Embracing curiosity in kids
An interview with Miranda Taylor, Author of "Isn't it crazy" and Primary School Teacher.
In this episode Angela speaks with Primary school teacher and now children's book author, Miranda Taylor. Miranda's first and new book "Isn't it crazy" is a delightful book exploring the inquisitive and curious things our kids think about and say. The conversation also explores the importance of looking beyond academics when supporting a child particularly in their early years. Enjoy!
Angela Lockwood 0:02
Welcome to A Kid's Life Podcast. I'm Angela Lockwood. And today I'm actually interviewing somebody who I have met before and I've had the very lovely privilege of working in one of her classrooms. I'm joined by Miranda Taylor. She's a trained early childhood and primary school teacher. And now she is the author of the most delightful children's book, "Isn't it crazy". And I have seen this book. And I was very fortunate to see it just before it even became an official book. It was in the early stages, and I absolutely fell in love with it. So I'm delighted to have Miranda on A Kid's Life Podcast to tell you a little bit about her experience as a primary school teacher. We're going to explore topics around how you can engage kids in reading, but also we're going to talk about how fun this delightful and gorgeous book is. Welcome to A Kid's Life Podcast Miranda.
Miranda Taylor 0:52
Thank you so much for having me, Angela. It's so like, strange to hear like introduce me. It makes me sound so important.
Angela Lockwood 1:01
You are important and the weird part of it is you're used to seeing me on the floor, doing crazy things with your class. And so here we are in the other hats we always seem to wear so many hats don't we, we do we do. Now, of course, um, you know, there's this backstory of you to this beautiful book, "Isn't it crazy" and I'm going to we're going to refer to it so many times throughout our conversation. And if anyone's wanting to have a look at "Isn't it crazy" and purchase your own copy, whether it's for you, or even for your class, or for your book club, anything like that, we're going to have all the links at the bottom in the show notes of this episode. And, of course, I'll share all the links where you can purchase it and find out more about Miranda. But first Miranda, let's go right back to the beginning. Tell us about why did you become a teacher? There's always a story around why people choose their career. Why teaching and I do have to admit I'm going to be a little bit, I couldn't picture you doing anything else other than teaching you are the most beautiful, delightful. I've seen you in a kindergarten classroom or prep classroom. What what led you to become a teacher because it just seems so right for you?
Miranda Taylor 2:11
Yeah, well, I mean, I would like to say that it's in my blood. My grandmother was a teacher. And although I never knew her as a teacher, I just feel like her character is very teacher like, and you're describing it as beautiful. I'm describing this a little bit crazy. But my mum also was studying teaching as well. Then she ended up getting married and having kids and didn't get to, I guess, pursue that career. But from a very young age, I was that child. And I used to tell my mum, I remember a distinct conversation where she asked me what I wanted to be what when I grew up and and I think I was probably maybe like six and I said a teacher, I'm going to be a teacher. And a bit of a know-it-all I guess. And my mum said, oh, like "you might change your mind, you might want to be something else". I was like, "No", I will not change my mind. I want to be a teacher. And funnily enough, I you know, I grew up and right before I graduated, I ended up getting good enough marks, I guess you could say to pursue something else. And I did think about studying law or social work. But in the end, I was like no, I really like I want to be a teacher. I feel like I can make a difference on that ground level. And I yeah, I just, I knew it was safe. And I also knew the holidays were really good.
Angela Lockwood 3:48
I read I used to before I became an OT I could always remember paying out friends who were going to be teachers. And I used to be like, oh yeah it only, because of all the holidays. They always seem to justify teachers always justify their holidays. And then I started working in schools. And I think teachers totally deserve.
Miranda Taylor 4:09
The holiday sounded good in theory, but as I'm cutting out laminated things on my holidays, I'm starting to think yeah, I do deserve this holiday. But yeah, but I also have to mention, I can name every single primary school teacher that I had from kindergarten to grade six. I had the most beautiful teachers, they were my idols because that's what I wanted to be. And they were so fun and vibrant. And they were a smiling face on a bad day. And I just yeah, I just love and still love every single one of them so much.
