Episode 53 – Unstoppable Love of Learning with Kim Cohen
Our guest today, Kim Cohen, refers to herself as a Nerdy Lit Professor. Mom. Neurodiversity, DEI, & UDL advocate. Like many people, it took time for Kim to discover that she was a person who possessed ADHD. While you get to hear Kim’s story of the discovery of this characteristic, what is more, important is how she decided to handle her life.
In every way, Kim is what she calls a perpetual learner not only about things around her but also about herself and her abilities. Dr. Cohen not only traversed the corridors of education, but now she gives back as a teacher helping others to discover the value of unstoppable learning.
About the Guest:
Nerdy Lit Professor. Mom. Neurodiversity, DEI, & UDL advocate. Dogs over cats, always. Gryffindor rules! Chocolate above all else. Recovering perfectionist and unapologetic introvert.
As a child, Kim Cohen lost entire days reading books and dodging her mom’s pleas to play outside. Her voracious love of learning and books meant she had seven different majors in college and didn’t stop there. She earned a Ph.D. in Literature, focusing on the intersections of culture, class, gender, and food. She believes in the power that stories of all kinds have to heal, connect, and inspire.
Dr. Cohen currently teaches elementary education and special education teacher candidates and graduate students at Western Governors University, but her start in the field of education was as a paraprofessional and a writing tutor. She works across the college and university to support faculty development, especially around areas of DEI, reduce institutional inefficiency, and champion inclusive curriculum and differentiated instruction. She has published work academically and creatively.
Dr. Cohen also serves on multiple school district committees in her community, including the Home Learning Committee and Health & Wellness Committee, bringing her deep commitment to ensuring education meets the needs of 21st-century diverse learners.
After a long stint in the midwest, she returned to live in her home state of New York, setting down roots in the Hudson Valley with her husband, her teenage son, her rescued dog, and a small flock of chickens. She spends her spare time crocheting, cooking, trying not to kill the plants in her garden, and falling down random learning rabbit holes. Her theme for herself this year is “accommodate” (building accommodations for herself in the ways that she does for others). Her bedside table always has at least one Brené Brown book on it.
About the Host:
Michael Hingson is a New York Times best-selling author, international lecturer, and Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe. Michael, blind since birth, survived the 9/11 attacks with the help of his guide dog Roselle. This story is the subject of his best-selling book, Thunder Dog.
Michael gives over 100 presentations around the world each year speaking to influential groups such as Exxon Mobile, AT&T, Federal Express, Scripps College, Rutgers University, Children’s Hospital, and the American Red Cross just to name a few. He is an Ambassador for the National Braille Literacy Campaign for the National Federation of the Blind and also serves as Ambassador for the American Humane Association’s 2012 Hero Dog Awards.
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Michael Hingson 00:00
Access Cast and accessiBe Initiative presents Unstoppable Mindset. The podcast where inclusion, diversity and the unexpected meet. Hi, I’m Michael Hingson, Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe and the author of the number one New York Times bestselling book, Thunder dog, the story of a blind man, his guide dog and the triumph of trust. Thanks for joining me on my podcast as we explore our own blinding fears of inclusion unacceptance and our resistance to change. We will discover the idea that no matter the situation, or the people we encounter, our own fears, and prejudices often are our strongest barriers to moving forward. The unstoppable mindset podcast is sponsored by accessiBe, that’s a c c e s s i capital B e. Visit www.accessibe.com to learn how you can make your website accessible for persons with disabilities. And to help make the internet fully inclusive by the year 2025. Glad you dropped by we’re happy to meet you and to have you here with us.
Michael Hingson 01:20
Well, hi there. Welcome to another episode of unstoppable mindset. Yep, we’re back. Once again. We appreciate you being here. Thanks very much. Hope you enjoy what we have to talk about today. We are meeting with Kim Cohen and gee What can I say about Kim? Well, let me tell you what she says the first thing in her bio says she’s a nerdy lit professor. I don’t think it gets any better than that. She’s a mom. She also says dogs over cats. I suspect that you’d get some disagreement on that Kim but especially from the cats. But Kim, welcome to unstoppable mindset.
Kim Cohen 01:59
Thank you so much, Michael, I’m really appreciate you inviting me on.
Michael Hingson 02:03
All right, what is this about a nerdy lit professor?
Kim Cohen 02:06
Well, I mean, I think I always loved stories. I mean, I grew up with my nose in a book, every single day, I think of my life. And just found you know, that there was always, you know, a place to discover. And, you know, when I went to college, ultimately, you know, my degree I focused, you know, in English, and then I just kept going by masters and my PhD and every time I have a chance to connect someone with a good book, I always tell
Michael Hingson 02:45
nothing like reading good. Nothing like reading good books.
Kim Cohen 02:49
Right? Yeah, nothing like reading good books. And I’d love to play a book matchmaker like that is my that is one of my joys of my job.
Michael Hingson 02:57
I remember growing up and probably didn’t play outside with other kids nearly as much as maybe I would have liked to. But I also just got very much involved in reading both fiction and nonfiction. Although I do like to read a lot of fiction. I think that fiction writers get to demonstrate a lot of imagination that sometimes we don’t see a nonfiction in the same way. But reading is so much fun.
Kim Cohen 03:26
Yeah, agreed. I mean, I feel like there are stories that, that just change our lives. And there’s just there’s such magic in that, in that process, whether that story resonates with us because we feel seen, or because we get to see into something that maybe we didn’t understand. I know, as an adult, I read a book. I was in my early 40s. And it was the first time I had really seen a character that was like me that had a similar background in terms of, you know, coming from an interfaith family and where they’re the one side of the family was Sephardic Jew, and the other was, you know, not and it was, it was this odd. Like I was bawling. I was crying because I had never, as a kid seen a story like that, and it had the power to heal even, even then, even in my early 40s, which I which I think is is part of the magic of have a great story.
Michael Hingson 04:42
So you say that you had a diagnosis and there was a journey to get there. Can you tell me about that?
