The Minimalist Educator Podcast

Episode 030: The Power of Courage in Education with Ming Shelby

April 02, 2024 Tammy Musiowsky-Borneman
The Minimalist Educator Podcast
Episode 030: The Power of Courage in Education with Ming Shelby
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

When faced with the daunting task of guiding her non-English speaking parents through the complexities of a new country, Ming Shelby learned early on that courage isn't just an abstract concept, but a muscle we can all develop. This very lesson fuels her mission today, which she passionately shares with us, to embolden educators with the bravery to initiate tough conversations, foster authenticity, and lead with kindness in the classroom and beyond. Ming's remarkable journey, from her childhood trials to taking the stage as a TEDx speaker, reminds us all of the transformative power of courage in our lives.

Our discussion with Ming doesn't stop at personal growth; it dives into the practical implications of courageous conversations in reducing educator stress and improving workload management. We're reminded that human connection, afforded by face-to-face interactions, can clear the fog of miscommunication and lighten our collective burden. As we navigate the cultural tapestries of communication styles and embrace the principles of "showing up, being seen, and living brave," Ming encourages us to lead with empathy, challenge with directness, and ultimately, to shape a world where courage is the bedrock of our every interaction.

Ming Shelby is a TEDX speaker, a National Board Certified educator who has dedicated her career to inspiring students, teachers, and administrators through learning experiences. Ming is currently the Director of Professional Learning in the suburbs of Chicago. She believes that courage is the critical ingredient for student transformation. Ming has facilitated workshops for adults and youth in Asia, Australia, Europe, and the United States.  She also builds courage beyond the classroom to support kids and adults through her podcast, Courage Up.

Resource mentions:
Radical Candor
Brene Brown

Today's episode was brought to you by Plan Z Professional Learning Services, Forward Thinking Educator Support. Find out more at www.PlanZPLServices.com. Follow us @PlanZPLS on Twitter and Instagram.

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Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Minimalist Educator Podcast, a podcast about paring down to refocus on the purpose and priorities in our roles with co-hosts and co-authors of the Minimalist Teacher Book, Tammy Musiowsky-Borniman and Christine Arnold.

Speaker 2:

In this episode we speak with Ming about the importance of having the courage to get right to the heart of things, particularly in communication. Her pared down pointer is some wise words from Brunet Brown and Kim Scott. Ming Shelby is a TEDx speaker, a national board certified educator, who has dedicated her career to inspiring students, teachers and administrators through learning experiences. Ming is currently the director of professional learning in the suburbs of Chicago. She believes the courage is the critical ingredient for student transformation. Ming has facilitated workshops for adults and youth in Asia, Australia, Europe and the United States. She also builds courage beyond the classroom to support kids and adults through her podcast Courage Up.

Speaker 3:

Welcome to this week's episode of the Minimalist Educator Podcast. This week we are chatting with Ming Shelby and we are super excited because Ming is such a great speaker and I just love hearing her voice. So welcome to the show, Ming.

Speaker 4:

Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to be here with both of you.

Speaker 3:

I speaking of voices. So you and I met on that app Clubhouse a couple years ago. I feel like it was kind of like a COVID thing that started, and I remember that you would often be in an SEL room with Krista and then I just always would go into her room and listen to you talk about things and you just have one of those very inviting voices. So I like listening to you talk. So thanks for being here.

Speaker 4:

Oh, that's so kind, tammy. You know, we're always our own worst critics of our voices, so when I like watch back videos of myself or pie, I'm like who is that? That can't be me.

Speaker 1:

I don't sound like that.

