I’m Guy Kawasaki, and this is Remarkable People. We’re on a mission to make you remarkable.

Today, we released a new episode of the Remarkable People podcast featuring Oregon high-school educator Kelly Gibson.

I learned about Kelly through a Wired article titled “Chat GPT is Approaching Classrooms. Avoid Panic.” I am intrigued by the impact of ChatGPT on education, and I have great respect for teachers, so contacting Kelly was a no-brainer.


Kelly provides unique insights into the realities of being a public school teacher in this illuminating discussion. She discusses the pressures educators face today, the significance of equipping students with critical thinking skills, and her strategies for dealing with nonsense.

This engaging conversation illuminates Kelly’s passion for education and her students and offers a new perspective on the current state of education.

Are you prepared to enter the world of public school education? Listen now!

Please enjoy this remarkable episode with Kelly Gibson: The Real World of a Public School Teacher!

If you enjoyed this episode of the Remarkable People podcast, please leave a rating, write a review, and subscribe. Thank you!

Transcript of Guy Kawasaki’s Remarkable People podcast with Kelly Gibson: The Real World of a Public School Teacher:

Guy Kawasaki: I'm Guy Kawasaki, and this is Remarkable People. We're on a mission to make you remarkable. Helping me in this episode is the remarkable Kelly Gibson. I discovered Kelly in a Wired article titled, "ChatGPT is Coming for Classrooms. Don't Panic." I am intrigued by the impact of ChatGPT on education, and I truly admire teachers. So, reaching out to Kelly was a given. Kelly has a BA in English Literature from Cal State University Long Beach. Her teaching credentials in secondary English Language Arts are from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and she has an MA in Theater Production and Design from Southern Oregon University. For nearly nineteen years, she's taught English at Rogue River Junior/Senior High School in Oregon. This includes a dual enrollment class for honors seniors through Southern Oregon University.
When we were doing background research on Kelly, we asked her if she had won any teaching awards. Her response was, and I quote, "I have been nominated for some pretty prestigious awards over the years, including the Oregon Teacher of the Year and the Disney Outstanding Teacher Award - but teaching awards are very strange. They insist that teachers spend a lot of time working on applying for the award, as well as time away from their classroom to receive it. In some instances, they insist you take a year sabbatical in order to win. Every time I have been graced with these opportunities, I chose my class and time with students over this." This alone makes Kelly remarkable.
In the 200 episodes of Remarkable People, we've had more well-known people than Kelly, but no one, no one is more remarkable than Kelly Gibson. I'm Guy Kawasaki, this is Remarkable People. Pay attention, class, to Kelly Gibson.
Just for the record, I want you to know that if people have to put people on a pedestal, in my humble opinion, they should put teachers because teachers are the true heroes in society. I know you don't do it for the money, and you just told me you don't do it for the promotion, so why do you do it?
Kelly Gibson: I think most of us who are in education really feel like, when we get up in the morning and we go to school, it matters, even if it only matters to one kid, and they manage to get through a day because they know that we are there for them. I didn't start teaching until I was thirty, and I never felt anything like the purpose that I feel as a teacher when I was in the private sector. The genuine importance that our job has is evident to the teachers, to us, on a daily basis. We know what we do is really important, and I think that has its own self-fulfilling part to it, if you will.
Guy Kawasaki: So, can you just tell me what it's like to be on the front lines of education in a rural, small town? You said in a very red area. So, what is it like?
Kelly Gibson: I am very fortunate in that I have taught in my community for almost twenty years now, and I understand the community and I came in very open-minded in terms of knowing that I was the outsider coming into this. Our community has families that have lived here for generations, and the town itself is only about 2,400 people to 2,500 people. The community has another about 8,000, but it means everyone knows everyone. So, I think that I was able to embrace what was going on in my school because even though it was such a specific... especially coming from a place like Boulder, Colorado, which is where I did come from, it very much felt like the people here were very warm and very welcoming. I was in the newspaper twice before I ever even got here, so that was weird.
Once I got here, people wanted me to be part of their community, but they really wanted me to learn about them before I started telling them what I thought they needed to do. I think I was fortunate in that I took them up on that, so I did get to know them really well. As an educator, especially in the political climate today, I think it's problematic because what we hear constantly in the news right now are straight lies. People are saying we're doing things and saying things and promoting things, and no educator I know is doing any of that. So, what's nice for us is that we are living in the reality of our classrooms where the kids know what we're really doing and saying, and our communities know what's really going on, and I think it's the rare cases, at this point, where any of the things that are being said about educators are true whatsoever, and most of the time, the educators are being supported by the people that they are around.
Guy Kawasaki: Wait, so are you saying that... When you say we, you mean teachers, right?
Kelly Gibson: Yes, yes.
Guy Kawasaki: So who are the people who have it so wrong? Because you said, "we are the teachers," your students know what you're really doing, their parents know what you're really doing, so who's clueless in this equation?
Kelly Gibson: It feels to me like, honestly, I'm not even sure they're clueless. It feels to me very often like politicians use us as either a scapegoat or a red herring of some sort in order to rile up their base in order to get there to be a bad guy. At the beginning of the pandemic, teachers were hailed as heroes throughout the country. We jumped through a thousand hoops all of a sudden, learned to teach kids online, and ten minutes after that Go Teachers thing happened, suddenly there needed to be a bad guy in all of it, and teachers got the blame. They got the fingers pointed at them. The majority of time, it's not always, but the majority of time we get the blame, it's coming from conservatives, however.
Guy Kawasaki: These are conservative politicians, but don't you have conservative parents? They're not the problem?
Kelly Gibson: Absolutely. We have that, but I'm a bit sheltered because I'm in such a small community I would say, that I know personally, and have taught the children of everybody on our school board. So they would be hard pressed to say anything that is politically aligned with an ideology that isn't true in my classroom. I think teachers who are living in larger districts, it's much easier for the political landscape to play out on school board discussions because they don't necessarily know those teachers personally. Those teachers haven't poured extra time and love into the kids that belong to the people on the school board.
Guy Kawasaki: So, if tomorrow you showed a picture of Michelangelo's David, you wouldn't be fired?
Kelly Gibson: Oh, no, no. I might have a parent or two that would complain, and I would probably need to have a discussion with those parents, but, again, as a teacher who knows her community pretty well and has been here for so long, knowing that I might have a couple of those parents, I probably would send something home ahead of time and say, "This is what we're covering, and please get ahold of me if you have any problems with that, I'd be happy to discuss it with you." But, young teachers shouldn't have to always know how to do that ahead of time. I've got the experience and my knowledge of the community behind me well enough at this point that I'm lucky in that way, and experienced. I don't think young teachers should ever be attacked for not knowing how to do those steps.
Guy Kawasaki: So, could you also talk about the history of slavery in America, and menstruation, and LGBTQ rights, and you wouldn't have a problem?