Kim Cohen 04:50
Yeah, absolutely. So I think you know, like a lot of women. Sometimes some of the diagnoses don’t happen because we don’t always follow the textbook, as as well as other ways that sometimes things get defined. I also was a definitely a child of the 80s. So a lot of things were just like, she has a nervous tummy. But once the sort of pandemic hit, I think a lot of the the carefully structured plans, I had my systems that kept me organized all fell apart. And I didn’t really understand what was going on. But sort of at the same time, I was learning a lot about my child’s diagnoses. And a lot of things felt super familiar. Like, I was like, wow, I’ve really resonate with this meme from this ADHD group, or I’m really feeling some of these, these strategies or struggles that I’m reading about. And it really was this, like, almost parallel path of me learning about my kiddo, and then starting to have this dawning resolute realization about my own journey. And where, you know, I, I definitely have that neurodiverse neuro divergence brain where things get super sparkly, but you know, there were things where I just thought I just didn’t have my act together, and realize later, no, it’s, it’s not that, like, I don’t need to kind of see that as a source of shame. My brain just works a little differently. And I need to, I need to learn how to exist with it, not in a constant struggle, trying to make it work in a way that it doesn’t, it doesn’t want to work, it’s just not how it was. And that’s not how it’s wired. And I found myself, you know, saying things to my kiddo that I wanted him to embody, like, don’t beat yourself up over this, like, this isn’t, you know, this is just, we just need this fix, or just need to think about it in this way. And started to really think about how I could you know, also kind of take my own advice, and not beat myself up for losing my keys again, or my glasses again. And that it’s definitely been a journey, you know, and and same with, you know, better understanding my anxiety and how that impacts me and what I need to do to kind of just, you know, generally stay healthy and not let it overtake.
Michael Hingson 07:32
So your ADHD?
Kim Cohen 07:35
I, yes, I have ADHD, I have anxiety. I definitely struggled with depression, I noticed. My anxiety is at its worst, when my ADHD is not under control. There’s there’s definitely an intermingling there. What?
Michael Hingson 07:53
What does it mean, I guess, or what are the manifestations of ADHD that you recognize? And I guess that’s what your your son also has? Sort of the same? The same kind of experiences?
Kim Cohen 08:05
Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, I mean, I think there’s, it manifests, I think, slightly different. And everyone, as you know, any diagnosis, um, you know, for me, I always describe myself as having a super sparkly brain. So I have a lot of ideas. I’m always somebody who, like, if you ask for, like, hey, what’s the way to figure this thing out? I have, like, at best, like, 13 different plans to get there. But but it can also mean that like, when I’m excited about something, I’m hyper focused, and I will work on that project much too, and let a lot of other things fall away. And if I’m not interested in it, I will put it off, you know, so I have a hate hate relationship with laundry, because there’s no part of me that likes it. No part of me that finds it interesting. And I would rather be doing anything.
Michael Hingson 09:09
You’re probably pretty normal in that regard. But yes,
Kim Cohen 09:11
yes. But like, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s, uh, it definitely has an has an impact, you know, losing things for me is, you know, my glasses, my keys, for getting my keys in weird places, I think is definitely a part of it. But also, I think one of the things that I didn’t realize was a, like, a part of the whole way in which attention works and focus works is, you know, when you call and you have to listen to the message, and I’ll say like, press one for this, press two for this. And while I’m waiting, my brain starts to do other things and starts to think on other ways of, you know, I don’t know maybe it’s what’s for dinner. or maybe it’s like what I’m going to do later, maybe it’s what, you know, a call I have later on in the day, and, and then all of a sudden I hear press Star to repeat this message, and I’ve missed everything. And it’s a pretty much, it’s a guarantee that that’s going to happen every single time. So just learning to, you know, be gentle with myself that those are the kinds of things that I’m regularly gonna kind of have to just repeat and not to beat myself up over it.
Michael Hingson 10:30
So you have learned, or working out learning not to beat yourself up and to recognize kind of what’s going on.
Kim Cohen 10:41
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think that has been the biggest journey for me, is really giving myself some grace, you know, really thinking about okay, would I give my kiddo grace in this situation? What I give someone else grace, who, you know, is telling me this story, then what, what can I do for myself? And so one of the things that I’m really strong at as an educator, as a parent, is differentiation, which is essentially like, hey, let’s take this thing we’re trying to teach someone, but make it work for them. Like, what what, how can we switch things up in the way we talk about it, or the way that we do it, or a tool or a process, so that it’s equally accessible by all, and I’m great, I’m making accommodations for my students, for friends for my kiddo. And this year, I’m like, Okay, let’s, let’s try to extend that accommodation to yourself. So that I’m not constantly setting myself up for feeling like, um, you know, I’m not doing what I should be doing. And instead, just building those accommodations into my life, so that I don’t, I just, I’m not beating myself up, or I’m not like doubting myself or, you know, creating some friction, that’s just completely unnecessary. When I could just put in a tool or a process or another notification for myself, or whatever it is, so that I can stay on track.
Michael Hingson 12:21
I have maintained for many years, that we are always our own worst critics. And we tend not to, we tend not to allow ourselves, as you would call it, the grace of making mistakes. And learning from the mistakes, we beat ourselves up. But then we don’t tend to take the next step. And look at, well, what, what was really the problem? What did I do wrong? What could I do better? Or even if I did it exactly right? And not dwell forever? On my gosh, how could it have been better, but at least look at? How might I have improved it? Okay, I see what else I could even do to make it better and then move on. And the moving on part is what’s really always a problem.
Kim Cohen 13:11
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think one of the, I suppose, unintentional gifts of something like ADHD is like you fail a lot. You’re dropping the ball. And so you have so many learning opportunities to figure out what’s working. And I know that something I bring with me in my teaching, it’s something I bring with me in my parenting. And I’m really trying to give that to myself to like, okay, hey, you have this plan, and it didn’t work. What can we do next time? What? What’s a different way to set this up? What’s the time when it did go? Well, why did it work then? And not? You know, today, but that that powerful piece of self reflection is so critical?
Michael Hingson 14:03
Yeah. And that’s probably the hardest thing to do. Because your brain is going in so many different directions. But for everyone, it’s the most important thing we can do.
