Sidewalk Talk

Teaching, connection, and transforming pain in kids with Michael McKnight | Michael McKnight

May 25, 2021

Michael McKnight is an educator at heart. Although he no longer teaches in the New Jersey classroom where he got his start and now has a handful of accolades and additional titles to his name, Michael is still as passionate now as he was four decades ago about connecting with students in ways that empower them to learn, not just stuff their heads with more information. 

On this episode of The Sidewalk Talk podcast, Traci sits down with Michael to chat about all things education, technology in the classroom, and the research that gets Michael the most excited about the future of education. Michael specializes in working with kids who have endured adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), but although these kids have gone through more than many adults at a young age, Michael holds on to his characteristic optimism and hope that kids’ pain-based behavior can be transformed by teachers like him who put kids and connection first. During the episode, Michael even shares his advice for parents walking through a global pandemic and the subsequent disruption of the education system with their kids. Parent, teacher, student, or someone in between—don’t skip this episode with Michael McKnight! 


Episode Milestones

[00:07] Intro 

[02:52] Meet Michael 

[07:31] The hope in transforming a kid’s pain-based behavior 

[09:22] Michael’s mentors and the research that gets him excited  

[13:40] Quality connection versus the obedience model in schools today 

[16:07] Michael’s advice to parents: rupture and repair  

[21:02] How Michael stays optimistic about educating kids 

[25:47] ACE’s: adverse childhood experiences 

[27:12] Technology and connection in kids and the classroom 

[35:50] Michael’s word for you

[40:00] Outro 


Resources Mentioned

Life Space Crisis Intervention

Unwritten: The Story of a Living System

Stockton University

“Resilience: The biology of stress and the science of hope”


Standout Quotes from the Episode

“Most of our most troubled kids are really kids that carry enormous amounts of pain, and that behavior that we see, we call it pain-based behavior—behaviors by kids in pain.”
—Michael McKnight 

“For the most part, young people learn not so much about whatever it is they’re studying—they learn from teachers they like.”
—Michael McKnight 

“Parenting is absolutely a task that is impossible to do perfectly. And I think we have to give ourselves a little bit of room there.”
—Michael McKnight 

“We focus on credential-izing, we focus on content, and then we wonder why teachers are in the classroom and that’s all they do.”
—Michael McKnight 

“I don’t see technology as being a specific kid problem. I think it’s an adult problem because it’s so easy to get caught up in it. It becomes an extension of self almost.”
—Michael McKnight 

“This isn’t about fixing you—it’s really just about getting to know you and seeing who you are, and that dynamic affects me as much as you, maybe me more than you.”
—Michael McKnight 

“At our core, we’re really feeling creatures who think. Human beings are feeling creatures who think. And we have to be able to go into emotions because they drive learning, they drive attention, they drive everything we do. And yet in many areas we’ve kind of disconnected that and kept this illusion that teaching and learning is purely an intellectual pursuit. It is not.”
—Michael McKnight

“Without that connection, many of our kids are there in body but not in mind. And our schools need to be able to shift from their current model of thinking to something much more alive and something much more whole and natural.”
—Michael McKnight 




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On LinkedIn: @MichaelMcKnight

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