EP. 07 How to inspire resilient students during Covid-19

Many people are nervous about the uncertainty and adversity Covid-19 brings to the classroom. However, after interviewing JC Pohl of Teen Truth, you quickly realize that this pandemic also creates a “once in a life-time opportunity to teach resiliency amongst students” as JC put it. 

JC is has worked with over 1,200 schools across the United States. He is an award winning documentary producer, renown speaker, coach and author. He has worked with students, administrations and entire districts develop strategies to create positive school culture from the inside out. On today’s episode we get to peak inside JC’s mind for a dose of inspiration, reality check and motivation. 

Listen To This Episode


Brian Williams (00:06):

What’s going on, everyone. Brian Williams here with the rockstar teachers podcast. Now I have some exciting news national news, and it has to do with us, partnering up with a major national brand to inspire more kindness around the world that in we’ve got a truly amazing guest on today.

Brian Williams (00:28):

Let’s rock.

Brian Williams (00:43):

Okay. So if you happen to be going to the grocery store, do me a favor, head over to the potato chip aisle and take a look at the Frito lay variety packs. And guess what? You’ll see. Every single bag features think kindness. We partnered up with Frito-Lay variety packs that help share more acts of kindness in and around the country. Plus every bag purchase provides a donation to our organization and our effort to design and implement more kindness programs around the country. And I’ve got to say it is quite surreal when I’m getting pictures popping up from all my friends from Florida, New York, Maine, California, Texas, and then sending me pictures of our logo popping up in stores all over the country. So be sure to check it out. The promotion ends mid September now onto today’s episode, we are bringing on an amazing guest JC Powell, founder of teen truth.

Brian Williams (01:47):

He’s worked with over 1200 schools across the United States. He’s helped them build stronger student and staff culture, resilient students. And in today’s episode, he offers some stellar input on how to use the adversity that we’re facing right now during COVID-19 to prepare students to conquer any of life’s obstacles in the future. Now, just a reminder, you can check out the show notes for links to connect with JC and also download the free eBooks he’s giving all of our listeners. You can find it at think kindness.org/podcast. I’m pumped about this interview. So let’s jump right in JC. Welcome to the rock star teacher podcast. Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to jump on and talk with us for sure. Brian, I’m honored to be here. Of course, working with you. One of my most favorite guys out there doing the same type of work as I do.

Brian Williams (02:42):

And it’s just great to be here with you. I would love to have a wonderful conversation today, for sure. Yeah. So I it’s awesome for me as a, for anyone out there that that brings speakers into your school. One thing that you might not know is a lot of speakers. We still have this like hidden community where all of us still talk and we all work together. And so I know I’ve been following teen truth for a long time. You’re doing amazing work in schools from coast to coast. So why don’t you just first let’s dive into teen truth. What is it that you talk about? Tell me about the organization you started, the impact that you guys are making.

JC POHL (03:21):

Heck yeah. You know, teachers has been a, an amazing ride. We, I feel really lucky to be doing the work that I’m doing. And, uh, it all really happened by accident, Brian, like, no, I’m not a teacher, I’m not an educator. I had no plans to really be working in schools. Uh, my background is actually as a filmmaker. Uh, so my goals in life were simple growing up. Like I wanted to work for Disney. I wanted to work for Warner brothers. I want to make movies. And after I graduated college, I actually landed my dream job working at Disney in marketing. And I loved that. It was amazing. Uh, but around that same time in my life, something happened here in America that kind of switched my path. And it’s, it’s basically what brought me here today to speak to all of you. And that was the Columbine high school shooting.

JC POHL (03:59):

Uh, when Columbine happened, we really felt like no, one’s getting kids a voice around the issue. You know, we turn on the news. We, we turn on Oprah, we turn on CNN and we’d always see some adults like telling us why those two boys do what they did. And so as young filmmakers, I mean, we were just kinda like just out of college. We just, we thought like students should be given a voice around this. And so we saved up some money. We borrowed some money from our parents. We did small jobs and we ended up recruiting five students to carry cameras for us for an entire school year. And they shot almost a hundred hours of footage between the five of them, which we put together into a 20 minute film called teen truth, which is basically an inside look into bullying and school violence.

