The workplace revolution has arrived.

Learn More
...

Listen on:

SpotifyIcon
Apple PodcastIcon
AnchorIcon

Episode 44:

Love as a Teaching Strategy

Ever heard the phrase "love is the best motivator"? Our guest this week, Mike Yates, has found this to be true first-hand with his experience in education. His philosophy is to get kids to love school and then the rest will take care of itself. 'Love as a Teaching Strategy' may be about school, but we'll guarantee you will find insights for your business. Take a listen now!

Speakers

Feel the love! We aren't experts - we're practitioners. With a passion that's a mix of equal parts strategy and love, we explore the human (and fun) side of work and business every week together.

JeffProfile

Jeff Ma
Director

linkedin-badge
1585756935988 6.12.31 PM

Mike Yates
Senior Managing Director of Network Strategy, Reinvention Lab

NEW_HEADSHOT

Frank Danna
Director

linkedin-badge

Transcript

Hide Transcript

Jeff Ma
Hello and welcome to Love as a Business Strategy, a podcast that brings humanity to the workplace. We're here to talk about business, but we want to tackle topics that most business leaders shy away from. We believe that humanity and love should be at the center of every successful business. I'm your host, Jeff Ma, a director at Softway, which is a business to employee solutions company that creates products and offers services that help build resilience and high performance company cultures. I'm joined today by my co-host, Frank Danna. Frank, how you doing today?

Frank Danna
I'm doing really good. It's an honor to be to be named a co-host. That was fantastic news to me.

Jeff Ma
Cool, you're not a guest. So I don't know what else to call you. Because you're hanging out. Our guest is, is super cool. Not that you're not super cool. But you know, we got to reserve the title guests for only the super cool. And that is Mike Yates. Mike Yates has spent his career in the education space, but he has also developed unique perspectives and approaches along the way to how he used schools, teachers, education systems. And I just want to welcome to the show, Mike. How's it going, man?

Mike Yates
Great. Thanks for having me. Like, I'm excited. I'm excited for the special title as guests.

Jeff Ma
Yes.

Frank Danna
Yeah. Can I tell you about Mike real quick?

Jeff Ma
Go ahead.

Frank Danna
Yeah. So Mike and I were both groomsmen for my brother in law's wedding. Don't from fat, and fun fact. And we both received some very interesting gifts. Mike, can you describe for us what Brett decided to get us? Um, which I still have? They're like, in my closet.

Mike Yates
It's fun. I have a funny story about that. So Brett decided to get us weapons. Like he came with weapons. Yeah, like an axe with our name burned into the hand...

Frank Danna
burned singed into the handle.

Mike Yates
Yeah, a large knife, like a really large knife. And a machete. My machete is it rode around in my trunk for the longest time did it because I was moving and I put it in there. I forgot it was in there. And I got pulled over not for speeding, but because like, like it was I wasn't pulled out. I was talking to a police officer cuz there's ice on the road. And I was like headed to work. He's like, hey, just so you know, that bridge has ice on the road. And he didn't like search by car. But I thought about that at that moment. And I was like, Where's my machete? In my job? Yeah. So then it was on top of my fridge for the longest time. Oh, my gosh, it was the highest place that I could keep it away from my kids. So yeah, like he got us weapons like really aggressive weapon.

Frank Danna
very aggressive. I don't even remember what the point of it was. All I know is the weapons I have in my house were gifted to me for a wedding.

Jeff Ma
Yep. Yeah. No explanation as to why

Frank Danna
there was there was some sort of explanation. But yeah, I don't remember what it was. All I remember is that I have sharp weaponry in my home. Anyway, I wanted to start us off there, Jeff. Yeah, I wanted to start there.

Jeff Ma
Yeah, I can just cancel the icebreaker I had planned. my mic, you know, I think I think there's a lot of connection between like your experience, the the passion that you have, and what you do, and what we do here and love as a business strategy. So I'm super excited to actually dive into that, learn more about you and draw those connecting lines. But we do typically start with an icebreaker. And that question is What did you receive at your last wedding? As a groomsmen get just kidding. That's not the icebreaker question. I do have a question. I'll make a friend go first. So my you know, the guest gets some prep time. You have the same question. So you could prepare right? Now what game show? Do you think you could win?

Frank Danna
Probably Supermarket Sweep.

Jeff Ma
Yeah.

Frank Danna
Because I'm like, I've got good brand recall. And I enjoyed like I enjoy. Like, puzzles in that space and like just fast thinking style things. So I'm thinking like applying my knowledge, my expertise of grocery stores, and brands. I've got these little mini mini brands, bags of little brands that I just have on me at my disposal at all times. So I'm always prepared. I got this McCormack crushed pepper, so I know what that logo looks like.

Jeff Ma
We got this ready. Next. Supermarket Sweep works. I just just leave just so I'm clear.

Frank Danna
I don't I don't you do that.

Jeff Ma
You do the grocery shopping in your household?

Frank Danna
Sometimes I do. Yeah.

Jeff Ma
Sometimes, okay, because like knowing the price of things is also part of it.

Frank Danna
Yeah, I'm pretty sure the red pepper is 15 to $20

Jeff Ma
All right, my same question what game show? Do you think you could win? I mean,

Mike Yates
I'd be legit supermarket sweet, like I like, I'd be so good. Like, I can actually tell you that the crushed red pepper from McCormick is actually 238 at egb if you got like I know how many how many ounces how many for the four ounce bottle? Oh my god. Yeah, like I do all the grocery shopping because I do cooking in my house. And so like I can tell you how much like chicken cut like, like, if I'm nice at supermarket like right now at Whole Foods. You can get the air chill chicken breasts looking at 499 and if you have that Amazon Prime you get that discount. So like I I'm nice the supermarket sweet, but I also like Willa fortune There we go. People don't want to see me at will if I'm so good at what

Frank Danna
I'm believing. I believe my answer cuz I would not do good at Supermarket Sweep compared to put me on the same episode.

