Roberto German 00:00
Welcome to Our Classroom. In this space, we talk about education, which is inclusive of, but not limited to what happens in schools. Education is taking place whenever and wherever we are willing to learn. I am your host, Roberto German. And Our Classroom is officially in session. In this episode of Our Classroom, I am joined by Kareem Farah. He is the CEO of the Modern Classrooms Project. Kareem and his team trained and support teachers who seek to redesign their classrooms around blended self-paced mastery-based learning to better meet all students' unique needs. Kareem spent his teaching career as a high school math educator in Hawaii and Washington DC. He earned his undergraduate degree from Washington University in St. Louis and later received a master's degree in secondary education at John Hopkins University. With us today, Kareem Farah. All right, y'all. Welcome back to Our Classroom. I am here today with Kareem Farah. And correct me if I enunciated that the wrong way.
Kareem Farah 01:21
Oh, you did it well. I like that.
Roberto German 01:22
Thank you. Well, I just got back from Egypt.
Kareem Farah 01:24
I know you did. I know you did.
Roberto German 01:25
I just got back from Egypt. And you shared with me that you are Egyptians. So this is like the perfect time for me to get right back into the Our Classroom podcast 'cause I'm hype off of my Egypt trip having learned so much, a lot of relearning, and a lot of cleaning up the stuff from textbooks as opposed to what I experienced firsthand. So I'm bringing my Egyptian enthusiasm to this interview. Shukran for being here. Shukran.
Kareem Farah 01:59
I love it. I love it.
Roberto German 02:01
My very basic Arabic that I picked up while out there. But yes, thank you. I appreciate your time and I'm looking forward to learning from you this afternoon. So why don't we just start by you telling me a little bit about yourself, a little bit about your background before we dig into our topic here of emotional dysregulation.
Kareem Farah 02:25
Yeah, happy to. First of all, thanks for having me on. It's a pleasure to be on here and to be able to share, you know, whatever insights I may have about emotional dysregulation and just like changing classroom practice. So, I'm the co-founder and CEO of the Modern Classrooms Project. It's a nonprofit I founded in my own classroom back in May of 2018 that I did not think would grow to the size that it is today. The organization is really committed to scaling a student-centered, equitable instructional model that replaces the one size fits all kind of live lecture styles of teaching that it still seemed to dominate a lot of classrooms across the country and that I don't think create the on-ramp for success for most students. So we train educators on this novel instructional approach. We designed this instructional approach in our classrooms in DC public schools back in 2016 when we were trying to figure out how to meet our students' needs effectively. And it worked. It worked well. And now we scale it today.
Roberto German 03:22
Kareen, why don't you tell me a little bit about your model before I dig into some of the questions that I have laid out here.
Kareem Farah 03:29
Yeah, absolutely. So the first thing we as educators realized was that when we stood at the front of the room and delivered live lectures, it was the worst use of time. It was where most of our behavior issues would happen. The vast majority of students didn't feel like their needs were being met. You had students who were academically struggling and needed more time. You had students who were ready to move on to the next lesson and were bored. You had students trickling in who were late. You had students who were absent. So we first started with this assumption that live lectures are a poor use of time and let's build our own little bite-sized instructional videos to replace direct instruction. From there, we realized when you do that students can work at their own pace. You can create a world where some students are in lesson two some are in lesson three and some are in lesson four. So we started to run these self-paced units. We would self-pace for one week, two weeks at a time. And that created the space for mastery-based grading or competency-based grading. So instead of students transitioning from one lesson to the next based on day of the week, they transition from one lesson to the next based on actual mastery or competency of a skill. So that's the heart and soul of the model. It doesn't rely on any one curriculum. It doesn't rely on any specific ed tech tools. It is truly a new methodology of teaching that anyone can do and one that's designed to maximize differentiated one-on-one and small-group discussions between teachers and students. I mean, that's really the core of why we created this instructional approach.
Roberto German 04:47
You know, when some folks come across such instructional approaches, they might think that it's limited to a specific group of students. Whether we're talking about low-income students or students of color, or it's for students who are simply in public schools. Talk to us about why that's not the case.
