Empowering Educators Worldwide
Mike Pierre and Dr. Dana Specker Watts recently sat down with Adrienne Waller to discuss the field of international education and the importance of empowering educators worldwide. You can listen to the entire conversation at https://lnns.co/P7uZlmnWVL2 or by searching for the ISS EDUlearn Ask Me Anything podcast on Apple or Spotify.
Mike Pierre: Welcome to ISS EDUlearn: Ask Me Anything with Mike and Dana. Here, we’ll be exploring how international schools are innovating and transforming education around the world. From the latest trends and insights to stories from teachers and administrators, you’ll get the inside look to the global education landscape. So join us as we explore what the future of international education has in store. Get ready to be inspired, challenge the status quo, and embrace a world of possibilities.
Mike Pierre: Hello and welcome to another great episode of ISS EDUlearn: Ask Me Anything with Mike and Dana, where you ask the questions and we seek the answers. This is season two, episode three. I am your host, Mike Pierre, your favorite educator interviewer. I am here with my co-host Dr. Dana Watts, who is the director of learning, research and outreach. Dana, how you doing today?
Dr. Dana Watts: I’m doing great Mike. Thanks for asking.
Mike Pierre: You always are doing great. AMA is brought to you by ISS. Join in as we explore all you need to know about international schools. From the curriculum, DEIJ, marketing to HR, ISS EDU: Ask Me Anything is a unique educational podcast that allows you to unlock more potential and provides a platform for you to develop yourselves professionally. Before we get started today, a few housekeeping items. Don’t forget to hit the subscribe, like and leave us a review. We could be found on Apple Podcast, Google podcast, Amazon Music, I Heart Radio, Stitcher, and Spotify. Don’t forget to visit us on our website iss.edu for any upcoming fairs and also upcoming PDs that we have for this upcoming semester. And without further ado, Dana, who do we have with us today?
Dr. Dana Watts: We are really fortunate to be here with Adrienne Waller. Adrienne is the founder of Worldwide Educator, passionate international educator as well. And there something magical about Adrienne when she speaks to people and works with people. Her energy for life just completely comes through and it’s infectious. And so I’m thrilled to have Adrienne join us today. Welcome Adrienne.
Adrienne Waller: What a wonderful introduction. I love it. It made me so warm and fuzzy inside. Thank you. I’m happy to be here.
Mike Pierre: Oh, thank you Adrienne. Adrienne, how are you doing today?
Adrienne Waller: I am fantabulous. Fantastic. Awesome. Amazing. And all of the things that are good.
Dr. Dana Watts: And Adrienne, you’re glowing. So how long have you been at Cayman International School?
Adrienne Waller: This is my second school year there, so around 18 months.
Dr. Dana Watts: Oh wow. Fantastic. And where were you before that?
Adrienne Waller: So I was in Kuwait for a very, very brief moment. I was in China, but then something like COVID-19 happened. And then before that I was in Qatar.
Dr. Dana Watts: Wow. That is quite the international experience. Fantastic.
Mike Pierre: What’s the best part about teaching to you, Adrienne?
Adrienne Waller: Oh my goodness. Like seeing the light bulbs. I think it’s the light bulb moments if I’m honest. Because I like that with adults as well because I spend a lot of time working with adults now as well. And it’s those moments where people just light up and they get it. There’s a moment where you know somebody got it. And you can feel how good it feels to have gotten it. And those are the moments in education I love with the kiddos and with the adults.
Dr. Dana Watts: I think it’s so true. And those kids that I think especially along the lines of the work that you’re involved with, like really reaching kids and the mindfulness and thinking about their wellbeing. Right? And you can see them disconnect, but when you see them connect, then all of a sudden, all these neurons are happening in their brain and you can see almost like their heart is now in it. And it’s so much easier to work with students when the hearts in it compared to when they’re just sitting there and their butts in a seat.
Adrienne Waller: Right. And I think a lot of that takes our hearts being in it too. Those days I didn’t know in the classroom, those days that were tough days for me were tough days for the kiddos too. And I think I would have to remind myself, there are days where I was like, what is going on today? I’m like, I haven’t said anything good. And I would start just trying to infuse, sometimes even forcing myself to have something positive to say. And it was amazing how that just shift an energy, my energy could shift their energy and their energy could shift mine.
