Noa Daniel, MEd Teacher, is a consultant, coach, and passionate educator from Ontario, Canada, co-host of #ONedchat, Chief Building Officer of Building Outside the Blocks (BOB) and hosts the Personal Playlist Podcast.
I follow Noa Daniel on Twitter, joined her as co-host of #ONechat, and have enjoyed the conversations online with her. Then she reached out to me to be on her podcast show, Personal Playlist Podcast #P3. I really enjoyed picking three songs for my playlist and having conversations around those with her. So I asked Noa if I could have a conversation with her. I captured excerpts from the podcast for the post below.
Can you first tell me a little about you?
I live outside of Toronto with three beautiful daughters, an adorable dog, and a wonderful husband. In the last 22 years, I’ve been teaching in two independent schools. The first one I taught there for 14 years. I’ve loved teaching at both schools, but I’ve decided that now is the time to launch my consulting practice. I’ve been doing a lot of consulting over the years on the side. People would ask me to do things when I was teaching full-time. I just didn’t have enough time to help them. Now I’m going to say yes to pretty much everything I want to do that I wasn’t able to do when I was in the classroom.
Can you share why you call yourself a passionate educator and inspired learner?
People tell me that I’m so passionate even after 22 years in the classroom. You see, I love learning and I’m inspired all the time to the point of ridiculousness. When I’m on Twitter, people, information, and conversations are available 24/7. I have access to learning and engagement where people are doing such cool things. Who wouldn’t be inspired if you’re in touch with what’s going on out there?
What is your role as an educational coach?
Over many years, I’ve mentored new teachers formally and informally. When a new teacher comes to the school, I’m often that person they hang out with. Sometimes, I’m asked to mentor them and sometimes it just happens. I really love helping people and listening to their stories. I see the power of coaching one-on-one the same way I see it in the classroom when we work with a learner. It’s really about making people feel significant so they know what they like, know and want to do matters. Teaching can feel so difficult sometimes. It’s nice to have someone in a non-evaluative position to talk to and work through ideas. I’m so grateful for my mentor who coached me. If I can give back a tiny percent of what I received and she continues to give me, then I would be so happy.
One of the scariest things about teaching is that it is messy. Not all teachers feel comfortable with messy especially educators who like all their ducks in a row. Telling them it’s okay and modeling it for them, that you lived in messy and survived it, is always helpful.
What are some of the strategies you do for coaching?
Coaching is about relationship building and that’s how you teach individual learners. I feed off of people’s energy. I can tell when I need to work with them to think teaching idea through, a model for them, or help them to be themselves. I love helping talk through new ideas, lessons, projects and more. When people feel free to communicate with someone else and tap into who they are as a person, they can soar. The truth is, though, we don’t always soar. Sometimes we have to figure it out on the fly. But if we don’t take those leaps, then we never get that feeling of elation of actually not hitting the ground. It turns out that you are floating above it and making it happen. The wind will rock you, but if you can find a way to ride it, you can do such cool things in life. I’m the kind of person who takes risks and builds wings on the way.
How did you become co-host of #ONedchat?
We say On-ed-chat for our Ontario chat. I didn’t start #ONedchat. Actually, Allison Fuisz @allison_fuisz who is an amazing thinker started this chat with Amy Bowker. There was a point where Allison wanted a more collaborative team so others could share the experience and the load. I participated in this chat a lot and was invited to join this team of amazing people as part of my PLN. Some of the people on the team have changed, but it has been a gift that keeps on giving. We’ll have a team meeting about what topics are prevalent in education in general and specific for Ontario. Then we’ll chart it out and figure out who will moderate the chat. I signed up to moderate my first chat before I knew how to run it and figured it out in time. As I got more comfortable, I invited you and Kathleen to host a chat on #ONedchat and that was so cool. I felt like I won the lottery when you said yes.
Your website/blog is called Building Outside the Blocks (BOB) – why do you call it that?