Kareem Farah 05:09
Yeah, I mean there's-- it's not the case for a couple reasons. I mean, it's not the case 'cause it literally isn't true in that there's thousands and thousands of teachers who do this and they do it at ridiculously high-income private schools and they do it in different countries and they do it in charter schools, public schools, private schools, big districts, small districts, rural, urban, suburban. So where our teachers are implementing is evidence enough that this is not for one student population. I think the second reason why is this instructional model is rooted in best practices in teaching. Like the best things we can do as educators is work with students in one-on-one in small groups. The word differentiation is the most overused and under-executed term in education, but it's also probably the most important, which is that I have a group of students in front of me. They have emotional needs, they have academic needs, and the only way I'm actually going to support them is if I can connect with them on a one-on-one small group basis, address any errors and understanding they have, and support them in growing their understanding and building a stronger depth of knowledge. This model is designed to maximize those moments, right? So that's not for any one student population. That's just how learning in our opinion should really happen.
Roberto German 06:16
Thank you. Thank you. And can you briefly just bring me into the classroom experience? So I am a teacher at a district that has partnered with the Modern Classrooms Project and, you know, today I'm gonna be implementing some of this stuff. You don't have to bring me through the whole school day, but just give us a synopsis of what the classroom looks like when using this model.
Kareem Farah 06:40
Yeah. Well, the first thing everyone should think of is controlled chaos. It is the definition of controlled chaos. You will walk into a classroom, bell might ring, teacher might open the classroom with a brief discussion. Not a brief discussion that I'm lecturing maybe just a conversation about how we're gonna use our time effectively, what's the game plan for the day, maybe some spiraled content or a little activity. And then they're gonna release the students for self-pacing. The students will have some methodology of knowing where they're at. It might be a physical tracker, it might be a little game board that says, 'Hey, I'm, you know, Kareem, I'm doing lesson three today.' And it'll also indicate somewhere in the classroom what the on-pace lesson is. If you're following the pacing guide correctly, if you're using your time effectively, you should be on lesson two today. So if I'm on lesson three, I'm ahead of the game. If I'm on lesson one, I'm falling behind. And if I'm on lesson two, I'm on pace. At that point, the educator is gonna go to their teacher station, not some desk in the front of the room, but some desk centrally located in the classroom. And that's the place where they're gonna spend a high percentage of their time calling students down one-on-one and in small groups who need support on a particular lesson. So 20 minutes into the class period, which you will probably see is a teacher station with four students. They might be working on lesson three 'cause these four students struggled with one skill on lesson three. Then you're gonna have a group of students watching instructional videos 'cause they started a new lesson. You're gonna have another group of students tackling the activity for a lesson. So actually working through, kind of applying what they learned in the instructional video on the task. And then another group of students taking the mastery check, which is that end-of-lesson bite-size assessment. So there's kind of four core activities going on at any given time. And then it's constantly moving, right? So when I'm done doing my small group one-on-one instruction, those kids are released and they might go watch an instructional video, work on activity and another group of students are gonna get called down based on the data I'm seeing about their performance. And that's how a modern classroom would run.
Roberto German 08:29
And are the instructional videos created by the educator in the classroom? Or is this part of modules that MCP has created?
Kareem Farah 08:39
We don't have anything we house or own or anything like that. So we train teachers to build their own instructional videos and we coach teachers on saying, "Look, when you deliver direct instruction, it's always better if it can be you. The students are gonna feel more connected to you, you know, the content better." But we also know that that can be a real workload. So a lot of times some teachers will build all the instructional videos, some teachers will build a portion of them and then outsource 'em and pull from YouTube and other curricular resources and other teachers will collaborate with their peers. So I'll build one video, my colleague builds another one, my colleague builds another one. So some element to the educator's voices in those instructional videos. And that can be everything from all of them to 25% of them.
Roberto German 09:20
You know what I love about the model is that it reminds me of the Montessori approach. I have some experience in Montessori schools. And I didn't know much about Montessori until I started working at a school where I was part of a startup. And I'm looking at the approach where you, "Wait a second." Like whoa. We're breaking up these kids into different groups. So some of them are working individually. You have kids on different grade levels, all in the same classroom, different age levels, grade levels. And there's just beautiful blend, right? In doing blended learning. This beautiful blend of learning, of pace, of instruction where we're meeting students where they're at.
