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The “Buzz" from Thriving Students Collective

You Like Us, You Really Like Us!

I’m dating myself with this Sally Fields reference, but I’m gonna do it anyway. Upon winning her Oscar in 1985, she earnestly exclaimed,”You like me!” And it was adorbs. There’s something we can all relate to about this moment–when something you’ve poured your heart and soul into gets recognized, and it gives you so much joy.

Well, I’m excited to announce that our organization, Thriving Students Collective just had a Sally Fields moment!

Thriving Students Accepted into Learn Launch Fund

We are thrilled to announce that out of hundreds of educational technology startup applicants, we were accepted into the prestigious LearnLaunch Fund + Accelerator Breakthrough to Scale program!

Alongside these incredible #edtech companies, Reflection Sciences, HiFiveK12, Prentus, and Hardskills, we’re collaborating to scale our big missions in the world of education. Check out the full press release here to learn more about Learn Launch and our incredible cohort!

They like us, they really like us!

Do You Like Professional Development? Like REALLY like it?

About now is the time when districts are planning their back-to-school professional development (PD). I’ve been a school psychologist for 20 years and have sat through countless PD days, only to get one relevant nugget from a 6 hour “sit n get” session. While a handful of trainings over my career were good, overall, PD was a wasted day where I could have been getting important stuff done. I wonder…is it just me? I asked my Facebook fan page of 18K educators to find out.

I asked them, “What is professional development like in your district?” Y’all, I knew that there are some dry PDs out there, having sat through many myself, but these were next level waste of time:

  • Once we had a PD where our district paid $30,000 to hear a motivational speaker who told us all to “polish a diamond” as a metaphor for our work and then no one spoke of it again.
  • I had to sit through a 6 hour training on a reading assessment from a test publisher that seemed really cool. At the end I asked how we get this assessment to use with my students. I was told we didn’t have the assessment and the district didn’t plan to get it. WHAT?!?
  • I’m a school psychologist and I always get lumped into general school-wide PD that has literally nothing to do with my job. I sit in the back and secretly try to write my reports. 🙁
Thank you ChatGPT for this gem (pun intended). I love how the gal in the back may actually be bored to literal tears. Spot on, my robot friend.

While undoubtedly there are some shining moments of PD in school districts, it’s bonkers to me that we don’t take more adult learning principles in mind when we’re spending valuable time on money on PD days in K12 Education.

That’s why our organization, Thriving Students Collective is on a mission to revolutionize professional development. We are changing the way we providing support to educators with our all-in-one PD platform. Based on research and surveying educators, we’ve have identified 5 principles of thriving PD. How well does your district stack up to these principles?

1) Learning is in the flow of work. Professional development should be accessible at any time, when you need it, not just a few times a year or on specific days. From quick 2-minute social media like tips to 20-minute micro-courses, to deep dive masterclasses, the learner can decide what to learn based on how much time they have available and how deep they need to go.

2) Adult learning is differentiated. We differentiate for students, why don’t we differentiate for adults? Professional development should be flexible by role, level of expertise, and topic. What a first year teacher needs is different than what a seasoned school counselor needs. One size does not fit all. One size makes you want to hide in the back on PD days and do something else.

3) Practical tools are embedded in learning. Nothing is worse than learning something and then realizing you need to spend a ton of time creating lesson plans and materials to implement it, or have to buy teacher-made materials online. With high quality PD, you can learn it on Monday, and use it on Tuesday. You don’t have to create anything new to implement it, because it’s already done for you and is download-ready.

4) Neurodiversity and mental health topics are not siloed. Let’s face it, with 1 in 5 students having a diagnosed learning or attention challenge (plus all the students with undiagnosed learning and mental health challenges), every educator is a special educator and every teacher is a first line mental health responder. But very few general educators have training in these areas. So why do we silo general education, special education, and mental health providers’ PD? We all need up-skilling in best practices to support our complex learners.

5) Learning is actually fun! I said it. Professional development doesn’t have to be dry. And it certainly doesn’t have to be in a cafeteria where you cram yourself into uncomfortable tiny benches and suffer hours of passive learning. Ample research shows that positive moods broaden and build cognitive and emotional resources. So when we are having fun in PD, we are more creative, better problem-solvers, and retain more information.

To boost fun, professional development should take advantage of how adults naturally enjoy learning–in shorter “bite-sized” chunks in a community of practice.

There’s a reason why social media and YouTube are so popular. Why not apply that to PD? In our Thriving Students platform, we have a library of engaging social media-like tips from thought leaders and short-form videos from our thriving voices network of trusted educator and mental health experts in the field (not from folks who have never stepped foot in a school building, amiright?!?).

Finally, PD should be supported by a social element, in a community of practice, to support one another, as we apply the learning in our classrooms and school buildings.

If you want to bring these principles of thriving professional development to your school or district, we’d love to show off how we do it. Click here to connect with us!

I bet you’ll like us, you’ll really like us!

Microhabit of the Month

I recently had the pleasure of keynoting at Wake County School District in North Carolina on the topic of burnout prevention for over 200 school teams. But instead of telling people to self care more off the job (I don’t want things thrown at me!), I shared 10 science-backed micro-habits they could do on the job, where the stress actually happens. Self-care is important, but we need to look upstream at what’s causing the stress too, not just do downstream activities to recover.

One tip I shared that falls in the category of “Yeah, I know this…and yeah I don’t do this” is to use a mantra to remind yourself to eat lunch without working on anything. It sounds so basic, but so many educators habitually work straight through lunch, prepping and responding to email.

The problem is, with this habit, they never get a chance to activate their Default Mode Network (DMN) during the day, which is a set of brain regions that are engaged when people are in a “resting state.” (I once heard the DMN called the “Do Mostly Nothing” network, and yes, that’s the vibe.) The benefits of rest and activation of the DMN are unparalleled for increased focus, better mood, and better cognition.

And yet, while we know the research, the reality is that when we are stressed, we can default to our “factory settings” of overworking to try to feel “caught up” or to “get ahead.”

This always-on culture, the cramming of productivity from bell-to-bell fuels our burnout. A simple micro-habit is during lunch when you feel the impulse to work through it, tell yourself, “rested and happy minds are more productive.” This gives you “permission” to stop.

And that very afternoon, the research-to-reality gap was put in action! Several educators came up to me after lunch and said they were about to check email during the breaks out of habit, and stopped themselves with this mantra.

Small habits can create big change over time…that’s the power of micro-habits. Sure, we all know we should take care of ourselves and eat lunch, but these small science-backed adjustments get us started on the behavioral path to making it a part of who we are. If only there were a whole book on this topic…Oh wait! There is! My book, Small Habits Create Big Change is available for pre-order. 🙂 Click here!

See you in August for the next Thrive Archive digest!

If you’re interested in being a part of the Thriving Students Collective community and would like more information about how to bring the Thriving Students Platform to your school or district, CLICK HERE to connect with us.

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Dr. Rebecca Branstetter is a school psychologist and co-founder of The Thriving Students Collective, which provides professional development, engaging online courses, and a supportive online community that prioritizes whole-school wellness and equips educators and parents with practical tools to empower every learner’s success. She also has a TikTok account all about burnout prevention in K12 that her middle school daughter has endorsed as “Cringe, but good dancing.”

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