Speaker 3:

Well, other people, yeah, and other people think very differently, right, exactly, yeah, but that was such a great space for I don't even know if it's still a thing or not but it was such a great space to get to know people and just talk about. You know different things, and I know one of the things that you talk about a lot is courage, which is a really, you know, a huge topic in any field, but in education it can be particularly hard to be a courageous teacher or a courageous leader. So can you tell us a bit about how you kind of got into that way of thinking like this is what I want to focus on and work with people, and I want to hear from people that are fox ga [(ensored)] expertise that people cannot workあ lot with, the begin Location being like well, neverremere.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, it's funny because so in 2018, I do a word of the year like what's your word? And so for me, I chose courage and I reference back to 2018 being this year of courage for me. But when I'm reflecting, my whole life was these courageous moments along the way? So to backtrack back to way when I was really little, so my family came to United States when I was only six months old and I, first of all, I can't even imagine that like traveling, leaving this country where you know your family with a six month old baby, and we just moved to the States.

Speaker 4:

And so there are these moments where my parents were still learning English. My mom was like I feel pretty good conversationally, but I remember that making doctor's appointments for the family, like I would be the one as elementary age student, making those phone calls, practicing that courage muscle. I remember going through the drive, through my mom would have me sit in the back, like right behind the driver, and I would be ordering what we wanted for food. And so there's like these little moments when I'm telling my husband I'm like, did you ever do this? And he's like no, like, did you ever have to? Like call and do you like no, my mom, you know. So it's like all those little moments led me up to it, and even things of like speaking Chinese when I didn't feel comfortable when everyone around me was speaking English.

Speaker 4:

So in 2018, I had the word of courage. And of course, the universe is like okay, you want to practice courage? Let me just put you in all these challenging situations, like let's go for it. And so I really had to be like okay, I asked for this, like what am I going to do when I'm in these hard situations, tough situations? How do I want to show up? And one big lesson that I learned was it doesn't matter about what other people think of me or, you know, whatever else is happening is that I wanted to make sure that in these courageous moments, I showed up true to me, while still being kind to others and holding space. And so if I was proud of how I acted or showed up in that moment, I was like okay, like I'm slowly building this courage muscle.

Speaker 2:

So yeah, a lot of a lot about risk taking there and being authentically you and things like that. That sounds like it. That is wrapped up, yeah.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, totally, and I think too, working with teachers and being a teacher for many years, I think one of the most courageous things that we can do is stand up to our colleagues. Often I'm in spaces and I don't know if, tammy and Christine, you can relate to this.

Speaker 2:

Oh yeah, I'm like, tell me more, tell me more. I want to hear more about this.

Speaker 4:

I remember being a classroom teacher and a colleague of mine was late every day and so I would help set up the classroom. I would make sure the students knew what they were doing, greeted them, and it was pretty consistent on how often she would show up late to work. And at one point I was like is the principal going to do something about this? And I went to the principal. You know, a young, naive, 20-something year old, is like. She's always late, like what are you going to do about this? And she's like well, have you had the conversation with her yet? I'm like me what? I'm just her colleague, like this is not my place to have that conversation.

Speaker 4:

And I think we often have those conversations in our head like, oh, it shouldn't be me, like I'm not the one that can hold her accountable to this or be having it. That seems like a boss's job. And then now, as I continue on my leadership journey, I'm like wait, sometimes the most powerful conversations are those of your colleagues. To colleagues right, like for me to take ownership of. I care enough about this teammate to have this hard conversation. I care enough about these students to have this conversation. So, looking back on it, things like that. I'm like, oh my gosh, yeah, I had a choice in that, like I totally had power in that moment.

Speaker 3:

That is really powerful, actually, yes, and I think, too, we kind of dismiss this idea that probably your colleague or any of our colleagues, right, when we have to have a difficult conversation or we're thinking about it, they would probably rather hear it from us, right, like, rather than hearing it from your admin or you know whoever the person in charge is. But I think that we dismiss how rightful a colleague would be Like thanks for bringing that to my attention, or like my intention is not to be late, but for some reason I just can't get myself together, like whatever the thing is. And then maybe that conversation ends up being like the catalyst for not being late as often, because you're showing that you care. And I think you know we talk a lot about relationships on the podcast and it really does come down to how we are relating to the people and how we're connecting to each other, to stay focused on what really matters, like why we're teaching or why we're leading. So, yeah, that's really powerful.