Angela Lockwood 4:47
It's I just recently wrote an article exactly on this that for teachers to be aware of what they say to kids because the positive stuff has just as much of an impact As the negative comments and vice versa, you know, when a teacher says something negative, you can really hold on to that. And I can remember my grade three teacher so clearly, because she threw an eraser at my head when I was talking. And like people, what? But remember, this was a long time ago, right? You know, in my mid 40s. And this is a long time ago when this tuff seemed to happen a lot more. You know, thankfully, it's all hopefully stopped now. But yeah, I can remember I was talking which is ironic because I've made a living out of talking but she just used to sit at the front and Mrs. Wills and my friends and I still laugh about her. She'd have a glass of ice in her always on her desk, and she'd sit up the front and crunch it. She would just crunch it and crunch and this was when all the the desks not like the beautiful classrooms you're in now that are more sort of free flow. But now you know, it was when all the desks were in lines, and we all had our desks and you talk and she'd pick up something and just throw it at you. Mrs Wills just got me straight their head with a rubber. And could you believe it? No parents were called in and there was no disciplinary action. It was just what she did.
Angela Lockwood 5:08
Angela Lockwood 5:43
I've, got so many stories. I bet you do too. What? Like what is what have been, you know, you're pretty nearly how many? Like you've been out of school, uni. For how many years? Not Primary School of course?
Miranda Taylor 6:31
Must be my I graduated in 2016. So six years?
Angela Lockwood 6:39
So you're coming out of prior of uni. You know, it's you've gone from school to school. And now you're back into school? How have you found? Now flipping the tables and you're the one in front of the classroom speaking to the class? Has I'm sure there's been lots of different challenges. What can you think of any that you sort of gone, "yeah, this was really tough". So that if any new teachers are listening to the to the episode, and they're going, "Gosh, I'm in that first 1,2,3 years? And it's all a bit tough". You know, what were some of the challenges you faced?
Miranda Taylor 7:11
Yeah, I mean, yeah, as you said, I've been out for six years, and in six years, I've worked in three different states. So Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales. So it's every single state has been a different experience and how, and then just within schools individually, how they go about, you know, what they do, and how they teach has been very different. And so I It has been a learning curve for me and a challenge, I would say the greatest challenge is just been realising that children can learn in different ways. And that my way isn't going to be everyone's way. And it's been a bit of a humbling experience, to see that, but then to also not, you know, not sacrifice, I guess, what I truly believe helps children in their life and kind of see as my non negotiable, non negotiables. And kind of, yeah, I guess, still hold true to what I believe, but still working with adults. And so I think that actually the most challenging thing for me has been working with the adults.
Angela Lockwood 8:31
So, right, I am with you. We go into these children, these children's spaces don't we. Because, you know, I think sometimes we feel more connected to the kids and adults.
Miranda Taylor 8:45
Yeah, and definitely, and I think that teachers we do like, control a little bit. And so when you're putting in a space where you have to, you're not in control of the whole school, you're not in control of the whole, you know, section, the one, two threes, or the three, four fives or whatever, you know, you have to answer to someone. And if you don't kind of agree, that can be quite challenging. But yeah, as for the kids, I mean, with all the different needs, it can be hard to feel like as one person, you can cater to all of those needs and answer to every single parent. But what I've learned, and what I love most about teaching is actually, you know, connecting with the kids individually and the parents and when you can work with the parents and you know, have those open conversations. I mean, I still keep in contact with quite a few parents of the kids that I've taught, and I see them as my friends and that's what I want them to be so that it does make that relationship and that task of catering to their child a lot easier if that makes sense?
Angela Lockwood 9:59
It makes total sense. And of course, the programme that I have my online programme, "The Holistic and Inclusive Classroom" is definitely focusing on that. And I know that we've had the fortune of being able to work together. And I can remember when a young boy came into a class that we were both sharing, and very high needs boy. He he had a lot of complex needs. And I can remember with you, Miranda, nothing was ever a problem. You know, there was nothing you were like, of course, I can try that. And why wouldn't I try that? So now hearing you speak about your your view around what his role of a teacher is, in supporting kids with a whole different lot of needs. It just makes sense that your approach matched that. So that was lovely. Yeah, really nice to hear that. But with, what do you find you said some of your non negotiables you mentioned what your non negotiables? Are you happy to share what some of those are? What are your non negotiables? When you when you're working with kids?