Kim Cohen 14:12
Right? Yes, absolutely. I mean, I think that there’s a there’s a power in that, in that self reflection, especially if we can move past the self reflection that’s berating like, there you go, again, doing XYZ forgetting your best friend’s birthday. And instead, really thinking about well, yep, that happened. And I let this person down. What can I do next time? Can I put it in my calendar right now for next year? What can I do to you know, maybe not make that or maybe it’s not that big of a deal? You know, maybe my best friend knows I’m always going to forget her birthday. And she does. Yeah,
Michael Hingson 14:55
which still would be great if you if you didn’t, and I hear exact Do what you’re saying. I know that it is sometimes easy for me to forget, it’s out of sight out of mind, right. And my favorite example of out of sight out of mind, which is a little different, but we buy lots of boxes of Thin Mints every year from the Girl Scouts, which is, of course, as good as it gets. But we put them in the freezer. And I have had boxes of Thin Mints in the freezer for over a year, people would say that sacrilegious, but hey, no, there’s more for next time. But But the issue is they’re, they’re out of sight. Mm hmm. And so for me out of sight of courses, and just out of visual sites, and since I’m not going to see them anyway, but they’re not where I can touch them necessarily. And unless I go hunt for them in the freezer, remember them, they’re, they’re really not there. But other things, as you said, like events and so on. For me, the Amazon Echo device has become a wonderful thing, because I’ve made it a habit, and I’ve had to work at it. But I’ve made it a habit, that when I schedule something, or if something occurs, and I want to be reminded of it in six months, I’ll create a reminder right now, just to make sure that I don’t have to well, and that’s the the operative part, I then I don’t have to worry about it. Because I know I’ll get reminded,
Kim Cohen 16:20
right, and I think there’s there’s I mean, I I’ve use the echo device a lot for those reminders in our family. Because it’s, it’s, it’s so helpful. And then also as a parent, like then it’s not me making the reminder, it’s this external voice. And so that I can remove a little bit of power struggle sometimes. But anytime I can build that accommodation in is a is a real win, because the weight of being afraid that I’m going to forget something. And being afraid that yet again, I’m going to forget something can can be sometimes more debilitating than the actual forgetting of it. And so really trying to when I can, you know, build those accommodations in and not and not judge myself, you know, for needing you know, multiple reminders or, you know, it needs to have something on the calendar plus I need to write it down. Plus, you know, the Echo has to remind me, and so all of those things might need to be, you know, in place for me to just keep keep on track.
Michael Hingson 17:34
Yep. And it works. How old is your son?
Kim Cohen 17:37
He is 14 and a half. Yes. So he’s a ninth grader right now in high school, which is, you know, it’s a whole journey. Parenting a teen there are no, there are no manuals, unfortunately. For that stage.
Michael Hingson 17:54
Yeah, no one has written the book.
Kim Cohen 17:57
No, not at all.
Michael Hingson 17:59
But it’s a great age. I remember High School and, and had a lot of fun. I had some great teachers, I even keep in touch with one of them regularly and even even today, and definitely enjoy it. So it’s really a lot of fun.
Kim Cohen 18:17
Yeah, I mean, I think that it’s being a teenager now is really complex in ways that I certainly don’t remember. It was complex. I know as a, as a kid, I was really shy, painfully shy, painfully introverted. And I didn’t kind of come into my own, you know, for some time, I took a long time to blow. And so I you know, I think sometimes that’s, that’s challenging. And for my kiddo, he’s autistic is ADHD couple of learning disabilities. And so there’s definitely challenges, you know, it’s hard enough to pick up on social cues. And then sometimes when you you know, have these other factors, it can be even more challenging in those in those spaces, and then you know, thinking about you know, all the things that you’re learning all the different subjects and keep this test in mind or that test in mind on top of it all, it’s just it can be a lot.
Michael Hingson 19:21
Well, yes, but on the other hand, nothing a dog won’t help right.
Kim Cohen 19:26
Rest. Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. Pet Therapy and we have a couple of chickens as well and they are there. They are there to assist as well.
Michael Hingson 19:38
Do they interact much?
Kim Cohen 19:40
My son is the primary caregiver of the chickens so we keep the dog separate for the chickens. Um, but for for my kiddo, the chickens have been great. You know, we got our chickens when he was about five or six And, you know, thinking it would be, you know, not only something he’s really great with animals, but but it was also really nice to support him in developing some of those executive functioning skills in a real real world way like the so remember to take them out, he has to make time for that in the morning, he has to remember to collect the eggs. And then it’s also a little business for him on the sides, we collect the eggs, he sells the eggs to Yeah, to our neighbors and things like that. And so that’s definitely been, you know, a really nice confidence booster, I think for him and in a way for him to kind of build some of those build some of those skills.
Michael Hingson 20:44
Nothing like learning responsibility the hard way. Just doing it.
Kim Cohen 20:49
Right. Yes, yes.
Michael Hingson 20:52
What kind of dog
Kim Cohen 20:54
is she is a rescue dog. So we got her, our previous dog had passed away in the kind of early on in the pandemic. And so we had got a rescue dog. She’s a mix, probably some sort of mixed Shepherd on the smaller side. But she came with a lot of trauma, as many rescue dogs too. But you know, she is she’s really coming into her own now, which is really great to see. And she’s so much more confident and has so much less anxiety but I think she she landed in the perfect family because we’re we all have our all of our things here. And so we’re super accommodating of you know, whatever it is that she that she needs and her little you know, her quirks and things like that.
Michael Hingson 21:45
Now, my dog, my guide, dog Alamo would love to meet your chickens. I am sure he would, he would go up and make friends. The chickens may not like it, but he would love to go make friends.
Kim Cohen 21:56
Yeah, our previous dog Sadie, her and the chickens got along just great. You know, she was a pretty low key dog, especially as she got older. Our current dog Luna still has a very fierce prey drive. And so she’s you know, we’re we’re working on at least you know, her thinking that they’re, you know, friends not food. In
Michael Hingson 22:24
alimos case, you just don’t want to get the eggs near his tail, they’d go flying. Yes. For sure. Yeah, he’s, he has never met a stranger no matter what it is. And, and that’s, that’s the kind of dog I would always like to have. I think that that the dog does take on somewhat the and should take on somewhat the personality of the person who is its primary caregiver. And it’s always good to set rules. And so that works out pretty well. Well, in your case, you went on to college, though, and I guess that all went well. So you’re still here?