JC POHL (04:37):

And so the film actually released it released a few years later. It took us a little bit of time to get the film made, but it released in 2006 and it became one of the top selling films for our distributor and one of the top selling anti-bullying films in the country. And so because of that success, we got to go on and make films on drugs and alcohol abuse, uh, body image and self esteem, parenting all kind of shot from that student perspective. And so now what we do, you know, 20 years later is we primarily go into middle schools and high schools and we host assemblies and leadership summits and teacher trainings all around this idea of giving students a voice and empowering them to take ownership, not only of their school culture, but of the social and emotional issues that they’re dealing with in their life. And so we use some of our film content content to basically say like, Hey, you know, these kids told their truth. They talked about what they were going through in life. What are you going through? You know, these kids made a movie that was their voice, you know, what’s your voice going to be here on campus. And so it’s been an amazing ride. We service about 200 schools a year and we’ve been doing it every year since 2006. It’s been a lot of fun.

Brian Williams (05:41):

That is awesome, man. It’s so it’s so powerful when the students realize that they do have a voice. Um, and a lot of students feel like they are just hidden in the shadows of their school. And I know that’s not the intent of any administrator, counselor, or even parent. Uh, but sometimes it’s just giving, it’s just finding that one little light switch that, that they can trigger to realize that their voice matters. And they actually have a voice to be heard and to make a difference, uh, not just within their classroom, but their entire school culture.

JC POHL (06:18):

Yeah, no, I think you’re totally right, Brian. It’s just, you always hear that, that saying, you know, falling through the cracks, you know, students that fall through the cracks, but I think, like you said, it’s just the teachers, the principals, the counselors, they don’t want that to happen. I just feel that that’s kind of like developmentally appropriate a little bit, you know, especially at the middle school and high school level, like these kids are trying to figure out who they are. Right. They’re trying to find their voice like that is what that teenage process is kind of all about. And so what we try to encourage them to do is to realize that all those voices might be very different, right? Like for me, growing up, it was like football. Like that’s what I love like football and student government. That’s what I was really into. But you know, working in schools and all the teachers listening right now know that, like if there’s a thousand kids on the campus, there’s a thousand different ways that they can get plugged in. Uh, whether it’s clubs, sports, activities, just unique things in the classroom. And even just a lot of the fun technology that we have now with video games and just everything that kids get really excited about, you know, how are we encouraging each student to find that, that place on campus right? Where they feel plugged in, where they feel connected. And that

Brian Williams (07:26):

Normally that’s a huge challenge, but now that’s also been amplified in light, uh, from COVID-19. And so what kind of tips and strategies do you have for teachers to allow students to embrace the adversity that they’re going to be facing and to still discover their voice while sports and athletics might’ve been canceled or postponed? Uh, they got to remain six feet apart from everybody, or some of their friends are opting for virtual learning and they’re not even in the school. So how can teachers make every student feel like they have a voice in this new culture? Uh, COVID culture that we’re facing?

JC POHL (08:08):

Yeah, no, Brian is such a good question. And so many of us, I think, are struggling and education on how to make that happen. Um, I guess I can just kind of speak to my own experience. So one thing that’s been interesting about my path is, you know, teen truth led me into doing all this work like in schools and I’d meet students who were struggling. And so I actually ended up going back to school to get my masters in professional counseling. I’m a marriage and family therapist now. And so I do have a small private practice where I’m working with teenagers that, uh, that are undergoing the same stresses that you just mentioned. And so I guess one thing I found as a therapist and a counselor is giving these kids a space to build strategy around the issues that COVID is presenting. And I think for you and I, and for everyone listening, we’re like, Oh, that sounds easy.

JC POHL (08:54):

Like build a strategy. We should do that. But the teenager like really struggles with that. They kind of go into situations like half cock. They, they don’t, they don’t take the time. And even a client I was working with last week, like he was a big soccer player. And so I talked about like, well, what are, what would it be like to play a soccer game? If you never had any practice, you never had any strategy sessions and your coach never sat down with you. And so let’s talk about COVID in the same way. Um, he was struggling with like technology addiction basically. And so I kind of had the same conversation, like, okay, you’re always going to the phone, you’re going to the internet, you’re going to the video games. What other things could you do that could make you happy that could relieve stress during this time in your life?

