Sucking it up, Johnny cash, and more. In this episode, Andy and Adam are joined again by Justin Bullard, Founder and CEO of MPath Productions, to continue their discussion on building confident, empathetic learners. How can we manage punishment to better a bully’s perception and understanding? What was a turning point for Justin in terms of understanding others? Plus, the generational difference with handling emotions and empathy is discussed.
The school of school podcast is presented by:
Subscribe to get the latest The School of School podcasts delivered to your inbox.
Hi, I'm Andy Psarianos.
Hello, I'm Emily Guille-Marrett.
Hi, I'm Adam Gifford.
This is the School of School podcast. Welcome to the School of School podcast.
Hey teachers, tired of juggling multiple spreadsheets to complete your assessments? Insights can help, Insights is the new online assessment tool for Maths — No Problem! Insights gives you instant analysis and detailed achievement reports, right after marking. Visit mathsnoproblem.com/insights.
Welcome back, everyone. We were sitting around a dinner table last night comparing screen times, this is the kind of boring thing we do in our family.
I love that you're sitting around the table with your family though, right? Like that's the key, that's the best thing.
And you know, what was deeply embarrassing was I was hoping to kind of not shame my kids, but make them reflect on how much time they spent looking at screens. So we all pulled out our iPhones and checked out how much time and guess I beat all of them, like hands down, right. It's like, okay, never mind, let's not have this conversation.
It's like, let's talk about the weather...
Hey Adam, you're really wise, setting you up here. So look from a teacher's point of view and a dad as well. Obviously these are not new issues, the landscape's changed for sure. But in a school you got like, I don't know, several hundred children that you're responsible for. This is an issue this is a real issue, right? Some kids will come from great backgrounds, like how Justin was describing his family life with his kids. I mean, that's fantastic, you're as educators, so lucky when kids come in well prepared like that, but they don't all come in like that right. What do you do? How do you deal with stuff like come empathy? What are some of the more traditional tools?
Yeah, I was going to say, I think there's two ways to this, right? So, as bizarre as this sounds, we expect children to be empathetic towards others, right. We just expect that as a human trait. But if we look at how we deal with some of the situations, so if we look at someone calls someone else a name or does something to their property or something like that, right. We can understand, we, as adults can understand that if the person was empathetic enough to think about that other person, then that might dissuade them from doing the action that they were going to do, right. So one of the things that often gets missed is that when there's a punishment to something, right, we're trying to adjust this behaviour, often that punishment's done in isolation, away from the other person.
So you'll miss your break. Now they miss their break, right, and they're pretty grumpy about it. They don't want to miss their break again. But when they come back in, whenever the class comes back in, how much more has that person learned about the child that they did the thing to? Well, they haven't. And how have they heard about how it affects them or they've not. So I think that there's one part of, if you like to say traditional punishments, and there's only so many sort of punishments that in schools you're allowed, anyway, I'll just keep going. Basically the long, the short of it is, is that there're some punishments that just directly affect that one child that's done it, if you like, and then they just deal with it on their own.
Now, what we want to try to do is to share that experience, but often for small children, for example, or even children at the upper end of primary school, it can be hard to verbalise how that affects them, or they might feel embarrassed that they don't like being called at, or I don't know if someone says something about your parents or something like that you might not have the skills to do it. So I think that what we need to make sure of is that the adults, because it's not just teachers, it's any adults in school are equipped to manage that kind of, I don't know, it it's been labelled sort of restorative justice or restorative practise or that basically share of feelings. So it's done really well, but that is a skill, it's very difficult because you're not trying to put words in people's mouths, but ultimately I think what stops us from doing things wrong.
