Houston Kraft of Character Strong


Hi and welcome to the Connect FCS Ed podcast. I’m thrilled to have you listening, but always so grateful to have you joining me today. Today’s episode, I have a powerhouse of a guest who is making it his mission to revolutionize the way people treat one another. His name is Houston Kraft, he is an author, speaker, advocate of kindness, which is my personal favorite because that’s my philosophy. And he’s co-founder to Character Strong. If you’ve not heard of that, that is an educational resource to help improve school safety and culture by implementing social and emotional learning, SEL.

I invite you to listen in…


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•    Before we get into today’s topic, I wanted to share with you some similarities that we have. I know we both grew up in the same area. You grew up in the Snohomish area, but you had a short stint living in Issaquah. I grew up in Issaquah, Washington. Super fun. I grew up from across the street from the salmon hatchery. (1:31)

•  We started talking about that and having it as part of all of our classes in the home economics realm years ago. So, we love focusing on the whole child and nurturing all of those wonderful attributes that Character Strong is focusing on. But today I would love to share what strategies teachers, or you can give teachers, to optimize student engagement. When we, myself included, as teachers, we’re so zoomed out. Which is precisely the need for social, emotional learning, right? (4:48)

•  I always have music playing whenever people come into a virtual room and I try to say as many names as possible. I try to comment on backgrounds. If cameras are on, I believe deeply that cameras don’t need to be on to create a sense of engagement. So using all the dimensions, I think a lot about dimensions and online learning is, the chat box is one level of engagement. But as soon as you get video on, you have a lot of different new opportunities to play with. You can do things where people get closer or farther away from the camera to show how well they understand something. You can do camera on, camera off,o show people have things in common or people who are on one side or another side of an issue. You can use virtual backgrounds with students, that have different colors or categories, and they can physically move on their screen to show how comfortable they are with material or how well they understand something.  (7:18)

•  So for me personally, anything that I do persistently, I have a very clear purpose on why I do it. And so if I can get clear on that, the why for myself as an educator, then I’m going to show up with much more consistency, much more stability, which we know from a trauma informed lens. One of the critical things we can do for our students is just create consistent routines and habits, and a sense of stability in our classroom, whether it’s in person or virtually. So purpose fuels persistence, purpose fuels, discipline, and let’s make time for that which is most important. (10:20)

•  How do we deem anything important in our life, in our schools? Dr. Clayton Cook has a great line, he says, ‘you show me your schedule and your budget, and I’ll tell you what you think is important.’ It was pretty much as simple as that. What we allocate our resources, our energy and our time to is what we’ve decided is important. And, people might say they believe in doing a thing, but I can’t believe in doing a thing and have no tangible actions or changing of priorities to make that thing actually important. (25:11)

September 02, 2020

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