Jeff Ma
Yeah, yeah, just be different episode different episode.

Frank Danna
Yeah. Two champions, two champions battling it out.

Jeff Ma
I like the I like to thank our sponsors for the day McCormick. Whole Foods and Amazon Prime.

Frank Danna
That's right.

Jeff Ma
No joke. Side note really good friend of mine was just this last year on the new supermarket. So he was a contestant. She was cool. She was on it. I was like super impressed is very fun watching someone you know in TV. Yeah. But anyways, enough about that. Let's jump into this. So are our guests, our guest of honor. Mike, I want to start with you. There's something you know that you we our last short discussion that you talked about that really intrigued me. And it's this alpha program that you brought up and you know not to, I'm not going to be able to do it justice. So if you could just kind of talk about your I mean, yourself, but also how that led up to the alpha program. What that is, I mean, you have the stage take us away.

Mike Yates
Yeah, I mean, the story of my sort of personal and professional life is that I grew up hating school, like I had a visceral hatred for I despised it. And my mother was a teacher. So this didn't work well in my house. Like me hating school, I literally only went to school because I enjoyed playing basketball. And I was on the team. And then I joined the Speech and Debate Team. And I knew that I could miss school on Thursdays and Fridays, if I signed up to go to every speech and debate tournament. Wow. So like, when I was in high school, I missed a lot of school. I constantly like bucked at the system and made mockeries of things that people really thought were important. There was a guy in my high school who really had to be class president, and he had like, done everything that good students do. And I thought it would be cool to run and beat him. Just as I thought it would be fun, funny, having a great experience and learning a lot in that experience. But like I ran a campaign where I didn't post any signs in school, I like only use Facebook and digital advertising because I thought that was edgy. And I wore a suit every day with a whistle. And I like broke up fights and like help kids cross the street. Like,

Frank Danna
this is incredible. It's guerilla marketing.

Mike Yates
Yeah. And I don't remember the guy's name. But you remember the congressman that was running and he was like, Oh, you got really excited that I did that. I stole that from him. My election speech. It was ridiculous. I got every single vote except for two of them. Like, I'm sure that guy hates me to this day.

Frank Danna
Oh, my gosh, you trolled him, you troll. The whole entire, like he he had been told his whole life that he must achieve this in order to become the real like President of the United States. And you come in Mike's like, Listen,

Mike Yates
none of this, none of this matters. None of this counts. Yeah. And his mom, his mom was headed to the PTO. And so like, it was a big time beef when we like promptly and so like, that experience is kind of like, it's kind of how I've always viewed the school system, even as an adult like I, when I went into the traditional school system. As a teacher, I heard people tell me things about how to teach and I was like, I'm not like, I'm not gonna do that. Um, I instead of lecturing the whole class period, I was obsessed with figuring out how I could have my students build their own learning experience. I was like, hell bent on borrowing from other professional worlds, like sports and business to make school more exciting. Because the thing about school is that it never felt real to me. Right? In 2007, I had an algebra teacher that looked at me and said, You have to show your work because you won't have a calculator with you at all times when you grew up. And my friend whips out his brand new at&t iPhone. And he was like, what about this and So she kicks us out of class, instead of saying My bad, like, she kicked us out of class. So that was the way I viewed school. All of this matters because in my interview, to help build this new school project, and at the time was called emergent Academy that we would later rebrand called alpha. The first question that I was asked was, tell me about your school experience growing up. And the first words out of my mouth where I hated school, to which the guy interviewing me was like, Oh, that's perfect. Like To this day, he'll tell you like, I hired Mike, because the first thing he told me was that he hated school. And sorry, trouble hearing.

Jeff Ma
Twice a day. The watch thinks they're talking to you. But just to recap, though, just to me, I feel like you skipped a step. You hated school growing up, and now we're taught you're a teacher. Right? So yeah,

Mike Yates
how did that How did that happen? So I told you that my only reasoning for going to school is because I was on the speech team. I did speech and debate in high school and college, I'm the same guy that gave me the, the West, the weapons, they gave us the weapons. Brett and I decided to go to college together. And we did Speech and Debate together, we competed against each other in high school. But because I had this expertise in this very niche area, which was the Speech and Debate world, I was asked by a friend to help rebuild the speech program at a school. And I thought, oh, that'd be cool, because that's not a normal job. And I was like, yeah, whatever I can, I can go back into the school world. I actually found through that experience that I loved working with students. And I loved working with students in non traditional ways, because to watch a student go from, like, not knowing how to give a public speech to winning tournaments, and qualifying for state and qualifying for nationals. And becoming one of the best public speakers in the country was exciting to me. And while I was there, I also coached basketball and like just learning how to communicate and build relationships with young people. I actually got a real kick out of it, I realized that the best teachers that I had, they were experts in that and not content. And so that year, sort of unlocked something in me to where I was like, actually, I think I want to pursue this education thing. And the my reasoning was, is because I wanted to create an experience that was different than the one that I had. So that, like, no student would have to experience the horrors that I experienced when I was in school. So yeah, that's how I got into teaching. Because awesome.

Frank Danna
It's amazing.

Jeff Ma
Sorry, you were talking about the alpha? I'm sorry. Oh, no.