Kelly Gibson: Absolutely. The first part of that, we could absolutely talk about the history of slavery. As long as we are doing what we're supposed to do, and not doing what they say we're doing, which is pushing some sort of an agenda to make white children feel like they are somehow bad or whatnot, but simply teaching the truth; those conversations are pretty easy to mitigate and sit down with parents and simply explain what's going on. In terms of the LGBTQIA community, we are slowly progressing forward as a community, and those conversations are very delicate in the area I'm living in right now. Because we're so small and we are very much a family, we try to do a lot of respectfulness toward each other.
I have seen very conservative families try to be very careful about the language they are using because they know there are children who are best friends with their kids, who belong to that group of people, and so even if they have a problem with it, they're very careful with the language. As an education system, certainly the school board has done some work looking at things like our health curriculum and what people are allowed and not allowed to talk about, as I'm sure is true throughout the country right now. Unless you are in an extremely progressive area, most school boards have done a whole lot of work trying to make sure that they are not going to be somehow liable for education in gender and identity, that they don't feel like is something that's part of the standard curriculum.
So, for the most part, teachers are out here trying to follow the rules, trying to bring love and kindness to the students that they have, trying to make sure and I think one of the number one things with that particular issue, is that people need to understand that to us, our students, no matter who they are, no matter what their political ideologies are, no matter their religious beliefs, their gender ideas, any of it, doesn't matter. They are our kids, and our job is to make them feel safe in our classrooms so that we can teach them, which means that we have to treat every single one of them in a way that makes them feel cared for and safe and respected, and different families might not like that treatment, but that treatment's going to those individual kids. So, we might be very careful about pronouns, for instance, with a student, but that's going to allow that student to actually receive the information we're trying to give them in our class.
Guy Kawasaki: Kelly, I have to say that you could knock me over with a feather right now, because until five minutes ago, I had this impression based on CNN coverage of Texas and Florida, that if you showed a picture of Michelangelo's David, or discuss menstruation or LGBTQ or slavery, you would be fired in any school in America, and clearly that's not true.
Kelly Gibson: Those particular states have governors who are very specifically trying to make it so that teachers will be fired. From most of the colleagues that I've talked to, from most of the reading I've done, I believe both of those states are very intent on dismantling public education, and the way to dismantle public education is to make not only teachers the bad guys, but to get them out of the system. Because if all the teachers are gone, you get to start all your private schools and all the government money can go to those. Most of the country is not that far to one side. Most of the country, I believe, is really trying to work, especially in small communities, really trying to work with all facets of what's going on, rather than some sort of dictatorial piece that's being handed down from a governor to try and make a stance about something and create a political platform so that they could be elected in the future based on their rhetoric.
Guy Kawasaki: You can knock me over with a feather again. So, now as a teacher, let's say that those governors are successful. What's the long-term effect on society or the Texas society or the Florida Society, if they are successful like that?
Kelly Gibson: I think to answer that, you have to look at what public schools are trying to do, and I'd start by saying public schools are very broken right now, they have been for many years, so I want to acknowledge that from the outset. But, I'd also say that we don't have anything that even comes close to what public education is at its ideal best, and in terms of the idea of bringing young people who can all come to a school, it doesn't matter if their parents are wealthy or poor or whatnot, but they can all come to a school and get a similar education as each other - that can open up possibilities in their lives that allows us to at least try to give kids a little bit more of an even playing field. Obviously there's lots of factors that can change that, but public education's really trying to just let kids be who they are and go as far as they want to go in this lifetime.
If you start dismantling that as a concept, if we get rid of government funded public schools as the norm for our society, and we move to all sorts of different other possibilities, including certainly funding with our taxpayer dollars, the idea of anything that looks like a private school that has religious ideologies or political ideologies that go along with it, that instead of our general populace receiving a hopefully fair education, a somewhat even education as other people around them, then what we're going to look at is a populace that is actually being groomed to become whatever that school's ideology is selling. We are not going to get balanced kids. They will not feel like they understand the world in a way, potentially, where they have choices.
You don't emerge from a private school that has only taught conservative religious ideology to say, "I wonder what it's like to think other than that." That they don't teach that kind of critical thinking, and understandably, which is why parents normally have to pay money to get their students through an institution like that. But, that's not who we are as Americans. We are people who want everyone to have an even, fair chance, or at least that's what we say we are.
Guy Kawasaki: Wow. Can I ask you something? So, if you are a person who wants to be a teacher, right now, let's say, you thirty years ago, would you even consider going to work in Texas or Florida?
Kelly Gibson: Absolutely not. Which is so hard for me to even consider because for me, the kids that are going to miss out, the kids that are going to be left behind, are going to be the victims of what's happening. It's students who come from impoverished families, students who come from areas that will denote that they are not allowed into certain private schools as they move more toward that ideology, those kids are going to be left behind, and that's not what we're supposed to do. Yet in the same breath, being a professional educator is such a huge mental strain. If you listen to any educators on social media or in interviews, it's one of the number one things you hear right now. Our emotional and just general mental health has taken such a hit in the last few years, that I would be hard pressed to then put myself into that level of afire. So, I don't know that I would, even though those kids deserve that, those kids absolutely deserve to have passionate, public educators fighting for them.
Guy Kawasaki: What has caused the profession to take such a hit? Is it basically politicians?
Kelly Gibson: I wish it was only. That would be great if that was all it was, because that would be one thing we could focus on. Unfortunately, it goes back to everything from the way education is funded, and because it's tax dollars that are funded, it's one of the reasons somebody with a... I have ten years of college education; I have a bachelor's degree, a teaching credential, a master's degree, and I still am making far less than my husband who is a nurse, who has a two-year degree. He's got a certification as a nurse, and I've been doing my job much longer than him, and not that I'm saying nurses are even paid enough, but because we are tax funded and we are not part of the capitalistic system, it means that our funding gets cut in a heartbeat and teachers are just ridiculously underpaid, given the amount of education we're supposed to have and the amount of, if you will, overtime that we're supposed to pull.
That being said, that's one other facet. So, it's the politicians, it's the pay, it's the fact that we continue to lose resources at the school. Schools right now desperately need mental health professionals. Every teacher's union I have seen across the country is begging for mental health professionals, but schools are being underfunded so they can't bring those people in, and in places where they have brought in mental health professionals, there might be one psychologist for a thousand students, which is barely helpful. Yay, there's someone there, which means that as teachers, we are the ones that end up being the mental health professionals, which is taking away from our teaching, and also wearing on our mental health because none of us have gone to school to be those professionals. We just are punting all the time. We don't know how to help these kids. We're just doing our best out here. So, I'd say that plus the pandemic, those would be the big four right now, I think is really what is hurting us so much.
Guy Kawasaki: I have to say that what I fundamentally don't understand is that people and talent is fundamentally the most important resource, and it is the most under-resourced area. I don't get it. Can't we have one less aircraft carrier? Or can we subsidize coal a little less? Or something? Give teachers more money. I do not understand that at all, but we don't... Yeah, you probably don't understand that either.
Kelly Gibson: Again, I would say that I do fully acknowledge that the education system is problematic right now. We are behind where we should be. But I think so much of that has to do with the underfunding, but then it becomes this progressive cycle. People say, "We're putting a ton of money into education already and we're not getting the results." And educators are saying, "Yes, but you didn't put enough money in ten years ago, which is why you're not getting the results today."
