This week Ali and JoDee sit down with Pamela Blackmon, a Program Manager for the Preservation Hall Foundation in New Orleans. Together they will discuss education roles in the nonprofit space and discover ways teachers can maneuver their careers outside the classroom.
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Ali’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alisimon/
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For episode transcriptions visit: https://thegreatteacherresignation.buzzsprout.com
All teachers are natural innovators, entertainers and problem solvers. They dream of growing old into the profession, teaching their kids kids. But sometimes career goals shift or change, and that makes opportunities outside of the classroom seem intangible questioning who am I, if I'm not a teacher? I'm your host, Alexandra Simon.
And I'm your co host, JoDee Scissors.
This is The Great Teacher Resignation.
Today, we're joined by Pam Blackmon. Pam has been immersed in work dedicated to New Orleans music and culture for nearly 12 years. When she's not working for Preservation Hall, she serves as a captain of a parade crew dedicated to James Brown, and makes meals for the unhoused community. Welcome to the show today, Pam.
Thanks for having me.
Yeah, so great to have you on the show today.
Pam, we are so excited to have you today because we want to shed some light on how teachers can move into the nonprofit space. And so, as many people know, teachers are naturally servant leaders. They instill hope, foster a deep rapport with students, and notice the fine details of a young person's social and academic being. So when a teacher finds themselves at a career turning point, they are searching for change but also a newly found purpose. And as you know, because you are a servant leader, I think this is a great opportunity to show how a teacher can transfer into that new role and fulfill a very meaningful responsibility in the nonprofit world and discover ways to maneuver their career outside of the traditional classroom setting. So Pam, can you tell us a little bit about the roles and programs at Preservation Hall? Define them a little bit so we can really identify how a teacher fits into that scope.
Well, I think this is a great topic to be discussed because as the title of your show says there are a lot of teachers resigning and throwing in the towel. And we know that there are a million reasons why. But I will start the conversation with this. This is all I could think about As I got ready for the show today. Teachers make the world go round. Like it's just so important, the work that they do in the classroom. And I'm not a teacher, but I imagine once a teacher, always a teacher. So those skills, and that knowledge definitely can translate in another sector. Nonprofit definitely being another important one. So you want me to talk about what I do at Preservation Hall foundation. First, our mission is to protect, preserve, and perpetuate New Orleans music and culture. And so we are kind of the driving force, the engine behind the music venue that supports 60 local jazz musicians that have been running the show for over 60 years. And when it comes to the nonprofit, we get into the community and we spread the word through our community engagement. We have archiving, our music education, and then we have what's called the legacy program. And all of those programs come together to make Preservation Hall Foundation, which has been around for just at 10 years. And so for my role in programming, I basically keep all of those parts moving together with the mission that I stated before. So what that looks like the community engagement side, we go out into the community for concerts, for speaking engagements at universities and schools, participating in different activities, like parading and all kinds of things like that with the community. With the archives, it's kind of very straightforward. We're living in a time capsule. So we are constantly running against the clock with natural disasters to collect as much physical history and artifacts as we can. But then oral history is a huge part of it. We have all of these living legends that have been living with legends. And so collecting their narratives and stories firsthand, and putting it out there is a big part of the vast archiving program. The legacy program is dedicated to senior musicians that turned 60 and who have spent a fair amount of time at Preservation Hall. And it's kind of the support system for them on and off the stage. And we saw that really come to life with COVID, as some of the elder musicians got to the point where they couldn't perform anymore. And we are still there for them. And so we find different ways to engage them off the stage, bringing them in to spread their knowledge to the current musicians, having them contribute to a repertoire, all the things. They're just like vast capsules of wisdom. And the music education program, it's the best. It's changed quite a bit since COVID. Before COVID, we were really immersed in the classrooms, in the school, sending teaching artists out there. But now all of that has changed. New Orleans specifically has a pretty tricky administration for teachers to navigate. So going into the classrooms and doing the things we did, are actually a lot more challenging. So we had to pivot. And I think the biggest thing to come from COVID was the launch of our Preservation Hall lessons website, which is a free website for educators K through 12, with lesson plans and media, dedicated to New Orleans music and culture that they can use in their classroom. Everything is made within Google Suite. So they can add their touches according to their student's needs on it. And the best part about it, no matter where you are, you get a little bit of New Orleans in your classroom. Not only for what you bring out the lesson plan itself, but the media. The media is really the gold. We have videos of the culture bears, the Preservation Hall musicians, speaking and teaching the things that the lesson plans reflect. But in their own words. A lot of it is exactly how you would hear it, if you were meeting them face to face. It is wonderful. And like I said, that's a free resource. That has been, I guess one of the biggest accomplishments from the music education side, besides being able to bring students back into Preservation Hall. Kids in the Hall is a really awesome program that is dedicated to field trips. So we have school groups from all over the country, come in visit Preservation Hall. It's a one hour session or maybe more depending on the size of the group. They come in and it's just a musical conversation, depending on what the kids are interested in learning, or what they're already versed in, the Preservation Hall ensemble will perform and ask questions and it just becomes this dynamic exchange for an hour. And the kids are always either coming in timid, or maybe not coming in timid, but by the end of it everybody is like wow. So that's a lot. And on the development side, I won't go into that too, too much. But I mean, the development is just evangelizing all of these things that we're doing and really engaging the donors with what's really happening on the ground here. We can always go out and present the very pretty packaged spiel, but I feel like with Preservation Hall, specifically, people really want to know what's happening in the city. So being able to take direct feedback from what's happening in the venue, from what the teachers need, from what the communities need. We go and we have these conversations and build relationships with the people that support us and people that are interested.