Frank Danna
That was good. Yeah,

Mike Yates
it's great. It was a great, that's a great. Great catch. So yeah, I mean, I, he he hired me, because I initially told him I hated school. And I actually came to alpha under a similar pretense was that they wanted to build a public speaking program. And it's very hard to find people who can do that, to find people who have enough of a track record, and who are talented enough, who have the skill themselves to do that. So I that that was why I started, I ended up building initially, like, what would be the middle school program, and I helped a little bit build the high school program. And it was in that building in that situation, where I really, really got in, like a keen understanding of exactly what is missing in the traditional model of school. So alpha is an incredible school where instead of teacher standing up and lecturing, you use what's called adaptive learning software to deliver all of the academic content. So in short, adaptive learning software is like it's it's the algorithm that's running on Amazon, you buy a shirt, and the algorithms like oh, Frank's like, Frank likes Nike shirts, maybe you'll also like Nike shorts, and it suggests that content to you. Imagine that with math problems, you have a fifth grade math problem, you get that correct. The algorithm says, Oh, you know, fifth grade math, you might know, the next iteration of this problem. It can move you up and down to the content based on your performance, that those apps we believe were so effective, that you could replace direct instruction with them, freeing up time during the day, right, it only required about 25 minutes per subject per day, which if you think about the academic subjects, it's only two hours. So you ask what do you do with the rest of the day? We teach life skills, you teach the things that everybody says, Well, I wish I had learned this in school. You know, financial literacy, public speaking, theater, like all the things that people love about school, you have adults create these edgy workshops, where you teach new, you create new ways to learn those skills. So instead of just public speaking, I, I taught magic, like I learned how to do magic tricks, and I hooked Kids in learning to do public speaking through magic. I was like, Look, we're gonna put on a magic show. And you have to be better than me at magic. I've been practicing for two months. And so by the end, I had a student looked at me, he's nine. And he's like, I see what you did. You think you think you think you're slick? And I was like, What? He says this whole thing's a match trick. You tricked me into giving a speech, and I hate speeches. But this is at the end of the workshop. I'm like, sorry, damage is done, bro. Not now.

Frank Danna
You're an expert. Sorry.

Mike Yates
And so yeah. what's incredible about alpha, is that the number one, like we basically made three promises to parents, and these were the Northstar. The number one and most important is love school. And what I learned through pursuing love of school was that, and by the way, alpha, alpha was essentially it feels more like a software company that does a school. Right? I mean, it's, there is position play that I can't fully explain, because I don't fully understand it. But there is an acquisition part of it. I mean, that's why it's called alpha and not alpha Academy or alpha school, because it actually is much more than the school as a software development arm. There are going to be things that show up in the world of education and tech, in the near future that come out of that place that that are gonna make people's eyes pop. I'm no longer there. But they think there's like they're starting a school in Brownsville. Why would you start a school in Brownsville? Because there's a certain very large company that's interested in space in Brownsville that you might want to might want to provide a place for their children to go to school. Yeah, yeah. Um, SpaceX, SpaceX, so I, but I think pursuing love of school and learning to do that every day. It really helped me to understand why companies like Google, build ping pong, competition courts and have massage studios and coffee flavored ice cream and three restaurants. Because if you can convince a person Yeah, Google awesome is like, it's letting if you can convince a person, adult or child, that they love what they're doing, and they love where they do it, you can you can get them to do anything for you. I mean, anything. So like, because we had an environment that students loved coming to you legitimately. I mean, you had parents that would, that would say, the only way I can punish my kid now is saying, I'll make you stay home from school. Like that was the environment that we were able to create. And because of that, I learned that like, that's why like, when I when you guys told me that love is a business strategy, I was like, oh, game over. Absolutely. Because as a strategy for school, for business, for sports for anything, if you can convince a person that they love what they're doing and where they're doing it, their production will be through the roof. Like, like their buy in will be through the roof, the results you get will be through the roof. And we've seen that firsthand.

Frank Danna
just unreal man I love it's the craziest thing I've ever heard, like, like the concept is wild. But interestingly, like for me, like, like, we homeschool our kids, right? So that was a conscious choice that that we made at the beginning of our relationship, my wife and his relationship. We talked about the school system, education system, etc. And they're done with their school in about two hours a day, sometimes an hour and a half. Sometimes they wake up and they're like, they hit the books. And by 930 or 10am. Their day is freed up and takes them out on walks and does nature. So I mean, it's, it's amazing to me, because there was one day where my kids had woken up. And my daughter got really proactive this one particular day, and she had all her schoolwork done at 805. And remember this is because the school bus came and picked up the kids on the street at 805. And you see all these other kids kind of funneling out. And she she looked at me because I was walking outside. And she said, When are they going to be home? And I said, for 430. And she asked what do they do all day? They said like, what what do they do all day? And I was like, they hate it's like a prison like it? Yeah. And and it's and it's you know, it's essentially like a childcare type environment where it's just it's crafted in a way so that people can provide for themselves. But it's not taking into consideration the opportunities that it can afford that time. And so what's fascinating to me, Mike is like, this complete overhaul to the education system. And the structure founded on love is is wild.

Mike Yates
Yeah, I mean, it's, I think homeschool is the best like, people people used to say to us when I was at alpha, like they're like, Oh, you guys took the best of Montessori. And I would often say no, actually what we did was we took the film school, and we turned it into we gave it this custodial right shot. You're back. Right? Yeah, like we created that for, and I think homeschool, my kids are also homeschooled. And I, I get excited when people said, because now homeschooling is, is becoming more prevalent because everybody was forced to do it for a while. But we also like the school system was caught with its pants down, so to speak, because you saw people that didn't know how to react. Because if you think about the way school is structured, it is mostly structured with adults in mind, right? Like we just talked, like, why did kids go to school from eight to 430? Because parents are at work. And it's really inconvenient, right? Like, we've now we've created a society where we've told everyone that both parents should be working. Right. And and regardless of how people feel about that, that's what happened. Both parents are now at work. And, and like, I don't care which parent stays home. I think a lot of people would argue that, like, if that's possible for you, or if it's possible for both of you to stay home, and you can control everything that your kid learns, most people would choose that. I don't know what to say, I don't know, most but a lot of people more people than you'd expect them probably choose that. And the reason why I know that's because they're in my DMS on Twitter and on LinkedIn. There's they're asking me like, yo, how do you do it? homeschooling was a fight between my wife and I, I was working in the school system. And I was like, we can't, we can't homeschool our children. But my wife was right the entire time. It was it ended up being the best thing because the foundation of love that comes from the home, that comes from a person who values my children more than anyone else on planet Earth, like that. That's who's right. The same for your your house.