JC POHL (09:34):

Of course, he came to well soccer. Like he can still play soccer. He can go for a hike with his dad. Um, apparently they had like a little golf cart there that they can go driving. So it’s like getting our students to strategize a little bit on, on how they’re handling the adversity. Like what are the coping skills that they plan to use as the adversity comes to them? Um, I think the second thing that we really need to do to is remind students about the importance of slowing down a little bit right now, and really figuring out what matters and what’s important to them. Uh, I feel so many students that I meet on the road are going so fast, you know, with testing and college and just everything like parent expectations, just being off the hook sometimes like right now, it’s an interesting time for kids to just slow down.

JC POHL (10:23):

Um, I was on a leadership summit with some kids in Kentucky a few weeks ago and the girl actually said, she said, COVID is the best thing that’s ever happened to me because I spend so much time as a student leader, serving other people. It’s given me the opportunity to kind of refocus on myself and engage in a little bit of self care. And so I think those are two things that we can really like, uh, encourage our students to do is strategize on how they’re gonna handle the adversity that’s coming at them, but also remind them of the value of slowing down and engaging in self care. And I, and I think that is something that teachers can communicate virtually, or like you mentioned kind of that hybrid model. Like we can still have those conversations with kids. And so are we having the conversations right? Are they happening? And I think that those are like that. That’d be like the question I would ask, you know, if you really want to look at how we can, how we can work through kids through these issues,

Brian Williams (11:18):

What’s a way for a teacher to help students build that strategy for them because every student is coming from a different family background or a different scenario. So what’s the best way for a teacher to help a student build a strategy, knowing each student comes from a different background.

JC POHL (11:37):

For sure. And so, you know, we’re, we’re, we’re, we’re riding an interesting line right here. Like we can’t ask teachers to be a counselor like that story. I just said about the kid last week with the soccer. It’s like I had 50 minutes to work with him as a counselor, like in session. Right. Um, and so teachers might struggle with that because I know that th that a lot is being thrown at them right now. But one thing that I would suggest is making sure that you’re creating the space. All right, let’s pause on that word for a second. The space to connect with these kids around these types of issues. Okay. Now, I don’t know if you’re using zoom for your remote learning or whatever technology you’re using, but one of the things I love about zoom is the breakout room functionality. And one of the things that I’ve just loved doing in our leadership summit is throwing these kids in breakout rooms, like three to four kids.

JC POHL (12:28):

Each, I give them an assignment. I give them something to talk about. I send them in there as teenagers to hang out for five minutes and talk. And they always come back with like so much energy and so excited, so much excitement because I’ve given them the opportunity to connect, which is, you know, which is what teenagers love to do. Whether it’s hanging out at the mall, hanging out at a park, hanging out, you know, in the quad during lunch, they need the space and opportunity to connect. So as a teacher, I know there’s a lot being thrown at you and I’ve even seen it with my son this week. You know, we’re in our first week of school here just with a first grader, it’s all remote learning in his, all of his experiences with his teacher this week have been a hundred percent academic, a hundred percent.

JC POHL (13:12):

She’s going through reading, writing math every minute he spends with her is like academic focused. I’m wondering if there could be a little bit of value, especially here in the first week of school to like, let these kids hang out a little bit. Right. Or like do some fun icebreaker type activities. You know, it’s interesting. My son in particular, he knows all of these kids. Like we went through his yearbook, he knows all 17 of them, but he hasn’t been given any opportunity this week to like connect with any of them, talk with them at all. And so, I mean, the, I think Brian, that’s like part of the answer to your question is providing the space to do that. Now, with regards to those strategies I talked about, that might be the next level, but I really encourage teachers. And this might be asking a lot, but you know, are you having a 10 minute meeting with that student just to check in, like, can you do that once a day, like one student a day, two students a day, is that possible? Just kind of do it. I always like to do it like a thumbs up and a thumbs down, like, tell me, like, what’s your thumbs up today? What’s your thumbs down, thumbs sideways. But having conversations and building relationships with students in that space is what’s going to open up the opportunity, right? The opportunity to talk about these strategies with the teenager, right. With the student, for sure. Um, and so I, I mean, I think that’s kind of like what what’s really on my heart right now that as you ask that question,

Brian Williams (14:38):

But this also creates an amazing opportunity for teachers to teach awesome life skills like resilience and not kind of shying away from COVID and pretending let’s just not talk about it, because if we talk about it, we’re going to make it that much more bigger of an issue rather than just shying away, call out the elephant in the room and allow to use covert as the vehicle to teach things like resilience.