Guy Kawasaki: Enough about curriculum and teaching. I have one more subject, which is how have these mass shootings affected your psyche and your day-to-day teaching?
Kelly Gibson: I have some background with this. I taught in Colorado when Columbine happened, and our school was close enough that we went into a full lockdown. One of the young women who died at Columbine was a theater student who my kids... I was a theater teacher in Colorado, and my students had just met her the month before at a Thespian Conference. So, it wasn't our tragedy, but it hit home very closely, and so every subsequent school shooting since then has just added on to the recognition that what we do is basically, to some extent, being on a front line. Obviously it's not as dangerous as what our military people do, however, if you look at the propensity of shootings and what's happening, it is something that we are all very aware of.
My students are taught at an early age in elementary school how to go into lockdown. About five or six years ago, we started practicing what it was to not just hide, but if an intruder comes in, what it is to pick up something heavy and start throwing it at a person with a rifle or with a semi-automatic of some sort. To be the people in classes working with kids that we know and truly care about, and watching them have to practice that, is beyond disheartening. I think that what balances it for us, as awful as that situation is, those of us that have stayed in, I think we truly to some extent believe that what we are creating is the next generation of kids who are hopefully a little bit better balanced and well informed, and the more we believe and love into our students, hopefully they know that they have a place that they can feel safe and that the school is not their enemy. I think we fail frequently in that endeavor, but that that remains the thing we're trying to do.
Guy Kawasaki: What's your reaction when you hear Ivy League educated senators say, "We ought to train our teachers to use guns and arm them so that in the event of a mass shooting, Kelly Gibson is going to whip out her glock and take the guy down because the only way to stop a bad person with a gun is a good person with a gun?"
Kelly Gibson: So, my first question would be how much profanity am I allowed to use in your podcast, sir?
Guy Kawasaki: Unlimited. Go for it.
Kelly Gibson: But my second response is hell no. I will never carry. I have shot guns before, I know how to do that. I live in a community where I respect the people who live here that do own guns because I live in a community of people who actually still hunt, and hunt to get meat for their families. I am living that life. Simultaneously, I want to make those senators, the Ivy League senators you're talking about, come go through these drills with my students. Come see what it's like when we have to go into a lockdown because we have some sort of external threat that they think is going on. It is absolutely inconceivable for me to imagine what my life would be like, walking around either wearing a gun or even having one locked down under my desk.
First of all, I'm a klutz, I fall down easily. That's part of why God made me short or the universe made me short. Whatever. I am not good at being agile in any situation. So the ability for me to see an intruder, get that gun available, and then be willing, potentially, to aim it at a student, because so often these people coming into schools are students, I wouldn't be able to shoot the gun, nonetheless. Mind you, I would be more than happy, if need be, if I'm going to be able to protect my kids, I would be the idiot that would run and stumble at the gunman and probably fall into them, and be willing to do that. But, to shoot somebody who has been my student, I don't think that's in me, and I don't think any amount of training could put that into me.
Plus, if you have more guns in a school, my students are extremely smart people. They are way smarter than we were when we were younger. They understand things, they understand how to do things, and if they don't know it, they know how to look it up and find information. So, if I had a student who really wanted to get ahold of my gun, be it on me, locked down, thumb printed, all the different things they've come up with, trust me when I tell you, my students would be able to figure out how to get that gun off of me, and then we have yet another gun in the classroom with someone that shouldn't have a gun. This is not something to laugh at.
Guy Kawasaki: Kelly, you know...
Kelly Gibson: But, yes.
Guy Kawasaki: You need to come out of your shell. I wish you would stop holding yourself back on my podcast.
Kelly Gibson: I'm sorry. When you've been an educator for the last twenty-five years, needless to say, I truly love my kids and I understand so many people's opinions on these things, but what I know, is that I'm the one that's lived the experience of twenty-five years in that classroom, and all of these people who think they know what's going to make it better, generally speaking, everybody who puts those voices out there, have not been in classrooms for twenty-five years with kids. So they're usually just wrong.
Guy Kawasaki: Yeah, you should run for office but I think you're overqualified. But anyway, I digress. So, now that we got all my ignorant questions about teaching and education out of the way, let's go to the topic that initially brought your existence onto my radar, which is ChatGPT in education. So I read about you in Wired, and I said, "Huh, this person understands the application of AI," at least as I interpret it. And so, that was a few months ago. So, can you just tell us, what's the current status? Has the dust settled on using ChatGPT in education?
Kelly Gibson: No, and I hope it doesn't settle, quite honestly. I think that as long as the AI continues to improve, with ChatGPT-4 that just recently was released, especially with writing in particular, it is writing now much better than ChatGPT-3 did. It still has huge amounts of problems though, and I love the idea because I love what I do, I love reading books and having discussions and making arguments about ideas, and teaching kids how to put together their opinion and then put evidence toward that opinion and then form an argument around that evidence - I love the idea that if we look at the AI assistance that we now have, that we can do more of it because we're getting past continual repetition of just what it is to write a five paragraph thesis based essay.
Once we teach a kid how to do that from the onset, just like when you initially teach students how to do addition, once they understand the basics of it, why would they have to do it over and over again? Why can we not move to substituting the AI into the writing process just like we use calculators to bring in long edition problems or long division? So that mathematicians can get to higher level thinking orders and really go after the high level things. I want to see AI be used the same way, and until AI settles down and it's not constantly growing and changing, I don't know how we can as educators.
It's a moving point that we are going to be having to change our lesson plans for on a regular basis, but it's so exciting and the kids are there for it. They're more excited about learning how to use the AI than they are about reading the books or doing the essays, and unlike what you're hearing in media so much, at least in my experience, they're not really excited about learning it so that they can cheat, but they want to master it and they feel good about themselves when they realize they can write better and do better than the AI, and they can just use it to get past the easy stuff.
Guy Kawasaki: Let me just be a devil's advocate for a second. It is not a position I agree with, I'll say that before I even say it. But, let's say I say, "Okay, so Kelly, you assigned your students to write a five paragraph essay about the harmful effects of slavery." First of all, you're not in Florida or Texas, so you can assign that, but I digress. So, you assign that, so Trixie or Biff goes to ChatGPT and types in a question, "What are the harmful effects of slavery?" Ten seconds later, ChatGPT has given you an introduction, four bullet points and a conclusion. Now, I'm freaking out, "Oh my God, Trixie and Biff didn't have to think, they didn't have to do anything, they didn't have to do any research, they just went to ChatGPT and magically they have the answer. How are they going to learn things?" To which you say what, Kelly Gibson?
Kelly Gibson: I say, unfortunately, for the many, many millionth time for teachers, we're going to have to adapt. We cannot give summative lessons or summative assignments where the goal is simply for students to repeat back bullet points that an AI can find online anyway. Why would we ask the students to compile just that to begin with? Instead, we're going to have them use the AI as the assistance to compile that list, and then we are going to ask them questions that show comparison between those points or analysis of those points, or how do we bring in... and how do we explain the evidence and how that works toward an idea. We might have them individually take a point each and fight against each other about which is the best point that the AI has come up with, and that's that higher level thinking.