Frank Danna
Yeah, my wife. Yeah,

Mike Yates
yeah, the people who value your children, there's nobody who would care for your child more than you nobody. And and so that's why homeschooling special. It's not necessarily because of the flexibility of the curriculum. Yep. Right. It's because, like, at the end of the day, like people can argue about what's the best homeschool curriculum. And they do. And I always insert myself in those arguments. I'm like, it doesn't matter. Like it will all come out in the wash.

Jeff Ma
You're over here. You're over here breaking the mold again. Yeah,

Frank Danna
I love it. No, but I think that's fascinating. And like, so yeah, you're right. It's the foundation of love. His core. Yeah. And you can replicate that foundation. In the business world, you can replicate that in the music industry, you can replicate that in any place. Yep. And like you said, I think like my, my takeaway from what you were talking about was, if you can create an environment where people love where they work and love what they do, they can do anything. Yeah, that, to me is foundational, but it also requires the leadership to be bought into that vision. So I want to, I want to ask you a little bit about that culture that was crafted not not with the students now with the magic trick opportunities and like the, the the ability to kind of create the curriculum, that there's freedom there. So I kind of guess where the culture was. But I'm wondering, from your perspective, how was the leadership? And how was the culture of the way you interacted with other teachers and facilitators? What was that like an alpha.

Mike Yates
so alpha is an interesting experiment. And that alpha still is unlearning the worst of tech culture in terms of employees. If you can get adults to tell you the truth about their experience at alphabet, you'll you'll see that there is there actually is a dichotomy. And they that the analogy that I gave people all the time is Disney World, is that you don't know what kind of day Mickey Mouse is having underneath that suit. For a kid, it doesn't matter. Like it doesn't it does not matter and it and Disney World like when they're like, Look, when this park opens, I don't care if you got broken up with I don't care who died like Disney was like show up. And like bring the heat. Because this is frickin Disney. That's literally what what is being set it off. Like, alpha, they're like, Look, if you need to miss work, go take care of yourself. But when you are in this building, you come with that when that first student walks in this building, that the phrase that they used to say is bring the dinosaurs, or like if you show up at Jurassic Park, and the dinosaurs are not out, and they're not working, and like they're like, they're like, bring the dinosaurs. That's amazing. I love that, man. That's great. Yeah. And so I'll be on it's a hard environment to work in from that perspective. It outfit is not like, it's not for everybody. In terms of, and I do think that amongst the adults, there are things that need to change so that you can retain talent, but the bulk of your behavior is isn't as important here. Right? Yeah.

Frank Danna
The way you treat employees, team members, all that stuff is valuable.

Mike Yates
Right. And and I think one of the things I used to harp on when I was actually at alpha was and still today like it's very Now it's it's a lot it's really popular for people to rag on we work because it we love. And and I'm the first to admit that I think Adam Newman needs therapy or he needs a hug or some I don't know, just one. Single Yeah, embrace, right? You know, but I think what was so good about what we were created was the idea of environment, but also community. They they figured out like, like, I think we live we live experiment, which was when they basically created dormitories. And I've been inside of a we live. It literally is a it's a very fancy college dorm in the middle of New York City. Like when they created that project. I had a friend who worked at we work, he was the head of their global evangelism effort. And I often talked to him about what the culture was really like, not about what the reports say, or the documentaries, right. And the number one thing he says he was like, the crazy thing is that people that we work really cared about each other. So much, so to where when they did the we live experiment, like if people left the building, like everybody else would be checking on that person, like, yo, are you alright? Like, hey, it's 1130 are you like you could. And while it's easy for us to step back and be like, that feels kind of like a cult, and maybe, yeah, like, maybe a lot. Like, the summer camp thing was weird. But those people that live there, they will tell you, they're like, some of my deepest and closest relationships came from that. And so I think there's something to be learned from, from the idea that community is so important at the employee level, and between employee and leadership, um, for any business or school, like, I can tell you that the business world understands this far better than the Education Committee.

Frank Danna
I say, Okay, yeah. Education is obsessed with hierarchy.

Jeff Ma
Yeah, I think, I think another connection I drew, hearing your story, I think you mentioned early in your career, you talked about trying to bring technology to replace teaching, kinda like you talked about that briefly there. But like, early on, like people looked at you crazy. And when you first brought that, to me, I was also looking at you crazy, because on paper, on paper, it seems like that's the opposite of like, humanistic kind of love based philosophy, because you're saying you're trying to replace humans. But humans are where you know, what we're all about. We're all about bringing humanity back to the workplace about bringing, you know, looking at humanity, and but the way you explain Can you explain Kind of, yeah, once you said this, it changed. I was like, I was like, Oh, I get it, I get why we're replacing Teaching with Technology actually, is more loving.

Mike Yates
Yeah, the thing I think the thing to note is that my I advocate to replace teaching, not the teacher. I want the teat the role of the teacher to change. And if, if we allow the rote part of that job, if we allow those parts to be outsourced to technology, then they can free up teachers to do what truly is special. I did this poll on LinkedIn, I told people to do this test. I was like, answer these three questions. One, how many of your teachers do you actually remember? Like you remember their name and their face? And two? How many of them? Would you label phenomenal teachers? Like funny, like, great, and most people, they were like, I can't get past number one. I don't remember any of them. And and I asked, I asked people that question, because teacher training programs, including the one that I work for, Teach for America, which I have no, my job is to criticize this organization. And the reason the whales, I'll put it like the James James Baldwin said this about America, he said, I love America so deeply, that I reserve the right to criticize her fiercely, right here, and that I think I might have butchered that quote, but something

Frank Danna
along the lines of that so good, though, man, like, you're good.

