Dr. Desiree Alexander: Helping adults to be the awesome, professional educators that they already are

  • I was excited to meet Dr. Desiree Alexander on Zoom last week. She has a unique view on helping educators. Here is what we talked about. If you want to know more about Desiree's work, there are links to her resources at the end.

    Enjoy reading!

    Helping adults to be the awesome, professional educators that they already are

    Interview with Dr. Desiree Alexander

    Dr. Desiree Alexander is an award-winning, multi-degreed educator who is Founder CEO of Educator Alexander Consulting, LLC and the Regional Director of North Louisiana for the Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana. She is an international speaker who consults with conferences, districts, schools, individual educators and businesses. Educator Alexander Consulting empowers educators to discover and amplify the intrinsic desire to become innovators in education and aims to create a worldwide network of educators focused on the constant and consistent improvement of education for our students. Learn more at www.educatoralexander.com.


    Matthias Bohlen (MB): Hello Desiree, it's so nice to have you here! My name is Matthias Bohlen, and I'm the founder of Trainer's Joy (a tool that helps professional trainers) so I'm very much interested to talk to real trainers, educators, instructional designers and so on. And I learned that you have a lot of experience in this field.

    I was really impressed after reading your resume that's on your website, so I decided to contact you and say hello and try to get you for an interview. So I'm really glad that you're here!

    Dr. Desiree Alexander (DDA): Well, thank you.

    MB: So, let's start. First of all, how about you? What is it that that you typically do all day long?

    DDA: Every day is absolutely different but I am mainly training educators. Whether it be through the nonprofit that I work for, or through my own company, it is mainly mentoring and professional development for teachers, counsellors, librarians, administrators, really anyone in the education field and anyone in the business field who wants to do more with technology.

    For educators, I do more than technology. So for educators, I do educational leadership training, I do culture training, digital equity or just equity training and then classroom management. I also do a lot with different technology tools and how to implement technology into their classrooms. So, where it comes to education training it's a lot more than just technology.

    MB: Do I understand correctly, you do not directly educate students or learners but you mainly work with other trainers or other educators.

    DDA: Correct. I deal with the adults, now. In my career, I've been a classroom teacher, so I started my career teaching students but now I only teach the adults on the campus.

    MB: What's the main thing that these adults want to learn from you?

    DDA: The main thing is technology, for example from Google or Microsoft, how to implement technology in the classroom. That's the main thing. Beyond that, I do educational leadership, like

    • how to run a school,
    • how to build culture out of school, then
    • how to manage your classroom, and
    • how to build healthy student relationships.

    I used to be a librarian, so I also deal with reading and programming for library. So really, anything that goes on in this school.

    MB: Really cool. I want to know more about how you work with your clients: What type of interactions do you have with the adults that you help educating? Is it e.g. public training, is it one on one sessions? How can I imagine the interaction between you and your clients?

    DDA: Sure. It really depends on the situation. I've absolutely done one on one training, whether it be one on one training for test prep, whether it was for getting to understand technology, or I've also done one one one training dealing with what I call "onboarding", that is, when someone wants to start a business ... like ... how do they get started with their business? How do they get started with branding their business? So, I do that as well.

    Beyond one on one, I've done entire schools, and I've done entire districts, so it really just depends on what the client wants.

    I've done virtual where we're learning online. I've done in-person where I travel around the globe and train that way. And, like I said, I've done one-to-one in small groups where we just meet at a library and do whatever we're doing.

    Of course I do conferences, some of them are small and in some of them I've done auditorium sessions where I can't even see all the people in the audience but I'm on stage teaching.

    MB: So it definitely varies in scale and in size. How do you prepare for something like that? What kind of material do you prepare for when you are in the interaction situation?

    DDA: Again, it depends. One thing that I like to do when someone hires me is I like to have an actual conversation with them: Get on the phone or get on a Zoom and actually talk about what they are looking for versus, like, just giving them a canned presentation that I already have ready, because they may be looking for an element that's different!

    So I like to really talk to them and ask them: What are your needs? (Sometimes they don't know their needs.) Sometimes it's just asking them: What's happening with your campus, what are you using? Then I can give them some suggestions of what they may want. So one of the questions I ask is like "What are some problems that you've seen pop up?" because, if you tell me the problem, I may have a solution.

    So, we go from there after speaking with them. That's when I do go to my bag of tricks and see what I already have. I'm not going to reinvent the wheel if I don't have to. So I look at you know what I already have prepared when it comes to...

    • lessons
    • presentations
    • the flow of the lesson (when you give them hands on time, when do you not ... that kind of thing)

    And then I modify for whatever the situation is that they want. It really depends.

    MB: OK, so it's more a kind of consulting, coaching, or counselling thing that you do and not so much really teaching, with, like, let's say, predefined material like concepts, exercises or quizzes or something like that.

    DDA: Exactly! It's more of the training aspect of it. It's more of the "teaching them" aspect of it versus, like, the assessment aspect. Of course, you do the evaluation, but I like to say that my assessment, the true way to judge a professional development is:

    • What do they take back to the classroom and
    • What do they actually use and
    • What's effective?

    So that is where I see my assessment. Now when I'm doing, let's say, educational leadership test prep, then my judgment comes from "Did they pass the test?" but beyond that, everything else comes from...

    • Do they feel better with using whatever in the classroom?
    • And: Is that effective?

    MB: Interesting! How many of these gigs are you doing per year, approximately?

    DDA: Oh, my goodness ... I honestly train pretty much daily, whether it be through the nonprofit I work for, or my company. And that includes the weekends: I host a webinar every Saturday, a free webinar that any educator around the globe can come to. Sometimes I'm teaching in the webinar, but also, I have guests presenters in the webinar, and I host it, do the chat and all that and I let them present and really promote other educators as the awesome people that they are, and get their information out there ... and I put all of that on my YouTube channel!

