Marnetta: Good afternoon and thank you for joining us at this incredible event hosted by NHSA. While I couldn’t join the closing session, I’ve had the amazing pleasure of connecting with so many of you this week, and I’ve been really soaking in the passion and the energy of this community.
As CEO of Teachstone and co-author of CLASS, I’m deeply passionate about the work that you do to ensure that each child who walks into the classroom feels connected, engaged, and inspired to learn.
Now, I know that to some that might sound easy, but I know just as much as you do, how big, important, and challenging that work can be. It takes all of us working together as educators, coaches, and leaders to ensure that each child across every Head Start program has that opportunity each and every day.
As we do this work, we’re mindful of making sure we’re supporting all of our young learners. Each child has their own experiences and passions, curiosities, capacities, and needs, and they bring those into the classroom with them.
As educators, we work to make sure we are recognizing, valuing, and building from those in our daily work. And as coaches and leaders, we need to make sure that each and every educator also feels connected, engaged, and inspired. At Teachstone, we’re really honored to partner with you in this work.
CLASS is a measure used by Head Start, but its potential for impact is driven by the work that you do each day. I have been so inspired hearing the stories from this Head Start community, about how you’re using CLASS to impact the lives of children.
I’m going to go home filled with new ideas to share with our partners across the country and across the globe. It’s an honor to spend time with such passionate advocates for all children and families, and to have CLASS be one small part of the work Head Start is doing to lead the nation in demonstrating the life-changing power of relationships and interactions. Thank you for your commitment and for impacting the lives of hundred of thousands of children and families, one interaction at a time.
Hello, and welcome to Impacting the Classroom from Teachstone. If you're new to the podcast, we talk about policies, research, and challenges that are impacting early childhood classrooms. I'm your host, Marnetta Larrimer.
Today, we have a very special bonus episode to celebrate the launch of season three. Today, we come to you live from Miami at Teachstone's InterAct Conference. We are surrounded by a very special crowd of educators and leaders from the ECE field.
What's Impacting the Classroom? In short, there's a lot going on. The workforce is still reeling from Covid, and schools are struggling to recruit new teachers and retain their current team. The frequent turnover means that it's hard to keep both morale up and also ensure that your team has the background and training that they need to best support children.
Let's talk today about adult-adult interactions and how we can support the workforce. Joining me today are Matt Owens and Vicki Kintner-Duffy. Matt, do you want to introduce yourself for the group?
Matt: Yeah, happily. My name is Matt Owens. I live in Memphis, Tennessee. I've been with Teachstone for a little over six years. I got into education as an eighth grade writing teacher down in Hickory Hill, and then I came to Teachstone when my partner and I moved to Virginia. I was on the content development team. I was an instructional designer. We're going to lead that team. Now I support some of our cross departmental efforts.
Marnett: Wonderful. Welcome, Matt. Vicki?
Vicki: Hi. I'm Vicki Kintner-Duffy. I am actually also in Memphis. I am a Senior Research and Evaluation Specialist in Teachstone for 11 years and have been using the CLASS (I think) since its inception basically in research. Right now, I'm working a lot on the second edition work and different pilot projects.
Marnetta: Wonderful. Welcome both of you. As you ascertain, these are some of my co-workers here at Teachstone. We're going to have a very internal conversation really about these adult-adult interactions and what it means to us.
You gave us a little bit of some background into your education. Tell me about how that drives your work, those experiences.
Matt: I'll talk about the moment when I left the classroom. I have applied to work at, if any of you are from Charlottesville, Buford Middle School or Teachstone. I had applied to both, and I wanted to work at Buford, but it just got back to me after I had already been accepted at Teachstone. It was really surreal to leave the classroom not having really expected to just move in with my partner.
Now I'm so far removed, or at least that was my perspective at the time that I had to build this. I was doing online learning at the time, so the little modules in my Teachstone. It was interesting to learn about CLASS at that moment because it also led me to want to be back in the classroom to use some of the stuff. I was learning about emotional support, in particular, which was not a huge component of my teacher training. It was there, but it was not so well articulated as it is in CLASS.
