On this episode of Tackling Tech Podcast, powered by Dyknow, Brett McGrath speaks with Hans Appel. Hans is a Middle School Counselor, educator, speaker, podcaster, writer, Director of Culture at Teach Better Team, and co-creator of Award Winning Culture. Unfortunately from personal experience, Hans knows that school is for some students their only safe space. He is passionate about creating a safe and caring school culture.
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Hans Appel’s background and finding his “why”
Hans Appel is an educator, speaker, podcaster, and Director of Culture at Teach Better Team, and co-creator of Award-Winning Culture. Hans has worked for 20 years as a middle school counselor. He firmly believes that education is about inspiring others to discover and develop their joy and find their purpose within the passions that they are interested in.
“When we embrace goy, we are encouraging our students to find joy. True joy. Not just happiness.”
This passion for inspiration and culture within K-12 education comes from Hans’ own early experiences with education. Having grown up in a challenging home environment, school became a safe place for Hans where he could just be a kid and not worry about the things that were happening at home. Teachers, students, and faculty became his friends, family, and support system. The roots of his passion for education and culture all come from these early childhood moments where he experienced educators focusing on more than just the subjects they were teaching.
How to prioritize the Whole Child during remote learning
Hans shared that his hope is that this time has reshaped what we know about the whole child. He hopes that remote learning shines such a bright light on this that educators have to prioritize the whole child at all times.
Impactful education can’t happen unless we’re focused on these other parts of students as well. It all starts with asking ourselves, “how are we intentionally connecting with our kids?” and if we are pulling them into our world to make sure they are doing okay and that they have what they need and feel supported.
The next step is to be real, authentic, and vulnerable with students. When teachers are vulnerable it humanizes them for students and makes students feel more comfortable opening up about parts of their own lives that make them imperfect.
Where can teachers start when making a culture shift?
The first part of making any change within a school or organization is to recognize that we only control our own sphere of influence. Hans’s biggest piece of advice is for teachers to start thinking of themselves as leaders. He believes that all educators – and all humans for that matter – are leaders.
“If you have humanistic contact with people in any capacity, then you have the ability to influence. All leadership really is, is the ability to influence.”
Hans’ school’s framework for building culture and influencing starts with three pillars and three questions:
1. Character – Will you do the right thing?
2. Excellence – Will you do your very best?
3. Community – What will you do for others today?
Starting with culture can be transformative and truly serve as the backbone for a school. Hans reflected that the shift to distance learning was made much easier because they already had built this foundation of a culture of kindness and empathy to drive them forward.
All educators should become content creators – not just consumers
Hans Appel’s first book, Award-Winning Culture, was a catalyst for Hans to share the power of content creation with fellow educators. But this appreciation for creation started small before Hans got the title of “Author.”
He shared that he never thought that he would have such a title, but as he lead the cultural shift in his school, companies and educators began to notice him as a thought leader on the topic. In response, he and his wife began to write a blog on their experience building school culture based on calls they were having with schools and companies to share ideas. The blog endeavor blossomed into a 3 book deal, one of which has been published with the second in the works.
Through this journey of becoming a content creator, Hans became passionate about challenging educators to not just be consumers but to start creating content themselves. He explained that when you put yourself out there and expose your greatness, you can influence others and bring about change.