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Podcast Transcript

A Chance To Soar

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  0:11  
Welcome to "Your Authentic Path to Powerful Leadership" with Marsha Clark. Join us on this journey where we are uncovering what it takes to be a powerful woman leader. Well, Marsha, welcome again. We have a full house today in the studio. So I know these two guests that we have are near and dear to you and many others in the North Texas area.

Marsha Clark  0:33  
Yes, indeed they are. And thank you. Welcome back to you, too. And today we are joined by two incredibly inspiring and dear friends that I can't wait to introduce to our listeners.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  0:45  
Before we do that, let's provide a little bit of context for how we're transitioning our focus from March to April.

Marsha Clark  0:52  
That's a good idea, Wendi. So today's guests really do bridge the themes from our focus in March on women supporting women and National Women's History Month to our focus in April, which is centered on supporting education. So our guests today are Dr. Andra Barton and Aletha Scheck, who are the cofounders of a nonprofit "Chance to Soar". And I want to welcome you both.

Dr. Andra Barton  1:18  
Thank you for having us.

Aletha Scheck  1:20  
Yes, thank you. We are honored.

Marsha Clark  1:21  
Well, your work with Chance to Soar and your commitment to supporting campus principals and educators, which we're going to learn more about throughout this episode, is really what inspired us to invite you both here today. You know, we were looking for a nonprofit to highlight and to celebrate that supports women and girls and has a focus on education, and certainly Chance to Soar fits that bill perfectly.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:47  
Yeah, I mean, this is not only a great fit, but it's also such a great story to tell and help others who might have a similar dream of lifting others up also. So my first question is for all three of you, as our regular listeners know, we like to set the stage on how everyone's connected. And I know both Andra and Aletha were Power of Self graduates, just like I was. But beyond that, I don't really know how your worlds came together and aligned. So whoever wants to jump in first and share how you all know each other. This is Dr. Andra speaking, so go ahead... until everybody gets familiar with your voice.

Dr. Andra Barton  2:26  
Actually, I had the opportunity to meet Marsha in a private setting and became really fascinated and intrigued in the work she was doing. And specifically the women supporting women and how women show up in leadership positions. I was in a leadership position at that time as a high school principal. And so it was a male dominated world. And so I was really looking for some strategies to be able to come together and learn and reflect on myself. So I was afforded the opportunity to attend Marsha's Power of Self and then being the fundamental principle about passing things on, I really encouraged Aletha Scheck, who was and is a co founder of Chance to Soar to begin Marsha's program as well. So she and I both are very, very committed to this notion of empowering women in the workplace, strengthening women's skills. We are a all women owned business and (yah, yah, yah) hire women to work with us, and we send them through similar training just because we think it is so powerful to educate a female in today's world.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  3:55  
Yeah, yeah. Aletha?

Aletha Scheck  3:56  
Yeah. So, as Andra said, I, we worked together. She was a principal, I was a teacher. So that's how we know each other. And then she went through Power of Self and then she actively started campaigning. Aletha, you've  got to go to Power of Self and I'm kind of stubborn. So I was like, ah, you know, maybe not. So she dragged me to something called savvy talk, which I think was at Marsha's house, with Tracie. (Yep.) So that was fun. And then eventually, I was like, Okay, well, I'll do the shortened version, the CCC. I'll do the shortened version of that. And so I did that and then we were at some that we had Marsha do something for Chance to Soar, I believe. And so then she said, 'Well, we're gonna have the very last Power of Self class, Power of Self 20, and there's nothing that turns me from a shopper to a buyer like saying it's the last.  I was like, "Okay, I gotta sign up" even though like I think half this class I did in CCC. I'm like, it's the last one so right like it's now or never, Aletha, so I've done them all I feel like.

Marsha Clark  4:53  
And you know what? Again, when I think about something you said, Andra, about people think of education as being female dominated. And yet, at the principal level, the superintendent level, the school board level, the trustee level, however you want to describe that, it is male dominated. And thinking about what male dominated or female dominated means is not just the number of workers you have in the organization, it's who's in control of the resources, and the decision making, right. And so even though education from a general population is female dominated, and I love that y'all are working with both men and women to give the women's support to be who they are, but also to teach men. I mean, I do this with all my men clients as well. There's always a gender conversation we have about it to identify and understand the differences. And so I love that that's a part of what you're doing as well.

Dr. Andra Barton  5:53  
So a lot of what Aletha, certifications Aletha and I hold in the education circuit do put us as a mid level manager. And mid level management is really what my doctorate's in and what Aletha's work's in. And so we're really, an understanding that I am a mid level manager is something that I went into the profession understanding. But what many people don't understand is the national statistics that show 92% of the people that I supervise below me are females, where 87% of the individuals that I report to are male.

Marsha Clark  6:35  
Get that! Get that! I mean, this is I liken it to I read something recently that Congress, our United States Congress is two thirds Baby Boomer generation. Our general population does not reflect that. And so are we electing representatives? Are we reporting to people who represent the majority? And the answer's no. (Right.) And your education...absolutely.

