Episode #78: Reclaiming Personalized Learning with Paul Emerich France

By Barbara Bray

Join Barbara Bray in conversations with awesome educators, leaders, and influencers as they talk about their passion and purpose for planting seeds for change. Each podcast has a link to a related blog post with more information and resources.

Paul Emerich France teaches third grade and is a National Board Certified Teacher (#NBCT) who contributes to the education conversation regarding personalized learning and social justice education. 

Paul helps debunk many of the myths of personalized learning and helps paint a picture of what personalized learning ideally looks like in the classroom. Paul shared about his new book “Reclaiming Personalized Learning: A Pedagogy for Restoring Equity and Humanity in our Classrooms” and provided some tips and strategies. I learned some great ideas from him. Hope you enjoy our conversation!
Where you grew up
I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago in a little town called Mount Prospect where friendliness is a way of life. My parents still live in the same house. I have two sisters and an older brother and everyone lives close.  I had a wonderful upbringing, great teachers and great schools where I had the privilege of going to. Then I went to the University of Illinois and did my undergrad in elementary education and my masters at Roosevelt University in reading. I’m nationally board certified. I owe it all to a great family and a great place where I was able to grow up.  
BPLC19 – Keynote: Paul Emerich France
What it was like for you as a student
I was like your rule follower typically on the higher achieving side student. The education system worked well for me, but it wasn’t when I became a teacher. I saw that everyone is not like me and not everyone was like me when I was growing up. It definitely shapes the way I see the classroom now. Education was really built for people who were like me growing up and that was not fair or inclusive. It has heavily impacted how I see my kids and my classroom now, and I try to build an environment that helps kids like me be successful but also helps all kids regardless of their learning preferences are needs so all kids are successful. When I was in college and realized how many life experiences I didn’t have, I learned how to think on my own for the first time. I wish that I would have had what my kids have now. 
“We want our kids to leave school being autonomous, thinking critically, finding things they like to do and that they are interested in, and discovering a purpose in the classroom.”
Your journey as a writer
I first started writing on my own blog. I wanted to write a children’s book and was googling about how to become an author. That’s where I found that I needed a blog to build a following to get an agent so I started a blog about 6 and 1/2 years ago called “The Thinking Specialist.” I called it that because of the way I viewed the classroom. I’m not necessarily an expert in one content area but I feel I’m a thinking expert. My job is to teach my kids how to be critical thinkers so I need to know about metacognition and how thinking works. That’s why I called it that and then I didn’t like that name anymore. Now it is at https://paulemerich.com and call it “InspirED: Restoring Equity and Humanity.” 
I was writing about how kids see themselves in the curriculum. The essence of personalization is that it is meaningful and relevant to all individuals because they can see themselves and find a purpose in it. I literally just started writing. I think that’s what anybody who wants to write just needs to start doing. You’re going to have posts that are awful and look back not believing what you wrote. Then you’re going to write things that are timeless and that you are so proud of that they are up for everyone to read. But you have to have both. This is where vulnerability comes in. You have to have the good and the bad in order to write. 
Importance of Being Vulnerable
Being vulnerable is essential to learning. I have an article coming out in Educational Leadership on the Value of Vulnerability in S…