Nowadays, I'm still removed from that. I do really believe in not necessarily trickle down economics, but trickle down culture and the ways in which we interact with one another in our workplaces affects how then those who we interact with are positioned to interact with people in their circles. I think that is the lens that I most often take, whether I'm facilitating a meeting or just having a one-on-one conversation with a colleague.
I find the CLASS framework really useful and asking myself reflective questions. The most helpful (I think) is how can I become more aware of my teammates' emotional- and work-related needs? Because then I can better position myself in this relationship to be a support. I'll be able to ask better questions, and I'll be able to moderate.
We all have advice that we want to give to people; that's our default. I moderate that impulse and try to be supportive of the person I'm actually talking to. I read a lot of stuff, so it'd be like, oh, I read this thing, and it's generic advice. I think a lot about teacher sensitivity primarily as the starting point for thinking about adult-adult interactions.
Vicki: I confess that I don't remember the question.
Marnetta: That's okay. Actually, we could just ask you another one. Matt gave us lots of things that you said stuck out to me when you were talking about trickle down. Also just with your team or members in those emotional needs and how that mirrors that parallel process of CLASS, and that's what we're talking about. These interactions aren't just for adult-child interactions, it plays out in the same way amongst ourselves. Vicki, my question to you would be, why is that? Why interactions?
Vicki: I'm going to try not to get super theoretical. I'm assuming that most of you have heard of Bronfenbrenner. Maybe not. He was a human development theorist and essentially wrote, understanding the way people develop is that they're in the middle end of an ecosystem. There are various layers of that ecosystem, from your most immediate to the bigger world, but all of those ecosystems, all of the people in them, the policies in them, the materials in them, and nature itself, we're developing through these constant interactions.
Interactions are just a part of being human. You look at Bridget's list from earlier and all the things that the AI can't do are all of those human pieces. I think that's always been for me. I do remember, it was like, why did you do the things that you do? For me, I taught preschool. I really loved it, but I was not in a super supportive place. I didn't know I went into teaching preschool knowing that I was saving up for grad school, and that that was my eventual goal.
When I got to grad school, I think that experience of teaching, I was like, there's so much about the teacher, and then there's also so much about how the teacher is supported and prepared. That really drove me into most of my work has been around teacher development, professional development, work environments, well-being, and all of those pieces. Did I answer your question?
Marnetta: Whatever you say is perfect. Yes, there is no expectation of what to say. You said your work was around teachers feeling supported and prepared? How does that mirror itself in adult-adult interactions? How do you have that same approach when interacting with your co-workers? What does that look like?
Vicki: I think it was a lot of what Matt said of trying to use the same things in terms of getting to know who they are personally, like being able to ground those relationships.
Actually, I was just reading something last night. Those of us who have been educators or coaches for a long time, I think that's one of the first things we always hear, the relationships are key. We know that, but I do think there's something about, what do those relationships actually look like? How do you build relationships? Sometimes it's easier if, hey, you have a lot in common with this person versus not somebody else.
This study was looking at just actually starting to code some of the coaching conversations and thinking about what kinds of behaviors they were seeing. Some of it was the things that we already know in terms of co-constructing knowledge is really important and that it's not the coach just telling the teacher.
There were things that I hadn't really thought of before, and two stood out to me. One was the coach being vulnerable and being able to say, I don't know. I struggled with this in the classroom, too. I think that that's one of the things that is potentially really key. If you can't be vulnerable, then it's so much harder to have that genuine relationship that's going to lead to whatever that next step is.
The other thing that actually hit me was a conflict resolution plan. There's going to be conflict. So often, we're like, oh, no. We disagree on this thing and that's not good. No. Conflict is okay. It's how we handle it and how we're making sure that we do it respectfully.
I feel like that's something that we don't talk about enough. How do we actually handle these conflicts? Have we (as adults) actually learned these conflict resolution skills that we're trying to teach children and that we're trying to put into the classroom? I guess just those two things stood out to me.
Matt: Can I just build on that?
Marnetta: Absolutely. I saw you, and I knew it was coming.
