Good Teachers Take Risks

“Successful teachers endure the vulnerability of being a learner and take risks to provide the most effective instruction to their students.”  —  @torreytrust

Photo by @AlexRadelich

I was doing some research this summer and came across an article written by Dr. Torrey Trust titled Professional Learning Networks Designed for Teacher Learning.

The headline seemed simple enough. There’s nothing particularly revelatory about the power of solid PLNs (even though there’s still an absurdly high number of teachers who aren’t connected anywhere outside their own school, but that’s a post for another time).

But then, near the end of the article, came the quote. Here it is again:

“Successful teachers endure the vulnerability of being a learner and take risks to provide the most effective instruction to their students.”

Yes and YES.

Think about what we want to see in our learners. Curiosity. Hunger for improvement. Grit in the face of difficulty. Tolerance for ambiguity. Imaginative design. Creative innovation. Problem-solving. Growth mindset.

Too often, though, teachers don’t do the hard work of modeling this for our students. We settle for staying sane. Running a tight ship. Checking all the boxes. Getting the job done.

And we mean well. I mean, we’re all in this because we care about kids, right? But comfort creeps in. We fall in love with our pet systems. And the Mr. Cavey of 2019 starts to look, sound, and act an awful lot like the Mr. Cavey of 2018.

What we pride as consistency actually makes us grow stale. We stagnate.

Learning involves risk.

Is learning actually risky behavior? Of course it is. Whether it’s serving a volleyball, dancing the tango, or writing a blog post, the process of learning risks discomfort, fallibility, and public failure.

We’ve all seen (or been) people who make the choice for safety. People who absolutely refuse to play volleyball, step out on a dance floor, or publish their thoughts. People who refuse to try a new application, or travel somewhere unfamiliar, or ask their crush out on a date.

I’ve had students like that.

And I’ve been like that.

Safety. It’s a slow death.

This year, let’s commit to being vulnerable. Let’s commit to taking risks in front of our students. Let’s reject the safety of the known for the vulnerability of learning.

Because in the end, we can’t expect from our students what we aren’t prepared to do ourselves.

Episode 65 – Kate Lindquist

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Guest Profile

KATE LINDQUIST is the founder of PeaceLoveArt, which is all about “Enriching heARTS thru self expression and soul connection.” With a Master’s degree in Education, Kate is a passionate educator, artist, consultant, speaker, and contributor to @DisruptEDTV. Follow Kate on Instagram and Twitter @heARTISTatWORK.

Kate teaches in West Palm Beach, FL. She grew up in this county and always attended public schools in the area as a child. Today, she’s motivated to promote arts education, particularly in areas and with learners who are often overlooked. Although her K-8 students come from a wide socio-economic spectrum, she says “no matter what, they all just need love.”

Overcoming Adversity

Kate recalls the frustration of being the art teacher and yet being asked to cover teaching assignments for absentee teachers, monitor the computer lab, and fill in wherever needed around the school. Although she loves to be in the classroom, she began to feel like her passion and the place of art wasn’t being valued the way it deserved to be. This experience led to her new mission and the vision that is PeaceLoveArt.

The Mission of PeaceLoveArt

PeaceLoveArt exists to help people of all ages find their voice and let it be heard in a creative manner. Kate strives to help students develop their self-expression as an important companion to other academic areas and an essential area of growth. She wants people to see that the arts are a gateway to curiosity and learning in general.

Goals, Passions, and Productivity

Kate gets excited today when she sees all the passionate educators who are pushing for systemic changes and progressive transformation in education policy. She feels like this is a time when educators are rising up and saying “policy-makers, let us show you what we can do.”

Kate’s biggest goal is simply to heal more hearts through self-expression. To do that, she plans to seek out more corners where learners of all ages can benefit from PeaceLoveArt. She also plans to continue her own learning and development through books and active involvement on Twitter. Since arts education doesn’t always the same levels of professional development that other academic areas enjoy, it’s important for art teachers to take the initiative and derive learning from a strong PLN.

Kate describes herself as insatiably curious – wherever there’s learning to be done, she’s there. One area that has really captured her curiosity lately is the realm of science. In particular, she’s been enjoying a show called One Strange Rock. The show’s been blowing her mind with incredible facts about our home planet. Whether it’s learning new phrases or getting into meditation, she just enjoys following her interests and “whatever tickles her insides” to see where the learning leads.

In order to stay productive and creative, Kate thrives on checklists, and she keeps an ideas list handy at all times. Her ideas list is made up of anything that captures her fancy that she wants to return to later. As one of her grad professors told her, “Always keep an ideas book with you, because you never know when inspiration is going to strike.”

