Diane Ketelle on how to make connections with and understand the real needs of our students – POP11

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Brandon Krueger
Brandon Krueger
Kevin Mulryne
Kevin Mulryne

Dr. Diane Ketelle, Professor of Education at Mills College in Oakland, CA., returns this week with another kernel of wisdom. This time she concentrates on making connections and understanding the real needs of students.

Diane Ketelle
Diane Ketelle

Diane starts by talking about authenticity.

She says that the word is probably over-used but if we look carefully at it, we can see it incorporates a number of important things.

To be truly authentic, we must start having hard conversations about:

  • race
  • class
  • gender
  • sexual orientation
  • the gender binary

We must think about:

  • what a good school is
  • what a good school is
  • what it means to have a positive discipline program

For Diane, authenticity underpins making positive change.

It does take a lot of courage to make these genuine connections because you have to be willing not to avoid these harder conversations.

Diane talks about ‘nicety nice’ schools who only concentrate on creating a polite working environment but not much learning is going on.

To make deeper change and to help all learners make significant growth, you have to start with the adults having the tough conversations outlined above.


Diane points out that leadership is work with people and if you don’t enjoy working with people then educational leadership is probably not for you.

Diane doesn’t focus on ‘solving problems with bullet points’. She wants to get to the deep, sustainable change which involves investment in teachers, investment in staff which means:

  • investment in professional development
  • looking at supervision
  • sustaining ongoing conversations
  • reflective practice

Remember Diane’s new book:

Our first Pivotal Popcorn guest, Dr. Diane Ketelle has published a book – ‘Tread Lightly, Lead Boldly’.