Mike Yates
But I mean, that's, that's a long line. And that's, that's my relationship to education. I have learned that I love this field. And I love students and people so deeply that I reserve the right to criticize the education community, teachers, school leaders, superintendents, I reserve the right to criticize them harshly, because I want to see this community do better. And, and so I, I think if we're honest about teachers, the majority, the vast majority of teachers are average at best. Because teacher training programs are all about classroom management. They're not about building relationships. They're certainly not about loving students. They're actually not even about content expertise. So the best teachers we often find, I was having a conversation over coffee this morning, where I had two guys do this test. And they named three or four teachers, and they're like, oh, but it was the way that they challenged me or the way that they supported me. It's often that it's not like, Oh, you know what Mr. Johnson was the best algebra lecturer I've ever had. Sometimes you have a lecture that stands out, like, I had a college professor James McWilliams. He was the greatest history lecture I had ever I've ever heard in my life. But he was also great, because in a 300 person lecture hall, he knew everybody's name, no matter where you, like, I walked in one day, I was late. And he said, Mike gates, why are you late to my class? And I was like, I'm sorry. Like, I woke up late. And he was like, come on, man. You know, I'm the most entertaining professor at this university. Don't be late, that you got to come sit up here in the front next to me, like, Oh, yes. Like, we're all laughing. It's all good. But like, he knew how to make you feel special in that room. That's, that's what great teaching is, it's about the relationship. And so I, I advocate that we removed the content, and that we removed the grading, and that we removed the attendant like taking attendance. And let technology do that, because it'll make room for teachers to do what's special. And the last thing I'll say here on this is, is to think about it this way, if people question the effectiveness of technology, when when your child goes to school, and they're behind, or let's say they get in trouble, and they go to in school suspension, you know what they do? They put them on adaptive learning software, they give them Khan Academy, or they give them news ela, or, or they they give them I Excel or something called ice station. And that's how they remediate. That's how they catch up kids who are behind. So if you follow the logic, if I can catch up in half a year, what would happen if I stayed on the app the whole year? In theory, I would accelerate, right? So why not do what's best for

Jeff Ma
some babies, like, so this topic is really personal to me, my mom spent her entire career he's retired now. But she spent her entire year career teaching special ed Elementary School, which I had a great amount of respect for. And then my sister is, is has been an elementary school teacher for almost two decades. And since we, you know, we I've been thinking about this concept since you shared it a while and I mean, since we last talk, which is a while back, but since then, you know, my sister has a great amount of passion for teaching and kids. And if you talk to her, you know, she has this huge heart as all this love in her heart for kids and seeing them grow and developing them. And you know, my entire life really, from my mom and my sister, I've only heard about the barriers that they face, whether it's political financial rules, regulations. I don't know how much I'm supposed to be sharing. But my sister she has a huge passion for art. She's really really talented. She's really gifted at that sharing that that with kids love it that she mixes it into the way she teaches and stuff like that, but she wanted to make a career change a lateral career change to be an art teacher just because that way she can you know, specialize in doing like, and, and the amount of hoops she's had to jump through. Yeah, even though she'd be a phenomenal like her principal says she's be great her principles like I wish you were the art teacher. But just for all the other like reasons. She had to go pay money to get a different certification. Yes to apply. She had to do all that. And then when she did all that, and then finally like said, okay, I've done it all. I've got past, I had to study art history and all these other things. You had to memorize all these things that I mean, who cares? Let's be honest. She got there. And then when she applied, they said, Oh, in this school district, you have to have a degree in art to teach art history do teach art to element. Like literally she was turned on even though she would hands down be one of the best art teachers these kids would ever have. She'd pour, you know, everything into it. She does. She's sitting there just going just baffled. I'm baffled or I'm just it's, it reminds me of kind of like where everything you're saying just makes so much more sense. Because, you know, where, where's the focus here? Where's the you know, we're talking about, we're looking at outcomes, if we're looking at what's best for kids, if we're looking at all that. I mean, none of it made sense to me. None of it added up. And it's like, teachers and I know firsthand, not firsthand, like a second hand but for my family, like just how much of the actual part of their day is teaching and how much of it is like, you can call it paperwork or write regulatory things. And then how much of it is like caring for kids. And I know you said that most teachers are average, I agree in the teaching part. But so many teachers, I mean, just in this country, you can't do it unless you know the amount you're being paid for you can't do unless you care. Yep. So the amount the amount of like love they have for it, is off the charts in a lot of cases, it but the amount, the percentage of time you're able to give that love in your day to day is so small, it's like your passion lies in like that 10% they can give. And the rest has to be what the book says. The rules say what the you know, all that regulatory stuff in it. And I know I've been talking a lot, but it connects back, I keep connecting it back to love as a anything strategy. Even as a as a business route you're talking about, you know, in the workplace. I'm often as a leader, especially I'm often tasked with training, or mentoring, or teaching essentially. And the same kind of patterns can play true. And whether when you have that passion for helping someone you have that passion for actually seeing people develop and grow, the experience is completely different from when you just there to do it as a job. And I so I just it resonates a lot with all the things that you say about the system itself. It's refreshing to criticize it, I think a little bit because, because it My son is going to start kindergarten in in involved, I'm terrified. I'm like, yeah, I'm like, terrified, because I'm not homeschooling. We, my wife and I both work. And yeah, it's just, it's just one of those things where it's like, you know, is he going to get enough attention? Is he going to get you know, enough care? Is someone going to look out for him? Is he going to get bullied? And if so, is someone going to intervene? And like, you know, not protect him, but like, like, let everyone know that what's going on in that environment share all the important life lessons that I would if I were there. Right, right. Yeah.

