the contract work and, um, kind of transitioning out of the classroom, would you say that was a decisive, it's time for me to go? Or was it kind of a slow over time, taking on more work outside of the classroom? Or did you hit like a tipping point where you were like, I need to get out of here? Or was it just a natural progression? It, it sounded like a natural progression, but I'm just curious the, the in between.

Matt (26:53):

Most definitely. It, I got to a point where work-life balance was really tough. I'm just gonna be real about that. It wasn't, you know, I'm, I'm, I got to the point where, you know, my, I, I was having problems with my health, um, you know, just, just an exercise schedule. I was having a hard time keeping up with that. I'll mention too, I didn't have summers off. I was a 12 month teacher. Um, so I had Thanksgiving and Christmas, so summers I didn't have summers off. So, um, in pro, I think maybe one year that I taught the rest of the time I was 12 months. So, um, it got to the point where it was that, and I really had to say, you know, I, I didn't know so much then, but you know, I'm, I'm looking to level and do something else. I didn't want to be, um, uh, at that point I didn't know that I really wanted to move up and be, make something maybe higher on the district level.

Matt (27:48):

Um, I just, I just felt like that at, at the highest invest that maybe about 30 or 40% of me that I could use. I really wanted to hopefully be a, a, you know, be able to use a lot more of my skillset. So, um, but yeah, it was definitely stress and work-life balance and it took me, um, a a lot of time and, and a lot of, um, really just looking in the mirror and saying, you know, there's some stuff that I've got to, you know, deal with in my health and everything, um, to get to, to be the best me for my family, for my community, for, for the people that know me and for myself. So, yeah.

Georgia (28:25):

Do you feel like your work-life balance is better now, even with all the places you're working with and all the, you know, oh, definitely hard work you're doing in a different way. Yeah,

Matt (28:37):

Definitely. It took, you know, really look really seeing, I had high blood pressure. Um, I was probably, oh gosh, I was probably, I had about 50 or or 60 weight, 50 or 60 more pounds. Just a lot of that stuff was like, you know, and I mentioned earlier my father had passed away at a very early age, um, from heart disease. Um, so it's like I really had to look at that and say again, how are the people who were highly effective doing this? Um, got a lot of, I got a lot of insight when I was doing some work with the un, um, did an executive leadership program where we had a really big resilience component there, and it went through, you know, how are, what are your coping mechanisms? This is something good to say. I, I mentioned this about resilience awareness for school districts.

Matt (29:26):

Um, I think in one of our other questions, but one of the things that I would say is what are, what are your coping mechanisms? I'll put myself out there. I mentioned earlier, I like to bake, so I like to eat cookies. I like, that's a negative way of coping. You've got positive ways of coping when you have stress can be swimming, it can be whatever. Um, and you really have to say, you know, maybe some of that is okay every once in a while, but if your negative coping mechanisms are what you're using to get through your stress of being in the classroom, that's not, that's not sustainable. That's not sustainable. And, um, the, the thing that I would say is you're just not, that's using that is probably not is is not it. And it's not Matt saying this, this, the data's there and this is self-evident. Um, you're not gonna be, you know, coming correct with your best you. So, um, yeah.

Christine (30:16):

Oh, that, that makes a lot of sense. Um, so it sounds like you've been kind of more in tune with yourself now, and you have the ability to, um, kind of think about those things outside of the classroom. And it probably is has to do with, you know, the flexibility that you have a little bit now with not having to be bound to the school schedule, which it sounds like was even more than the typical school year load, um, where you were admin. Um, so thinking about the classroom then, and thinking about teachers that are there right now, students, everyone in that community, is there anything that you think would make education a better place? What would it be?

Matt (31:02):

I mentioned it a second ago, a little bit about maybe the resilience, uh, awareness. Um, I wish I had a book title. I may can pass it to you to put in the resources later on <laugh>. Um, but really just the awareness of that. Um, I know what it is, and I've been in that place where you're in maybe a, a, a zero authority environment, just to put it, yeah, that's more of a term. But basically you're, you're dealing with factors that are outta your control. For me, uh, when I was in the classroom, I had kids who were gang members. I had kids where there was a lot of violence happening. I saw some really bad things happening to kids, and I had to deal with, I had, it was just really, you know, you have a kid to be, I found out, I remember when I was teaching, I had a kid who had been homeless living in his house by himself for like a month, not homeless.