JC POHL (15:04):

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, so, so here’s, here’s the pitch I’ve been making all summer, cause we’ve done all these like resilient students workshops and stuff for principals and everything. And it’s like, I’m really wondering if COVID is a once in a lifetime opportunity to teach resiliency is especially for these kids that are in a hybrid or some sort of remote learning model, because this model is very much more like, like a university model than it is, you know, the traditional educational model that we’re used to where you basically go to school and for lack of a better word, people kind of tell you what to do. Right. They put you in lines, they put you in classrooms and you, you go do whatever you’re told to do. Well, now you have a lot more freedom. I mean, we have kids that depending on their parents’ situation at home, I mean, they have like the complete choice to show up or not show up.

JC POHL (15:55):

Right. Um, and so I think when we look at that from a resiliency standpoint, it’s giving students a little bit of control over their own destiny. And I think that’s a re really unique piece when it comes to resiliency. Cause I think a lot of times students feel a lack of control. They feel like they’ve been told every step of the way, you know, what they should do, who they’re going to be, where they’re going to go to college. And this is an opportunity to say, okay, you know, here’s the schedules it’s laid out in front of you, you’ve got four or five zoom calls a day, but the downtime is like your time and how you work through that as kind of on you and where you’re going to get to by the end of the semester is on you. Right. And I think the students that rise up to that, to that challenge will be more resilient and they will, they will start like performing really well in life and in school.

JC POHL (16:48):

And I think, you know, ultimately you talked about life lessons. Like that’s the life lesson we want kids to learn, right? Is that you have control of your future. You can build the success that you want to build, but you gotta be willing to put in the work. And so COVID is like this really unique opportunity to kind of put in the work. Right. And so I think if we can embrace that and really think of it more like, you know, it’s funny, it really is like a university model. Like I went to class on Tuesdays and Thursdays for an hour or two, but I had to go to the library. I had to do the work. I had to go meet in small groups with my friends, like figure out the projects we were working on, um, teenagers, middle school students, third grade students. They can all do that as well. And so I think it’s like, it’s pretty, it’s pretty interesting situation. And when it comes to building resiliency for students,

Brian Williams (17:39):

So how does the teacher inspire resiliency? So it’s one thing that this has the opportunity to, to allow them to take action and to practice

JC POHL (17:50):

Resiliency, practice for them doing the work. But how do you inspire them to do the work in the first place? Yeah. Yeah. So teachers like who we really have, there’s a lot of work ahead of us, but I think it’s like, it’s so exciting. And I, and I don’t want to be like a Debbie downer or whatever right now, but this is really a sink or swim opportunity for our kids. And, and I hate to say that cause it is sad for the ones that might think, and that’s hard, but, um, the ones that decide to swim, it could be building like muscles that they have never built before. And so what I really encourage teachers to do when it comes to motivating students in particular, in this home environment like you’re talking about is just kind of steer into the curve a little bit.

JC POHL (18:36):

Like we know it’s difficult, we know that there are temptations like playing video games or whatever out there, we’ve got to find something that excites the student that matches up with what you’re trying to teach them. So Brian, you gave the example, example of Madden, you know, I don’t know. I don’t know how to tie that in directly right now on the podcast, but it’s like, it’s like how could something like Madden or whatever tie into the lesson that you’re trying to teach this kid or the report that you’re trying to get them to do and allowing them the freedom to like dig into something they really care about in Madden might not be the best example, but maybe that kid does love football or does love sports. And so if you’re trying to teach something around leadership or you’re trying to even teach physics, like, like I’ll never forget our physics teacher in my high school, he took us out to do bungee jumping as a physics, you know, like the teach us the concept of the physics around bungee jumping or whatever.