Mike Yates
I think you make such a great point. Jeff, I'm so glad you shared that that story, because that's the other part of the conversation that nobody's having. Right? Is that, like, I had this debate with somebody online? Where I I told them, it was like, by and large, no teacher gets into this business for the wrong reason. Like, for the like, trust me, most people get into this for the paycheck, right? Like they're easier. There are less groups that you can jump through. Like, when I was when I was, I was like a second year teacher. And I met a I met a manager at a at a I think it was Brahms. It's like an ice cream shop. Okay. And I was like, he was hiring. And I looked at that site that they posted. And the salary was like, $10,000, higher than my salary. And I was like, that's what you get paid. He said, Oh, I'm a general manager, bro. I get paid way more than that. And I was like, how long have you worked here? He was like five years. And I legitimately that day thought about quitting my job and going to work at the ice cream shop across the street. And I also I know that like, I don't like when people like say like, teachers get paid. And managers at fast food restaurants get paid this, that's ridiculous. Because there's a whole nother bag of stuff that managers at fast food restaurants have to deal with. And I don't want to deal with this, like, a whole nother but what I thought about that, like, nobody knows no teachers getting into this for the money. Right? It's just not. And I do believe that every single teacher cares deeply for students. But the the sad reality is that the system is not allowing them to do that. Right? Like I the worst teacher I know. And I, if you evaluate him from a content expertise, and from a teaching strategy and technique, and all the stuff that they tell you is horrible. But the reason why he's in the classroom is because he can connect with any single student. It is. I watched him there, the student was falling asleep in his classroom. And I was like, Man, what are you going to do about that? And he said, Oh, it's fine. I worked it out with him. And I found out that that student had three jobs, and was working those he was working at Sonic. And then he was doing a night shift at Walmart. And then he was like, basically flipping sneakers during the day. And he paid he told him and this guy, the teacher who's supposed to keep kids awake and keep kids in line, I looked at him, he said, Look, we'll work something out, started creating YouTube videos of his lessons that were not very good. But of his lessons for the the total act was phenomenal. But he was fired from that school because he couldn't control his class because there was a kids, right so the system is that allowing like your sister, don't allow teachers to care. No, this is

Jeff Ma
not this is not a shot at people with an art major. But I imagine the people that the small pool of people who have art degrees Yeah, didn't set out to teach elementary kid. Right, right. And you're saying, You're telling me that the requirement here is that I need that kind of person. When I have people right here, ready to enlighten these kids to really pour the heart into these kids. Yeah. And it's so backwards to me. So it's upsetting. It's upsetting to me to do now everybody's angry guys.

Frank Danna
Everyone listen to this podcast. Everybody's frustrated me.

Jeff Ma
If you see my if you met my sister, you know, like she she would It's amazing. Find a better art teacher. I mean, she's already a great teacher. She teaches like, second third fourth grade like, but

Mike Yates
those are special people that school. Yeah,

Jeff Ma
yeah, she's she's doing for almost two decades. It's amazing. And I just I it like, makes me want to like, go knock on whoever's door, I have to I think it's a superintendent or somebody who like, basically made the call. I'm like, You're crazy. Yeah, this is the same school districts that I'm sending my kid to, in fall, making these kinds of decisions. And I'm like, what's going on?

Mike Yates
But I'll tell you the best thing that I think parents can do, though, really like and you taught me like, really, I really mean, this is like, you talk about love as a business strategy. Love as a teaching strategy. I mean, that's it like, going to that teacher, like especially because like Jeff, you know, like you have, like, you're not experiencing the second hand. This is firsthand, the families of teachers are often like, the reason why I made the moves I did to get out of the classroom, is because I just couldn't keep giving my family less. And, and I knew that like my mom, and my mom was a teacher, I come from a family of teachers, I remember watching her give everything to those classrooms, because that's what you're supposed to do. That's what they tell you, you give everything to your students. And I remember her watching, I remember watching her try to give the rest to me. And, and just passing out at the end of the day. So you did experience it firsthand, you know, I'm saying, I think the best thing you can do is go to that teacher and say, What do you need? Like, what can I help you with? What can I give you? And maybe maybe it's like, maybe you actually can't give any time or any anything. But that question for that teacher is going to be like knowing that the parent community has their back, I used to in my education career when a box parents out. And there's actually a guy on LinkedIn, his name's Matt Barnes, he has sort of helped me understand the role of a parent, and also being a parent myself. Like, I understand that the role of a parent is so vital, not even necessarily just for the child, but the caterer who you're trusting with your child. Right, and the best relationships I had with parents. When they came into my classroom, they were like, hey, let me pick this paper up. And it took five minutes. And I thought nothing of it at the time. But over time, I realized, like, Oh, they care about me being able to do my job. And so really, I think, with a system that that is ignoring all of those things, I think that's the best thing any parent can do is just to step in and be like, hey, what, like what can I What can I do for you really quick, like, give them that gift of hospitality? Like on the art teacher discussion, it's such a crazy, there's, there's, there's like many debates about art teachers, period. I mean, like I taught with a guy named Chris bond, who he has a piece of art hanging in a museum in Fort Worth next to Andy Warhol. And he had trouble getting into an art class. Right. And so, you know, he, he said, it's the thing he said to me once he was like, anybody who's talented, who loves art, they should just know, it's supposed to be hard to get into a school system. Because it's like schools, cool schools reward people that play by the rules. And art by its very nature is people who color outside the lines and who teach kids that right? He's like, just no, anybody, anybody striving to be an art teacher that's having trouble, just just know that they don't understand us.

Frank Danna
Get your PhD. And then another one.

Mike Yates
Yeah, it's like minimum minimum requirement is six, six PhDs. That's right.

Jeff Ma
Partially validating that it's not just a singular. I mean, it's frustrating, but it's even more frustrating now, because

Frank Danna
this is a this is an actual systemic thing that's happening around everywhere.