Miranda Taylor 10:52
Yeah, of course, I think for me, what I've learned over my six years, but probably over my life is that, you know, life is hard. And, you know, we're gonna face all these challenges throughout our whole life. And sorry, hopefully, I don't get too emotional, but I just want children to be happy. I've had my ooh, I've had my own struggles with mental health. And I'm not that, you know, anyone's to blame. Like, definitely not. But I think I just want kids to be happy. And I think that when they're happy at school, and when they're happy learning, when they enjoy learning, that's when they're gonna learn best. And then I, you know, there were some schools where that really wasn't their, I guess, overarching concept. And it was more results based or something like that. And I even though I wanted to do that, I also knew that I could do that in a way that the kids enjoyed. And more important for me, I guess, is at the end of the year, that each child feels valued, and they feel respected. And they feel like they have a friend in me that they can come to and they can trust and they can rely on because there is so many children out there who who might not have that. And I wanted, I wanted to be that person. If I can just give a little example, I guess, of this boy that I taught he was in grade three. And first day of grade three, I just remember him sitting in the corner, he had long hair, covering his face, and he wasn't interacting with any of the other kids. And, you know if I could say like, he looked like he had depression in, in year three. But I don't know if he, you know, officially did or whether he was just withdrawn. But, you know, it made me so sad. And I just thought, by the end of this year, like I want him to be interacting with the other kids. And I want him to be happy and feel like, you know, trusted by me. And I still remember it was the last week of that year, and the kids were all arguing about who was Miss Taylor's favourite student. And he said, "No, it's me!" My favourite, like, obviously, and my heart in that moment, like, just like died because I was like, I you know, I love them, I love them all. And they were all essentially right. But I was just so happy that he felt that way, in particular.
Miranda Taylor 10:54
Yeah. And that's that's the thing is never ended that you, as a teacher have so much. And you mentioned the word control before, but it's also a power. And I mean this not in a in an aggressive power, but you have such a powerful position where you really can change the path of a child's life. And often it is by just showing them that you care that you're there for them. When they're having those tricky days or when they're having the good days. You're there no matter what and you're right so many kids don't have that outside of school. And that's that's why I love the work that I do with teachers because the influence that you can have on so many kids is huge every year. You know you have so many kids come in and if you can, if you can be a positive influence for even just half of them, a couple of them, one of them. That's actually life changing for these little guys.
Miranda Taylor 14:03
Yeah, and I think like I mean, I can't say I've taken this approach with every single child. I mean, you know, that child, you know, just but learning about him, I one day found out that he, his mom was a single mom, and she was going off to work early in the morning. So at eight years old, he was getting himself dressed, waking himself up, which was a miracle, getting himself dressed, getting him to school, with minimal, you know, lunch, because he had to pack himself. And he was often disengaged. And I, I could have, you know, been quite frustrated at him, you know, but instead, I think, you know, with anything, once we learn about someone, whether it's a child, whether it's an adult, you can love them, like so much more.
Angela Lockwood 15:51
Yeah, everyone has a backstory, don't they? Everybody, there's always and that's, that's the whole point around having schools that aren't just academic focused. And I think this is a really important conversation, we need to have more of that kids are more than their academics so much more than their academics. And there's such a big holistic picture to kids. And if we can embrace that, then that's when you know, we can have these really positive impacts with kids. I want to talk to you about this beautiful book. Tell us about this, the backstory of your story of "Isn't it crazy ...".