Dr. Dana Watts: Have you ever had kids mimic you as a teacher and have you ever watched them?
Adrienne Waller: Yes, it is the best worst thing ever.
Dr. Dana Watts: Yep. I totally agree. I remember I was teaching pre-K and I had this little boy stand up and he’s like, I am Ms. Watts. And he’s like, so listen friends, friends, I need you to sit on your bottoms. Friends, friends. And I was like, oh my God, I must say that word so many times. This little five year old, totally pretending he’s me.
Adrienne Waller: Yes.
Dr. Dana Watts: It was early in my career, lots of mistakes in those days. But anyway.
Adrienne Waller: Yes. Those are the best because you go, oh wait, I do, do that. Yep. That’s me.
Mike Pierre: So Adrienne for I guess who are listening well what subject or topic do you teach?
Adrienne Waller: So I’m not in the classroom anymore. I’m an assistant principal. But in elementary, so I’ve taught grades first through fifth, certifications in middle school as well. So that’s…
Dr. Dana Watts: And can I ask what was your journey to becoming a vice principal?
Adrienne Waller: Oh, huh. That’s an interesting one. I’ll give you the short version. So I had been in the classroom when I moved to Detroit, there ended up being a team lead vacancy in Detroit. And so I stepped up and did team lead there. Then they needed a school improvement chair. So I did that. Then I moved abroad. I had started taking some Ed leadership courses and then dropped them because I was like, I’m leaving the country, I’m not doing this anymore. Just kind of did a lot of stepping up in my school and guitar that the school really lacks systems and things like that. So I was constantly just putting systems in place and when an opening to lead professional development came, I kind of jumped at it and kind of forced my way into the position if I’m honest. It was definitely not like, hey, yes, come apply, we think you would be great. It was definitely me going, hey, can I do this? And they’re like maybe. And then from there I kind of just stayed in leadership. Actually ISS was a big part of moving into vice principal role. One, CIS is an ISS school. But also when I was in Thailand I got the chance to meet Liz and Beth and very quickly they were like, yeah, how about you do this like women’s leadership thing, I think you would be great and amazing. And it was very validating to have people see my leadership skills and ability. Then so did a few different roles and then Martin reached out to me and next thing you know, actually that was kind of a spam email. Nobody really wants me to be an assistant principal in the Cayman Island. This isn’t real. And it ended up actually being real. And so five interviews later I got the job. It was pretty magical actually.
Dr. Dana Watts: I wonder, I agree. Beth and Liz have both been huge mentors for me as well. And I wonder is there an opportunity for us to create open more door as we move up in leadership roles to make sure that we’re also giving back and that we are mentoring and supporting and opening up doors and connecting other people who we see all this promise and all this and making sure that we’re opening up doors. Not for people who just look like ourselves, but people who don’t look like ourselves. People who don’t have the same background as us. I always try to think about whose opinion doesn’t align with mine because I actually really want them on my team because they’re going to push my thinking into a whole new way.
Adrienne Waller: Right. I think I would say that’s even similar to dating. You want somebody who’s similar enough and values but different enough that you don’t get bored. I think the same thing happens in mentorship. And so I do, do a lot of mentorship for women who look like me because there’s not as many of us doing it. So that is for me, something I’m very intentional about because I didn’t get that right. I didn’t have somebody saying, hey Adrienne, you may not want to X or try and do this. So I do that, but I’m open and anybody who’s coming and wants some support or if I see there’s a way that I can support them, I do reach out. But I will say I do make a conscious effort to support people who look like me. Because if you look at statistics, it is not a lot of women, black women leaders in the international world. So really trying to help other people kind of see that and believe in their talent to do that. Get through some of those barriers of interviewing that I think sometimes black women, we feel because of so much of our life has been kind of like doors closed and things like that. Often we want to overly lean into skills and saying, yes, I’m competent for the job, but so much of getting jobs is not just around competencies, it’s around relationships and being able to cultivate that both in the interview but then onwards with staff and leadership. And so kind of really helping people to really have that balance of the two. And not overly lean into skills, but also leaning into this idea of what does it mean to connect with people? How do you grow your staff? How do you shut up sometimes that’s when I’m constantly working on just tell myself, okay, let them go. And using questions instead of telling. So I do a lot, just like I would with my students, I would ask questions to push their thinking. I’d do the same thing with adults that I’m trying to support and grow.