Jeff Ma
Yeah, no, but I did. I mean, I appreciate that. I mean, this is really, really, really, yeah, it's become very personal to me, as we talked about it, but, but I wanted to also bring it back to, you know, the overall topic of like, you know, love, love as a business strategy. I mean, schools, ultimately, are basically businesses as well in the broadest sense, right. And, you know, I think that we, we, Frank and myself in the, you know, the other podcast and authors of love as a strategy we we spend Are every waking moment of our days essentially looking at the world around us and finding, like, we basically think in terms of love as a blink strategy nowadays, and, and I was really excited to hear kind of your thoughts around, you know, today, you've already shared a lot of them around but like around this problem statement as it exists even broadly, right, even as outside just kids and teachers, but like, what, where do you think the path forward is in, in getting society if you will, to more of a place of like, love mattering?

Mike Yates
Yeah, I know. I'll just I'll say, up front. I am. I'm a Christian. And I believe what the Bible says. And I've always told people like, regardless of what you believe about this book, or about me personally, one of the most pervasive messages in that book is that love truly is the answer to most things, right? Like if you're having a problem with your neighbor, like try to serve that person out of love and see what happens right? Like, it's all it's got all these lessons about love right in there, like so many different people philosopher, like this message about love has been proliferating through the world for many, many centuries. And I really do like the song that it always comes to mind for me like all you need is love. And some so many people are like I that's like idealists, but it's actually true. When you break down human interaction in in any sort of part of society. One of the people who I love listening to and talking to somebody near said, Mandy, and she runs a program called moral courage, and moral courage is, it's about doing the right thing in the face of adversity. And she has a lot of content recently about this, this culture of calling people out, rather than calling people in. Like, we understand that racism and sexism and all the isms exists, but it doesn't do anyone any good to look at them and say, You know what, you're just a racist. Because if you stop there, like, all you've done is just, all you've done is label somebody, the best thing to do is call people in which as your shed puts it, is the ultimate act of love to call someone in who does not believe what you believe, or who believe something, but the complete opposite of you. And people will call you crazy, they will say that you are wrong. But at the end of the day, if, if human beings care for other human beings, which is an act of love, then then like we truly will be okay. Right? Like, like, if we if we just decided to take care of each other. And if we just decided that, like, the person next to you is as important as yourself. Like, if we just decided that those things were true, then in society, in business, in school, and in sports, and music, like we would be okay. But I'll tell you this, the reason why I'm excited I love that you guys are teaching love as a business strategy, while you're pushing this message is because I I genuinely, I really do believe that the business community specifically, specifically tech and entrepreneurship, is going to lead as they have been, it's going to lead the next set of innovations that sustain the world for the next 30 to 50 years. And my message to the education community is like pay attention to Mark Zuckerberg and pay attention to Elan Musk, and pay attention to the entrepreneur down the road who you don't know because those strategies are going to be the ones that we need to start borrowing from. I I believe that to my core, if you look at look at the NBA, the most like the highest paid NBA players are all doing what getting in the business there. And this people are gonna call me crazy, but you heard it here first, do it. School is going to become a business. Jeff Bezos stepped down from Amazon if you know what he did right after that. He opened Jeff Bezos Academy. Ilan Musk is in the school business. The guys who built his school at Astra they have a school called synthesis school, that there is going to become a business of school that hovers around the public sector. And windows models figure out how to become financially accessible to other people. It is like the public school system must figure out a way to survive, and the only way is to borrow from them. And all of these founders are saying the same thing about kids start with love of school. Right like start with understanding the heat like Human Centered Design. And so I really think love is a business strategy is so important because it's applicable so many different places. I'm going to shout out there's there's a there's a school founder in Atlanta, Georgia. Her name is Michaela Streeter, everyone needs to know Michaela because she is going to be the next big thing in education. She founded a school called Life school. It is a high school where you can customize your learning experience a brick and mortar school. And when she had families that came to her and said, Hey, we also have a preschool age child, like, can you build something? She just built it. McHale is one of the most impressive people I know, she got degrees from Stanford and MIT and all the all the other stuff. But none of that matter. What matters is that when she walks into a school building, students run up to her. And I was on a call with her and a student, as they were, they were designing a sneaker together. And the way that she she and the student communicated, you could tell that there was a deep relationship there. And I asked her, what's the secret and she said, I just care. I just deeply care for that other person next to me. So I think like as much as when those school leaders start to talk really loud, and their voices become as big as Gary Vaynerchuk. And, and when Ilan musk starts to really care about school and you find a way to buy in and when people are able to do crowdfunding investments into schools, which is coming very soon, right. Like I think, love as a business strategy also becomes love as a teaching strategy and love tool building strategy, right? Like, what what you guys are creating is going to be like groundbreaking and fundamental. In its simplicity. And in its importance.

Jeff Ma
Yeah, man, I'm over here, like,

Frank Danna
just jazzed. Like, I this is crazy stuff, man. It's amazing. It's amazing to hear how I mean, number one, you're on the bleeding edge, not even the cutting edge like there is clearly blood has been drawn here you are on the bleeding edge. And it's very interesting to see this perspective as to what you're doing now. Now you're with Teach for America. Right? That's that's what you're doing today. Yep. And so are like, my last thought here. My last question is really, what is your current role look like? And how does that factor into what your vision and values and purpose and mission are? Hmm, yeah, where you want to be?

