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Rigor in Your Classroom: An Exclusive Q&A with Author, Leader and Education Expert Dr. Barbara Blackburn

Posted on: October 12, 2022

“On your worst day, you are probably
someone’s ONLY hope.
Keep making a difference!”

Q: After over thirty years in education and working with countless teachers, leaders and students – how would you hope those you have worked with would first describe Barbara Blackburn? 

A: Passionate about teaching, understanding of teachers, leaders, and their challenges. 

Q: Your new book Rigor in Your Classroom : A Toolkit for Teachers, 2nd Edition is soon to be released on December 27th of this year - What do you hope will be the prime takeaway for an educator after reading your book? 

A: That there are a variety of strategies teachers can use to help all students achieve at rigorous levels. 

Q: What are some steps for how an educator can implement the learnings from your book into their classroom? 
A: One of the things I like is there is not a set order to the book—teachers can start with any idea or topic they would like. For example, they can look at the exemplars or rigorous tasks to create their own or they can take the questioning starters provided to increase academic discourse. 

Q: You have released over thirty books for educators – are there particular books amongst those that stand out in a personal way to you? 

A: My first book, Classroom Motivation from A to Z showed me that my ideas had practical application for teachers. Rigor is NOT a Four Letter Word was when I launched my ideas on rigor, which really just swept the nation. Advocacy from A to Z, which focuses on advocating for education, is very special, because I co-wrote it with my dad, who died 3 years ago. He was my first and best teacher, and it was an honor to write with him. 

Q: When you were beginning your educational career was there a book or writer that had a significant influential impact on you? 

A: My dad was a teacher and college professor. He taught me to always focus on my students, both inspire and be inspired, and shoot for the stars. My favorite three books, based on his love for them, are The Phantom Tollbooth, The Thread that Runs So True by Jesse Stuart, and Oh the Places You’ll Go. 

Q: You have been an educator for over 30 years, and now a recognized influencer and consultant for so many entering the industry – in your opinion what do you see as the toughest challenges facing a new educator in the classroom today? 

A: Finding a way to deal with all the challenges. Of course parents are challenging, so is discipline, so is standardized testing. But balancing all of those with the myriad challenges related to students can be overwhelming. 

Q: What do you believe is the best way to prepare for these challenges? 

A: Recognize what they are. Prioritize and triage. Don’t go it alone (network and work with other teachers and leaders). 

Q: After working with so many educators over the years is there a common issue or question that you are continually asked? 

A: What one change would I make in schools. I would move to a four-day week with one day dedicated to teachers working together, planning, customizing instruction for students, and professional development. 

Q: In your opinion - what is the best and worst aspects of being an education leader? 

A: Best—you make a difference everyday. Worst—what you expected to do/be is overwhelming. 

Q: After your thirty years in education what inspires you today about the sector? 

A: That despite all the challenges and needs, awesome teachers and leaders work to make a difference everyday. 

Q: If you could go back in time what piece of advice would you relay to a younger Barbara Blackburn starting her first year in education? 

A: Don’t beat yourself up too much when you make a mistake. Everyone makes them, and you’ll learn and get better. 

Q: Finally, is there a takeaway quote or statement you would offer teachers and educators to live by? 

A: The leader of an alternative school shared this one with me, and it’s one of the most powerful ones I’ve ever heard. He greeted his teachers with, “Don’t forget, on your worst day, you are someone’s best hope.”. The only thing I have found is that it needs to be changed a bit. On your worst day, you are probably someone’s ONLY hope. Keep making a difference! 

Rigor in Your Classroom : A Toolkit for Teachers, 2nd Edition is released on December 27th 2022 and is available for pre-order now. The book features more than 250 tools for teachers and is appropriate for all educators across the K-12 sector.

International expert, author of over 30 books and one of the top 30 Global Gurus in education; Dr. Barbara Blackburn has over 30 years’ experience as a teacher, leader, university professor and international expert in education. Acknowledged as a global leader in the study, impact and implementation of Rigor - Dr. Blackburn has worked with educators across the globe to improve engagement, motivation and institute positive change. Among her 30 books include the best-selling titles: Rigor is NOT a Four Letter Word, Rigor and Assessment in the Classroom, and Rigor and Differentiation in the Classroom. For more information and support for educators visit Dr.Blackburn’s website at www.barbarablackburnonline.com and follow her on Twitter at @BarbBlackburn.