Liddy Allee-Coyle on teaching as a two-way street: the power of honesty & respect for students

Liddy Allee-Coyle on teaching as a two-way street: the power of honesty & respect for students

Student Success Podcast No. 18, Mar. 19, 2014

Today’s Guest: Liddy Allee-Coyle, Master Teacher, Ithica City School District

In this interview, Liddy discusses her work as a teacher coach to champion the student-first classroom in which students have trust with their teachers and their learning and  “choice, relevancy, and a reason” for learning.

As Liddy says, “Every kid wants to know why… if we answer that ‘why’ we get more buy-in.” Liddy’s ideal of relevancy for students is learning any lesson as practice for further learning and not necessarily that particular lesson, “to be life-long learners.”

We explore ideas about engaging students and why some students start early education in curiosity and end up in high school without any.  Keeping kids inspired takes trust and clarity from teachers and schools.



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Guest Biography:

A Master Teacher in the City of Ithaca School district, Liddy has taught 2nd, 3rd, and 5th grades as well as to work as a reading specialist and special education instructor. She graduated from William & Mary College and has earned graduate degrees from Elmira, Old Dominion College, and Teachers College of Columbia University.

Liddy is an inspiring teacher, colleague and administrator, and in her work with children and schools, she carries forward her family legacy of education and serving others.

Topics Discussed

  • Need for honesty and relationship with students, especially to develop relevancy in learning
  • Teachers to create student-centered learning
  • Developing intrinsic learning in students
  • Compliance versus Engagement
  • Need for teachers to explain things differently from the way they normally do, and for students to ask for different explanations
See below for detailed Show Notes.



Host: Michael L. Bromley
Original Music by Christopher Bromley (copyright 2011, 2013) Background snoring by Stella.
Best Dogs Ever: by Puck, Stella, & Artemis

No snoring from Stella in this episode, but she got some good sleeping in downstairs.

Stella sleeping and snoring on top of Artemis, happy both!
Stella sleeping and snoring on top of Artemis, happy both!






Here for Puck & Stella slideshow

The A+ Club from LLC, based in Arlington, VA, is dedicated to helping students across the U.S.A. meet their goals and find the academic success the want and deserve. Contact us here or call now to (703) 271-5334 to see how we can help.


  • Liddy background
    • recently completed degree at Teachers College at Columbia
        • innovative program
    • master educator at Ithica City school
    • pre-K to 5th grade curriculum instruction
    • also instructional coach: teachers working with teachers to improve instruction to meet the needs of students
      • student-centered coaching model
  • Bromley: seems that schools come first
    • students understand this
    • pedagogy as a teacher secret: no one tells the kids
  • Liddy:
    • teachers use strategies from someone else
    • but don’t include students in their own plans
    • need to let kids in on it & that it’s for all of us
    • two-way street between teachers and students
  • Bromley: never did anything without telling the kids why
    • explaining that we do warmups so I can take role = better than just telling them to shutup
  • Liddy
    • kids need to know, and they need us to be honest with them
    • ex.: when she asks kids to sit in a certain place, tells them why, such as, so your friends behind you can see
    • sometimes teachers assume kids won’t understand those things
    • kids want to know why and if we answer it we get more buyin
  • Bromley
    • kids go through schools without ever knowing why, no relevancy
    • question to Liddy: what goes on in the K-8 levels? I taught 9th/10th grades and always wondered
    • of course, 9th grade they’re rebelling
  • Liddy:
    • there are reasons for disillusionment
    • teachers aren’t doing anything wrong,
    • but there’s a need to build trust and relationship with them
    • we’re working at all levels to create an environment where kids have choice, where they see the relevancy, that there’s a reason for things… a reason why learning might fit into my life one day
    • and developing and continuing creativity. An experiment showed that
      • kindergarden students come up w/ 20+ things to do with a paper clip
      • high school kids came up with 2-3
  • Bromley
    • we want intrinsic motives for learning, but that’s impossible
    • we want to bring them into new things intellectually
    • but we must work on relevancy and not just to their lives, not addressing their world and language: they already know their lives, and we’re trying to teach them new thing
    • highest teaching moments came from teaching things that are irrelevant to the kids, like PPN, pre-pottery neolithic society… lol
    • can’t get there without trust
  • Liddy
    • learning will not be relevant to their lives each day
    • teachers get caught up in relating things directly to kids’ lives
      • ex. we don’t need to teach math with apples just because it’s the fall
      • relevancy = i’m teaching you to learn and to use that the rest of you lives
  • Bromley
    • our A+ Club service, we always ask for what students want
      • they all express ambitious goals
      • core relevancy for children is to do well
      • they want to please adults and their own ambitions
      • problem comes when they become afraid of those and feel like they can’t meet those expectations anymore
      • this is a form of negative perfectionism
  • Liddy
    • schools struggle with having kids comply and not engage:
      • tapped in to Schlechty on compliance v engagement
      • a kid who is compliant looks like a kid who is engaged
      • we want them to go from learning / following to please others to learning fro themselves
      • you can’t know if they’re engaged unless you talk to them, unless you have a relationship with them
      • can’t know what the issues are if you don’t
  • Bromley
    • used “sweatsheets” — blank papers for kids to just put down their thoughts.. process what’s going on in their minds during class
      • might lead to thoughts on going to the mall
      • but also allowed them to explore and express — and show me what’s going on with them
    • need for students to communicate with teachers anonymously, or outside of their peers
  • Liddy
    • her own children don’t want to ask for help when they struggle because of fear about their peers
      • solutions are seeing the teacher in private after class, emailing
      • finding ways to connect and not just in class can really work
    • self-advocacy:
      • if teachers aren’t working on relationships, the students really need to self-advocate
  • Bromley
    • just blogged on self-advocacy
    • students just accept not knowing, accept missing work, afraid to ask
    • for teachers, students need to ask questions
    • even a basic question is huge, like “where am I?” can lead to deeper questions .. have to start
  • Liddy advice to high school students and teachers:
    • students should ask teachers to explain things in different ways
    • teachers are so used to saying things in one way .. have done it for years, prepped and taught it 3 times that day
    • but it’s always the kids’ first time hearing it
    • being asked to explain it in a different way can really help
      • “can you explain that in a different way”?
      • when she observes teachers, she says, “that’s really clear to you…”  of course!  “but those five kids there… it wasn’t for them”
    • Students have so many things to do, extracurricular activities, getting into college…
    • works with her own children on Heath Bros’ idea about committing to work for five minutes
      • just fiver minutes and things tend to flow
      • try it and it will probably work itself out
  • Bromley
    • teachers should never assume prior knowledge
      • adults have different language from kids and need to be aware of it
      • Bromley handwriting awful: kids learned more by deciphering my notes than by just writing them down… like a puzzle
      • they processed notes more effectively b/c they had to figure out my handwriting
    • on “just give it five minutes”
      • this is same as our work on procrastination
      • just start it … can relieve anxiety
    • Final word; Liddy, please do more of what you’re doing!