It's the way that we've been brought up, obviously, but we understand the effect that would have on someone else and that's what we have to try to do within children. So it's not just that if you do this, you'll get punished. Because punishment might change some people in the short term, but it's as a direct result is one thing. So in a similar situation, we want to think, well, I don't want to do that because it's going to make someone so really upset. So I'm not going to say that to them. I'm not going to say that about their parents or their this, or their whatever it could be. In coming back to your point, what do we do? I think we have to learn how to manage that well, and there are people, even though I've worked in education a long time and I've listened to some amazing people who are very good at that, what that does highlight to me is what an incredible skill it is to be able to sit down two people in a room regardless of age, and actually try to create an environment where there is real understanding between the two people. So yeah, investing a bit of time and expertise in that I think is probably top of my list.
Yeah, and Adam, you mentioned it's so difficult, right. And it's one of these things that is sort of amorphous, and I think that part of who made me the person that I am is the experiences that I've had, the challenges that I've had and the things that I've done. I mean I have an example of when I was in grade five at the time and I had like I mentioned, it was sort of a tough childhood and we're doing a secret Santa and I got the kid that was like for lack of a better word, he was kind of like the stinky kid, the kid that clearly like was in a bad situation.
And I was sort of egged on by some of my friends to give this kid, you know, you should give him like a bar soap, deodorant you know, that sort of thing. And I did it because I thought it was funny. So I wrapped up this little thing, and the kid when he opened that present, the look on his face and the sadness and it still to this day just haunts me that I hurt that kid so much, you know? And it just kills me, like, why did I do that? I would never ever do anything like that again. And seeing his face and seeing that reaction changed me in many ways and sort of if there was that level of anonymity, if I'd never seen it, I mean, I would know, would just be laughing with her friends about this funny thing I did.
And so you have to protect your kids from things, but they have to have these experiences, these challenging experiences to develop strength of character and it's very very difficult, it's not an easy thing. And the importance of, and the challenge of building and developing and maintaining empathy is a lifelong thing. You know, I think it's hard for little kids because you want them to have these basic skills. And it's hard for adults because we've kind of been baked in our ways. And we think we know what's right now because we've done a bunch of things. So, it's a very, very, very challenging thing, and for me, I think when it comes to the content that MPath puts out there, it's just to make sure that we are always coming back to that. That the lessons are there, that the examples are there, part of what we try to do is have characters that as I mentioned, I don't know if I didn't sort of give the pitch, but the Alpha squad is about aliens.
You know, this crew of misfit aliens that have come together and they're travelling around the galaxy. And the neat thing is that because they're aliens, you can have characters that sort of embody any number of archetypal sort of character traits. I equated a lot to the monsters on Sesame Street. If you guys, everybody watched Sesame street, right? Jim Henson is my hero. And so you can have aliens that embody things like the challenge of ADHD or being on the autistic spectrum or being a bully, you know, you can have these characters that embody these things and make it an inspirational and fun and entertaining, and in sort of in an inclusive way, but also give kids a little bit more perspective of what would it be like to be in those shoes or those antenna as it were, you know.
It's super hard, whether you're taking the educator or the parent, or just a member of society point of view on this, I mean, it's difficult because I don't think anybody really knows how to do it hundred percent yet, right? Like it's a lifetime journey for everyone. You have to live an entire lifetime just to figure it out and then the unfortunate thing is that you then die and everybody has to start from zero again, right. And that's kind of what happens. And it's a bit of a bummer really.
But it's just about little incremental progress every time around, right. But what about that complete crazy... well, I think it's crazy that other opposite point of view, when you're talking, I was having these flashes in my mind, like, okay, what's controversial about this. I don't know if you guys listen to Johnny Cash at all? I mean, some people probably listen to Johnny Cash. There's a song called a boy named Sue. I don't even know if he wrote it, right. But it's about this dad who knows he's not going to be around, right. So he gives his son the name Sue, because he knows he's going to be beaten up and made fun and all kinds of stuff. Because the only way he can really make him a man is to call him Sue because he's going to have to be tough with a name like Sue, right.
And that's the premise of the song like that's kind of almost a complete opposite of what we're talking about here. Because in some way, we're saying let's build all these soft skills and protect and create this kind of environment that's safe and healthy and all, which I think is the right thing to do by the way. But then there's this other point of view, no, no, no, teach your kid how to punch and show them how to fight and don't let them take anything from anybody and call them Sue, you know? What about that point of view?