Matt: I have something about vulnerability, but just this notion of conflict resolution and what makes it difficult to have. Maybe the interactions that we feel are easier in our family or in our friends sometimes in the workplace can be power dynamics.
When I was first in a position to be a manager, it was uncomfortable. Roles were not clear. There was a charter management organization that had one idea of what I should be doing, and my principal had a different one. I was really poorly equipped to navigate that, and it led to a lot of anxiety on my part.
There's a session here that's called We Enact What We Embody later this week. Just from that title, I was like, oh, yeah, I was embodying a lot of anxiety about my place because I was managing people who had formerly been my peers.
I think that the ability to be vulnerable within a place, and I'm very clear on how I'm supposed to relate to you. Yes, I'm going to be vulnerable that I don't know this, but I'm here to be of support, and here are the ways in which I'm going to support you. Here's what's expected of you in those cases where someone might not be clear on the expectation or might be falling short. I think there's a really interesting balance to be able to carry both vulnerability, still hold people to high expectations, and hold yourself to the expectation for your given role in a relationship.
With conflict resolution or just even notice to go back to teacher sensitivity, I think noticing tensions earlier has been one of my go-tos in my relationship with adults and in the classroom, frankly, but I think little pulse checks. However, you can do it with your teams in formal check-ins to a weekly survey. Anything you can do to give people an opportunity to voice feedback or tension regularly normalizes those conversations.
When I was leading a team at Teachstone, we did something every Wednesday, where we had a set of agreements on how we wanted to interact with one another. We would review how we are doing. Most people would say, I fell short this week. But it was also a space to say, when this happened, I felt like we weren't holding up this agreement, what can we do better? It would result in a really good conversation.
I think having that be a routine helps people like me, who are super conflict-averse, just basically give, this is an open invitation. We do it every week. I know not everything is going to surface here because some things might feel more private or personal. You need other channels also, but it lets me position myself pretty vulnerable to say in front of the whole team anything that's going wrong, you can talk about it here. In fact, I expect you to.
When people would never say anything negative, I would actually follow-up with them or their manager and say, it's not possible your experience is perfect. You're actually leaving something on the table when you don't share that feedback with us. You're holding back a part of you that we want to experience. You have to be careful because there's power dynamics, people might be shy, or whatever. But over time, I always try to encourage more people, the quieter folks, to actually participate.
Marnetta: There is something that happens before then because you can put out all the surveys you want, but unless there's this trust that's been built, they feel as if you care about them and what they have to say. I either will or will not answer, or I will or will not be honest when I answer. There's that thing that happens before that can even come out that really impacts how effective that would be. That's really what we're here to talk about. It's just how those interactions play out in so many different ways.
To piggyback on what you were saying, Matt, you went into this system building. When you're thinking about the big challenges that education is facing right now, how do you see this? How would you help them to implement and start to recognize how to set these types of systems up in their organizations or their systems to where they can have the type of outcomes that they want, which are happy people who feel comfortable, welcome, supported in their workplace, and which will also help with retention? You can answer,Vicki.
Vicki: A couple of things I'm going to try. It's hard to remember. This comes from a non-academic essay that I read recently, but essentially it was talking about how removing value from people is actually a form of emotional violence. I think in order to have that trust—I'll just speak from personal experience—I think it has to be that I know that you value me as a person.
Again, it doesn't mean we always agree, but it's that you're like, oh, you bring something to the table, too, and you have worth in who you are, even though you're going to forget everything. You're going to have your faults, but you still have value. That was one piece of that. I think it's actually just starting to communicate those things.
Matt: I think communicating them and then building experiences over time consistently that demonstrate that for people. The way that you build trust in a room of people who you're asking to give you feedback is you show them that you've integrated feedback previously, not unanimously. No matter what, you are thoughtful in how you integrate that feedback.
When you don't, you provide rationale. You're able to say, I was actually wrong about this. You demonstrate through your actions, and that should affect their actual experience of being an educator in your school or whatever the relationship is.