Dr. Andra Barton  7:02  
Those elected officials also make a lot of decisions that impact public... government agents, right, so it's still that same dynamic. We're actually the only profession, Aletha and I talk about this a lot. We are the only profession that is governed by a body of individuals that actually just went through the system. So our school boards, our politicians are, all of our governing bodies are made up of individuals that just went through the K-12 system, where if you looked at if you were talking to a doctor or nurse, they would have peers that were trained in that specialized area. And we do not. So the dynamics that really take place in a school setting are quite unique, because it is this top down approach. But yet, there's a different gender doing the top up work. There is that dynamic and that awareness. And I think Aletha and I really came together with that foundation of that mutual belief that it is our job to not only gain and garnish as much information as we can about that dynamic, but then to pay it forward. And we do that consistently in the notion of empowering women.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  7:04  
So let's step back just a little bit. Speaking of paying it forward, let's talk about the origin of Chance to Soar that you both founded together.

Dr. Andra Barton  8:30  
Right. So Aletha and I came together in two different work settings. And we just actually we're seeing time and time again, that we felt like we were losing kids and losing amazing female educators in the profession because of a lack of purpose and power. They just felt absolutely like they were not making a difference. On the flip side, I as a principal, and she is a supervisor in a school felt like every single day, we were going home making a difference. I felt like I was making a difference. There was there was every single day I drove home thinking, "Gosh, I am so lucky. I was a principal today. I changed this moment for this situation." And so what Aletha and I really decided to do, it was just through informal conversations. We kept continuing to have these like really healthy, mutual conversations about that dynamic. And I remember we made a commitment one day in the car in a parking lot said we need to do something to change this. Like, we can only talk about this for so long but we need to do something to change it. And at that moment, we made a commitment to change it and we have not looked back.

Aletha Scheck  9:51  
No. Well we started making plans. So well first of all, you know, oh, this is you know, so many ideas and we're both idea people so editing the idea was step 1234567. And then so we're like, well maybe if we were in the same place, because at that point she had moved to a different school and I was, you know, we went  two different places. Well, come work at the school I'm at and then in our spare time, we can work on this Chance to Soar thing on the side and kind of get that up and going. And if anyone who's ever worked a day in a school knows that the idea of spare time in a school is just fiction. Doesn't happen, right? But in our mind, oh, yes, it was like sounded good. It sounded great. So anyway, we did a year together at a school and we had maybe three conversations about Chance to Soar while we were actually on school property. But we continued our, you know, texting and emailing and phone calls after the fact. And then at one point, we're like, Okay, listen, if we're going to do it, let's just let's just go. We're all about taking a chance, like, we got to take a chance on ourselves as well. So here we go, let's do it, the worst thing that can happen is that we will end up dusting off our resumes and go on to find another job next year, but let's give it one year to see, see where it's gonna go. So, four or five years later, and we haven't had to dust off the resumes yet.

Dr. Andra Barton  11:10  
We have actually grown during the pandemic. (That's great.) We've impacted several 100,000 students and educators over our time.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  11:20  
Okay, so...

Marsha Clark  11:20  
I do want to say something. You know, this idea about the answer to how is yes, just go do it. Right. I mean, that's one thing that comes to mind. And I know you two as idea generating people, and that is hard to narrow that list of possibilities down and, and that sort of thing. And, you know, under something that you said, of teachers felt like they didn't have power and weren't making a difference. And, you know, this idea of during the pandemic you were as busy as ever, the pressure on teachers during that time was as great as ever. And so I think, what a great timing scenario that you were there to support so many through what will likely be one of the more difficult times in their teaching careers.

Dr. Andra Barton  12:07  
Well, we actually were fortunate enough during that time period to be able to conduct some research. We had a pre survey going ahead of time before the pandemic was even announced. And then in the middle of the pandemic, we were able to go back in during the global pandemic and re-measure. And I will actually tell you that teachers' stress behaviors and males and females, their stress behaviors did not change. In fact, they decreased during a global pandemic but they remained in the same three trends, one of those being lack of purpose and not being able to do their job and not feeling like they made a difference. And so for you listeners that are out there that had children that you were homeschooling, you knew that there were technology glitches, you knew that there was lack of materials, you knew that the teachers were struggling to just kind of keep students engaged on a script. And definitely if we would have been in education and that would have been a systemic switch, that would have been something that were would have required years of planning in order to test pilot it, get it out, run it effectively. Our schools basically switched into that in a week. So what happened out of that is that teachers were really able to vocalize, I'm not feeling like I'm making a difference. And this was one of the first times that we really gave specifically women the opportunity to say "Stop for a second. I'm not making a difference. This is not effective." Up until then in education, that was not something that was said in the workplace because that was looked at negatively. However, during the pandemic we were able to say that. Other moms and dads were home seeing that. And for the first time, it was okay to say this is not my best work. And I think that that was a very powerful movement for females, specifically, in education.

Aletha Scheck  14:33  
But it was also very emotional during that time. Yeah, teacher emotions were running high.

Marsha Clark  14:39  
So this is an education podcast. I'm learning. I just want to say that because what you just said, kind of blows me away because I would have assumed that those stress levels went out the roof. And you're saying no, this is business as usual and the emotions were high.

Aletha Scheck  14:55  
The stress was already very high, so not really talked about. So there really wasn't room for it to go higher, it just kind of switched...

Dr. Andra Barton  15:05  
It went down. We did not have a deep enough statistical difference on it to determine that there was a statistical difference just because of the fact that it was trending so high to begin with on those three things, and we do have three distinct themes that do tie to women.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  15:23  
Okay, before we get into that, we're 16 minutes into this podcast and we still haven't answered the question of what exactly is Chance to Soar so that our listeners have some context. What is this dream that was so compelling for you both that you've left successful careers?