Speaker 4:

Tammy, so that resonates so much with me.

Speaker 4:

So years later I found out from a different colleague that this colleague, her husband, had some really severe mental health issues and so it was hard.

Speaker 4:

They had a young baby too, so it was hard for her to get out of the house because of her family situation. And I think back, like what if I had just said something like hey, noticing that it's hard for you to get here on time, like is there something that I can do to help support you? And I wonder, if I open that conversation up in that moment, like she would have been felt safe enough to open up to me Like yeah, I'm going through some tough stuff at home. It's really hard for me to get out of the house. Like I really appreciate how you helped my students get started right away. That helps me a ton, you know, and I didn't do that, so we don't. I'm not friends with this colleague, but I do wonder, like huh, if I chose to be courageous in the moment, to have that conversation and finding empathy instead of judgment, like what our relationship might have looked like in those years of working together.

Speaker 2:

Something for us all to think about. I think there. Do you have any tips for when we're dealing with people? You know teaching is a high stress environment Often. You know people have so much on their plates and you know you might it might seem like the people around you are. You know just one more straw is going to break that camel's back. Do you have any words of advice if we're dealing with people like that? But we still want to have that courageous conversation, but we know it could be, you know, the last thing they need at that moment.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, christine, you bring up such a great point. I think everyone's working so hard right now, whatever perspective they have. I think all the people in education are working really hard right now. So with the one more thing, everyone's plate is already so full I can't have this conversation and this. And this is just going to send me over the edge. I think if we took a step back, having the conversation would remove another straw.

Speaker 4:

I don't know if that goes with the analogy, but sometimes it's the anticipation leading up to having the conversation, or the buildup of the frustration, or it's all the other stuff, the gobbledigook, that leads to that and oftentimes, more often than not, after having the hard conversation, when you can just say hey, I know this is going on, I'm thinking it might be related to this, how do you see it? Can you help me understand? And that open dialogue just kind of eases the tension and in my experience it's almost like the bricks have been lifted off the shoulders and you're like okay, it feels like the plate is a little bit more manageable. It's a little bit more manageable now, just follow up.

Speaker 2:

So I guess what I'm saying, Christine, is just do it, just do it, and I'm just wondering, just as a quick add on would you always recommend that these sorts of things happen face to face, or do you think there is a possibility for it to be in other forms of communication? Or should we stick to the person to person, face to face method?

Speaker 4:

I think the pigeon carrier note is probably the best.

Speaker 2:

By a fax.

Speaker 4:

I think it depends on your relationship. I always think, somehow, if they can hear your voice, whether it's face to face, a zoom, a phone call, I think email is the most impersonal and you can't hear the intonation Right, like one way you might type, it may seem so disarming, but then when you add a certain tone to it you're like, oh, this is, this becomes nasty somehow. And so, yeah, face to face for me is ideal. And then I think, because it's so, sometimes it's so hard having that conversation, so the person you're talking to can see like the effort you're putting in, the courage that it takes from you to go forth and do that, and it kind of evens the playing field, in my opinion. What do you think, christine?

Speaker 2:

Do you agree, Christine, in your experience, I think so because my experience, I feel like, is when it's in an email or written down, they're kind of forgetting that there is a human on the other end of that. It feels like. So, in those moments of stress or overwhelm or annoyance, irritation, anger, whatever it is, it's a lot easier to bang out something than it is to have that same level of intensity of face to face, because you can't ignore the person standing in front of you. So I think, if you can, if you can have that face to face moment. I know it's tricky in a busy day, but I think it definitely does help to bridge those, you know, bridge those issues and come back to who you are and what you're really trying to achieve.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, I agree with you. Yeah, I think we can be a little bit more human when we're face-to-face.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, and just thinking about that too, like how has you focusing on having courageous conversations with people and then, you know, potentially kind of even diffusing something that might have become something else in an email thread or whatever? How has that potentially, or has it helped other people? Just kind of stay more focused then on what we really need to do, because we know that we can check the email quick and read it and be like, wow, that's like not what I want to hear right now.