Voices & Resources That Inspire Her Professional Practice

On Twitter, Kate’s recommendation is @TracyScottKelly. He’s been a friend, mentor, a source of constant encouragement, and someone dedicated to making positive changes.

Kate’s favorite creative apps right now include Canva, PixArt, GIF Maker, and Pixaloop.

Kate’s book pick is Einstein’s Dreams. She’s read it through a few times and it blows her mind every time.

For podcast picks, Kate points us to The Ed Podcast and The Hidden Brain Podcast. Follow these podcasts on Twitter @TheEdPodcast and @HiddenBrain.

On YouTube, Kate recommends following the legendary Will Smith as a source for constant creativity and fun. And for art activity ideas in the classroom, subscribe to Art for Kids Hub. Follow the latter on Twitter @ArtforKidsHub.

On Netflix, Kate is watching Genius. Among other prolific characters, the show features Albert Einstein – clearly a favorite of Kate’s.

*In my conversation with Kate, we also discussed the idea that all learners can improve with feedback and practice. It’s the power of YET. To watch this in action, check out Austin’s Butterfly.

Follow Kate …

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Song Track Credits

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Episode 64 – Jennifer Casa-Todd

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Guest Profile

JENNIFER CASA-TODD is a mom, wife, teacher-librarian, speaker, coordinator for Google Educator Groups of Ontario, ISTE Librarians leader, and an @ONedSschat advisor. Jennifer is also the author of Social LEADia: Moving Students from Digital Citizenship to Digital Leadership. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @JCasaTodd.

Overcoming Adversity

Jennifer was in her first year as a teacher-librarian (after serving as a literacy consultant), excited to be back in a school and eagerly building relationships with staff and students. After suffering a concussion, she was forced to battle depression and other concussion symptoms for the next ten months. Jennifer shares more about the challenges of this experience in Mandy Froehlich’s book, The Fire Within.

Jennifer credits (1) staying connected with other supportive educators on Voxer, (2) learning from a TED Talk about brain healing from Jane McGonigal, and (3) an app called Super Better as important factors in her recovery. Her battle with concussion symptoms has also given her more empathy for people suffering silent battles that don’t meet the eye.

The Mission of Social LEADia

Social LEADia actually began as a passion project. Jennifer didn’t expect to write a book, but after encouragement from George Couros she ended up speaking to a publisher about her vision, and the rest is history.

Part of her passion comes from the “ban and block” stance of many schools, which focuses more on preventing online activities instead of talking about how students and staff are using media positively. 

In the words of George Couros, digital leadership is all about improving the lives, wellbeing, and circumstances of others. It’s time for schools to take another look at social media tools and start talking about how they can make learning come alive. As William Dwyer puts it, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

In addition to the power of social media tools to make a positive impact in the world, Social Leadia also looks at media literacy. Are we equipping our learners to be discerning consumers of online content? When it comes to personal branding, she pushes students to build “a brand of you” without losing authenticity or a sense of who they really are.

Jennifer is thrilled by the incredible possibilities in education today. Technology is enabling exciting global partnerships on meaningful, real-world projects like the Sustainable Development Goals and global book clubs.

Goals, Passions, and Productivity

In terms of a professional goal, Jennifer is taking the second semester off this year to focus on her Master’s thesis. She looks forward to once again becoming a full-time student and doing more of her own research on the relationships between social media and students today.

Outside of the school, Jennifer is a very social person. She’s plugged into a curling league, she connects regularly with friends to play cards, and she’s in three book clubs. Even when she doesn’t finish the books in her clubs, she values the relationships and connections fostered there.

Although she’s not the most organized person, Jennifer credits a strong work ethic and intense passion as the simple secret behind her professional work and success. Becoming a high-profile speaker and author isn’t about luck — it’s about sacrifice and commitment over time.

Voices & Resources That Inspire Her Professional Practice

On Twitter, Jennifer points not to one account but to one of the lists on her Twitter profile: Kids Who Inspire.

Her edtech recommendation is FlipGrid. Follow FlipGrid on Twitter @FlipGrid.

Jennifer’s book recommendation is Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less  by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. Follow the author on Twitter @AskPang.

Her podcast recommendation is VoicEd Radio, headed by Stephen Hurley. Follow Stephen on Twitter @Stephen_Hurley. Jennifer also hosts The Social Leadia podcast! Visit her podcast home and listen to her latest episodes at VoiceEd Radio.

Jen’s YouTube picks are Video Writing Prompts (with the very creative John Spencer) and Editing is Everything. Follow these channels and their hosts on Twitter @SpencerIdeas and @The_Real_Editor.