That's interesting, I've never really thought about it. I know that song, I love that song and it is kind of what I was saying. I think Johnny Cash was a pretty complex guy in a lot of ways and I get the point, you know, it's like that idea that you're not going to be there to help them through these challenges or even challenge them yourself. And that's an interesting one, man.
But it's not just Johnny Cash, is it? I mean we are talking generational things. I mean, I'm sure a lot of countries are the same, but growing up in New Zealand that the New Zealand bloke, well, you didn't talk about how you felt. Geez, no. And mental health, that didn't bloody exist. No, New Zealand blokes were, you know, you just toughen up and you get on with it. You don't talk about it and you don't go to the doctor. What are you? You know? And that there was a genuine attitude of that. And if you showed empathy, it was almost like showing a sign of weakness.
It was like, come on, just harden up, will you, just get on with it. So I suppose in one sense that we have come a long way and hopefully this will accelerate Andy, the, the zero to death road of empathy, hopefully it'll sort of accelerated ever so slightly that I think of my grandfather's generation, that they came back from world war II and whatnot, and a lot of were, you know, it was that harden up mentality that's the phrasing that was used in New Zealand all the time, just harden up, just harden up and get on with it.
And that was that sort of mentality, now fast forward to today. And obviously things have changed massively and massively for the better. So people can talk about, you know, I don't feel well about this, or I don't like the at, or I don't like this. And, there's more talking to it, but I think that Johnny Cash is that song. It was just reflecting at the time, wasn't it? I mean, obviously, yeah, calling your son, Sue, it might be sort of more extreme in that time. But, I think that generationally things have come on massively and it's the first time I've really thought about it, but I guess that must mean that are people more empathetic now or do they just say more now? I don't know which one is it?
You Know, for this is my two cents on it is I talk about the, sort of like the crisis, the empathy crisis and how things are so negative. And honestly, so much of it is in that sort of older generation. I think it's that kind of like holdout of those things like parents that raise their kids to, you know, suck it up, be tough. It doesn't matter, like don't share, don't cry, all of that stuff. And thankfully I do think that I see a lot of positive traits and a lot of positive momentum in that direction. I think you see it a lot with, and mind you, I recognise that I am in a bit of a bubble. I'm in Vancouver, it's a very liberal place, the sort of group that I'm in, we all are pretty like minded.
That kind of goes to the idea that you really have to be sure and look outside of your immediate circumstances to really understand people. But I see things like kids dealing with their sexuality, when I was growing up, it was not okay to be gay and you would, oh, heaven help you. If anything like that ever came out, and what I see with kids today is that doesn't matter as much, and they're, able to sort of explore and express themselves in different ways, and I think that's absolutely amazing. And I think in a lot of ways, we are in a generation that values empathy, and it values compassion, and it values the ability and the opportunities to sort of share.
Thankfully I think like our sort of generation has made a lot of big steps towards that. And hopefully the next generation is even more understanding of other people. And that goes to of my mission, I want my kids to raise kids that are extremely empathetic, the most empathic generation ever. So I do think that things are going the right way. And so much of what you see out there is kind of holdouts from previous generations.
Let's hope, yeah. Let's all hope.
Although I'm always surprised, not to sort of like dive back into the political side of things, but I was really surprised at how quickly things sort of like caught on fire when some of the top public figures had real mouth pieces to sort of spout a bunch of things about a subtle bigotry and racism and all that stuff, man, suddenly it was kind of coming out of the woodwork everywhere. So it was a lot worse than I had sort of thought. And hopefully we're all at the right track here.
I think that's the key, I think we just got to keep trying and hope for a better future and try to instil the right morality, I guess, in our children and that's the best we can do, right? Justin, thanks so much for joining us today, yeah.
Oh man, it's my pleasure.
All right, thanks guys.
Thank you for joining us on the School of School podcast.