Kareem Farah 10:04
And that's exactly what it-- And in some ways it creates a little bit more structure than the Montessori model 'cause I think the Montessori model is frequently a whole school model and it can feel really intimidating for one educator in one district to implement. I don't even know that it's possible to do it that way. Our model is kind of a version of that, but it's a little bit more structured and a little bit more implementable for any educator anywhere.
Roberto German 10:27
Gotcha. Gotcha. And I know part of what inspired creating MCP is addressing the challenges that you experienced as it relates to emotional dysregulation. Well, excuse me. The challenges you were seeing from students as it relates to emotional dysregulation. What is emotional dysregulation and why is this topic important to you?
Kareem Farah 10:55
Well, where I taught students certainly were experiencing a large amount of trauma. And if there wasn't active trauma in their own lives, there were also challenging discipline circumstances that would happen within the school building that would kind of be hard to just digest. And then they would walk into our classrooms, right? And you could tell all the time that a portion of students were really struggling. They were struggling in a way that extended far beyond any mathematics. They extended far beyond anything that we needed to teach in that any given class period. And the traditional approach to instruction creates a dynamic where a student's emotional dysregulation is viewed as a distraction from teaching and learning or actually an inhibitor for the rest of students learning. So when I'm trying to deliver my live lecture, a student comes into my classroom five minutes late, they may have been meeting with the counselor, they may have had something challenging go on at home, they look visibly upset. Maybe they come in and put their head down, maybe they look like they just cried. Maybe they're experiencing anger that they can't control. In a traditional setting, I'm gonna try to call that student out in front of everybody. I'm gonna try to "de-escalate" and kind of put the spotlight on this student. And I felt awful every time doing that. Like, I knew logically speaking, this is an atrocious way to address a student's really challenging social-emotional needs. And it's the only out I have. It's the only thing I can do because I'm this conductor at the front of the room and if I don't take care of this issue, then it might get bigger and it might stop everyone from learning. And we essentially create this kind of decision tree where either the educator does something that's probably not best for that one student to help the rest of the students or the educator spends a ton of time with that one student at the expense of the rest of the students' learning.
And that all starts with this idea that students are experiencing a lot of emotional dysregulation. And that emotional dysregulation has spiked even more recently with kind of the long-term effects of COVID. So in some ways, our instructional model was built both out of the reason that we have students with academic needs that aren't being met. But also this idea that to even talk about academics, we need to ensure that we create safe spaces where teachers can actually support the social emotional health of students and appropriately de-escalate students when they're emotionally dysregulated. And the way I define emotionally dysregulated is you're just experiencing some sort of life event or emotional kind of internal experience that's causing you to feel outta sorts. You could be angry, you could be sad, you could be anxious, right? There's a ton of different ways that this comes to life, but it usually means you're probably not in the best head space to be digesting new content and tackling new academic skills.
Roberto German 13:49
Right. Right. And so when we're thinking about emotional dysregulation in the classroom, and I agree with all that you said, and I've experienced that tension also of, well, I have to address this. I have to keep the class moving forward. You know, I don't know how else to address this, but to call the student out. There's definitely some rub there. And so we know that could be disrupted to the learning environment. How can we effectively support students that experience the emotional dysregulation while also ensuring progress for all in the learning environment?
Kareem Farah 14:26
Well, I mean, the first thing you have to do no matter what, and I think we-- one way to-- that I always say it's easy to kind of digest what we theoretically would want for a student separate of what we can actually do. We know that the task at hand of having a large number of students in one room with one teacher is just a very difficult thing to do. It is the hardest thing to do, in my opinion for a career that there is. But let's just start with like the workplace. If you had a colleague who was emotionally dysregulated, who clearly was visibly upset, who was having a tough day, we wouldn't rush them through any set of tasks. We wouldn't go into their face and say, "Get off your phone and get focused." Right? What we would do is say, "Hey, are you doing all right? Like, what's going on? Do you wanna have a conversation with me outside? Is there something you want to share?" Right? So the first step is trying to really figure out, hey, is the student actually experiencing some form of emotional dysregulation? Is there something they wanna share with you? That's kind of step one. Step two is de-escalating. If the student is experiencing a high level of emotional dysregulation, how can we make them feel a little bit calmer in this space? And then the third piece is how can we get them to reengage in the work?