On Netflix, Jennifer and her family are watching How I Met Your Motherwhich keeps them laughing partly due to the nostalgic Canadian references.

We sign off on our conversation, and Jennifer gives us the best ways to follow her online!

Follow Jennifer …

Subscribe to the Teachers on Fire podcast on your mobile device.

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Song Track Credits

Listen on YouTube and subscribe to the Teachers on Fire channel.

 

Episode 63 – Greg Moffitt

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GREG MOFFITT is a dad, husband, and the principal at Winters Elementary School in Winters, California. He’s also a doctoral student at UC Davis and a big education geek. Greg has set the audacious goal of reading through all of the books from Dave Burgess Consulting in 2019! Follow his reflections and reviews (along with those from teammate Kali Slusser) at http://readlikeapirate.wordpress.com.

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Episode Summary

Greg recalls the end of the last school year when a staff member gave him the truth, point blank: “You’re not smiling anymore.” A number of people on his staff team had been going through some difficult challenges, and as he felt the weight of his team Greg also found himself questioning his own work. Was he doing enough? But after receiving this challenge – and a strong encouragement to read Lead Like a Pirate – Greg started to rediscover his passion and joy. In addition to the book (and other books like Culturize and Lead with Culture), Greg began building a positive PLN on Twitter and gained enormous strength and encouragement from other education leaders there. He’s never looked back, and he describes this turning point as “life-changing.”

One thing that excites Greg about the state of education today is that social-emotional learning is finally getting the recognition and appreciation that it has always deserved. Emerging research and improving resources are helping educators better understand the needs of kids and connect with their hearts and minds. In Greg’s view, SEL skills aren’t soft skills – they’re essential in leadership and in life.

Greg and his staff instructional coach, Kali Slusser, are aiming to finish reading all the DBC books through 2019 at a pace of one per week. They were inspired by Alicia Ray (@ILuvEducating), and they’ve been tracking their learning at readlikeapirate.wordpress.com. Part of Greg’s professional goal here is to implement at least one idea from each book into his professional practice throughout the year.

Any time he can find the time to get outside and go for a hike, Greg likes to do exactly that. Getting outside energizes him, and whether it’s by the mountains or the sea, reconnecting with nature is such a valuable spiritual practice. He dreams of one day becoming a park ranger and helping others gain a greater appreciation for the positive power of the wild.

Greg loves checklists. He gains momentum from checking things off, and he’ll even add items he’s already completed to his checklist just so that he can check them off. Dr. Todd Cutler suggested he focus in particular on the most important priorities to hit every single day, and Greg now operates according to a 5-4-3-2-1 get-to list: 5 classroom visits, 4 documents or publications to update, 3 recess appearances to connect with kids, 2 check-ins with staff members, and 1 handwritten thank-you note. It’s not an exhaustive list by any means, but it helps him stay focused on what matters most.

Greg’s Quick Picks: Voices and Resources That Shape His Practice

On Twitter, Greg recommends following @MrsHankinsClass and @heARTISTatWORK. These two educators are non-stop sources of positive creativity and inspiration!

In terms of edtech, one tool that Greg has used with great success this year is Facebook Live. It’s been a great tool to engage the parent community and share learning activities between home and school.

Greg shares two book picks. The first is A Mindset for Learning: Teaching the Traits of Joyful, Independent Growth by Kristine Mraz and Christine Hertz, and the second is The Jester Has Lost His Jingle by David Saltzman. Follow the authors of A Mindset for Learning at @MrazKristine and @Christine_Hertz.

Who can’t use another great education podcast to listen to? Greg recommends listening to Aspire: The Leadership Development Podcast, hosted by @Joshua__Stamper.

A YouTube channel that will keep us smiling and interested is Rice Farming TV. Follow this great family on Twitter @RiceFarmingTV.

On Netflix, the Moffitt family pick right now goes to Fuller House. When the kids are in bed or Greg has a few minutes to make his own pick, it’s The West Wing.

Follow Greg.

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Song Track Credits

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Episode 62 – Beth Houf

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BETH HOUF is a mom, middle school principal, passionate leader & learner, and forever teacher. She’s also the co-author of Lead Like a PIRATE: Make School Amazing for Your Students and Staff. Interact with her on Twitter @BethHouf and engage with ideas from her book at #LeadLAP.

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Episode Summary

Beth is the principal of Fulton Middle School in Fulton, Missouri. She serves about 600 students in Grades 6, 7, and 8. After fifteen years of teaching and leading in elementary contexts, this is her fourth year at Fulton MS. Beth also serves as a facilitator with the state department’s regional leadership academy, and she mentors new principals in Missouri leadership program.