Dr. Andra Barton  15:40  
Right, our mission is really to equip and to help build a culture that honors the entire well being of educators and their impact on students.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  15:54  
Okay. Okay. All right. Aletha, anything to add?

Aletha Scheck  15:56  
Yeah, that sums it up.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  15:59  
You're a nonprofit?

Aletha Scheck  16:00  
Yes, we are. We are absolutely a nonprofit. And so basically, we, we either are working in schools, with staffs of educators, or we are working with principals, kind of supporting them and helping them support their idea of the whole well being of the culture, take care of the adult in the room, who then takes care of, that they can...

Dr. Andra Barton  16:23  
And prior to the pandemic, there was not a lot of mental health support. (Exactly.) No one was talking about educators, typically.

Marsha Clark  16:33  
And is it North Texas focused? Is it Texas focused? Is it national?

Dr. Andra Barton  16:37  
I've spoken national, I've done quite a few speaking engagements nationally. And it's quite interesting. I've done it across different other organizations, so not just within education. And it's a very powerful conversation and a very humbling conversation for people to hear. But we do focus a lot of our school district work here in the North Texas area.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  17:02  
Okay, okay. Well, I think I saw this on your website, maybe, but it really jumped out at me wherever I read it. And I wanted to share it with our listeners, that about the emergence of the idea for a Chance to Soar. And it said, Andra and Aletha knew that something had to be done about the countless educators struggling with the notion of work, family life balance, as well as unclear systems and expectations. And simply put there was and still is a gap in the industry, when it comes to educating the educators who ultimately are impacting our next generation of kids and people. Like, that's powerful.

Aletha Scheck  17:49  
Yes. And so that's, that's where we focus our work. We saw it, we experienced it, and we still see it. And it keeps piling on, though. Teachers have training that they go to, they get training in classroom management techniques and new way to teach subjects. They get legislative mandates that I kind of talked about before, which are very time consuming... the legislators have good intentions but don't understand maybe the resources of money and human resources that go into making those come about so. And then they have you know, 25 little kids running around right now to take care of or 35 which is no small task. But no one was really gauging how's the adult in the room doing. Are they okay? And if you have had kids in school, you know, like, you know from your kids if they walked into a classroom where the teacher was okay and when they walked into a classroom where the teacher was not okay because that teacher sets the barometer really for the classroom. And a teacher can have all of the, like pedagogy and skill for breaking down a concept but if the kids feel yucky while they're getting taught, there's, it's how they feel while they're learning makes a difference on whether they're retaining the information and grasping and taking it in. Or they're sheltering themselves because they're, they're unsure of the emotional state of the room. So we want every classroom to have a teacher in it that is healthy because healthy adults teach healthy children. There's a direct tie. We all know that from psychology, right? So taking care of the adult in the room is ultimately taking care of the kids in the room.

Dr. Andra Barton  19:38  
And Aletha and I've really noticed that it's a very isolated profession. I think we think that educators have a lot of collaboration that's taking place, when indeed when you put an educator in a room with young children, that is not collaboration, that is not adult relationships that we strive for. That is not really a friendship.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  20:04  
Or even a team that people get in an adult workplace.

Dr. Andra Barton  20:07  
We generally get 45 minutes a day to plan and work together.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  20:14  
Yeah. Well, what I'm finding extraordinary is y'alls observations about before the pandemic hit, and yet how things didn't change. So is there anything that we've all learned over the past three years now? I think what we've learned is how teachers are stretched, underappreciated, even now more than ever, I mean, because now, you know, they're back into the classroom and there's all of that.

Aletha Scheck  20:41  
There was a whole host of things that came with transitioning back in, the learning loss and the pressure to get that all caught up. So, definitely.

Marsha Clark  20:49  
Well, and I want to say something else. I mean, I see every night on the news the school board meetings. Right. So I, when I think about education and I put it in my business frame, who is your client? Is it the student or is it the parents of the student, and I know it's all of the above, and even the community when you think about that. And then I go back to just as there needs to be strong mental health of the adult in the room with the children, the adults at home in the room with the children was also on shaky ground. So that swirling around of all of that, I just can't imagine how important the work is that you're doing and how that brings some stability to it all.

Dr. Andra Barton  21:27  
One of the high trends just in speaking to that that we have found is that there's a strong desire for work, family life balance. Strong. And Aletha and I don't really look at it as work balance or home balance. We really feel like and the research has really demonstrated that you're not generally balanced at work and unbalanced at home, or unbalanced at home. And we really focus on balance just in general. But if you look at the high level of females that are in that setting, I even read a statistic this morning, 92% of them are feeling the lack of work, family life balance. So what we've got here is we've got a bunch of individuals that are running on exhaustion, and exhaustion is creating two different things. It's creating this notion of fear and then it's creating this situation of angst and anxiety. Both of those are creating then what is happening in the school board meetings where people are coming to the table so frustrated, so angry, so agitated because their child is behind. But yet, an educator is working overtime to try to to keep up with it. And you've got to look at the fact that we basically did not have children in classrooms for two years. It was not uncommon for Aletha and I to be visiting with a school and working with teachers and the second grade teachers to say to us, "This child didn't come to kindergarten and didn't come to first grade. And their first entry in is second grade." Or all the way up into high school a child saying, "I didn't have a 9th and 10th grade school year so I didn't get to take advanced placement courses to get myself prepared to be able to take the PSAT to then move on and take the SAT and be competitive in college settings." So we're seeing that all across the board where the standards did not change but yet we took the whole entire system and put it in park for two years. So what we're seeing is this whole notion of frustration and a lack of empathy for the people that are inside it.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  24:03  
So I want to talk about a little bit the title of what you chose to call your nonprofit. Talk to me about a Chance to Soar. What did that mean for y'all?