Kim Cohen 23:04
I am. Yes, yes. I mean, I, in many ways. I feel like I’m like the perpetual student. I love learning new things. I’m, I think that’s like part of that ADHD brain. I always am, you know, never far away from like, obsessing on some new learning that I can do, whether it’s like, I need to learn everything about this new crochet technique, or, like everything I need to know about planting fruit trees, or everything I need to know about, you know, some home maintenance thing. So I mean, I am kind of like that perpetual student, I always tell my students, so I have I teach at a university and all my students are teacher candidates that you’re, you know, my rule for myself is I know, I’m done with teaching when I don’t love learning anymore. Because I can’t, I can’t teach others to love learning if I stop my love of learning.
Michael Hingson 24:11
So you, you definitely have gone through a process. And so you, you did you go straight into advanced degrees and get a master’s in a PhD?
Kim Cohen 24:24
I did. Yeah. So I, my undergraduate I had a lot of majors before I settled in seven majors. Before I settled in creative writing, and my creative writing and Fine Arts degree was made with a promise to my parents. I’d go for a graduate degree. And so I I knew kind of right away that I would go into a program I didn’t actually get accepted initially when I applied for PhD programs. And so I had to kind of quickly read like retarded path and went into a master’s program. Got that and then was able to go on to a PhD program.
Michael Hingson 25:12
And how did you get involved in starting to teach?
Kim Cohen 25:17
Well, I mean, I think, you know, after I had my master’s that was, you know, I always knew that I wanted to teach. I started off, you know, always either being a tutor or one of my first kind of jobs that paid well, in college was as a paraprofessional, so I knew I wanted to be, you know, a teacher. And one of the things that I really enjoyed in college was just some of those deeper conversations that that we can have. And part of my degree programs were, you know, like, they’re like, Okay, well, you’re here, you’re, you know, we’re paying for part of your tuition or part of your package. So you teach as well. And so I just, I kind of haven’t looked back, I did take a little bit of a break, after graduating, because I just couldn’t frankly, find full time work. There was so many hiring freezes. And I served as an instructional designer, which was great, because that’s a huge passion of mine. So really designing learning paths for students, and working with, you know, different departments and programs for those things. But then, you know, when WSU really started hiring, I just kind of fell in love with their mission and who their students were, and haven’t looked back since.
Michael Hingson 26:50
Well, tell me a little bit about W GU, what it is, and anything you can about the program? Well, W GU is Western Governors University.
Kim Cohen 27:00
Yeah, Western Governors University. So I, when I started looking for, you know, full time work full time teaching work. And I saw that they were remote, which really appealed to me at that time, like, my commute was an hour, both ways over a mountain and a bridge. And I really was not happy with that commute. So I’m not commuting. It was a huge appeal to me. And then as I started to really learn more about it, who their students were, most of them are, you know, adult learners. returning to school, they might have had some college credit, most of them are working, they have families. And I just, I was hooked instantly. I remember as a kid, that was in like fifth grade, where my mom went back to school when she went back to college. And I remember that kind of family meeting we had. And, you know, she had told my brother and I that her goal was to graduate college before I graduated college. And I couldn’t, you know, as a little fifth grader couldn’t conceive of someone having a goal, like that far into the future. And she did end up graduating one semester before I graduated high school. But I thought, gosh, you know, if mom would have had a school like this, where she could have gone at her own pace, you know, in her own home where she wasn’t bound by, oh, I can only do this, you know, two nights out of the week, because I’ve got my kids and I’ve got, you know, work and I’ve got this and I’ve got that, how life changing that would have been. And that really was such a draw. For me, I had, I had always done a lot of work with adult learners, but really being able to dedicate my entire career focus to them, meant meant a lot. And so, right now, at Western Governors, I’m in the teacher’s college. So all my students are, you know, going on to get either, you know, they’re trying to be their elementary teachers or special ed teachers. And, and I just, I love it, I have such a big teacher heart, and I just could always talk to students about, you know, learning and how do you how do you foster that love of learning? How do you help kids to write and read and that’s, that’s been one of my, you know, really, really proud things that I’ve had is really being able to kind of, I don’t know, just like help help form the next generation of teachers.
Michael Hingson 29:49
So the, the question that the question kind of that comes to mind is, there are a lot of students at WVU.
Kim Cohen 30:00
And it’s all online. Right? Yes. 100% Online, and it
Michael Hingson 30:04
goes from? Well, it’s a four year college and does graduate work also? Yes. So it means that the students have to be disciplined enough to undertake the studies. And yes, they do it at their own pace. But it still is a discipline that, that they have to learn to make sure that they do the classes and do the homework and all the other things, as opposed to being in a in an environment where you’re a little bit more forced to do it. Because you’re in a physical location, don’t you think?
Kim Cohen 30:42
Right. Yes, no, absolutely. And I think, you know, I think one of the challenges in any remote program is, you know, how do you build community, so folks stay engaged and connected and motivated? How do you build in supports, so that if a student is struggling, they have pathways to you know, get assistance, and, you know, all of those things, and especially, you know, in the midst of a pandemic, those factors are even, you know, more exacerbated when we think about, you know, a lot of my students, for example, are their paraprofessionals, their aides, classroom assistants, they’re their bus drivers, they’re in the school system. And right now, you know, even still, you know, there’s a lot of shortages, teacher shortages, sub shortages, Bus Driver shortages. And so you know, they’re stretched to the max. And so really helping them to find those support structures, and to get the assistance that they need. Is is a challenge. I think one of the things that I really love about Whu Oh, is that it does have a very student centered approach. And we’re constantly asking ourselves, what can we do better? What does it look like to leverage this technology, this system to better support our students, and whether that’s, you know, we, we have this new initiative for study halls, so students can come into a, it’s effectively like kinda like a quiet Zoom Room, like a study hall where they can just get work done, they can share out each other’s goals, celebrate each other. But it’s, it’s this space that allows adult learners to throw it on their calendar and say, Yes, Mom is studying right now, from seven to nine, and close the door. And it it feels now like secrets, anytime that they can commit to where before, it’s like the dishes might be calling, or this kiddo needs a snack? Or what about this, or all these other competing demands that they might have in their life. And I think that’s the part that I’ve always really loved about Wu is that it’s, it’s just constantly looking for ways to meet our students where they’re at, and build the structures so that they can so they can shine.