JC POHL (19:33):

Right. Um, so it’s like we loved it and that’s something like I’ll remember the rest of my life. And so he took his lesson and, and brought it into real life for us. And so the question is, can we do that on a micro level with our students, get them to do work on something they actually care about. So again, it might look different for each student. And then the second thing that I think is really important that I love to do with teenagers in particular like anyone from like maybe fifth grade and above is really get them focused on solutions. And I, I love to use the word wonder. I just think the word wonder is such an amazing tool to motivate students. And so when the question does come up for the parent or the teacher about what this kid might be doing, when they’re home, you ask the child, you say, huh, I wonder how you’re going to get through that.

JC POHL (20:27):

I wonder what you’re going to do tomorrow to get this assignment done. I wonder how it’s going to come out. And then you just leave it right there. And you sit in silence for a moment that’s powerful and you get the child, you get them. Like we have to realize. And I’m speaking specifically for teenagers here, not younger kids, but for those, like, we are like consultants for them is the way I like to think about it. We need to ask the questions and guide them, but they need to do the work. And so while that time at home is scary, like I agree with you. I think it’s a golden opportunity to get them to do the work. If they do do the work, like that’s money right there. That’s what we want to teach kids. That’s what they will take into their career.

JC POHL (21:12):

They’ll take that to college. They’ll take that to their, their marriage, like whatever it is, like they’ll step up and do the work. And I think, you know, that’s what we really want. That’s where we want to get kids to be like, even my son, I mentioned earlier, he’s only in first grade, but this week, like he is taken initiative. He’s like, yeah, what time is it? I got my zoom call, you know? And he’s punching in the zoom code and he’s punching in the password. He wants to don’t touch the iPad, dad, I’m doing it. And so what are we building right there? We’re building like, self-efficacy right. Like this child believes that he can facilitate his own education. He can meet with his teacher on his own. Like that is like really powerful if you think about it. And I think that’s the opportunity that us as parents and educators are wrestling with. And unfortunately it is a little bit of a sink or swim opportunity, but the kids that swim, I think, I just think it’s going to be like really valuable for them longterm

Brian Williams (22:06):

That so true. I like when, uh, when I asked the question or a lot of people ask the question, what do you want to be when you grow up? I like to switch that to what problems do you want to solve? You know? So when you think about the word wonder, it’s, you know, same concept, it’s, you know, I want to be a football player, but when you, when you, when you think about it, like what problems do you want to solve in the world? You get a whole different answer on them, looking at themselves as a world changer, um, that has value in placement in the world. Um, and so, yeah, I love your, that the wonder questions right there now to kind of maybe flip the whole perspective. Um, what about for teachers for themselves? Because all of this pressure is being placed on the teachers and I’ve got nine teachers in my family, and now they are the chief custodian of their classroom with disinfection. They have to become masters at zoom and doing virtual learning. They have to be able to, to police kids to keep them socially distance and mass on mass off. This is over here, there’s all this pressure. So how do teachers and staff and counselors keep the right frame of mind for themselves? Because their mental health is just as important.

JC POHL (23:37):

Yeah, no, it’s so important. Brian, even just hearing you talk about it, it’s just like, you know, tell your teachers out there. You’re kicking butt right now. Like Brian and I are just like, if we could come out there and give each of you a high five, we would be there. Um, and we, we just hope and pray that you keep kicking butt. And I think there’s two things. There’s two things that I would recommend. Uh, one I’ve kind of learned as a therapist is just engaging in self care. Uh, you know, making sure that you’re taking some time for yourself. I need to do it as well. When I have those heavy days with therapy and clients who are really dealing with some hard stuff, like I’ve got to make sure I, you know, for me, it’s like getting out and walking the dog, or I love going out for a run or hiking.

JC POHL (24:15):

Um, or even just, you know, playing catch football with my son or something like just getting out and doing something, um, really helps me feel better and kinda work through that. But I think for teachers, like the, the thing that we need to realize is so, so important for staff is just the relationships that they build on campus. Uh, my dad was a teacher for 38 years. My mom was a teacher as well. I’ve been in over 1200 schools in the last 15 years. And I’ll tell you like the one thing that I think is so important for teachers is the relationships that they build with other staff members. And so I encourage you to make sure that even though like everything you said, Brian, they’re dealing with so much stuff. Are you going out of your way to be intentional about developing relationships with, with your fellow staff members?