Aletha Scheck  24:14  
Yes. Well, I alluded to it a little bit earlier when I talked about Andra and I like, we just got to take a chance and go and do it. But I will tell you it's kind of a cute story, because I'm not gonna lie. And I'm gonna be totally transparent. We are on our way to the lawyer where we had to have a name for this organization. Yeah, we have a million ideas, but a name eluded us. And so Andra gave me this sweet gift. She has this wonderful, beautiful... she has a gift for gifting. So she had this little book that was called "What Do You Do With a Chance?" And I was like oh, that's so sweet. So we're looking on the way over. Anyway, the synopsis of this, it's a little picture book, but the synopsis is this little girl who sees this little yellow chance flutter by. It kind of looks like a butterfly but it's not a butterfly, like a little piece of paper ribbon, who knows? You know? Yeah, yeah. Well, it flutters by but she's too afraid to reach out and grab it. But as time passes, she notices since she's scared to reach out and grab it fewer and fewer chances seem to be floating by her. Until one day a really big chance comes by and she's like, "Alright, I'm gonna reach out and take it." So then she takes it and soars off on this great adventure.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  25:23  
I need this book. We all need this book.

Aletha Scheck  25:23  
So this book, "What Do You Do With a Chance?", is part of a whole little line of books, what do you do with a problem...

Dr. Andra Barton  25:31  
So once she took a chance, more chances came... that open-mindedness, and that abundant mindset. So I'm gonna reach out there and take a chance every single time.

Aletha Scheck  25:43  
So I believe, like, one of the little lines in the book was something about this was her chance to soar. So we're like, "Okay, that's it.". God is good. He, like, made it so that we can have chance to give chances and it really tied in. We just needed that little spark of inspiration.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  26:02  
So share some of your more standardized solutions that you're offering to schools and to the teachers.

Dr. Andra Barton  26:10  
Well, we go in and we do a strong professional development push with teachers and administrators and central office staff. And what we do is really talk a lot about the research and then give them solutions and strategies for that. We do do some presentations, where it's just one presentation one time. But generally speaking, when we contract with a school or a district, we go in for an entire year to where it's a slow drip of knowledge instead of a one time opportunity. And specific on the nonprofit side, because we get the opportunity to give everything we bring in away which is so exciting. What we do is we gift educators and students with chances and all they have to have is a wish or a want or desire or an interest. And we make that chance become magical. But the fun part about it is that no one knows that it's us. No one knows that it's Chance to Soar. They just know that somebody in this world believes in them. And so Aletha and I have been, since day one's chance, we've never met a receiver of a chance. And it is because of the fact that we don't believe that it's something of ours to give. It's something that the community helped to provide. And we pass it on as a community.

Marsha Clark  27:46  
That's great. I love it. Love it. So can I ask this question of clarification? So you said with a school or with a district. Who is typically your point of contact when you're going in, because I think our listeners would want to know that because if they have kids in school, they want to go, "You need to hear this".

Aletha Scheck  28:03  
Really the principal.

Dr. Andra Barton  28:04  
Principal or the supervisor, assistant superintendents and principals and superintendents and principals. Okay. And then when you speak at the national level, it's a lot of the superintendents or the professional development. (Okay. Okay.)

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  28:21  
Okay, so I'm seeing something in here in my notes about a subscription. Talk to us about that. What does that mean?

Dr. Andra Barton  28:29  
That was so fun. That was so fun. So what we did was we created climate boosters. So again, what we wanted to do was go into the schools and create this kind of small drip. So what we do is we do customize, it's a little gift. Aletha here is a master lesson unit planner. She's actually nationally known as writing unit planners for teachers. They buy her unit planners on all types of topics. So what we do is we put a gift or an item that ties into it for teachers and for students. And then Aletha puts one of her wonderful unit planners in it so that the teacher can easily implement that in the classroom, make that whole mental health focus come alive. However, what we do is, the letter inside it comes from the principal. It does not come from us because again, we're about setting others up as heroes. It's not ours to set.

Marsha Clark  29:38  
You're not feeding your egos.

Aletha Scheck  29:41  
Yeah, the good news about working on those social emotional concepts with the adult teachers in the room is that they very easily translate to the very same social emotional skills that kids need. So it's easy enough to transition for this is for you now kind of replicate this with your kids and it all works.

Marsha Clark  29:57  
People tell me oftentimes about our work that one of the differences is you bring the research, you bring the anecdotal experience, and you give us tools and language. And when I think about what you're doing, you're bringing them the research, you're giving them tools, not just to talk about what you need to do, don't just complain about the problem, do something about it. And here are some tools that can help you implement these wonderful principles that your principals (in this case l-e-s) to make it real. And it's an inside out job, always, right? So I love that. I just love that.

Dr. Andra Barton  30:29  
And our female principals, Aletha and I are constantly building them up and providing them just support. We don't charge for any other coaching hours. It's not uncommon for us to, to really go in and just spend the day with a principal, examining what they're doing and their strands and what they're doing. And I think that just the success of Chance to Soar has come from the fact that Aletha and I truly embrace that notion of women supporting women. We may not always disagree on things, but we always come to a situation with an abundance mindset. And we come to it saying, I know Aletha is doing the absolute best job she can do. And I know that Andra is doing the absolute best job she can do on what she's working with. And combined, we're very careful to not make up stories in our head, we are very careful to ask questions, what if, and at times, if we do step on each other's territory or something, we really exemplify that notion of grace and conversation, because for us, it's more about the relationship and keeping the relationship intact so that we can help grow that and model that with others.