Instead of spending three days with a student online trying to research basic facts that anyone could look up in a heartbeat anyway, why would we give them that type of assignment? We need to stop assigning students just rote memorization or just rote looking things up. Kids need to be taught how to look things up and how to verify sources and whatnot, but once they've learned that, whatever ChatGPT can give us is just meaning that we can spend more time in higher level thinking modes than we have to in simply finding a base answer.
Guy Kawasaki: So, in a sense, is ChatGPT any worse of a threat that Wikipedia was a decade ago?
Kelly Gibson: No. In fact, I'd say it's fairly similar. It has many of the same incorrect things in it as Wikipedia did. If we think about that, for many years, if we go back to the beginning of my teaching tenure, we told kids they weren't allowed to use the internet at all. Nothing on the internet if they were going to do research. Because there were too many things that were incorrect out there. Then it became, "You can use the internet, but you only have to use verified sources. You can't use something like Wikipedia." Even now, Wikipedia is in a place where there is a lot of really good information on it, and many teachers are allowing the use of Wikipedia in certain instances. It's evolving, it's becoming better, our kids are able to get to so much more information in such a quick way.
I think AI is just another piece of that puzzle, and the more informed we are and the longer I can spend with students in higher level thinking modes, because they're not just... For instance, here's a really good example. Because I'm a literature teacher, one of the things I ask my students to do all the time is write essays where they come up with a thesis statement and then they have to use quotes to prove the point. We spend days in class searching for quotes, searching for exactly the right quote, that they want to use to prove a point.
If AI can be developed to the point where they can create those quotes and find them, locate a list of quotes for my students, then my students are limiting what used to be a three or four day adventure into a twenty minute adventure. Find those quotes, decide which ones they want to use, and then start formulating their arguments, because at least as of right now, and I'm not technologically savvy enough to know how far this can go, the ChatGPT cannot create argumentation where it links evidence to a thesis. It simply says the evidence proves the thesis, it doesn't say how it proves it.
Guy Kawasaki: Well, in that sense, neither can the US Senate, but I digress.
Kelly Gibson: We've come full circle, my friend.
Guy Kawasaki: That's right. I used to be on the board of trustees of Wikipedia, and I know how the sausage is made. And if you ask me, Wikipedia is... I think it has the highest journalistic standards, and people think, to this day, that anybody can edit anything on Wikipedia, and it is absolutely not true. Then I've had discussions in the past with my kids' teachers where they told my kids, "You can't cite Wikipedia. It's not a reliable journalistic source." And so I once asked the teacher, "So, you're telling me that my kid cannot reference Wikipedia, but Breitbart and Fox is okay? Is that what you're trying to say?" Let's just say that discussion didn't go well.
So, I will also tell you, I'm writing a book called Remarkable Mindset, and I use ChatGPT literally every day. I use it not to generate text, but I use it as a research assistant, and for that, it is utterly fantastic as a research assistant. Now, I also have MadisunGPT who checks ChatGPT because I don't trust everything, but I can honestly tell you, I do things like, let's say that I want to espouse a theory that it is perfectly reasonable to expect to completely change your career midstream and be successful. Okay? So, I think that is part of a growth mindset and the remarkable mindset. So I ask ChatGPT, "Give me examples of people who change completely mid-career." And it comes up with a list. Of that list, I had not heard of any of these cases.
So I'll give you a real good example. So, I asked ChatGPT that question and it says, "Julia Child started off working for the CIA basically as a spook, and in her mid-thirties she married somebody else at the CIA and they lived in France, and that's how she came into French cuisine, and that's how Julia Child became the Art of French Cooking." I didn't know that. How would I have found that out, what? In Encyclopedia Britannica.
Kelly Gibson: Did you look it up though to make sure it was true?
Guy Kawasaki: I don't know how I would've done that without ChatGPT.
Kelly Gibson: The thing I keep finding though, and the reason I am actually enjoying it right now with my students is because sometimes it will say things like that and actually be wrong. You actually have to backtrack. So what a great assignment for students in school. Instead of writing ten essays in a year, they write a few essays and then they spend time researching what ChatGPT is outputting. Can you verify this? Can you find a real source to back this up? What a particular life skill that we don't teach enough of.
Guy Kawasaki: That's why I have MadisunGPT because when I read that about Julia Child, I said, "Madisun, this sounds too good to be true. You got to go check this out, because I don't want to write that she worked for the CIA, and really she was cooking French food her whole life." I think it's indispensable to tell you the truth. Now, do you think that ten years from now we're going to look back and say, "Remember those days when we doubted ChatGPT could help educators? What dumbasses we were."
Kelly Gibson: Honestly, I'm hearing it already, in my own building. The first thing I was hearing from many of my fellow educators, including some of my millennials who I thought would be much quicker to adapt to it, there was an initial pushback of, "We've got to ban this in. Don't let the kids touch this. It's going to ruin our work." Now, I'm seeing them start learning, "Oh wait, no, we have to learn and change a bit, but it's actually going to be really good for the kids because it's going to push us forward." We have had those discussions of what would it have felt like had the internet not been introduced slowly like it was, not slowly rolled out and developed and grew, but had the internet as we know it, I don't know, in the last five years we'll say, been introduced kind of "one random day in December," and "hey, it wasn't here before, and now it's here, and you all have access to it."
How much teachers would have panicked at that moment, and how fast they would've had to pivot and change? I think that is what's happening with this new AI information is that, it's so important and it's going to be something we have to deal with because it's already been born, it's not going away. So, people who are in denial about this thing and saying, "We can't use it and students shouldn't have access to it," I understand the concern but I don't understand any kind of historical reference where we look at something that can help us, is a very obvious tool, where everybody said, "We don't like that, let's get rid of it, and just get rid of it right away." So, I think people have to work with it. And 10 years from now, I think we're going to have figured out how to do that.
Guy Kawasaki: I'll make a bold prediction for you, Kelly, that pretty soon, Texas and Florida are going to ban ChatGPT.
Kelly Gibson: Absolutely.
Guy Kawasaki: Right?
Kelly Gibson: Yeah, yeah. Because they tend to be reactionary to things they fear. I think that's what we see in both those areas, and this is fearful.
Guy Kawasaki: Let's just say if Ron DeSantis finds Disneyland threatening, oh my God, wait until he figures out ChatGPT.
Kelly Gibson: I feel like I could almost guarantee that he hasn't been on it. I don't know the man, but I truly feel that we would've heard about it had he already tried it out.
Guy Kawasaki: So, in a serious moment here, can you just give us the gist? So let's say a parent is listening to this and wants to ask you this question, which is, walk us through how a student can most effectively use ChatGPT to write a term paper.