Michael Hingson 33:15
So do you think that the whole experience of doing such a tremendous amount of online education and online work, perhaps helped you and helps your students, in some ways deal with what’s been going on during the pandemic, when now suddenly, everyone was thrust so much into doing things online?
Kim Cohen 33:39
Yeah, I mean, interestingly, like, I had a lot of conversations with students about that, you know, were there they would say, like, you know, we wouldn’t just talk about what the course was about, you know, that I was helping them with through whatever content or concepts, but directly to about, you know, managing Google Classroom, or how do you share this out? Or how would you handle, you know, this issue? Or how can I make this more accessible to more of my students? And I think one of the things that I really tried to do is draw a straight line, an explicit line for students, do you see this thing I’m doing right now, this is how I’m modeling to you this process. So when you’re in the classroom, you can do something similar? And so you know, I mean, I think good teaching, especially of teacher candidates, we’re not just teaching content, we’re always modeling what is it to, to do good teaching, what are the best practices in the field and trying to mark those moments for them? Is is critical.
Michael Hingson 34:50
Yeah, it’s, it’s really interesting to listen, for me, at least to all the people who complain about zoom fatigue. and having to spend so much time on Zoom, they can’t be in the office. When, in reality, yes, I understand that. And I understand the value of personal contact, close physical contact, if you will, but still doing what we can do with all the technological advances that we have today offers us so many opportunities to go in different directions that can enhance our lives. And we sort of missed some of that, I think,
Kim Cohen 35:34
yes, you know, I mean, I think that’s the thing that I, you know, come come back to a lot is that, it, it gives so many of our students the opportunity to come back to school, when their lives, or frankly, their location, they might be to rural, there might not be a school nearby them. And, and so it really gives them the opportunity to come back to school, and allow that, and I know even from, you know, our own family experience, my son loves remote loved it, preferred it, he felt like he could actually learned because he wasn’t getting as distracted by whether it’s, you know, some of the social things, peer conflicts, or like the 1000, little noises and distractions that happen in a classroom. And I think it really gave him a little bit of a break, to learn how he learns, and reset and think about, oh, this is the strategy that I wasn’t picking up on before. And now, you know, he’s been able to, you know, he’s like, made high honor roll almost, you know, for the entire time during, you know, on Zoom. And so I think it it gave him gave him a window into what he could do, and gave him some time to learn in a very focused way without some of those other, you know, distractions, whatever, you know, those like typical kids stuff, peer conflicts, bus drama, things like that.
Michael Hingson 37:12
Is he is he back to learning in the classroom? Is he back to physical school?
Kim Cohen 37:16
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Our district is back, you know, in person. And so, you know, I mean, of course, then that means, you know, all those, all those typical kid dramas are, are definitely there, but he’s been able to carry with him, you know, that learning, that learning about learning that he did, and, and he’s been very successful. But I I’m so I’m ungrateful, you know, I know, not every kid did well, during the pandemic. And I know, in my district, we we were very attentive to, you know, making sure that, you know, some of the kids who maybe had some technical technology barriers, who maybe needed hotspots, and things like that we already have a pretty much a one to one for technology for our kids already. But, you know, really making sure that everyone’s needs were met. I know, not every kid did well, in the pandemic, it happened to be, you know, my kid did, but I’m also very privileged and that I work from home. So if he was struggling, I was right there. I mean, I was working, you know, but I was still home. And it’s not like he was, you know, 100% on his own.
Michael Hingson 38:31
Again, we’re kind of learning to write the book on how to work more in an online virtual world. And I think it’s a little bit unfortunate that probably too many people are just emphasizing the downsides of it, and not looking at some of the advantages that it can bring to help him in not only learning but just doing work in general,
Kim Cohen 38:56
right? Yes, absolutely. I mean, I think even even for myself working in a, in a remote way, like I, I don’t, I’m not a confident driver, you know, I, I just I have a lot of traveling xiety. And so, you know, being able to just work from home is then one less kind of weight on me, because I can just, I can just go to work and I can focus on working, I don’t have to worry about all of the things that go into traveling to a workplace. And so, you know, I think there’s there’s a lot to be said for it. But I think there’s also a lot to be said for knowing what you need. If you’re the kind of person who really gets a lot of energy from working in close proximity to others, like it’s not going to be your jam, you probably shouldn’t look for that in a job. Or make sure that you’ve got other plans outside of that to get that you know that input and fill your bucket in that way. For me, it’s like the opposite. So I need to make sure I’ve got, you know, more quiet time to fill my bucket. And certainly, you know, being remote allows allows for some some of that,
Michael Hingson 40:17
well, there’s some value in simply taking more quiet time. And I think that most all of us never take enough quiet time, even if it’s maybe going to bed 10 minutes earlier and lying and meditating and just thinking about the day and then again, getting back to introspection about what worked, what didn’t work, and so on. It isn’t that hard to do. But it’s a habit that seems to be very difficult to make really happen in most of our lives. But, you know, here’s a question. If you could give every student a posted note to put on their desk, what would it say?
Kim Cohen 41:00
Yeah, so I am a big fan of the post it notes. First small little
Michael Hingson 41:05
work for me, but that’s okay.
Kim Cohen 41:07
Well, yeah, I’m, I’m, I’m a big fan of as a as a as a as a way to remind myself of small things that I that I never want to lose sight of.
Michael Hingson 41:17
I wish I had been the inventor of the posted note. But yes, that’s a different story.