Beth began her administration career in the pressure-packed atmosphere of No Child Left Behind. School test scores were low, requiring the school to issue letters to families in the community saying that the school was a failing school. What a culture-killer! In response, Beth worked hard to move the needle and improve test scores, instead of putting her focus on building school culture. She worked so hard, in fact, that she began to approach a state of burnout, and found herself considering leaving education for a career in nursing. Then in 2014, she attended the NAESP Conference and met Jay Billy, who showed her how to engage better and smarter with other education leaders on Twitter. He also encouraged her to connect with Dave and Shelley Burgess, and Beth soon saw the value of TLAP principles in education leadership.

Lead Like a Pirate was first born out of Beth’s passion for the principles taught in Teach Like a Pirate, by Dave Burgess. After she began building a workshop that would apply the #TLAP principles to leadership contexts, Dave and Shelley Burgess encouraged her to put her ideas and content into print. As she wrote Lead Like a Pirate, one of Beth’s main concerns was to ensure that other administrators didn’t have to experience the levels of fatigue and burnout that she once experienced. Yes, there will be times when we get discouraged or down, but she doesn’t want education leaders to feel like they are all alone or don’t have a support system. Beth wanted to archive best practices and resources but also start to build an active community of education leaders.

When she’s not focusing on education leadership inside and outside of her own context, Beth loves to read. In particular, she loves to do online read-alouds, book talks, book tasting, and any opportunity to connect books with kids and light their passion for reading.

Beth sees improvement as a daily process. She starts each day by reading a blog post — her favorite is one from Rich Cryz (@RACzyz). She also tries to stay current in leadership practices within and outside education and takes in professional development whenever she can. She welcomes free opportunities like #DitchSummit with Matt Miller, and although she’s not currently contemplating a PhD, that’s a possibility in her future. She also talks about her efforts to further promote and amplify the voices of other culture-builders, including Lead with Culture by Jay Billy, Lead with Literacy by Mandy Ellis, and Balance Like a Pirate by Sarah Johnson, Jessica Johnson, and Jessica Cabeen.

Beth enjoys traveling, experiencing other cultures, reading non-fiction, and sampling wines. She traveled to Alaska in October and was blown away by the phenomenal educators there who face overwhelming obstacles. Beth also enjoys sampling and learning about new wines. The best trips are the ones that combine education and pleasure. And when her boys hit on a new area of passion, she finds extra motivation to get involved herself.

Beth starts each day by getting up before anyone else to just relax with coffee and the news. Just the act of sitting quietly for 30-40 minutes gives her to calm she needs to start her workday in a good head space. She also leans on social media to improve parent engagement and involvement, so she makes sure she is taking pictures and video whenever she can as she gets into classrooms. She finds that the best documentation of learning happens right then, in the moment. Beth also calls herself a mobile principal. She carries her backpack with her wherever she goes so that she can get work done wherever she is and not remain tied to the desk in her office.

Beth’s Quick Picks: Voices and Resources That Shape Her Practice

On Twitter, Beth points first to a couple of hashtags – #FMSTeach and #LeadLAP. She also recommends following co-author @Burgess_Shelley and publisher @BurgessDave and @DBC_Inc.

Beth’s edtech recommendations focus on effective visual communication. She points out Quik, Canva, Poster My Wall, and Smore. Follow these great platforms on Twitter @Quik_App, @Canva, @PosterMyWall, and @SmorePages.

In books, Beth just finished The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook–What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and Healing by Bruce D. Perry and Maia  Szalavitz. She also recommends Reclaiming Our Calling: Hold on to the Heart, Mind, and Hope of Education by Brad Gustafson. Follow these three authors on Twitter @BDPerry, @Maiasz, and @GustafsonBrad.

Looking to add some more great education podcasts to your podcast deck? Check out Cult of Pedagogy by Jennifer Gonzales and Aspire: The Leadership Development Podcast. Follow these educators on Twitter @cultofpedagogy and @Joshua__Stamper.

Beth is admittedly not a YouTube subscriber, but she does mention the Fulton Public Schools channel. Check it out here: Fulton Public Schools.

When she is able to find a little Netflix time, Beth has been enjoying flashbacks from The Nineties.

We sign off on this conversation, and Beth gives us the best ways to follow her online. Find her On Twitter @BethHouf, on Instagram @BHouf, and check out Lead Like a Pirate on Amazon.

Follow Beth.

Subscribe to the Teachers on Fire podcast on your mobile device.

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Follow the Teachers on Fire podcast on social media.

Song Track Credits

Listen on YouTube and subscribe to the Teachers on Fire channel.