Like ultimately we want them to be re-engaged in the classroom work so that they're moving forward academically. And you kind of go through those three steps and for every student that's gonna look different. And there's kind of a fourth step, which is, hey, the student's experiencing something so much bigger than something I can handle in this classroom. It's time to call in additional support. A counselor or someone else to get involved 'cause I really need those additional supports. But built into that entire process is one-on-one interaction. Like at its core, we overcomplicate what it means to support a student experiencing emotional dysregulation because what most educators don't have at their fingertips is a one-on-one conversation, right? We try to come up with an alternative solution. We try to come up with behavior tools, we try to come up with expectation setting, and all this kind of stuff. When ultimately if a student's really sad or really angry, your best shot and moving them past that and moving them into the rigorous work that you're trying to do is to have a one-on-one conversation. The only way to have that one-on-one conversation is to create a learning environment where my one-on-one conversation from with a student doesn't disrupt the rest of the classroom from tackling coursework, right? That's the core issue. And I often describe our model as saying, Hey, by creating a modern classroom, students have greater control over their own learning and less control over their peers learning. And by creating an instructional design like that, now I can do that one-on-one discussion without causing the rest of the class to collapse.
Roberto German 17:07
So the setup for the classroom through this approach supports being able to continually keep students engaged in their self-paced work, self-guided work, while also allowing for the teacher to be able to have these check-ins, whether it's one-on-one or small group.
Kareem Farah 17:30
That's exactly right. That's exactly right. And even I used to use a strategy, particularly with the emotionally dysregulated students, and I call it, it's not a particularly inspiring name, but I call it the step outside strategy. You know, I was teaching high school students and as you know, frequently when a student behaves in a way that perhaps isn't ideal, we might ask that student to step outside of the classroom. And I realized A, every time I did that, everyone knew it was some sort of conflict, right? So there was like, "Ooh, you know, he's gonna have a conversation outside." So early on in the year, I started to ask kids to step outside when they did good things. So just completely debunk this idea. So a student would do something and they'd nail and I'd be like, "Hey, can you go step outside?" And they'd be like, "Why Mr. Farah? Like, I didn't do anything." And I'd be like, "How about you just trust me for a second and step outside." And then we'd have a conversation and I'd say something actually positive motivation. They come in with a big smile on their face. So then I started to kind of change the understanding of what it means to step outside. Step outside just means I wanna have a conversation where not everybody else is like hovering over us. And then I started to use that strategy when students were emotionally dysregulated. If you were really struggling I'd say, "Just come step outside with me. Like, let's just have a quick conversation outside." And what was so cool is I could do that and the learning environment wouldn't stop, right? So it's not just having one-on-one and small group conversations, but you can actually pull yourself right outside of the classroom and trust that the students can still move forward with content every single minute of the class period.
Roberto German 18:53
I like that. In a way you're changing the narrative of what it means to call a student out, right? You're calling them in to affirm them so that when you have to call 'em out, you know, there's already been a lot of buildup that then gives them the trust to, you know, walk into the situation and be like, all right, you know, we could have this conversation 'cause he-- the teacher is not only trying to converse with me one-on-one when I'm doing something wrong.
Kareem Farah 19:28
Roberto German 19:30
And so how is the Modern Classroom Project different? And you've touched upon this, but I'd love for you to elaborate. How's it different from other blended learning models? What are the strengths of MCP and what are the growth areas?
Kareem Farah 19:44
Yeah. I mean I think what's different about our model is I think the most common comparable would be flip learning, right? There was this big flip-learning craze for some time. And flip learning just basically said, flip the learning experience. Don't talk at the front of the room, turn those into videos. Students watch those videos at home during-- that's their homework. And then they come in and they all work on lesson two. And there were two core problems with that, in my opinion, to scale it. Which is at first, the expectation that all students would be able to go home and watch an instructional video, given what we know about the various environments that our students come from, is just an unrealistic expectation. They might not have technology access, they might not have a quiet space, like all those kinds of components. So A, there was like an equity issue there. Like the expectation that some students would and would not be able to watch those instructional videos as it was real. The second piece is it wasn't actually fully benefiting from the larger goal, which is to create self-paced learning and to create competency or mastery-based grading, right? So if you just flip the learning, but every student has to learn lesson three the next day, it doesn't address this idea that some students need more time on a scale and some students are ready to move forward. So that's probably the closest comparable that you could see in the space to our instructional approach. What is unique about us, and I think what makes us particularly compelling to a lot of educators is we aren't providing any tech tool or curriculum. Like there's no an infrastructure that you need to do this. But instead, it's just an instructional model that you can learn and apply in any context.