JC POHL (24:59):

And in fact, we just wrote a whole new book about it called building campus relationships from the inside out. And one thing that we looked at in the book is what are our 10 core needs? Like we all want to build great relationships, but how do we actually make that happen? Like, what are the needs that we all have? And some of the things we looked at in the book where like the need for appreciation the need for respect the need for affection and comfort, like these are the building blocks of what makes a healthy relationship. And so we needed to make sure that as staff members that we’re showing appreciation to one another, right, like going out of our way to recognize what someone else has done, we need to encourage one another, like every now and then a staff member might need that cheerleading and say, Hey, you can do this, you got this, I know the zoom stuff is really hard.

JC POHL (25:46):

Uh, but I heard, you know, the, the, the lesson you’re going to teach tomorrow is going to be really awesome. Like, we’re really excited to see you teach that lesson. Um, and sometimes teachers just need comfort too. Like we need to sit there and, uh, and just be, be like, like kind of sit in the mud and the muck together. And I think sometimes sounds like that’s what teachers do so well for each other is like, they can sit in the faculty room or they can hang out at a school event and just kind of like be together. I encourage you to make sure that those things are still happening in your life. And yeah, it might be hard with social distancing and everything kind of being thrown at us, but I’m going out of our way to facilitate those relationships and meet those needs is what I think makes for a happier, healthier, more efficient, more successful teacher.

JC POHL (26:33):

And that’s, that’s really what, what we all want. We have a, I have a friend, she wrote a book, um, I think in the book was titled like, if you don’t feed the teachers, they’ll eat the students. And I think that, that just says that it says it here. So like, if you are a school leader, um, you know, are you still working intentionally to build relationships? Are you putting teachers? You know, we talked about that space for students. Are you as school leaders creating that space for teachers? I was on a zoom with some teachers just yesterday, out in, out in Kentucky. And she said that they, they all went out to the football field as a staff and they did some sort of activity that was just like a parachute egg. I don’t know what it was. They must have a eggs and parachutes and, uh, they loved it.

JC POHL (27:18):

Like she was like, it was exactly what I needed at JC. Um, and so creating that space to develop those relationships is just so important. Uh, you know, and I’ve been really happy just with our local district here in dripping Springs, where I live in Texas. Uh, the, the teachers are all at school and I know some teachers have kind of pushed back against that for the remote learning. But I personally think it’s like really important to at least go to work, you know, teachers’ zoom lesson, but then have some other people around you, right? Like be able to meet with your principal, meet with the counselors, meet with other people like in your department, whatever it might be. And like still have that, that connection that so many of us are just craving right now during all this COVID

Brian Williams (28:00):

For all the principals that are, that are listening right now, what would you say is one of the number one things that might go overlooked that they should really pay more attention to, to support the teachers with the sole goal of supporting the students?

JC POHL (28:18):

Um, two things kind of come to mind on that, I think, and I, and I’d be willing to bet that 99% of the principals listening to this are already doing this. So I might be preaching to the choir, but like, I think a school leaders, like you’ve gotta be going all in right now. All in you are the head football coach. You are the CEO, you are the leader, right. And your staff needs to know that you are showing up 100% right now on social media, on Allen campus, wherever it might be. And the reason why I say that is because it’s like that old movie Braveheart, remember that movie, Braveheart Brian, whereas like William Wallace, he was like, come fight with me. And he was like, that’s really what we need right now, the blue paint on our face and riding into the battle, like following our principal.

JC POHL (29:05):

And I think if you can be that for your staff and students, and that’s really what William Wallace did so well, as in the movie was like, he was like, he inspired everybody to, to battle for freedom. Right. And right now we’re, we’re aspiring these teachers to battle for our students and to battle for our school culture and just everything that they’re working for. And so you need to go all in. The other thing that I think is really important, um, is your messaging. And I think a lot of schools struggle with that. And when I talk about messaging, I love to talk about marketing. So I wanna remind you of very beginning of this podcast. Brian asked you who I was and why I was here. It’s like, I went to school for marketing, right? Like my goal in life was to work for Disney.