Kelly Gibson: So, the first thing I would say is hopefully the teacher has taken into account the fact that students have access to this, and therefore they have built in specific steps, they have changed what a term paper looks like to reflect the Chat's ability to help a student, so that whatever the student produces, they have to at least be in a place where they are interacting with the product that the AI is producing, and having to organize it and understand what's being done. If as long as that teacher has done that, then I would say that what I'm seeing most effective at this early stage in our use of it in schools is that, first of all, it is a great tool for coming up with ideas.
We had a student who was about to write their term paper or their research paper just last quarter, and they had this really great quote that they wanted to use. That was what was inspiring them was they found this quote and it was a philosophical quote, and they really liked this philosophical quote. They couldn't figure out a topic for their research paper based on the philosophical quote. So, that student's teacher put the quote into ChatGPT and asked it, "What would be some good term papers, good research papers based on this quote?" And it generated a list of ten fabulous ideas. It helps us get past that moment that we usually have in our heads where two months down the line we might say, "Oh, now I know what I should have done that about." It gives it to you at the onset, so we're going to have better ideas, we're going to have more options for what we potentially are writing about and researching.
Then I would say the next step with it, once a student's able to choose what they want to do, is they can use ChatGPT in order to get some ideas about what the internal paragraphs might be about, and what they're going to then need to go do more research on. I think that's such a hard thing for so many of us is, if we're researching something and it's new to us, we don't know what it is we're supposed to go research. So students are left with this just giant amalgam of information, and they don't know what the different pieces are necessarily, and Chat can break that down for them. So I would say those are the first two steps.
Then next step, once a student's actually into writing the paper, they can, like you do, vet information, potentially, through something like this, or if they hit a writing wall, so many of us do this, we get to a point in our writing and we just don't know what the next word's going to be, or what the next sentence is going to be. You can put that through a ChatGPT, and it can help push you to the next place so that our students are not hitting their heads against a wall going, "I just don't know what to write next."
I think there's a lot of hope and a lot of use, and I'm really excited to see how any of our special education teachers - they are already jumping on this and learning to use ChatGPT as an assistant for a learning needs student. So I think that is going to be a giant tool for helping students come up in the level, to be able to be on a peer level. Say, they're dyslexic, for instance, that's an easy obvious one. Sometimes our kids are so dyslexic that a spell check cannot figure out what they're trying to say. So, if they put a paragraph that they've been working on into ChatGPT and ask it to rewrite it, then they are going to get correct word choice.
Something that easy to bring those kids who, through no fault of their own, are dyslexic and need that kind of help, that's an easy tool for them with no shame attached. They don't have to bring it to the teacher and say, "I know I didn't spell it, what should I do?" They've got a tool to instantly assist them. I'm a fan girl at this point, if that's not clear already.
Guy Kawasaki: Really? Really?
Kelly Gibson: I know. Weird, huh?
Guy Kawasaki: Wow, well it's hard for me to pick that up. No, what if somebody says, "Okay, so this dyslectic student, who has to learn how to write, has written this thing, sticks it in ChatGPT, ChatGPT fixes it up. Isn't that cheating?"
Kelly Gibson: I would say absolutely not because usually what a student like that will have in one of their IEPs, which is an Individual Education Plan, is the ability to use some sort of technology to help them with their spelling, or to not have their spelling count against them. That's already inherent in adaptations and whatnot that we're using for those students, so now, they can actually create a product that is equal to their peers without having to have an exception made for them.
Guy Kawasaki: So when I first encountered you in Wired magazine, I don't know how, but somehow I got to your TikTok account.
Kelly Gibson: I'm sorry ahead of time.
Guy Kawasaki: No. Help me wrap my head around, "high school teacher in rural Oregon is a TikTok star about teaching." Walk me through how that happened and what you do there.
Kelly Gibson: I can tell you how it happened, but making sense of it is still a mystery to me. So I don't know if we will make any sense of this. First of all, I wouldn't say I'm a star. I have a very lovely following of a lot of teachers, but there are people with huge platforms on TikTok and I am not one of them. I do have far more people that seem to be interested in what I have to say than I ever imagined, which is a little bit frightening in and of itself. But, I do come as, like I said, I'm a twenty-five year veteran teacher, I have done a lot of work in being a mentor teacher so that I can help younger teachers out of holes they've dug or not knowing which way to go next, but essentially, what happened was, during the pandemic, a lot of people got on TikTok, and being an old Gen-Xer, I shamed all of them and said, "Get off that dumb thing. Why are you dancing again? Stop it. It's annoying." I would see students do these little weird hand movements and I'd look at them and say, "What are you doing?" And they're like, "Oh, it's the new TikTok dance." So, I didn't even go on the platform for quite some time. About a year and a half into the pandemic, my eldest daughter had been working on her teaching degree and she was becoming a teacher and she had just been hired to be a teacher her first year as an English teacher, and she was prepping all of her materials, getting ready for the start of school, and kept calling me like almost every night saying, "Mom, I've got another question. What do I do about this? How do I handle this?"
One night when she called me, she said, "You know what? That's it. I need to figure out how to share you. Other teachers need to have someone that they can access and get this information from."
And I said, "Sorry honey, you can't give my number out to all those people. That's not going to happen. I enjoy my life. No."
She said, "Have you been on TikTok?" And I said, "God, no. Why would I be on that?" And she said, "I need you to go on there and just put in teacher TikTok and watch some of the videos and tell me I'm wrong, that you need to be a voice on that platform."
And I said, "If people need me, they can find me on Facebook or Instagram or something."
And she said, "No." She said, "That's not where young teachers are going. Young teachers are going to TikTok to find videos that they can watch that will inspire them and help them and guide them along the way." And she said, "You need to be there."
So, of course I said, "Okay, I love you, honey. Bye-bye." And I didn't think about it at all for weeks. So, she started sending me teacher TikTok videos, and that was the beginning of me realizing that there was a time and place, there were a lot of teachers out there that I might be able to help a little bit, and because I believe in public education so much, and I see how much teachers are sincerely hurting right now, and that we have so many teachers leaving in droves for very good reasons from our profession, I thought, "Who knows? Maybe I can help a little."
So, I started making some, and before I knew it, that little turd of a daughter of mine proved herself correct. I was getting direct messages from young teachers saying, "Thank God you're here. I have questions. Can you make a video about this?" Or, "Thank you for being here. You still love teaching, and I didn't know somebody who's been in teaching that long could still love this profession. I needed to know that was possible." So that's where it began, and I guess now we're here, I'm talking to Guy Kawasaki, so your fault.
Guy Kawasaki: But now give us your tips for TikTok.
Kelly Gibson: I think if you look at my page, you'll know that I am completely tipless because I'll have some videos that are viewed by 800 people. I have a video that went up a couple weeks ago that's almost at 900,000 views, something like that.
Guy Kawasaki: What?