Kim Cohen 41:22
Right? I mean, I think I would, I would have, you know, one thing that I would definitely put on there is, you know, never underestimate the magic of stories. I think sometimes we can get into the habit of maybe relying on books that we enjoyed as kids, but really seeing the power of story and, and looking for stories that can reflect the diversity in our classrooms, and giving students a window into other ways of being. So definitely never understand. Never underestimate the magic of stories will be one. Another thing that I always tell them, which would fit nicely on a post it is differentiation is the work of teaching. So sometimes folks can get into thinking that it’s like extra, like, well, I have to do this extra thing for this learner who has this, you know, disability or this need? And, you know, I think we need to remember always that. It’s always it’s, they’ll work there isn’t anything other than that. And, and I would say, you know, the last piece that I always come back to is, you know, kind of like the secret sauce to being a good teachers, you just keep learning, keep reflecting. Always like never stop that. I always tell my students when they, you know, they’ll sometimes apologize to me and say, Oh, I’m you know, I know, I’m overthinking. I’m overcomplicating it, and I just remind them like, well, you know, you got sorted into the right house here in Teachers College. We all kind of overthink and overcomplicate, but it actually serves you well in the field. And so you need to always be examining what went well, what didn’t? Why did I fall on my face? Why did this not go as planned? How can I improve it for next time? And so you know, just remembering like, that is the secret sauce to
Michael Hingson 43:23
getting into the but at the end of those questions. Why was this successful? Why did it work this time?
Kim Cohen 43:29
Yeah, exactly. Yep, exactly what went well, why were more people engaged? How did this student who normally checks out check in what was it about this lesson or this, this assignment or this reading that we did all of those things, and helping them the students to make those connections and remind them like, oh, will remember last time? You? You did whatever it is. And you found that the problems were much more straightforward. So let’s try that. So that we’re modeling for the students how to build those. Those that recognition of how they learn of how they can, you know, regulate how they can own their own learning process.
Michael Hingson 44:23
Yeah, it isn’t always where did we go wrong? Just like in the producers, where did we go, right?
Kim Cohen 44:28
Mm hmm. Yes, yes. But yes, but we are going to fall on our face, like Oh, sure, sure.
Michael Hingson 44:35
But it’s also but it is also good to recognize the positives, and also use that recognition to say, can I even do better? Or did I do it right, and and that’s as good as it gets. And that’s okay, too.
Kim Cohen 44:51
Yeah. And I think the other thing too, is like not it’s it’s, it’s recognizing the positives and recognizing also that like, sometimes your positives are going to be different. Like your milestones are going to be different than somebody else’s milestones. And, you know, I think one of the greatest gifts that I have as as you know, being my kiddos parent is just like, his milestones were way different. Like, I remember texting friends, like, oh my gosh, like, he lied to me, this is such a huge thing for him. He’s never lied to me before. Because for a kid who is honest to a fault, you know, and, and, realistically, socially, we all need the ability to do some little white lies, so we don’t hurt people’s feelings. It was a, it was a milestone, and I think we can, I think we can celebrate that sometimes our milestones might look different, and that’s okay. And it’s, it’s, there’s no, that, you know, what, what is a celebration for me as a teacher might be very different than for someone else with same as a parent or, you know, as an employee or something like that.
Michael Hingson 46:04
But on the other hand, if you had a big lie, what did you do about that?
Kim Cohen 46:10
We have a rule in my house that if my kiddo says to me, I have something to tell you. And don’t get mad, that, that that is, that is the rule, I don’t get mad. And so it gives me a little bit of time to center myself, and then we work on kind of figuring out, like, what happened, why what field that that piece? Like? Was, was he trying to solve it on his own? What can we learn from that process? But, you know, that being said, you know, I mean, sometimes there’s consequences. Some, some lies, you know, me it’s not, it’s, it’s not, um, you know, especially now at 14, we’re not dealing with like, little things anymore. No problem. So.
Michael Hingson 47:01
But I like what you said. And I assume as some one of the things that you would say about, or to incoming teachers, or to anyone, never stop learning. I think that’s extremely important. I learned early on. No, I’ve heard it several times. But I learned early on in a sales course that I took that as a person in sales, you you should always be learning. And the day you decide, you know, it all, that’s the day you go to failure,
Kim Cohen 47:32
right? Yes, yes. Because they think it there’s, there’s always more to learn. And I think the the moment, we’re stuck in that where we feel like we’re done, then, you know, we’re making assumptions. We’re not, we’re not fully treating maybe the other people in that we’re interacting with as full people anymore. We think we’ve got it all figured out. And especially as teachers like you, you never, you never have everybody figured out.
Michael Hingson 48:07
And that’s okay.
Kim Cohen 48:09
Yes. Yeah. And we shouldn’t I like, I think that would probably be too much. Too much responsibility. For any one person to have all those parts and pieces and hold all of it, I think it would be probably pretty parallel, you know, pretty pretty, like I would be stuck. I wouldn’t know what to do with all that information.
Michael Hingson 48:29
Yeah. That’s brain overload. Yes, for sure. Well, well, as a teacher and as a as an online teacher that I would think gets to know their students well, and allows their students to get to know them very well. What’s one thing that your students are surprised to learn about you?
Kim Cohen 48:48
I mean, definitely, it always takes them off guard when I tell them that I had seven majors in college. Because, you know, they see me, you know, as a, you know, as a, someone who has a PhD like, boy, I must have had my life always together. And that’s, that’s helpful for them to know. Because, because I think it just normalizes, you know, for a lot of my students, like, this isn’t their first time in college, they might have, you know, tried going to college a few times, and, you know, now they’re, they’re really trying to make another go of it. So I think that’s always something that is, is interesting to them. I think the other thing that that always surprises them as to learn how long it took me to get my PhD, I had, you know, had some health things going on. I had a baby, my baby had a lot of very intense needs. And I was working I was you know, I had multiple like adjunct gigs, working part time. And so, that degree took took some time and I think again, you know, that it really normalizes that, that part of it. And I think You know, the other thing, too, that I share with them is like, Hey, you’re always going to have people who doubt you. And, you know, I did have faculty in college who felt like, you don’t have what it takes to go and get your graduate degree, like, straight up, you’re not smart enough. And I am one of those people that’s just super stubborn. And so I was like, well, I’ll show you. And so that you have a challenge, right? Well, I’ll prove you wrong. And so I think, you know, giving them some stories, you know, that, that help them to, you know, normalize their path. And, and one thing I always try to tell them is, like, you know, you have to own your path, like you own your story. And don’t see it as a source of, you know, shame or something, you need to make an excuse for. So what So you had a non traditional path, okay, but it brings a strength, you know, to that classroom, so you were in it first great, like, now you’re going to be a, you know, a social studies teacher, fantastic, like lean into that is a strength, it’s not a weakness. But I think we can we can get trapped in into those narratives that we tell that that, you know, they’re, I don’t know, we call them in our house, doubt bunnies, like, they just they can sometimes get really loud, and cause us to doubt ourselves, and they’re not always telling us the truth.