JC POHL (29:48):

Okay. My heroes growing up were like Michael Eisner. And these guys that were just had great, these great marketing brands. And so I think as school leaders, you know, let’s be Frank, you probably didn’t go to school for marketing. It’s not something that you spend a lot. You’re not doing a lot of sales work. Right. Well, COVID has forced us into an interesting opportunity where you’re selling now and you’re marketing. And those of you that have had to go remotely remote, like you don’t even have your buildings anymore. Right? So your culture is virtual and the messaging that you’re using on social media, how you’re presenting your brand, how you are, are, are sending information out to your, to your school population, uh, is really, really important. So I encourage you to look at things like, are there hashtags that you’re using really well in your marketing plan?

JC POHL (30:37):

Uh, what is your school slogan? Is it working? Is it something that people are buying into? And then what is your personal brand? Like, how are you driving that out into the community? Are you visible? Um, are you someone who’s out front pushing that brand forward or do you get caught sometimes behind the scenes? I think during COVID, it’s important for us to take that, that William Wallace type approach and you need to be out in front, you need to be the first one out there. Um, and that comes with how you model that for your staff and the messaging that you’re putting out on social media or via your emails, the videos, um, you know, not to keep talking about our, our district here, but we have a great principal at our school. She is sending videos. She is out in front of this thing, like she is the leader and that’s what we need right now, leaders. That’s awesome.

Brian Williams (31:30):

Now, as we wrap this up, you have a wealth of knowledge. You’ve not only visited 1200 plus schools from coast to coast. Do you spoken to, you know, probably over a million students, uh, and then diving into your own personal development through, you know, being a marriage and family therapist, a counselor, what would be some book recommendations that you would have for people? Uh, if they want to dive in deeper, uh, to get some different ideas, some inspiration, uh, that you have to share for them?

JC POHL (32:03):

Yeah, definitely. Um, full transparency. I am not a huge reader, Brian. So the books I’m going to recommend are like the only books I’ve read lately. So they’re, they’re really important for me. And they were page Turners for me. The first book that I think should be mandatory reading for every metal, middle school and high school principal, as well as every middle school and high school parent is a book called the self driven child. The self-driven child is phenomenal and it really backs up everything that we talked about today on building resiliency. And they’re the ones that kind of taught me that concept of being a, for our children. You know, my son’s in first grade, I need to parent him. I need to guide him right now. But when he is in high school, when he is in eighth grade, when he is in seventh grade, I need to be asking him the questions that he’s going to figure out on how, you know, he is the expert of his life.

JC POHL (32:56):

And so I think the self-driven child is phenomenal. The other book that I, that I really like out there is by Phil Boyd. Uh, those of you might know Phil Boyd. He wrote a book called school culture by design, um, which is just a, he feels like me and Brian he’s been around, but he’s been around a lot longer. So he’s got some really great stories, really great advice, uh, in that book. And, uh, I think those are kind of the two, two books that I would recommend if you did, if it did kind of resonate for you. When I was talking about marketing and branding and school slogans, the last book that I will recommend is a book called, made to stick made to stick is like a, just a phenomenal marketing book. And it really explains why some marketing works, why some slogans work, like, think about the slogan, just do it. It’s like three simple words that have to have stuck, like since the early eighties or whatever. Right. Um, and great slogans can do that. Some schools that Brian and I visit have slogans like that, that have stuck that drive culture. And then other schools we visit don’t right. The slogans are not working and so made to stick as a phenomenal book that can kind of help you reflect on what your marketing and messaging is all about. Like, how are you branding your school? And, uh, so I would highly recommend those three books.

Brian Williams (34:18):

And the last question, when you wake up in the morning and you’re kind of just sluggish, do you need that two cup of coffee type of morning? And you open your phone and you turn on this one song that will take you from that, like five to 10 mentally. What is that song?

JC POHL (34:44):

Um, well, it’s funny. Cause I needed that last night. I need a little pickup and I turned on a sure shot by the Beastie boys.

Brian Williams (34:55):


JC POHL (34:56):

Watch the Beastie boys documentary on Apple TV.