Speaker 3:

But, has that kind of just helped people stay focused when you can just focus on like, okay, we're going to talk about this, rather than let it fester?

Speaker 4:

Yeah, I think that's a great point. Tammy, I'm thinking as you're talking. Because I think so? Because if something's nabbing at the back of you, right, like your attention's going to be semi-diverted, whether it's conscious or not, subconscious, like, okay, she's still not here, like the kids are, and even, let's say, we're planning together and we're planning this great lesson. But in the back of my mind I was like, well, why doesn't matter, we're planning this, you might not be here that day, right, like these like little voices that somehow interject your voice into the your conscious. But if we have the conversation talking about being on time, and as we're planning, I could be like, okay, I might hear some things that I might have to get ready for both of us. Like my inner dialogue might turn a little bit to be more helpful than to be more judgy.

Speaker 4:

I think I was more judgy. Sorry, Tammy, go ahead.

Speaker 3:

No, that's fine and I think naturally we just kind of go to that place right where it's a natural thing to make a judgment, because we don't know all of the story behind what people are doing.

Speaker 3:

But it does make me think about how I, in my role right now, really have to focus on people's preferences of communication too, because there are some people that respond quickly to a text and like, thankfully I'm in a small school so we have like just a text read sometimes, but I know that not everybody reads their email at the same time.

Speaker 3:

I can't expect that people like I don't expect people to read it during the day, but sometimes if I do need a quick answer, I can just like go directly to that person or just shoot a quick text and be like can you just let me know, blah, blah, blah and that person.

Speaker 3:

I think that alleviates some stress for people, in particular when they're when you choose that method of communication that is their preference, because not everybody likes to read the email, you know, even though it's a thing that we all have to do. But just letting them know that like I'm recognizing that you appreciate a text more because it's more accessible for you and you can just answer quickly, I think that alleviates a lot of angst in communication because then it's not sitting as this festering thing like oh, now I have to think about like how am I going to talk to this person about this thing and whatever. I know that's where my mind goes and it's so distracting, you know it's so distracting and so, like, when we can eliminate some of those distractions and communication, it just becomes so much easier. Yeah, what have you learned about yourself and others working on this kind of thing? Like just knowing that we have to communicate in this way with each other?

Speaker 4:

I think it's Freud that says when you're young, you're driven by ego and then slowly it fades right. But I think ego comes back after, like when you're in your 20s I think maybe it's just me Like we don't want to look bad, we don't want to do it wrong, or, and so I think what I learned is really like humility and being humble and approach it like there's always more than one side to a story, and I heard this trainer once said approach from a posture of curiosity versus a posture of judgment. And so when I go into whether it's hard conversations, hard situations, frustrating situations, whatnot I try and I'm not doing this perfectly by any means is try to think like why might that person act that way? Or what are what do they really want out of the situation, instead of going straight to like oh, they're trying to sabotage this work, or they're they are in it from themselves. It's so quick to jump to those negative stories, so for me it's about like OK seeing it from another person's perspective and having the humility to do so.

Speaker 2:

And if you found that this, you know we've been talking a lot about courage and communication today, but have you found these ideas about courage connected to any other areas of your life, Like how you take on new challenges or things like that?

Speaker 4:

Yeah, I'm trying to. I'm thinking like parenting. I have seven year old twins and I don't know. Every day is a new challenge with that right and this is also communication to Christina. It's funny, like when they were young and they did something that I was like, why did you do that? Right.