We have an entire school in Zambia that does this model. We have tons of teachers in Australia that do this model, in Peru. Because it is a methodology of teaching that you can use with any learning management system, with any curriculum, with any type of device. So it really can be customized to any environment. And I think that's our greatest strength, the highly customizable model that is really practical and educators can apply. I think the areas where we can continue to improve are making the on-ramps to implementation even easier. What structures and systems can we provide educators to make the transitioning from a traditional learning environment to a modern one smoother? Are some of them curricular supports? Are some of them more templates? Are some of them more planning tools? Are some of them more learning programs and professional learning experiences? Because what we know is teachers who do this model love it and say they plan to stay in the profession longer and feel revitalized in their profession. But what we also know is about one in five to one in three teachers who get the opportunity to do this model, choose to do it. We're an opt-in-only model. So we don't force educators to implement our instructional approach even across all of our district partnerships. So we're touching about 20 to 30% of teachers in any community that we go into. And in really cool partnerships, we might get up to 50, 60, 70% of teachers. But there's a portion of teachers that still go, "I don't want to do this." And of the group, some of them are saying because it's too hard. It's too hard to take on, it's too much work. A portion of them are saying, "I'm not aligned to the vision of the model." That group of teachers, that's a whole 'nother ballgame. That's gonna be a much diff-- that's a much more challenging task. But for the group of teachers who want it but don't feel like they can do it, we know that there are different systems, structures, tools, resources we can provide to make this an easier experience for educators.
Roberto German 23:01
Help me understand what they're expressing as the barrier. Is it creating the videos that's hindering them? Maybe they're not as adept with the technology or maybe they just feel like it creates a much heavier workload with creating all of the videos? What are the barriers?
Kareem Farah 23:25
So I think you've highlighted a lot of them. I'd say that the three big ones are one, the barrier of workload and building out the instructional videos, and reorganizing their classroom on their learning management system. Because ultimately the workload comes in, Hey, I gotta translate my lessons and instructional videos. I gotta provide guided notes. I gotta have a nice Google Classroom or Canvas or Schoology organized. And folks that haven't been doing some of that work for some time that's intimidating. It's like I'm redesigning my course. So there's the workload part. There's a second piece where just educators are a little bit afraid of releasing control. I mean, to create a student-centered classroom, you need to give students greater autonomy over the learning experience, and that freaks some people out. So in some ways, it's like, I wanna do this, but I'm afraid to do this. So that's a little bit less to do with workload and more to do with like, can I really just let my students be self-paced for five straight days and me be a facilitator? And that just takes like trust. That takes seeing it, that takes hearing from other educators to believe that that is really A, what's best for students and B, possible. And then I'd say the third thing which has been less challenging certainly kind of in the era of post-COVID is when they feel like their admin is not on board.
Like, ultimately when you're diving into something new, you gotta feel like you can take some risks. You're gonna have some bad days in there. Like, controlled chaos isn't gonna be controlled, it's gonna be complete chaos, right? Like you gotta operate within a certain element of I'm trying something new so I'm gonna be pretty bad at it to start and I gotta work through it. And if every time something doesn't go right, you panic and regress back to traditional practices. It's gonna be a long road and it's gonna be one where you probably will never convert your classroom environment. And one of the best ways for an educator to feel comfortable doing that is when their admin says, "No, go do it. Like, take that risk. I expect this to be messy early on, but I imagine that, you know, when you get comfortable with it, the outcomes for students are gonna be better and the outcomes for you are gonna be better." And not everyone has those conditions in front of 'em, whether it's because we haven't spoken to their2 admin or their admin doesn't know about it or their admin isn't quite on board yet and like has a set of competing priorities that would make them feel like this isn't the focus.