It started with my mentor who I only saw once a week. I was given a job in my second year and didn’t think I would survive. I was given grade 4 English Language Arts and Literature and grades 7, and 8 Science that I never taught before. At first, I thought I wasn’t going to be able to do a good enough job. I toured the science classroom and saw the eye wash station. I really didn’t think I was going to make it. I decided to build projects like I always did. I knew if my students could find a way to see themselves in each unit of inquiry, then I could at least have something to offer them. My mentor who was my academic coach since it was my second year at the school, but 15-year teaching, came in the class and saw that the kids loved science. She asked me what I was doing. So I said, “I don’t know. It’s like I’m building outside the blocks, I don’t know what it is.” Every time I met with my her after that. we talked about what I was doing with my projects. She asked me if it had any common elements. I told her that all my projects invite voice and choice, involve student feedback, so I started writing about it. A month later, I decided that it was called Building Outside the Blocks- BOB for fun. In fact, it is fun to create BOBs for my students and for others teachers. BOB is more than just the projects, though. It’s really about how to think and ways I can offer something unique to education. So when I decided to start my consulting practice, I had to call it BOB. I am BOB and BOB is me.
How did you come up with the Personal Playlist Podcast?
A few weeks ago, I was sitting with Stephen Hurley @Stephen_Hurley, producer and brainchild behind voicED Radio. It is an incredible radio station for educators. It is a forum for a lot of interesting things. He encouraged me since I am on the #ONedmentors team who form a panel and talk education to support preservice and new teachers on Thursdays at 9 EST, to invite me to host a podcast. I told him about a project I did in my grade seven involved Personal Soundtracks. My seventh graders were so into it that my middle years’ coordinator asked me to videotape the students’ thoughts on the BOB. A colleague ended up the students about their playlists, talking about the impact of the project and how important music is to them. I wondered what it would be like to interview adults about their personal playlist. Stephen said he wanted to be my first person on my show. After 3 weeks, you are my 6th interview and I am transformed by this experience. It has become two things for me. This is an incredible way to see people through music and how they unpack the choices of music through their narratives. You can really invite people to share parts of themselves through this powerful personal inquiry.
How do you build a leadership culture?
It is about building student’s voice. I have had the privilege of running all the student activities and created organizational charts similar to the one below to give students ways to be themselves outside the classroom and explore parts of themselves through leadership.
When my students put a newspaper together, for example, and I have kids really into drawing but get into trouble in the class, now there’s this place to manifest their real talent. So they’re creating comic strips, while kids that are gamers are writing articles about the video games they love, and others are writing articles about fashion. For those kids that don’t see themselves as learners inside the classroom, there are always ways to fill in the pieces that are missing. I saw these they were really good at sports. In fact, they could do a fantastic play by play, so I created Sports Desk that included Friday announcements and a section of the school newspaper. It’s for whoever is in the room not involved finding something for them to do. Leadership culture means creating opportunities for more kids to be involved and self-direct their learning. You can provide the structure, catalyst, and provocation so everyone can reach the sky or further. It’s about responsiveness and about engagement being an effective skill for seeing the whole child. Being engaged is not just about student interests, but about who they are as human beings and giving them opportunities to explore that.
What challenges do you see with learning?
One of the challenges of modern learning is that it can take kids further and further away from themselves. Mindfulness is showing us that there are ways to channel yourself in class but that it doesn’t necessarily only evolve through meditation. That’s another reason why my BOB projects excite me because there can be opportunities that change based on student feedback.
It’s all about helping them see who they are and explore themselves, so they feel connected to their work. I like the idea of going from strength to strength so they meet with success. So many kids have never experienced success. My friend Jen Giffin tells this amazing story about a child who prepared a paper and then he didn’t hand it in. The child then said, “when it’s in my backpack, it’s still good.” When you give them a way to feel successful at school, then that becomes schema they can tap into later in life.
Noa Daniel, MEd, is a mom of three, a passionate educator and inspired learner who lives in Ontario, Canada where she builds projects, initiatives and capacity to promote student voice and propel engagement. She taught 22 years in the classroom and enjoyed coming up with ideas and projects that engaged and motivated her kids. Noa tells her story how, with support from her mentor, how she developed Building Outside the Blocks.
This is where she came up with the idea of BOBs; projects where kids own and drive their learning. Now, Noa is a consultant coaching new and veteran teachers and is one of the co-hosts at #ONedchat and #ONedmentors. Noa hosts her new podcast show “Personal Playlist Podcast” #P3 where she interviews her guests as they explore songs from their past, songs that identify them and songs that motivate them.