Mike Pierre: You say you had five interviews. Did you find that excessive?
Adrienne Waller: Yeah, I did.
Mike Pierre: Do you think like they did that for everyone or you think that was just a unique process for you just to make sure that you are the one for the position?
Adrienne Waller: I was taking the position of somebody who had been in the school and community for a while. And so I do think that the interview process was a little different. Now, two of them technically maybe weren’t interviews, they were conversations. But I think anytime you’re in the, kind of like, this is a job I’m seeking, any conversation feels like an interview even if it’s not meant to be an interview. So maybe three of them were hard, very actual interviews. And then two of them were more conversational based. So I do think it was unique to me, but it was unique to me not because of what I look like but because of the shoes I was going to be filling. And I actually, in hindsight, it felt excessive during it. But I look back and actually interviews are really where you start forging relationships. And so I actually threw that process, got to meet quite a bit of staff and I had a lot of people who had kind of bought into Adrienne, they were team Adrienne before I arrived. And that was actually really helpful. It’s already going to be hard transitioning to no school, transitioning in me in the previous assistant principal were very different, right? So knowing that people are going to have to get used to, I’m a very different leader than she is and not in a good or a bad way, just in a different way. Having built some of that and them being like, yes, we want her here was really helpful when I landed. It was definitely annoying in the process, but as I look back on it, it’s actually something that I think has been really helpful and every once in a while staff would be like, oh yeah, I remember when Ms. Adrienne was on the screen and I remember those conversations with her before she started.
Mike Pierre: Go ahead Dana. So you were about to ask something.
Dr. Dana Watts: I was wondering how you got Started Worldwide Educator.
Adrienne Waller: Oh wow. Yeah, so that was actually, so I was doing professional development, like I said in Qatar and I would always make these Google Drive folders and I would email them to staff and they could never keep up with them. They’re like, Adrienne, you did this great PD, where are the resources for this? And so I was like, well let me stop putting everything everywhere. Let me just have it where every time you can just go www.worldwideeducator.org. Simultaneously, I knew I was going to be entering the job market and I knew I wanted to move into more an assistant principal role and not just doing professional development. So I wanted to be able to go beyond my resume to really show what I was able to do for people to really see what I have to offer. So really it was meant to be helpful to teachers but also helpful to me in the interview space. And through the Pandemic, it kind of shifted and changed and I started to think about it as bigger than just a website, but being able to actually impact and support people as an actual business.
Dr. Dana Watts: Fantastic.
Mike Pierre: Did manifestation work for you in regards to getting to where you are now? Is this where you wished you wanted to be? Because during your workshop, I know you gave some skill sets in regards to think about who you are and where you want to be and things of that nature. So I’m just saying, is this somewhere you wanted to be yourself?
Adrienne Waller: Yeah, so it’s kind of funny. When I lost my job in China, I told two people, not a lot. I told two people, I told my cousin who’s one of my closest friends and I told a really close friend, I said, hey, you know what I would like to work in the Cayman Islands. And they were both like, what? They’re like who thinks of that Adrienne? I was like, I don’t know. They’re like, are there even schools there? I was like, well if there are people there, there’s got to be schools there. And mind you, this conversation in both spaces was maybe four or five minutes. And then they’re like, okay, only you Adrienne, only you Adrienne would be talking about going to work in the Cayman Islands. And I was like, yeah. So that was one thing. But I had also been talking about wanting to be an assistant principal. I had gone back and finish my credentials in the state of Michigan to become administrator. So I had been talking and talking to people about it. So when the email popped up, I actually called both of them. I said, do you remember I told you I wanted to work? I said, do you remember where I said, they’re like, yeah, that Cayman Island so random. I was like, and what was the job? I said I wanted, they’re like, well you always have been talking about wanting to be an assistant principal. I was like, I got an email asking me to apply. And they’re like, are you going to, I was like, I don’t know. They’re like, what. So yeah, it was definitely something that this current part of life is probably the biggest manifestation I’ve actually had. Because I’ve been talking about what I wanted in terms of relationships and that’s building in terms of being able to speak at conferences. So along with that manifestation, I’ve just been shooting a lot of shots and I’ve been okay with if those shots don’t always land, but ironically they’ve really been landing and I’ve been really excited about that idea.