Roberto German 25:39
So then what are the three simple steps you would offer someone who's new and they're willing to try this on? Maybe it's their first year teaching, maybe it's their fifth year teaching, they have some reservations, but hey, you know what I'm gonna try this on. What are the three simple steps you would encourage them to take as a way to not just wet their feet but understand that we wanna build a sustainable approach?
Kareem Farah 26:13
Yep. So first things first is commit to piloting it. Like just commit. I'm gonna do five lessons one week, self-paced. My students are gonna listen to lectures, they're gonna watch instructional videos. I'm gonna give them a little game board and I'm gonna see what happens. Commit to doing it in a small pilot. There is no one who doesn't have the capacity to pull off that one pilot. ‘Cause one of the things I always tell people is once you taste it and see the benefits, you're either gonna be attracted to it and want more of it or you're gonna go, this isn't for me. So you gotta commit to doing one pilot right first. So that's the first thing I'd say. The second thing I'd say is that's kind of addressing the workload piece. Like just do one pilot and feel it out. And the best way to learn it is through our free course if you don't have funding. There's a virtual mentorship program that comes with funding. It's $750 a teacher, all that kind of stuff. But we're a nonprofit, so we don't have any paywalls to protect our content resources and templates. Like there's not a secret template we give away when someone pays 50 bucks, none of that. So the free course learn.modernclassrooms.org, 55,000 teachers are in there. Like you can literally learn the whole model in this course. So go to that free course, pilot one unit, see what happens. Or pilot one five-lesson burst of self-pacing. When it comes to living in fear of students kind of being in control of the learning experience, just challenge your assumptions. Like I think actually one of the ways to set the lowest possible expectations for students is to not believe that they can be self-directed and self-regulated learners.
I also think it's the most dangerous thing we do as an education system is to cultivate a bunch of students who are used to information hitting them in the face in highly structured learning environments. And then suddenly they graduate at 18 and hey, FYI in college you go to 15 hours a class a week and that's it. And there's gonna be parties everywhere and there's gonna be cafeteria everywhere and everyone's gonna be working a side job. Like what is that? That is such a sharp shift from K-12 education. Or you're gonna go into the workforce. And the workforce, let's be real. That's a cutthroat environment. You either perform or you don't perform. And if you don't perform, then people tell you, you don't perform. And if you keep not performing, you don't have the job anymore, right? So we've coddled students through our K-12 education system for years and then once they graduate, we go, "Good luck." And that's not what's best for students. So the earlier we can trust that they can be self-direct and self-regulated learners, the better for them. And if they're not good at that, that's the reason to double down on it. Because if they're not good at that, that's probably more important than their ability to divide fractions. Being a self-directed learner and a self-regulated learner is critical. And then on the third piece, you know, there's kind of two approaches with the admin. My preferred approach is just say to them, "This is what I'm doing and this is why I can't meet all my students' needs effectively. You know it and I know it." Because every admin knows that, right? Every admin knows that they're not-- we're not actually differentiating. So I wanna run a test unit to pull this off. And here's why and here's my rationale and here's how I'm gonna execute it. And here are all the resources from the Modern Classrooms project to check out. And usually, the admin will go, "Give it a try. Like, let it fly." So those are the three kind of actionable steps I would suggest folks to take. I mean, the middle one is more of a philosophical step, but the first one and the last one are actionable.
Roberto German 29:38
No, that's good stuff. That's good stuff. I hope y'all are paying attention. All right. So if you had an opportunity to have lunch with an innovator in the realm of education, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Kareem Farah 29:50
Oh! You know, I really, really right now would like to speak to the person who created Chat GPT.
Roberto German 30:02
That's a good one.