    I also have an online classroom where people can go online and learn asynchronously. It's called Teachable. People can actually go online and take test prep for Google Level one certification. Or, the SLLA(School Leadership Licensure Assessment for teachers who want to become administrators) test prep, which is an educational leadership test prep. So I do have on online classroom as well.

    MB: That's great, so you're creating a real community of trainers. Is that right?

    DDA: Oh, yeah, that's part of Educator Alexander's mission is to create that that professional leaning network of trainers. It's not, you know, it's not just about me. I always say, there's enough space in this education world for everybody to do what they really want to do. And you know, another thing that I say is: When you start it's really about why you get into doing this as a trainer when you really start to look at your purpose and why you're doing what you're doing is not about you. It's about the people that you're training

    So that's really true and if you really do take that to heart (that it's not about you, it's about the educators, your training and helping), then that means you start to realize it doesn't matter if the message comes from you as long as they get the message.

    So that's where my mindset is with Educator Alexander is not about: "You have to listen to me because I'm awesome" – No! Hey, other people are doing awesome things, too, and as long as you get the message, I'm happy. As long as you get the information and feel better about you doing whatever you want to do, I'm happy!

    And ... I also tell my trainers when I'm helping new trainers, sometimes the message doesn't have to come from you. You are not who they need to hear. They need to hear somebody else! Even if the other person is saying the exact same thing that you just said, it doesn't matter. Sometimes they need to hear from somebody else!

    MB: That sounds very much purpose-driven and very much ... mission-driven!

    DDA: I believe in a servant leadership model, and I am here to serve. So it's all about purpose-driven, it's all about being a servant. So it's not ... I can't have ego. If we would just take ego out of education, we could accomplish so much.

    MB: Please tell me a little more about the mission that you have when you're consulting, training, teaching people how to how to get better in education. What do you think are the most important points that you want to get across?

    DDA: Well, I think the the first is: All teachers have intrinsic motivation, but not all of us know that! Not all of us know how to find that, know how activate that. So that's one of my biggest things to kind of activate our educators' intrinsic motivation. Like I want them to understand that they don't have to wait for someone to teach them, they don't have to wait to get better.

    You don't have to get permission for that! You have it inside yourself to get better and do what you really want to do.

    And hopefully everything that I do is this building that intrinsic motivation for teachers that want to do whatever they really want to do, that they can do it. They have the skills to do it.

    I would say the second one is this: Our educators are so bogged down with so much, especially the United States educators. They're just so bogged down with the educational system in general that sometimes stifles the way that they teach and stifles their creativity in their teaching. I hope to help them with that, help them to see that

    • they are professionals,
    • they deserve to be treated as a professional educator.
    • if they're in a situation where they're struggling, some things that hopefully I'm showing them can help them out with that.

    So I would say those are the two big missions.

    It's really to help our educators see how awesome they are. The effect is: The more that they see how awesome they are, the more that is going to trickle down to the students. I strongly believe that what you feed the adult is going to be fed to the students! So if you're feeding the adult in the classroom negativity and stifling their their innovation, then that's what's gonna happen in the classroom, because it's going to bleed down.

    So we have to pick up our educators. We have to make sure educators are strong, have teacher efficacy so they can do the same for our students. We can't treat them one way and train them one way, and then tell them to do the exact opposite when it comes to the students!

    MB: So the first point was the intrinsic motivation and the person's awesomeness. What was the second point again?

    DDA: Mainly the teacher efficacy, just making sure that teachers understand that they are professionals and that they can do more.

    MB: Amazing... I like that! Okay. So I think I've got a pretty good picture of what you're doing. Of course, I don't understand all the details yet, but I see that you have very special way to approach this field. It's really unique. I didn't hear that before!

    DDA: Oh ... Well, thank you!

    MB: Would you like to hear a little more about what I'm doing?

    DDA: Yes, that'd be great.

    MB: As a background, I come from information technology, software architecture, and software engineering that is about how to create software professionally and well, so that it runs well and serves the users.

    Recently I came more and more into education because I train other software engineers to show them how to intentionally build good software systems.

    From time to time, I have to prepare a new training or some modules for existing trainings. To make that easier, I created a system that allows teachers and trainers to collect raw material (like raw knowledge from books or from webinars from the Internet, etc.) and bring it into a new system that they can teach to their audience.

    I think that training design is mostly taking one structure or several structures that exist, and transform them into a new, teachable structure. I had never seen anything that supports this thought process, before.

    When I looked at the existing systems for e-learning design, for example, they focused very much on the visual aspect of the training to be designed, and I thought: What about the structural aspects, the sorting of things, the naming of things and sequencing of things and so on? So I wanted to create something for that ... this tool called Trainer's Joy that helps people with this structure transformation process that is going on in their minds when they build learning content.

    That's why I like to talk to experts in the educational field, just like you, Desiree.

    Thank you very much, Desiree, for today! I learned so much, and I saw another really unique way to see the world of education. So thank you very much for that.

    DDA: Thank you, I appreciate it! I appreciate you being so patient. So have a good day.

    MB: Your day is just starting, my day is slowly coming to an end. 🙂

    DDA: Yeah, so you have a good rest of it, rest of the day. Thank you very much!

    Learn more about Desiree's work on the Net:

    Website: https://www.educatoralexander.com/subscribe
    Twitter: https://twitter.com/educatoralex
    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EducatorAlexander
    Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/educatoralexander
    YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/Educatoralexander
    Teachable Self-paced Course: https://educatoralexander.teachable.com
    Webinars: https://www.educatoralexander.com/upcoming-events.html

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