That was definitely a lot of ground that you've covered, Pam. And thank you so much for walking us through really the the different departments. It sounds like the different activities, the different ways that Preservation Hall is engaged in the work that they do in the New Orleans community and actually in the greater communities outside of New Orleans with those amazing lesson plans that are available on the website. As you were describing all of these activities and all of these different buckets that Preservation Hall is invested in, I started thinking about a lot of the, probably the skills that you would need to work at the hall. And I'm gonna let you tell me if my brain is, you know, my teacher brain is saying the right things. But it sounds like a lot of interpersonal communication, a lot of thinking quick on your feet. Because if you're doing community engagement, if you're working with schools, if you're at parades, you're interacting with a lot of people, you're interacting with donors, from the development sides. There's a lot of interaction. Probably a lot of pivoting you might have to do. So being able to make quick decisions, being able to have quick reactions is really important. Another thing I heard was logistics. You have a lot of different programs and events that you're running at the hall, that your team at the hall is running. And so someone who has experience with programming, and with coordinating events like that, or with field trips, they could be really useful. I mean, when I was a teacher, I did do programming at my school. I was also in speech and debate. So if you're hosting a speech and debate tournament, and you're having hundreds of people come to your school, that is like logistics at its core. Because they're out of towners, probably like a lot of your events at the hall. And then taking kids on field trips, that experiential learning of going into a location preparing for that. I just, I could really see how an educator could be beneficial in those roles.
Absolutely, absolutely. And it's so funny, because I quickly just think, well, an educators probably going to come in with way more knowledge than I came in with, right. I'm not an educator. And I originally, before COVID, was on the venue side, in a completely different world. I was working at the venue, and doing the merchandise and training the staff and, and working with the musicians during the concerts. And then when the venue closed, I was offered a position at the foundation. And of course, I didn't turn it down. But I had the nervous Nellies because I'm like one, I've never worked in a nonprofit. I don't know the music education lingo. I you know, but I was reminded time and time again, from some of my mentor musicians, you know, more than you know. And really, I can definitely see teachers just... I wouldn't say any nonprofit, but definitely nonprofits that are focused in education. But you know, I would imagine that a lot of nonprofits have the same structure. We have a lot of logistics, you have to interface with a lot of people. And you have to do your research of what that sector is community wise. And then on the the larger side. So being able to handle lots of personalities, being able to handle lots of moving parts, and being able to communicate things in a succinct way, in a way that people understand it. That's definitely part of the development side, I think that teachers would definitely ace that because like you, like you said, in that earlier spiel, there's a lot of ground to cover. So someone who knows how to deliver that information in a palatable way, while also putting the smile on and breathing deeply because there are so many personalities out there.
You gave us a ton of insight on programming. It seems like there are a lot of hats and a lot of roles that can happen in programming. But none of those things can happen without funding. So tell us a little bit about development.