Michael Hingson 51:34
My freshman geography teacher in high school, I remember once told us that we’ll probably take aptitude tests in our lives, and people will always try to tell us what they think we should do and what we can and can’t do, which is kind of what what you’re saying, some people said about you. And he said that he took an aptitude test once that said, he should be a plumber. And he said, for a while, I believed it. And then I realized I could teach and I became a geography teacher. And he was a good teacher, by the way.
Kim Cohen 52:09
Yeah, and I mean, I think, you know, I think we, we have a lot open to us. And I think, you know, really, figuring out what, what we want to do what, what drives us, what makes us excited? I always, I’m always surprised and some of like, the, like, well, what jobs do you think are good for someone, you know, with, with, you know, ADHD, or in some other groups, you know, you know, if you’re autistic, what jobs are good, and it’s like, ultimately always comes down to, well, what interests you what motivates you, if you’re interested in teaching, you will make it work, if you’re interested in law, you will make that work. Because, you know, your, your focus will be on it, your attention will be on it. And, and there’s, you know, rarely a path, I think that can’t be done. You know, it’s about finding ways that make it work for you.
Michael Hingson 53:11
That’s exactly it, you may need to find an even create new tools, or find innovative ways to use old tools. Exactly. But blindness, for example, does not define me as much as people want it to and ADHD isn’t what defines you. Although, too many people try to put everyone in little boxes. Well, that just doesn’t work.
Kim Cohen 53:38
Right, right. Yes. And I mean, I think that’s, that’s something, you know, I try to impart to on my students that there’s, they really need to think about all the students that are going to be in their classroom, so that they don’t do that. Right. Like, you don’t want to pass that on like, well, you can’t do this, because instead, like, well, what’s the path that they can do it? Because that’s, that’s our job, right? So everyone should be able to do? Everyone should be able to learn. So how are you going to get them there? You know, that’s, that’s the heart of teaching. That’s the That’s the call to service. How are you going to? How are you going to make that that happen for all of your students?
Michael Hingson 54:23
Well, speaking of learning, you said you had seven majors, did you graduate with all of them?
Kim Cohen 54:29
No, I graduated with a creative writing degree. My minor was in fine arts and I was a couple of credits shy also like an anthropology minor. And I may be one other one. But yeah, formally, it was creative writing with a minor in fine arts. works. It does. I mean, I’m a very creative person. Like if creativity exists. I’m like, kind of a I now I don’t you know, I’m not an artist. I I don’t regularly do art I crochet all the time, like, so it comes out in other ways. You know, often it’s really beautiful slide decks for my online course, or things like that, but it works for me, you know, I mean, I really do enjoy it enjoy fiddling with it, it gives me my little creative design space. Without, you know, having, you know, without feeling like, I don’t have a space for it, because I’m always unhappy, I’m always a little itchy. If I if I can’t be creative in the things that I’m doing.
Michael Hingson 55:42
So you we talked a little bit about you having something that surprised your students? Has any student ever been sort of outstanding in your mind that has affected you or changed you?
Kim Cohen 55:56
Yeah, I mean, I feel like that’s the gift of teaching. Like, we always have students who give back to us, you know, it’s always it’s, it’s always our students always impact us. But I did have a student who really changed how I presented myself with students. And, you know, I think it was it was that W GU, and so, you know, it’s online, we don’t really can’t see our students. So it does just make things a little bit different. But I had a student in, in, in conversations with her, we were talking about a children’s book that she wanted to bring into her class and, and over the course of that conversation, something in me said, like, it’s okay, share a little bit more. And I, in the conversation, we both realized that she had lived in the same city that my father grew up in, in Morocco. And I was like, man, wow, this is a one of those small world kind of situations. And as we were, you know, talking further about it, you know, she, this was like, kind of during, you know, anti Muslim ban. And so, you know, things were very difficult for Muslims across the United States. And, you know, my student, you know, was was definitely going through it at that time. But she paused for a moment, and, and she’s like, you’re like me? And I was like, okay, you know, and I felt very, like, Okay, I’m glad that she, you know, she, she sees herself here. But she’s like, No, you’re like me, and you’re teaching at the greatest teacher’s college in the United States. She’s like, Now, I know, anything is possible. And I thought, wow, you know, I didn’t have to share that story. Like, I didn’t have to tell her about anything about my family. I didn’t, I didn’t have to. But in that moment, I realized, you know, here I am, I’m always telling students like the power of story, the magic and story. And I was talking about storybooks. And I hadn’t considered the power of our own story, and what it means to represent, especially as a faculty member, and how that might impact, you know, my students and, and really, after that, I, I really tried to share a little bit more of my story, whether that’s, you know, sometimes in some of my online classes, I’ll talk about how, you know, some of the challenges that my son has had in learning about, say, inferencing, which can be difficult for some Autistics, and so, but I’ll share that out as a as a parent, and the amount of, you know, emails or calls I get from students, who then tell me, Oh, my kiddos, autistic or my kiddo has, you know, a similar diagnoses and they feel seen, and I think that’s the power you know, of it. And, and I’m grateful for that student for that lesson, because I don’t know that I think I felt like it maybe it was too personal. Or, or, and I just would keep it a little bit too close. You know, but but but she, she helped me feel like that power, and how I can share that with my students. And then they feel seen and then they feel empowered, and it creates a much more inclusive space.
Michael Hingson 59:45
So have you ever considered publishing your own book telling your story?
Kim Cohen 59:51
I haven’t. I have written a couple of children’s books. None of them, you know, got to a place where they were picked up by an agent’s or anything like that. But I think it’s a great experience. And I do love telling, you know, stories. But it’s it’s a whole different. I don’t know, it’s a whole different drama.
Michael Hingson 1:00:15
It is it is. But now today in in our world, the other thing that we have is the ability to self publish. And, and that opens a lot of opportunities for people to more easily tell their stories.