Aletha Scheck  31:58  
Well, and you can probably guess, Andra's being humble, probably, but you can probably get she's great at building capacity in other people. So it is definitely not uncommon for us to get on a call, like a zoom call with a principal because we usually touch base with them before we go in and work with their whole staff to say, "Hey, this is what we're thinking about doing. Does this fit, you know, what are the specific needs of your staff right now?" And we'll hop on a zoom call with a principal. And before we can get to the like to do list of what we have to ask, that principal just needs to like breathe and share a few things and then Andra instantly switches into okay, you know, how are you showing up? Is that a story you're making up in your head? Is that, is that something, you know, how? Don't be humble and say this is just all about the teachers doing great work on your campus unit? Own it. Own the fact that your leadership has led to this. And it is so cute. Like some of the principals have almost taken that like, okay, oh, I get to talk to them. And I'm going to share these things. And sometimes there's crying involved. And that's okay, we share a lot, we do tears. But we have this one principal, it's so cute. She did this just last week, where Andra has been really, really, really working with her on, this is your leadership. Own the greatness and the success of your school. Don't shuffle that away, right? Yeah. And so she started sending us little like, she'll get a atta girl in the email. And she'll forward that to us. Look what she's doing.

Dr. Andra Barton  33:24  
I know but what we've actually really started to force her to do is say, that's wonderful. And we want to shine your halo. But I'm really gonna double shine it when you send it on up to the men that you work with in the work setting, because they need to see that as well.

Marsha Clark  33:45  
Results plus recognition equals influence. (That's right.) That's right, there it is. But you take it a step at a time. You know, in the consulting world, they often say meet your client where they are, not where you are and you're meeting your clients where they are and you're helping them to grow so that they can be in a different place a year from now or is it usually a one year contract? Did I hear you say that earlier?

Dr. Andra Barton  34:07  
Some schools that we've been with now they've kept us for, we're now on year four with that one, right? One school in one district, yeah, we're, we're on year four.

Aletha Scheck  34:17  
Once you build those relationships, that's hard to...

Marsha Clark  34:20  
You're part of the team. Yeah. Nice.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  34:24  
So how do you find out about the needs in the educator community in order to grant these chances to soar? How are you finding your clients, if you will?

Dr. Andra Barton  34:37  
We do a lot of marketing, and we do a lot of giving resources away. So our principals and assistant superintendents are constantly receiving free resources from us.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  34:53  
Okay, so you're actively seeking them out, is what I'm hearing.

Dr. Andra Barton  34:57  
Correct. (Okay. That's interesting.) Actually, like, for example, if you're a principal in Dallas ISD, you get a celebration email once a week from us where we are giving you different activities that you can use with your staff, and you can use in your classrooms. In addition, we do do a lot of social media work. And then we also have been on several newscasts and morning news show.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  35:26  
That's awesome.

Marsha Clark  35:27  
I didn't know that. You need to tell me when that's happening...

Dr. Andra Barton  35:29  
Early...that time is 4:00 a.m. in Dallas. Yeah. So we've been on Good Morning Texas several times.

Aletha Scheck  35:42  
Yeah, one of our favorite things to do is where we just kind of get to give chances to educators in schools and finding those is not hard at all, Wendi, because we just happen to like, you just notice what you notice when you walk through places and you're like, oh, they are really missing, especially if you are in several schools and can compare. Oh, yes, one has this and this one doesn't have, you know. But Andra, again, so good. So I'll tell a quick story. We were doing a back to school presentation and Andra walked by and these two teachers were on Amazon, you know, trying to figure out, could they afford to buy this and this and this for their classroom because it's coming out of their own pocket, right, and how much can they get away with without like, too many packages showing up at their door and causing an issue... Yes. So Andra was like, why are you buying that with your own money? Let me go grab the Chance to Soar card and here you go. So and that's the kind of stuff, like it was small. It amounted to less than $200 for these two ladies to do this, but it brought tears to their eyes. Like you care and like I matter enough that you're gonna let me buy this little book cart for my classroom? Absolutely. If we can't do that, then we should not be in this.

Dr. Andra Barton  37:00  
And the first time Aletha heard about it, we were doing a presentation and I had started my card at this one table. And the first one, and then another table had heard about it. And I said, so the first time Aletha heard about it was when I said there's a card passing around and whatever you need to get this year open and successful for kids, there's a credit card passing around. Put it in your Amazon order. Let's get this stuff ordered. And let's move on. And that's an example right there of my co-founder didn't say ohhh. And I mean, it was...

Marsha Clark  37:36  
I need to look at the P&L statement and see if we can afford that.

Dr. Andra Barton  37:39  
It was an accounting nightmare running down receipts, receipts, receipts and there was never any time in that journey that Aletha came back and said, Andra, that was a really tough idea on the organization. She never did because she saw it from the fact of it's about really women supporting women in the workplace, not taking away private money out of them, personal money out of them. We didn't want to do that.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  38:11  
So do you have a board of who are actively fundraising for you guys?