Dr. Dana Watts: You made me think about, so this weekend I was looking for actually outfits for a conference I’m about to go to. So I said out loud what I was looking for to my friend and my Facebook and Instagram feed have been filled now with ads for that, right? And they almost wonder, okay, so we all know that’s creepy and gross. However, I wonder with our desires and wishes in life, if it’s also somewhat similar. You say it and you put it out there and you say it often enough and eventually the universe listens. Hopefully not in the creepy spam way that Google and Facebook and Instagram feed me. All I know is all of a sudden beige pumps seem to be a big thing. But I do know that perhaps putting our wishes and desires out there actually do help and having conversations with other people and I think that that helps. And I don’t know if enough of us feel confident enough to say exactly what we want out loud. It’s scary to speak it sometimes.
Adrienne Waller: Yeah. That’s why I believe in affirmation so much. Sometimes it’s just speaking it out loud so you believe it about yourself. I think sometimes it’s like we want something but we don’t believe we can have that, right? There’s that, there’s the desire, but there’s all these competing reasons why we may not believe it. And I really think affirming who you are and to me that’s a lot of what I do with the business is helping people to affirm themselves. A lot of what I’m doing is not that I’m doing anything special outside of letting you know how special you are and helping you to really see that and own that, live in that truth.
Mike Pierre: Now I’m going to ask a random question is because I’m looking at the title and also what you’ve been talking about. Do you need relationships in order to move forward?
Adrienne Waller: I definitely think they’re really important. Human connection is important for thriving. But I think in terms of excelling and going to do anything, you need people around and you need the right people around and you need to reevaluate who those people are. And if you don’t have those people around, spend time putting yourself in spaces where you can get those people around. Because the times where you don’t believe having somebody who’s around you who also believes in you is super important. Those times where you’re like, I can’t, and you have that person go, no. Yes. Not only you can, but you will. You know, like having those people, those are game changers in terms of what you’re able to do and they’re speaking your name and putting you out there when you’re not even there. When Dana reached out to me, I was like, oh, that’s amazing. I didn’t even have to reach out to her. She was like, hey, thought of you. Let’s have a conversation about that. The more you have people who are talking about you when you’re not even in the room, just the more you can amplify your impact.
Mike Pierre: Are relationships permanent?
Adrienne Waller: Some are and some are not. Most are not. I’m think any, actually as I’m thinking about it, no, I don’t think any really are whether it is…
Dr. Dana Watts: Because they evolve and some dissolve, but some evolve into something even better. But it seems like they’re always, they’re fluid, they can change often. And if they’re not changing then is that just a stale relationship?
Adrienne Waller: Yeah, it’s funny because I remember in college people used to say, oh, people talk about you change. And I used to always be confused. I’m like, I should. If I’m the same person that I was, if Adrienne today is who Adrienne was even a year ago, there’s a problem. I don’t think your values, unless your values are bad, drastically change. But even that, I have values that I didn’t have before that I’ve improved in and I have a better understanding. And I would definitely say my work to be a better ally is something that is a different value than what I had before. And something that I check myself on like, ooh, am I doing this well? And sometimes the answer’s no. And so trying to get better with that. But I definitely think that, I don’t know if any relationship really has the capacity to be permanent, even the ones you don’t want to lose in a morbid way. Like death can be part of how those relationships come to an end. Sometimes it’s the changing of locations. I think being an international educator, that idea of transient ness, something you come to accept and understand, but it is part of how that relationship either changes or sometimes you lose. There’s people you were really close to when you were down the street from each other and went to the same place to work. And the second that’s not there anymore, it’s harder to maintain it. It’s not nothing lost. You still love them and if they called you and needed something, you would be there, but you’re not near each other’s life in the same. And I think that’s okay.
Dr. Dana Watts: I totally agree. I think especially in the international school community, it’s such a transient community and I remember seeing this saying that people come and go from your lives for certain reasons. Some are there for long term, some are short term, there’s this evolving thing and some people, and I think those real relationships, right? Even if you step away, I cannot wait to see one of my dearest friends in DC when I’m there in a couple weeks. And I’ve taught in two countries with her, but we come and go, but whenever we come and see each other again, it is like nothing has ever stopped. I love this person crazy. She is one of the most amazing people in my life. But we lose touch because we’re just so busy in our careers and life. And then, but when we come back together, it’s like no time has happened in between those times.
