TeacherGoals Podcast Episode 41

How to Create an Equitable and Caring Classroom Rooted in Joy with Dr. Deonna Smith

When I think about a classroom culture, a school that's rooted in joy, instead of just operationalizing it and treating our kids like they're little robots that are shuffling from standardized tests to standardized tests, we're recognizing that our students have this innate, beautiful spirit of joy that's already within them

Dr. Deonna Smith
Author & Teacher Coach

Are you tired of the same old "sit down and be quiet" approach to classroom management?

Then you won't want to miss episode 41 of the Teacher Goals podcast featuring the amazing Dr. Deonna Smith!

In this episode, we'll be discussing how to create an equitable and caring classroom culture that is rooted in joy. Deonna shared practical and actionable tips that educators can use to build a supportive and inclusive learning environment where all students feel valued and heard.

Get ready to learn some awesome tips and tricks that will make your classroom a place where students actually want to be! And don't worry, we promise there won't be any boring lectures or pop quizzes - just a whole lot of laughter and learning.

3 TeacherGoal Tips


Tip 1:

The missing ingredient in equity work is joy, which should be explicitly talked about and prioritized in classrooms


Tip 2:
Teachers should focus on building healthy classroom ecosystems rooted in joy and care, rather than just focusing on instruction and management separately.


Tip 3:
Focus on asset-based pedagogies and leverage students' existing strengths to help them grow and flourish.

This Episode Features...

Dr. Deonna Smith

Dr. Deonna Smith is a former teacher and school leader, and educational justice advocate. With over a decade of experience, Deonna has worked with students and teachers in grades K-12 and even in the higher education setting. 

As a student, teacher, DEI practitioner, and administrator, Deonna saw firsthand how inequitable our schools could be. But she also saw the potential for schools to be spaces of liberation and joy. Deonna’s passion for connecting theory with practice led her to pursue and complete her doctoral degree in education and social justice. In her work, she strives to make theories and pedagogies accessible and applicable to teachers and learners. After wearing many hats inside the school building, Deonna transitioned into her advocacy work.

Now, Deonna works with education stakeholders across the country to fight for joyful, inclusive, and equitable spaces for students. Deonna’s latest book, Rooted in Joy: Creating a Classroom Community of Equity, Belonging, and Care, is a guide that blends theory, narrative, and practical tools to help teachers and leaders build spaces for their students to thrive. When Deonna isn’t working, she enjoys hiking, baking, and dancing. 

Erica Terry, Host

Erica Terry is a 20-year educator and co-author of the Eva the Diva Girl rhyming picture book series written with her daughter, to empower young girls to build confidence and grow in self-love. She is also the founder of Terryfic Learning Company, where she equips teachers with actionable tools and resources to start a profitable online business and build generational wealth without stress.  

You can find her hanging out on Instagram @ericanterry_

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