Miranda Taylor 16:24
Okay, so I actually love the backstory. Just because, you know, like we've been talking about is these kids are so wonderful and amazing. And, yeah, I just love that I get to work with amazing children. And I've learned from so many of them. And one of them. His name is Nathaniel, and Nathaniel. I was actually just a casual teacher at Nathaniel school. But he was the most beautiful boy he still is, I had the chance to go and see him the other day and give him his copy of the book. How special, so, so special, like one of my favourite days, I think, that I've had. Yeah, he was in grade one at the time. And I was on playground, duty, and he would often spend time with the teacher for for whatever reason, but I loved it, because as a casual teacher, sometimes you can feel a little bit out of place. I mean, I did have reasonably good relationships at that school, because I knew most of them was in my hometown. But you know, in the staff room, it can be kind of an uncomfortable place. So I was more than happy to do all the playground duties and it meant I got to, you know, talk to the kids that I've been teaching and spend more time with them, which I loved and Nathaniel was one of those that I just loved. He was just so quirky and funny. And he came running over to me and said, Miss Taylor, Miss Taylor, and I was like, "What is it, Nathaniel?" He said, "Isn't it crazy that if we were sea horses, I'd be the one having the babies". And I was like, "That is kind of crazy, isn't it?" And then he said, "and if we were peacocks, I'd be the pretty one". You know, I was just laughing. And I have this scrapbook where any funny comments that kids make I write it down just so I can remember them. And I hope that one day I'd be able to write a book maybe for adults with all the these funny little quotes in it. But it was last year, probably about nine months ago, I sat down and I was like, Oh, maybe I could turn one of these quotes into a picture book and kind of get more, I guess value out of these out of these quotes I was looking through and I came to Nathaniel's quote and I was like wow, like he was doing what we try to teach children to do which is like make connections. So he's obviously learnt that somewhere whether it's in a book or online, and now he's connecting that to me and to him as a person, which I was like that is a great skill to have. So then I thought was just started thinking about my family and animals and how they would connect to each other and I have a beautiful little nephew who's now become the star of the book, I guess. But yeah, he sort of goes around and and connects weird and random animal facts to people in his in his family.
Angela Lockwood 19:48
I love that.I want to ask you before we go is how, how was Nathaniel when he realised that hang on a minute, this is all from my brain. You know this was my curiosity in a book? What was his response?
Miranda Taylor 20:02
Yeah, it was like, actually, it was so special. So he was actually at cross country when I got to the school, I kind of surprised kind of turned up. Yeah, anyways. But so I actually got the chance to read it to the grade one two class that his little brother was in. And I'd never met his little brother before. He obviously wasn't at school when his when Nathaniel was, and I was reading the book. And this little boy Nathaniel's brother was just like, "That's true, That's a true fact". And he was just loving every single minute of the book. And I was like, Oh, my goodness, bless his heart, like it must be a family thing. And then I went over to Nathaniel's class when I got back from cross country, and Nathaniel's, like, he didn't actually remember me too well, I only worked there for six months. And he was in grade one. But when I started reading the book, he's like, yeah, that that actually is something I would say like, I do know that that's true. And he was doing the same thing that his brother was doing. And then at the end, I was just like, because I'm just so grateful for him. Like, you know, obviously, that idea has now got me a picture book, which I'm so proud of and love so much. But he was just like, "No, thank you so much". And I'm like, "No, Nathaniel, like, Thank you". "No, I should be thanking you".
Angela Lockwood 21:33
Say thank me thank me when I've written a series. That's what I love Miranda listening to that story is that we were talking earlier about the impact that a teacher's comment can have on a child, but what it sounds like through this beautiful story, is it actually a comment by a child that's had an impact on you? And how beautiful that full circle is?
Miranda Taylor 21:56
100, 100%? I mean, sometimes their comments of "Are you pregnant?" Are not too welcomed. In this case, yeah, I, yeah, I owe so much to that little boy. And so many of the kids that I've taught have taught me so so much. And yeah, I have a book about them all.
Angela Lockwood 22:19
And Miranda when I was reading it, I have to admit, I learned a lot of facts that I didn't realise either. But I think it was it's so beautiful reading it. I was like, "That is so cool." And it's like that curiosity, that natural curiosity of kids to be Yeah, just to look at the world in a different way to what adults do and I think it's so beautiful how you've captured that. I also just want to touch on the beautiful illustrations in the book. Oh, my goodness. It they're just stunning. How did that come about? And I know that there's a, you know, the illustration, I always think that also adds such a beautiful richness to a story. Yeah. How did the illustrations come about?
Miranda Taylor 22:59
Yeah. Well, her name is Emma Louise Clark. And she is just wonderful. She did such a good job. I had a very specific image and style in mind. And I went, like lots of people had recommended places I could go to find an illustrator. And I looked on these websites. And yeah, I just couldn't find something that I was happy with. And then so I thought, well, the world of social media and Instagram, thank you. I just typed in children's illustrations, probably. And her profile came up. And immediately I was like, wow, like, that's, that's what I was imagining. So I emailed her, sometimes you send out these emails and think, look, the chance of them responding might be might be limited. But she did and seemed a bit hesitant at at the beginning, and then later to learn the only reason she was hesitant is because people flaking out on her all the time. But you know, I was I think once I start something I just completely jump in. I'm gonna see it, see it till the end. And so we had zoom meetings, and yeah, it was beautiful. And she's a beautiful person, and I'm so happy with, with how it's turned out.