Mike Yates
Yeah, so I get this is a great note to end on. I'm, I'm at a party for America called the reinvention lab. And my story would teach for america is at seven years ago, I applied, and these same ideas that I'm talking about in this podcast, I was talking about in my interview, okay. And my my interviewer in San Antonio, I'll never forget this. She stopped me and said, there is a place for you in education, I think. But it is not here. I think, yeah. She said, it's not here. They sent me packing like, and now I've, yeah, I've been hired for the same reason that they rejected me for seven years ago. And as a matter of fact, there's somebody on Teach for America's executive management team, who was the executive director of that region that I interviewed. And she does not know that story. I've not talked to her about it yet, but I will one day, the reason why

Jeff Ma
I center the center this pocket,

Mike Yates
right? It's unreal man, though, the reason why I joined the reinvention lab is because the same sort of thing the James Baldwin, quote, right like that the lab was started by people, a group of people who love what Teach for America is and does, but recognize the real hurt and pain that the organization has caused communities, and has caused individual people and Teach for America, it is well documented online Teach for America has caused, like lots of pain. And it's made lots of mistakes as an organization, just from our because also that a lot of a lot of real good. And, and there's lots of things that I can debate people about that I don't. But I came into the organization with no love for Teach for America. Because the environment that I was introduced to, and the way that the lab functions is one where like, like, like I say, like love or care is very much so a strategy of the lab listening to people giving them credit for the work that they do. Making sure that people are seen and heard. And some of that feels very slow. Sometimes it's it's not like the tech world where like your speed is more important than all of that. It's a different community than alpha is very different. And that's why I joined because out of a love for the organization. We're going to ask the hard questions and and save the tough things. And basically the way that we work and here's what we do, we we have a community we have a network of more than 2000 education organizations, and social entrepreneurs. These are all people who are working to make the future of learning happen. It might be edtech There might be a school like the one I mentioned earlier, the live school. There's a school Amazing, amazing, amazing founders. There's one that I can think of called be 360. Brittany young is amazing founder, who's in Baltimore, who's building a STEM program where she teaches stem through dirt bikes. Like in Baltimore, that means a lot more than it does to people in tech in Baltimore, it's illegal to have a dirt bike on the street. And so many black like young black teenagers are in the dirt bike culture, and police are basically arresting them and brutalizing them in the harsh ways. For something that really like doesn't make a lot of sense at all. It's it's like the the old like, joke that people make, like, there's still a law in Texas, that you can't like eat fish in a bathtub on Wednesday. Like, it feels like that, like one of those ridiculous laws. Well, she's combating this by saying like, you know, we're teaching them stem through these dirt bikes. And so our goal is basically basically to say, okay, Brittany, we want to make sure that you can do this for as long as possible. So without centering the lab without, without putting our name on it, we want to help fund you, we want to put you in front of people, we want to use the institutional weight of Teach for America. Show I've been I couldn't get to most people that I couldn't, I could have never dreamed of getting to before, because I have a Teach for America email address. And we want to be able to use that institutional power and positioning to make Brittany famous, and to make the life school famous. And to like, like, to help these innovators continue to innovate, so that we can realize a radically different future of learning. Um, one of the projects that we just did that I'm really proud of is I'm a sneaker head, I'm obsessed with sneakers. And I'm obsessed with sneaker brands that tell stories. There's a sneaker brand called 99 products that the founder is the guy who created the easy project. So he created the most hype sneaker ever for Kanye West and still maintains value on the resale market, he worked for everlane and for Koryo and Nike and kohan hit this guy is a a true innovator in the sneaker world. Well, I, I tweeted at him one day, and was like, let's talk about what's possible. And he said, Alright, let's do it. So we created a competition and a design sprint, where we invited organizations from our network, in order to get the word out about their, their organization, they designed a sneaker that embodied the future of learning, we had a contest, and somebody has won, we're not telling anyone who's won. But somebody has won, and we're going to drop the sneakers, we're going to actually produce the sneakers, and tell the story about the future of learning. And that's just an example of like how we're trying to put these organizations on out in front so people can see what they're doing. And also do things that nobody's ever thought of that we think are cool, and energizing for us as well. That's amazing.

Jeff Ma
Thank you. I love it. I love it. Well, I mean, we're running short on time I got more but my Is there anything you want to share plug or you know, get out there before we go?

Mike Yates
No? Well, I mean, yes, I guess Yes. But the thing I'll say is I have a partnership in mind for for a product that you guys are building that I would like to share with our network and I want to work with you guys. So we'll figure that we'll talk about that later. Um, alright. Yeah. I do have a podcast. It's called schoolish. And it is. I want to have conversations that nobody's having about education similar to these. And this has made me think that I should actually have an episode that breaks down this this dilemma in the art world of education. There's a debate between art teachers and teaching artists. And we should talk about why it's so hard and why it shouldn't be. But yeah, I mean, on that podcast, I have conversations like about really uncomfortable things like how black students are steered away from HBCUs, because they're seen as not prestigious enough, when in actuality, they may be the best place for that student. Or, you know, college is not the only path to success, all of these things. And then the last thing that I'll plug is our, our sneakers are dropping in October. And so you can go to 99 products.com or sneaker stock reinvention lab comm to learn more.

Jeff Ma
Very close. That's awesome. And of course, at love as a business strategy here. We're posting new episodes every Tuesday. And if you enjoyed this, we have other topics you want to talk about. You want to give feedback, we'd love it. Softway.com/LAABS. We did write a book. It did come out in April. So that is out available on Amazon and booksellers everywhere. It's called love as a business strategy. So I'll plug that as well. Frank's holding one up. But yeah, if you liked it Like the book please check us out. You can also visit love as a business strategy comm to check out all that, and we appreciate your support, appreciate you sharing this. And Mike, especially appreciate you joining us today. We had an amazing conversation. Hopefully we can have follow ups and collaboration from here is awesome. Thank you so much.

Mike Yates
Thank you for having you guys. A great host.

Frank Danna
It's always good to get ups. So much fun.

Jeff Ma
All right. And Frank school catch you on the next step so probably right. I hope so. host your co host officially. Alright, signing off. You guys next week. Bye.

More Episodes