Matt (31:50):

His parents were in jail and he'd been without food, regular food on the reg for, for like a month. And I'm like, how does this happen? I couldn't, you know, but I had to cope with that. So, um, the thing that I would say to like, teachers now, yeah, I, I know the thought of, I've gotta get out of here. I I, I've gotta do something else. I need to do something else. But this probably won't be the thing to say. It's not a cure-all to leave the classroom. We still have to be in environments that are stressful, deal with people that are stressful. Um, but do that work on yourself, that self-care, that self-love, you know, through resilience. What are your, what are your positive coping mechanisms? What are your negative coping mechanisms? Are you getting enough sleep? Um, it's one of the things now I'm still trying to hack my sleep and be like, what can I do to, you know, power off at the end of the day? That kind of thing. You know, these, these watches are pretty good data points that can really, you know, help that quality of life even when you're in an environment that is quite stressful. So, yeah.

Georgia (32:54):

That's good advice. Um, it sounds like when you left the classroom principal setting, you were able to prioritize yourself more. And, you know, even teachers that are still in the classroom, I think kind of what you're saying is don't forget to prioritize yourself and your own needs. Um, cuz it's gonna make you a better teacher. It's gonna, you're gonna be able to give your best self to your students, to your family. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, whether you're in or out of a school, I think that's really great advice and would make the world a better place if everyone prioritize themself a bit more. There's not self,

Matt (33:32): There’s only One you, there's only one you, nobody else can be you. And we need you, whoever's here in this, your skillset, we need you. There's only one. You don't try to wish you with somebody else, but there's only one you

Georgia (33:44):

Exactly. Take care of you

Christine (33:46):

<laugh>. Um, awesome. How would you say, I mean, you kind of already spoke to this, but how would you say, what does success mean to you right now, and how is it different than what it meant for you to make the grade when you were in the classroom or in as a principal?

Matt (34:07):

Hmm. So when I was in the classroom, really, I, I talked about it briefly, but really trying to figure out how to facilitate that transfer of knowledge. I didn't know this when I initially was a teacher and I dealt with, I grappled with this as a principal, but really building that relationship with a student, that was the thing that we really needed to do. When you're, you know, build a relationship with a student, show that you respect them, you know, and it's not just, just come in here and do your work and that. So really figuring out a, um, oftentimes a creative unconventional way to facilitate that transfer of learning for students. And, um, that's sounds like a real term, but it, but the human level of that is, I guess what I wanna convey as we're talking about that. And then when I was a principal, um, working with my teachers to do the same thing.

Matt (34:57):

Hey, this is what's worked. Let's, let's take like a real inductive look at what we're doing, what's working, what's not working, what does Matt think is working okay, that's deductive. We wanna look at the wall of data, whether it's outcome scores or whatever, and say what is working, what's not working? And then work, you know, to, you know, build that data-driven environment of, of, of students who are moving forward. Uh, so that's what it, that's what it meant to me at that point. Now it's, it's balance, you know, it's not a less is more thing, but it's not that mentality of that. That's another thing is teachers, it's like you, you get sold out to the cause, you know, you're not, you can't do enough, you know, you have to, um, you know, I can, I just had a memory of Easter one year of doing work with everything and watching the kids, uh, Easter egg hunt out back, it's like, that's not, moving at that pace is not gonna be the best use. So really having that work-life balance and trying to be the highest and best me for, like I alluded to earlier, for, for my family, for the people that I know in my community and, and for myself.

Christine (36:05):

Awesome. All right. What about, um, let's end on a good note. So do you have a favorite or funny story from all your years in the classroom?

Matt (36:17):

All right, so I'll, I, I got, I have two brief ones. One of 'em is not, um, it's not a, I'm not gonna say it's a funny one, but it's, it was an aha thing for me. Um, and I, when I was, I can't remember, I think I was still teaching, but I had, as I mentioned, I was in a dropout prevention school and we all went to this trip to the airport one time. And, uh, I didn't think it was a big deal. I don't even like airports. I would rather go on a train, but everybody was so excited. And we gotta have a, I had about, I don't know, 12 or 15 students with me. And you have to understand, this was in a school where there was a high level, this was title one, you know, the terminology for that, um, where you low low income, you know, I had students that had never even been to the beach.