Kelly Gibson: Yeah. So, it's hit or miss with me. I do not try to formulate anything for TikTok. I simply speak from the heart. If I have a lesson plan that goes really well that I'm like, "Wow, I should share this." That afternoon, I unregulated get on TikTok and make a video and throw it out there into the universe to see how it goes. Other times, I'm just feeling something really heartfelt, or I've talked to a coworker who's struggling, and I think, "Okay, that advice I just gave that coworker is something maybe other people need to hear." So, I'll put that out there. Some days, I'm just feeling overwhelmed or really excited, and I will put that out there. There is very little rhyme or reason to what I'm doing other than just trying to be the most authentic version of myself. And what I love is, all of my students have found my TikTok now, especially with the article in the magazine, and because of that, what I'm hearing more than anything is students say, "Oh yeah, you're exactly like you are on TikTok. You in the classroom, it's exactly who you are."
Guy Kawasaki: So, there is rhyme and reason.
Kelly Gibson: Yeah, just be yourself.
Guy Kawasaki: Now, aren't you concerned that the government in China is tracking you now and knows what you're doing and all that, and that politicians want to protect your privacy and ban TikTok?
Kelly Gibson: That was a setup question, sir. We know anybody who's spent any time on social media knows that whatever China might be tracking on my TikToks about teaching kids, first of all is not some sort of big secret, and that if they want my private information and what I'm potentially looking at as other TikToks, they could get that from any other social media. I think it's a silly argument. I do appreciate the fact that people are thinking about how we can protect ourselves online because I think that's a valuable argument, but I think it needs to be a much wider scope, and look at all of our social media and all of the interactions that happen there, and I don't think any of it should be locked down, but just have some security shored up on it. So, I guess, long story there to get to, no, I'm not worried about China getting information about my lesson plan on how to use verbs correctly in a sentence.
Guy Kawasaki: Now, that we've got climate change under control and racism and mass shootings, I think now we can address TikTok as an existential threat to American society.
Kelly Gibson: I didn't know we had all those other things fixed. Can I get the podcast where you explain that part?
Guy Kawasaki: That's on the Joe Rogan podcast.
Kelly Gibson: Oh, I'll check that out.
Guy Kawasaki: I have two more questions for you. Question number one is, and I can make a very intelligent guess about your answer, but give me the Kelly Gibson unbridled, be yourself, opinion about standardized testing.
Kelly Gibson: Mother would tell you never to ask for anything unbridled from Kelly Gibson. That would be the first thing you should know. But, I am absolutely horrified by standardized testing. I think it's the worst thing that America has done to ourselves. I understand the need for some sort of accountability. I don't have a problem with being held accountable for what I'm doing in my classroom to make sure that I am not only ethically teaching my students, but that they are actually learning something from me, and to modify what I do based on some sort of a result on a test. But, standardized testing makes absolutely no sense. I have not found a standardized student, and therefore I don't understand how I'm supposed to standardize test this unknown entity.
I also am astounded by how much classroom time is now spent in schools across our country, testing our students. They have test burnout to the nth degree. In our small school that does not have the super high demand stuff, we have upwards of four weeks, almost a full month of class time, that is used to do standardized testing. That's insane. The kids are only in school for nine months out of the year. A ninth of our time is spent doing tests that we are not the ones to develop, that it's being thrown down to us by the states and these organizations. It doesn't work, we know it doesn't work. If you look at education systems and places that are thriving like Finland, that is one of the first things someone in the Finnish education system would say is, "Get rid of those stupid tests." And they have said that.
Guy Kawasaki: So if not standardized testing, then what should society or American society measure?
Kelly Gibson: I think that's why we have standardized testing is I don't know that anyone's come up with a good answer to that, and I think that until we have a good answer to that, we will continue to see the standardized tests, not because we have to have something like that, but because we have, as a society, allowed people to undermine the education system while simultaneously underfunding it to such an extent that there's no trust left in our education. There's no trust left with our teachers. Because I've had students and I've got siblings, and I'm actually next year going to teach my first second generation student, I have trust from previous students and from the community, and I don't think they would ever look up my standardized test scores to make sure I was doing my job right.
But I feel like that was true when I was a young person, people just trusted teachers. They knew they'd gone to school for years, they were in this job for the right reasons, there was a level of trust that we no longer have in our country. So, we've got that dual issue: we don't trust education, we don't trust teachers, in part because of political agendas and the underfunding that has created gaps in our education system that definitely need to be addressed. I'm hoping that somebody's putting some money into what we can do other than standardized tests and some sort of think tank out there, because quite honestly, I am far too busy taking care of all of the hundreds of kids I'm responsible for every day, to be the one to come up with something like that, and my guess is most teachers feel the same way.
Guy Kawasaki: Well, your answer did not shock me at all, but okay. Okay, I lied. I really have two more questions. What was going to be my last question is, what's your opinion of going to college these days? Is it still crucial? Is it still the entry point to the American Dream? Should everybody be trying to go to college or is that passe and old school thinking?
Kelly Gibson: I would say that absolutely not. It is no longer the only entryway. I think that we know from the millennials' experience at this point in college, that so many of them went and they did their due diligence and they got their degrees and they walked out into the world and became baristas, because they didn't have the practice, they didn't have the experience to get into the job that they had just spent four to who knows how many years practicing in a school setting and paying for and actually getting a degree in. Simultaneously, I think some jobs still definitely need that college education, and I think college education's a wonderful thing. I learned what I wanted to be while I was in college. I didn't want to be a teacher when I left high school. So, had there been a system where I could just go into some sort of trade school to become a high school teacher, I wouldn't have done it because I wouldn't have known that's what I wanted to do.
So, I think that there is still a lot of good for college education, but I'm already seeing in a practical way in schools at this point, so many people, so many teachers are echoing the sentiments of our society right now, which is it shouldn't be the default for everyone. It is expensive, it is not always going to produce the results that you're looking for. It can be extremely important and valuable for many institutions, or many job careers, goals, but for so many people, if the goal is simply to go have a good life and do something that is going to produce a reasonable paycheck and allow them to live the lives they want to live, there are a lot of jobs out there, especially as all of the boomers have started retiring and now Gen X is readily approaching their heels, that people can go into without it being a collegiate education experience.
Guy Kawasaki: Yet with your personal example, if you had not gone to college, you would not be where you are. So how does one know in the senior year of high school, college or no college?
Kelly Gibson: I think it takes, to some extent, a real easy question being asked. Are you somebody who enjoys learning? Do you want to go explore thought, or is it time for you to go explore hands-on experience? That's it. Something that simple. Are you somebody who wants to go push yourself and see what it is to move yourself forward scholastically? Is that something you feel successful at, or do you want to go out and start working or start an internship or whatnot and decide whether that's where you want to go?
I also see gap years at this point really being so much more acceptable for young people. I have gone from being a teacher who used to tell my students... Like at the end of the year, I have seniors that I teach, and I used to tell all of my students, "If you are thinking about going to college at all, you will not take your first year off. You go directly into college. It's a horrible idea to take a year off." To now, I say, "If you have any hesitations about doing college, please take a year off. Take that time and really decide if this is what you want to do." I think the playing field has changed, the landscape of all of this has changed, and educators out there are having to pivot and realize what's really in front of them, and we have the experience of watching our kids and what they've gone on to do.