I don't have a ton of advice for system building. It's not something I've personally directly been involved with. But the questions I would be asking myself are, how aware are people positioned to have these meaningful relationships with educators of those educators' emotional and work related needs? Do they have the capacity? What am I asking?
Let's say I'm a step above individual programs. I'm at a network position or a district position. Is there anything within my control to better position those people who can have those direct relationships to set up systems to create the kinds of culture that would allow those educators to have their emotional needs? Like someone in that building knows where they're at. Someone in that building knows how many years of experience they have with a given curriculum if you're shifting.
Little things like that at the network level might show up as a number of 20% of the educators have experience with this curriculum already that we're shifting to. Those 20 have an opportunity to be positioned as leaders, and then the other 80%, it's a very different year than the year where they used the curriculum they were more familiar with. Just being attentive to the additional cognitive load and emotional burden of, I'm now back in a position as a learner when maybe for five years, I did something a certain way.
I just use that as a quick example, but there are all different kinds of sensitivities that should exist in the system and figuring out how to make sure that there's a human that is connected to that educator somewhere in their week. Once a week would be my standard there. That's straight from the management literature, which I was very surprised.
I already told you all, I came from the classroom to Teachstone, amd I had never done anything other than work in a school, so I was trying to understand how do organizations work? I read a lot of business literature, and I was amazed at how much overlap there was in the management literature to CLASS, that emotionally supportive relationships in the workplace support outcomes across the board, basically. I think I lost my train of thought, but I want to make sure that educators are getting that, even if you're not positioned to provide that to them.
Marnetta: Wonderful. Thank you so much. So many key things there. I think what resonated with me the most—I was scribbling—is that human component. They're people first. They have tasks, and we are always going to have work. They're people, not just these bodies filling spaces. If I feel like I'm just a number or spots, there's no connection there.
Vicki: I feel like what Matt said that struck me is knowing who those people are in terms of what resources they bring. That's another way that you're not just a number or some cog in the system of like, no, actually, I have abilities, I have knowledge, I can share those things. I have whatever that happens to be.
From the family literature, there's a theory that I think is called family stress response theory. Essentially, you can almost think of it as a little seesaw and the families in the middle. There are resources on one side and stresses on another. In order to be functioning, we need to have the resources higher than the stress.
We know that this is a crazy, high, stressful time in the world in general, but especially in these different childcare crises. Yes, one of those resources should be money, and we should fund things more. I'm just going to acknowledge that.
In the places where we can't do that, are there other ways that then, again, you can communicate that value and say, hey, I know you have this ability. Even the person who is like Marnetta who can get people's energy going, let's have a little bit of a dance party before our meeting so that we're actually in a better mood.
Marnetta: We talked a lot about this emotional support, and that is the base. Even when we're talking about CLASS, without that emotional support, that feeling of comfort, and being able to take risks, we're talking about resources, the other pieces don't fall in.
Yes, I can recognize what they're able to do. But if they don't trust me, I'm not going to be able to utilize those resources, that human capital in a way that will be effective when you think about the other domains like classroom organization and instructional support. Even in adult-adult interactions, that emotional base is integral to any future successes.
That being said, we talked a lot about emotional support and what those interactions in adult-adults relationships look like. What would it look like with the other domains of CLASS?
Matt: I assume most people in the room are managers just based on the pie chart. By show of hands, do you manage staff? Okay, it's a decent mix. I think that I've had experience managing people that have had my same job previously and people that do things that I've no specialty in. Vicki was one of those people, and I do not know how to do research.
I think in both cases, there's a risk in the instructional support domain, again, of getting a little too fixated on advice giving or things of that nature. On the one hand where I was managing instructional designers, I had done exactly what they were tasked to do. For many people, they were former educators, coaching educators, or former program directors, managing program directors.
Then the other case, you have a whole bank of discipline, specific knowledge that that person has not had the opportunity to learn that you want to like, oh, let me share this way of thinking about that problem within your discipline from mine that can have some value. Much like I anchor on teacher sensitivity and emotional support, I anchor on quality of feedback in instructional support, wait to respond until I understand where they're at, and lead with curiosity.