Matt (37:03):

So, you know, going to the airport on this day was like, there, it's like they were going to outer space or something like that. Um, but anyway, when I was there, we got the, we, I don't know if it was the captain or the manager or whoever, they let 'em go in the cockpit, let the kids actually go in the cockpit and sit down. And, um, that was cool to see. But afterwards, the kids were so thankful. And I think it was on that day that even though I'm me, that comes from a completely different place, uh, in a lot of cases, different ethnicity, different race, different, all that. Um, it's like, that was the day that I broke through and realized it's about having a relationship. And you know, even all these years later, you know, I still think back. I'm trying to get emotional.

Matt (37:47):

I want, I'm good. Um, think back on all those years that, you know, we were really, those kids really were my family, you know, those, we really were, you know, tho those, the kids that I had back in the day, I still think about 'em time to time. Every once in a while I may see somebody in town or whatever, but, uh, so that was a big breakthrough for me. So that's when I made that mental shift. And it's like, build a relationship with her. I'm like, yeah, whatever. But I'm like, no, that's what that affective thing happened, you know, where, um, that really made that to me. So that was kind of the touching thing, like change. So the funny one, <laugh>, I had this kid, uh, I'm about, I'm, I'm six feet tall and I had a student who was a middle schooler, 300 pounds, about six feet tall, just a, just a big kid.

Matt (38:31):

He looked like he was like 35 <laugh> <laugh>. Um, but anyway, and I knew him and you know, it always caught up and made me laugh. And anyway, he came up to me and he like standing like this, like with his arms crossed and like leaned over to me. He's like, Mr. Foster, there's no such thing as Santa Claus <laugh>. And it's just the innocent, you got the innocent way. He said this, I was like, this guy, this kid spoiler, this kid had this whole thing. Somebody just told this kid this. And when he asked me, he's looking at me in the eye, like, for an answer. I'm like, you need to go. And I knew his family, you need to go talk to your grandmother. She can tell you about it.

Matt (39:12):

I was like, how do, he's 15 years old. And it was just so funny that the kid was like, you know, such a, you know, big, you know, just a big like, looked like an adult. So I went and called his grandmother. I'm like, Hey, you got some explaining to do <laugh>, let know, expect it when he gets off the bus. So, um, I wish I could see that kid. That was so funny. Um, I guess someone explained it to him. But anyway, that was a really fun, that really gave me a good laugh that day.

Georgia (39:37):

Oh my gosh. You're like, I can't be this bearer of bad news. Uh,

Matt (39:42):

Oh, his, who knows? I, I mean, I knew the grandmother, but what if I just told, I mean, I had this quick, you know, thing. I'm like, if I say it, the grandmother would be like, you told him what <laugh> no

Christine (39:56):

To this day out somewhere, just believing it still <laugh>.

Matt (39:59):

I would love to see him. I wonder if he would even remember that. I,


I hope we can put this episode in his hands somehow. Yes.

Christine (40:08):

Put it out into the world. Be awesome.

Georgia (40:10):

<laugh>. We also, we need to put a disclaimer at the beginning of this episode that cause just in case,

Matt (40:19):

Is that for, is it gonna be like for adults only?

Christine (40:22):

Yeah, we're gonna have to make it, uh, for mature audiences.

Matt (40:28):

But your audience just put Santa Claus and caps, you don't think they're gonna hear No.


Right. <laugh>. Oh man. So funny. Well, thank you so much for being here. This was such a great conversation. Um, yeah,

Matt (40:43):

Thank you guys so much for having me. I enjoyed it.

Georgia (40:46):

Yeah, I think our listeners are really gonna enjoy your story and hear more about what you're doing now. Um, I think you gave us some links where, um, maybe people can find you or reach out to you. We can put those in the show notes for anyone who wants to learn more from you.

Matt (41:02):

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Uh, you can go to my site diversified Um, and then also I'm on LinkedIn, Matthew Foster. Um, happy, you know, again, you know, one of the things, any, anytime, any teachers or anything, I'm glad to pass any resources, help or anything. I mean, even if it's just, you know, you can get through the next day. Here's a plan

Georgia (41:26):

That wraps up our show for today. Remember to always listen to your teacher voice and measure success with your own ruler. Thanks so much for taking the time to listen. If you like what you heard today, share with a teacher who needs this in their life and don't forget to like, comment and subscribe to our show if you like what you heard.

Christine (41:43):

Thanks. Bye-Bye.

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