Speaker 4:

And like the courage to just show up and not go off the rail. Or recently, one of my boys they're identical twins and it just showed up that they're starting to be in competition with each other, one more than the other. And he's said, well, I'm, I'm the dumb brother, I'm dumb at reading, I know. And I just like, I just broke my heart because, like you're a great reader and your brother is a great reader, he, he likes right. So I think courage in that moment is to like put me aside and show up for him and saying things like thank you for telling me that, tell me more Right. Like just the courage to, to show up and be in that space with him. I think I courage is can transcend so many different pieces, right, Whether it's a risk taking move, whether it's a being quiet, and in my experience, christine, I'm thinking back A lot of them are the conversations I think as especially.

Speaker 4:

I don't know if this is true in the Netherlands or in Hawaii, but in Midwest we have this Midwest nice culture where it's like, oh, we're so nice, and then all that, that people kind of tiptoe around each other and not get to like, okay, listen up here, I care enough about you to have this conversation, like, oh yeah, that dress looks great on you. And meanwhile you're like, why is that? Why is she wearing that? You know?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, that's such a yes. That's a funny thing to bring up, but it's very true, like I feel like that's very Canadian because that's where I'm from right. So it's not New Yorker at all, that's you know when it's not Dutch.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, no, dutch are very, very direct in their communication style.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, how does that, christine? How does that translate with for you, like as a person who works with multiple country people, and like when someone's direct with you, in my experience we were like, oh, that was harsh. I'm like that wasn't really harsh, but it feels harsh to them.

Speaker 2:

But do you, I don't know do you feel that too?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, definitely, and I think you know I'm Australian but I've lived in, you know, asia for quite a long time as well, and so to have this sort of very direct communication style, it did really shock me, the first, you know, when I first moved here, for sure. But I now, I have to say I now kind of find it quirky and sort of endearing, and so when people say things that are very like, might seem very blunt and rude, it kind of makes me giggle now because it I appreciate it. It's, you know, it's quite nice for a change to have people you know tell you exactly what they think. So I enjoy it these days.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, but maybe it took, it wasn't acquired taste. Yes, yes, yeah.

Speaker 2:

And a lot of like explaining from my Dutch colleagues as well. You know like their perspective on it and why they think it's important to speak like that, and I think that hearing their point of view and their experiences helped me understand where they're coming from.

Speaker 3:

At this point in the show Ming we've talked a lot about a hard subject, actually having courage and the way we communicate with people, and I've brought a lot to think about from our conversation. As we wind down, we always ask our guests for a pair down pointer, so some kind of tip that you have could be from our conversation or from just life in general that you want to share with our listeners.

Speaker 4:

Christine gave me a heads up of one, and I'm breaking the rules because I have two which I hope your listeners are okay with. Yes, so I'm thinking of one. It's in this huge like a painted board in my house and it's a quote from Renee Brown and it says show up, be seen, live brave and I know this is probably familiar to both of you and your listeners as well of having that courage to show up, do the hard things, be transparent in who you are, be seen by others and then live bravely. So that's one is show up, be seen, live brave. And this is supposed to be the pair down section, but I somehow rambled more during the section than the others.

Speaker 1:

That's okay.

Speaker 4:

And then the other is it's from oh my gosh, why am I blinking on her name? From Radical Candor, the author. Her name is right on the tip of my tongue right now. I can see her face. She says care, personally, challenged directly. So balancing those both elements.

Speaker 3:

Oh, that's powerful. We'll have links to both of those resources you just mentioned too. We'll add a link for Renee Brown and the book Radical Candor, because it is a very interesting book. Thank you for your time today, ming. It's been great talking to you. I know our listeners, I'm sure, loved that episode, so thank you for being with us today.

Speaker 4:

Thank you so much for having me. This was so fun.

Speaker 2:

Today's episode was brought to you by Plan Z Professional Learning Services Forward Thinking Educator Support. Find out more at planzplservicescom.

Speaker 1:

Be sure to join Tammy and Christine and guests for more episodes of the Minimalist Educator Podcast. They would love to hear about your journey with minimalism. Connect with them at Plan Z PLS on Twitter or Instagram. The music for the podcast has been written and performed by Gaya Moretti Music Playing].

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