That is the way, which in effect, you are asking a lot of questions that you might soar into concept development. My goal is always to better understand, where's the barrier? More often than not, the person you're talking to identifies it because of the questions you're asking. That's how I would talk about instructional support.
I think there maybe is a case for language modeling if you just introduced a research framework or things of that nature that can be really enriching. But I always want to start from a place of trying to cultivate a better awareness of where to scaffold, what thinking to prompt.
Marnetta: And wondering and being curious about also lends itself to that emotional support, so it's also strengthened in that. It's all just interconnected in that way.
Vicki: I was thinking about that a lot last night. Without going too much into it, I'm having to advocate for my daughter within the district right now for various reasons. I had to meet with a district employee about this particular thing. I was like, I'm going to have all these studies. I'm going to ask all these questions about why they did it this way. He's like, all right, slow down. I know this means a lot to you, but can you take a breath and come in with curiosity instead of antagonism?
I guess a couple of threads. We have this relationship. That's great. But if we're just friends, why shouldn't say just friends? If we're friends, wonderful. But that's not necessarily going to improve the work, it's actually then this next step of the curiosity, the reflection, and then those sorts of pieces.
I think it's something about just, when it's about that curiosity, it starts to take down the barriers or the walls in those interactions. I think Matt actually used to always do this whenever I'd put together a research plan. He's like, I don't know what that term is. Can you please explain it to me like I'm a five-year-old? I'm like, oh, okay.
Actually, that would make my work so much better because I would always go in with assuming that everybody knows what I'm talking about, and they don't because they don't have that language or that jargon. It's not that they can't understand it, it's just they haven't learned those terms. Being able to have that curiosity and to break things down and say, okay, what else can you ask, how else could you communicate this, I think, was always really powerful in my work.
Marnetta: That's beautiful. What would it look like to invest in interactions?
Matt: You think it's all about money, it's all about time too. I think that it's really difficult. The only generalizable thing I could say is, look really closely at your existing meeting cadence. When are you bringing everyone together? Be especially intentional about the ways in which educators are going to experience that time. I know, that's hugely general, but I feel like that's the only thing I can think to say.
Maybe there's an opportunity for additional interaction, maybe there's an opportunity to position people in that building to have more one-on-one interactions by getting creative with your scheduling. The time you have with your staff, with your educators is incredibly valuable. We shouldn't just expand it. They should have lives outside of that workplace.
Being incredibly intentional and proactive with how you lay out their experience, looking for empty spots, where while we're not going to have been together for this period of time, or the last three times you brought everyone together, we had to do this blank that was just by necessity, not that interactive, I think mapping it. That's at the scale of scheduling across months, but also within a session.
Just draw a line down the center of a piece of paper and look at on the left hand side facilitator actions, on the right hand side educator actions, and just see is it all on the left hand side and it's a sit and get? It's okay to start there, but then think about your goals, and think about how you can push more of the planning onto what you're going to expect from the people in the room. That gets into classroom organization. That is the opportunity you already have to cultivate interaction.
Marnetta: Wonderful. Thank you so much. We're coming to the end of our time, so I have one last question. Can you tell us why you are hopeful or optimistic about the future of education?
Matt: What makes me hopeful is events like this, people coming to this, people listening to this podcast. I think the name of this session was What's Going Well. My pithy thought was, what you are doing is what's going well.
The choice to focus on interactions, the choice to care about educators, to care about the experience that children are having day in and day out, and to work in that tension that Bridget was just talking about—for those listening to the podcast, I'm alluding to a keynote that came right before this. She talked about the tension between each and every. At least at Teachstone, I'm not attuned to everything going on in education, or not even close.
There is this tension arising in a really healthy way as we try to build tools, supports, and partnerships to make sure that we're able to efficiently work towards continuous improvement of interactions that children experience, and make sure that as we do that, there isn't a single community educator, the child who's not thought of, represented in our work for whom our work isn't applicable. A lot of that lives in relationships, frankly. I'm most hopeful about the relationships that I see represented in the room, represented by the people that choose to interact with Teachstone.
Marnetta: Beautifully said.