Aletha Scheck  38:16  
We have a board but it's pretty, it's an oversight. (Okay. Okay) It's really, we take in grants and people can go to our website and donate.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  38:27  
Okay, we're gonna wrap up the episode with that. We're gonna help you out there.

Aletha Scheck  38:34  
So some of the programs that we do at schools, schools can fit in their school budgets and we can charge a little bit for that.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  38:39  
So you're working with and coaching, when you're working with and coaching the female principals, what messages are you reinforcing with them about leadership, about teamwork, about camaraderie?

Dr. Andra Barton  38:54  
Right. So I am, well Aletha and I both, we really reinforce this place of abundancy. Again, stories are made up in our mind, and Marsha does a lot of talking about that in her work in her in her whole study. And what happens is when we take something in, our bodies are wired from a fear component of how's this gonna hurt me, how's this going to harm me? So Aletha, and I really work with them on coming from a place of abundancy, first of all. And so we model that, we believe we model that, but then we also work with them on really coming from the table with abundancy. So, for example, when you go to principals' meeting or a board meeting, then when those decisions are being made, you don't sit there and try to compete necessarily with a male. You come to the table with this abundant mindset of all the goodness that is happening and taking place, and all the possibilities that can take place. So we do a lot of that. We do a lot of really leadership conversations on how that looks like. And then finally, we do work with our administrators a lot on what does your power look like and what does it show up daily looking like, and how do you own it and show up with that? It is very often that schools change their direction or their focus for the year. But generally speaking, an administrator comes to a school with two or three really strong talents. And so we're rarely very, try to put a strong reflection tool in place with our administrators to where they're constantly reflecting on the fact of, okay, do my skills and talents match up with what the school's vision and mission is now. It's okay if the school's vision and mission changes because the school serves the community. The problem arises when the principal fails to vote with their feet. And it's okay when it no longer matches up. There's another wonderful place for you that needs those skill sets. But where we see the tension is when you might have a principal that's a strong relationship builder, but you may have a campus that needs a very data driven individual. Those two are two different sides of the mind. They process differently. So what happens is you begin to kind of see that so we work a lot with administrators in that coaching format of saying, these are your strengths and talents. Now reflect on those and let's reengage three months later, what are your internal school goals, because those are the ever changing things. It's not who you're made up of, or how you're wired. What is internally changing is the politics and the dynamics with the school.

Marsha Clark  42:11  

Aletha Scheck  42:12  
It's a lot of self awareness. And it's not that principals and teachers and women in general aren't self aware. It's sometimes it's taking the 10, 15, 20 minutes to sit with yourself, have a conversation with yourself about okay, what is it I really want, or where am I really headed? Are my values aligned with my to do list? And I mean, they're sometimes they're hard conversations to have with yourself. But a lot of times, it's just saying it's okay to pause and take the time to do it. It's worth it. You are worth it. And how powerful is it for a female to be able to have the chance to say yes.

Marsha Clark  42:53  
To themselves. Yes to themselves. Yeah. I mean, you know, what you're speaking about there, I think is true of any woman in any leader in any kind of organization, this idea of who am I and how am I showing up and how do I want to show up? And I also say there's no bad people, there are bad fits in roles that they're in or, and go do something different. We have the power to change that.

Aletha Scheck  43:20  
We as women, we tend to get self consumed with taking care of others, everyone else and checking the things off the to do list and making sure you know everything...

Dr. Andra Barton  43:28  
And it's okay that it fit six months ago and it doesn't fit now. (That's right.) We have the power to say yes to ourselves and say where do I fit? But saying no to one thing is a yes to 100 others.

Marsha Clark  43:45  
Well, it is and it goes back to there's no such thing as a last choice because there's always a next choice. So I chose that six months ago, six years ago and now I can make a different choice going forward because things have changed enough where it no longer is aligned.

Aletha Scheck  43:57  
And it's absolutely okay to have other people on your priority list. I have a lot of people on my priority list but we have to encourage each other as women to make sure that your name is also on the priority list.

Marsha Clark  44:09  
Because we are very good at advocating on behalf of others much better than we are at advocating on behalf of ourselves.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  44:14  
Absolutely. So the two of you, I just want to make this observation here in the studio, the two of you seem like super aligned and in sync with each other, which is a really refreshing model of partnership. Have y'all always been that way or has it grown into this over the years?

Aletha Scheck  44:31  
We are very different in style but aligned in our mission, (Right.) values, that kind of thing. And so, yes, thank you for observing that. Do we have moments where we argue? Absolutely, because that's a part of life, right. But how you deal with that is the key. So Andra alluded to that a little bit earlier, which was like the relationship is first and so like, let's not damage that piece. And then we can figure out the rest. Everything else is figure outable, right? So but yeah, let's not destroy this piece in an effort, because we have a to do list.

Marsha Clark  44:50  
Because we have a difference of opinion.

Dr. Andra Barton  45:17  
And I think Aletha and I really took a vow and a commitment early on that it was going to be, I was always going to approach Aletha knowing that she is truly making the best decision she knows how to make in this situation. And yes, it might be easy for me three steps back to say, why didn't you do this? But for her when she's in that, my job right then is to support her and build her up.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  45:48  
Yeah, that's high trust.

Marsha Clark  45:50  
That's just where I was going. This is a high trust relationship. I trust your intentions. I trust you're doing your best work. I trust you're here to serve the people that we're trying to serve. Those are all really high trust kinds of things.

Aletha Scheck  46:03  
Well, thank you.