Angela Lockwood 24:25
And you absolutely should be and I'm not I'm not just, you know, complementing a podcast guest here it is such a beautifully written book. And I can see that adults and children alike are going to really, really love it because it is it's a it's a book that celebrates the joy of children and the curiosity of children, but it is a little bit and it is an informative book as well, when you look at it.
Miranda Taylor 24:47
Yeah. And also, I think, just on the illustrations, she did a great job in that. I gave her like descriptions of what I wanted on the page. And so then for her to then be able to kind of illustrate what is in someone else's mind, I'm sure is a difficult task. And I was just so stoked. Yeah, with how it how she's done. Because yeah, I couldn't, I couldn't do it myself.
Angela Lockwood 25:18
Well, the wonderful thing is to that your vision now has come to life from an idea from a just an off conversation with a boy in a playground has now seen one of your your dreams come to life, and it's actually spanned across the globe. So a big congratulations to you. And I think books for kids and adults, I'm such a book, like I'm sitting here in my studio now. And I'm just surrounded, I'm looking around just surrounded by all my books, I could easily be one of those crazy ladies that just sits in a corner, surrounded by books, having cups of tea all the time reading but, the importance of reading for kids, you know, as a teacher, and now as an author, and for to parents that are listening who might have a reluctant reader, as a child or a child who, you know, they're preferring to go on devices rather than actually sitting and reading a book. There's something beautiful and kinesthetic around reading a book. It's gorgeous. What are your recommendations of how parents can support their kids to love reading?
Miranda Taylor 26:19
Yeah, I think it's actually ironic, I guess I actually don't enjoy reading that much myself. I love I do love picture books. And I would read Yeah, endless amounts of them. And I love reading them at school. And then when we get a not so good one, I'm not super stoked with that. But yeah, I, I love that pictures can tell, tell stories. And yeah, picture books are probably my favourite, and they're short. But in terms of other reading, I totally relate to the children that don't actually enjoy it. And I think again, going back to my non negotiables, for our children to want to do something, they have to enjoy it. You know, you can get children who like to succeed in school academically, because they're driven by competition or wanting to be the best or whatever. But I think the best motivation for kids is for them to learn anything is to enjoy it. So I think that, for me, strategies that I would use as a parent, if I had kids, would be,
Angela Lockwood 27:37
You have lots of the Miranda, kids around, surrounded by kids.
Miranda Taylor 27:44
Just whatever they enjoy, like, if it has words, that they can read it, they can read that. So if they don't want to read the readers that they've been sent home by their teachers, you know, we're sending those home because some kids don't have books at home. But if they would prefer to read a comic strip or something from a newspaper or something online, if they're fascinated with aeroplanes, you know, you could Google aeroplanes and read an article or whatever it is that they're interested while you're out on the road, getting them to read road signs, you know, even I actually thought of this idea today, I thought, if they really love YouTube, could you just put it on like, mute, and then put the captions up, and then put it on slow motion? And then they have to read what the videos happening in the video. But yeah, I think just anything that they can enjoy, to me is what's going to get them to read and to love reading. And I also do think that like we've been talking about adults have very influential as a parent, as a teacher, as an auntie, as a grandmother, you are so influential in your child's life. So if you're not reading, they probably aren't going to want to read either. If you're, you know, sitting in front of the TV, that's what they're going to want to do if you're always in these might not necessarily be bad things if you're always in the kitchen, they're always gonna want to be they will like cooking, I think, you know, like I said, teaching was in my blood. And maybe it was because, you know, I heard my mum talking about how she wanted to be a teacher. Maybe it was because I was in a small town and you know, there was limited professions and those just a lot of teachers around kids are so influenced by us. And so from a young age, I would encourage you yet to read to your children and show them that you love reading that it's not a burden. It's not a chore but you love it. And then I truly do believe that then they will. They want to copy and be a little mini you.