Laurie Robinson began her career as an English teacher in Jefferson Union High School District. During her time in the district, she also worked as an instructional coach as well as a district lead for English before transitioning to an administrative role as the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Accountability.
Her passions include working with students learning English and finding more humanizing and sustaining methods of teacher support and development.
Finish this sentence: I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for ________________.
I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for mentorship. I firmly believe that we grow and get better through communion with others; absorbing different perspectives and experiences has grown and stretched my current skill and mindset.
Resumes highlight professional and educational achievements. Which one of your life or personal experiences deserves to be on your resume?
One of my personal achievements was teaching myself to bake. I had developed an interest and a love for baking through my Grandmother. She loved to bake, despite her tendency to burn everything–even prepackaged cookie dough. Through the time spent with her in the kitchen, I learned that it wasn’t about the final product but the process. And I also managed to pick up a few things about baking as well, like how to properly use a kitchen timer.
What qualities do you look for when hiring someone on your team? What qualities do you avoid?
During a typical interview process, it’s common for it to end with the panel asking, “what questions do you have for us?” One question I love hearing is, “what support will you have for someone new coming into the district?” I appreciate this question because it should be incumbent on our organization to not just get you in the door but to make sure you are successful and happy. I believe it also demonstrates someone with an attitude toward improvement and growth, as in our field, we know that those that believe they know everything already will often stagnate as things around us constantly shift and change.
It’s easier to get excited about a policy change when it is new, but leaders best serve their organization by scheduling cycles of continuous reflection and opportunities to discuss, re-evaluate, and share success.”
Is there a time when you were told to change yourself, or hide some aspect of yourself to be accepted or successful in a situation? How did you react?
At one point in my earlier career, a male boss called me into his office to advise me that I needed to be more conscious of “my face” when we were in meetings and that generally, it would be best to appear less emotional during certain discussions. I remember at the time being quite upset because I had previously seen myself as passionate and my emotional expression as a manifestation of how much I cared about a given topic. It has always stayed with me and helped hone my awareness of when folks will sometimes hyperfocus on another’s tone as a means of dismissing a valid and important point they may be raising.
Which three books, podcasts, or news sources do you think everyone should read? Why?
I am always surprised that Pedagogy of the Oppressed is not required reading in more credential programs, both for teachers and administrators. Freire’s lessons about making education more humanizing are timeless and ideas I find myself revisiting constantly.
Better Conversations by Jim Knight gets at the heart of what makes conversations less perfunctory and more life-giving. This is essential not only in our field as we collaborate, but I also have taken a lot of the teachings in this book into my personal life.
Lastly, I rarely miss a post from Jennifer Gonzalez’s Cult of Pedagogy blog. I find her posts immediately useful and timely, whether she’s discussing rubrics or school culture. “Find Your Marigold” is a classic post I recommend a lot.
Diversity, equity and inclusion is front and center right now. How do you express your commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in your personal and professional life?
Our board of trustees has drafted a statement on their commitment to equity and justice that guides our decision-making process as a district. One line that is most important to me personally states that we “commit to engaging, educating, and empowering ALL students, with an intentional focus on those under-served, inadequately served, or disenfranchised by educational institutions and systems.” This line frames my entire way of thinking. In the areas of curriculum and instruction, I am struck at times by how our school system has worked to segregate children based on perceived knowledge or abilities and done so on a pretense of “kindness,” as not to embarrass or overwhelm an “improperly” prepared student. It is even more concerning that though these decisions are made based on perceived ability, they are so often divided on racial lines. I work to make steps, either through the courses we offer, the support we provide teachers, and other means, to challenge and alter these perceptions so we can truly engage and serve all students.
What do you find most frustrating about corporate DEI initiatives and what’s one tangible step every employer should take to help build a more representative organization?
One of the most frustrating parts about DEI initiatives is that there is a lot of planning about rollout and initial implementation and less about sustaining, especially when the work gets deep and less visible on a surface level. It’s easier to get excited about a policy change when it is new, but leaders best serve their organization by scheduling cycles of continuous reflection and opportunities to discuss, re-evaluate, and share success. Reflection is an essential part of making systemic change, yet it is often done haphazardly–not by design.