Dr. Andra Barton  46:04  
We have to work very hard at it.

Marsha Clark  46:06  
You're missing the high five.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  46:08  
There was an air high five that happened here in the studio. So I mean, I'm sure that you guys, in your work, see a lot of challenges, you see a lot of pain, frustration, you said zoom tears earlier, Aletha. I've never heard that before but I like that. I'm going to take that. So how do you both stay so positive, and in a place where you can be inspirational to others?

Dr. Andra Barton  46:34  
Right. So one of the things that I've really learned that I have to do is do some significant time blocking on my schedule to stay in the creative mode. Because when I'm in a creative environment, that's when I'm able to really feel like I'm helping mankind and that's when I feel like I'm operating from an abundance and a positive mindset. So it is not uncommon for me to time block and it's just completely labeled exactly that as creative work. That is one of the things that I do to renew and recharge myself.

Aletha Scheck  47:17  
Yeah, so my inspirational positivity is different than Andra's because as I said, we're very different people. But my first....(That's right.) My first place is staying connected to God. If I don't do that, like everything else will fall off the rails for me. So that's one and the second one is gonna sound corny, but I just love to spend time with my husband doing fun things. So we play pickleball and go hiking.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  47:43  
That's a disconnect. It's a disconnect out of the work mess.

Aletha Scheck  47:48  
Well, yeah, my third thing is like I require... that whole introvert extrovert thing, I think I'm an ambivert is what I really think I am because like one of the things I require in order to get or like to come in here today, I required silence and solitude was what are required in order to prepare to have this very lively interactive conversation today. So yeah, those are mine.

Dr. Andra Barton  48:09  
But I mean, we've had things that Aletha is a, she's super morning person. I enjoy a little bit after noon.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  48:21  
And we're recording this at 10:00 a.m.

Dr. Andra Barton  48:24  
It's really hard for me to think and get going and Aletha by 7:00 a.m. she's gotten you know, she's she's on her top. So we've had to really stop and recognize those values and traits. And I recognize that her best work is going to come at that time. And so there's a level of compromise that takes place. But then there's also how else could we do this? And how else could we make this work? And so it's not uncommon for her to do her best work while I'm really trying to get my creativity and abundance mindset and all that and then me to take over in the afternoon/evening when Aletha's not as, as...

Marsha Clark  48:31  
She spent her energy.

Aletha Scheck  48:44  
I have to giggle at this. This morning at 5:00 a.m. I read an email that Andra sent at 1:15.

Marsha Clark  49:16  
And there it is!

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  49:19  
So y'all are essentially a 24/7 business. I love it.

Aletha Scheck  49:22  
Sweet spot that is like 11:00 to 2:00.

Marsha Clark  49:25  
Yeah, do your big work then.

Dr. Andra Barton  49:27  
But we did decide early on don't do it in text. Just do it on email. Yeah, you get to check it then when you want to check it too. But how quickly are we to text in this world and we don't realize that that's an interruption. I hate to go and we don't realize that that just feeds that fear like oh my gosh, what's going on? What am I missing when in reality it wasn't an emergency. So our mind gets trained into that fear.

Marsha Clark  49:56  
It's addiction. It is. I mean, the first blackberries were called crackberries for a reason, right? I mean, because we, once that ding, I mean...

Aletha Scheck  50:03  
There's a whole other podcast to go down that, right? Yes.

Marsha Clark  50:08  
Yeah. Well, so you've used the word abundant mindset several times. So so how did that come into play with your work, the nature of your work?

Dr. Andra Barton  50:19  
I mean, we've been so blessed. And we've been given so many opportunities. There's not one time that we've been able to speak in front of someone, or work with someone or give away to someone that we don't feel like we've been blessed abundantly. Only then I really feel like, it's this notion of gratitude for the work that we're getting to do every single day and to serve. And it really is coming from that place of abundance. It even goes to the notion of we are a nonprofit so we're, you know, we write grants, we write grants to foundations. And quickly on, Aletha and I had to realize if we treat this as a scarcity situation to where, oh my goodness, we've got to keep this grant and make this grant last as long as possible, then what was happening was that was tying us down from doing our best creative work of saying yes every single time. So we really operate from, let's, let's give it away as fast as we can. And we've been blessed immensely by that mindset of, it's not our money, it's the community's money. And we need to get it in and out as fast as possible. So us being able to really embrace that abundance mindset versus that fear mindset is critical for all nonprofits, or I would even push back and say businesses.

Marsha Clark  52:04  
Yeah, that's what I'm sitting here thinking is the sense of, you just don't hear the words abundance nor scarcity, as you know, verbatim, are literally in so many of the business clients I work with. But the mindset is one of scarcity, I mean, all the way right now, especially right now, and how many restructurings and downsizings, and layoffs and all the other things that come along with it. That's a scarcity mindset.

Dr. Andra Barton  52:26  
It is and it's in a very unhealthy fear based mindset.

Marsha Clark  52:30  
It is. And even for the ones who didn't get restructured or laid off they're still looking over their shoulder going, am I next? And that's that fear, angst and anxiety that you spoke about earlier.

Dr. Andra Barton  52:40  
One of the saddest things I think I've seen is when people are going through downsizing, and they don't know if they have a job yet or not, or they just heard that they are going to be laid off. And it's immediately you start hearing them talking about oh, I'd like to stop at Sonic and get a drink but it's $1.59. And there's kids in their car hearing that and so what we're doing is we're feeding that scarcity out of fear. And we've really got to change in this world this fear mindset into this mindset of there's plenty for everyone and help to everyone.