I will also say that of all my students that have gone to college, the ones who it wasn't going to work for, bailed out pretty quickly, and the ones who, even if they didn't know what they wanted to do and stayed with it, have gone on to have successful lives, I think, because of that old adage of "it's something that you have to get through and you learn how to be a successful person by taking those classes and taking those tests and doing that hard work and you learn how to conquer whatever it is you're looking at trying to do." It's like, that's what the training ground has become in college is learning how to be tough mentally.
Guy Kawasaki: Okay, listen, this is a dumb question, but-
Kelly Gibson: I'm a high school teacher-
Guy Kawasaki: ... honestly.
Kelly Gibson: ... I've heard those before.
Guy Kawasaki: Okay. Okay. I'm not bullshitting. You are truly a remarkable person. Okay? Really, Madisun and I, we reject about five to ten people per day who want to be on this podcast, okay? So, trust me when I tell you, we can recognize a remarkable person when we encounter her. I'll lay it out there; if you look back, how did you become remarkable? What did it take? How did we get to this point?
Kelly Gibson: I don't honestly know that I can agree with the assessment that I am remarkable, so I appreciate that very much. I am just a high school teacher in a small town who lives a very happy life and has a really happy family, and I would say that if I have been allowed to excel in what I do and how I think, it has been because I've been embraced by the people around me as a positive force in their lives, and thus been encouraged to continue to be my kind of obnoxious self, and continue to push boundaries and ask questions again and again, "Why are we doing this thing? What are we doing it for? How does it help us?" At the end of the day, my life's purpose has, seemingly from early on, always been, "I want to make the world a little bit better place. I want to make my students' lives work better than they would have had I not been able to be there and put time and energy into them."
So, when something comes along like ChatGPT, I want to see it as the tool that it is. I don't want to be the older teacher that goes, "Oh, I can't handle this. It's new and it's bad." I want to look for the possibilities. I've seen too many good things in this life come from looking for the positives, which, trust me right now, in education, continues to be a daily challenge because things are rough in the land of education right now on so many fronts. But, to move forward and to do our best in this lifetime, I feel like we have to look for what we can do better, and we have to look for what works and what the positives are. I can thank my mom and my daughters, primarily, for pushing me in that direction, and my students, definitely my students. Absolutely, always my students.
Guy Kawasaki: I'm going to ask you this question with the caveat that you absolutely feel free to say no with no hesitation, no harm, no foul, no... I'm writing a book called Remarkable Mindset and it has three sections, which is growth, which is based on the work of Carol Dweck, grit, which is based on, well, Angela Duckworth, but also grit in general, and finally, grace, which is basically how to be a good person because I think those are the three components of remarkable people: grit, growth, and grace. So in my mind, I'm writing for young people who are trying to find their footing in life. In a perfect world, parents, boomers, would read this book and say, "Ugh, I got to give this to my kids because this will really help them, these are things I've been trying to tell them, but they don't listen to me. This is a book that puts it all together. It's like The Elements of Style for Life."
Kelly Gibson: I like that.
Guy Kawasaki: Okay? I'm telling you all this to tell you, and it's only 130 pages because I don't think millennials and college students and high school students want to read War and Peace on how to be successful and remarkable. Okay, I'm giving you this whole preamble. So I would like to know if you will read a draft of this book and tell me what do you think because if there's anybody qualified to know what they need to read, in the 200 guests we've had, it's you.
Kelly Gibson: A, I would be honored to be able to read that. B, I love the message of it. And C, it would have to happen during the summer if that's what... I have almost zero time during the school year so it would have to be a timing thing, and if that lines up with a summertime read for me that I could do that, then I would be absolutely honored to do that.
Guy Kawasaki: Hold your horses. A few days after this interview, I called Kelly because I thought of more stuff to ask her. That's what's next. In our first interview, you said a very interesting thing about how, as a high school teacher, you have had nineteen years of practice detecting bullshit. And I don't know why I didn't ask that in realtime, but how do you detect bullshit?
Kelly Gibson: Oh, goodness. I had been thinking only about the new question that you had sent me. So, my brain is not in that space right now. I feel like, for me, what it comes down to is I trust my instincts more than anything else, but I have to listen to my very first instinct and not let my individual desire for an answer or for what I want to be being said, get in the way of what I actually hear being said. So, if I want somebody to really like a gift I've given them, for instance, but the first sound I hear from them is, "Oh, thanks for this. This is really great." And there's something in the timbre of the way they say it, or my gut check reaction to the way they say it that maybe that is not something they really like, then I have to go with, "No, this is bullshit." They don't necessarily really like it.
I don't know if that's something that I have developed because I've been a teacher for so long. I have just been inundated with humans who are in a space in their life, in their teen years, where they are constantly checking for where the boundaries are, and they're constantly checking for if the adults in their world are really paying attention to them, and so they will lie to adults just to see if anybody's paying attention. I have seen that on numerous occasions just, "Are you really listening to me?" And they will lie openly to your face, not because they need to lie or even want to lie, they just need to know they're actually being listened to, and that's one of the ways they use to check. So, I think after twenty-five years of teaching, I have learned to truly listen to what somebody's telling me, and I think if we are truly, in an open way, listening to what information somebody's giving us, it is usually fairly easy to detect whether or not that's truthful or real or sounds like it has legitimacy to it.
Guy Kawasaki: Yeah, but what if somebody's listening to this and says, "Kelly, I don't have twenty years to perfect this, okay? What do I do tomorrow?"
Kelly Gibson: My best offering would be to take that moment and really look at what's motivating a person at any given point in time. If you are talking to somebody, what is it that they want or need from a situation, and if they want or need something that would potentially be easier for them to get by lying to you or by bullshitting you, then you need to take that into account and recognize that as potentially part of what's going on. But, I think so often, if you simply are being open yourself and being honest in a situation, and you are open to somebody else's truth, and you don't plan to shame them for that truth or punish them necessarily for it, that they will be truthful with you, they will not bullshit you. If however, they have something on the line that they can get by bullshitting you, then you need to put the defense system up and start listening a little bit more carefully.
Guy Kawasaki: Probably starting off by saying, over the course of a school year that, "'My third grandmother has died,' is not going to fly."
Kelly Gibson: Exactly. That was four grandmothers in one year, by the way, that story. A kid lost four grandmothers in one year, which, okay-
Guy Kawasaki: That is possible.
Kelly Gibson: ...believing they have a different memory. It is, which is why I didn't call him out on it until his family was with me, and I simply told him I was so sorry for their loss, at which point in time consequences started for the child because they had not actually lost four grandmothers.
Guy Kawasaki: Okay. Now, you mentioned something very interesting to me, which is, in many circumstances when someone bullshits you, you can walk away, you can refuse to do business, you can tell them off, you can do a lot of things, but in your case, you can't exactly fire a student - you have to deal with this. So, how do you deal with someone who's bullshitting you in a place where you just can't sweep it under the carpet or you can't just walk away from it, you've got to deal with it?
