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Creating 'a community of realness in education': Pair of MMSD educators start teacher-focused podcast

Creating 'a community of realness in education': Pair of MMSD educators start teacher-focused podcast

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Kyla Pilliod and Marisa Patterson, hosts of the podcast “If You Give a Teacher a Mic."

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Marisa Patterson couldn’t find a teacher podcast that was “relatable.”

“I want to listen to teachers talk about the issues that are in education,” Patterson recalled herself thinking. “I want that same feeling I get when I’m listening to a podcast for moms, where I’m like, ‘Yes, that’s how I feel.’

“I just had that realization, ‘Man, I should just do it myself.’”

So she sent a message to friend and Leopold Elementary School colleague Kyla Pilliod on Instagram.

“She asked me and she led up to it in a very dramatic way, because she was very nervous about sharing it,” Pilliod said. “My jaw dropped, then I kind of tilted my head and I realized, ‘Yeah, we could do that.’”

The pair recently released the 12th episode of “If You Give a Teacher a Mic,” in which they bring their big thoughts about teaching to the wider world. Their debut episode in December got more than 150 downloads.

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While they have a long list of subjects to discuss, they’ve already learned how to adjust on the fly, having unanticipated discussions on the Madison Metropolitan School District’s reopening announcement in February and the Capitol insurrection in January. In the days following the latter, the two felt they had to speak about what it’s like processing personal reactions while helping students do the same.

Patterson hoped to provide something for teachers she had sought after a major event: a voice to process what it all means that can apply broadly into the future.

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Kyla Pilliod and Marisa Patterson, hosts of the podcast “If You Give a Teacher a Mic."

“We focused on making it much more general about the 'day afters' than getting into details and specific things that happened on that day after,” Patterson said. “For something like this, we wanted it to be something that no matter what is happening, a teacher can listen to it and come back like, ‘I feel less alone.’”

Pilliod said they’ve enjoyed hearing from friends and colleagues about their biggest takeaways from the podcast conversations.

“Hearing them process, reflect back what stuck with them — in a way is like the teacher in me hearing a student, too,” Pilliod said. “Overall the feedback has been so encouraging and lots of just good specific things that people, clearly not just us, are hoping to hear and need to hear.”

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Patterson hopes they can counteract some of the false positivity she sees on social media — two of their early episodes questioned the way society talks about self-care and delved into “toxic positivity.”

“I want our podcast to kind of help show that yeah, we’re real teachers and we’re talking about real issues,” she said. “We’re not ignoring things.

“I just want to create a community of realness in education, because I don’t see that too often in social media.”

For both, the podcast and its discussions have come at a time when those connections are needed more than ever in education. Teachers miss their students and colleagues amid an unprecedented year of mostly virtual teaching.

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“I was missing our happy hours — we would come together with other teachers on Fridays and that would be your chance to kind of vent and get everything that’s going on out,” Patterson said. “At least, I hope, this podcast is kind of a bridge for that right now.”

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Scott Girard is the local k-12 education reporter at the Cap Times. A Madison native, he joined the paper in 2019 after working for six years for Unified Newspaper Group. Follow him on Twitter @sgirard9.

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