Marsha Clark  53:25  
I love that.

Aletha Scheck  53:26  
We approached it with "There's plenty for everyone". People could share much easily and...

Dr. Andra Barton  53:30  
There wouldn't be so many pockets of poverty.

Marsha Clark  53:35  
Yeah, and yet there is media, there is politics, everything that is engendering fear. (Yep. Yeah.) We're wallowing in the fear base.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  53:45  
Well, they're financially insensitive...theirself, for themselves.

Marsha Clark  53:48  
That's right. Theirself. That's a great line.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  53:52  
So before we wrap up today, I want you both to share the official information about Chance to Soar - where people can reach out to you, how they can help you guys so that you can continue to help the teachers, the principals, the leadership in our school.

Aletha Scheck  54:06  
Absolutely. So the best place is probably you know the internet,

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  54:12  
Okay, I want everyone to listen. It is, not a chance to soar like the title of this episode.

Aletha Scheck  54:19  
It's also not the number 2 it is the word "to". Perfect. Yes and so all of our programs are on there. Some of the... like you should go on just to see the cute creative climate boosters because we are creative people and Andra has this gifting talent I said earlier. So between her gifting talents and some creative, there's some cute stuff you might need that's at a rock bottom price.

Dr. Andra Barton  54:49 coaching available, free chances available, so it's not a website that it's "come and give money".

Aletha Scheck  54:58  
Resources for your teachers, resources for principals, all kinds of good stuff, so, and then all of our social media stuff is on there, signup for newsletter, all that's on the website.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  55:06  
Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and they've got a newsletter on their website.

Marsha Clark  55:11  
So my question is this, if I am a parent of a child, and I want my school to get connected to you, do I go to the principal of my school and say, I want you to meet these people, I want you to go take a look at this. And do you then want them to come make the introduction or do you want the principal to call you directly? How do you want that, because I'm sitting here thinking about, we've got educators, I know, in our listener population and yet I think there's a broader population of parents that are going to hear this and go "I want some of that at my child's school."

Aletha Scheck  55:42  
So one thing is that the principal in charge of the school does have to kind of have the same aligned value and mission. So if they, if the principal on that campus isn't really aligned with what we do, then it's not a good fit, right? One of the things we like to do is meet the principals and talk to them and make sure like, this is, this will work. We learned that the hard way. (I'm sure.) Yes. So make sure it's gonna work. So some in some way, we just need to connect with that principal. So if the parent wants to share our information with them and have them contact us, that's great. If they want to email us and we can, yeah, we'll start, they want to do an email. Depends on the relationship you have with this principal, right? So sometimes, if you have the trust of the principal, they're like, oh, I want to introduce you. Can we do an email introduction of you and this organization? Sure.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  56:35  
That's awesome.

Marsha Clark  56:36  
So my way of saying that is I want to do the work with the people who are ready and want to do the work. Right? I don't want to force it on anybody. I don't want to push it because some people are going to be ready, as you say, and some people aren't going to be aligned with abundance and all that goes along with that, in turn what y'all are doing. So I you know what I would say to all of our listeners out there, if this is something that interests you go do this research. Find out more about and then connecting with y'all might be a first step if I don't know where to go from there or if you already are in that school.

Dr. Andra Barton  57:09  
Then we can help, absolutely. That's possible. We've actually granted chances that parents have put in before, and we've granted them back to schools and individuals. So absolutely, we're happy to take a parent recommendation. We just do individuals we work with. It's we choose them. We have more to work with than we have time slots for and so we choose them based upon the ones that are wanting our service, versus somebody pushing our service.

Marsha Clark  57:47  
Y'all are the only two for now.

Dr. Andra Barton  57:48  
Well, we have a couple of contract workers and we contract with other educators and other (Okay, good.) individuals. All women owned still and all female based. Yeah. Good.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  58:03  
Love it. Love it. Love it. Well, thank you both for being on today. This has been such a fantastic conversation, Andra, Aletha. And thank you, listeners, for joining us today on this journey of authentic, powerful leadership. Please continue to download, subscribe and share this podcast. Share this podcast with any teacher in your life or principal in your life, or you know, anyone who's in the education field. This has been a very moving episode on how these two ladies are impacting in such a positive way in huge ways, our educational system. And then of course, I've got to go back to talking about Marsha. So visit Marsha's website at for links to everything that's going on in Marsha's world, her social media, her email list and of course, her book, "Embracing Your Power".

Marsha Clark  58:55  
Thank you very much, Wendi. I just want to I want to recap what the messages that are, have been emphasized in this that come through so loud and clear in the work that you're doing. The power of abundance, the power of high trust, the power of women supporting women, and the power of just go do it. Pay it forward and just go make it happen. And I think those are lessons that fall far beyond the education world. But I also think about children are our future. And if we're not taking care of the people who take care of the children, we're going to get what we get. And the fact that y'all have both the knowledge, the experience and the desire and the commitment to go do something with that is just amazing. So thank you for all that you do for the students, for the schools, for the community, for our future. And I know you take that seriously. So that makes me sleep better at night and I do have great hope for our future generation. So thank you, Wendi, for once again keeping us on track because we could have talked and got way off track and I know we're already in an hour. So thank you and thank you to our listeners. And today we have had a perfect example of the way that we close every single podcast which is "Here's to women supporting women!"

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