Adrienne Waller: My best friend and I always talk about how that’s one of the things we appreciate most about our relationship is our ability to not talk for long period. Everybody else is like, how can you call somebody your best friend and you haven’t talked in two months? And the thing is, when we do talk, we’re going to, it nothing misses a beat, and there’s no love lost and it’s pretty amazing to have relationships that can endure even without that constant watering. And I think some relationships are like cacti, you soak it up and they can live a long time without getting that next rain and others, you after water almost daily.
Mike Pierre: So since we’re manifesting here, just wanted to know 20 years from now in case this podcast is still going on, what should we be expecting from Adrienne Waller?
Adrienne Waller: In 20 years from now, I would love to open a school, I think I talked about this in my workshop. I would love to open a school that centers and really supports black and brown students to be bilingual, trilingual, multilingual, polyglots or whatever, I might’ve messed that up. But also travel a sense of like, the world is open to you that if you can dream it, you can believe it. So that’s long-term where I’ll be living. That’s a hard one. That that one I wouldn’t even venture to guess. I could tell you where I would be, but I definitely want to still be impacting education in a way where people realize, people, children and adults realize the power that they have within themselves to do virtually anything.
Dr. Dana Watts: That’s amazing.
Mike Pierre: Do you have any final advice for our educators who are listening in today?
Adrienne Waller: Take time for you as much as this work is important, as much as we’re doing really great things that really matter, you can only do that when you nurture yourself. And so having shutoffs and having boundaries and being able to tell people, no, I did a whole Instagram post on different ways to say no and it’s okay and say yes for yourself, it’s okay to say no, but it’s also okay to say yes to some things that you want in your life, but you have to do that with boundaries. Boundaries at work, boundaries with friends, boundaries with families, boundaries with yourself sometimes. So, being able to kind of do that, would be the one thing I would really encourage everyone.
Dr. Dana Watts: Oh my gosh, Mike and I were just talking about that right before get started this call.
Mike Pierre: Boundaries. Got to have boundaries. But thank you so much Adrienne for your time. I just want to let our guests know where they can reach you.
Adrienne Waller: Oh sure. Of course my website, which is going through a rehab, so I’m really excited. You can buy things like my affirmations journal on there and things like that are really exciting. So that www.worldwideeducator.org. I try to stay on Instagram worldwide educator, one word. I’m on Twitter, not nearly as much, worldwide educator, but there’s an eight for the part that sounds like eight. And then LinkedIn, Adrienne Waller or just go to the website and all of that stuff is there. So that’s going to be your one stop shop if you’re not sure and Clubhouse, that’s the other one. I do a lot of clubhouse rooms.
Dr. Dana Watts: Awesome. Thank you so much.
Adrienne Waller: Thank you all for having me.
Mike Pierre: Any last words, Dana?
Dr. Dana Watts: No, thank you so much Adrienne. I love chatting with you as always. And thank you everyone for listening today. We hope you enjoyed your time with us.
Adrienne Waller: Thank you so much.
Mike Pierre: Alright, educators, thank you so much Adrienne. Don’t forget to follow our page to receive notifications about new episodes that we release. We release an episode every Wednesday. Thank you for tuning in and kindly head over to iss.edu/events to see our future PDs that ISS will be offering for the school year of 23. If you love the show, please subscribe, rate, and leave us a review. We could be found on Apple podcast, Google podcast, Amazon Music, I Heart Radio, Stitcher, and Spotify. Don’t forget to follow ISS on all of our social media platforms. Until next time, see you in the next episode educators. Bye-Bye.
International Schools Services is a global leader in everything that has to do with international education. From teacher and leadership placement to school audits and management certifications, we are here to help educators progress their careers. Learn more about ISS at iss.edu.
The ISS EDUlearn Ask Me Anything Podcast series is an offering from our Professional Development team aimed at helping international educators and those interested in the field to learn more about the the international education landscape. Find more PD offerings at https://www.iss.edu/services/professional-development.