Kareem Farah 30:04
And the reason why is I think we're looking at a moment in time where it feels like there's this existential threat and massive multiplier all coming at us at once. And I think a lot of us wake up in the morning and go, "Wow, this AI stuff could make things really cool." And then we also wake up and go, "Wow, AI could be like the thing that destroys us." And I just kinda wanna really talk to the folks that developed that and get a feel for what they think the impacts could be on K-12 education. 'Cause I think we hear about Chat GPT and then it's filtered through the lens of all these other players who are taking it and making it their own. But I'm kinda curious about the original creators of it. Like what were their intentions and how do they think that can change learning? 'Cause I think on one hand people think that like one day we're gonna wake up and students are just gonna learn through an AI developed program. And then there's folks like myself who think that AI has the capacity to make teachers planning lives easier and unleash their capacity to do the things they need to be doing all day long, which is working with students one-on-one in small groups, building relationships and supporting them through academic mastery. So right now that's who's on my mind.
Roberto German 31:12
That would be a fascinating conversation, I'm sure. Alright. So to those that are listening, what is the message of encouragement you want to offer them?
Kareem Farah 31:23
Well, I think the main thing I wanna say is I've been out of the classroom now for three years. I've led this organization this entire time since I left the classroom. There is no doubt in my mind that the hardest thing I've ever done is be an educator. So the first thing I just wanna say is affirm that reality, because I don't think that's affirmed often enough. I actually recently shared a piece about how I think that educators the more you leave the classroom, the more you realize just how poorly the rest of the world understands how hard that task is. Like it's this fascinating thing where everyone's like, "Oh yeah, teaching's hard." And I'm like, "Yeah, but do you really understand how hard it is? Like do you understand what it means to have between 25 and 150 students with all these diverse needs and somehow you're supposed to work with them 181 days of the year and they're supposed to come out with more academic skills and feeling good about them?" It's just a wild proposition. So all the educators out there just know that like what you do is one of the hardest and most challenging things out there. The second thing I'd say is doing one of the hardest and most challenging things out there, using old practices that have existed for a hundred-plus years is probably not the way you're gonna move the needle for students long-term. And that there are all other ways to run a classroom. So if you're frustrated and you're burning out and you're like, can I keep doing this thing any longer? Try to take the leap into innovative instructional models because that's what we had to do to stay in the classroom and they worked for us. So just know that there's hope and there's ways to pull this off out there. And also just know that what you do is really some of the most incredible and challenging work out there. And frankly, like there are ways to make it easier, but at its core, it's gonna be a hard job no matter what. Because, you know, supporting students is a hard task.
Roberto German 33:04
Teaching is tough, teaching is tough. Stay the course, my people. We appreciate you. Kareem, where can folks follow you? If they wanna learn more about you, more about the Modern Classroom Project, where can they follow?
Kareem Farah 33:17
Yeah, so website, www.modernclassrooms.org. That's our website. I mentioned it's free course. Like I tell every person on the planet who's curious about our model to go there. That's learn.modernclassrooms.org. You just sign up and you're in there. There's also a Facebook group with around 15,000 teachers. It is a buzzing Facebook group that folks can go to. It's the Modern Classrooms Project Facebook group. And then at this point, most of my thought leadership lives on LinkedIn. So you can just go to my profile on LinkedIn and follow me or send me a message or however it works. I still don't really entirely understand the process. Just know that if you're an educator and I see that you request to connect, I automatically click accept because building a network of educators is the most important thing to me. So those are the best ways to do it.
Roberto German 34:07
Awesome. Awesome. Folks, there you have it. Check out Modern Classrooms Project. Kareem Farah doing some wonderful work. We are learning how to support our students in ways that sustain teachers in the classroom, but also ways that build up the skills that our youngsters learn to guide themselves to so they could be self-paced, so they can be motivated to work on their level whether their level's higher than the rest of the group or maybe a little bit lower than the rest of the group, but we're not approaching everybody the same way. All right, so check out the Modern Classrooms Project. And as Kareem mentioned, there is a free course to start out. There's your introduction. Free is for me, so y'all already know. Go get it now. Thank you. Thank you for your time. Thank you for your insights. Much appreciated. And best wishes with the Modern Classrooms Project. Looking forward to seeing that continue to grow and blossom.
Kareem Farah 35:12
Awesome. Thanks so much for having me.
Roberto German 35:16
As always, your engagement in Our Classroom is greatly appreciated. Be sure to subscribe, rate the show, and write a review. Finally, for resources to help you understand the intersection of race bias, education, and society, go to multiculturalclassroom.com. Peace and love from your host, Roberto German.