Vicki: I think for me, it is rooted in some of my personal experience, again, of trying to get more into education advocacy work. I've learned a lot about just a really rich history of teachers organizing for a long time, since education has been around that teachers have been gathering together. Like what you're saying, Matt, they come, they know what things they need, and they try to advocate for those.
One example that I was reading about was in DC. We're under 3DC. It was parents, teachers, administrators, all of these different partnerships, came together and got a $75 million increase for paying teachers. I think the more that we can start to do those things and say, hey, you care about this, I care about this, we know that this is important, we know that teachers who get paid better have better child outcomes, they have better interactions in the classroom, they have reduced stress, they have reduced depression and anxiety.
Again, there's regard, and you have teacher autonomy in the classroom, coach autonomy, or whatever. We know that these outcomes are better for adults as well as children. When we can start to come together and be like, hey, these things are really important. How can we start to talk to policymakers about creating this change? I think that's something that I'm just becoming really personally, hopeful for, and trying to get into more.
Marnetta: When you were speaking, a triangle came into my head and I was thinking Maslow. That basic need, money. It's hard for me to be super effective when that's this barrier to my well-being. To know that money could take that off the table and help me to attend to things in a better way, it just sounds sad really. That's all I can think of, this barrier, hierarchy of needs. That's it, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us here in Miami.
Thank you guys for joining us. Thanks for listening. If you aren't here in Florida, we hope you'll join us at our next CLASS Summit. You can find today's episode and transcript on our website, teachstone.com/podcast. As always, behind great leading and teaching or powerful interactions. Let's build that culture together. Thank you so much.
We're going to take this opportunity since you're with us. Are there any questions that you have for our panel today?
Audience1: Yeah, I got questions.
Audience: How do you get that your teachers, your staff, or whoever it is that you want to build them support if you're not willing? That's where I'm really struggling. I can't pull it out of that.
Matt: You said they're not willing, what does that look like? What are you noticing?
Audience: They're just blank, not all of them. I'm going to say, maybe 75% are willing. You know what I'm saying? How can I support you? Let's find a strength that we can build on. They will feed that back to me, but there's the other 25% that are blank.
Matt: Blank in terms of quiet when you ask the question? What do you think?
Vicki: I wonder if it might just be burnout. I don't know. Not that you're burning them out. I don't mean it to sound that way. Again, just personally, at the point when I'm burnout, if people start asking me things, I'm like, I don't know, I physically cannot think at this moment.
Marnetta: There are several things I'd probably say. I would probably say, is my environment classy? It really starts from the top, so I have to model that. Then you have to think about where they are in their journey, that everybody learns and are on different trajectories. The same approach isn't going to work for everyone.
Just might be identifying where they are so that your approach can be different to take them through to catch up with the others. I think you just need to individualize all the things and just really evaluate where they are because it may be burnout, but it just might be that the approach that you're using isn't for them.
Audience: I don't think it's burnout. I think it is individualizing the approach. I don't think they're at that level where everyone else is, where they're like, yes, help me, support me, thank you.
Marnetta: We just need to do it differently and just figure out what that difference is. It starts with asking them. If you have that relationship with them, hey, I've been trying to XYZ with you, and I've hit a wall. How can I support you? What is me supporting you look like?
Matt: If you're also not getting a response to that question, and you've tried that, I think providing a choice. It's this dance of I'm going to give you some choices, but you do not have a choice to not be in a relationship with me. That's what having a boss is, and that's what having a coach is. I know that it takes time and energy.
Real relationships require vulnerability. People have good reasons to sometimes not want more relationships, to not want support, because it takes something before it gives something. You can acknowledge that. You're accountable to creating the conditions where it's reasonable to expect them to engage in that. But if you're already doing that, it is also okay to say, we're going to have a relationship one way or the other. Here's a few different ways that could look.
If you have a fourth option, I'm willing to talk through and do that, but we have to work together. In order for that to happen, you have to share. I learned talking to shy eighth graders. You got to give me something. That applies to adults too that are busy and maybe have been burnt by prior relationships.