Kim Cohen 1:00:31
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.
Michael Hingson 1:00:35
So it’s it’s something to think about. What are the platforms? I’m just curious, being technological? What are the platforms that W GU uses to teach? Like zoom or? Yeah, so
Kim Cohen 1:00:50
we primarily with our students, we use WebEx, which is very similar to zoom. And then, so that’s typically if we’re having like an online class of some kind, that’s going to be over. Over WebEx, the majority of my interactions tend to be one on one interactions with students. So that’s just over, you know, over a call, or phone call. And then, internally, for us, the majority of our like, our meetings are one on ones with colleagues and things like that are over Microsoft Teams, which I really like because it’s, it’s really reduced the amount of email, we can just kind of quick connect with each other. Yet another email, which anything that reduces email is a good thing in my mind,
Michael Hingson 1:01:44
right? Yeah, some of those tools are not as from a blind person’s perspective, access as accessible as others, WebEx has had some, some challenges and Microsoft teams took a while. It’s ironic, Microsoft talks about accessibility a lot. But it took them a while to really make teams pretty accessible. And none of them are, from my perspective, at least as accessible and as usable assume, from a standpoint of just being able to really interact with the technology and others. But have you ever taught any blind students,
Kim Cohen 1:02:20
I’m trying to think I’m sure that I have, because I know I’ve had to push, you know, make sure certain things you know, had appropriate captions and transcripts and things like that, that could then be modified by the students. In a WG we don’t get a lot of information always about our students, because the accommodations, so much are built into the system. In terms of my time in the classroom, I think I probably had one or two low vision students. But it wasn’t, that wasn’t the typical, you know, student that came through my classroom. But I have impairments. And so it’s always been super interesting to me to kind of learn, you know, about all of the different ways to interact with the technology. And even my son has some visual processing things and watching those two kids together, you know, show each other like the different features have their, you know, their Chromebooks or their iPads to make it work for them. has, you know, has been a great gift because I’m like, Oh, I hadn’t even considered that feature. I didn’t even know that feature existed. And so I do get really jazzed kind of learning about all of those different things, because I never know when, you know, when I might need to use it, or recommended or, you know, something like that.
Michael Hingson 1:04:02
Yeah. You know, it’s always an adventure. And we, we always be it goes back to we always learn more as we go along.
Kim Cohen 1:04:15
Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. Well, this
Michael Hingson 1:04:18
has been absolutely fun. I hope you have found it enjoyable and helpful. We’ve been going for quite a while so I don’t want to overstay our welcome with our listeners. I’d love to keep going but probably should stop. But how can people maybe reach out to you or learn more about you and what you do and maybe learn about WVU a little
Kim Cohen 1:04:40
bit? Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think you can always find me on LinkedIn. So that would be a great way to connect. And then
Michael Hingson 1:04:50
in turn, how do they how do they find you?
Kim Cohen 1:04:52
Oh, gosh, I don’t think I have my what I think they can look me up under Kim Cohen and then they’ll find The Chem CO and that’s affiliated with Wu. And that’ll be me. And then I think, you know, in terms of learning about the vgtu, I would always recommend, you know, our website, which has got such great stories and information. I know I talked a lot about teachers college, but we have a fantastic it program and a business program and a nursing program. And all of them are, are fantastic. I talked my cousin into going back for school. And so it’s definitely a place where, you know, if you’re interested in remote opportunities, I would always check out, you know, our employment page. And if you’re interested in
Michael Hingson 1:05:42
school, I’m assuming it’s W G. u.edu.
Kim Cohen 1:05:46
It sure is, yes.
Michael Hingson 1:05:47
See what a guest. Well, Kim, thanks very much for being here. And I think inspiring us and giving us a lot to think about, and I hope people have enjoyed it. You’ve definitely shown, and I don’t mean, it is a cliche, but the you’re unstoppable. I think the biggest issue is that you always are learning and that that’s always a good thing.
Kim Cohen 1:06:14
Right? Absolutely. I mean, I think we, we, when we’re when we’re not learning, then we’re, we’re stopped. And that’s not the place to be.
Michael Hingson 1:06:25
Well, again, thank you for being here with us. And we appreciate you and your stories. Tell your son to keep moving forward. And that’s as good as it gets.
Kim Cohen 1:06:36
Yeah. Thank you so much, Michael. Well,
Michael Hingson 1:06:39
thank you and everyone who has been listening. Thanks for being here today. I hope that you’ve enjoyed it and that you have been inspired a little bit. I’d love to hear your comments, please feel free to reach out to me my email address is Michaelhi M i c h e l H i at accessibe A C C E S S I B E.com. Or go to our podcast page, www dot Michael Hingson m i c h A E l h i n g s o n.com/podcast. And when you’re there, and now that you’ve listened to this particular episode, I hope that you’ll give us a five star rating. We appreciate it very much. We value you You are the people who make us a success and and we love to hear what you think about all of our shows. And I know that Kim will love to hear what you think about all that she has had to say today. So, again, Kim, thanks for being here. And we look forward to the next time that we get to chat on this topic, the mindset.
Michael Hingson 1:07:43
You have been listening to the Unstoppable Mindset podcast. Thanks for dropping by. I hope that you’ll join us again next week, and in future weeks for upcoming episodes. To subscribe to our podcast and to learn about upcoming episodes, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com slash podcast. Michael Hingson is spelled m i c h a e l h i n g s o n. While you’re on the site., please use the form there to recommend people who we ought to interview in upcoming editions of the show. And also, we ask you and urge you to invite your friends to join us in the future. If you know of any one or any organization needing a speaker for an event, please email me at speaker at Michael hingson.com. I appreciate it very much. To learn more about the concept of blinded by fear, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com forward slash blinded by fear and while you’re there, feel free to pick up a copy of my free eBook entitled blinded by fear. The unstoppable mindset podcast is provided by access cast an initiative of accessiBe and is sponsored by accessiBe. Please visit www.accessibe.com. accessiBe is spelled a c c e s s i b e. There you can learn all about how you can make your website inclusive for all persons with disabilities and how you can help make the internet fully inclusive by 2025. Thanks again for listening. Please come back and visit us again next week.