Kelly Gibson: For me, what that looks like is that I will basically call, especially when it's a student, because that's usually the situation I'm in, I will simply tell them what I think the truth is or that I think that the BS is happening, and then I will open it up to a discussion about how we can move forward, or be checking in with them about what has happened that has pushed them into a corner that caused them to do this lying or bullshitting. But the idea for me is that, especially with students who are trying to navigate themselves in a high school situation into an adult world, that they understand that I hear their bullshit, but that I still believe in them, and that I'm not going to discount them or write them off as liars, and that's it, that's the end of my believing in them.
I think that a lot of good can come from very honest discussions with people who truly care about us, especially when we can call them out on their BS, and then still have solid, loving, caring relationships where we move forward. I think it gives them the opportunity to recognize that truth is way more powerful than the bullshit, and when they are able to hold onto that, I think we get a better world out of it.
Guy Kawasaki: Oh, the gospel, according to Kelly. Anyway.
Kelly Gibson: Yeah, I have to know what's beneath that.
Guy Kawasaki: And my last question. This is one scenario where you're dealing with the bullshit of a student, but I have to say, in the last year or so, if there is a population of people that has to deal with bullshit externally, it is teachers, right? Politicians and school boards, and I don't know, a few parents are trying to tell you what to teach, how to teach, which books should be in the library, which books shouldn't be in the library, what part of American history happened or didn't happen, what can damage, what words, what pronouns, what everything, and at least from the outside looking in, I think a teacher today has to deal with so much bullshit. So how do you deal with all that bullshit coming down upon you?
Kelly Gibson: I don't actually get too much. I do see it in the news, I do hear about it in other communities, but I think that, for the most part, anybody who's experiencing kind of a systematic, like we are, level of being attacked, for the most part, focusing on what you have control over. I have control over my classroom, I have control over who I vote for, I have some level of a good relationship with both my admin and our school board, and those are the things I can focus on to protect the world that I live in. I can't go fix the DC politicians' kind of rhetoric and talking points and their need to throw us under the bus in order to get more votes or whatnot, so I'm not going to waste much time with that. But if I am being really honest in my purpose in the classroom, and that purpose aligns with the idea of simply helping my students become better able to handle problems, better able to use critical thinking skills, and I can explain that and be open about that with parents, then most other things can get managed.
I am, like other teachers, we do not have agendas no matter what the politicians are trying to say, other than to help our students who we truly care about, go live successful lives. And I think when we sit in our own truth regarding that, we don't really spend a lot of time worrying about somebody deciding that we are the problem with America. And yeah, I'd say a big part of it is really just focusing on what I do have control over and who is willing to hear my truth, and speaking that to those people so that they know where I'm coming from.
Guy Kawasaki: Okay. Kelly, what happens if Monday morning the Oregon legislatures decides that critical race theory is not to be taught in our high schools anymore and no more pictures of Michelangelo's David? Now, this is coming right into your classroom and library, now what?
Kelly Gibson: First of all, critical race theory isn't being taught. So-
Guy Kawasaki: Okay.
Kelly Gibson: ... that's an easy one. They can't ban what's not happening, so that's an easy one. I think that, again, that's then moving into my building. So my first line would be to start from the people who know me. If I had, say, a book that we read together in class that they wanted to ban at the state level, I would start by going to my admin, and if I was really passionate about wanting to read that book, I would want the admin to sit down with me and explain to me from the perspective of that position, why somebody felt this was threatening and who I could talk to about making that be less threatening. I feel like when we react strongly to somebody else's over the top knee jerk political rhetoric where they're being ostentatious in their ideologies and just being ridiculous, if we react in kind, then we're never going to get anywhere; we're going to prove to them that they were right in being ridiculous because we're acting ridiculous.
So, I think when we're dealing with BS on that level, we just have to sit in our truth and act like the grownups in the room, which I see a lot of educators doing right now. I see so many educators going to school boards and spending the time to really talk them through the difference between what they're being told is a political crisis versus the reality of what's happening in our classrooms. Unfortunately, I think the news tends to only pick up on the most dramatic of those situations rather than the day-to-day calm, logical conversations that are happening.
Guy Kawasaki: Well, this is good news in a sense. What you're saying to me is, "Guy, you're only reading MSNBC and CNN, and they're highlighting the handful of cases that are like this, the principle who got asked to resign because of the Michelangelo sculpture. But, in reality, Guy, that's like one principle out of, I don't know, 250,000 principles in the United States. So don't think it's all like that."
Kelly Gibson: I would say it's not all like that, but I would say that it has a lot more to do with the state that you're living in, and I think that in some of the states in our country right now, that is coming... It is far more... If you live in Florida as a teacher right now, you are afraid to, I would assume, to say much of anything to your students that doesn't fall in line with all the mandates. You're going to lose your job. On the backside of that, when you live in states that are very supportive of education, then you have less of a concern about that. You also have the difference between states that have unions versus non-union states, and that allows us some level of sense of like, "We need to do what's right, and we have backup. As long as we are being ethical in what we are doing, we have somebody who's going to get our back on that." But, non-union states don't have that.
So I think I am extremely privileged to be allowed to work in a state that is much more supportive of education, and I don't have that direct experience with the chaos that I think is very real going on for many teachers in our country.
Guy Kawasaki: Okay. I think I got it.
Kelly Gibson: Oh, good.
Guy Kawasaki: You got any more to add so I don't have to bug you again? I'll give you socks for every interview. How's that?
Kelly Gibson: No. I think, overall, for me, my big picture in terms of BS in general right now is to always go back to really checking in with myself and looking at what my motivation is to do whatever it is I'm doing, be it teaching or parenting or participating in my community or whatever. What is my motivation for that? Do I feel good about my participation in that relationship or in that job? If I feel like I'm strong in that and I am on target with my ethical values, then the BS becomes really easy to manage because if the BS gets so much that they are going to force me to feel non-ethical within a situation in order to align with whatever they're trying to push, then I'm going to need to figure out how to walk away from that relationship, that job, whatever, in order to make sure that I am a healthy person.
For instance, I think if I were somebody in Florida right now, although as awful as it might be to lose my job there, we have a critical shortage of teachers in our country right now, and those people will be able to find jobs in other states. Again, that's coming from a privileged perspective of somebody who could lift up and move somewhere else if need be. But, that's at least the way I deal with it.
Guy Kawasaki: So, how do you like that for seizing the day? When you find someone like Kelly Gibson, you've got to seize the day. My book will be better for her reading it, I guarantee you. Anyway, I think it's pretty obvious that I loved interviewing Kelly. It's so apparent that she's great at what she does, and she loves what she does. She is the very definition of "Ikigai." I hope you all had a Kelly Gibson in your life. I did. His name was Harold Keables at 'Iolani School in Honolulu, Hawaii. He too was an English teacher. Kelly's experience as an educator and her passion for integrating technology into the classroom and her love of students - they are all so inspiring. I hope you agree that teachers like Kelly are heroes, and they deserve our gratitude (and a pay raise). My gratitude to Jeff Sieh, Peg Fitzpatrick, Shannon Hernandez, Luis Magaña, Alexis Nishimura, and of course, Madisun Nuismer. Madisun and I are writing Remarkable Mindset together. Until next time, Mahalo and Aloha.