I actually have a wonderful development director that handles a large part of the organization's development responsibilities. But again, it takes a team. And it all comes down to a couple of key things. It is definitely the fostering of relationships with donors and being able to communicate what the goals are, and what the money is going to. I think that a lot of people get caught up on presenting their organization over and over again, in the same way. But I think what donors really want to know is kind of the minutiae. What's happening that we don't read about in the newsletter. And what from your experience lets me know that these dollars are being put to work. So being able to communicate to them in a real way, how those funds are being used, I think is crucial. If you can master the art of coming up with unique fundraisers, check. If you don't have that skill, again, you're going to be working with a team. So don't stress out about that too much, but having the goal for where the funds are being used, making sure those funds are being used in the right way. And then being able to communicate that message, even if it's the same bucket of money that you've used over a year and it's only one program. Really being able to deliver information in a way that keeps donors interested, concerned about the class, because usually you're fundraising for something that is not going to be going away quickly. So you want to keep it fresh, and being fresh with the message means you have to be in the know. So you have to be engaged, you kind of have to be on the forefront of finding out Okay, what's next? What problem are we solving next? And engaging the donors in that conversation. A lot of them are used to just writing the check and getting a pat on the back. But they want to be involved with it. They want to feel a sense of ownership over the problem, and be able to go out to their community and say, not only did I help this, but I was involved in this conversation with this person, and they took my feedback and look what happened. And then they feel excited and then it organically starts to spread. So I definitely think that development has its own set of logistics, you know, CRM, being able to keep up with all those names and email addresses. But there's programs for that. You can learn that. It's probably no harder than putting together a lesson plan or getting your students prepared for testing. But I think that the key is really using your mind to keep the conversation fresh, and keep people involved in the conversation. You want to get connected. You want to stay connected with the message, but you want to keep the connection with the problem that we're solving.
That's the major skill that I think someone in fundraising has to have is, they are very personable, and they are okay keeping up with people. They're okay knowing facts about people to be able to ensure that they know them well enough to be able to talk about them personally, but also be able to talk about what they're they're fundraising for. Because they want to be a part of the conversation. They're contributing this money for a cause. And they want to know, they want to know, what are the updates? Where am I dollars going, you know, how can I get more involved? And so I guess the biggest characteristic of a fundraiser, in my mind, is just that extrovert that loves to talk, can work a room. Ali's raising her hand. And so that's not me. I see those personality traits and a lot of teachers that they really know how to work a room and establish relationships and make people feel special, and make them feel like they're a part of something. And so I think it's a unique personality trait, in my opinion, to be able to fundraise.
Yeah, definitely. There's a gift of gab that's needed. I definitely feel like there's room for the people that might not be so extroverted though. Because, believe it or not, a lot of people that are in that donor fundraising space, want to talk about themselves. A lot of people out there are there for the calls, they already know that they're going to give the money. And you may say your name to them five times, and they still don't remember you at the end of the night. But what is the goal, to deliver the message. So if there is a person that is comfortable in those settings, but not quite as Broadway as another, there's room for both because it is definitely exhausting being the extrovert and sometimes you could put a lot on your plate by being so personable. You attract more attention. So if you can find that happy balance, and even work with someone on your team to be their balance. Maybe you have someone on your team that is the extrovert and then you know, guilty as charged. They're in a conversation with the donor and they go off on a tangent, you can bring it back in with those facts and kind of balance that out. So I would say that, you know, even if you are not, you know, ready for ShowTime, you still have a role there because at the end of the day, people just want to know what's going on. I can tell you when I first got into this donor space, I was freaking out because everybody remembered who I was, and I didn't remember them. And I thought that I was just gonna bomb because I'm looking at my colleagues who have these people's birthdays memorized, and I'm like, Oh, my goodness. But at the end of the day, I just stuck to the topic at hand and just spoke from what I was experiencing, what I knew what was going on in the community and just kept it there, kept a smile on and it definitely has yielded fruit. So you know, it's a learning curve, even if you're not there yet, in terms of being the outgoing person, it can come. Once you're confident in what you're doing, it will naturally come because people will share that passion.
That's really great advice, Pam. I agree with you to that, you know, teamwork makes the dream work. Definitely makes nonprofits continue and grow, as they have team members who can support a variety of different things. So I love that you, that you also highlighted that you don't necessarily have to have a certain trait to go into something specific. But you, you gave us an in depth look at what programming and what development looks like at your specific nonprofit. I know that in nonprofits, there are other positions that we've also talked about. One other one that just came to mind was educational programming. But there's grant writers, there's curriculum writers, researchers, evaluators, people who work on accessibility, social impact, subject matter experts, advocacy, community engagement, digital learning, like the list could just honestly go on and on depending on the size of the nonprofit and what their mission is. And it was really great to be able to take a look at your nonprofit at Preservation Hall Foundation to see what the work is that you do, and how you see the teacher brain skills that educators can bring to nonprofits.
Thank you. You know, like I said, you know, more than you know, and we're all here to teach and lead one another. So thank you for letting the teachers out there know that they are loved, they're wanted and they have much to offer.
Thank you so much. Thanks for joining us today. Pam.
If you'd like to connect with Pam, you can reach her on Instagram at Pres Hall foundation, at P R E S H A L L foundation.
If you liked The Great Teacher Resignation, give us a five star rating and follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music and Audible. Today's episode was written and recorded by me Alexandra Simon and my co host JoDee Scissors. Executive produced by Teacher Brain. Produced and edited by Emily Porter. Original Music: Emoji by Tubebackr. Special thanks to our sponsor Paper Planes Ed.