Brian Williams (34:58):

I have not, but we were just, we just were, me and my wife were driving and we’re like, let’s turn on some old school, our old school quote, unquote music like Beastie boys is on there. Uh, all the, uh, yeah. So

JC POHL (35:15):

Yeah. Yeah. So that movie is just great. And the Beastie boys, I mean, they’re fun, I guess like, even though he’s kind of older now too, but M and M I mean, I can turn on him and listen to him if I need to be pumped up, but a little guns and roses, like yeah, there you go. Welcome to the jungle or something. But, uh, but yeah, I mean, and that’s something that is something to think about too Brian, like how much music changes our mood

Brian Williams (35:38):

And changes environment, you know? So as we think about remote learning, are you using music environmentally? Like you can still do that, right? When kids are coming into the zoom call, you know, I’m just thinking differently about how to build those connections is so important right now. That’s awesome. Well, for everyone listening, uh, JC has two free gifts for you guys if you’ve made it to the end of this podcast. Awesome. And so the first one is you wrote a, a book, uh, on school culture, like you said, it’s building school culture from the inside out. So if you utilize like access to that book, you can visit, uh, the show notes for this. We’ll have a link to that. That’ll take you over to the teen shoe site. And he, you also have the first couple of chapters of the resilience book you also wrote is resilient students.

Brian Williams (36:31):

Yeah. So we wrote building resilience students from the inside out. And if you go to the link in the show notes, you can download the first few chapters, uh, which we’ll talk about the number one factor in building a resilient student. I won’t give it away. Uh, so you can hopefully go download it and get that for free. Share it with your staff. There you go. Now, if you guys found value in this podcast, please feel free to, to share it with anyone that you think needs to hear. Jesse’s message. Go ahead and check out his books and last but not least, where can people find you connect with you? If they want to bring you in to speak, you are also doing virtual presentations behind the scenes. GC and I have been talking about our, our texts apps for, for the new virtual assemblies.

Brian Williams (37:15):

Uh, where can they find you? Yes, for sure. So a few resources, teen truth.net is the home of teen truth. And then JC pohl.com. That’s P O H L is like the home of my personal brand, I guess. Uh, but on both of those websites, you can learn more about our assemblies summits as well as our professional development workshops that we offer. Uh, all of them can be done on campus and thanks to the help of Brian. Uh, we’re also doing them all virtually and we’ve had a lot of fun. We’ve been doing summits and teacher trainings and, uh, zoom is pretty powerful. It’s pretty amazing. So it’s great to see people smiling again and connecting and out there working with students with teachers. Well, thank you so much for jumping on the show, JC. Yeah, for sure. Brian, you take care.

Speaker 4 (37:59):

Thanks Ken JC for joining us on the podcast. If you would like to connect with JC or download his free ebook, you can check it out at think kindness.org/podcast. You can also look up his organization@teentruth.net. Now, if you found this podcast helpful, we’d love a like it comment, subscribe a share over all of the above. It truly means a lot to us be an outstanding guest for us to bring on the show. Let us know you can reach out to us@thinkkindness.org. Thanks everyone for listening to today’s episode. I’m your Brian Williams and I truly hope you have an amazing rest of your week and remember be brave, be kind, and we can all change the world.

Speaker 2 (38:56):



Mentioned in this episode

FREE E-BOOK: Building School Culture

School culture is the collective manifestation of the attitudes, outlooks, and behaviors of the entire student, administrative, and faculty body. It’s what gives a school its own unique feeling as you walk through the halls. CLICK TO DOWNLOAD

The Self-Driven Child

A few years ago, Bill Stixrud and Ned Johnson started noticing the same problem from different angles: Even high-performing kids were coming to them acutely stressed and lacking motivation. Many complained they had no control over their lives. Some stumbled in high school or hit college and unraveled. Bill is a clinical neuropsychologist who helps kids gripped by anxiety or struggling to learn. Ned is a motivational coach who runs an elite tutoring service. Together they discovered that the best antidote to stress is to give kids more of a sense of control over their lives. But this doesn’t mean giving up your authority as a parent. In this groundbreaking book they reveal how you can actively help your child to sculpt a brain that is resilient, and ready to take on new challenges. CLICK HERE


Made To Stick

In Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath reveal the anatomy of ideas that stick and explain ways to make ideas stickier, such as applying the human scale principle, using the Velcro Theory of Memory, and creating curiosity gaps. Along the way, we discover that sticky messages of all kinds—from the infamous “kidney theft ring” hoax to a coach’s lessons on sportsmanship to a vision for a new product at Sony—draw their power from the same six traits. CLICK HERE