Marnetta: I think I would piggyback on that, too. I think I try to always self-reflect. I always think things are my fault, so I'm just like, what did I do that might have breached this trust or whatever? I'm always introspective in thinking about my role in it or whatever.
I do agree with him. Choice makes it seem like I'm driving instead of you driving. I do think if you give them that choice, it might ease it on that teacher, too, because then they're able to take control on their own terms, even though they don't really. It's a potential choice, but it's still a choice. Any other questions?
Matt: I'll just add, I think it's a real choice, but you don't get to choose not to be in this relationship. We don't do fake choices. That degrades relationships. It should be a real difference based on what they choose, but they don't get to choose not to be in a supportive relationship.
Audience: We're not to participate?
Audience: That's where I've seen it a little bit. Even in team bonding activities, fun. Let's all go play together.
Marnetta: How are their relationships with the other co-workers? I have so many questions. Are you privy to all the things that are happening? Do you have a person who keeps you grounded in the stuff? You need to go to that person who's got the stuff, who can give you the ins and outs because I would look at their relationship with their co-workers, because that's the only way that's going to work. So observing.
Audience: Can I just ask a side question? Are you all employees of Teachstone? When you do something like a team building funding, what is the participation percentage? Would you say it's 100%? Would you say 80%?
Marnetta: Mine's 100%.
Audience: How do you get that?
Marnetta: I had this conversation with one of my co-managers who used to work under me. She was on my team. Matt had asked me a question, actually. I answered it, but then I said, ask her that question. She basically said the same thing. I invest a lot of time. I have a big team. I have probably the largest team as an individual at the company, but I spend a lot of time getting to know my people and remembering things and circling back.
I just sent a text earlier. I'm like, hey, how are you feeling? Because they were sick yesterday. It's just those little things, those little checks, so they feel very human. They share their celebrations, but they also share the other stuff or whatever. When we get together, it's a party. But I also encourage them to interact with each other.
We're all virtual, but they had to enjoy each other. They're all wonderful individuals by themselves, but also enjoy each other, like having lunch together. Even virtually, like a virtual lunch or whatever. I encourage them to do things also individually, so they can build themselves. Really, ideally, it's okay if they all get along and hate me, at least we'll be doing it together.
Vicki: I have a related thing. It's going to be slightly weird, but I think it potentially could help. I think even play—again, takes vulnerability—especially as adults because we don't play as much as we should. A team building thing we did at Teachstone, all staff, we had to pretend to be blenders. I don't know if you're doing it. We were all like, okay, we're going to be blenders, but actually, then we felt silly at first, and then we ended up actually having a great time all laughing about how silly we were being.
It took that moment of, okay, this is weird, and we're going to do it. I do think there's still that piece of it. The other thing sounds weird because actually it's 36 questions to make somebody fall in love with you, to fall in love with them, or something. It was made for romantic relationships, but it essentially starts with more icebreakery types of questions, and then gets into these deeper kinds of things.
I think what's nice about that is it's this very structured and actually scientifically proven way to start to build some of those relationships and get to know somebody deeper in it. It's that you take a couple of questions each time that you meet, you both answer them, and it really turns into this deep conversation. I wonder if that's another way. It's a little bit less like I'm being vulnerable about my classroom. We're just having this getting to know you conversation a little more.
Marnetta: I think it's also the team. I don't lead all the things. We may get together, but I'm not in-charge of all the things. They do it. I'm just like, hey, we're getting together, but I'm not ready to do this. You all figure that out, and just knowing what they like.
My team is very competitive. The first thing we always open with is a crossword puzzle that they have to figure out how to do, and they get so mad because they can never get it all done before the timer runs out, but they're competitive like that. I tell you, they rush to get there early because they're trying to get this crossword puzzle completed.
Just finding those little different things that people like, that even if it's a moment, they're not all going to like the same thing, But if you can represent something that people are interested in at some point in that meeting, you will have their attention. Hope that helped.
Audience: Yeah, it did.
Marnetta: You're welcome. We're officially done now. You guys are amazing. All right, thank you guys so much. Enjoy the rest of your time.