“So many people have something to say and are doing amazing things in education, and all we need to do is just listen to each other.” Being ‘heard’ is an essential part of human connection and understanding. Primary school teacher and podcast host, Toria Bono, is doing just that and more by showing us exactly what empathetic listening looks like in the classroom, and through her award-winning podcast, Tiny Voice Talks. Toria lives in the UK where she consistently works towards creating a space where both her students and fellow educators are listened to, valued, uplifted, and celebrated.
Toria has traversed a dynamic, and ever-changing career path that led her to hold various leadership positions in the education field, however, her true passion lies in the classroom with primary students. I see why she is a perfect fit for this age. She exudes an energy that is nurturing and empathetic which I can only imagine translates incredibly well into the classroom. “I love every minute of being a primary school teacher. Why? Because I can see every day that I am making a bit of a difference. I feed them full of knowledge and they leave me as butterflies ready to fly on to the next thing and adventure.”
This little difference being made in these children’s lives is due to the way in which Toria values and believes in each student’s voice. When I asked Toria the most important thing that a child could receive in education, she quickly replied “All children need is time, space, and the belief of adults. They need to know that adults believe in them, and that is why I’m not scared of silence in my classroom. I want my students to answer confidently and give them that time to formulate an answer on their own.” Toria believes that each student already has the capabilities to succeed they just need to be given the opportunity to do so.
The Power of OKIOCAM
One of the ways that Toria helps students find their voice and further establish themselves is through the use of technology. Toria was an IT lead in her second year of teaching and has long believed in the power that technology possesses to unlock students’ creativity. “Covid was and is a dreadful thing, but from a teaching perspective, it meant that we had to learn how to engage students in ways that their educational experience would not suffer. For that, I am grateful because I was introduced to so many incredible technologies that way.” Technology has completely shifted the way in which knowledge is distributed. Education is transitioning from an authoritative model of teaching to something much more fluid that allows students to take the reins.
The OKIOCAM was introduced to Toria during the pandemic and she fell in love with not only the functionality, but also what it did for her classroom environment, and the students themselves. “Talk in the classroom is vital. When I use the OKIOCAM to simply show an image, children naturally start to discuss with each other what they see.” In a time when students’ communication skills are decreasing because of COVID, it is absolutely imperative that we negate these deficits through technology, and through the use of the OKIOCAM. “The OKIOCAM has definitely helped give a voice to my students not only literally but figuratively as well.”
Toria believes that the OKIOCAM is a powerful tool in both celebrating students’ work as well as building resilience within them. “As soon as you put a child’s work in front of others, they instantly sit up and feel proud. I also find that children are more open to improving their work because it’s no longer frightening. They actually actively invite critiques and collaboration.” This is a powerful transition from an ideological standpoint. The OKIOCAM is helping students make cognitive connections that they previously would not make! “I believe that it helps them develop resilience emotionally. They see critique as a positive tool and my job is to support them through this process.” All of this leads the student to find their own voice and Toria believes that’s the most important thing to do as a teacher: to listen and believe in the power and knowledge that your students possess.
Tiny Voices. Big Sound.
While Toria created a space where her students always felt heard, she did not have the same experience at first with social media and technology. During the pandemic, Toria activated her Twitter account in hopes of connecting with other educators but was let down when her question was left unanswered. “I was incredibly frustrated and felt left out. So, I created this thing called Tiny Voice Talks Tuesday for any educator to pop in and say hi!” Toria created the #TinyVoiceTalks hashtag in hopes that other educators would begin to come together and share ideas to allow everyone the opportunity to be a part of the conversation. “Essentially, I created it so that everyone could be and feel heard. Coincidentally this happened during the lockdown, and educators started to share ideas, and there ended up being over 500 different educators tuning in every single week. People started to give ideas for remote learning, and it morphed into this incredible space where knowledge was being compiled and shared.”
Toria quickly realized that this platform was becoming something much bigger than she had anticipated, and one of her followers suggested she start a podcast. “The premise was the same. I felt that there are so many educators who need their voices to be heard, but they are sitting there not able to share because they don’t have a platform. So, I created that platform, and its ethos is all about giving the quit educator a platform to which their voice can be heard.”
The Birth of a Global Community
What’s incredible is that her small community has grown exponentially with small and large voices in education tuning in each week to listen to the featured educator on her podcast. While the success of Toria’s podcast is incredibly exciting for her, her determination to illuminate small voices in education has not drifted. “I’ve had a couple of educators on who are relatively well known, but their passion for tiny voices is evident and makes it a powerful conversation.” continually question my value system, and the value system of the podcast and evaluate if this person fits the ethos of the podcast.”
Tiny Voice Talks has transitioned from just being Toria herself to a massive platform with hundreds of educators tuning in each week to hear and support the smaller voices in education. It has morphed into something so much more. Toria is working now on a book with the same principle that will feature over 30 different educators who have an interesting take or opinion on education in today’s world.
Toria’s passion for tiny voices within education is utterly palpable. In all aspects of her life, she is shining a light onto those voices who so desperately need to be heard; whether it’s minority students, small-town innovators, or the tiniest voices of them all-the students. Toria’s dynamic career path serves as an example of how to use one’s platform and voice for the benefit of all.
Toria Bono is a class teacher in West Sussex, England who focuses on equipping her students with the necessary skills and tools to succeed on their educational journey. Toria is the host of the award-winning podcast, Tiny Voice Talks, which is available on both Spotify and Apple Podcasts. Toria is active on Twitter where she has fostered a space of inclusivity and collaboration between educators all over the globe. Toria also has a blog where she shares some of her knowledge and experiences in education over the years. Be sure to follow her on Twitter and Instagram and join #TinyVoiceTuesday which is a global community!
This story is a series where we honor extraordinary educators who are making a difference in their communities with OKIOCAM. This story is written by Ben Jones.