Podcast Episode 49: From Teaching to Administration With Anael Alston

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We break new ground in this episode as we talk to Dr. Anael Alston, the superintendent of schools in Hamilton, NY. He has a master’s and doctorate in education from Columbia, and has worked his way up to his current position, starting as a substitute teacher in the New York state system. Anael shares his inspirational journey and the many things he’s learned along the way about teaching at all levels.

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Show Notes

0:00 Intro

0:38 Introducing and welcoming Anael Alston.
As a child, did you dream of being a superintendant?
Growing up in Bed-Stuy and studying sociology at Hofstra.
Boxing, tutoring, and substitute teaching.

5:24 Teaching 7th grade for six years.
Then teaching alternative (at-risk) middle school students.
How being a 6’2” amateur boxing champion helps.
Seeing an articulate African American man in a shirt and tie inspires students.

11:38 The impact of having a principal who encourages you.
The importance of role models.
Going from assistant principal to acting principal to principal at a high-poverty and low-performing school: “the best thing that happened to my career.”

15:35 The thought process behind becoming an educational leader. Don’t rule with fear and intimidation. Being an instructional leader and supporting teachers. Transforming an institution’s culture. “The transformation begins with yourself.”
It happens in the classroom. “Our faculty meetings were workshops in instruction.”
Being a manager is not the same as being a leader.

21:14 Understanding the obstacles in public education–while doing graduate school part-time.
Observing three classrooms a day–often unannounced–as an opportunity to praise people.

25:19 “I don’t manage my time, I manage my priorities.” Cf. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. Breaking the addiction of email.
What Anael wants to see in a classroom. Engaged students: doing something. Is there an assessment?
Differences between K12 and college classrooms.
Are college students more motivated because of the cost?
The evaluation of teaching and tenure.
State and national standards require creativity.

35:30 The value of knowing your students.

39:19 What Anael looks for in classroom teaching observations.
Why not just tell a teacher: fix this, fix that.
Why it’s better to demonstrate teaching for the teacher.
Edward: teaching as wayfinding.

43:52 A memorable teaching mistake: when you’re not told that the class is special ed.
Overshooting the mark in higher ed.

48:12 Signing off.